Iqazh al-Himam, a Commentary of al-Hikam, Chapter One

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is taken from the first chapter of Iqazh al-Himam, a commentary on al-Hikam of Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah as-Sakandari (q.s.), by Imam Ahmad ibn ‘Ajibah (q.s.).

Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah as-Sakandari (q.s.) said, “A feeling of discouragement when you slip up is a sure sign that you put your faith in deeds.  Reliance on a thing means to lean on it and to put one’s trust in it.  Deeds are the actions of either the heart or the body.  If an action is in harmony with the shari’ah, it is called obedience.  If it is contrary to the shari’ah, it is called disobedience.”

The people of this science divide actions into three categories: actions of the shari’ah, actions of the thariqa’, and actions of haqiqah.  This can be rephrased as actions of islam, actions of iman and actions of ihsan; or actions of worship, actions of servanthood and actions of pure servanthood, which is freedom.  Or it can be referred to as the actions of the people of the beginning, the actions of the people of the middle and the actions of the people of the end.  The shari’ah is that you worship Him; the thariqa’ is that you aim for Him; and the haqiqah is that you witness Him.  You could also say that the shari’ah is putting the outward right, thariqa’ is putting the conscience right, and the haqiqah is putting the secret, sirr, right.

Putting the limbs right is achieved by three matters: tawbah, taqwa and rectitude.  Putting hearts right is achieved by three matters: sincerity, ikhlasw; truthfulness; and being at peace.  Putting the secrets, asrar, right is achieved by three matters: watchful fear, muraqabah; witnessing, mushahadah; and gnosis, ma’arifat.  You could also say that putting the outward right is by avoiding Prohibitions and obeying Commands; putting the asrar right is by freeing oneself of vices and taking on virtues; and putting the asrar, which are the arwah, spirits, right is achieved by making them give out, breaking them until they are disciplined and training them into having adab, humility and good character.

Know that we are speaking about the actions necessary for purifying the limbs, hearts or arwah.  They have already been specified for each category.  As for knowledge and gnosis, they are the fruits of purification and refinement.  When the sirr is pure, it is filled with knowledge, gnosis and lights.

Moving to a station is not valid until one has mastered what is before it.  Whoever has a radiant beginning, has a radiant end.  So a person does not move to the actions of the thariqa’ until he has performed the actions of the shari’ah and trained his limbs to perform them so that he meets the preconditions for repentance, possesses the pillars of taqwa and puts in action the various types of rectitude.  That consists of following Rasulullah (s.a.w.) in his words, deeds, and states.

Once the outward is pure and illuminated by the shari’ah, then he moves from the outward actions of shari’ah to the inward actions of the thariqa’, which is purifying oneself from the attributes of humanity as will be discussed.  When he is free of the attributes of humanity, he is adorned with the attributes of spirituality, which is proper adab with Allah (s.w.t.) in His Presence, Tajalliyat, which are His Manifestations.  Then the limbs have rest from toil and all that remains is good adab.  One of those who are recognised said, “Whoever reaches the reality of Islam does not flag in action.  Whoever reaches the reality of faith, cannot turn to acting by other than Allah.  Whoever reaches the reality of ihsan cannot turn to anyone except Allah.”

In traveling through these stations, the murid should not put his faith in himself nor on his actions, state, and strength.  He must put his trust in the Bounty of his Lord, His Granting him success and His Guidance.  Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

Thy Lord does Create and Choose as He Pleases: no choice have they (in the matter)… (Surah al-Qaswasw:68)

And Allah (s.w.t.) also Says:

If thy Lord had so Willed, He could have Made mankind one people: but they will not cease to dispute, except those on whom He hath Bestowed His Mercy... (Surah Hud:118-119)

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “None of you will enter the Garden by virtue of his actions.”

They asked, “Not even you, Rasulullah?”

He said, “Not even I, unless Allah Envelopes me in His Mercy.”

Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah as-Sakandari (q.s.) said, “Reliance on the lower selves is a sign of wretchedness and despair.  Reliance on action comes from lack of being certain about things coming to an end.  Reliance on generosity and states comes from lack of the company of the men of taswawwuf.  Reliance on Allah (s.w.t.) comes from realisation of gnosis of Allah (s.w.t.).  The sign of reliance on Allah (s.w.t.) is that your hopes are not lessened when you slip into disobedience nor are they increased when you do good.  You can say that his fear is not great when needlessness issues from him, just as his hope is not removed when he is aware of it.”

His fear and hope are always in equal balance because his fear is the result of witnessing Jalal, Majesty, and his hope is the result of witnessing Jamal, Beauty.  The Jalal and Jamal of the Real are not affected by increase or decrease.  So what issues from them is not the same as what issues from someone who puts his trust in deeds since, when the deeds of such a person are few, his hope is little, and when his needs are numerous, he has great hope because of his shirk with his Lord and his realisation of his ignorance.  If he were to be annihilated to himself and go on by his Lord, then he would have rest from his toil and achieve gnosis of his Lord.

He must have a perfect shaykh who will bring him out of the trouble of his self to his rest by witnessing his Lord.  The perfect shaykh is the one who gives you rest from trouble, not the one who directs you to trouble.  Imam Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadzili (q.s.) said, “Whoever directs you to action, tires you.  Whoever directs you to dunya, cheats you. Whoever directs you to Allah has been faithful to you.”

As Shaykh ibn Mashish (q.s.) said, “Direction to Allah is direction to forgetting the self.  When you forget yourself, you remember your Lord.  Allah Almighty Says, ‘Remember your Lord when you forget.’”

… And call thy Lord to mind when thou forgettest… (Surah al-Kahf:24)

The reason for toil is remembering the self and being concerned with its affairs and portions.  As for the one who is absent from them, he only has rest.  As for the Words of Allah (s.w.t.):

Verily We have Created Man into toil and struggle. (Surah al-Balad:4)

They are specific to the people of the veil.  Or you could say, specific to the living selves.  As for those who have died, the Almighty Says:

Thus then, if he be of those nearest to Allah, (there is for him) rest and satisfaction, and a Garden of Delights. (Surah al-Waqi’ah:88)

This meaning he will have the solace of arrival and the sweetness of beauty and the garden of perfection.  The Almighty Says:

There no sense of fatigue shall touch them... (Surah al-Hijr:48)

Rest, however, is only obtained after toil, and victory is only obtained after seeking.  It is said, “The Garden is surrounded by disliked things.”

“O you passionately in love with the meaning of Our Beauty,
Our dowry is expensive for the one who proposes to Us.
An emaciated body and spirit full of care and eyes which do not taste sleep,
And a heart which does not contain other than Us.
If you want to pay the price, then be annihilated,
If you wish for eternal annihilation.
Annihilation brings one near to that annihilation.
Remove the sandals when you come to that quarter.
He was radiant in it.  Cast off both beings,
And remove what is between us from between Us.
When you are asked, ‘Who do you love?’
Say, ‘I am the One I Love and the One I Love is me.’”

Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah as-Sakandari (q.s.)

We read in Solving the Riddles, “Know that you will not attain to the stages of nearness until you ascend six steep slopes.  The first is the limbs abstaining from legal disobedience; the second is the self abstaining from normal familiar customs; the third is the heart abstaining from human flippancy; the fourth is the self abstaining from natural impurities; the fifth is the spirit abstaining from sensory favours; the sixth is the intellect abstaining from illusory imaginations.  After the first slope, you look down at the founts of wisdom.  After the second, you look at the asrar of Divinely Granted knowledge.  After the third, there appears to you the signs of the intimate conversations of the Malakut.  After the fourth, the lights of the stages of proximity shine to you.  After the fifth, the lights of the Manifestation of Love appear to you.  After the sixth slope, you descend to the meadows of the Holiest Presence and there you withdraw from what you witnessed of the human subtle meanings of dense sensory things.  When He Desires to Single you Out and Select you, He will Give you a draught from the cup of His Love.  That drink will increase your thirst, as taste will increase your yearning, nearness will intensify your quest, and intoxication will increase your restlessness.”

One of the excellent men was confused by the Words of the Almighty:

“… enter ye the Garden, because of the good which ye did (in the world).” (Surah an-Nahl:32)

This was since the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “None of you will enter the Garden by his actions.”  The answer to that is that the Book and the sunnah go alternate between shari’ah and haqiqah, or you could say prescription and realisation.  They prescribe in some places and speak of haqiqah in others regarding the same thing.  The Holy Qur’an may legislate in one place while the sunnah gives haqiqah, and the reverse also occurs.

Rasulullah (s.a.w.) explained what Allah (s.w.t.) Revealed.  Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

(We Sent them) with Clear Signs and scriptures and We have Sent Down unto thee (also) the Message; that thou mayest explain clearly to men what is Sent for them... (Surah an-Nahl:44)

His Words, “Enter ye the Garden, because of the good which ye did” is legislation for the people of wisdom, who are the people of the shari’ah, and the words of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) are realisation for the people of power, who are the people of haqiqah.  The Words of the Almighty are haqiqah:

But ye shall not will except as Allah Wills... (Surah at-Takwir:29)

In contrast, the words of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), “When one of you has a good action, a good action is Written for him,” is shari’ah.  In short, the sunnah qualifies the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Qur’an qualifies the sunnah.  So a person is obliged to have two eyes: one looks at haqiqah while the other looks at the shari’ah.  If he finds that the Holy Qur’an legislates in one place, there must be the reality in another, and the reverse is true.  There is no contradiction between the ayat and the hadits nor any confusion.

There is another answer, which is that when Allah Almighty Called people to tawhid and obedience, they would not enter it without desire and so He Promised them a reward for actions.  When their feet were firm in Islam, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) brought them out from that and made them rise to sincere servanthood and realisation of the station of sincerity.  So he told them, “None of you will enter the Garden by his actions.”  Allah (s.w.t.) Knows best.  Here the answers of the people of the outward are of no use at all.  When someone moves from outward actions to inward actions, the effect of that must appear on the limbs.  The Almighty Says:

… “Kings, when they enter a country, despoil it...” (Surah al-Naml:34)

The appearance of its effects is divestment or withdrawal, tajrid.

“Your desire to withdraw from everything,
When Allah has Involved you in the world of means is a hidden appetite.
Your desire for involvement with the world of means.
When Allah has withdrawn you from it is a fall from high aspiration.”

Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah as-Sakandari (q.s.)

Tajrid’ linguistically means ‘taking off and removing’.  One uses the term for things like removing a garment and shedding a skin.  The Sufis fall into three categories: those who strip away only the outward, those who strip away only the inward, or those who strip away both.  Outward divestment is to abandon worldly causes and break physical habits.  Inward divestment is to abandon psychological and illusory attachments.  To withdraw from both of them is to abandon both inward attachments and physical habits.  You could say that outward tajrid is abandoning all that distracts the limbs from obeying Allah (s.w.t.); inward tajrid is abandoning all that distracts the heart from Presence with Allah (s.w.t.), and doing both is the isolation of the heart and the vessel for Allah (s.w.t.).  Perfect tajrid outwardly to abandon causes and divest the body of normal clothes, and inwardly it is to divest the heart of every blameworthy quality and adorn it with every noble quality.

When someone divests his outward and not his inward, he is a liar, like someone who calls copper silver.  His inward is ugly and his outward pleasing.  If someone divests his inward and not his outward, he is like someone who calls silver copper.  That is rare since usually when someone is involved with his outward, he is also involved with his inward.  If someone’s outward is occupied with the physical, his inward is occupied with it, and strength cannot go in two directions.  The one who divests both his inward his outward is the perfect truthful one.  He is the pure gold which is proper for the treasuries of kings.

Shaykh Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadzili (q.s.) said, “The adab of the divested faqir consists of four: respect for the old, mercy for the young, justice for yourself and not helping your self.  The adab of the faqir using causes consists of four: befriending the pious, avoiding the impious, attending prayers in the group, and comforting the poor and wretched by what he possesses.  The faqir must also take on the adab of the divested since it is perfection for him.  Part of the adab of someone employing causes is that he is established in what Allah Establishes him of the use of causes until Allah Almighty is the One Who Moves him from that by the tongue of his shaykh or by a clear indication, like its impossibility in every aspect.  Then he moves to tajrid.”

Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah as-Sakandari (q.s.) said, “His desire to withdraw when Allah (s.w.t.) has Established means for him is a hidden appetite because the self desires rest by that and does not have enough certainty to endure the hardships of poverty.  When poverty descends on him, he is shaken and upset and resorts to means, and so that is uglier than remaining with them.  This is an aspect which is appetite, and it is hidden because inwardly he displays cutting off and asceticism, which is a noble state and sublime state, while inwardly he conceals his portion of rest, honour, wilayah or whatever.  He did not intend to achieve servanthood and certainty.  He also lacks adab with Allah (s.w.t.) when he wants to leave without remaining patient until he is Given Permission.  The sign of him remaining constantly in causes is that he has results, lack of attachments which cut him off from the Diyn and obtains sufficiency, but if he were to abandon that, he would look to people and be worried about provision.  When these conditions cease to exist, then he moves to tajrid.”

We read in at-Tanwir, “That which Allah Demands of you is that you remain where He Establishes you until Allah is the One to Remove you as He Brought you in.  It is not your concern to abandon means.  Your concern is that the means abandon you.”

One of them said, “Once I abandoned a certain means and then I returned to it and then the means left me and I did not return to it.  I went to Shaykh Abu al-‘Abbas al-Mursi (q.s.) when I had resolved to take on tajrid.  I told myself, ‘It is unlikely that I will reach Allah Almighty if the state I have which is occupation with outward knowledge and socialising with people.’

Before I even spoke to him, he told me, ‘A man who was occupied with outward knowledge and advanced in them kept my company and tasted something of this Path.  He came to me and told me, ‘Shaykh, I will leave what I am doing and devote myself to your company.’  I told him, ‘The business is not that.  Rather remain in what you are in and what Allah has Allotted you from us will reach you.’’  Then the shaykh looked at me and said, ‘That is how the swiddiqun are.  They do not leave anything until Allah is the One to Remove them.’

So I left him and Allah Washed Away those thoughts from my heart and I found rest in submission to Allah Almighty.  Nonetheless they, as Rasulullah (s.a.w.) stated, ‘are people whose companion is not wretched.’”

Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah as-Sakandari (q.s.) said, “He Forbade him tajrid because the greed of his nafs for it.  When the self is greedy for something, it is easy for it, and that which is easy for it is not good.  What is easy for it is only because it has a share in it.”

And he also said, “The murid does not divest himself in a state of strength until it passes.  If you want your self to benefit, if it is divested in a state of strength, then weakness will comes to it which is followed by opponents who will unsettle it and tempt in a way which a master would not perceive because of his kindness and generosity in his company.  Then he will revert to what he left and harbour a bad opinion of the people of divestment and say, ‘They are based on nothing!  We entered the land and did not see anything.’”

The one who is for whom tajrid is heavy at first is the one who must divest himself because it is only heavy for him since he has realised that his neck is under the sword and if he moves his head at all, his vein will be severed.

As for the one who is divested, when he wants to return to using means without Clear Permission, that is a fall from high aspiration to low aspiration or a fall from greater wilayah to lesser wilayah.  The shaykh of our shaykh, Shaykh ‘Ali (q.s.), said that his shaykh, Shaykh al-‘Arabi (q.s.) said to him, “If I had seen anything higher, nearer and more beneficial than tajrid, I would have chosen it, but with the people of this Path it has in the position of the elixir: a qirat of it would fill what is between the east and west with gold.  That is how tajrid is in this Path.”

I heard the shaykh of our shaykh say, “The gnosis of the one divested is better and his thought clearer because purity comes from purity and turbidity comes from turbidity.  The purity of the inward comes from the purity of the outward and the turbidity of the inward comes from the turbidity of the outward.  Whenever you increase in the sensory, you decrease in the meaning.”

In one report, “When a scholar takes something of dunya, his rank is decreased with Allah, even if he is noble with Allah.  As for the one who is permitted means, he is like the one who is divested since then his cause is actually servanthood.  So tajrid without Permission is a means, and means with Permission is tajrid.  Success is by Allah.”

All this is about those who are traveling on the Path.  As for those who have arrived and are firm, there is nothing to be said about them since they have been Taken from themselves, Seized by Allah (s.w.t.) and Defended by Allah (s.w.t.).  Allah (s.w.t.) has Taken Charge of their affairs, Preserved their asrar and Guarded their hearts with armies of lights.  The darkness of dust has no effect on them.  That was the state of the companions in means.

Know that the one with the one involved with means and the one who is divested both work for Allah (s.w.t.).  Each of them obtains true turning to Allah (s.w.t.).  One of them said, “The example of the one who is divested and the one involved in causes resemble two slaves of a king.  He tells one of them, ‘Work,’ and tells the other, ‘Stay in my presence.  I will support you by my allotment.’  But the true turning in the divested person is stronger because of his lack of attachments and severing attachments, as it known.”

The himmah of the divested faqir is usually as the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Allah has men such that if they were to take an oath by Allah, Allah would Fulfill their oath.”

Our shaykh said, “There are men such that they were when they aspire for a thing, it is by the Permission of Allah.”

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) also said, “Beware the insight of the believer.  He sees by the Light of Allah.”

The shaykh feared that someone might imagine that himmah can break through the walls of destiny and accomplish what the Decree did not bring.  This is why he said, “Aspiration which rushes on a head cannot break through the walls of destiny.”

Aspiration, himmah, is the power the heart sends forth in seeking a thing and being concerned with it.  If that matter is lofty, like gnosis of Allah (s.w.t.) and seeking His Pleasure, it is called lofty himmah.  If it is a base matter, like seeking dunya and its fortune, it is called base himmah.  Aspiration which rushes ahead cannot break through the walls of destiny, that is, when the gnostic or murid aspires to something and his himmah in that is strong, Allah Almighty will Form that by His Power in an instant so that his command is by Allah’s (s.w.t.) Command.  The shaykh of our shaykh, Mawlay al-‘Arabi (q.s.) said, “When the truthful murid is annihilated in the Name, whenever he aspires to something, it is.  If he is annihilated in the Essence, the thing which he needs is formed even before he aspires to it.”  That is true.

In a report, Allah Almighty Says, “I am Allah.  When I Say to a thing, ‘Be!’ it is.  So obey Me and I will make you say to things ‘Be!’ and they will be.”

We also see in a sound hadits, “When I Love him, I am his Hearing, Sight, and Hand,” and He Affirms, “If he asks Me, I Give to him.”

Nonetheless, it does not have that alone.  Nothing comes into being except what destiny and Decree contains.  So the himmah of the gnostic is Directed to the thing, and when it finds the Decree, it rushes with it.  That is by Allah’s (s.w.t.) Permission.  If his himmah finds the walls of destiny erected against it, it does not break through.  Rather it shows adab and reverts to its attribute, which is servanthood.  It is not grieved or sad.  It rejoices because it reverts to its proper place and true attribute.

Our shaykh‘s shaykh, Shaykh ‘Ali (q.s.), said, “When we will something and it happens, we have one joy.  When it does not happen, there are ten joys.”  That was due to his full gnosis of Allah (s.w.t.).

One of them was asked, “By what did you recognise your Lord?”

He replied, “By the breaking of resolve.”

This effect is obtained by strong himmah.  If the one with it is deficient, as occurs with someone with an evil eye and a sorcerer by virtue of their foulness, or a quality which Allah (s.w.t.) Puts in them, when he looked at a thing with the intention of producing that by Allah’s (s.w.t.) Permission, none of this breaks through the walls of destiny.  That is only what the One, the Conqueror Wills.  Allah Almighty Says:

... But they could not thus harm anyone except by Allah’s Permission… (Surah al-Baqarah:102)


Verily, all things have We Created in proportion and measure. (Surah al-Qamar:49)


But ye shall not will except as Allah Wills... (Surah at-Takwir:29)

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Everything is by the Decree and destiny,” even incapacity and dexterity.  Weak aspiration which rushes on ahead cannot accomplish anything.  It is the same for good and evil.  His metaphor of breaking through walls has awareness of strength on both sides, but the barrier wins and the strength of the incapable slave is of no use.  When himmah does not break through the walls of destiny, there is no point in your reflecting and choosing, so he said, “Give yourself a rest from managing!  When Someone else is Doing it for you, do not start doing it for yourself!”

Tadbir’, management, linguistically means ‘to look into matters and their ends’.  The technical term, as Imam az-Zarruq (q.s.) said, means, “the determination of matters which will occur in the future which are feared or hoped for, by judgment or entrustment.  When that is accompanied by entrustment for the Next World, it is a good intention.  When it is natural, it is for an appetite, or for dunya, it is a wish.”

There are three types of tadbir: blameworthy, desirable, and permissible.  The blameworthy is that which is accompanied by resolve and tenacity, whether it is for the Diyn or dunya since it contains lack of adab and hastens fatigue when the Living, Self-Subsistent does not establish it.  You will not achieve it by yourself.  Usually that which you start doing for yourself is not helped by the winds of destiny and is followed by cares and trouble.  That is why Shaykh Ahmad ibn Masruq (q.s.) said, “Whoever abandons tadbir has rest.”

Shaykh Sahl ibn ‘Abdullah (q.s.) said, “Leave tadbir and choice.  They trouble people in their livelihood.”

The Rasulullah (s.a.w.) said, “Allah Put ease and rest in pleasure and certainty.”

Imam ash-Shadzili (q.s.) said, “Do not choose any of your affairs.  Choose not to choose and flee from that choice, from your flight and from everything to Allah Almighty.  ‘Your Lord creates and chooses whatever He wills.’”

Thy Lord does Create and Choose as He Pleases: no choice have they (in the matter)… (Surah al-Qaswasw:68)

He also said, “If you must manage, then manage to not manage.” It is said that whoever does not manage is Managed.”

The shaykh of our shuyukh, Shaykh ‘Ali (q.s.) said, “One of the attributes of the perfect wali is that he only needs that which his Master has Established for him in the moment,” that is, what he wants only issues from the Decree.”  As for the desirable part, it is to manage the obligations for which you are responsible and voluntary actions which are recommended while entrusting will and examination to destiny.  This is called a righteous intention.

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “The intention of the believer is better than his action.”  He also said, reporting from Allah (s.w.t.), “When My slave desires to do good action and does not do it, I Write a full good action for him.”

This is understood from the words of the shaykh, “When Someone Else is Doing it for you, do not start doing it for yourself.”

It is the act of obedience in which there is no harm in managing.  That is why Shaykh Ibrahim al-Khawwasw (q.s.) said, “All knowledge is contained in the statement: ‘Do not burden yourself with what you have enough of nor waste what you seek’; ‘Do not burden yourself of what you have enough of’ is the first blameworthy category, and ‘do not waste’ refers to the desirable part.”

Imam ash-Shadzili (q.s.) said, “You have no say in all the choices and measures of the shari’ah.  They are Chosen by Allah and you simply hear and obey.  This is the place of Divine Understanding and Divine Knowledge.  It is the earth in which descends the knowledge of the haqiqah from Allah for the one who is mature,” meaning his intellect is mature, gnosis complete and his reality is in balance with his shari’ah.  But he must not relax in that and become distracted from Allah (s.w.t.).

The permissible part is tadbir in worldly or natural matters while entrusting will and investigation to whatever destiny emerges without relying on any of that.  That is what is understood of the words of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), “Tadbir is half of livelihood provided that it is not repeated time after time.”  The permitted amount is that it passes through the heart like the wind, entering one side and emerging from the other.  This is tadbir by Allah (s.w.t.), and that is the business of the achieved gnostics.  The sign of being by Allah (s.w.t.) is that when the opposite of what he manages issues from destiny, he is neither constricted nor upset.

“Greet Salmah and go where she goes.
Follow the winds of fate and turn where they turn.”

Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah as-Sakandari (q.s.)

We read in at-Tanwir, “Know that things are either censured or praised by what they lead you to.  Blameworthy tadbir is that which distracts you from Allah, makes you fail to rise to serve Allah and impairs your conduct with Allah.  Praiseworthy tadbir is that which leads you to nearness to Allah and connects you to His pleasure.” The rest of his words deal with tadbir and he also wrote a book on it called Illumination of the Dropping of Tadbir.  It is excellent.

The perfect wali, Shaykh Yaquwt al-‘Arishi (q.s.) said, “All of what I said is contained in two verses: ‘There is only what He Wills.  So leave your cares and abandon them’, and ‘Leave your preoccupations which distract you and you will have rest.’”

Complete involvement in tadbir and choice indicates the dullness of the inner eye, and leaving that it or doing them by Allah (s.w.t.) indicates the opening of the inner eye.  Then the author mentioned another clearer sign of the opening or dullness of the inner eye: “Your striving for what is Absolutely Guaranteed to you and your laxness in what is required of you are evidence that your inner eye is dull.”  Striving for a thing is to devote one’s effort and energy in seeking it.  Laxness is negligence and wasting.  The inner eye is the sight of the heart, as eyesight is the sight of the senses.  The inner eye only sees meanings and the sight only sees sensory things.  You could say that the inner eye only sees the subtle and the sight only sees the dense, or the inner eye only sees the timeless and sight only sees the temporal, or the inner eye only sees the Maker and sight only sees being.

When Allah (s.w.t.) Desires to Open the inner eye, He Makes his outward occupation serving Him while his inward is occupied with love of Him.  When inward love and outward service become great, the light of the inner eye grows strong until it overpowers sight, and the light of sight disappears in the light of the inner eye and so it only sees the subtle meanings and timeless lights which the inner eye sees.  This is the meaning of the words of Shaykh al-Majdzub (q.s.), “My sight vanished in Sight, and I was annihilated to everything ephemeral.  I realised and did not find other and remained delighted in the state.”

When Allah (s.w.t.) wants to Disappoint His slave, He Makes his outward occupation serving phenomenal being while his inward is occupied with love of beings.  Then he continues like that until the light of his inner eye is extinguished and the light of sight overcomes the light of the inner eye and he only sees the sensory and only serves the sensory.  So he strives to obtain what is guaranteed for him of allotted provision and is lax in the obligations required of him.  If he replaces striving with total absorption and laxness with abandonment, dullness becomes blindness, which is disbelief.  We seek Refuge with Allah (s.w.t.)!  That is because this world is like the river of Jalut, Goliath, from which no one who drinks is saved except the one who scoops up a handful, not the one who slakes his thirst, so understand!  Imam az-Zarruq (q.s.) said that.

Imam ash-Shadzili (q.s.) said, “The inner eye is like the eye.  The least thing that falls in it prevents seeing, even if that does not lead to blindness.  There is peril in something which spoils sight and renders thought turbid; and desire for it removes good altogether, and acting by it removes from the person a portion of his Islam and brings its opposite.  When he continues in evil, Islam leaves him.  When that reaches the level of attacking in the community, continual injustice due to love for rank and position and love of dunya rather than akhirah, then Islam completely leaves him.  Do not be deluded by what you see in the outward.  It has no spirit since Islam is love for Allah and love for His righteous slaves.”

Striving for what is Guaranteed is completely blameworthy, whether by action or word to hasten obtaining it by supplication or something else.  Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah as-Sakandari (q.s.) indicates that when he says, “If you make intense supplication and the timing of the answer is delayed, do not despair of it.  His Reply to you is Guaranteed; but in the way He Chooses, not the way you choose, and at the moment He Desires, not the moment you desire.”

Intense supplication is to repeat a supplication for something needed in the same manner.  Supplication is asking, which is accompanied by adab on the carpet of servanthood in the Presence of the Lord.  That which demands the thing is intrinsic to its existence.  Despair cuts off desires. Know that One of His Names is al-Qayyum.  It is an intensive form derived from ‘establishment’, ‘qiyam’.  Allah (s.w.t.) Undertook the Creation of all, from His Throne to His earth.  The source of every manifestation has a limited time and known term.  Each has a known form and allotted provision.

To every people is a term Appointed: when their term is reached not an hour can they cause delay, nor (an hour) can they advance (it in anticipation). (Surah al-A’araf:34)

When your heart is attached to one of the needs of dunya and akhirah, then return to the Promise of Allah (s.w.t.) and be content with the Knowledge of Allah (s.w.t.) and do not be greedy.  There is fatigue and abasement in avarice.  Our shaykh’s shaykh, Mawlay al-‘Arabi (q.s.), said, “People settle their needs with greed for them in them and yielding to them.  We settle our needs by asceticism in them and being distracted by Allah from them, thinking them to be of little importance.”

