Shaykh Najm ad-Din al-Kubra (q.s.) & the 10 Principles of the Kubrawiyyah

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Shaykh Abu al-Jannab Ahmad ibn ‘Umar (q.s.), better known as Shaykh Najm ad-Din al-Kubra, was a 13th century Persian Sufi from Khwarizm.  Shaykh Najm ad-Din al-Kubra (q.s.) was known as the ‘Pillar of the Age’ and one of the greatest Sufis of all time.  He is the founder of the Kubrawiyyah Sufi Order which was influential in the Ilkhanid and Timurid dynasties.  His methodology is considered exemplary of a golden age of Sufi metaphysics.  It was related to the Illuminism of Shaykh Shahab ad-Din Suhrawardi (q.s.) the founder of Suhrawardi Order.  His close associates included Shaykh Sa’adi ash-Shiraz (q.s.) as well as Shaykh Shams at-Tabrizi (q.s.).

Born in 540 AH / 1145 CE, Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) began his career as a scholar of ahadits and kalam.  His interest in Sufism began in Egypt where he became a murid of Shaykh Ruzbihan al-Baqli ash-Shirazi (q.s.), who was an initiate of the Uwaysi Order.  After years of study, he abandoned his exploration of the religious sciences and devoted himself entirely to the Sufi way of life.  Shaykh Zia ad-Din ‘Ammar Badlisi (q.s.) was Shaykh Najm ad-Din’s (q.s.) shaykh.

Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) gained a large following of gnostics.  Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) was given the title “Manufacturer of Saints” and his Order was named the Kubrawiyyah.  Shaykh Najm ad-Din’s (q.s.) main body of works concerns the analysis of ma’rifat.  He wrote numerous important works discussing the visionary experience, including a Sufi commentary on the Qur’an that he was unable to complete.  He passed away in 617 AH / 1220 CE.  Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) died during the Mongol conquests after refusing to leave his city.  He fought in hand-to-hand combat against the Mongols.  Overall, Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) is remembered as a pioneer of the Sufi tradition and explanation of spiritual visionary experiences.  Shaykh Najm ad-Din’s (q.s.) works spread throughout the Middle East and Central Asia where it flourished for many years, until it gradually was taken over by other similar more popular ideologies and Sufi leaders.

In addition to his work centering around the Sufi commentary of the Qur’an, Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) wrote other important treatises including Fawa’ih al-Jamal wa Fawatih al-Jalal, Uswul al-‘Ashara and Risalah al-Kha’if al-Ha’im min Lawmat al-La’im.  His works discuss the analysis of dreams and visions, such as the significance of dreams and visions, the degrees of luminous epiphany that are manifested to the mystic, the different classes of concept and image that engage his attention, and the nature and interrelations of man’s subtle centres.  The Kubrawiyyah Order were avid practitioners of seeking the meaning of visions through ritual performances and meditation.  Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) being the manufacturer of saints, led him to analyse popular dream episodes from Muslim hagiographical works, and his disciples would follow his analysis.

The influence of the Kubrawiyyah can be seen on the Islamic world as a whole because of its relationship to the strong influence of Shi’ism in Iran.  The Kubrawiyyah was not largely popular until after Shaykh Najm ad-Din’s (q.s.) death in the 16th century.  The Order found great development outside of Central Asia, but its influence and presence only lasted until the 19th Century, when it was replaced by the Naqshbandiyyah during the Ottoman Empire.  The Kubrawiyyah’s influence in Central Asia established many political, social, and economic activities there, but the Naqshbandiyyah developed these ideas to their fullest potential.  The Kubrawiyyah’s main teaching was the total focus on dzikr as a means of allowing for the perception of spiritual visions.  Today, the Kubrawiyyah is almost non-existent, but the Naqshbandiyyah continue to practice similar rituals and profess similar ideas about analysing spiritual visions.

Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) had twelve muridun.  They included Shaykh Najm ad-Din ar-Razi (q.s.), Shaykh Sayf ad-Din al-Bukharzi (q.s.), Shaykh Majd ad-Din al-Baghdadi (q.s.) and Baha’ ad-Din al-Walad (q.s.), the father of Mawlana Jalal ad-Din ar-Rumi (q.s.).  His most influential disciple was Shaykh Sa’ad ad-Din Hamuwayi (q.s.).  Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) informed Shaykh Hamuwayi (q.s.) to leave the city in which they resided with the impending Mongol invasion on the horizon.  However, Shaykh Hamuwayi (q.s.) stayed with Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) and received his ‘ijazah from him.  Shaykh Hamuwayi (q.s.) wrote over thirty important manuscripts and other works concerning the work of Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) and the influence of the Kubrawiyyah.

This is extracted from Adab as-Suluk, a treatise on spiritual wayfaring from the chapter, “On the Inward Rules of This Journey.”  This book was written by Shaykh Najm ad-Din Kubra (q.s.).

