By Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr.


1.0 PERSONALITY, al nafs

A. Description of personality

B. The nafs

C. Change of personality

D. Development of personality

E. Pollution of the personality



A. Tazkiyat in the qur'an

B. The first convenant, al 'ahad al awwal

C. Tazkiyat and personality

D. Tazkiyat is by allah

E. Human efforts toward tazkiyat



A. Preliminaries of purification of the nafs

B. Tazkiyat at the conceptual level

C. Tazkiyat by dhikr

D. Tazkiyat by physical acts of worship

E. Tazkiyat by giving, infaq:



A. The prophet

B. Abubakr. 

C. Omar ibn al Khattab

D. Othman bin Affan

E. Ali ibn Abi Talib



A.traits of believers

B. Spiritual traits

Personal traits

C. Social traits

D. Ibadat traits

1.0 PERSONALITY, al nafs



Personality is the totality of behavior of an individual with a given tendency system. Tendency means there is consistency. People’s personalities differ (Bukhari 4:461 H699). Classification of people into neat and clear personality types is not easy. This is because each individual exhibits characteristics of more than one personality type depending on the situation. For example Abubakr was known as a soft person whereas Omar was known as the tough person. When the prophet passed away, Abubakr was firm while Omar temporarily overwhelmed. It was the soft-spoken Abubakr who was determined to wage war against the apostates while Omar was advising restraint. Thus when we describe an individual as having a certain personality we are referring to the dominant characteristics without necessarily denying existence of any others.



The personality spectrum is quite wide. At one end are personalities in which negative attributes predominate and the other extreme are personalities in which the positive attributes predominate. Some acts of nobility may be found in hardened criminals. Some good people may in moments of weakness succumb to evil temptations. Most people are average having both the good and the bad. The exceptionally good and strong personalities are rare. The Prophet said that out of 100 persons you can hardly find one that fits the description of being exceptional (Bukhari 8:3341 H505). There is a modal personality for a community that is considered the ideal for that community. This is usually much below the universal ideal that is described by the Qur’an and the sunnat of the Prophet (PBUH) (Hayat al Sahabat 3:459-460)




Nafs and Physical body: The essence of a person is the nafs and not the physical body. Thus personality or behavior is referred to the nafs. The Quran expounds in very clear terms a distinct concept of individual creaton, growth, and development. A human being is both body and soul, matter and spirit. It is the unique balance between the two contrasts that makes humans what they are, the highest creation.


Fitrat: The original condition of the human being is that of fitra which is uprightness. A human being is born in a natural state of purity, fitrat al Islam. The potential to do good or bad exists at the beginning. It is the early environment that determines how those potentials are enhanced. If the environment is good, the good potentials are promoted. If the environment is bad the bad potentials are encouraged.



The Qur’an has described several states of nafs, maraatib al nafs. The lowest rung is the tendency to evil, nafs ammarah (12:53). The next higher level is conscience and concern with moral rectitude, nafs lawamah (75:2). The third and highest level manifests in 6 ways: inspiration to piety and taqwah, nafs mulhamah (p146 91:8); satisfaction, nafs qanu’ah; calmness, nafs mutma’inna (89:27); being appreciative, nafs radhiyah (p1258 89:27-28); being appreciated by Allah, nafs mardhiyat (89:27-28), and perfection, nafs kamilah. The nafs that has achieved perfection is one that has rid itself of all negative attributes and has acquired all the positive ones.




The factors that determine the development of personality are: biological inheritance, physical environment, the culture, socialization, group and unique individual experiences. With the exception of biological inheritance, all these factors can be manipulated for good or for bad. A person has the capacity to overcome many disabilities in the basic personality. Thus behavior does not always reflect the underlying personality. It is this capacity for self-improvement, taking charge, and striving for the best that makes humans morally responsible.