If you must make supplication, let your supplication be for servanthood, not to seek your portion.  If you leave portions, they will come to you.  If seeking overwhelms you, and you seek something and then the time of giving is delayed for you, do not suspect Allah’s (s.w.t.) Promise when He Says:

… “Call on Me; I will Answer your (prayer)…” (Surah Ghafir:60)

Do not despair of obtaining it.  Allah (s.w.t.) has Guaranteed to you that He will Grant what He Wishes of the good of dunya and the good of akhirah.  His Kindness to you may prevent that request since it is not right for you.  Imam ash-Shadzili (q.s.) said, “O Allah, we are unable to avert harm from ourselves when we know what we know, so how can we not be incapable of that when we do not know what we do not know?”

Thy Lord does Create and Choose as He Pleases: no choice have they (in the matter)… (Surah al-Qaswasw:68)

One of the commentators said of this ayat said this means that He Chooses the matter in which they have choice and He Answers you at that time when it is best and most beneficial for you, and then He Gives that at the time in which He Wishes, not at the time when you want.  He may delay that until the Abode of Generosity and Abiding, and it is ‘better and more enduring.’

But the Hereafter is better and more enduring. (Surah al-‘Ala:17)

In a hadits, Rasulullah (s.a.w.) said, “Someone who makes supplication must be one of three: either his request will be hastened to him, or its Reward will be delayed for him or a like evil will be Repelled from him.”

Shaykh Abu Muhammad ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Mahdawi (q.s.) said, “The one who does not leave his supplication by his choice with pleasure in the choice of Allah for him is drawn in bit by bit.  He is one of those about whom it is said, ‘Fulfill his need, I dislike to hear his voice.’  It is by the Choice of Allah, not by his choice for himself that he is Answered, even if he is not given to.  Actions are according to their seals.”

So what is said about Fulfilling the Promise and Carrying Out what is Promised is clear to you, but in the manner in which He Wills and at the time He Wills.  In that, He Commands you to truthfulness and affirmation and Forbids you doubt and hesitation to thereby complete the opening of your inner eye and the delight of the lights of your secret.  Then Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah (q.s.) said, “If something that is Promised does not happen even though the time for it is set, do not doubt the Promise!  If you do, that will dim your inner eye and put out the light of your secret.”

Doubting about a thing is to vacillate between occurrence and non-occurrence.  Dimming the inner eyes means to cover its rank.  The inner eye is the faculty which perceives meaning and the sirr is the faculty prepared for the firmness of knowledge and gnosis.  Know that the nafs, intellect, ruh and sirr are all the same thing, but they differ in what they perceive.  That which perceives appetites is the nafs.  That which perceives legal judgments is the intellect.  That which perceives tajalliyat and waridat is the ruh.  That which perceives realisations and fixed states is the sirr.  The place is the same.

Putting out the light of a thing is to conceal it after it has appeared.  When Allah (s.w.t.) promises things on the tongue of Revelation or inspiration by a prophet, wali or strong tajalli, do not doubt that promise, murid, if you are true.  If the time is not specified, the matter has wide scope and the time may be long or short.  So do not doubt that it will occur, even if it takes a long time.  It took forty years for the realisation of the supplication of Musa (a.s.) and Harun (a.s.) against Pharaoh when he said:

… “Our Lord!  Thou hast indeed Bestowed on Pharaoh and his chiefs splendour and wealth in the life of the present, and so, our Lord they mislead (men) from Thy Path.  Deface, our Lord, the features of their wealth, and Send hardness to their hearts, so they will not believe until they see the grievous Penalty.” (Surah Yunus:88)

If the time is specified and that does not occur at its time, do not doubt the truth of that Promise.  That may be connected to reasons and unseen preconditions which Allah (s.w.t.) has Concealed from that prophet or wali to manifest His Force, Might and Judgment.  Reflect on the case of Yunus (a.s.) when he informed his people of the Punishment as he had been told and then fled from them.  That was connected to their lack of Islam.  When they became Muslim, the punishment was Deferred for them.  The same is true of the case of Nuh (a.s.) when he said:

… “O my Lord!  Surely my son is of my family!  And Thy Promise is True and Thou art the Justest of Judges!” (Surah Hud:45)

So that coincided with the literal general meaning.  Then Allah (s.w.t.) Said to him:

… "O Noah!  He is not of thy family: for his conduct is unrighteous…” (Surah Hud:46)

This is a hidden secret.  The prophets and great true men do not stop at the literal promise and so their agitation continues and they are not settled with other than Allah (s.w.t.).  Rather, they look at the vastness of His Knowledge and the effect of His Force.  Part of that is found in the words of Ibrahim (a.s.):

“… I fear not (the beings) ye associate with Allah: unless my Lord Willeth, (nothing can happen).  My Lord Comprehendeth, in His Knowledge, all things: will ye not (yourselves) be Admonished?” (Surah al-An’am:80)

And the words of Shu’ayb (a.s.):

“… if we returned to your ways after Allah hath rescued us therefrom: nor could we by any manner of means return thereto unless it be as in the Will and plan of Allah...” (Surah al-A’araf:89)

There is also the case of our Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), on the Day of Badr, when he prayed until his mantle fell off, saying, “O Allah, Your Covenant and Promise!  O Allah, if this group is destroyed, there will be none left to worship you after today.”

asw-Swiddiq (r.a.) said to him, “Enough, Rasulullah.  Allah will Fulfill His Promise to you.”  So the Chosen (s.a.w.) looked further than its lack of occurrence in spite of the outward promise while asw-Swiddiq (r.a.) remained with the literal.  Each was correct.  The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) had a wider view and more perfect knowledge.

As for the case of al-Hudaybiyyah, the time of the Promise was not clear in it since Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

... For He knew what ye knew not... (Surah al-Fath:27)

When ‘Umar (r.a.) said, “Did you not tell us that we would enter Makkah?” Rasulullah (s.a.w.) answered, “Did I tell you it would be this year?”

“No,” he replied.

Rasulullah (s.a.w.) said, “You will enter it and do thawaf in it.”

My brother, clasp my hand on the basis of affirming what Allah (s.w.t.) has Promised you and a good opinion of Him and His friends, especially our shaykh.  Beware of concealing denial or doubt, so that that dims your inner eye and is a reason for its dulling and also for extinguishing the light of the sirr.  You might return back the way you came and destroy all that you have built, look for the best interpretation and cling to the best conclusion.  We already mentioned the words of the shaykh of our shaykh, Shaykh ‘Ali (q.s.), “When we will something and it happens, we have one joy.  When it does not happen, there are ten joys.”  That was only due to the vastness of his investigation and firm gnosis of his Lord.

Allah (s.w.t.) may Acquaint His friends with the descent of the Decree but not acquaint them with the descent of Kindness.  When the Decree arrives accompanied by Kindness, it is light and easy so that he thinks that it has not happened.  We have witnessed both this and what we said before in ourselves and our shuyukh.  It did not decrease our truthfulness nor extinguish the light of our secret.  Praise be to our Lord.

Shaykh at-Tawudi ibn Sawdah (q.s.) said, “This wisdom is obscure.  Someone asks, ‘How can it be imagined that the time is specified?  If it is by Revelation, it has stopped, and if it is by inspiration, then doubt in it does not oblige dimming of the inner eye since belief in it is not mandatory.’

We reply, ‘Our words concern the true muridun who are traveling or those who have arrived.  They are asked to affirm the shuyukh in all that they say since they are the heirs of the prophets, and so they follow in their footsteps.  The prophets had Judgments Revealed to them and the awliya’ have inspiration because when the hearts are Purified of impurities and other than Allah, and Filled with lights and secrets, only the Truth is Manifest in them.  When they make a promise or threat, the murid must believe it.  If he has some doubt or hesitation about what Allah has Promised by the tongue of his Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) or shaykh, that dims the light of his inner eye and extinguishes his secret.  If the time is not specified, wait for it to occur, even if it takes a long time.  If the time is specified and it does not occur, interpret it as is done with the Messengers when it was dependent on hidden reasons and preconditions.  That is the difference between the swiddiq and swadiq because the swiddiq has no hesitation or astonishment while the swadiq hesitates and then resolves.  If he sees a breaking of norms, he is astonished and finds that strange.  Allah knows best.’”

Recognitions of force are the outwardly Jalal and inwardly Jamal, which is followed by the attributes of perfection.  The murid may doubt what Allah (s.w.t.) Promises of Blessing and the openings which result from it.  That is why Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah as-Sakandari (q.s.) says, “When He Opens a way for you and Makes Himself Known to you, then do not worry about your lack of deeds.  He only Opened the way for you because He Desired to Make Himself Known to you.  Do you not see that while He Grants gnosis of Himself to you, you have only deeds to offer Him?  What He Brings you, what you bring Him; what a difference there is between them!”

‘Opening’ here means ‘preparation and ease’.  It is usually used for good.  Here, it is followed by recognition of beautiful things and the manner in which they come.  What is meant is the door and the entrance, and ‘making known’ means to want for recognition to occur.  You say, “Someone made himself known to me,” when he sought to make himself known to you.  Gnosis makes the reality of knowledge of what is known firm in the heart so that it cannot leave it.

When Allah (s.w.t.) Grants you a Manifestation by His Name, al-Majid, or His Name, al-Fattah, and by it, Opens to you a door and a way so that you recognise Him by it, then know that Allah (s.w.t.) was Concerned with you, Wanted to Select you for His Nearness, and Choose you for His Presence.  So cling to adab with satisfaction and submission.  Receive it with joy and happiness.  Do not be concerned about physical actions you missed because of it.  It is a means to actions of the heart.  He only Opened this door since He Wanted to Lift a veil between Him and you.  Do you not know that the recognitions of Majesty are those which He Brings you so that you come to Him?  You are Guided to physical actions so that you arrive by them.  There is a great difference between disordered actions and diseased states to which you are Guided and what Allah (s.w.t.) Grants you of Gifts of Divine Gnosis and Divinely Granted knowledge.

So, murid, be happy about what comes to you of the these recognitions of Majesty, blows of force and things like that, like illnesses, pains, hardships, terrors and all that burdens and pains the nafs, like poverty, abasement, harm to creatures and other things which selves dislike.  All that befalls you of these matters are, in fact, Great Blessings and Ample Gifts which indicate the strength of your truthfulness since the greatness of recognition is according to the extent of your truthfulness.  Those with the greatest affliction are the prophets, and then the next best and the next best.  Truthfulness is followed.  When Allah (s.w.t.) Wants to Shorten the distance between Him and His slave, He Grants Affliction power over him so that when he is Purified and Cleansed, he is sound for Presence, just as silver and gold are purified by fire so that they are fit for the king's treasury.

Shuyukh and gnostics continue to delight in these blows and to consider them to be Gifts.  Shaykh ‘Ali al-‘Imrani (q.s.) called them ‘the Night of Power’ and said, “Confinement is the Night of Power which is better than a thousand months.”  That is because of the actions of hearts which the slave harvests from that.  An atom of them are like mountains of the actions of limbs.  I wrote these lines of poetry on that:

“When a time of need knocks at my door,
I open to it the door of joy and happiness.
I tell it, ‘Welcome and welcome again!
Your time with me is more beneficial than the Night of Power!’”

Know that these recognitions of Majesty are a Test from Allah (s.w.t.) and a gauge of people and that by which silver and gold are distinguished from copper.  There are many pretenders who make a display of gnosis and certainty with their tongues.  Then the tempestuous winds of Decrees strike them and cast them into the deserts of despair and denial.  If someone claims what he does not have, his disgrace will be attested to by being Tested.

Mawlay al-‘Arabi (q.s.) used to say, “The greatest wonder of all is someone who seeks gnosis of Allah and is eager for it, but then when Allah Gives him knowledge, he flees from it and denies it.”

Shaykh al-Buzidi (q.s.) said, “These recognitions of Majesty fall into three categories.  One is punishment and expulsion; one for discipline and admonition; and the third is for increase and ascension.”

As for the category which is punishment and expulsion, it is for someone who has bad adab and so Allah Almighty Punishes him.  He is ignorant in that and becomes angry, despairs and denies and so that increases him in expulsion and distance from Allah (s.w.t.).  As for that which is discipline, it is for someone who has bad adab so Allah Almighty Disciplines him and He Teaches him through it and Alerts him to his bad adab and he ceases his negligence.  It is, therefore, a Blessing for him in the form of Retribution.  As for that which is increase and ascension, it is for someone on whom these recognitions descend without reason and so he has gnosis through them and disciplines himself in them and rises to the station of firmness and stability.  That is why one of them said, “It is by the amount of the Testing that there is firmness.”

If you want for Jalal to ease in respect of you, then meet it with its opposite, which is Jamal.  It will be transformed into Beauty immediately; the method in that is that when He is Manifest by His Name, the al-Qabidh, outwardly, you should meet Him with expansion inwardly.  Then it will become expansion.  When He is Manifest to you in His Name, al-Qawiy, then meet Him with weakness.  When He is Manifest to you in His Name, al-Majid, meet Him with inward humility.  That is how things are met with their opposite.

Mawlay al-‘Arabi (q.s.) said, “This is all the same reality.  If you drink it as honey, you find it to be honey.  If you drink it as milk, you find it to be milk.  If you drink it as colocynth, you will find it to be bitter colocynth.  Therefore, my brother, drink what is pleasant and do not drink what is ugly.”

Then he spoke about actions and their fruits, which is adab, being at peace under the passage of Decree without tadbir, choice, hastening what is delayed or delaying what is hastened.  That is the gauge of how to see what emerges from the element of power which you receive with gnosis.  He spoke about their types of actions and the discipline of the one who does them.

Different states have different outcomes.  This accounts for the variety of types of action.  ‘Actions’ here mean to physical movements while outcomes, waridat, refer to the movement of the heart.  The passing thought, the warid and the state have the same locus: the heart.  As long as the heart has both dark and light thoughts occur in it, what occurs is called a passing thought, khathir.  When dark thoughts leave it, what occurs to it is called a warid or a state.  Their relation to something is rhetorical.  They can both change.  When that state continues and lasts, it is called a station, maqam.

