Shaykh Sharaf ad-Din al-Maniri (q.s.) on Fasting

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Shaykh Sharaf ad-Din Ahmad Yahya al-Maniri (q.s.) was known as Makhdum al-Mulk, “Spiritual Master of the Realm”.  When we read his teachings, we immediately notice that he wrote with authority, based on his personal experience.  This Sufi from India had written a letter to his disciple Qadhi Shams ad-Din (q.s.) about fasting, his “The Hundred Letters”:

“In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate!

Brother Shams ad-Din, masters of Truth and Sincerity have said, ‘Bodily strength depends on food and drink, whereas spiritual strength depends on going hungry and thirsty.  In Allah’s (s.w.t.) Domain, hunger is a Divine Food’.  It has been said that one of the qualities of the Almighty is this:

“… And He is that Feedeth but is not fed.” … (Surah al-An’am:14)

If a servant becomes distinguished in this practice, then according to the consensus of the wise, he progresses on the carpet of proximity to Allah (s.w.t.).  He becomes far removed from the human condition.  When somebody fasts in accordance with the order “Make your actions like those of Allah (s.w.t.),” then he or she, too, is able to feed others.  In this manner, he or she will approximate the Qualities of the Beloved.  He or she will dissociate himself or herself from human qualities and become Honoured and Greatly Enriched in Him, just as the Lord of the worlds has said, ‘The one who fasts experiences a twofold joy: the breaking of the fast and the seeing of Allah (s.w.t.).’

What is the delight of breaking the fast?  This body of ours is composed of many dispositions.  The seeker is like a mounted gentleman who is travelling along the road that leads to the Friend.  ‘In order to see Him, fast!’ is the Command that gives the seeker his cue as to how to reach his Lord.  So, he fasts from food and drink, while traversing the distance of:

That to thy Lord is the final Goal; (Surah an-Najm:42)

At the end of the day’s journey, when the time for the evening prayer arrives, the horse is brought to a standstill.  When it receives some alfalfa and water with which to break its fast, then it becomes for the rider the source of his strength.  Such delight is suffused throughout his being that, in comparison to it, all other joys become grief and trouble.

The second delight will never be grasped through explanations.  It is something that has to be experienced: ‘Whoever does not taste something understands nothing about it!’  ‘There are 70,000 curtains that Veil Allah (s.w.t.).  If even one of them is lifted, the rays of His face would consume the intruder.  No eye can see Him!’  In the stage of the veil of light, everything is consumed.  Who can describe it all?  This is the meaning of, ‘It is frivolous to talk about what is obvious!’

A certain Sufi shaykh saw Khwaja Ma’ruf Karkhi (q.s.) engrossed in contemplation.  He was standing beneath the Divine Throne, singing Allah’s (s.w.t.) praise in the abundance of his gratitude.

A Query came from the Lord of the angels, ‘Who is this?’ though He Knew him very well.

One of the angels said, ‘O Allah, this is Your distinguished servant!’

Allah (s.w.t.) Said, ‘My servant, Ma’ruf Karkhi is intoxicated with the wine of My Love.  No one can recuperate from love of Me except by seeing Me!’

This was also the meaning of what the Lord of the Law Said, ‘Make your bellies hungry, your livers thirsty and your bodies hungry, that perhaps you might see Allah (s.w.t.) in this world.’

It is said, ‘He who has seen, has arrived.’  And whosoever has arrived at Allah (s.w.t.) Himself has passed beyond the stage of transience of things and even beyond that of permanence.  He has been consumed in adoration of the Divine Face.

… “Truth has (now) arrived, and Falsehood perished ...” (Surah al-Isra’:81)

Every person who has attained this stage and attempts to describe it says, ‘I am simply one of those who have lost their way!’  Whoever in this state casts his glance towards Him will simply be called ‘one of the blind.’  A respected poet has said:

‘A lover disclosed the secret of the Absolute …
And quivered as he proclaimed: ‘I am the Truth.’’

