Tuesday, 1 January 2013
A Wayfarers' Guide towards Spiritual Well-Being
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
The following is taken from “Prescriptions for the Self: A Wayfarers’ Guide towards Spiritual Well-Being” by Shaykh Ahmad az-Zarruq (q.s.), as translated by Ustadz Luqman ‘Ali. The original document was written as a form of poetry. For easy reading, I have edited the translation into prose so that it is easier to read.
In The Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, Most Merciful. May peace and prayers be showered upon the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) and his family. Says he who hopes for the Mercy of the All-Forgiving, Ahmad of Najl (q.s.), Ahmad al-Khaddar Burnusi of origin, and then Fasi, known as Zarruq among men, “All praise Belongs to Allah (s.w.t.) Who has Made Known the faults of the self to the masters of inner purity. So they discovered the hiding place of its treachery and they awakened to its plots within themselves. They perceived the ambuscades of its illnesses and they made use of the necessary remedies. As a result of what was bestowed upon them in terms of divine success, sharp insight and precision - what had been difficult became easy for them and what had been vague to them became evident; so they pursued the ways of the thariqa’ and they arrived at the watering places of the haqiqah. May the Blessings of Allah (s.w.t.) be Showered upon the Chosen One and his family and righteous companions.”
Now then, these are summarised chapters. They are a guide to what was attained preceding them - in what Imam Sulami (q.s.) set forth in his orderly composed work. I have made it accessible through poetic meter, advantageous for memorization and the acquisition and consolidation of knowledge. I ask Allah that it be useful and instructive of all goodness; forever profitable to every wayfarer, whether he is an observer, writer, or reader. He is enough for us, Sublime is He and Sufficient. May His Blessings be Bestowed upon the best of the chosen ones – Muhammad (s.a.w.) and his family and his companions and those who follow him forever in his love. And here, I begin what I have intended and I reveal the meaning towards which I am bound.
Allah (s.w.t.) has Made Evident the shortcomings of the self and what it contains in the way of illnesses and turbulence, in the story of Yusuf and elsewhere in Surah al-Jatsiyah and Surah an-Nazi`ah wherein is the forbiddance from following whims and the lower self and from neglecting that which will bring about contentment and intimacy. According to a hadits of Muswthafa (s.a.w.) the exalted one, “There are three things concealed in the clay of Adam. They are: affliction, desire, and lust.” So seek refuge in our Lord, the Possessor of Might through perseverance, dzikr and effort so that you will arrive for that is the intended destination. Busy yourself with searching for your flaws and flee from them to Allah (s.w.t.); for there is naught for the servant except his Lord and He it is Who Grants him what he desires.
Of the illnesses of the self is that it imagines its salvation on account of the adzkar and acts of obedience it undertakes; although it is persistent in its shortcomings insistent upon committing its major sins. This is due to ignorance concerning the matter of the diyn and that which brings about openings and stationing, tamkin.
To Shaykh Swalih al-Mar’i (q.s.) belongs a saying whose gist is, “Whoever devotes himself to knocking on the door, its opening for him is anticipated.”
Shaykha Rabi`ah al-‘Adawiyyah (q.s.) rebutted him with a correct and sound statement: “The door is open! You are running away from it by means of your actions. How then will you approach it?”
He does not reach the destination that sets off on the wrong road and then on top of that is errant in his ways. How is such a one to find deliverance from the reins of his passion when he succumbs to the despondency of his self and its heedlessness, ghaflah. The remedy for this ailment that infects the soul is the assumption of fearful awareness of Allah (s.w.t.) accompanied by tibiha al-ghida. A sage said, and it is an excellent, accurate, verified and transparent statement: “Do not expect deliverance despite your offences and do not hope for awakening despite your disgraces.”
Among the ailments of the self is that when it weeps, it is dispelled of its sorrow, relaxes and then rejoices. This is because of its disposition towards comfort and the servant’s pursuit of rest and respite. The remedy for this ailment is weeping for sorrow instead of weeping because of sorrow. This is since one who weeps on account of sorrow is relieved whereas by weeping for sorrow, sadness is increased.
