The Naqshbandi Haqqani Principle of Khalwat dar Anjuman

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The fourth principle of the Naqshbandi Haqqani is “Solitude in the Crowd”, Khalwat dar Anjuman.  “Khalwah” means “seclusion”.  It means to be outwardly with people while remaining inwardly with Allah (s.w.t.).  There are also two categories of seclusion.  The first is external seclusion and the second is internal seclusion.

External seclusion requires the seeker to seclude himself in a private place.  The seeker, far from people, sits alone in his cell until he comes into contact with the spiritual world.  This result comes about because the external senses withdraw themselves and the inner senses extend themselves to signs from the spiritual world.  Staying there by himself, he concentrates and meditates on dzikrullah, in order to reach a state in where the Divine becomes Manifest.  This is a means for spiritual openings.  When we chain the external senses, our internal senses will be free to reach the Divine.  This brings us to the second category, the internal seclusion. 

The second kind of retreat is the hidden one, where the seeker is inwardly witnessing the secrets of the Real while he is outwardly surrounded by people.  Khalwat dar Anjuman is of this second type of retreat: outwardly to be with people, inwardly to be with Allah (s.w.t.).  In all our outer activities, we remain inwardly free.  We learn not to identify with anything whatsoever.  The internal seclusion means seclusion among people.  Therein the heart of the seeker must be present with his Lord and absent from Creation while remaining physically present among them.  Shaykh Nazhim (q.s.) said, “The seeker will be so deeply involved in the silent dzikr in his heart that, even if he enters a crowd of people, he will not hear their voices.  The state of dzikr overcomes him.  The Manifestation of the Divine Presence pulls him and makes him unaware of all but his Lord.  This is the highest state of seclusion, and is considered the true seclusion, as Mentioned in the Holy Qur'an: ‘Men whom neither business nor profit distract from the recollection of God.’  This is the way of the Naqshbandi Order.”

When Shah Baha’ ad-Din an-Naqshband (q.s.) reached Herat on his journey to Makkah, Amir Husayn (r.a.) arranged a gathering in his honour.  At the assembly, Amir Husayn (r.a.) asked him, “Since with your presence there is neither audible dzikr, nor voyaging, nor audition of special music and poetry, what is your Path?”

He answered, “The pure words of the tribe of ‘Abd al-Khaliq al-Ghujdawani, which are ‘retreat within the crowd,’ and we follow in their Path.”

What is retreat within the crowd?” Amir Husayn (r.a.) asked.

Outwardly to be with the people while inwardly to be with Allah,” replied Shah an-Naqshband (q.s.).  Amir Husayn (r.a.) expressed surprise and asked whether this was actually possible.  Shah an-Naqshband (q.s.) replied that if it were not possible, Allah (s.w.t.) would not have indicated it in a Qur’anic verse which describes those who are not distracted from the remembrance of Allah (s.w.t.) even while in the marketplace.

By men whom neither traffic nor merchandise can divert from the remembrance of Allah nor from regular prayer, nor from the practice of regular charity: their (only) fear is for the Day when hearts and eyes will be Transformed (in a world wholly new) ― (Surah an-Nur:37)

The primary seclusion of the shuyukh of the Naqshbandi Order is the internal seclusion.  We are simultaneously with our Lord and with the people.  As the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “I have two sides: one faces my Creator and one faces Creation.”

The believer who can mingle with people and carry their difficulties is better than the believer who keeps away from people.  On that point, Imam Ahmad as-Sirhindi (q.s.) said, “It must be known that the seeker at the beginning might use the external seclusion to isolate himself from people, worshipping and concentrating on Allah, Almighty and Exalted, until he reaches a higher state.  At that time, he will be advised by his shaykh, in the words of Sayyid al-Kharraz, ‘Perfection is not in exhibitions of miraculous powers, but perfection is to sit among people, sell and buy, marry and have children; and yet never leave the presence of Allah even for one moment.’”

Imam Ahmad as-Sirhindi (q.s.) also said, “Khalwat dar Anjuman is derived from travelling in the homeland since if travelling in the homeland is properly accomplished, then retreat within the crowd will properly occur.  The seeker within the diversity of the crowd travels in his own land, and the diversity of the horizons finds no way into the meditation cell of his inner self.  This treasure will manifest with difficulty at the beginning and with no difficulty in the end.  And in this thariqa’, it is the portion of the beginning while in other Paths it is at the end.  This is so because the treasure is derived from travelling within the self, which is at the beginning of this Path, while travelling on the horizons takes place simultaneously.  This is the opposite of the other Paths which make the travelling on the horizons the beginning and the travelling within the self the end.”

Shaykh ‘Arif Awliya’ al-Kabir (q.s.) explained Khalwat dar Anjuman as follows: “Khalwat dar Anjuman is that state when one is so constantly and completely absorbed in Divine Remembrance that one could walk through the market-place without hearing a word.”

Khwaja ‘Abd al-Khaliq al-Ghujdawani (q.s.) himself was known to have said, “Close the door of the formality of appointment to shuyukh; open the door of friendship.  Close the door of khalwah and open the door of swuhbah.”

Shah an-Naqshband (q.s.) emphasised the goodness of gatherings when he said, “Our Path is companionship, and goodness is in the gathering.”  He further clarified, “Our Path is in companionship.  In retreat, there comes fame and with fame comes calamity.  Our welfare lies with the assembly and its companionship, on condition that negation is found in one another.”  He was referring to physical retreat.

Sayyid al-Kharraz (q.s.) said:

In constant communion with the Beloved within, a stranger to the world.
Those endowed with such beauty are rare indeed in this world.”


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