Commentary on Swalawat al-Mashishiyyah

The following is a commentary of Swalawat al-Mashishiyyah of Mawlay ‘Abd as-Salam ibn Mashishi (q.s.) with translation and transliteration by Shaykh Abu Faydan Faridi Muhammad Harun Riedinger.

Shaykh Muhammad ‘Abd as-Salam ibn Mashish’s (q.s.) full name was Muhammad ‘Abd as-Salam ibn Manswur ibn Ibrahim al-Hasani al-Idrisi ash-Sharif, of the Bani ‘Arus, of the Jabal ‘Alam, to the southeast of Tetuan, in the Maghrib.

One of the secrets of this Swalawat al-Mashishiyyah is that not only does its structure correspond to that of Surah al-Fatihah, and thus relates to it like the second part of the Kalimah ath-Thayyibah, viz “Muhammadan Rasulullah”, relates to the tahlil of its first part, “Laa Ilaha illa Allah”, but there is also, as it were, a specific tafsir of it.

In the first part of Surah al-Fatihah, the essential attributes, relating to the Rububiyyah of Allah (s.w.t.) are proclaimed, leading to the consequent “iyyaka na’budu wa iyyaka nasta’in”, by which the ‘abd realises and acknowledges the attention and intent that lie at the core of his ‘abdiyyah, and, thus, he asks for the means that will enable him to fulfill and accomplish his affair.

In the first part of Swalawat al-Mashishiyyah, the essential attributes, relating to the haqiqah of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), are proclaimed, leading to the consequent conclusion that he is the interface and vital link between the Rabb and the ‘abd, and thus, the access to the realisation of the ‘abd’s affair, and, thus, the fulfillment of man’s purpose of being in the first place.

The Prophet’s (s.a.w.) ‘abdiyyah, which he brought to its perfection as a human being, is the veil that conceals the Divine Secret which he is the bearer of: the realisation of Allah’s (s.w.t.) Love as the Light of Divine Self-Manifestation, from which every Created form emerged.  Hence his Orders are as this verse:

Say: “I am but a man like yourselves, (but) the Inspiration has come to me, that your God is One God ...” (Surah al-Kahf:110)

The corresponding du’a with the “iyyaka na’budu wa iyyaka nasta’in” of Surah al-Fatihah is the plea “alhiqni binasabihi wa haqqiqni bihasabihi”; and the “ihdina asw-Swirath al-Mustaqim”, is elaborated by “wa ‘arrifni iyyahu ma’arifatan aslamu biha min mawaridi al-jahl”.

Allahumma swalli ‘alaa man minhu anshaqqat al-asrar

O Allah, Shower Blessings on him, from whom the secrets emerge.

The “secrets” are the priceless gems of ma’arifah from the Treasure, which Allah (s.w.t.) Speaks of in the well-known hadits qudsi, “I was a Hidden Treasure, and I Loved to be known,” “Kuntu Kanz an-Makhfian wa ahbabtu”, received through direct communication and transmitted by Shaykh Muhyi ad-Din ibn al-‘Arabi (q.s.).

This sacred love affair of the Divine Narcissus, Pure and Exalted is He beyond all that the intellect of Creation could possibly ascribe to Him, could only be realised when the Absolute, and “bare of all relation” Onliness, Ahadiyyah, of the Divine Essence made its first “descent” of Self-Manifestation onto the realm of the Oneness, Wahidiyyah, of the Divine Essence, Manifest in the totality of the Divine Attributes.

And there is none like unto Him. (Surah al-Ikhlasw:4)

It is the realm where the potential of duality first emerges: the Divine Essence and the Divine Attributes, the latter of which open the possibility for the Immensely Generous Display of multiplicity in the Creation in a further descent of Self Display.  The Divine Love Required this virtual partition of the Primordial Oneness into the phenomenal duality of the “knower” and the “known”, unified by the dynamic link of ‘knowledge’ into the Real Unity, Wahdah, that was there before, and always is; which is, in another words, the hadits qudsi: “Kanallahu wa lam yaku ma’ahu shay`a; wa al-ana kama kana.”