There are 10 principles for inner perfection, bathin, with which a salik should adorn his nafs in order to be admitted into the Divine Presence.  Otherwise his sincerity and aspiration will be deemed false; his love will be merely a false claim; though he may consider himself as a wayfarer towards God, in reality he is plunged in the dungeons of sensuality.

First is keeping watch over the nafs.  That is, the salik should always keep vigil over his heart.  He should not neglect it even for a moment for otherwise he would succumb to his carnal desires and Satanic temptations.  He should consider himself as being Watched by God, as He has Said:

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
… for Allah Ever Watches over you.  (Surah an-Nisa’:1)

The Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Allah Watches your heart and acts, not your apparent behaviour and worldly belongings.”

Second is the expression of humility, poverty and abasement before the Lord of the world.  Shaykh Abu Yazid al-Bistami (q.s.) said that a voice, sarush, called from within and said, “O Abu Yazid!  There are many servants in Our service.  So if you seek Us, bring humility and neediness.”  Shaykh Abu Yazid (q.s.) further said, “You know for certain that you are in a crying need of your Lord at every hour on many counts; so you are needful of His Guiding Light as well as His Merciful Glance, Guidance and His Sustenance at every moment.  And also, you are in need of Him at the time of death so that the light of Islam and its knowledge are kept intact in your heart.  In the grave too, you are in need of Him so that you successfully answer the questions asked by Munkar (a.s.) and Nakir (a.s.).  It is He Who will be your friend in the terrors of the grave.  The greatest of all of your needs is your dependence on Him in the Day of Judgement, the day of regret and remorse so that Allah (s.w.t.), may Make your face luminous, Conceal your blemishes with His Mercy and Enhance the weight and worth of your good works in His Balance mizan, that He may Facilitate the Clearance of your account and Put the book of your deeds in your right hand, that He may Keep you firm on the Path, shat, and Save you from hellfire and Lead you towards Paradise.  His highest Generosity and the most excellent Favour is to Bless you with His beatific vision.”

These are our essential needs with regard to our Master in this world and the other world.  Hence our expression of poverty and humility before (s.w.t.) should be according to your real poverty and need.

The third principle is repentance, tawbah, and penitence, inabah, before Allah (s.w.t.) in all conditions of hardship and affluence, comfort and calamity.  Referring to the Prophet Sulayman (a.s.), Allah (s.w.t.) Said, “He was a good servant, because he was penitent.”  Allah (s.w.t.) Said the same thing about the Prophet Ayyub (a.s.), for Sulayman (a.s.) saw his Benefactor in His Bounties, ni’mah, and Ayyub (a.s.) saw the One who tries in His Trials.  Neither did the bounties enjoyed by the former blur his vision of the Provider nor the hardship and tribulations of the latter veil his sight from seeing the Hand of their Sender.  In both the cases they attributed all that happened to the Lord.

The fourth principle is surrender, taslim, to the Command of Allah (s.w.t.).  Taslim means to surrender to Allah (s.w.t.) both with the heart and the body, both of which are under His Ownership.  To surrender a property to its owner is an essential condition of submission.  The Owner has the Right to Control His Property and Dispose it in any way He Deems proper.  It is up to Him whether He Honours or disgraces His slave, Breathes life in him or Kills him, Causes sickness or Bestows health on him, Makes him rich or poor.  Hence it is required of a salik not to raise any objection against His Will.  He should not complain overtly or covertly, for the protest against the real owner is absurd and violation of all norms.  Complaint against the Lord by someone who claims to be His slave and lover is a shortcoming in one's love, servitude and devotion.

The fifth principle is ridha’. acquiescence, accepting Divine Dispensations without questioning though they be bitter.  The common believers take recourse in patience, swabr, when a calamity befalls.  But the state of the elect in a similar situation is that of ridha’.  The difference between swabr and ridha’ is that the patient person, swabir, by virtue of his faith, faces calamity with forbearance; his faith remains unshaken and he does not get disturbed in times of calamity; he will not deviate from the path of servitude, howsoever great and unbearable the calamity should be but his heart resents the calamity.  But the acquiescent person, radhi, is the one whose heart is always in the state of acquiescence and happiness.  Calamity and affluence do not affect him, for whatever he receives from Allah (s.w.t.) he considers it as a Gift from a Friend.  He enjoys hardships inflicted upon him by his Beloved and Friend with the same pleasure as others enjoy favours.  ‘Ali (k.w.), in a famous sermon, Khutbat Hammam, describing the qualities of the pious said, “They are as happy in the face of calamity as others are in the state of comfort.”

The sixth principle is permanent grief, huzn.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Allah Loves every grieving heart.”  Regarding the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) attributes. it is said that he was always in the state of contemplation and grief.  According to the ‘urafa’, every heart which is devoid of grief is nothing but clay.  How can a believer manage to be cheerful while he does not know what was Written by the pen of pre-eternity about his fate, whether it is felicity or wretchedness.  Also, he is unaware of his end for he does not know what he will earn tomorrow in the way of virtue or vice.  He does not know whether his obedience will be Accepted by Allah (s.w.t.) or not, and whether his sins will be Pardoned or not.