It has been written in the Kashf al-Mahjub, “The Unveiling of the Veiled”, that hunger afflicts the body, purifies the heart, inflames the soul with love, and leads the mind to meet Allah (s.w.t.).  Since:

‘The heart finds purity
The soul love,
And the mind meeting.’

What harm is there if the body must suffer?  The Prophet (s.a.w.) also hinted at this when he said, ‘Every work of man will receive a Reward that gradually increases, until it is seventy-fold.  But a fast that is undertaken for the sake of Allah (s.w.t.) will be Rewarded by Him.’  It has been said that the people of Arabia describe virtues and desire to be possessed of them.  Imagine that someone was told that a dog could not approach the door of this Wealth, let alone be with the King of the world!  The one who fasts, is Promised, ‘You are Mine!’ and, ‘I Am your Reward!’  And again, ‘Your Reward is to see My Face!’  Those slain by love are Promised, ‘Whoever My Love kills, is Ransomed by a Vision of Me!’

O brother, know the value of what happens when the heart is purified from its murky state and transported from brutish darkness to the seven heavens where the secret meeting is effected by means of fasting!

The practice of fasting is highly esteemed by the Sufis.  Whenever they wish to hear the Word of Allah (s.w.t.) in their hearts, they go hungry for forty days.  After thirty days have passed, they clean their teeth.  It is necessary for them to go hungry for ten more days.  Assuredly, the Lord will Speak to them in their hearts, because whatever may be Revealed openly to the prophets can only be Hinted at secretly to the friends of Allah (s.w.t.).

A shaykh has said, ‘A disciple should have three qualities: unless you are overcome by drowsiness, you should not sleep, unless urged by necessity, you should refrain from speaking, and unless you are starving, you should not eat.’  For some, two days and nights are enough; for still others, a week; and some may need a full forty days.

O brother, when you are Filled with His Bounty and a table is laid out with His Grace, then abstention from eating is not to prolong the Pleasure of His Grace, but to find Him in His Treasury, as the Beloved.  The cycle of eating requires preoccupation with the self and anyone who is preoccupied with himself or herself becomes hidden from the Beloved.  Refraining from eating while sitting on the Carpet of the Lord is better than eating in a palace with Him absent or hidden.  In short, a human being should do as much as he or she can.

One Sufi observed, ‘This world is but a day in duration, and what is difficult about fasting for one day?’

Someone else has said, ‘Make a fast from this world and break it with death!’

A human being is the purest of all creatures.  His works are full of secrets.  They cannot be considered trivial.  Heaven and Earth, Throne and Footstool, Paradise and Hell, are simply like uninvited guests accompanying him or her to a feast.  This is their very purpose!  Yet in accordance with the Divine Command, a person should proceed beyond these stages.  When His Glance Falls upon these occurrences, then one will encounter, at each stage, a Gift from His Bounty so that, when the friends arrive, they can take possession of their own good fortune and the share allotted to them.  They say, ‘Stretch out your hand towards the Favour we enjoyed from eternity and towards the Bliss we knew before the time of dust and clay.’

‘O dust and clay!  O casket of profound secrets!  O unclean dust!  O friend and servant, do not imagine that My Saying concerning you is simply for the present moment.  Before the world existed, before even Adam appeared, My Saying Concerning you Existed; it Existed even when you did not!  My link with man is through an ancient Favour I Bestowed upon him.’

One day a man came to the caliph, but the caliph did not recognise him.  He asked, ‘Who are you?’

The man replied, ‘I am the man you honoured in such and such a year.’

The caliph replied, ‘I welcome you, for you have made my favour a link between you and I.’  He commanded that a robe of honour be brought out and presented to that man.

‘If You Water, it is Your own plant that is Nourished!
If You Crush, it is the work of Your Own Hand that Suffers!
I am a servant of the type that You Know Well:
Do not Throw me away, for it is You Who have Sustained me!



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