Outward actions vary according to inward states, or you could say that the actions of the limbs follow the actions of the hearts.  When contraction comes to the heart, its effect appears on the limbs as stillness.  When expansion comes to it, its effect appears on the limbs as lightness and movement.  When asceticism and scrupulousness come to the heart, their effect appears on the limbs, which is abandonment and abstention.  If desire and greed come to the heart, then their affect appears on the limbs, which is fatigue and exhaustion.  If love and yearning come to the heart, their effect appears on the limbs as ecstasy and dancing.  If gnosis and witnessing come to the heart, the effect which appears on the limbs is rest and stillness.  The same applies to other states and the actions which result from them.

These states vary in the same heart, and so the outward actions vary.  A heart may be dominated by one state and only one effect results from it.  Contraction may dominate a person and he will usually be dispirited.  Or he may be dominated by expansion or another state.  Allah (s.w.t.) Knows best.

The hadits states, “There is lump of flesh in the body, the nature of which is that when it is sound, the entire body is sound, and when it is corrupt, the entire body is corrupt - it is the heart.”  It is because of this that the states of the Sufis vary.  Some of them are worshippers, some are ascetics, some are scrupulous, and some are muridun and gnostics.

Imam az-Zarruq (q.s.) said, in his Qawa’id, “Piety is adopting every way of virtue without paying attention to other than it.  If someone desires realisation of that, he is a worshipper.  If he inclines to taking states, he is scrupulous.  If he prefers to abandon seeking so as to be safe, he is an ascetic.  If he releases himself in what Allah desires, he is a gnostic.  If he adopts character and attachment, he is a murid.”

He said in another rule, “Different paths do not remain different goals.  In spite of the different methods, like worship, asceticism and gnosis; the unifier pursues the ways which lead to nearness to Allah on the Path of Nobility.  All of them interpenetrate.  So the gnostic must have worship or there is no point to his gnosis since he does not worship the One he recognises.  He must have asceticism or there is no reality to him if he does not turn from what is other than Him.  The worshipper must have both since there is no worship without recognition and there is no devotion to worship except with asceticism.  The same is true for the ascetic, since there is no asceticism without recognition and no asceticism without worship.  Otherwise the Blessings are fruitless.  The one who is dominated by action is a worshipper, the one dominated by abandonment is an ascetic, and the one dominated by looking at how Allah disposes of things is a gnostic.  All is Sufism, and Allah knows best.”

Since sincerity is a precondition for every action, he mentioned its effect: “Actions are merely propped-up shapes.  Their ruh is the presence of the sirr of sincerity in them.”  Actions refer to physical movements or movements of the heart.  The shapes are the qualities which the mind fixes.  The ruh and the sirr are lodged in living creatures.  Here, it refers to that by which perfection is achieved in actions.  Sincerity is when the heart is devoted to the worship of the Lord; as well as with its sirr and dzat.  That is, the truthfulness designated by being free of strength and might since it is only complete by it, even if it is sound without it since sincerity negates showing-off and hidden shirk.  Its sirr negates pride.  Self-regard and showing off detract from the soundness of the action, while pride detracts only from its perfection.

All actions are forms and bodies.  Their ruh is the existence of sincerity in them.  As forms can only abide with spirits since otherwise they are dead and fallen, so actions of the body and heart only abide by the existence of sincerity in them.  Otherwise they are propped shapes and empty forms of no consideration.  Allah Almighty Says:

And they have been Commanded no more than this: to worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, being True (in faith)... (Surah al-Bayyinah:5)


… so serve Allah, offering Him sincere devotion. (Surah az-Zumar:2)

Rasulullah (s.a.w.) reported that Allah (s.w.t.) Says, “I am the furthest removed from what is associated with Me.”  Rasulullah (s.a.w.) said, “That which I most fear for my community is hidden shirk.  It is showing off.”  In one version, “Fear this hidden shirk; it creeps like an ant.”  

They asked, “What is hidden shirk?”

“Showing off,” he replied.

In a hadits, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) was asked about sincerity and said, “Not until I ask Jibril.”

When the Rasulullah (s.a.w.) asked him, he said, “Not until I ask the Lord of Might.”

Jibril (a.s.) asked Him, then told Rasulullah (s.a.w.) He Says, “It is one of My Secrets which I have Entrusted in the hearts of those of My slaves who love Me.  No angel sees it so that he records it and no devil sees it so that he can corrupt it.”

One of them said, “This is station of ihsan: that you worship Allah as if you see Him.”

Sincerity has three levels: the level of the common, the level of the elite, and the level of the elite of the elite.  The sincerity of the common is to remove Creation from dealings with Allah (s.w.t.) while seeking the portions of dunya and akhirah, like preservation of the body, money, expanded provision, castles and huwriyyah.  The sincerity of the elite is to seek the portions of akhirah rather than dunya.  The sincerity of the elite of the elite to seek to remove all portions so their worship is to fully realise servanthood and to undertake the requirements of the Lord, or love and yearning for His vision, as Shaikh ibn al-Farid (q.s.) said, “My request is not for bliss of the Garden; I only desire to see You.”

Another said:

All of them worship out of fear of the Fire and see salvation as a generous portion,
Or seek to dwell in the Garden and to relax in meadows and drink of Salsabil.
I have no opinion of Gardens or Fire.  I do not seek any recompense for my love.

Shaykh Abu Thalib (q.s.) said, “Sincerity with the sincere is to remove creatures from one’s dealings with the Real.  The first of these creatures is the self.  Sincerity among the lovers is not to do an action for the sake of the self.  Otherwise it is affected by looking for recompense or inclining to the portion of the self.  For the unifiers, sincerity is to remove creatures from dealings with of the Real by not seeing them in actions and not relying and relaxing with them in states.”

One of the shuyukh said, “Make your actions sound with sincerity and make your sincerity sound by being free from strength and power.”

One of the gnostics said, “Sincerity is not achieved until people do not see and until he fails to think of people.”

That is why another said, “Whenever you fall in people’s sight, you become great in Allah’s Sight.  Whenever you become great in the sight of people, you fall in Allah’s Sight.”  This is when you take note of them and are watchful of them.

I heard our shaykh say, “As long as the slave continues to watch people and have awe of them, his sincerity will never be fully realised.”  He also said, “Your watching Allah will never be combined with watching Creation because it is impossible that you see Him and see other-than-Him with Him.”  The upshot is that it is not possible to ever leave the self and to be purified of subtle showing-off without a shaykh.  Allah (s.w.t.) Knows best.

So obscurity is part of sincerity.  Indeed, it is usually only achieved by it since the self has no portion in it.  That is why he said, “Bury your existence in the earth of obscurity.  If something sprouts before it is buried, its fruits will never ripen.”  ‘Burying’ is to cover up and conceal.  ‘Obscurity’ is loss of position with people. ‘Fruits’ is a metaphor for wisdom, gifts and knowledge which the slave harvests from gnosis of Allah (s.w.t.).  That is when his nafs dies and his ruh lives.  Murid, conceal your nafs and bury it in obscurity so that it is intimate with it, happy with it and finds it sweeter than honey, and to display itself becomes more bitter than colocynth.  When you bury it in the land of obscurity and its roots stretch out in it, then you will pluck its fruits and obtain its yield: the secret of sincerity and realised of the station of the elite of elite.  If you do not bury it in the earth of obscurity and allow it to make itself famous, its tree dies or its fruits drop off.  Then, when the gnostics harvest from what they have planted of the gardens of their gnosis and what they buried of the treasures of wisdoms and storehouses of understanding remain, you will be poor, begging or trying to steal.

‘Isa (a.s.) asked his companions, “Where does grain grow?”

They replied, “In the earth.”

‘Isa (a.s.) said, “It is the same for wisdom.  It only grows in the heart which is like the earth.”

One of the gnostics said, “Whenever you bury your nafs in earth after earth, your heart rises heaven after heaven.”

Once Rasulullah (s.a.w.) was sitting with al-Aqra’ ibn Habis (r.a.), a great man of the Banu Tamim, when one of the poor Muslims passed by.  Rasulullah (s.a.w.) asked al-Aqra’ (r.a.), “What do you say about this one?”

He replied, “Rasulullah, this is just one of the poor.  If he were to propose marriage, his proposal would not be worth accepting, and if he were to intercede, his intercession would not be granted, and if he were to speak, his words would not be listened to.”

Then a wealthy man passed by them and the Rasulullah (s.a.w.) asked him, “And what do you say about this one?”

He replied, “If he proposes marriage, his proposal is accepted, if he intercedes his intercession would be granted, and if he were to speak, his words would be listened to.”

The Rasulullah (s.a.w.) said, "This (poor man) is better than what the earth contains and better than this one.”

There are many ahadits and sayings which praise obscurity.  If it contained nothing but rest and freeing the heart, that would be enough.  Shaykh al-Hadhrami (q.s.) wrote:

“Live obscure among people and be pleased with that.
That is sounder for this world and the Diyn.
If someone associates with people, his Diyn is not safe,
And he vacillates between being moved and being still.”

One of the wise said, “Obscurity is a Blessing but the nafs rejects it.  Display is revenge while the nafs desires it.”

Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah (q.s.) said, “The end of this Path of ours is only proper for people who sweep rubbish heaps with their spirits.”

Someone who is tested by rank and leadership must make use of ruin in which a way that it will lower his rank, provided it is disliked rather than that which agreed to be unlawful, with the aim of treating that, like begging in shops or houses, eating in markets and where people will see him, sleeping in them, drinking with a water skin, carrying rubbish on his head, walking barefooted, making a display of greed, miserliness and avarice, wearing the patched robe and large prayer beads, and all that burdens the nafs which is permitted or disliked, but not unlawful.

Imam az-Zarruq (q.s.) said, “As it is not proper to bury crops in foul earth, it is not permitted to be obscure with a state which is not pleasing to Allah.  Taking that to be analogous with choking is not sound because loss of physical life prevents every good, whether mandatory or recommended, the consensus is that is forbidden to lose it when it is possible to survive by the Words of Allah, ‘Make not your own hands contribute to your destruction.’  That is not the case with obscurity.  Nothing of that misses him.  Instead perfection is obtained by it, which is denial of rank and position, when its basis is permissibility.”

.. and make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction... (Surah al-Baqarah:195)

Some of them reply that loss of ephemeral life it more fitting than loss of abiding life, which is gnosis, so reflect.  The story of the thief in the bath house attests to this, and Allah (s.w.t.) Knows best.

I heard our shaykh say, “The truthful faqir kills his nafs with the least of the permitted and the lying faqir falls into the forbidden and does not kill it.”  He often forbade dark states.  He said, “We have enough of the permissible to spare us from the unlawful and disliked.”  Begging is disliked or forbidden by the aim of obtaining food for bodies when you have enough.  If it is with the aim of sustaining life, it is not unlawful.  In his commentary on Swahih al-Bukhari, Shaikh al-Qasthallani (r.a.) mentioned from Shaykh ibn al-‘Arabi (q.s.) that it is mandatory for the faqir in his beginning.

This ruin which I mentioned can also entail fame since obscurity is being hidden from people's eyes.  Obscurity is the lowering of position in the eyes of people, concealing the secret of wilayah, and all that will lower one’s position with them and negate the suspicion of wilayah is obscurity, even if there is some display outwardly.  That is why our shaykh said, “This Path of ours is obscurity outwardly and appearance in obscurity.”

Shaykh an-Najibi (q.s.) said in al-Inala’, “As for those among the Sufis who say that the muraqqa’at is fame, the response is found in the fact that Salman al-Farisi (r.a.) travelled from Iraq to Syria to visit Abu Darda’ (r.a.), on foot, wearing a coarse mantle.  He was told, ‘You have made yourself famous.’

He replied, “Good is the good of akhirah.  I am a slave who dresses as a slave.  When I am free, then I will wear a robe of honour and not worry about its borders.’”

Part of that is the story of Imam al-Ghazali (r.a.) carrying ox-hides on his back when he met his shaykh, Shaykh al-Kharraz (q.s.), sweeping market and using a water skin to give people water.  That is what I heard many times from the shaykh but I did find it anyone else who knew it.

There is also the story of Imam ash-Shushtari (q.s.) with his shaykh, who was 70.  Imam ash-Shushtari (q.s.) was a government minister and scholar, and his father was an amir.  When he wanted to embark on the Path of the People of Sufism, his shaykh told him, “You will not obtain any of it until you sell your goods, wear tattered garments, take a banner and enter the market.”

He did all that and asked his shaykh, “What should we say in the market?”

He replied, “Say, ‘I begin by mentioning the Beloved.’”

So he entered the market, waving his banner and said, “I begin by mentioning the Beloved.”  He kept it up for three days and the veils were rent.  He began to sing about the knowledge of tastes in the market.

There is a similar story about a man who was with Shaikh Abu Yazid al-Bistami (q.s.).  For thirty years the man did not leave his gathering nor part from him.  He said one day, “Master, for thirty years I have fasted in the day and prayed at night, and I left appetites and I did not find anything at all of what you mentioned in my heart.  I believe and affirm all you say.”

Shaikh Abu Yazid (q.s.) said to him, “If you were to pray for 30 years while you are as I see you, you will still never find a single atom of it.”

He asked, “Why, master?”

He replied, “Because you are veiled by your nafs.”

He asked, “Does this have a remedy so that this veil can be removed?”

“Yes,” he replied, “but you will not accept or do it.”

“Yes,” he insisted, “I will do what you say.”

Shaykh Abu Yazid (q.s.) told him, “Go immediately to the barber and shave your head and beard.  Remove these clothes and put on a woolen wrap.  Suspend a nosebag from your neck and fill it with walnuts.  Gather children around you and say in your loudest voice, ‘Children!  I will give a nut to whoever gives me a slap!’  Then enter the market in which you are respected in this state until everyone who knows you looks at you.”

He exclaimed, “Shaikh Abu Yazid, glory be to Allah!  Do you say this to someone like me and think that I will do it!”

He told him, “Your words, ‘Glory be to Allah’ are shirk.”

He asked him, “How?”

Shaykh Abu Yazid (q.s.) said, “Because you esteem your nafs and so you glorify it.”

He said, “Shaikh Abu Yazid, I cannot do this and I will not do this, but direct me to something other than this that I can do.”

Shaikh Abu Yazid (q.s.) told him, “Begin with this before everything until your rank falls from you and you humble your nafs, and then after that I will tell you what is proper for you.”