Wa anfalaqati al-anwar

And from whom stream forth the lights.

This first descent is the event, where the Exalted Real virtually partitions His Light.  In a famous hadits qudsi, it is reported that Allah (s.w.t.) Took a portion of His Light and Named it, “Muhammad”, and likewise, the Qur’anic phrase “nurun ‘ala nur”, “light upon light”, indicates this reality, and hence the people of ma’arifah have referred to this “portion” as the Haqiqah al-Muhammadiyyah.  He is, thus, the source of all subsequent manifestations of light in the realisation of the Divine Self-Revelation:

Wa fihi artaqati al-haqaa’iq

And in whom the realities are contained.

The word used here literally means “sown up”, the same term that Allah (s.w.t.) Described the state of the entire cosmos before it was manifested in its multiplicity of forms in time and space:

Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of Creation), before We Clove them asunder? ... (Surah al-Anbiya’:30)

This Divine Statement is related to the realm of form and matter, and accordingly, in the realm of meaning, it is the Haqiqah al-Muhammadiyyah, which contained all realities of Creation.  Its cleaving open has realised in the successive sending of the messengers, culminating in the physical appearance of the last of them, Sayyiduna Muhammad (s.a.w.), who is their seal and fulfillment.

Wa tanazzalat ‘uluwm adama faa’ajaza al-khalaa’iq wa lahu tadhaa’alati al-fuhuwm

And, in whom, descended the knowledge of Adam, and all creatures find themselves in utter bewilderment; all understanding is diminished before him.

The Investing of the Divine Knowledge into his essence is to make him a distributor, and thus, by the mashiyyah of Allah (s.w.t.), he becomes the source of the entirety of knowledge of which man is capable of attaining and mastering, and the above mentioned unifying dynamic of “knowledge”, “knower” and “the known” is realised in his person:

... Nor shall they compass aught of His Knowledge except as He Willeth ... (Surah al-Baqarah:255)

To fulfill this function, he had to appear on this level of existence as the ummi, the unlettered, because gnosis, the cognisance of the Creator, which is the quintessential source of all knowledge of Creation, lies beyond the acumen of literacy, and thus his heart was kept pure of all vestiges of it.  Reason and rational understanding cannot comprehend this mystery, and, thus, man finds himself in bewilderment and incompetence when he tries to approach it with that faculty of his intellect.

Falam yudrikhu minnaa saabiqun wa laa laahiqa

None of us can reach up to him, whether in the past or the future.

No man nor angel, nor any other creature has ever attained, nor can attain his degree of Divine intimacy and gnosis which are the foundation of his perfection in ‘abdiyyah, that likewise cannot be reached by any other Created being.  Yet, his ‘abdiyyah is the quintessence of his human existence, and thus he has been established as the Uswah al-Hasanah to give us the focus point and direction in which to grow; he has been made the Siraj al-Munir towards which all life in the entirety of Creation is stretching out.  By Naming him, “Siraj al-Munir”, a self-contained, active source of light, which is the prerogative of Allah (s.w.t.), Allah (s.w.t.) Confirms him as His Self-Manifestation of the Divine Attribute of Light and the Divine Act of Illumination:

… Light upon Light! ... (Surah an-Nur:35)

Fariyyadhu al-malakuwti bizahri jamaalihi muwniqah

The gardens of the spiritual kingdom blossom ornately with the resplendence of his beauty.

This has been interpreted as the awliya’, and the awliya’ are, perhaps, the most vital carriers and custodians of his beauty.  However, the multitude of its expressions goes far beyond that.  Every manifestation of beauty is a Reflection of the Jamal of Allah (s.w.t.), that realised diffusibility by its decent into the Haqiqah al-Muhammadiyyah, whence it first emanated into the realm of the Malakut, the abode of the spirit and spiritual beings, before descending to the Mulk, the realm of forms and matter.

