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Laila Prager

The concept of nafs is frequently mentioned in the Qur'an and in post-Qur'anic literature, where it is identified with the idea of the soul and individual moral behaviour. Accordingly, this concept appears in a number of Islamised societies, although it is usually associated with a wide range of different, localised socio-cultural meanings and understandings. In the Alawi-Nusairy society of south-eastern Turkey, the notion of nafs is a polysemic focal concept that encompasses ideas and practices simultaneously relating to the person, the society and the cosmos as a whole. To understand these notions and values, this article analyses the way in which the Alawites/Nusairies conceptualise the emergence of the nafs within the overall process of procreation and examines local beliefs in rebirth, 'metempsychosis' and 'gendered' souls.