He said, “I cannot do this.”

He said, “You said that you would accept and do it.  I know that a person will have no desire for the secrets of the unseen which are veiled from the common people until he makes his nafs die and breaks the customs of the common people.  Then normal patterns will be broken for him and benefits will appear to him.”

There is also the story of Shaykh Abu ‘Imran al-Barda’i (q.s.) with his shaykh, Shaykh Abu ‘Abdullah at-Tawdi (q.s.) in Fes.  He shaved his head, put on a djellaba and took a loaf of bread, calling out for someone to save him from it.  He did all that.  There is the story of Shaykh ‘Abd ar-Rahman al-Majdzub (q.s.), who ate figs from people's trees, sang in the markets.  We also have the story of Shaykh ‘Ali al-‘Imrani (q.s.) and his ruining his reputation in Fes which is famous.  There is also the story of Mawlay al-‘Arabi (q.s.) who wore a sack and gave people water from a water skin.  Other things which are well known.

These stories indicate that obscurity is not what the common people understand it to be: staying inside houses and fleeing to mountains.  For those with realisation, that is tantamount to ostentation itself.  “Obscurity,” as Imam az-Zarruq (q.s.) said, “is for the nafs to fully realise its lowest description and be constantly aware of it.  Its lowest description is abasement and all that burdensome for it.  So he resorts to realising the attribute of humility and its fruit in order to obtain action and the perfection of the reality.”

If you said that doing things like this will entail exposing oneself to people’s words and making them fall into slander, I reply that it depends on the aim and intention.  If someone does any of that with the aim of killing his nafs, achieving sincerity and to heal his heart, he forgives and excuses those who talk about him.  In his book, Shaykh ‘Ali (q.s.) said, “We excuse those who excuse us and excuse those who do not excuse us.”

In al-Qawa’id, Imam az-Zarruq (q.s.) said, “The legal ruling is general for the common people because its aim to establish the outward shari’ah, raise its minaret and make its words victorious while the ruling of taswawwuf is for the elite because it is the relationship of the slave with his Lord and no more.  So it is valid for a faqih to object to a Sufi, but not valid for a Sufi to obey to a faqih.  One must return from taswawwuf to fiqh in judgments, but not in realities.”  These remedies which we mentioned are for the state of illness.  As for the one who has achieved its cure and perfected his annihilation, he is the slave of Allah (s.w.t.) whether he shows it or hides it.

Shaykh Abu al-‘Abbas al-Mursi (q.s.) said, "If someone desires to make a display, he is the slave of display, and if someone desires concealment, he is the slave of concealment.  The slave of Allah is the same whether he is public or concealed.”  Since purification of the finer points of ostentation and self-deception is only achieved by reflection, and reflection is only completed by retreat, he said, “Withdraw the heart into the arena of reflection - nothing helps the heart more than that!”  Helping is to make the benefit arrive.  The heart is the faculty which is ready to accept knowledge.  Withdrawal means to isolate the heart with Allah (s.w.t.), and he means khalwah, retreat, by it, which is isolating the vessel from people, and it is what is meant here.  The heart is usually only isolated when the vessel is isolated.  The arena is used for thoughts since they recur as horses so when running a circuit.  Reflection is when the heart travels to the Presence of the Lord.  There are two categories of thought: reflection which is affirmation and faith, and reflection which is witnessing and eye-witnessing, as will come.

I say that there is nothing more beneficial to the heart than withdrawal accompanied by reflection because withdrawal is like the fever and reflection is the remedy.  The remedy is of no use without the fever and there is no benefit in the fever without the remedy.  So there is no good in retreat without reflection nor activation of reflection without withdrawal since what is desired of withdrawal is to free the heart, and what is desired in freeing the heart is to let the heart move around and we occupied with thought.  What is desired by the act of thought is to obtain knowledge and for it to be firm in the heart.  When the knowledge of Allah (s.w.t.) is firm in the heart that is its remedy and the goal of his health.  It is what Allah (s.w.t.) Calls ‘the sound heart.  Allah Almighty Says about the Rising:

“The Day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail, but only he (will prosper) that brings to Allah a sound heart.” (Surah ash-Shu’ara’:89)

They said that the heart is like the stomach.  When the humors dominate it, it becomes ill, and only the fever will help it.  It reduces its matter and prevents a lot of humors.  In hadits, “The stomach is the house of the illness, and fever is the head of the healing.”  It is like that for the heart.  When thoughts gain control over it and the senses overpower it, it becomes ill and it may die without the fever helping it and fleeing from its places, which is socialising.  When he withdraws from people and reflects, then its remedy succeeds and his heart is straight.  Otherwise, it remains ill until he meets Allah (s.w.t.) with a heart ill with doubt and ruinous thoughts.  We ask Allah (s.w.t.) for well-being.

Imam Junayd (q.s.) said, “The noblest of gatherings is sitting with reflection in the arenas of tawhid.”

Imam ash-Shadzili (q.s.) said, “The fruits of retreat is obtaining the gifts of grace.  They are four in number: the removal of the covering, the descent of mercy, the realisation of love and a truthful tongue in speech.  Allah Almighty Says, ‘When he had turned away from them and from those whom they worshipped besides Allah, We Bestowed on him.’”

When he had turned away from them and from those whom they worshipped besides Allah, We Bestowed on him... (Surah Maryam:49)

Know that there are ten benefits in khalwah.  The first is security from the disasters of the tongue.  If someone is alone, he does not find anyone to talk to.  The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “May Allah show Mercy to a person who is silent and is safe, or speaks and gives good.”  In general, one is not safe from its banes except for someone who prefers retreat to meeting with people.

Shaykh ‘Ali (q.s.) said, “When I see a faqir preferring retreat to meeting, silence to speech, and fasting to being full, I know that his melon is sweet.  When I see him preferring socialising, speech and fullness over their opposites, I know that his melon is hollow.”

We read in al-Quth, “A lot of speech shows lack of scrupulousness, lack of taqwa, a lengthy calling to account, the unrolling of the scroll, a great number of claimants, connecting the wronged to the wronged them, a great deal of testimony from the noble scribes, and constant turning away from the Noble King because words are a key to the major sins of the tongue: lying, slander, backbiting, and false testimony.  It says in tradition, ‘Most of the sins of the sons of Adam will be by the tongue,’ and, ‘The people with the greatest number of wrong actions on the Day of Rising will be those who most delve into what does not concern them.’”

The second benefit is preserving the eye and being safe from the banes of looking.  Whoever withdraws from people is safe from looking at them and at what they possess of the flower of this world and its adornments.  Allah Almighty Says:

Nor strain thine eyes in longing for the things We have given for enjoyment to parties of them the splendour of the life of this world, through which We test them... (Surah ThaHa:131)

So He Forbids the nafs to look at that and to compete with its people.  Imam Muhammad ibn Sirin (q.s.) said, “Beware of looking too much.  It leads to excessive appetite.”

One of the writers said, “Anyone who looks a lot has constant regrets.”

They said, “The eye is a reason for destruction.”  If someone gives his eye free rein, he seeks his own destruction.  Looking with the eye at things renders the heart dispersed.

The third is preserving and protecting the heart from showing off, flattery and other illnesses.  One of sages said, “Anyone who socialises with people flatters them.  Whoever flatters them shows off to them.  Whoever shows off to them falls into what they fall into and so he is destroyed as they are destroyed.”

One of the Sufis said, “I asked one of the Abdal devoted to Allah, ‘What is the route to realisation?’

He replied, ‘Do not look at creatures.  Looking at them is darkness.’

I replied, ‘I must.’

He said, ‘Then do not listen to their words.  Their words are hardness.’

I replied, ‘I must.’

He said, ‘Do not deal with them.  Dealing with them is loss, regret and alienation.’

I replied, ‘I am among them and so I must deal with them.’

He said, ‘Then do not rely on them.  Relying on them is destruction.’

I said, ‘This might be possible.’

He said, ‘You look at those who play, listen to the words of the ignorant, deal with the falsifiers, rely on those who are destroyed, and you want to experience the sweetness of obedience when your heart is with other than Allah!  Unlikely!  This will never be!’  Then he left me.”

Imam al-Qushayri (q.s.) said, “When the masters of striving want to protect their hearts from ruinous thoughts, they do not look at the pleasant things,” meaning the things of dunya.  He said, “This is a major basis for them in striving in the states of discipline.”

The fourth is obtaining asceticism in this world and being satisfied with it.  That contains the honour and perfection of a slave and is a reason for being loved by his Master since the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Do with little of this world and Allah will Love you, and do with little of what belongs to other people and people will love you.”  There is no doubt that someone who isolates himself from people and does not look at what they have of desire for this world and pursuit of it is safe from following them in that and is safe from following ruinous natures and base qualities.  Few of those who mix with them are safe from what they are doing.

It is reported that the ‘Isa (a.s.) said, “Do not sit with the dead so that your hearts die.”

They asked, “Who are the dead, Ruhullah?”

He replied, “Those who love this world and desire it.”

The fifth is safety from the company of the evil and mixing with the base.  Mixing with them contains immense corruption and terrible danger.  One tradition reads, “The metaphor of the bad companion is that of the bellows.  If it does not burn you with its sparks, its foul smell clings to you.”

Shaykh ‘Abd ar-Rahman al-Majdzub (q.s.) said, “Sitting with other than the good is ruinous, even if you are pure.”

Allah Almighty Revealed to Dawud (a.s.), “Dawud, why do I See you alone and withdrawn?”

He said, “My Allah, I turned to Creation for Your Sake.”

He Said, “Dawud, be wakeful and return to brothers.  Do not accompany any brother who does not keep you with My Pleasure.  He is your enemy and your heart will become hard and put you far from me.”  If you desire company, then you must have the company of the Sufis.  Their company is a treasure which does not run out.

Imam Junayd (q.s.) said, “When Allah Desires good for a person, He Puts him with the Sufis and denies him the company of the reciters.”  He said, “By Allah, someone who has success only achieves it except through keeping company with the one who has achieved success.”

Th sixth is devotion to worship and dzikr, and resolve to have taqwa and good action.  There is no doubt that when a person is alone, he devotes himself to the worship of his Lord and concentrates his limbs and heart on it since there is nothing to distract him from that.  We read in al-Quth, “As for khalwah, it frees the heart from people and concentrates himmah on the Creator and strengthens the resolve to be firm.”

The seventh is experiencing the sweetness of acts of obedience and firm pleasure in permitted things which fill his sirr.  This is well tested and sound.  Shaykh Abu Thalib (q.s.) said, “The murid is not truthful until he experiences sweetness, energy and strength in khalwah which he does not find when in the public, and until his intimacy is in being alone, his solace is in retreat and the best of his actions are done in secret.”

The eighth is rest for the heart and body.  Mixing with people results in the fatigue of the heart due to concern with their business and the fatigue of the body due to striving for their desires and doing what they want.  Even if there is a reward in that, he misses what is greater and more important, which is the concentration of the heart in the Presence of the Lord.

The ninth is protection of the self and din from being exposed to the evils and quarrels which mixing obliges.  The nafs is eager to rush to involve itself in such things when it is joined to the masters of this world and to content with them for it.  Imam ash-Shafi’i (r.a.) said:

“For anyone who tastes this world, I have eaten it,
And its sweetness and punishment were driven to me,
And I only found that it was nothing but delusion,
And falsehood like a mirage appearing in the desert.
It is nothing by a transformed corpse, which the dogs of concern are attracted.
If you avoid it, you will live in safety from its people.
If you are attracted to it, its dogs will snap at you.”

The last one is firmness in the worship of reflection and contemplation, and it is the greatest goal of khalwah.  A tradition says, “Reflection for an hour is better than seventy years of worship.”

‘Isa (a.s.) used to say, “Bliss for someone whose words are dzikr, whose silence is reflection, and whose glance is a lesson.”  The cleverest of people is the one who humbles his nafs and works for what is after death.

Ka’b (r.a.) said, “Anyone who desires the honour of akhirah should reflect a lot.”  The best worship of Abu Darda’ (r.a.) was reflection.  That is because by it one reaches the realities of things, makes the truth clear from falsehood, is aware of the hidden banes and ruses of the nafs and the delusion of this world, and by it he recognises the devices to use to protect oneself from them and be purified of them.

al-Hasan (r.a.) said, “Reflection is a mirror which shows you good and bad.  It also acquaints you with the Immensity and Majesty of Allah when you reflect on His Signs and Works.  It also acquaints you with His Blessings and Gifts, Majesty and Hiddenness.  By that, it gives you radiant states which remove the illness of your heart and make you go straight in obeying your Lord.”

Shaykh ibn ‘Abbad (r.a.) said, “These are the fruits of the retreat of the people of the beginning.  As for the people of the end, their retreat is always with them, even if they are in the midst of people, because they are strong and veiled by gatheredness from separation and by meaning from the sensory.”  Retreat and mixing are the same for them because they take their share from each but none takes a share from them.

Shaikh al-Majdzub (q.s.) said, on this, “Creation is lights and I graze among them.  They are the greatest veils for the one among them.”  If the murid is ascribed to withdrawal, silence, hunger and wakefulness, his wilayah is complete, Divine Concern appears to him, lights shine on him and the forms of others are effaced from the mirror of his heart.  The shaykh indicated that when he was amazed at its opposite: “If the forms of phenomenal beings are embedded in the mirror of the heart, how can it be illuminated?”  The forms of beings are the individuals and their representations in the senses and ideas.  Beings are types of creatures, small or large.  ‘Embedded’ means ‘firm’, since when something in embedded and stamped on something, its effect appears on it.  Mirror is a metaphor for the insight which is the eye of the heart in which things, good and ugly, are manifested.

Allah (s.w.t.) Made the heart of the human being like a polished mirror in which is embedded what is in front of it.  It has only one direction.  When Allah (s.w.t.) Desires Concern for His slaves, He Occupies his reflection with the lights of His Malakut and the secrets of His Jabarut, and the heart is not attached to the love of any of dark beings and false illusions.  So the lights of faith and ihsan are embedded in the mirror of his heart and the moons of tawhid and suns of gnosis shine in it.  That was indicated by Imam ash-Shushtari (q.s.) when he said, “Lower the eye and you will see and your reports will appear.  Be annihilated to mankind and your secrets will appear to you.  By polishing the mirror, your denial is removed.”  Then he said, “The sphere revolves in you, gives light and shines, and the suns and the moons disappear and rise in you.  Polishing the mirror of your heart removes your denial of the Truth so that you recognise it in everything and your heart becomes the axis of the sphere of lights.  In it, the moons of tawhid and suns of gnosis appear."

