Question: Can you please explain the difference between Shaytan al-Nafs and the Shaytan? Also, are we sinful because of Shaytan, or are we simply inclined to sin?
Thank you for your question. The questions that you ask are very important and understanding them is a good starting point for eliminating sin from our lives.
Four Enemies Of the Soul
Imam Ghazali mentions in Minhaj al-‘Abidin, on the Seven Tricks of the Shaytan, that the four enemies of the souls are the (a) Nafs (lower self); (b) Hawa (caprice); (c) Dunya (this world); and (d) Shaytan (the Devil). Whenever a man sins, which is part of his imperfect nature, the source is one of these four. So one must be keen to recognize that the enemies are always present and one must use one’s taqwa to fight off the current enemy when the thought of misdeed comes to one.
My teacher once explained the situation to me saying that one’s nafs is like a president who makes the decision, and the Devil is his closest advisor; they work hand in hand. He advised that must always ensure to give the nafs what he wants within limits, as long as the nafs give you what you want. For example, be diplomatic with the nafs, and let it indulge in a dessert or the like, as long as it gets up for tahajjud that night.
Please see this answer for the types of ego:
And this answer about the source of our thoughts:
Allah did create man as weak, greedy, and sinful, but this is not something to fear. Only the Prophets are free of sin, and Allah loves our repentance and expects it from his true believers so that He can forgive them. It is only through this process that one can purify oneself. It is the pure ones who will be successful as Allah, Most High, has told us in His book.
The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Were you not to commit sins, Allah would create people who would commit sins and ask for forgiveness and He would forgive them.“ [Muslim]
Finally, please see this link on fighting the ego. May Allah give you the best in this world and the next.
[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria for two years where she studied aqidah, fiqh, tajweed, tafseer, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Masters in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She recently moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.