Iqazh al-Himam fi Sharh al-Hikam, Chapter Four
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
The following is taken from the first chapter of Iqazh al-Himam fi Sharh al-Hikam, a commentary on al-Hikam of Shaykh Taj ad-Din Abu al-Fadhl Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Atha’illah as-Sakandari (q.s.), by Shaykh Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Ajibah (q.s.).
Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah (q.s.) said:
“Do not let the intention of your aspiration veer to other-than-Him.
Hopes can go no further than the Ever-Generous.”
The intention of the himmah is its aspiration to which it is directed. The himmah is the force directed to obtaining aims. Hopes are that to which someone aims. When our himmah is connected to something which we want to obtain, then return to Allah (s.w.t.) and do not connect it to anything except Him because He is Ever-Generous and His Blessings flow constantly night and day. Hopes can go no further than the Ever-Generous. He Wants to be asked so that He can Answer the request. They said, in explaining His Name, the Ever-Generous, that He is the One Who Gives when asked and does not care how much He Gives nor to whom He Gives.
When we present our need to other-than-Him, He is not pleased. When He is Harsh, He Pardons. When He Reproves, He does not exact. This is part of the Perfection of His Generosity and Completeness of His Kindness and Blessing. Shaykh Abu Salim Ibrahim ibn Muhammad at-Tazi (q.s.) wrote about that in a qaswidah:
“The Perfection of Allah is the Most Perfect of every good.
Allah has Perfection without doubt.
The Love of Allah is the Noblest of every intimacy,
So do not forget to take on gravity.
The dzikr of Allah courses through every limb,
And is more beneficial than that which slakes burning thirst.
In truth, there is no existent except Allah,
So cast aside connection to boasting.
When you know His Generosity, Magnanimity, Perfection and Kindness,
Do not ask other than Him, when it will not bring it to you. He says,
Do not ask other-than-Him for what you need since He is the One Who will Bring it to you.”
We know what that is other than the Real is illusory imagination and there is no reality to its existence. When Allah (s.w.t.) Makes us have a need like poverty, hardship or some other passing thing, take it to Allah (s.w.t.), make it subject to the will of Allah (s.w.t.), withdraw from it into the remembrance of Allah (s.w.t.) and do not turn to other than Him by attachment nor flattery. We read, in a hadits, “If someone does not ask Allah, Allah is angry with Him.”
Shaykh Abu ‘Ali Hasan ibn ‘Ali ad-Daqqaq (q.s.) said, “The sign of gnosis is that you ask all your needs only from Allah. Or you are engrossed like Nabi Musa (a.s.) who yearned for the vision of Allah.”
… قَالَ رَبِّ أَرِنِىٓ أَنظُرۡ إِلَيۡكَۚ … (١٤٣)
… He said, “O my Lord! Show (Yourself) to me, that I may look upon You.” … (Surah al-A’araf:143)
فَسَقَىٰ لَهُمَا ثُمَّ تَوَلَّىٰٓ إِلَى ٱلظِّلِّ فَقَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّى لِمَآ أَنزَلۡتَ إِلَىَّ مِنۡ خَيۡرٍ۬ فَقِيرٌ۬ (٢٤)
… “O my Lord! Truly am I in (desperate) need of any good that You do Send me!” … (Surah al-Qaswasw:24)
We are astonished at those who ask for the judgments of Allah (s.w.t.) from other than Him in spite of their lack of power and incapacity. How can other than the One who put it there relieve it?
Part of a person’s lack of modesty is that he asks others to relieve the Judgment of Allah’s (s.w.t.) force when he knows of His Kindness and Goodness and the lack that his kindness is not disconnected from His Force. Imam Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali ibn ‘Abdullah ash-Shadzili (q.s.) said, “I have despaired of myself helping myself, so how could I not despair of other than me helping me? When I hope for Allah for other than me, how can I not hope for Him for myself? One of the gnostics among the unveiled said, ‘It was said to me in a state between sleep and a dream, ‘Do not display need so that it will be doubled for you in recompense for your bad adab and leaving the limits of your slavedom. I have Tested you with need so that you take Refuge in Me from it and pray for it with Me and rely on Me in it. I have Smelted you with need so that through it you become pure gold. So do not deviate after the smelting. I have Imposed poverty on you and Judged wealth for Myself. If you connect it to Me, I will Make you reach wealth. If you connect it to other than Me, I will Cut Off the substance of My Help from you, and I will Sever your means from My Means and Cast you away from My door. If someone relies on Me, he rules. If someone relies on himself, he is destroyed.’’”