When Allah (s.w.t.) Wants to disappoint a slave by His Justice and Wisdom, he occupies himself with dark beings and physical appetites, and those beings become embedded in the mirror of his heart and so by their phenomenal darkness and imaginary forms, he is veiled from the rising of the suns of gnosis and the lights of faith.  Whenever the forms of things pile up in him, their light is extinguished and their veil reinforced.  So you only see the sensory and only reflect on the sensory.  Part of that is the reinforcement of their veil and total extinguishing of its light and so it does not acknowledge the existence of light in its source.  That is the station of disbelief - we seek Refuge with Allah (s.w.t.)!

Part of that is when the rust is less and the veil is thinner and so they affirm the light even though they do not witness it.  This is the station of the common Muslims.  They vary in nearness and distance, and strength and weakness of evidence, each according to his certainty and lack of ties to this world and attachments of appetites and illusion.

In a hadits, it says that the hearts rust as iron rusts and that faith wears out as a new garment wears out.  In another hadits, it says that everything has a polisher, and that which polishes the hearts is dzikr.  The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) also said, “When someone commits a wrong action, a black spot forms in his heart.  If he refrains and asks Forgiveness, it is polished.  If he repeats it, it grows in the heart until it overwhelms his heart.  That is the rust which Allah Mentions: ‘By no means!  But on their hearts is the stain of the ill which they do.’”

By no means!  But on their hearts is the stain of the (ill) which they do! (Surah al-Muthaffifin:14)

Since you know that the heart only has one direction, when it faces light, it shines and when it faces darkness, it is darkened.  Darkness and light are never combined.  So you then know the reason for the wonder of the shaykh when he said, “How can a heart shine with the light of faith and ihsan, when the dark forms of beings are embedded in the mirror of his heart?  Two opposites are not combined.  Allah Almighty Says, ‘Allah has not made for any man two hearts in his (one) body.’”

Allah has not made for any man two hearts in his (one) body... (Surah al-Ahzab:4)

So, faqir, you only have one heart.  When you turn to creatures, you turn away from the Real.  When you turn to the Real, you turn away from creatures and travel from the world of Mulk to Malakut and from Malakut to Jabarut.  As long as you remain shackled in this world by your appetites, you cannot travel to your Lord.  Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah (q.s.) indicated that when he said, “If it is fettered by its appetites, how can it travel to Allah?”

Travel is rising and moving from land to another land.  Here it is moving from looking at being to witnessing the Maker of Being, or from Mulk to Malakut, or from stopping at secondary causes to seeing the Causer of causes, or from the abode of negligence to the abode of wakefulness, or from the portions of the nafs to the Rights of Allah (s.w.t.), or from the world of impurities to the world of purity, or from seeing the sensory to witnessing the meaning, or from ignorance to gnosis, or from the knowledge of certainty to the source of certainty, or from the source of certainty to the truth of certainty, or from watchfulness to witnessing, or from the station of the wayfarers to the abode of those who are firm.  Fetters are shackles, and what is meant by the appetites is all that the nafs desires and to which it inclines.

Travel is not combined with fetters.  As long as the heart feels an inclination to something of these ephemeral goods, even if it is permitted in the shari’ah, he is shackled and fettered in its abode and does not travel to Malakut, nor do the lights of Jabarut shine on him.  So the heart’s attachment to its appetites prevents it from rising to Allah (s.w.t.) since it is busy turning to them.  If it moves swiftly, it is not safe from stumbling with them because of the fondness the nafs has for them.  That is why the great men abandoned its pleasures so that Imam az-Zarruq (q.s.) said, “Hornets’ stings on a wounded body is easier than the sting of appetites in hearts,”

This is when the heart is attached to seeking them before obtaining them.  Otherwise, the heart is not attached to them.  It was already said that the reality of taswawwuf is that you should be with Allah (s.w.t.) without attachment.  Our shaykh used to say, “If you want to be given a share, no one with an attachment in his heart enters the world of Malakut.”  So, my brother, eradicate the roots of attachments in yourself and flee from the land of attachments and the lights of the realities will shine to you.  This is why travelling and hijrah are confirmed matters for the murid, since remaining in this sensory land is not free of sensory attachments.

They said, “The faqir is like water.  When it remains for a long time in the same place, it changes.  If it flows, it is sweet.”  According to how much it travels in the senses, it travels in the meaning.  According to how much the vessel travels, the heart travels.  Hijrah is a sunnah of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.).  Since the time the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) emigrated, he had no rest except in journeying for jihad until Allah (s.w.t.) Opened the lands.  It was the same for the companions. Only a few of them were remained in their homeland until the time when Allah (s.w.t.) Conquered all the lands at their hands and Guided people by them.  May Allah (s.w.t.) Give us the benefit of their Blessings.  Amin.

When the heart travels from the abode of its appetites and is purified of the filth of its negligence, it reaches the Presence of its Lord and is Granted contemplation of His Nearness.  This why Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah (q.s.) said, “If it is not purified of the great impurity of its heedlessness, how can it aspire to enter the Presence of Allah?”  This is the presence of the heart with the Lord.  There are three categories: the presence of the hearts, the presence of the spirits, and the presence of the secrets.  The presence of the hearts is for the travelers, the presence of the spirits for those who are looking upwards, and the presence of the secrets for those who are firm.  Or you can say, the presence of the hearts is for the people of watchfulness, the presence of the spirits for the people of contemplation, and the presence of secrets for the people who speak directly.

The sirr of that is that while the ruh continues to vacillate between heedlessness and presence, it is in the presence of the hearts.  When it has rest by arrival, it is called a ruh and is in the presence of the spirits.  When it is firm and purified and becomes one of the secrets of Allah, it is called a secret, sir, and it is in the presence of the secrets, asrar.  Allah (s.w.t.) Knows best.

The Presence is pure, purified, and lofty.  None but the purified enter it.  So it is forbidden for the impure heart to enter the mosque of the Presence.  The great impurity of the heart is its heedlessness of Allah (s.w.t.).  The Almighty Says:

O ye who believe!  Approach not prayers with a mind befogged, until ye can understand all that ye say, nor in a state of ceremonial impurity (except when travelling on the road), until after washing your whole ... (Surah an-Nisa’:43)

This means do not come near the prayer of Presence when you are drunk with the love of this world and the witnessing of others until you are alert and can reflect on what you say in the presence of the King, nor in a state of janaba’ from the intercourse of heedlessness witnessing others until you are purified with the water of the ghayb.  This is indicated by Shaykh al-Hatimi (q.s.) in the biography of Shaykh Abu al-Mawahib (q.s.):

“Do wudhu’ with the water of the ghayb if you have a secret.
Otherwise, do tayammum with good earth or stone.
Go forward, if you are an imam and pray the zhuhr at the beginning of ‘aswr.
This is the prayer of those with gnosis of their Lord.
If you are one of them, then sprinkle the land with the sea.”

It means you purify your nafs with the water of the unseen, ghayb, by witnessing your Lord, or you are purified of witnessing of the sensory by witnessing the meaning, or you are purified of witnessing the visible world by witnessing the unseen world, or you are purified of witnessing others by the water of knowledge on Allah (s.w.t.).  Then what is other than Him withdraws from you.  When you are purified of witnessing others, you are purified of all faults.  Imam ash-Shushtari (q.s.) indicated that, “Purify the eye with shed tears for the witnessing of others, and every fault will be Removed.”

This water, which is the water of the unseen, which descends from the purity of the seas of Jabarut to the basins of the meadows of Malakut and waters the clouds of Mercy which are moved by the winds of Guidance which drives them to the earth of the good selves.  Then the valleys of illuminated hearts and gulfs of the purified spirits are filled by it.  Allah (s.w.t.) Indicates that when He Says:

He Sends down water from the skies, and the channels flow, each according to its measure: but the torrent bears away the foam that mounts up to the surface... (Surah ar-Ra’ad:17)

Allah (s.w.t.) Compared useful knowledge to the rain descending from heaven.  As the rain fills river-beds, creeks, springs and rivers which flow according to their size and extent, so useful knowledge descends from the heaven of the world of the unseen to the earth of the visible world, and the river-beds of the hearts flow with it, each according to its capacity and predisposition.  As rain purifies the earth of filth, which is the meaning of the Words of the Almighty, “the torrent bears away the foam that mounts up to the surface,” that is, high on the surface of the water, so useful knowledge purifies the selves of impurities, the hearts of others, the spirits of impurities, and the secrets of tarnished lights.  This is what he meant by “Do wudhu’ with the water of the ghayb if you have a secret,” that is, if you have a secret and witnessing.  Witnessing Oneness negates multiplicity or the witnessing of immensity by immensity.

Anyone who does not realise this cannot be completely purified with the water of the unseen since he lacks that water or lacks the ability to use it.  So he moves to tayammum which is a dispensation for weakness and the purification of those who are ill.  That is indicated by his words, “do tayammum with good earth or stone,” that is, if the basic purification, which is withdrawing from others, is impossible for you due to the sickness of your heart and lack of your truthfulness, then move to the secondary purification which is outward worship.  Or you could say, if you cannot have the real purification which is inward purification, then move to the metaphorical purification which is outward purification.  If you are incapable of the purification of those brought near, then move to the purification of the people of the right hand.  Or if you are incapable of the purification of the people of love, then move to the purification of the people of service whom Allah (s.w.t.) has Set Up for His service and people He has Singled Out for His Love:

Of the Bounties of thy Lord, We Bestow freely on all these as well as those: the bounties of thy Lord are not closed (to anyone). (Surah al-Isra’:20)

So the purification of the people of love is by reflection and contemplation.  The purification of the people of service is by striving and endurance in outward worship, like prayer, fasting, dzikr, recitation, study and other things, and inward worship like fear, hope, asceticism, steadfastness, scrupulousness, satisfaction, submission, mercy, compassion and other things which purify them for eye-witnessing.

This is the taswawwuf of the people of outward.  The taswawwuf of the people of the inward is withdrawing from beings by witnessing the Maker of Being, or withdrawal from Creation by witnessing the True King.  It is that which the poet called ‘water of the unseen.’  Anyone who does not reach the taswawwuf of the people of the inward is one of the people of tayammum.  If he is occupied with outward actions like prayer, fasting and the like, he is like someone doing tayammum with earth since it is apparent, like the appearance of the effect of the dust on the limbs.  If he is busy with inward worship, like asceticism, scrupulousness and the like, he is like someone doing tayammum with stone since it is not generally apparent, just as the effect of stone does not appear.

When Shaykh Abu al-Mawahib (q.s.) commanded you to withdraw from others, he feared that you would deny the instrument and lack wisdom and thereby fall into zandaqah, so he said, “Go forward if you are an imam.”  By imam, he meant the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) and whoever follows in his footsteps by combining the haqiqah and the shari’ah.  So he commanded you to follow the shari’ah of Muhammad (s.a.w.) when you have withdrawn from other.  Then your outward will be wayfaring, suluk, and your inward attraction, jadzb, so your outward will be with wisdom and your inward with the power.

You must follow a perfect imam and travel on the Path directed by a perfect shaykh who will teach you how to act by the shari’ah and guide you to the haqiqah.  Otherwise you will remain ill forever, having to use the purification of the sick forever.  Look at what Imam al-Qarafi (q.s.) said when he found a shaykh of instruction.  He said, “I did tayammum with earth for a time, and now I have found water.”  This is because you do not find the water of the unseen nor are you able to use it except in the company of the people of its water who have drunk it and been intoxicated by it and then recovered from their intoxication and travelled from their jadzb.  Hand them the reins of your business and submit your whole being to them after Allah (s.w.t.) has Acquainted you with their eliteness and Unveiled their secrets to you so that your ruh attests to their advancement, and your secret to their esteem.

So “Go forward if you are an imam” and they ask you to attend.  That was the case with the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.).  He used to call people to Allah (s.w.t.) and they fled before him.  When they recognised the truth, they put him forward as their imam.  This is the meaning of “If you are an imam.”

Shaykh Abu al-Mawahib’s (q.s.) words, “pray the fajr at the beginning of ‘aswr”, or in one variant, “zhuhr,” that is combine the outward of the shari’ah with the ‘aswr of haqiqah.  In most texts, “fajr at the beginning of ‘aswr," meaning return to subsistence after annihilation or suluk, wayfaring, after attraction since usually the murid puts suluk first and then comes attraction.  So his beginning is suluk and his end attraction, as the beginning of the day is fajr and the end of it is the ‘aswr, the return to fajr at the beginning of your day and pray it at the end of your day.  So return to the suluk which is at the beginning of your affair and put it in at the end of your affair.  That is the meaning of their words, “The end of the perfect is the beginning of the shari’ah.”  They also said, “The end of the travelers is the beginning of the attraction and the end of the attracted is the beginning of the travelers.”  They also said, “The sign of the end is to return to the beginning.”

Shaykh Abu al-Mawahib’s (q.s.) words, “This is the prayer of those with gnosis of their Lord” are because they are pure by basic purification and pray a constant prayer.  Allah Almighty Says:

Those who remain steadfast to their prayer. (Surah al-Ma’arij:23)

The common people limit prayers to their times while the gnostics are always in prayer.  One of them was asked, “Does the heart pray?”

He replied, “Yes, and when it prostrates, it never raises its head,” which means that when the ruh prostrates out of awe of Jamal and Jalal, it will never lift its head again.  That was indicated by the words of Imam ash-Shushtari (q.s.), “Prostrate to awe of Jalal when drawing near and recite the ayat of the Perfect, the Seven Matsani.”

Shaykh Abu al-Mawahib’s (q.s.) words, “If you are one of them, then sprinkle the land with the sea,” mean, if you are one of the realised gnostics, then sprinkle your shari’ah with the sea of your haqiqah.  When you sprinkle your shari’ah with the sea of your reality until you immerse it and cover it, then the shari’ah becomes the same as the haqiqah and the haqiqah the same as the shari’ah until all your actions are by Allah (s.w.t.).  Allah (s.w.t.) knows Best and success is by Allah (s.w.t.), and there is no power nor strength except by Allah (s.w.t.), the High, the Immense.

