The Three States of Obedience

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is adapted from the teachings of Shaykh Muhammad Nazhim Adil al-Haqqani (q.s.).

The Divine Asks us to:

Enter houses through the proper doors and fear Allah that ye may prosper. (Surah al-Baqarah:189)

For every door there is a key, and the key for unlocking the door to the heart is through obedience to the Divine Will.

O ye who believe!  Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those charged with authority among you. (Surah an-Nisa’:59)

We seek to be under the shade of these three trees of authority.  They are like mighty oaks which protect us from the storms and floods of this life.  In times of natural disasters, when floods and tsunamis are washing everything away, what remains are the trees.  And we see many times on the news that people who are able to reach and hold on to the trunk of a tree are able to survive the flood.  If we hold to these three mighty trees, we will quickly reach to our Lord’s Satisfaction.

As Prophet ‘Isa (a.s.) taught in the Lord’s prayer,

Matthew 6:10
10 Your Kingdom Come.  Your Will be Done on earth as it is in heaven.

For the gnostic and the knower of these Heavenly realities, this supplication encompasses the entire spiritual path, which is to surrender our will back to Allah (s.w.t.).  This comes through obedience to the Divine, and obedience opens servanthood, because a servant must obey his Master.  But what is standing in our way is our ego.  Therefore, thariqa’ teaches that the highest level to achieve is to become a servant.  It is most difficult on the ego and it is most pleasing in Divine Presence.  Allah (s.w.t.) is Saying that He Gave us free will and now He is Asking for it back.  That is the test of our life; to give back our free will out of love for the Creator.

This concept of obedience to Allah’s (s.w.t.) Will is the religion that all prophets brought to humanity.  That is why all the prophets were saying,

"We hear and we obey..." (Surah al-Baqarah:285)

Who do we obey?

Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those charged with authority among you. (Surah an-Nisa’:59)

These three levels of obedience teach us a great deal about the Sufi path because Allah’s (s.w.t.) first Command is to obey Him, and Sufism teaches us to step back and humble ourselves and realise that we can never truly obey God.  That is why Sufism is a way of humility.  It goes against pride arrogance by pointing out that we are in need of support, and by teaching us that there is an etiquette in how we approach the Divine Presence.

We must:

Enter houses through the proper doors... (Surah al-Baqarah:189)

We cannot think that you can obey Allah’s (s.w.t.) Command so easily.  That is a station for the prophets, not for us.  They were hearing from and speaking with the Divine, and we are not.  But the ego is so quick to say we do not need to listen to anyone; that we do not need anyone else’s advice since we can connect directly to Allah (s.w.t.).

Allah (s.w.t.) Knows that we are a weak creation, constantly sinning and making mistakes.  If we had to obey Him directly all of us would be in grave danger because we are not.  Therefore, we must show some humility in our approach.  We are not prophets, and we do not take our orders directly from the Divine, therefore we must obey those who do.

O ye who believe!  Do your duty to Allah, seek the means of approach unto Him, and strive (with might and main) in His Cause: that ye may prosper. (Surah al-Ma’idah:35)

We cannot approach Allah (s.w.t.)  directly saying “I am who I am!”  We cannot overstep our authority and ask to connect directly to Allah (s.w.t.).  That is fine in the beginning, but not when one is seeking to advance.  Iblis also wanted a direct connection and he was very advanced.  He did not accept Adam’s (a.s.) authority and so he refused to bow, and for that he was thrown out of Paradise, even though for 70,000 years he was in complete worship of the Divine.

The Divine teaches us that there is an etiquette involved in dealing with the king.  There is a particular way to approach the throne.  We must keep our eyes down.  We may have to drop to our knees, and if the king appoints someone to represent him and vests authority in that person, you cannot refuse to accept. That is the protocol for kings in this world, and that is the protocol in dealing with Allah (s.w.t.).

We have to lower ourselves.  We cannot place ourselves on the level of the prophets.  That is very dangerous.  Allah (s.w.t.) Gave us another way by asking us to obey the Messenger (s.a.w.).  He Says:

He who obeys the Messenger, obeys Allah... (Surah an-Nisa’:80)

The Prophet (s.a.w.) is in complete submission to the Divine - he has no will of his own.  Therefore, he acts as a mirror, reflecting the Divine Presence towards creation.  However, the Prophet (s.a.w.) is not with us.  We imitate his perfection by obeying those charged with authority over us.

Thariqa’ comes to perfect our faith and learn to accept Allah’s (s.w.t.) Will.  That opens the spiritual reality, because there is a spiritual government just like there is a government in this material world.  There are awliya’ with different ranks and stations in that spiritual government who have inherited from the Prophet (s.a.w.).  If any find them and follow them, they will be in safety because they are under an authority and that authority is coming directly from Divine Presence.

As Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (r.a.) said, “O my son, you have to sit with the Sufis because they are like a fountain of knowledge.  They recite the remembrance of God in their hearts.  They are the ascetics, and they have the most spiritual power.  I do not know any people better than them.”

Saints inherit from the perfection of the Prophet (s.a.w.) through spiritual training and constant remembrance of Allah (s.w.t.).  They have purified their hearts of all imperfections in character and in worship.  It means that their hearts have become like mirrors.

And hold fast, all together by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves... (Surah Ali ‘Imran:103)

Whereas the Prophet (s.a.w.) is a mirror reflecting the Divine Light towards the awliya’, the awliya’ in-turn are receiving the light of Prophet (s.a.w.) and reflect it towards humanity in our time.  The awliya’ of the Naqshbandi Golden Chain inherit that light from the Prophet (s.a.w.) through the lineage of forty grand shuyukh, beginning with Abu Bakr (r.a.).  That lineage is like a rope reaching seekers in this time, guiding them on their journey towards the Divine Presence.


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