It is a matter of disagreement whether personality once set is permanent or is changeable. The moderate view is that personality is fairly constant and only minor modifications can be made to it in later life. Personality is set quite early in life. It can change during life but these changes are minor. This emphasizes the importance of education and training early in life when the personality is still malleable and can be modified in the desired way.




Spirituality is a major component of personality. Spirituality in Islam unlike other religions has practical manifestations at the individual and societal levels because Islam is a practical religion. Spiritual development starts with close observations of all acts of worship. The second step is avoiding all immoral attitudes, tendencies, values, and sins (major and minor). The third step is promoting the moral and good at the individual or societal levels.



Intellectual development helps improve personality. It involves continuous and active development of the mind. A mind left unused soon deteriorates. Both general and specialized knowledge develop the mind. Careful observation and learning from of phenomena of life develop the intellect. There are many signs of Allah in creation that a careful observer will see. Reading should be as much as possible and as wide as is practicable. Visiting other places widens knowledge. Always look for and deliberate on the signs of Allah in His creation. Mixing and exchanging views with people from other cultures is a source of knowledge and widening of intellectual horizons. Listening to thinkers and knowledgeable people is a major source of intellectual stimulation and growth. Discussing with others is important. Exchange ideas enables a person to check and evaluate his or her ideas. New ideas may be picked up during such discussions. Further intellectual development can be achieved by trying to think about particular problems and trying to work out solutions.



The individual must struggle against natural tendencies to evil. This tendency, if unchecked, can lead to diseases of the heart, amradh al qalb. The Qur’an guides this struggle and leads it to a successful conclusion if it is followed well. The proper development of the nafs can be contaminated by the following common diseases: covetousness, shuhh (4:128, 59:9, 64:16); passion, shahwat (21:102, 41:31, 43:71);  pride, 'ujub (4:49); evil, fujuur (9:7-8); base desires, hiwa al nafs (2:87, 5:7, 53:23); and waswasat (5:30, 50:16). These pollutants may have inner promptings within the human. However they are mostly from the external environment that either introduces the contamination or encourages the inner negative promptings. A clean social environment will produce people with clean personalities. A corrupt environment will produce corrupt persons.




The Qur'an has discussed tazkiyat in many verses. (2:129). Tazkiyat is of cardinal importance in both the spiritual and social development of a person. One of the purposes of sending prophets is to ensure tazkiyat for humans. The historical record shows that the sending of messengers to various communities coincided with moments of excessive immortality or deviation from the truth. It is at such moments that the process of tazkiyat is most needed.


B. THE FIRST CONVENANT, al 'ahad al awwal

Allah took a covenant from all humans before they came to earth that they would worship Him and Him alone (7:172-173, 36:60). Tazkiyat is fulfillment and return to the first covenant between humans and Allah. Allah got a covenant from all human souls before they were created that they would obey Allah. When humans commit sins they are breaking that covenant. Tazkiyat as a process helps humans stick to their part of the covenant.



Tazkiyat is the basis for development and improvement of the personality. It is a long, pro-active, and uphill task. It is not an easy esoteric rite or overnight formula. Misunderstanding of tazkiyat manifests when people look for quick methods of becoming better. Some may visit graves of the righteous, some may repeat certain supplications for a given number of times. Yet others subject themselves to physical suffering in the hope that will lead to spiritual purity. All of these are forms of escapism from facing the real challenges of tazkiyat.



Allah purifies whom He wants (4:49, 24:21). All human effort at tazkiyat should always be accompanied by supplication, dua, for Allah's intervention without which human effort will bear no fruit. On the other hand, it is wrong for a human to make no effort and passively expect Allah to intervene. Humans must play their role before expecting Allah's help. 

Revelations, al kutub al samawiyah, are a guide for tazkiyat. You need a map to go travel in life. Life is unknown territory, an uncharted ocean. The map is charted by revelations that describe a model of purity to be emulated. The Qur’an is that map. The Qur'an describes in detail and brings to life the experiences of prophets and other righteous persons whose purity of heart is a model for others to follow. It also describes the future models of success in the hereafter that is another model and incentive to ne good. 