To clarify the reason for our astonishment, how can someone who is unable to relieve his own need relieve someone else’s? If someone is unable to put himself straight, how can he be capable of putting someone else right? Both the seeker and sought are weak. One of them said, “Whoever relies on other than Allah is in delusion because delusion is that which does not abide. Nothing except Him abides forever. He is the Eternal Timeless Who Continues and will Continue. His Giving and Bounty Continue. So do not rely on the one whose giving and excellence are not constant for you.”
Then reliance on Allah (s.w.t.) and asking Him for needs and resorting to Him in all events is due to our good opinion of Him as Imam ash-Shadzili (q.s.) indicated when he said:
If you do not think well of Him because His Qualities are beautiful then think well of Him because of the way He Treats you.
Has He made you used to anything but good? Has He bestowed on you anything but Favours?
In respect of a good opinion of Allah (s.w.t.), people fall into two categories: the elite and the common. As for the elite, their good opinion of Allah (s.w.t.) derives from witnessing His Beauty and seeing His Perfection. So their good opinion of Allah (s.w.t.) does not cease, whether He Directs Beauty or Majesty to them because He is Described with Mercy, Compassion, Generosity and Magnanimity and that does not cease. When He Gives a tajalli to them by His Majesty or Force, they know that what is inside that is part of His Perfect Blessing and Encompassing Mercy, and so they are dominated by witnessing Mercy and Beauty and their good opinion of Him continues in every state.
As for the common people, their good opinion of Allah (s.w.t.) derives from witnessing His Kindness, Good Treatment and Favour. When force or a hardship descends on them, they look at His prior Goodness and the good He Bestowed on them from His Kindness and Favours. They compare what comes to what went before and so they receive what comes to them with acceptance and contentment. This opinion is weak with investigation and thought are weak and strong when they are strong, which is not the case with the first group. That is because the first derives from witnessing the Attribute, and the Attribute does not alter. The second view derives from witnessing the action which can vary.
If we cannot have a good opinion of Allah (s.w.t.) by witnessing His Quality of Compassion and Mercy which does not change, then have a good opinion of Him by the existence of how He Treats us with Kindness and Favours. Has Allah (s.w.t.) Made us used to anything but good and kindness? Has He Bestowed on us anything but Favour in abundance and manifold Blessings?
The Rasulullah (s.a.w.) said, “Love Allah for what He Nourishes you with of His Blessings and love me by the love of Allah.”
Imam ash-Shadzili (q.s.) said, “We love only Allah.”
A man said, “Your ancestor rejected that, sir, by his words, ‘Hearts are disposed to love the one who is good to them.’”
Imam ash-Shadzili (q.s.) said, “Since we do not see any good-doer other than Allah, we do not love other than Him.”
He also said, “One night I recited, ‘I seek Refuge with the Lord of people’ until I reached the words, ‘the evil of the whisperer,’ and it was said to me, ‘the evil of the whisperer, and the whisperer comes between you and your Beloved, reminding you of you evil deeds and making you forget your good needs, and that the fact that you have a lot of that which belongs to the left and little of what belongs to the right. This is in order to make you turn from good opinion of Allah and His generosity to a bad opinion of Allah and His Rasulullah. So beware of this door. It had captured many worshippers, ascetics and people of obedience and correctness.’”
He also said, “The gnostic is the one who recognises the hardships of time in the kindness which flows from Allah to him and recognises its evil in the goodness of Allah to Him. If you remember the blessings of Allah then perhaps you will be successful.”