Wa hiyaadhu al-jabaruwti bifaydhi anwaarihi mutadaffiqah

And the reservoirs of the world of dominion overflow with the emanation of his light.

The Jabarut is the first stage of the descent of Divine Self-Manifestation, and thus, synonymous with the Haqiqah al-Muhammadiyyah; it is the realm of sheer energy, which is released to sustain the whole of Existence by this very fountainhead of it.

Wa laa shay’a illaa wa huwa bihi manuwth, idz lawlaa al-waasithatu ladzahaba kamaa qiila al-mawsuth

There is nothing that is not existentially connected to him; if there were no intermediate, everything linked to, as it has been said, would cease to exist.

Since the exclusiveness of the Real as the only existence can never change, since there is Allah (s.w.t.) and nothing was ever there along with Him, and He is now as He always has been, the entire phenomenon of other than He, Creation, utterly depends and is Sustained by Drawing Out of Himself, as it were, this Haqiqah al-Muhammadiyyah, to act as an intermediary by becoming its raison d'être.  This, from the hadits qudsi, “Law laka, law laka ma khalaqtu al-aflak”, “If not for you, if not for you, I would not have Created the celestial spheres.”  Hence if this intermediary were removed, the virtual existence of the Cosmos would lose its purpose and foundation also.

Swalaatan taliqu bika minka ilayhi kamaa huwa ahluhu

A Blessing becoming of You, from You to him, as it is appropriate to him.

The swalawat becoming of Allah (s.w.t.) is of two patterns of realisation.  One is the Undisrupted Loving Attention of the Lord, and that is appropriate to the Prophet (s.a.w.) in his capacity of being His slave and Messenger.  It consists in Sustaining him and Providing him with every resource and authority conducive to the successful execution of the task He has entrusted His slave with.  This includes, and is confirmed by the Divine Commandment to support him by sending prayers upon him and surrendering unconditionally:

… O ye that believe!  Send ye blessings on him and salute him, with all respect. (Surah al-Ahzab:56)

Anyone, who pronounces benedictions on him, but does not enact the taslim to the full extent of his awareness, is not sincere in his islam and lacks iman.

The other one is that Allah (s.w.t.) Grants him intimacy and Communion with Himself as an uninterrupted condition without decline in his capacity of bearing it:

(His) sight never swerved, nor did it go wrong! (Surah an-Najm:17)

And as Divine Self-Revelation is a perpetual process, his being acquainted with the “Greatest of the Signs of his Lord” is also a condition of progressing increase in gnostic realisation and union with the Real:

For truly did he see of the Greatest Signs of his Lord! (Surah an-Najm:18)

The Divine Command “wa sallimu taslima” can also be, and is traditionally being taken to mean “and send peace upon him”.  Shaykh Muswthafa al-‘Alawi (q.s.) commented, in his commentary of Shaykh ibn Ashir’s (q.s.) famous teaching poem, al-Murshid al-Mu’in, that the turbulence, which the Swalawat of the Rabb, His Self-Manifestation, must necessarily cause to the ‘abd due to its immensity and magnitude, is stabilised by the sending of peace on him.

Allahumma innahu sirruka al-jaam’u ad-daallu ‘alayk, wa hijaabuka al-a’azhamu alqaa’imu laka bayna yadayk

O Allah, he surely is Your Comprehensive Secret, signifying You, and Your Greatest Veil established in Your Presence.

A secret is something not known, except to its owner, which however has the potential of being known if the owner ‘gives it away’, as it is said, by be revealing or unveiling it, and a veil is a device by which something is screened from perception.  Allah (s.w.t.) Loved to be known; by Declaring this, He has Revealed of one of the great mysteries of His unfathomable Essence, and to realize this Love, He gave away His comprehensive Secret, that all that can be known of Him, by establishing the Haqiqah al-Muhammadiyyah as the Great Veil in His nowhere interrupted Presence, which by the same reality is His very Secret signifying, demonstrating and indicating Him on all levels of descent of the Divine Self-Revelation until its manifestation in the human form of the Noble Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).

