Shaikh Abdul Ghani at Tarablusi al Khalwati (Allah have mercy on him) said,
‘It is your lower self (nafs) that veils you from Allah.
The scholars of Reality (al haqiqa) have mentioned seven stages of the nafs according to its changing states, the ammara, lawamah, mulhema, mutmainah, radhiya, mardhiya and kamilah.’
Al-Ifadaat al Wasiya,(Urdu translation of Tarsih al Jawahir al Makkiyah fi Tazkiya tul Aklaq al mardhiyah)
Following is a summary of Shaikh’s discussion.
1. The inciting nafs (nafs-i-ammara)
إِنَّ النَّفْسَ لأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ إِلاَّ مَا رَحِمَ رَبِّيَ
Surely, man’s inner self often incites to evil, unless my Lord shows mercy.”[12:53]
In its primitive stage the nafs incites us to commit evil: this is the corrupt nafs as the lower self, the base instincts. Its characteristics include; stinginess, greed, envy, ignorance, arrogance, lust, anger, heedlessness, coveting, bad manners, involvement in useless, making others’ fun, having malice for them and harming them with speech or hand.
It becomes the instrument of Satan’s seduction (to sin). It the most lethal enemy. Therefore extreme caution is needed in not listening to its insolent commands. (In a Prophetic saying the struggle against it has been mentioned as the highest level of righteous effort : jihad al akbar).
Being steadfast on the commandments of Shariah is essential. Keeping constant vigilance (muhasba) is required. It is imperative to have extreme humility and engagement in supererogatory deeds. This is facilitated by giving up (after consultation with Shaikh) the excessive permissible pleasures and all useless activities. By routinely crying in front of Allah asking for help and making remembrance of Allah as instructed by the Shaikh.
‘Never leave supplication because of being depressed and frustrated (by frequent slips) or lose hope by considering the goal to be unrealistic. This will severe the determination altogether.’
If one persists then Allah will spiritually enlighten the heart of the seeker that will make it possible to see the diseases that inflicts the nafs.
Then comes the second stage.