Since Allah (s.w.t.) has only made you used to good and has only bestowed favours on you, it is a wonder that you abandon Him and seek other than Him! How utterly amazing is someone who flees from something he cannot escape to seek something that will not last?
… فَإِنَّہَا لَا تَعۡمَى ٱلۡأَبۡصَـٰرُ وَلَـٰكِن تَعۡمَى ٱلۡقُلُوبُ ٱلَّتِى فِى ٱلصُّدُورِ (٤٦)
… Truly it is not their eyes that are blind, but their hearts which are in their breasts. (Surah al-Haj:46)
That which cannot be escaped is Allah (s.w.t.) and His Decree and Determination. That which will not last is this world and what the nafs plans and decides. The greatest wonder is that the slave flees form his Lord and turns to seeking other than Him when he cannot escape Him. That must be true since he has no existence except from Him nor abiding except by Him. So how can he flee from Him by failing to seek His Gnosis or draw near to Him by obeying His Commands and avoiding His Prohibitions, and seek what will not last of the transitory portions this world. Even if it does not leave him while he is alive, it will leave him by death. So seek what abides rather than what is annihilated. How excellent is what was said:
“The movement of this world drives pardon to you.
Is not the outcome of that disappearance?
This world is only like a shadow which shades you briefly and then will depart.”
We could also say that it is a total marvel that the slave flees from what he cannot escape of the Power and Decree of Allah (s.w.t.) and seeks what will not remain of the portions of his decision and choice since all that he plans and decides is cancelled and destroyed by the Decree. When the building is complete one day, you built it while another will destroy it. All of this is due to lack of the opening of the inner eye or its blindness. That is why He Says that the eyes are not blind to the perception of the sensory because they perceive it and are veiled by it. The hearts, however, are blind to the perception of the meaning and so they only see the sensory and love only it and seek nothing but it. We ask Allah (s.w.t.) to Grant us well-being and guidance.
Imam ash-Shadzili (q.s.) said, “The blindness of the inner eyes lies in three; allowing the limbs to disobey Allah, desire for the Creation of Allah and artifice in obeying Allah.” When we seek the Real whom we cannot escape and travel to Him, seek gnosis of His Essence, not the ornament of His Garden which is one a phenomenal being. That is why he said:
“Do not travel from phenomenal being to phenomenal being.
You will be like the donkey going around at the mill.
It travels to what it set out from. Travel from phenomenal beings to the Maker of Being.
And the final end is to your Lord.”
Travelling from phenomenal being to phenomenal being is going from other to seek other. That is like someone who is ascetic in this world and devotes himself to Allah (s.w.t.) and by so doing desires to give his body rest and for this world to come to him since the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “If someone devotes himself to Allah, Allah will Spare him every burden and Provide for him from where he does not reckon,” and “If someone’s intention is the next world, Allah will Gather his business for him, Put wealth in his heart and Bring him this world humbled.” He is like someone who is ascetic in this world because he seeks eliteness, like the attention of people, might and to produce awe in people’s hearts, or like someone who is ascetic in it in order to seek miracles and breaking of normal patterns, or someone who is ascetic in it in order to seek castles and houris. All of this is travelling from one phenomenal being to another phenomenal being. Therefore he is like a donkey going around at the mill night and day while staying in the same place. That which he travels from is that to which he travels. His himmah is for the portions of his self. So he is like the donkey at the water wheel which goes around in a circle. He thinks that he has covering the distance to what he seeks, but he is only increased in loss and weariness.
Imam ash-Shadzili (q.s.) said, “Stand at one door, not to have doors opened to you, and the doors will open to you. Be humble to one Master, not to have necks submitted to you, and necks will be humbled to you. The Almighty Says, ‘There is nothing except that it is stored with us.’”
We must take our need to the Glorious King and travel from seeing phenomenal beings to seeking the witnessing of the Eternal, or travel from the proof and exposition to the rank of witnessing and eye witnessing. That is the ultimate goal and the achievement of desire. “And the final end is to your Lord.”