He is the comprehensive Secret, on account of all the Attributes realising in him, and he is the greatest Veil because his station is the outermost boundary of knowledge and experience that Creation is capable of, the Sidrat al-Muntaha, the farthermost Lote Tree:

Near the Lote Tree, beyond which, none may pass: Near it, is the Garden of Abode.  Behold, the Lote Tree was Shrouded (in mystery unspeakable!) (Surah an-Najm:14-16)

It is the ultimate barzakh of phenomenal existence and variance, beyond which the Essence does not admit otherness and differentiation’ of the witness, the witnessed and witnessing.

Allahumma al-hiqnii binasabihi wa haqqiqnii bihasabihi

O Allah, Attach me to his kinship and realise my nature in his noble descent.

On the outward level of ‘abdiyyah, the realisation of the relationship to him, of becoming worthy of belonging to his ummah, consists in the closest possible adoption of the uswah, which is, in fact, also the fulfillment of his shifa’.

In the inward realm of intimacy, the quest is the realisation in awareness of the further descent of the Divine Self-Revelation, from the Haqiqah al-Muhammadiyyah to the Adamic reality and the specific human purpose: Insan al-Kamil.

Wa ‘arrifnii iyyahu ma’arifatan aslamu bihaa min mawaaridi al-jahl
Wa akra’u bihaa min mawaridi al-fadhl

And Grant me intimate knowledge of him that keeps me safe from the springs of ignorance,
And Grant me drink from the springs of excellence.

Being Granted such knowledge of him that becomes a safeguard against ignorance means becoming cognisant of and emulatively acquainted with his states, in particular, his being the destroyer of the idols, which had accumulated in the Sanctum of Allah (s.w.t.).  Historically, this marked the end of the Era of Jahiliyyah, and in his perpetual presence, it is the removal of other than the Real, which essentially is manifestations of darkness in varying degrees, from the inner Sanctum, the heart of the mu’min, by his light.  In a famous hadits qudsi, Allah (s.w.t.) is quoted as having Said words to the effect, “My heavens and My earth cannot contain Me, but I Dwell in the heart of the true believer.”  This entails, simultaneously, the approach to excellent qualities and perfections of the uswah.

واحملني على سَبيلِهِ إلى حَضْرتِكَ حَمْلاً محفوفاً بِنُصْرَتِكَ

Wa ahmilnii ‘alaa sabiilihi ilaa hadhratik, hamlan mahfuwfan binuswratik

Carry me on his path to Your Presence Encased by Your Support.

The Divine Presence, being an Omnipresence, has become possible as a destination to arrive at by the primordial virtual parting that was the prerequisite for the Divine Love Intent to realise.  This parting does not occur in time and space, but by the realisation of the Divine Attributes of azh-Zhahir and al-Bathin, of which time and space are only functions.  Thus, His Presence is clad in the Attribute of al-Bathin in the realm of the Zhahir, and in the Attribute of azh-Zhahir in the realm of the Bathin.

The human condition is a perpetual sa’iy between the zhahir and the bathin in the quest for His Presence.  Since this condition of ‘abdiyyah found its perfection in the uswah of Rasulullah (s.a.w.), the plea is to be carried on his Path, and the need to be fully covered by Allah’s (s.w.t.) Help arises from the precariousness of this shuttling between the zhahir and the bathin.  This is in regard to observing the correct courtesy for each respective realm, in particular guarding the secret while moving in the outward, and shedding covers while engaged in the inward.

Wa aqadzif bi ‘alaa al-baathili fa’admaghahu

And Hurl me at that, which is false and Grant that I rout it.