Among the ailments of the self is that it expects to benefit from Creation while also fearing it and being anxious about provisions. This is on account of the domination of illusions, awham, and weaknesses in certainty and acumen. Because whosoever is cognisant of his Lord is not satisfied by other than Him. The remedy for this ailment is in the authenticity of iman, faith, trust and confidence in Allah (s.w.t.) based on knowledge and in disregarding creational phenomena and in contemplating its impotence, utter dependence and disassociation from that which will bring it benefit or harm. Because one who is in need does not provide the needs of another that it does not possess in itself. And the self’s anxiety about provision is a torment by whose infliction rectitude is lost in spite of our Nourisher’s Assurance of the self’s sustenance and the sustenance of all of His creatures. So whosoever has doubts about provisions certainly has doubts about the Provider.
Among the ailments of the self is lassitude such as dereliction and the abandonment of enthusiasm and alacrity. Graver than that is the self’s lack of concern for its defects and the absence of self-suspicion. And graver yet is the blindness that prevents it from seeing its dereliction according to the people of enlightenment. And even graver is the self that believes it is dignifying itself when in actual fact it persists in its dereliction. Viler than all of this is the self whose defects have become fair-seeming and to whom its own misdeeds appear to be favourable. This is on account of the absence of active thanks, shukr, and the self’s lack of concern for causes. The remedy for this ailment is continuous recourse to our Lord and remembrance of His blessings then persistent remembrance of Allah (s.w.t.) and recitation of the Qur’an accompanied by meditation that eliminates stupidity. And also examination of one’s’ food and drink and the abandonment of everything trivial and dubious and the preservation of the sanctity of the people of Islam then the supplication of the foremost people of knowledge. These remedies will restore the state of obedience to the self and its adherence to virtue and service until it is considered ready for travel and outstripping amongst the foremost folk.
Among the ailments of the self is loss of the pleasure of action, which occurs as a result of the infection of showing off, riya’, or the disregard of a sunnah or self obsession; these are among the abstruse causes of this ailment. The remedy for this ailment is that one rectify the beginning so that one may attain to a sound end. That is achieved through unification, tawhid and sincerity, ikhlasw and observance of the sunnah and the clearance of outstanding obligatory responsibilities and rights of others over oneself as well as eating but a little always for lightness of the stomach is the medicine of the heart while heavy eating is the groundwork of defect. If the stomach is satiated, the limbs hunger and if the limbs hunger, the heart is heavy.
Among the ailments of the self is its anticipation of benefit by the stupendous scenes of woe that it witnesses. This is because of one’s obliviousness to oneself since the correct conduct in such a situation is to feel that one has brought harm to them because of having been present before them since perhaps as a result ones misdeeds one has hurt them. To be sure if a sense of mortality increases in the self because of such an experience, that is better than that one be concerned with ones humanity. It was once asked of one of our foremost predecessors, “How do you qualify the condition of the people of stagnation?”
So he answered, “Were I not with them, I would certainly implore of Allah that He Grant them Forgiveness.” Such is the state of the people of vigilance in suspecting the self with every suspicion. The remedy for this ailment is shame before ones Lord because of His observation of one in the state of sin. That is on account of his reverence for his Lord and his witnessing His Tremendous Proximity.
Among the ailments of the self is that it is deprived of the life hereafter except through death in the life here now. Through hunger, abasement and self-opposition and the abandonment of everything familiar. So it does not live by the experience of the Real save through its own death in the absence of Creation. This is because of its unruliness and misfortune and ignorance of its potential through knowledge. The remedy for this ailment is in the very ailment itself, which is to say that were it to oppose its desires. And become naturally disposed towards Creation and its ways by abandonment of that which is unreal on the one hand and the sublimation of Creation on the other, it would have found the cure. Shaykh Yahya ibn Mu’adz ar-Razi (q.s.) said something profound in its brevity, “The servant’s drawing near to his Lord through the death of his self leads to the good fortune of himself.” And he also said:” Hunger is like food for the body of the veracious one in rectitude but as I see it there is detriment in the exaggeration of this matter, since it results in the ruin of both body and mind. So observe commendable moderation and be content with what is presently available.”