When the heart enters the presence of purity and the place of intimacy, they are fine secrets and filled with gifts and lights.  He indicated that by saying, “If it has not turned away in regret from its lapses, how can it hope to grasp the subtleties of secret knowledge?”  Hope is to desire something while striving to obtain the means to it.  Otherwise it is wishful thinking.  Grasping, fahm, is to obtain knowledge of what is desired.  The subtleties of secrets are the inscrutable parts of tawhid.  Tawbah is to turn away from every blameworthy attribute.  This is the tawbah of the elite.  Lapses are slips and errors.  Grasping the subtleties of secrets only occurs when there is persistence, or you could say that the inscrutable parts of tawhid are only understood by an isolated heart.  If someone does not turn from his lapses and free himself from the bondage of his appetites, he will not aspire to grasp the inscrutable parts of tawhid nor taste the secrets of the people of isolation.

Imam Ahmad ibn Abi al-Hawari (q.s.) said, “I heard my shaykh, Shaykh Abu Sulayman ad-Darani (q.s.) say, ‘When the selves are accustomed to abandoning wrong actions, they travel in the Malakut and return to their owner bringing exquisite wisdoms without a scholar bringing about their knowledge.’”

Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (r.a.) said, “You spoke the truth, Ahmad, and your shaykh spoke the truth!  I have not heard in Islam any wisdom I like better than this.  If anyone acts by what he knows, he will be Given knowledge which he did not know by Allah.”

Imam Junayd (q.s.) was asked, “What is the path to realisation?”

He replied, “Tawhid which removes persistence, fear which cuts off procrastination, hope which goes forth on the paths of action, abasement of the nafs by bringing the final term close to it and putting it far from hope.”

He was asked, “By what will one attain to this?”

He replied, “By a heart isolated in which there is divested tawhid.  When the heart is isolated with Allah and purified of what is other than Him, it grasps the subtleties of tawhid and its inscrutable concepts which cannot be expressed.  They are allusions and indications which are only understood by their people and only Disclosed to them; few they are!”

If anyone divulges something of their secrets to other than its people, his blood is allowed and he has exposed himself to killing, as Shaykh Abu Madyan (q.s.) said, “There are fine subtle secrets in the secret.  If we were to divulge them openly, our blood would be shed.”

Another said, “I have a dear Beloved whom I do not disclose.  I fear my disgrace on the day I meet Him.”

These secrets are the secrets of the Essence and the secrets which Allah (s.w.t.) Manifests in the field of phenomenal beings.  That is what Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah (q.s.) indicated when he said, “Phenomenal being is utter and total darkness.  It is only the Manifestation of the Real in it that gives it light.”  Phenomenal being is what is formed by Power and Manifested to witnessing.  Darkness is the opposite of light and is not in existence.  The light of existence is illuminated; that is, becomes light, and the Manifestation of the Real is His Tajalli.

I said that phenomenal being, inasmuch as it is being, and the manifestation of all that is sensory is darkness because it is a veil for the one who stops at its outward and thus does not witness his Lord, and because it is a cloud which obscures the sun of meanings for the one who stops at the outward sensory vessels.  That is indicated by Imam ash-Shushtari (q.s.) when he said, “Do not look at the vessels.  Dive into the sea of the meaning and perhaps you will see Me.”  Thus, by that consideration phenomenal being is all darkness.  The Manifestation and Tajalli of the Real in it is what illuminates it.

If anyone looks at the outward of his senses, he sees it as dark sensory.  Whoever penetrates to its inward, sees it as a light of Malakut.  Allah Almighty Says:

Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth... (Surah an-Nur:35)

Thus the words of the shaykh, “Phenomenal being is utter and total darkness,” is about the people of the veil since of the outward of the forms of beings is embedded in the mirror of their hearts.  As for the people of gnosis, their insight penetrates to witnessing the Real and so they see phenomenal being as a light emanating from the Sea of Jabarut, and thus for them Being is all light.  Allah Almighty Says:

Say: “Behold all that is in the heavens and on earth.” … (Surah Yunus:101)

That is at the light of His Malakut and the secrets of His Jabarut, or at the secrets of the meanings set up in vessels.  Rasulullah (s.a.w.) said, “Allah is Veiled from the people of Heaven as He is Veiled from the people of the earth, and the people of the Highest Assembly seek Him as you seek Him.  He is not inside anything nor absent from anything.”

They meanings are tastes which are not perceived by the intellect nor transmitted by pages.  They are perceived by the company of the people of tastes.  So submit and do not criticize if you do not see the new moon.  Submit to people who have seen it with eyes.  Then people are divided into three categories in respect of witnessing the Real: the common, the elite and the elite of the elite. So Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah (q.s.) said, “When you see phenomenal being and do not see Him in it, with it, before it or after it, then you are truly in need of light.  You are Veiled from the suns of gnosis by the clouds of secondary traces.”

The people of the station of baqa’ witness the Real simply by their sight alighting on phenomenal being.  They confirm the Effect by Allah (s.w.t.) and do not witness other than Him.  By their perfection, they affirm the medium and the means.  So they witness the Real by simply witnessing the means or at the means or with it before it or after it.  Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah (q.s.) said, “Since I recognised Allah, I do not see others.  So other with Him is Forbidden with us.”

Shaykh ‘Abd as-Salam ibn Mashish (q.s.) said to Imam Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadzili (q.s.), “Abu al-Hasan!  Sharpen the sight of faith and you will find Allah in everything, with everything, at everything, before everything, after everything, above everything, under everything, near everything and encompassing everything with nearness.  It is His Quality, and by Encompassment, it is His Quality and free of conditions and limits, from places and directions, from company and nearness by distances, and from moving by creatures.  Efface all by His Attribute of al-Awwal, and al-Akhir, and azh-Zhahir and al-Bathin.  He is He is He.  ‘Allah was and nothing was with Him, and He is now as He was.’”

One of them said, “I have not seen anything but that I saw Allah in it, and I did not see Him in temporality.”  That is what one of the gnostics said.  So the people of travel among the muridun witness phenomenal being and then they witness the Maker of Being there and by His Effect.  Then being is effaced from their sight by their looking at Him.  This is the state of those who are looking upwards.  The people of annihilation witness Allah (s.w.t.) before witnessing Creation, meaning they did not see Creation at all since it has no fixity with them because, by their intoxication, they are absent from the means, annihilated to the wisdom, drowned in the sea of lights.  Effects are obliterated for them.

One of them said about this station, “I have not seen anything but that I saw Allah before it.”  The people of the veil among the people of evidence and demonstrable proof witness being, but do not witness the Maker of Being before or after it.  They use proofs to deduce His Existence through the existence of being.  This refers to the common Muslims among the People of the Right Hand.  They miss the existence to lights and are denied them and the suns of gnosis are Veiled from them by the clouds of secondary traces after they have risen and their light shines, but the sun must have a cloud and the beauty must have a veil.

How excellent in the speaker who said, “She is only Veiled by lifting Her Veil.  It is a Marvel that Manifestation Veils!”

And another said:

“She Appeared and was not hidden from anyone.
Except the blind who does not see the moon.
But she was Concealed by what appeared Veiled.
How will the One Veiled by Might be recognised?”

Then His being Veiled when He is Manifest shows you to the Existence of His Overwhelming Force, as the author says, “One way He Shows you the Existence of His Overwhelming Power is by Veiling you from Him by that which cannot exist alongside Him.”

al-Qahhar, The Subduer, is one of His Names, and one of the Manifestations of His Force is His being Veiled when He is Manifest, Manifest when He is Hidden, and Hidden when He is Manifest.  One way He Shows you the Existence of His Overwhelming Force is when He is Veiled without a Veil, Near without drawing near, far in His Nearness, and Near in His distance.  He is Veiled from His creatures in the state of His Manifestation to them and Manifest to them in the state of His being Veiled from them.  So He was Veiled from them by something which does not exist: illusion, wahm.  Illusion is a non-existent matter.  So He is only Veiled by the Intensity of His Manifestation and eyes are only Prevented from seeing Him by His Overwhelming Force.  So giving the Real sole Existence results.  There is no existent along with Allah (s.w.t.).  The Almighty Says:

... Everything (that exists) will perish except His own Face... (Surah al-Qaswasw:88)

Halik’, ‘passing’, or ‘perish’ as in this translation, is an active participle, which is real in the state.  The Almighty Says:

He is the First and the Last, the Evident and the Hidden... (Surah al-Hadid:3)

He also Says:

… whithersoever ye turn, there is Allah’s Countenance... (Surah al-Baqarah:115)

He Says:

... And He is with you wheresoever ye may be... (Surah al-Hadid:4)

He Says:

… We Told thee that thy Lord doth Encompass mankind round about... (Surah al-Isra’:60)

He Says:

… when thou threwest (a handful of dust) it was not thy act, but Allah’s... (Surah al-Anfal:17)

He Says:

Verily those who plight their fealty to thee do no less than plight their fealty to Allah... (Surah al-Fath:10)

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “The best words which a poet has uttered is what Labid said: ‘Everything except Allah is false and every bliss must pass.’”

He reported that Allah Almighty Says, “My slave, I was ill and you did not visit Me.”

The slave will say, “O Lord, how could I visit You when You are the Lord of the worlds?”

Allah (s.w.t.) Says, “My slave so-and-so was ill and you did not visit him.  If had visited him, you would have found Me with him.”  Then He Says, “My slave, I asked you for food and you did not feed Me.”  Then He Says, “I asked you for water and you did not give it to Me.”  This hadits qudsi indicates that these shapes and persons are illusions without any reality.  The thing they most resemble is the shadow.

Imam ash-Shushtari (q.s.) said:

“Creation is Your Creation and the command is Your Command.
So what am I but one of the shadows?
The veil has no place in Your Existence, except by the secrets of the letters.
Look at the mountain.
You Indicated You from You and You have Eternity,
Which is designated by the depths of pre-time.
By You, You Recognise this one who is All-Aware of You.
You are them by Giving life to the heart, O my hope!”

“Creation is Your Creation;” by ‘Creation’, he means the forms of the shapes while the ‘Command’ is the secret of the spirits, the shapes.  In essence, he is saying, “Your Wisdom and the spirits are one of Your secrets.  I have no existence at all, so what can my self do when You Brought it into existence for You and it is one of Your Manifestations?  I am merely one of the shadows of Your Existence.”

“The veil has no place in Your Existence,” means there is no place for the sensory veil in His Existence.  If the veil had had a place in His Existence, it would be nearer to us than He and that is impossible because He Says:

It was We Who Created man, and We Know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are Nearer to him than (his) jugular vein. (Surah Qaf:16)

“Except by the secrets of the letters” is an complete separate exclusion, that there is no place for the sensory veil between Him and us, but the veil of Overwhelming Force and the cloak of might and pride is that which prevents the eyes from seeing His basic Jabaruti Light since if that Light had been Manifested, it would beings would have vanished and been consumed by the Light of His Glories.  This is the secret of the Command which Allah (s.w.t.) Gave to Musa (a.s.) when he asked for the vision and He Commanded him to look at the mountain when Allah (s.w.t.) Desired to Manifest some of that light.  Since the mountain was not firm at just a little of it, we know that there is no way for the weak slave in this abode to see the One, al-Qahhar, except by means of dense beings after He Unfolded the cloaks of meaning over them.  This is the meaning of His words, “except by the secrets of the letters.  Look at the mountain,” that is except by the Veiling of Overwhelming Power understood from the secrets of His Words:

“… but look upon the mount...” (Surah al-A’araf:143)

Or except through a veil connected to the secret of the wisdom understood from the words of the Almighty, “Look upon the mountain.”  It is as if Allah (s.w.t.) were saying, “Musa, you will not be able to see Me except through the veil of wisdom.  But look at the mountain.  If it is able to endure that, then you will see Me.” When Allah Almighty manifested Himself without the means of the sensory, He made it dust.  Allah (s.w.t.) Knows best.

Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah (q.s.) also said in this sense:

“I am a wonder for the one who sees Me.
I am the Lover and the Beloved and there is no second.
O you who aim for the source of the report, your ‘where’ covers it.
The wine is from You and the report and the secret are with You.
Return to Your Essence and reflect.  There is not other than You.”

“You who aim for the source of the report,” means the source of the report of realisation.  “Your ‘where’ covers it,” means the locus of your illusory existence since, if you were to withdraw from your existence, you would discover the source of realisation.  “The wine is from You,” means a drink of the wine of love is from Him.  This is as He Said, “From Me, My cup revolves around Me.”  “The report” is the report about the source of realisation comes also from Him.  The secret of lordship is with Him, because He is a Sealed Treasure.  When you desire to recognise it, return to His Essence and reflect: you will find all Existence to be One.  Then, you are that one.  The poet said, “Even if this existence is multiple outwardly, your life only contains you.”

He also Said, “My Secret was Disclosed without words and Appeared from Me in that model and so we see that the existence of other than Me is impossible.  All that other less than Me is imagination in Me, unified in everything. I am the Lover and I am the Beloved.  Love for Me from Me is a Marvel.  I am Alone, so understand.  My Secret is rare.  Anyone who looks at My Essence sees Me as something.  I am Concealed in the Folds of the Sweetness of the Essence.  My Attributes are not hidden from the one who looks.  My Essence is known from those forms.  Annihilate yourself to the sensory and you will see lessons in the Secret.  The meaning is concealed because it is a veil from Me over Me.”

There are many statements made by the gnostics and ecstatic expressions and poems of the lovers on this meaning, which is the secret of unity.  Each is according to his taste and drink.  May Allah (sw.t.) Repay them in good for us and the Muslims.  These expressions are only understood by the people of tastes and indications.  It is enough for the one who does not attain its understanding and does not encompass it in knowledge that he submit and entrust its understanding to its masters and believe in perfect tanzih, and deny tashbih because these meanings are tastes which are only obtained through the company of the people of tastes.

Then Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah (q.s.) deduces evidence for the falsity of the existence of a veil over Allah Almighty by ten matters, marveling at the manifestation of each of them while He is Concealed, at the intensity of His Manifestation with the gnostics and the intensity of His being hidden with those who ignorant and heedless.  So he indicated that: “How can you imagine that something veils Him when He is the One Who has Manifested everything?”

