A search for “O nafs” (“يا نقس”) using (https://al-maktaba.org/search) returns 2237 individual pages where it is mentioned at least once. A search just through books up through the end of the 10th century AH returns 1030 pages.
A search for “O my nafs” (“يا نقسي”) returns 174 individual pages where it is mentioned at least once. A search just through books up through the end of the 10th century AH returns 49 pages.
So the phrases have been used. And they have been used by scholars with various affiliations and inclinations. Here are four:
- Imam al-Ghazali mentions “O Nafs” (“يا نفس”) on over 13 pages in the Ihya
- Ibn al-Jawzi does it on over 78 pages in his writings.
- Ibn Taymiyyah does it on 3 pages in his writings.
- Ibn Qayyim does it on 9 pages in his writings.
- Ibn Rajab does it on 24 pages in his writings.
- Al-Suyuti does it on 15 pages in his writings.
And of those five,
- Ibn Rajab “O, my nafs” (“با نفسي”) on 1 page in his writings.
- Al-Suyuti does it on 1 page in his writings.
The screenshot at the bottom shows my work related to general mentions.
“But it’s still wrong to say ‘Dear Nafs’!”
Why? The phrase (نفسي العزيزة) is used with intimates and lovers. And you definitely have an intimate relationship with your nafs, and while you shouldn’t love your nafs, addressing it with love and cookies is more likely to coax towards good than hatefully whacking it over the head with stick.
Plus, cultivating a serene nafs is something to love in ourselves and others.
“But the nafs is always vile and wicked!”
The nafs has different aspects to it as is mentioned at the beginning of Infamies of the Soul, which was the springboard for my series of posts starting with “Dear Nafs”. You can read more about those types here.