Among the ailments of the self is the absence of familiarity with the Real as a result of abandoning that which begets guidance and veracity. This is on account of indifference to the self in the moment and leaving the Cause of Perfection for all who neglect the self are devastated by it; and its course of action is in deviation and whim since its nature is at odds with obedience but is in accordance with dereliction and dissipation. The remedy for this ailment is departure from the self in its entirety to its Lord, by means of its root and branch. It was asked of Shaykh ibn Zadan (q.s.), “By what principles should one who wishes to flee to his Lord proceed?”
He replied, “By leaving all that issues from him and not assuming a share of what proceeds from him.
It was then asked, “This is the property of those with seniority, so how can it be the property of him who has emerged from nothingness?”
He replied, “By the existence of the pleasure of the fresh start as opposed to revisiting that which has past.”
All who have found the lure or taste of the Real in a breath or in the self is a wayfarer in truth. Other than him should suspect his actions since he has not found in himself its perfection.
Among the ailments of the self is the ruinous thoughts to which it becomes habituated and despicable states such that it sometimes sees disobedience in its habit though it remains amenable to engaging in that to which it has become accustomed. Nevertheless, this is since through repetition thoughts become fixed, inscribed upon the faculty of cogitation. This occurs as a result of its being without companionship and not being assiduous in dzikr. The remedy of this ailment is to decline the thoughts at their conception through severance and continuous dzikr. And that one be watchful of his Lord and busy with the reform of his heart because it is solely for the Real; and the body.
Do not worry about it along with Creation. For it says in a hadits of the Chosen One (s.a.w.) which has been affirmed by the conduct of the virtuous, “Allah neither considers your forms nor your deeds but rather your hearts.” And the best of these is that which possesses compassion and clarity and the worst of these is that which is coarse and antipathetic. The inception of a misdeed is said to be the idea, just as a flood commences with a drop. It then becomes an opposer, if aversion to it does not lead to its opposition. It then stirs into an appetite of desire that dispenses of goodness and enfeebles the will. It then becomes temptation, waswasah, if aversion to it has not led to its neutralization since if it is not set right through the jihad of the nafs, it will be the cause of all sorts of maladies and obfuscations. This is because it befogs the intellects possessing the proof and the knowledge of evidence and elucidation so it blinds enlightened discernment and blots out reflective insight. So the heart likewise become blind and may end up in darkness and tyranny.
This is the purport that has reached us in the narrations from the Chosen Prophet (s.a.w.), “Among the ailments of the self is its preoccupation with the faults of people and its obliviousness to its own blemishes.” This is due to arrogance and self-admiration and obliviousness to the causes of torment. For woe has descended, in Surah al-Humazah, upon every slanderer, defamer and thereafter upon every fault-finding caviler. The remedy of this ailment is that one become insightful of one’s own faults and investigate the reasons for ones wretchedness and companionship of the people of goodness and benevolence through emulation and counsel. By that is meant a scholar possessed of meticulousness and fearful awareness or a person of integrity whose virtue is confirmed. Or at least silence with regarding the condition of people and not spreading news of their shortcomings in the hope that one’s own transgressions and blemishes will be veiled and out of fear that one might be disgraced because of them. For according to a hadits, a person’s concealment of his brother’s faults is a veil over all of his own faults that issue from him. Also, in another hadith, “Whosoever cavils the faults of others will be Disgraced by Allah and He will Expose his failings.” Even if these take place in the interior of his own home. This is the meaning of what has reached us from the Sublime Messenger (s.a.w.).
Some people use to say, “We saw those who dispensed of their own faults only to be flawed by preoccupation with the faults of others. And others who had become famous for their shortcomings yet kept quiet about the faults of others so they were Veiled and their flaws disappeared from the view of people and they emerged from the throng of the blighted.” So beware, O companion of this trait, for indeed it is an affliction and abasement. Abandonment of it is a tremendous advantage and the attribute of every noble innermost heart.
Among the ailments of the self are persistence in transgression, languor, impotence, postponement, and wishfulness. This is on account of its intimacy with laziness and its lack of success in the mode of action together with the absence of fearful awareness, taqwa and precaution and plunging into hazardous and futile activity. The remedy of this ailment is in the reply of Imam Junayd (q.s.) to one who asked about the path of merit. He replied, “It lies in tawbah that does away with persistent misdeeds and in dismissing the tendency to postponement with fear of the immediate. And in positive expectation that spurs to action and constant dzikr and the severance of wishfulness. And the groundwork of all of this is the inner heart that has been singularised by absolute, liberated tawhid for pure tawhid in thariqa’ is like the root of the branch in the garden.
