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What’s The Difference Between Ego and Waswasa?

26 July, 2017
Q I am studying psychology in school and we talk a lot about the concept of the Ego. When I am reading these things, it just seems to be very similar to the concept of nafs in Islam. But my question is: how do I know if something I am thinking, something which is bad, how do I know if it's coming from my Ego or from the waswasa of Shaytan?


Asalamu Alaikum,

Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question.

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani from SeekersHub addresses this question in the video below.



“What is the difference between waswasa [satanic whispers in one’s heart/mind] and ego?”

Sh. Faraz Rabbani:

Waswasa is misgivings. Waswasa is internal whisperings… whether those whisperings come from the Shaytan [Satan] or they come from one’s own desires or capricious inclinations.

There could be different sources of waswasa, right, but waswasa is misgivings.

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Your ego is your arch-enemy. It’s your inflated sense of me, myself, and I. And the ego, in the negative sense, is your blameworthy qualities.

At one level, your ego is you; it’s yourself, right? But […] the nafs [ego] is you, it’s you yourself. But it’s also your lower self. […] It’s like the gathering place of all your blameworthy qualities.

Now waswasa can lead to that, but […] the lower self makes one inclined towards desires and whims that disadvantage or distance from Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala. […] The way one judges one’s inclinations is to consider their consequences.

We’ll close with something we just looked at earlier.

It’s related by Imam Al-Bayhaqi in Al-Zuhd Al-Kabir with this chain of transmission that Al-Hasan Al-Basri […]—one of the greatest of the generation after the generation of the companions of the beloved Messenger […]—used too frequently remind those around him, particularly of the young:

[…] Oh young ones! […] Seek the Hereafter. […] Hold fast to the hereafter and seek it […] because we have frequently seen those who made their goal the Hereafter, but they also attained this dunya–they also had worldly attainment. […] But we’ve never seen anyone whose goals were merely worldly and they attained the Hereafter with that.

Meaning: prioritize the akhira and if you do so, you may well also attain the dunya. But if your goals are merely worldly, you’re not going to attain the Hereafter.

So we ask Allah to make us of those who have that attainment…

I hope this helps answer your question. You can also check out more from SeekersHub at the link here.

Walaikum Asalam. Please keep in touch.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:


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