The most significant triumph on the Path of the Chosen One (s.a.w.) was the cleansing of the Sanctuary of the Real of all the idols of falsehood, declaring, by Allah’s Command and Revelation:

And say: “Truth has (now) arrived, and falsehood perished: for falsehood is (by its nature) bound to perish.” (Surah al-Isra’:81)

The purification of the Ka’bah of the idols was the realisation and confirmation of this Revelation, as Shaykh Abu Madyan Shu’ayb (q.s.), the shaykh of Mawlay ‘Abd as-Salam (q.s.), stated in his al-Hikam, “The Qur’an was Revealed and Reveals Itself.  Its Revelation was completed in the past and its self-revelation remains active until the Last Day.”

The continuity of this Revelation realises in the purification of the inner sanctuary, the heart of the mu’min, of all “other”; first and foremost, the self-assertion of the nafs, but also in the encounter with falsehood in the staged interaction within Creation.  This is the true meaning of “striving in Us”:

And those who strive in Our (Cause), We will certainly Guide them to Our Paths: for verily Allah is with those who do right. (Surah al-‘Ankabut:69)

And this is the true meaning of “killing in the Way of Allah”.

Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors. (Surah al-Baqarah:190)

Wa zujja bii fii bihaari al-ahadiyyah
Wa anshulnii min awhaali at-tawhid
Wa aghriqnii fi ‘ayni bahri al-wahdah
Hattaa laa araa wa laa asma’a wa laa ajida wa laa uhissa illaa bihaa

And Plunge me into the seas of Onliness,
And Pull me out of the quagmire of intellectual unification,
And Drown me in the Source of the One Singular Ocean,
Until I neither see, nor hear, nor find, nor sense, except by it.

Embracing, in awareness, the vastness of multiplicity, and submitting to it as the creational reality, the ‘abd desires to be immersed in it, not with the intention of indulging in the feast of its generous variety, but to encounter each of its phenomena as a facet of the one and only Existence.

To approach the mystery of the Oneness of Being by the faculties of human rational intellect leads to confusion, because these are confined to the realm of phenomenal existence, in virtual separation from the Absolute and Indivisible Oneness of the Real.

The means of realisation is Revelation, which is beyond the reach of intellectual effort, but an act of Divine Grace, and it realises through the source of the One Singular Ocean, which is the station of the First Descent, the Haqiqah al-Muhammadiyyah.  The Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) is Confirmed by Allah (s.a.w.) as the source of this Revelation:

Say: “I am but a man like yourselves, (but) the Inspiration has come to me, that your God is One God: whoever expects to meet his Lord, let him work righteousness, and in the worship of his Lord, admit no one as partner.” (Surah al-Kahf:110)

And hence, the drowning in him, realisation of the uswah, the utmost possible assimilation of his states is the key of access to being taken onto the prophetic Path of Revelation and realisation.

Wa aj’ali al-hijaaba al-a’azhama hayaata ruhi
Wa ruwhahu sirra haqiiqatii
Wa haqiiqatahu jaami’a ‘awaalimii

O Allah, Let the Great Veil be the life of my spirit,
And Let his soul be the secret of my reality,
And Let his reality be the consolidation of my realms of being.

The Great Veil, being the prerequisite and medium for the fulfillment of the Divine Love Affair, makes it the life spring of all arwah, from which the Breath of Life Emerged that turned the lifeless form of Adam (a.s.) into the Khalifah, whom the forces of Creation were required to pay obeisance to.  The soul of the Great Veil is the Divine Love itself, as it were, and it is the secret of man’s reality, which otherwise he could not even virtually have, as the Absoluteness of the Real Excludes the possibility of any other reality.  It is the submission to this exclusion that grants man the access to the refuge, where all his realms of phenomenal existence and experience are consolidated in cognisance of belonging to and existing by the reality of the Great Veil.

Bitahqiiqi al-haqqi al-awwal,
Ya Awwalu, Ya Akhiru, Ya Zhaahiru, Ya Baathin

Through the realisation of the First Truth,
O First!  O Last!  O Manifest!  O Hidden!