The human can do a lot to purify the nafs. The Qur'an talks about humans who purified themselves and about human efforts toward purification (20:75-76). The Qur’an has described humans as clean (18:74, 19:19). Some human self-purification, tazkiyat, involves: correct and firm aqidat, fulfillment of acts of ibadat, avoiding the forbidden, generally being conscious of the creator, and constant meditation about the creation. This is followed by personal development and improvement which consists of a good character and behavior; assertiveness, and self-confidence. An individual may not succeed alone. Living in a righteous community surrounded by others is necessary to motivate and encourage purification. Islam is a practical religion. Achievement of purity is through action. Good behavior, avoiding bad behavior, and being strong and assertive in making correct choices is the practical way to purity.




GOOD INTENTIONS, niyyat hasanat (4:100):

Tazkiyat is not accidental. It is a pro-active process. It must be based on the good and sincere intention to please Allah and get near Him. The process of tazkiyat cannot be sustained if done for other reasons.


COMMITMENT, ikhlaas ( 98:5, 39:2):

Tazkiyat can be a difficult process especially at the start. Some may try and think of giving up. Continuing commitment is needed to be able to travel all the way to the end of the process.


BEING TRUE, sidq ( 9:119):

The person undertaking tazkiyat must be true to self, to others and to Allah. True to self means understanding and accepting yourself as you are with all the negatives and positives such that the negatives can be suppressed while the positives can be enhanced.  Being true to others is saying and acting according to the truth and never deceiving or giving the wrong impressions.


SURRENDER TO ALLAH, istislam li laah  (3:101):

The thoughts, acts of commission, and acts of omission of the person undertaking tazkiyat must all be for the sake of Allah the almighty.


EARNEST ENTREATY TO ALLAH, al tadharu'u li laah (6:43):

Tazkiyat requires that a very strong desire and longing to turn to Allah and get near Him. This gives a sense of direction and a sense of purpose to the tazkiyat efforts.



ANSWERING THE CALL OF ALLAH, al istijabat li llaah:

The path is virtue is the straight path, al siraat al mustaqiim. Humans must stick to the straight path, al istiqamat ala al tariiq (6:126). Sticking to the straight path has a lot of virtues (41:30-32, 46:13-14, 72:16). Those who stick to the path of virtue are answering the call of Allah, al istijabat li laah (3:173, 8:24). The misguided ignore this call or turn away from it. They end up following the wring paths that lead them to perdition.


RENOUNCING MATERIALISM, al zuhd fi al duniya:

Zuhd is giving priority to the after life, ithaar al akhirat. Preferring the material world, iithaar al duniyat, is severely condemned by the Qur'an (79:37-39, 78:16). The hereafter is better than the material world, tafdhiil al akhirat ala al duniyat (34-35 3:14-15). Many have misunderstood zuhd down the centuries. It does not mean withdrawal from life and making no contribution to the building of a material civilisation. Neither does it mean refusing to enjoy the bounties that Allah put on the earth for the benefit of humans. Living like a hermit may not be the total or only meaning of zuhd. Zuhd means belittling materialism and having a correct relation to material goods as things to be used by humans in the fulfillment of their duties to Allah and not as masters who control human behavior. A person may own a lot of money and material goods but he knows that in front of Allah they are worth very little. He will not be intoxicated by nor worship material goods. He will have a higher scale of values that he refers to. His maximum pleasure will not be attained by material possessions. Zuhd also means not selling eternal values for the sake of temporary material advantage on earth; such a trade is indeed a losing trade. A human should live on earth as a stranger, ghariib (Bukhari K81 B3) or a traveller, abir sabiil in the knowledge that the life in the hereafter is eternal and that all the time spent on earth should be used to prepare for the hereafter.