Shaykh Abu al-Hasan al-Kharqani (q.s.) was among the people of grief.  One day, he was asked the reason of the grief of the great mystics.  He replied that the reason is that they want to know Allah (s.w.t.) as He Deserves to be known but that is impossible, for no one can know Allah (s.w.t.) as He Deserves to be known.

The seventh principle is to have good faith, husn azh-zhan, in Allah (s.w.t.).  And He Said, in a hadits qudsi, “I Treat My servant in accordance with his opinion of Me, so let him have whatever opinion he has.”  Therefore, it is necessary for a servant of Allah (s.w.t.) to have good faith in Allah (s.w.t.) or a favourable opinion of Him.  This state is reached as a result of discerning the Attributes of Beauty of Allah (s.w.t.), comprising Generosity, Mercifulness, Magnanimity and the Vastness of His Forgiveness.  Whoever mistrusts Allah (s.w.t.) or has an unfavourable opinion of his Lord and loses hope in His Mercy, considers his vices and sins bigger than the capacity of Allah’s (s.w.t.) Generosity and Mercy.  This amounts to ascribing defect and shortcoming to Allah (s.w.t.).

The eighth rule is that one should not consider oneself out of reach of Allah’s (s.w.t.) Devising, makr.  As Allah (s.w.t.) has Said:

Did they then fell secure against the Plan of Allah?  But no one can feel secure from the Plan of Allah, except those (doomed) to ruin! (Surah al-A‘araf:99)

Further, He has also Said:

… Those truly fear Allah, among His servants who have knowledge ... (Surah Fathir:28)

This fear and awe is produced in one who contemplates Allah’s (s.w.t.) Attributes of Magnificence and Wrath.  For in the same way as Allah (s.w.t.) is Attributed with the qualities of Generosity and Mercifulness, He is Attributed with Wrathfulness and Power as well.  Allah (s.w.t.) has Said:

… “I will fill Hell with jinn and men all together.” (Surah Hud:119)

The ninth principle is love, mahabbah.  In this regard, Allah (s.w.t.) has Said:

… soon will Allah Produce a people whom He will Love as they will love Him ... (Surah al-Ma’idah:54)

Love is the essence of all stations, maqamat, and virtues, karamat, by means of which the slave of Allah (s.w.t.) progresses toward the Lord of the Heaven and the Earth, and by virtue of which he will attain to the higher degrees of the journey, suluk.  Love is the fruit of the knowledge of the Beautiful Names of Allah (s.w.t.).  No one possesses beauty which is his own in the world except Allah (s.w.t.).  Whatever beauty and perfection is seen in the creatures is in fact a particle of the sun of His Beauty, a drop from the oceans of His Perfection.

If we consider beauty and perfection to be confined to material forms and worldly things, know that we are imprisoned within the world of corporeal form and are deprived of observing the reality.  For the real beauty and rational perfection are found in the essence of a being that possesses power and life, has the attributes of generosity, benevolence, forbearance, and is devoid of any shortcoming and defect.  It is due to this reason that the generous, the noble, and the wise are loved by all.  Similarly, the warrior and the courageous are loved due to their might, and the learned and the pious are respected due to their honesty and purity.  We know that each one of these attributes of glory and beauty are inherent in the Divine Essence, which possesses them infinitely and eternally.  But beings other than Allah (s.w.t.) possess a beauty and perfection that is limited, reckonable, accidental, finite and mortal.  Even such attributes are borrowed from the Divine Ocean of Bounty and Beneficence.  Hence, none except Allah (s.w.t.) deserves to be loved in the real sense, for every form of beauty, jamal, is derived from Him.  So everyone who loves something other than Allah (s.w.t.) is surely blind to the beauty of Allah (s.w.t.).

The tenth principle is to give up reliance on one's will, mashi’ah, and freedom, ikhtiyar, and to take up trust in the Omnipotent Lord of the World.  Allah (s.w.t.) has Said:

Allah Sets Forth the parable (of two men: one) a slave under the dominion of another; he has no power of any sort; and (the other) a man on whom We have Bestowed goodly favours from ourselves, and he spends thereof, (freely), privately and publicly: are the two equal? ... (Surah an-Nahl:75)

So a slave has nothing to do with freedom, for freedom suits those who are free.  And the ‘urafa' have said, if a seeker has a single desire, it means that his vision is obstructed by veils.  They have also said that this desire is the greatest of veils.  Hence even the desire of union with Allah (s.w.t.) is the darkest of all veils.  So when even the desire of proximity to Allah (s.w.t.) is considered to be the greatest veil, what is to be said about the condition of one who is plunged in sensual desires and mundane enticements?  Thus it is essential for a seeker to be like the corpse in the hands of the bathers, ghussal, so that he may attain communion with al-Haqq.  Every desire takes one away from Allah (s.w.t.).


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