Do not travel from one phenomenal being to another phenomenal being by leaving the portions of your self to seek portion of another. Then we are like the donkey going around at the mill which goes to that from which it came. His being like the donkey is evidence of his stupidity and lack of understanding since if he had possessed understanding from Allah (s.w.t.), he would travel from the portions of his self and passion, aiming to reach the presence of his Master.
Do not travel from a created being to another created being like us, but travel from phenomenal being to the Maker of Being, and “the final end is to your Lord.” Travelling to the Maker is achieved by three matters. The first is confining our himmah to Him rather than anything else until He Rises on our heart and we find no lover other Him. The second is returning to Him to establish the rights while fleeing from portions. The third is constancy in seeking Refuge in Him, seeking His Help, reliance on Him and submission to whatever He Brings.
Imam ash-Shadzili (q.s.) said, “Four things which creatures are in need are: lack of need of anything, love for Allah, and wealth by Allah, sincerity and certainty. Sincerity is in slavedom and certainty is about the judgements of lordship.”
… وَمَنۡ أَحۡسَنُ مِنَ ٱللَّهِ حُكۡمً۬ا لِّقَوۡمٍ۬ يُوقِنُونَ (٥٠)
… But who, for a people whose faith is assured, can give better judgement than Allah? (Surah al-Ma’idah:50)
Imam Ahmad ibn Ahmad az-Zarruq (q.s.) said, “Then he indicates seeking to raise the himmah to Allah with turning away from what is other than Him by the hadits of emigration which is found in the Swahih.”
Look at the words of the Prophet (s.a.w.): “Whoever emigrates to Allah and His Rasulullah, his emigration is to Allah and His Rasulullah. Whoever emigrates to something of this world or a woman to marry, his emigration is to what he emigrates to.”
“Understand his words: ‘His emigration is to what he emigrates to.’
Reflect on this matter if you have any understanding at all! Peace!”
Emigration is moving from one land to another land when someone emigrates from the land he leaves and settles in the land to which he moves. Here it is one of three matters: from a land of disobedience to a land of obedience, from a land of heedlessness to a land of wakefulness, and from the land of the world of forms to the land of the world of spirits. Or we could say, from the land of the mulk to the land of the malakut, or from the land of the sensory to the land of the meaning, or from the land of the knowledge of certainty to the land of the source of certainty or the truth of certainty.
Whoever emigrates from these lands, and by his emigration is aiming for the pleasure or Allah (s.w.t.) and His Rasulullah (s.a.w.), or to attain to gnosis of Allah (s.w.t.) and His Rasulullah (s.a.w.), his emigration will bring him to Allah (s.w.t.) and His Rasulullah (s.a.w.), according to his aim and himmah. If someone emigrates to the portions of his self and his passion, then his goal and striving is wasted and the end of his emigration is that for which he emigrates. His emigration increases the attraction of evil consequences for him. Therefore, listener, understand his words, “His emigration is to what he emirates to.” Reflect on it and present it to our heart and our nafs. Look to see whether inside of us there remains any attention to that from which we emigrated or whether there is a portion of “other” to which we have emigrated, which is other than the Pleasure of Allah (s.w.t.) and His Rasulullah (s.a.w.), or the gnosis of Allah (s.w.t.) and His Rasulullah (s.a.w.), Allah (s.w.t.) is Jealous and does not want for anyone who seeks Him to seek another along with Him. The one who has anything remaining in him of his portion and passion will not reach Him.
Shaykh Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali ibn ‘Abdullah ash-Shushtari (r.a.) said:
“If you desire Our union, then your death is a precondition.
Union is not obtained by someone who has excess in him.”
He also said, “My union is not obtained by anyone who has something left in him.”
This chapter ends with “peace” because of what is contains of travel and station. All of it indicates the journey of the heart from witnessing creation to witnessing the Creator. Therefore, it is appropriate to end it with “peace” because of what it contains of the mention of safety, salamah. Since the journey is necessary, then a guide is needed or the person will stray from the Straight Path.