VIGILANCE AGAINST SHAITAN, al hadhr min al shaitan:

Shaitan is an enemy of humans (2:168). A human who wants to stay pure must be vigilant against shaitan's influence (2:168-169). Shaitan has limited influence over human action, sultat al shaitan ‘ala al insaan (Bukhari K33 B80). He leads astray, ighwa al shaitan (2:168-169).  Shaitan is never away from humans. Every human has a shaitan around him or her (Muslim K50 H69). The Prophet in a very revealing metaphor said that shaitan circulates in the human body as does the blood (Bukhari K33 B8). Shaitan will always try to confuse humans. He for example will attempt to prevent the human from waking up in the morning to pray (Bukhari K19 B13). The human is however not helpless against shaitan. There are many simple actions that will chase shaitan away and all of these are part of the process of tazkiyat. The sound of adhan makes the shaitan run away (Bukhari K10 B4). Reading Qur'an also chases away shaitan. Thus a human who is regular in prayer and recites the Qur'an often as a guide to life will be vigilant against the machinations of shaitan.




Dhikr has many virtues (Bukhari K80 B66). Allah orders humans to remember Him, al amr bi dhikr al llaah (2:152). The Qur'an calls upon humans to remember Allah a lot, al ikthar min al dhikr (3:41). Dhikr is at all times (3:41). Neglect of dhikr is severely condemned (2:114). It should be remembered that all human action if done with the correct intention and according to the sharia is worship and is a type of dhikr. Dhikr can be in the heart, qalb (13:28), in acts of ibadat (2:198), or by social action (5:4). The simple methods of dhikr that the prophet taught are: al isti'adhat, al istighfar, al tasbiih, al tahmiid, and al tahliil. The essence of these formulas is internal and not just the routine repetition of words.


SEEKING REFUGEE WITH ALLAH, al isti'adhat bi allah:

One of the methods of self-purification is to seek refugee with Allah from various evils.  The most important is to seek refugee with Allah from the shaitan, isti'adhat min al shaitan (3:36) using the formula: 'audhu bi llaahi min al shaitan al shaitan al rajiim. Refugee can also be sought from humans who in their behavior and actions are like agents of shaitan, shaitan al ins (Nisai K50 B48). Refugee should also be sought from shaitan that comes in the shape of the invisible jinn, al isti'adhat min shaitan al jinn. The human should always seek refugee from incurring the wrath of Allah, al isti'adhat min ghadhab al allah (Tirmidhi K45 B75). Committing forbidden acts or failure to fulfil obligatory duties incurs the wrath of Allah. Refugee should also be sought from ignorance, al isti'adhat min al jah  (    ) and from evil of any kind, al isti'adhat min al sharr (113:1-5).



Seeking the forgiveness of Allah has a lot of good (Ahmad 1:248). The Qur'an has emphasised istighfar in many verses (3:135). Believers are instructed ro seek forgiveness (4:106). Forgivess is sought at all times even late in the night (p100 3:17, 51:18). Forgiveness is sought for past, current and even future sins. Forgiveness is also sought for evil intentions that may lead to sin. Allah never tires of listening to His servants seeking forgiveness during the day and night. The formula for istighfar is 'astaghfirullah'



Tasbiih can be in salat, al dhikr wa al rasbiih fi al salat wa ba’adaha (Bukhari K10 B155). The Prophet taught several formulas, methods, and occasions for tasbiih that are recorded in the books of sunnat (Abudaud K8 B24). The basic formula for tasbih is 'subhana al laah'



Tahmid is mentioned in several verses of the Qur'an (1:2, 2:30). Those who praise the Lord achieve a lot of good (Ibn Majah K33 B55). The basic formula for tahmid is 'alhamudu li llaahi'



The basic formula for tahlil is 'la ilaaha illa al llaahu'. Tahliil as well as tasbiih and tahmiid has many virtues that have been mentioned in the books of sunnat, fadhl al tasbiih wa al tahmiid was al tahliil (Bukhari K80 B65).



