November 11, 2016

Donald Trump and the Nafs

Scholars of Islam, Christianity and Judaism have all provided us with excellent models for discerning the inner character of individuals through their actions. Sadly, as we well know, many of those who bear the identity of these religions fail to live out their teachings.
In the Islamic paradigm, what Christians would call the soul is called the 'nafs'. One goal of Islam, which it shares with Christianity, is to lift the nafs out of its preoccupation with the world.
Many very pious religious people voted yesterday. Many of them voted for Donald Trump. Some of them voted out of a desire to see abortion overturned. Others wanted a strong leader. Still others, in the words of Franklin Graham, voted to "stop the march of the atheist progressive agenda."
It behooves believers, Christian and Muslim, to look at the state of our next president's soul. Since he will be someone a new generation of Americans will grow to age under, it is worth asking: what can we know about the state of President elect Donald Trump's nafs, or his soul?
Donald Trump is 70 years old. He has lived a life filled with widely publicized bragging about his allegedly enormous wealth. Anyone who has seen his television shows and celebrity appearances over the past decades knows Trump's persona, and who we are getting as president. He has consistently surrounded himself with other famous wealthy people. He has been unfaithful to his wives, and divorced several. He has been plagued by lawsuits and scandals throughout his life.
The Islamic scholars of old classified the lowest level of the nafs as 'nafs al-ammara bisu. This type of nafs resides in the world of the senses, is dominated by earthly desires and passions, and is subject to the fickle whims of the emotions. This is the nafs that urges us to, among other things, get on twitter at 3am to insult those who we feel have wronged us. It is the self that gratifies itself through seeing its enemies shamed and humiliated. It is a self relentlessly forgetful of its own past shortcomings and mistakes. It is a self eager to shift blame for its actions.
Perhaps there is a side of Donald Trump that I have not seen, a tender, reflective, and self-aware side. If so, he has camouflaged it well underneath his public persona. From what I have seen, we have elected a president who is not only engulfed in his nafs al-ammara, but is completely INFATUATED with it. To be engulfed in the nafs is an understandable condition that many of us share. We all get angry at others, we all sometimes wish ill for other people, we all get cranky. To be infatuated with the nafs, on the other hand, is a sign of a deep instability and imbalance. Western psychologists have commonly referred to this condition as narcissistic personality disorder.
Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. Often behind this mask lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.
Trump is not the first leader to suffer from this condition, nor will he be the last. Perhaps he will do some good along the way, along with much evil. My wish is that we recognize his true nature and plan/respond accordingly.
The Creator knows best.


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