The Zhahir is the Khafi, Hidden.  What He Conceals in the world of the ghayb, He Manifests in the visible world, so the basins of Jabarut gush with the lights of Malakut.  “Look at My Jamal visible in every human being.  The water which flows penetrates the roots of the branches: you find it to be one water while there are a multitude of flowers.”  What a wonder!  How can the One by Whom you recognise gnosis be recognised by gnosis?  I wonder at the one who seeks witnessing from You when You are the One Who Makes every witness witness it.

Then he mentioned a second matter: “How can you imagine that something else veils Him when He is the One Who is Manifest by everything?”  He is Manifest by everything and so nothing has existence alongside His Existence, so how can anything veil Him?  It means that there is nothing.

The author of al- ‘Ayniyyah, Imam al-Haddad (q.s.) said, “You were Manifest in things when You Created them.  They withdraw from you and are in veils.”

Then Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah (q.s.) mentioned a third: “How can you imagine that something else veils Him when He is the One Who is Made Manifest in everything?”  That is by His Power and His Wisdom. Power is Hidden and Wisdom is Manifest.  All existence is between Power and Wisdom, and between gathering and separation.

We already mentioned what one of them said, “I have not seen anything but I saw Allah in it,” that is, by His Power and Wisdom.  If the lights of the Attributes had been Manifested, the Essence would not be recognised nor the senses of held the meaning.  If it were not for the dense, the subtle would not be recognised.

Imam ash-Shushtari (q.s.) said, “My Beloved Embraces all existence and is Manifest in black and white, in the Christians and the Jews, in the pigs and the apes, in the letters and the dots.  Did He ever let me understand?  Did He ever let me understand?”  Then he said, “I recognised Him throughout time.  He is manifest in every time, in the waters, in the buckets, in the rising and in the descending.  Did He ever let me understand?  Did He ever let me understand?”

Then Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah (q.s.) mentioned a fourth: “How can you imagine that something else veils Him when He is the One Who is Manifest to everything?”  He is Manifest to everything by the secrets of His Essence and the lights of His Essence.  So He is Manifest to everything and everything recognises Him inwardly and everything glorifies His Praise.  Allah Almighty Says:

… there not a thing but celebrates His praise… (Surah al-Isra’:44)

It expresses this in its state, saying, “Glory be to the One Who is Manifest to everything, Manifest by everything.”  The gnostics grasp it and the heedless are ignorant of it.

Then Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah (q.s.) mentioned a fifth: “How can you imagine that something else veils Him when He was the One Who was Manifest before there was anything?”  So all that is manifest is from Him and to Him.  So He was Manifest before time by Himself and then Manifest to Himself by Himself.  He is Rich Beyond Need in His Essence from being manifest by another or needing other-than-Him to recognise Him.  So all phenomenal being is gathered and ‘other’ is Forbidden in our view.

Then Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah (q.s.) mentioned a sixth: “How can you imagine that something else veils Him when He is More Manifest than anything?”  Since things have no existence with His Existence and they have no manifestation with His Manifestation, so according to their manifestation, they have no essential existence.  If it were not for His Manifestation in things, eyes would not discover them.  If one has no existence by his essence from his essence, were it not for Him, his existence would be impossible.

In the state of the veil, the slave considers the existence of his nafs to be necessary and the Existence of Allah Almighty to be theoretical.  When He recognises the Truth, is annihilated to himself and achieves its disappearance, he then considers the Existence of Allah (s.w.t.) to be necessary and the existence of his self to be theoretical, indeed necessarily impossible.

Imam ash-Shadzili (q.s.) said, “We look at Allah with the eye of faith and certainty and that spares us evidence and proofs.  We do not see any of Allah’s Creation.  Is there in existence other than the King, the Real?  If there is and must be, then it is dust in the air.  If you scatter it, you will not find anything.”  He added, in Latha’if al-Minan, “It is one of the greatest marvels that beings reach Allah.  Would that I knew whether their existence with Him so that they reach Him or whether they are clear that it is not until they are manifested.  If beings are connected to Him, they do not have that from their essences, but He is the one who Granted them the rank of connection and so they are connected.  Only His Divinity is connected to Him, but the al-Hakim is the One Who Sets in place secondary causes, and they belong to the one who stops with them while not perceiving that His Power is the source of the veil.  The Manifestation of the Real is more manifest than all which is manifest since it He is the Reason for the Manifestation of all that is manifested and not hidden except from the intensity of what is manifest and from the intensity of manifestation and concealment.”

Imam Ahmad ar-Rifa’i (q.s.) indicated this idea: “O You Who is Exalted Whose Meaning is subtle, and none but You Wear the cloak of pride!” that is, He Who is exalted in His Manifestation until His Meaning is hidden.

Then Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah (q.s.) mentioned the seventh: “How can you imagine that something else veils Him when He is the One with Whom there is nothing else?”  By the realisation of His Oneness before and after time.  So all that appears to the eye is one of the manifestations of ar-Rahim.

The author of al-‘Ayniyyah said:

“My Beloved Manifested His beauty in my mirror,
And there are Signs of the Beloved in every mirror.
When His Beauty Manifested in manifold forms,
It has names and they rise into view.”

Allah Almighty is One in His Essence, His Attributes and His Actions.  There is nothing before Him and nothing after Him and nothing with Him.

Then Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah (q.s.) mentioned the eighth: “How can you imagine that something else veils Him when He is the One Who is Nearer to you than anything?”

The Almighty Says:

It was We Who Created man, and We Know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are Nearer to him than (his) jugular vein. (Surah Qaf:16)

He Says:

But We are Nearer to him than ye, and yet see not (Surah al-Waqi’ah:85)

He also Says:

… and Allah doth Watch over all things. (Surah al-Ahzab:52)


If thou pronounce the word aloud, (it is no matter): for verily He Knoweth what is secret and what is yet more hidden. (Surah ThaHa:7)

So the Nearness of Allah (s.w.t.) is the nearness of knowledge, encompassment and witnessing, not the nearness of distance since there is no distance between you and Him.  The hadits was already quoted which states that Allah (s.w.t.) is not located in anything nor absent from anything.

‘Ali ibn Abi Thalib (k.w.) said, “Allah Almighty is not from anything nor in anything nor above anything nor below anything since if He had been from anything, He would be Created.  If He had been above anything, He would be carried.  If He had been in anything, He would be contained.  If he had been under anything, He would have been overcome.”

He was asked, “Cousin of the Rasulullah, where was your Lord or does He have a place?”

‘Ali’s (k.w.) face grew pale and he was silent for a time.  Then he said, “Your words, ‘Where was Allah’ is a question of place and Allah had no place.  Then He Created time and place and He is now as He was, without place or time.”

Imam ash-Shadzili (q.s.) said, “I was asked, “‘Ali, speak by Me and direct to Me.  I am all.”  This is as is found in the hadits of Swahih al-Bukhari: “Allah Almighty Says, ‘The son of Adam curses time.  I am Time. Night and day are in My Hand.’”

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) also said, “Do not curse time.  Allah is Time.”  It is explained in the hadits before it, and Allah (s.w.t.) knows best.

Then Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah (q.s.) mentioned a ninth: “How can you imagine that something else veils Him when if it had not been for Him, there would not have been anything?”  Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

… it is He Who Created all things and Ordered them in due proportions. (Surah al-Furqan:2)

And He Said:

Verily, all things have We Created in proportion and measure. (Surah al-Qamar:49)

So all that appears in the visible word emanates from the world of the ghayb and all that emerges in the world of Malakut is an emanation from the sea of Jabarut.  There is no existence for things except from Him and there is no abiding for them except by Him and there is no ascription to them with Him since they are pure non-existence.  Based on their illusory existence, they are in-time and ephemeral.  There is no ascription of non-existence with existence, not for the in-time with that timeless.  That is why the shaykh was amazed that they could be joined together.  He said, “A marvel!  See how existence becomes manifest in non-existence!  How the in-time holds firm alongside Him Whose Attribute is Eternal!”

This is the tenth.  Existence and non-existence are opposites which are not joined together.  The in-time and timeless are contradictory and not combined.  It is confirmed that Allah’s (s.w.t.) Existence is mandatory and all that is other than Him is actually non-existence.  When Existence appears, it negates its opposite, which is non-existence.  So how can it be imagined that it veils Him, when it is non-existent?  Falsehood does not veil the truth.  Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

Such is Allah your Real Cherisher and Sustainer: apart from Truth, what (remains) but error? … (Surah Yunus:32)

Things have no existence with His Existence.  That negates the idea of hulul, incarnation, since hulul demands the existence of other so that the idea of lordship can descend into it.  It is necessary that the other is pure non-existence and thus hulul is inconceivable.  This is indicated in al-‘Ayniyyah:

“Disconnect him from the judgment of hulul.
There is no other.
So the matter reverts to His tawhid.”

The timeless and in-time are not combined.  When the in-time is combined with the timeless, the in-time vanishes and the timeless remains.  A man said in the presence of Imam Junayd (q.s.), “Praise be to Allah,” but he did not say, “The Lord of the worlds.”

Imam Junayd (q.s.) said to him, “Complete it, my brother.”

The man asked, “What is the worth of the worlds so that they are mentioned with Him?”

Imam Junayd (q.s.) replied, “My brother, when the in-time is joined to the timeless, the in-time vanishes and the Timeless remains.”

He affirmed that all things are in non-existence since the in-time is not firm with the One Who has Timelessness.  So he negates the position of ittihad since the meaning of ittihad is the Timeless being joined to the in-time so that they are unified and become one thing.  That is impossible since it is also based on otherness.  They apply ittihad to Oneness, as Shaykh ibn al-Farid (q.s.) said:

“My ruh wandered with Me wherever they mixed in Unity,
And there must be a body to be penetrated.”

So he applied unity to the ruh reaching its source after it is purified.  That is why he said after it, “It must penetrate it.”  So the Real is One in His kingdom, Timeless, pre-eternal, eternal, post-eternal, disconnected from hulul and ittihad, purified of partners and peers.  He was when there was no ‘where’ or ‘place’ and He is now as He was.  Part of what is ascribed to ‘Ali (k.w.) is:

“I saw my Lord with the eye of my heart and I said, ‘There is no doubt that You are You.’
You are the One Who encompasses every ‘where’ so that there is now ‘here’ and then You are!
There is no ‘where’ for You so that where knows where You are.
Illusion has no illusion in You so that illusion now shows Who You are.
You Encompass everything in knowledge.  So all that I see is You.
In my annihilation is annihilation of my annihilation,
And I find You in my annihilation.”

Shaykh Abu al-Hasan an-Nuri (q.s.) was asked, “Where is Allah in relation to His creatures?”

He replied, “Allah was when there was no ‘where’ and creatures were in non-existence.  So He is where He was and He is now where He was since there is no where and no place.”

In the story of the inquisition of the Sufis, Qadhi ‘Ali ibn Tsawr (q.s.) asked him, “What are these places and manifest creatures?”

He replied, “Might Made Manifest and an Overwhelming Kingdom by which creatures are made manifest and which Issue from Him, but are not connected to Him nor separate from Him.  He is free of things but they are not free of Him because He has no need of them.”

It was said to him, “You spoke the truth.  Now tell me what Allah Meant by Creating them.”

He replied, “To Manifest His Might, Kingdom and Power.”

It was said to him, “You spoke the truth.  So tell me what He Desires of His Creation.”

He replied, “What they have.”

It was asked of him, “Did He Desire disbelief in the unbelievers?”

He replied, “Would they disbelieve in Him while He disliked it?”

It was asked of him, “So tell me what Allah Desires by the difference of sects and divided religions?”

He replied, “He Desires to convey His Power, Clarify His Wisdom, Oblige His Kindness, and Manifest His Justice and Mercy.”

What he meant contains an indication that the Manifestations of the Real fall into three categories: a category in which He Shows them His Generosity and Kindness, and they are the people of obedience and ihsan; a category in which He Shows them His Pardon and Forbearance, and they are the people of disobedience among the people of faith; and a category in which He Manifests to them His vengeance and anger, and they are the people of disbelief and transgression.  This is the secret of the Tajalli of the Real in general, and Allah (s.w.t.) Knows best.

That is the sum of what this first chapter of the book contains.  There are three matters: the actions of the shari’ah, the thariqa’ and the haqiqah, or you could say, the actions of islam, iman and ihsan.  It is the beginning, the middle and the end.  One of the signs of success in the end is to return to Allah (s.w.t.) in the beginning.  He Commanded you to return to Him and rely on Him without relying on action, even though action exists.

Then He Directed you to adab in the state of tajrid and in secondary means.  Then, when you are in the state of travelling, He Forbade you to be occupied with your inward because of the fatigue caused by tadbir, which is a cause of turbidity.  Then He Made you rise to striving in the actions Desired of you while neglecting that which is Guaranteed for you so that it is a reason for the opening of your inner eye.  Part of what is Guaranteed for you is what you ask for by your supplication.  Do not seek to hasten that whose time is Delayed and do not despair of His Mercy.  When He Promises you something, do not doubt His Promise nor suspect Him in what will Descend to you of His Recognitions and His Force.

These actions of the people of the beginning fall into different types according to their different states.  Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah’s (q.s.) words, “A sure sign that you put your faith in needs,” to “actions are merely propped up shapes,” is all part of the actions of the shari’ah, which is the station of Islam.

His words, “actions are merely propped up shapes,” to “Phenomenal being is total darkness,” is part of the action of the thariqa’, which is the station of faith, and its fulcrum is purification and discipline of the inward.  He commanded you to have sincerity and truthfulness.  It is the secret of sincerity and obscurity because it its place and where it is manifest.  He commanded withdrawal so that you are firm in reflection and purify the mirror of the heart of the forms of beings so that it is ready for the shining of the suns of gnosis.

Then the door will be Opened for you and the veil Removed from you and you will be Told, “Here you are with your Lord.”  That is his words, “Phenomenal being is total darkness,” to the end of the chapter.  He has cut though the veil of illusion for you from all aspects.

May Allah (s.w.t.) Repay him with the best of His Reward and Grant him His Pleasure along with His prophets, and those He Loves.  May He Make us follow their path with all those He Loves.  Amin.


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