The Asrar of 'Ashura

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

It was Imam al-Ghazali (r.a.) who explained in detail, the inner dimensions of ‘ibadah.  His shaykh was Imam Abu ‘Ali al-Farmadi (q.s.), 8th Grand Shaykh of the Golden Chain.  Imam al-Farmadi (q.s.) was also the one who made du’a that Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.) be raised to the maqam of Ghawts al-A’azham, whose feet are on the necks of the awliya’.  Spirituality is the essence of faith.  Swalah is one of the foundations of Islam.  But the moment we state our ni’at, and the moment we remember our Prophet’s (s.a.w.) injunction to “pray as if you see Allah, and even if you do not, know that He Sees you;” that is where the realm of thariqa’ begins. This article is meant to be an introduction to Latha’if for those who are serious in taswawwuf.

‘Ashura has a spiritual meaning.  Each prophet experienced a significant event on that day.  All those prophets except Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) had a positive development on that day.  Look at the five main prophets: Adam (a.s.) was Forgiven by Allah (s.w.t.); Nuh (a.s.) was Saved from the flood and the ark came to rest; Musa (a.s.) was Saved from Fir’awn and received the Commandments; Ibrahim (a.s.) was Saved from the fire of Namrud and received his title, al-Khalil and ‘Isa (a.s.) was Raised up to Heaven.

Additionally, this was also the Day Idris (a.s.) was Raised to the heavens; Ayyub (a.s.) was Relieved from his trial; Yunus (a.s.) was saved from the three layers of darkness; Dawud (a.s.) was Forgiven; Sulayman (a.s.) Received his kingdom and was Restored to it.  As for our prophet, Muhammad (s.a.w.), this was the day he married Khadijah (r.a.).  It was also that day, his grandson was murdered along with his family in a barbaric manner.  It is a day of rejoicing for all the other umam because their prophets were saved.  But for our Prophet (s.a.w.), for his ummah, it is not necessarily a day of rejoicing.  Rather, it is a day of mourning.  This contrast has a spiritual meaning.

‘Ashura is related to the sirr Given to each prophet and to their umam.  If we look at Adam (a.s.), he was Forgiven on that day.  The secret Given to the ummah of Adam (a.s.) is Forgiveness.  Thus, our shuyukh say humanity is an ummah that is Forgiven.  The sirr Given to the umam relates to the five levels of the heart.  This is the ‘ilm of Latha’if.  And that is why the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Rajab is the month of Allah, Sha’ban is my month and Ramadhan is the month of my ummah.”  Within that is Divine Forgiveness.

Qalb, Heart, is the domain of Adam (a.s.), who was Forgiven.  Adam (a.s.) is the father of humanity.  This sirr has been passed on to his ummah, all mankind.  That sirr is Forgiveness.  This is the Wisdom within the Creation of Bani Adam.  Forgiveness is the spiritual return before the Return.  It is the dying before dying.  There cannot be Forgiveness before repentance and there can be no repentance without awareness of the Divine.  That Forgiveness is not the forgiveness of sins.  Rather, it is the forgiveness of having a Self other than the Divine.  That was the repentance of the Prophet (s.a.w.) for us.

Sirr, Secret, is the domain of Nuh (a.s.), who was Saved from the flood and Rescued in the ark.  He passed this sirr to his ummah, Ahl ath-Thariqa’.  Thus, the reality of being saved from the flood of ignorance and rescued by the ship of thuruq is made manifest through this.  And that is what the Prophet (s.a.w.) meant when he said we should teach our children to swim, archery and to ride horses.  We are all children, the Children of Adam (a.s.).  He who does not swim, drowns in dunya.  And the ones who float above are rescued by the ark of thariqa’.  The Path requires focus.  And just as an arrow needs to be pulled back to go forth, the initiate needs to control his breathing, and restrain his Self so that he is Propelled forward.  To ride the horse is ride the beast of the nafs.  He who does not ride his nafs, his nafs rides him.

Sirr as-Sirr, the Secret of Secrets, is the domain of Musa (a.s.), who was Saved from Fir’awn; and Ibrahim (a.s.), who was Saved from the fire of Namrud.  They both passed their asrar to the dwellers of the white station: the followers of the Swiddiqin Path – the way of Abu Bakr asw-Swiddiq (r.a.).  This is based on the hadits where the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Abu Bakr does not precede you because of much prayer or fasting, but because of a secret that is in his heart.”  Musa (a.s.) passed the sirr of being saved from hidden shirk, the hidden Fir’awn, and of opening the two rivers of thariqa’ and shari’ah when he walked through them with his people.  The Elect are at the nexus where the two oceans meet.  Ibrahim (a.s.) passed the sirr of safety from the Fire.  The inheritors of the Haqq asw-Swiddiq cannot be burned by the Fire as it is mentioned in hadits that Abu Bakr (r.a.) is Protected from the Fire due to his sincerity.

Khafa’, the Hidden, is the domain of ‘Isa (a.s.) who was Raised up Heaven.  He passed this sirr to the inheritors of this maqam who are Raised to Heaven.  They inherit the sirr of the first part of the Mi’raj, which ends at the maqam of the Holy Spirit where Jibra’il (a.s.) halted.  Jibra’il (a.s.) informed our Prophet (s.a.w.) that beyond this, he had no authority to proceed without being annihilated.  It ends here because the Holy Spirit is under the authority of ‘Isa (a.s.).  Every Muslim plays this out in the tashahhud.

Our prophet, Muhammad (s.a.w.) supersedes all in maqamat through the true sirr of ‘Ashura and complete fana’ at the maqam of Akhfa, the Most Hidden.  On ‘Ashura, the family of the Prophet (s.a.w.) attained true fana’ by the ultimate vicarious sacrifice.  They took on themselves the burdens of their oppressors and the darkness of their sins.  They were Drowned in the Bahr al-Qudrah which appears as its highest manifestation in Akhfa’.  When the Self is absent, the Divine is Present.

Similarly, each hue carries a sirr of ‘Ashura.  Yellow, the Qalb, represents the honour of Insan al-Kamil, reached through Forgiveness.  It has removed the between in-between.  Red, the Sirr, represents the nafs from which the Ahl at-Taswawwuf are saved by boarding the ark of thariqa’.  White, Sirr as-Sirr, is the color of purity, which protects from Fire and opens the doors of both Oceans.  Green, Khafa, is the spiritual ‘ilm gained through the initial Mi’raj.  The one Sent to Guide is often al-Khidhr (a.s.).  Black, Akhfa, represents fana’, the black hole which absorbs every sin and all suffering.  All sin stems from ingratitude and the greatest ingratitude is to possess a self other than the Divine.  It is by that self that all trials and tribulations arise since we are meant to return to the Divine.  Perfection cannot exist with imperfection.

Is Ashura’ a day of mourning or a rejoicing?  Perhaps, it is a day of mourning for the tragedy upon the family of our Beloved Prophet (s.a.w.).  In Reality, all is by His Plan.  And those who are aware are pleased because He is Pleased.  Within that suffering lies hidden the Glad Tidings.

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Have We not Expanded thee thy breast? ― And Removed from thee thy burden, that which did gall thy back? ―  And Raised high the esteem (in which) thou (art held)?  So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief: verily with every difficulty there is relief.  Therefore, when thou art free (from thine immediate task), still labour hard.  And to thy Lord turn (all) thy attention. (Surah ash-Sharh:1-8)

By Surah al-Fatihah, He Opens the doors.  By Surah al-Inshirah, He Grants access.


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