Dua is a type of worship, al dua ibadat. By making supplication to Allah whether in need or not, the human is reaffirming his need and dependence on the creator. Dua has many virtues and benefits, thawab al dua (52:22-28). The Qur'an has provided several formulas for dua (1:6). The Prophet, in addition, taught us many formulas for dua and we have a big choice (Bukhari K80 B55). Allah ordered humans to supplicate at all time and all circumstances, al amr bi al dua (2:186). Allah will respond to the supplication either sooner or later, istijabat al dua (2:186). The conditions necessary for the response to the supplication to occur: tadharu'u (   ); consciousness of Allah, khawf (7:55-56), hope from Allah, raja or tam'a (7:55-56), ihsan (7:55-56), commitment, and ikhlas (40:14). Dua is at all times (6:52) and must be accompanied by tadharu'u, khawf, tam'an, raghbat, and rahbat (6:63). 




Salat is the best of works (Bukhari K9 B5). It is not possible to achieve tazkiyat without salat. Salat has a lot of impact on the human towards the good, aathaar al salat (23:1-2). Salat is expiation of sins, al salat kaffarat (Tirmidhi K2 B46). The words and actions of salat are direct communication with Allah, al salat munajaat al llaah (Bukhari K8 B39). Salat is sacrifice, al salat qurbaan (KS 309). Night prayer, tahajjud, has special virtues. It is carried out when others are enjoying their sleep. It has a deeper impact on the worshipper because it is possible to concentrate more at night when environmental sensory stimulation is minimal.



Saum is is the zakat of the body (Ibn Majah K7 B44). The term zakat here has both a biological and metaphorical meaning of purifiying. By controlling appetite, saum cleanses the body of excessive nutrients that are harmful. It also helps build up endurance and self-control that help cleanse the person of sins. Saum is a reason for forgiveness, ghufran. He who fasts Ramadhan in true belief and expectation of a reward is forgiven his previous sins (Bukhari K19 B16). Fasting is expiation of sins, al saum kaffarat.



The Qur'an has used the word sadaqat to refer to both obligatory and voluntary charity (2:196). Sadaqat is a great virtue. Giving away wealth cleases the giver from the disease of covetousness. Covetousness, al shuhh (59:9) is a negative human attribute. Giving even if small is significant (Bukhari K24 B10). Zakat cleanses the remaining wealth (p233 9:103). The giving must be sincere preferably done without publicity (KS138 Bukhari K24 B13, Bukhari K24 B16, Muslim K12 H91, Tirmidhi K44 last Baab). Reminding the recipient of favours done to them, al mann, is one of the greatest sins. The meaning of sadaqat is wider than material giving. All good acts are considered sadaqat (Bukhari K24 B30).




Prophets were sent as human models of tazkiyat (2:129). The Prophet Muhammad used to repeat to his companions that he was a human like them (Bukhari K8 B31). All other prophets were human models that proved the ability of a human to overcome inner weaknesses and evil tendencies to succeed in attaining a high level of purity. Prophets are not only a model but are an inspiration to all humans. They set the supreme human ideal as a goal post towards which all humans in all generations can strive. This is indeed the secret behind prophets being human messengers. Allah in His power could have revealed his message to humans in some other form. Angels for example could have delivered the message directly to humans. He could have inspired humans directly to know the message. He however chose to send human prophets so that they could teach as well as practise. Humans learn best by watching and participating in a real-life experience.


