(4,843 words)

(a.), soul. Nafs , in early Arabic poetry meant the self or person, while rūḥ meant breath and wind. Beginning with the Ḳurʾān, nafs also means soul, and rūḥ means a special angel messenger and a special divine quality. Only in post-Ḳurʾānic literature are nafs and rūḥ equated and both applied to the human spirit, angels and d̲j̲inn . Since the two concepts of nafs and rūḥ are so closely connected, both will be considered here.

I. The Ḳurʾānic uses. A. Nafs and its plurals anfus and nufūs have five uses: 1. In most cases they mean the human self or person, e.g. III, 54: “Let us ca…

Cite this page
Calverley, E.E. and I.R. Netton, “Nafs”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. Consulted online on 13 December 2018 <>
First published online: 2012
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004161214, 1960-2007

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