Among the ailments of the self are excessive self regard and leniency with the self on account of one’s sensory perceptions. This occurs as a result of the dominance of illusions and a deficiency in fear of misdeed since whomsoever fears the day that he or she will enter the grave does not even imagine indulgence of the self. The remedy of this ailment is regard for the Bounty of Allah (s.w.t.) and disassociating from all those who are oblivious and trifling and becoming resolute and determined in matters and leaving the company of the negligent and all who are satisfied with themselves and do not perceive the flaw that has befallen them since the companionship of the self-satisfied increases satisfaction with the self and propels the servant towards a wretched fate while the companionship of the diligent one consecrated to the service of Allah (s.w.t.) increases one in assiduity and alacrity.
Shaykh al-Wasithi (q.s.) spoke excellently saying, “The closest thing to abomination is he who attends the self and whoever considers the self’s beautiful actions to be beautiful and meritorious because that habit will necessarily lead to him approving of those actions of the self that are offensive.” So be forever suspicious of the self seeking Refuge with Allah (s.w.t.) in this affair.
Among the ailments of the self is its embellishment of the exterior while neglecting the adornment of the interior. This is on account of its glorification of Creation and its abandonment of that which brings about sincerity and veracity. The remedy of this ailment is that one be concerned with one’s interior in order that Allah (s.w.t.) Rectify all of one’s affairs. As in a hadits, it is said, “He who sets right his interior for the sake of his Lord, his exterior will be set right.”
Among the ailments of the self is that it seeks an exchange for its actions and harbours ulterior motives. This is on account of one’s regard for ones actions and ones observation of one’s states in them. The root cause of this ailment is obliviousness of one’s Lord and being deficient in witnessing His Proximity since actions do not increase that which has been apportioned; rather they are the hallmarks of the servitude with which he have been imprinted. And whosoever seeks to obtain recompense for his actions will be called upon to produce that which brought them about. It should suffice the seeker that he gain wellbeing, since his actions will result eventually in regret. Our actions are most certainly derived of His Favours, so how then can one demand recompense of His Awe-Inspiring Presence?
Among the ailments of the self is the absence of enjoyment in action or the loss of it after having found it. This is on account of internal treachery and injuries to the innermost heart, fu’adh, resulting from offences. The remedy of this ailment is in the service of the people of excellence and engagement in invocations of Allah (s.w.t.) and the pursuit of taqwa and in the lightness of the stomach and the consumption of that which is lawful followed by humbly beseeching the Lord and entreaties especially during the darkness of the pre-dawn period and in retreat from other than Allah (s.w.t.).
Among the ailments of the self is the seeking of leadership through knowledge, position and politics and arrogance and pride accompanied by competition with one’s peers and pursuing other than Allah (s.w.t.). Because true remembrance of the Lord causes one to forget the self, so that the servant finds no congeniality with the self while congeniality with the world and the remembrance of the self cause one to forget about the Lord and hardens the hearts. The remedy of this ailment is in considering ones shortcomings and dereliction and showing gratitude to the Omnipotent King for having Made one a vessel for knowledge and action accompanied by fear of being dispossessed of that knowledge on account of one’s deeds followed by humility and broken-heartedness and good counsel and showing compassion to the people of virtue.
The elect and chosen Prophet (s.a.w.) said in an accurate and cautionary hadits, “Whosoever seeks knowledge in order to boast of his knowledge among the learned or to dispute with the fools or in order to attain status among people, then he will yield the fire and be ruined.” And all knowledge by which its possessor does not increase in Guidance distances him from his Lord. Such has it come to us in the exalted sunnah, “Whosoever increases his knowledge, let him also increase his fearful humility.” And the import of this has also come in the Judicious Book, “Whoever humbly fears his Lord, he it is that is learned. And the wicked scholars are those who are the first to fuel the blaze of the fire according to hadits reports.