The First Truth is the Divine Intent: “… and I Loved to be known …”; only for the realisation of this intent, the Eternal Divine Attributes contained inseparably within the Divine Essence, or the sheer Being of the Real, Surfaced into action, as it were.  Hence the invocation “O First, O Last, O Manifest, O Hidden” is the dzikr of the realisation of the Divine Love Affair, and its manifest continuance, until its ultimate consummation of “Kullu man ‘alayha fan”:

All that is on earth will perish (Surah ar-Rahman:26)

This event, and for this matter the entire affair, although it is singular in meaning, is executed in infinite multiplicity throughout the existence of Creation, as long as the Haqiqah al-Muhammadiyyah continues to emanate being.

Isma’a nidaa’i bimaa sami’ita bihi nidaa’a ‘abdika Zakariyyaa

Hear my call as You Heard the call of your servant, Zakariya

The du’a of the prophet Zakariya (a.s.) is significant in two aspects.  It is stated that Allah (s.w.t.) always Accepted the prophet’s prayers and Granted him, what he asked for, and in this particular supplication that is Mentioned in the Qur’an, he asked for a worthy heir to receive the Gnosis and contents of the prophetic tradition that had come down to him as to preserve its accessibility to its people.

Praying, “O my Lord!  Infirm indeed are my bones, and the hair of my head doth glisten with grey: but never am I unblest, O my Lord, in my prayer to Thee!  Now I fear (what) my relatives (and colleagues) (will do) after me: but my wife is barren: so, give me an heir as from Thyself ― (One that) will (truly) represent me, and represent the posterity of Jacob; and Make him, O my Lord, one with whom Thou art Well-Pleased!” (Surah Maryam:2-6)

Wa answurnii bika lak,
Wa ‘ayyidnii bika lak
Wa ajma’a baynii wa baynak wa hul baynii wa bayna ghayrik
Allah, Allah, Allah

And Join me to You,
And Sever me from other than You,
And Help me by Yourself for You, and Support me by Yourself for You.
Allah, Allah, Allah!

The fundamental cause of the soul’s virtual separation from the One Unified Being and the greatest obstacle to its reabsorption into the same is its perception of being an entity in itself.  This perception, being a shadow reflection of the Divine Attribute of Wujud, Being, is from the perspective of the Real, an illusion, but in terms of the phenomenal existence of Creation, it is a reality, the reality of otherness.  As such, the soul or self cannot arrive at “sameness” by itself, that is, without the helping intervention of the Real.  Having realised this, however, it cannot but yearn and strive for it.  Allah (s.w.t.) Promises:

And those who strive in Our (Cause), We will certainly Guide them to Our Paths: for verily Allah is with those who do right. (Surah al-‘Ankabut:69)

Striving in Him denotes transcending the existential restraints of the self and fleeing from the illusion in self-reminding awareness to the refuge of the Real, and the Guidance by His Ways is His Help and Support, without which, all the soul’s effort would have to remain utterly futile.  The prayer of the seemingly separated part for being ‘joined’ with the actual, inseparable Whole is the du’a for fana’, obliteration, as separateness is irreconcilable with the Real, and the prayer for being separated from other than the Real is the du’a for baqa’, subsistence, in which the conscious Oneness with the Real within the affirmed arena of the virtual existence of other is sought.

The great ‘ashiq and gnostic of the East, Shaykh Sulthan Bahu (q.s.) clarified this matter so aptly and concisely in his saying, “Men of God are not God.  But they are not apart from God.”


  1. Amazing, just amazing. Thank you so much for this. Please don't stop sending these sources of enlightenment. May Allah reward you endlessly for these gifts. There was a remarkable synchronicity/tawaafuq between this and words which were uttered in a study circle yesterday, as though the speaker had read your post - which is impossible. Amazing. Thank you, THN :)


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