The Prophet Muhammad was a human model for all humanity. He lived an exemplary life so that the companions could see and emulate the best behavior. The Prophet Muhammad had the best of character, khulq adhiim (68:2-4). His character and behavior reflected the Qur'an, kaana khulquhu al Qur'an (Ibn Sa’ad). In his humility he forbade people from elevating him above his position (Bukhari K81 B43). He had a sense of mission, his eyes slept but his heart never went to sleep (Bukhari K4 B5).  He lived very simply. He rode a donkey though he could easily procure a horse for himself (Bukhari K53 B1). He also did domestic chores for his family (Bukhari K69 B8). He dressed in rough clothing, al khushn min al thiyaab (Muslim K12 H128). He had simple furniture, basaatat athaathihi (Ibn Sa’ad). His household lived on water and dates for several days (Bukhari K51 B1). It should not be misunderstood that simple life means complete rejection of life. The Prophet liked perfumes, honey, and sweets (Bukhari K70 B32). He ate all types of dates (Muslim K36 H147.



Abubakr was the best person after the Prophet (Ibn Majah). He was given the title of al siddiq (KS52 Bukhari K65 S7 B3) because of his truthfulness and attesting the truth. His faith was so strong that his faith would outweigh the faith of the rest of the ummah (Ahmad 5:259). The Prophet prayed for him to be a pillar of the religion 'imaad al Islam (Tirmidhi K46 B17). Abubakr's life and achievements are testimony that the Prophet's prayer was answered. He used to weep a lot (Bukhari K8 B86) out of consciousness of Allah. He was very generous (Ibn Sa’ad). He donated all his wealth to charity (Bukhari K24 B18). He is considered the most merciful in the umma, arham al ummah (Ahmad 3:281). However his kindness and leniency did not stop him from taking decisive action to safeguard the unity of the state and religion in the battles against the apostates, hurub al riddat. 



Omar comes after Abubakr in virtue. Omar was so strong that the shaitan feared him (Tirmidhi). When Omar followed a path the shaitan would follow another one. He was tough for the sake of religion, shadiid fi diin llaah (Ahmad 3:281). He lived a simple and hard life away from luxuries, taqashuff.



Othman was a generous, pious man. He was so modest that the angels were shy of him.






Believers of all generations and all places have manifested noble traits of purity of personality than can be emulated. The Qur’an has described traits of believers, sifat al mu’uminun (4:146). The detailed Qur'anic description was because Allah wanted to put before all humanity a model that could be emulated. The traits of believers are described below:



The believers have the following spiritual traits: believing Allah's signs, al iman bi ayat al llaah (23:58), responding to the call of Allah, al istijabat li al llaah (42:38); obedience of Allah, ta'at al llaah (9:71); repentance, taubat 4:146; reform, islah (4:144); i'itisaam bi al llaah 4:146; ikhlas 4:146; tawakkul (9:71, 42:36); fear in the hearts, wajal al qulub (23:60, 8:2).



The believers have the following social traits: keeping away from lahw, i 'iradh 'an al lahw (23:3), keeping the private parts from sinning, hifdh al furuuj (23:5, 70:29); keeping promises and trusts, mura'at al 'ahad & al amanat (23:8, 70:32); humility, tawadhu'u (25:63); enjoining good, amr al ma'aruf (9:71); forbidding the bad, nahy al munkar (9:71); attesting the truth (70:26); patience, sabr (90:17); kindness, marhamat (90:17);.forgiving when angry (42:37); undertaking jihad (49:15); mutual consultation, shura (42:38). They avoid the following evil acts: committing homicide, qatl al nafs (25:63-74); fornication, zina (25:68); false witness, shahadat al zuur (25:72); extending friendship to those who fight Allah and the Prophet (58:22); and big sins, kabair al ithm (42:37)



Dua to no other than Allah, dua ghair al llaah (25:68); keeping salat, muhafadhat ala al salat (23:9); establishment of salat, iqamat al salat (8:3, 27:3, 42:38); regularity of salat, mudawamat ala al salat (70:23); khushu'u fi al salat (23:2); prayer at night, qiyam al layl (25:64); and prostration, sujuud (25:64); giving, infaq (8:3); pay zakat, itau al zakat (9:71, 23:3, 27:3); giving the poor (7:22-34); and being moderate in giving, al i'itidal fi al infaq (25:63-74).

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr. July 2001