The word Tazkiah is of Arabic origin alluding to“Tazkiyah-Al-Nafs” means “Sanctification” or “purification” of self. Tazkiah originally meant pruning the plant – to remove what is harmful to its growth. When the term is used in relation to the human personality, it simply means to beautify it and to remove from it all evil traces and spiritual diseases that are obstacles in experiencing Allah. Human beings have a combination of body and soul; both are inevitable for an alive person. As we take food for the nourishment of our body likewise our soul also needs some diet for purification. In a general sense “Tazkiya Nafs” means that human must keep both their bodies and soul clean as one affects the other directly.
A pious person not only keeps his body clean from all kinds of dirt and filth, and not focuses only on bodily needs without concern about his inner soul and his surroundings. The concept of purification in Islam is much broader and wider in its contours as it encompasses the purification of body, soul, and surroundings. When it comes to the self-development of a person the role of purification cannot be neglected. In the pursuit of self-development, Tazikayah-Al-Nafs is a continuous process of transforming Nafs (Desires) from its deplorable state of self-centrality through various spiritual stages towards the level of purity and submission to the Will of Allah. Tazkiah is very important as it is has been described as the Ultimate objective of the teachings of Islam. The real purpose of raising Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) from amongst mankind was performing and teaching Tazkiah as clearly mentioned in the following pious verses of the Holy Al-Quran: Our Lord, and send among them a messenger from themselves who will recite to them Your verses and teach them the Book and wisdom and purify (tazkiah) them. Indeed, you are the Exalted in Might, the Wise.” ( Al-Baqarah: 129). It is He who has sent among the unlettered a Messenger from themselves reciting to them His verses and purifying (tazkiah) them and teaching them the Book and wisdom – although they were before in clear error. (Al-Jumm’ah: 2). The Scholars both in the field of Psychology and Sociology from Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) to Erik Erikson (1902–1994) have described the process of self-development in their own way but Islam has a unique scheme for self-development vis a vis Tazkiah Nafs, from the perspective of Islamic Man is the crown of all creations as Quran quotes “Surely we created man in the best mould (Al-Tin Vesre-5)” so Islam aims at creating among its followers the sense of checking oneself from erroneous tendencies and beliefs and turning them to the path of virtue and piety (fear of God’s displeasure) and developing it to attain the stage of perfection, for this Almighty Allah has invested man’s body and mind with special characteristics and has also equipped him with senses and other powers and abilities by means of which he can perform the tasks that are required of him.
The creator has embedded in Man’s nature the tendencies and inclinations towards both good and evil. In other words, Almighty Allah impregnated every person’s subconscious with certain notions of good and evil: That good and evil deed are intrinsically different, thus are not equal in worth and result. Performing good deeds makes you happy and joyous while evil deeds take you to the state of sorrow that is why the Al-Quran vehemently condemns immorality (Fujjur) and appreciates Taqwa (Avoidance of Evil)……… and by the soul and by Him who perfected it, and imbued it with (the consciousness of ) its evil and its piety (8) He who purifies it will prosper (9) and he who suppress it will be ruined (10). (AL-Shams). In light of the above verses when human beings surrender to their desires without putting any limits or boundaries, and without worrying about the results it has on the personal development they are using their Nafs-i-Ammarra. When one realizes that one has committed a sin and regrets and repents, his nafs begin to purify themselves and evolves into the Nafs-i-lawammah. The third and the most desired type of Nafs is the Nafs-ul-Mutmainnah . Thus the evolution of the Nafs from ammara to mutmainnah is the process of tazkiyah and it is entirely within the power of human beings. The Teachings of Islam depict that the desires and appetites play a vital role in the make-up of every human being, they cannot be ignored. The children of Adam unlike angles face the challenge in the life of mastering these forces within to become successful hereafter. If we fail to do so then we become the servants of our own appetites and thus fall below the level of the animal kingdom. The demand of the hour is “To purify the self” by cleansing oneself of every sort of evil and to nurture good qualities in oneself instead. This is the only way to prosper and this is the only method of self-development. Tazkiya Al nafs is not possible without self-introspection which is the first step in the ladder of purification. Introspection helps to identify one’s weaknesses and strengths thus provides a platform for cleansing and eliminating all kinds of theoretical and practical impurities. Introspection awakens the human mind; it jolts the human personality and gives the individual the incentive to reform. It is a means of self-appraisal, and an urge to reform one thus paves the way for one’s intellectual, and spiritual development. Introspection and purification are two stages in the process of self-development hence go hand in hand. So the mantra of our prosperous life should be to develop one need to introspect and purify continuously.
(The author is a freelance and writes regularly for “ Kashmir Horizon”. Views are his own)