25. Dhul Qadah 1438  Jumu'ah
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ON ISLAMIC MYSTICISM AND THE SUFIS [1]

 

The name sufi is an expression derived from the Arabic word saf ‘pure’.  The reason that the Sufis are called by this name is that their inner world is purified and enlightened with the light of wisdom, unity and oneness.

Another meaning for this appellation is that they are spiritually connected with the constant companions of the Prophet who were called ‘the companions with the woollen garb’.

They may also have worn the customary garb of rough-woven sheep’s wool (suf) when they were novices and have spent their life in old patched clothes.

As their exterior is poor and humble, so is their worldly life.  They are frugal in eating, drinking and other pleasures of this world.  In the book called al-Majma’ it is said,  ‘What is becoming to the pious ascetic is the most ordinary and humble clothing and way of living.’ Although they may appear unattractive to the worldly, their wisdom is manifested in their gentleness and delicate manner, which make them attractive to those who know.  In reality they are an example to mankind.  They follow divine prescriptions.  They are, in the sight of their Lord, in the first rank of humanity; in the eyes of those who seek their Lord they are beautiful despite their humble appearances.  They must be distinguished and distinguishable and they must be that way one and all, for they are all on the level of unity and oneness and must appear as one.

In Arabic the word tasawwuf, Islamic mysticism, consist of four consonants, t,s,w and f.  The first letter, t, stand for tawba, repentance.  This is the first step to be taken on the path.  The outward step in repentance is in words and deeds and feelings: to  keep one’s life free from sin and from wrongdoing and to incline towards obedience; to flee from revolt and opposition, to seek agreement and harmony.  The inner step of repentance is taken by the heart.  It is the cleansing of the heart from conflicting worldly desire and the heart’s total affirmation of the wish for the divine.  Repentance - to be aware of the wrong and to abandon it, to be conscious of the right and to strive for it - brings one to the second step.

The second stage is the state of peace and joy, safa.  The letter s is its symbol.  In this stage there are similarly two steps to take: the first is towards purity in heart and the second towards its secret centre.

Peace of heart comes of a heart free of anxiety.  Anxiety is caused by the weight of all that is material - the weight of food, of drink, of sleep, of idle talk.  All this, like the gravity of the earth, pulls the ethereal heart downwards, and to free itself from this weight tires the heart.  Then there are ties - desire, possessions, love of family and children - which bind the ethereal heart to the earth and keep it from soaring.

The way to free the heart, to purify it, is to remember Allah.  At the beginning this remembrance can only be done outwardly, by repeating His divine Names, pronouncing them aloud so that you yourself and others can hear and remember.  As the memory of Him becomes constant, remembrance sinks to the heart and becomes inward, silent. Allah says:

Believers are those who, when Allah is mentioned, feel a tremor in their hearts and when they (see and) hear His manifestations their faith is strengthened ( Anfal, 2)

‘Tremor’ means the awe, fear and love of Allah. with this remembrance and recitation of Allah’s Names the heart wakes up from the sleep of heedlessness, is cleansed, is shined.  Then forms and shapes from the hidden unseen realm are reflected in that heart.  The Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم says, ‘The men of knowledge outwardly visit and inspect things with their minds, while the wise are inwardly busy cleaning and shining their hearts.’

The peace of the secret centre of the heart is achieved by cleansing the heart of each and every thing and preparing it to receive Allah’s Essence alone, which enters the heart when that heart is beautified with the love of the divine.  The means of this cleansing is the constant inward remembrance and recital with the secret tongue of the divine Confession of Unity la ilaha illa Llah - ‘there is no god but Allah’.  When the heart and its centre are in a state of peace and joy, then the second stage, represented by the letter s, is complete.

The third letter, w, stand for wilaya, which is the state of sanctity of the lovers and friends of Allah.  This state depends upon inner purity.  Allah mentions His friends in the Holy Quran:

Be heedful; verily upon the friends of Allah there is no fear, nor do they grievefor them there are glad tidings in this life and it the hereafter  Yunus, 62 and 64)

The one in this state of sanctity is totally conscious of, in love with and connected to Allah.  As a result he is beautified with the best character, morals manners.  This the divine gift bestowed upon him.  Our Master the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم said, ‘Observe divine morals and behave in accordance with them’.  At the stage the conscious man sheds his worldly, temporal characteristic and appears clad in divine attributes.  Allah says through His Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم

When I love My servant I become his eyes, his ears, his tongue, his hands and his feet.  He sees through Me, he hears through Me, he speaks in My name, his hands become Mine and he walk with Me.

Cleanse yourself of everything and keep only Allah’s Essence in you, for

the Truth has come and falsehood vanished.  Surely falsehood is ever bound to vanish (Bani Israil, 81)

When the truth comes and falsehood has vanished, the level of wilaya is complete.

The fourth letter, f, stands for fana’, the annihilation of self, the state of nothingness.  The false self melts and evaporates when divine attributes enter one’s being and when the multiplicity of worldly attributes and personalities leave, their place is taken by the single attribute of unity.

In reality, the truth is always present.  It neither disappears nor declines.  What happens is that the believer realises and becomes one with that which has created him.  In being with Him, the believer receives His pleasure: the temporal being finds its true existence by realising the eternal secret.

Everything will perish but His Countenance  (Qasas, 88)

The way to realise His truth is through His pleasure, through His agreement.  when you do deed for His sake which meet with His approval you come close to His truth, His Essence.  Then all disappears except the One Who is pleased and the one with whom He is pleased, united.  Good deeds are the mother that bears the child of truth: the conscious life of a true human being.

The good words and the good deeds rise to Allah.  (Fatir, 1)

If one acts and exists for anything but Allah’s sake alone, one is setting up partners to Allah, putting one self or others in the place of Allah - the unforgivable sin that sooner or later destroys one.  But when the self and selfishness are annihilated, one reaches the stage of union with Allah.  The level of union is in the realm of Allah’s proximity.  Allah describes this realm thus:

Surely the righteous will be in the place of  truth ,in  the presence of a Sovereign Omnipotent   (Qamar, 54-55)

The place is the place of the essential truth, the truth of all truths, the place of unity and oneness.  It is the place reserved for prophets, for the one who are loved by Allah, for His friends  Allah is with those who are true.  When a created existence is united with the eternal existence, it cannot be conceived as a separate existence.  When all earthly ties are abandoned and one is in union with Allah, with the divine truth, one receives eternal purity, never to be blemished and becomes one of the

Companions of the garden therein to dwell (forever)   A’raf, 42

They are those who believe and work righteousness,     A’raf , 42

However,No burden do We place and any soul,but that which it can bear (A’raf 42)

But one needs a great deal of patience

And Allah is with those who patiently persevere   Anfal, 66


[1] Extract from “The Secret of Secrets” by Hadrat Abdul-Qadir Al-Jalani

published by The Islamic Texts Society, UK