LECTURE NOTES BY IMAMUL ARAFIN HAZRAT PEER AFTAB AHMED QASMI WALE-E-MOHRA SHARIF
Sufism is the science of the journey to the King
Its preferred etymology is that it derives from suf (wool). Shaykh Hasan Al-Basri said, “I saw forty of the people of Badr and they all wore wool”. This means that the sufi-tasawwafa ---- has put on the wool. This is distinct from those who confirm the way of Islam with tongue and by book learning. It is taking the ancient way, the primordial path of direct experience of the Real.
Junayd said: ‘The Sufi is like the earth, filth is flung from it but roses grow from it.’ He also said: “The Sufi is like the earth which supports the innocent and the guilty, like the sky which shades everything, like the rain which washes everything.”
The Sufi is universal. He has reduced and then eliminated the marks of selfhood to allow clear view of the cosmic reality. He has rolled up the cosmos in its turn and obliterated it. He has gone beyond. The Sufi has said ‘Allah’------ until he has understood. All men and women play in the world like children. The Sufi’s task is to recognize the end in the beginning, accept the beginning in the end, and arrive at the unified view. When the outward opposites are the same and the instant is presence, and the heart is serene, empty and full, light on light, the one in the woolen cloak has been robed with the robe of honor and is complete.
There is no road to the realities except on the tongue of shari’at, said Imamul Arafian. The shari’at of Islam is the conformity that there is no divinity but Allah and that Muhammad (PBUH) is the messenger of Allah. It is to pray five times a daily the ritual prostrations. It is to fast the month of Ramadan. It is to pay zakat tax of wealth. It is to take, if possible, the Haji to the pure House of Allah and the plain of Arafat. It is based on these and confirms that the one following the shari’at has elected to live within the broad moral parameters set down in the Qur’anic commands and according to the guidance within the sunna, the life pattern of Muhammad, blessings of Allah and peace be upon him. Having accepted the shari’at is the deep cognition that the human creature is limited, is in a body, and thus, like all bodies in the physical world, obeys given laws. There is no compulsion in the life transaction, thus it cannot be called ‘organized religion’--- no---- it is the self chosen pattern of life one has adopted in order to deepen knowledge until one reaches one’s own source, one’s spring of life, to drink the water of illumination.
Shari’at thus implies recognition of biological laws that function at every level of existence. Thus we observe that the Kafirun, those whop reject, nevertheless follow their shari’at. Every person sets up a shari’at, improvised yet functional. Our shari’at is all mercy, while theirs is always revealed to be cruel, repressive and narrow. Ours is from the Best of Creation, beloved by millions od human beings. Theirs is a dark shadow from lone imaginings.
The path lies between the two opposites, shari’at and haqiqat. It is identifiable by its outward, and confirmed by its inward. Just as shari’at can also be called Islam, so tariqat may also be called Iman----acceptance. Iman is acceptance. Iman is acceptance of Allah, His Books, His Messengers, His Angels, the Last Day, the Balance, and the Decree. It is the interiorization of the cosmic landscape, from creational realities in event, to a personal cosmic landscape in vision. All these explain and interpret the meanings of the dual nature of existence and its unitary secret.
Tariqat is coming out from the safe place of ordinary existence into the alien existence of search. It means abandoning the private project as a meaning to life, that is, the family. Allah, glory be to Him, has warned that there is a trap for you. It means abandoning the public project which is the society and its promise of future rewards for slavery to it. The future reward of the seeker is now in the Unseen and after death, not at the end of life. It means abandoning the autobiographical project of fame and fulfillment, for the self has become for the seeker, an enemy. The self is an enemy, that is, until it is transformed into its luminous reality which is pure spirit, ruh.
Shari’at is submitting. Tariqat is handing over. Haqiqat is victory. Haqiqiat, the realities, are the inward illuminations of knowledge which flood the heart of the seeker. It is the realm of meanings, as shari’at is the realm of the senses. As one is the science of the outward, the other is the science of the inward. There is no way to its experience but the submission to the fact of being human, being mortal, an in-time creature. Once shari’at is submitted to, then the seeker on the Path realizes that he has come from non-existence and is going to non-existence. The time is short. It must be seized. Cut through! In this world every thing is spectacle, yet everywhere the people are blind. They cannot bear to see that the world’s rewards do not bring satisfaction to its people. This is not meant to be the zone of visions-----that is the next world, after death. This is the zone of action. To reach the status of whole human being is not possible without a breaking of norms. Breaking of norms is the Path. Its fruits are witnessing and illumination. Yet these belong to after death in the sensory. Thus to reach vision in the meaning-realm means to die the death of meaning before the sensory death. ‘Die before you die,’ says the famous Hadith. It is re-iterated in many others from the Sahih, such as the instruction----‘Make yourselves as the inhabitants of graves.’ This does not suggest giving up life but to know the great knowledge there must be practice------ and that is its instruction.
If you desire haqiqat---reconcile yourself---your life can never be the same again. ‘Man is asleep. When he dies he wakes up!’ Haqiqat is waking up. Ihsan.
Adab is spiritual courtesy, sincere good manners. Adab implies sincerity and that implies humility. For if a person is aware of his manners then he is motivated by selfishness and is lacking in spontaneous expression.
Adab in the world is almost impossible. ‘Correct manners’ are practiced in the world. Adab is practiced in the circle of People. Once in the protected circle of the People one has entered an arena of trust. Now Adab is in zawiyya, in the circle, among the men of Allah, before the Shaykh. This is the arena of adab. The path is nothing but adab.
There is an adab due towards the stranger and the visitor. There is an adab due towards the fuqra. There is an adab due towards the noble and the elite. There is an adab due towards yourself. The first is arrived at by generosity and gifts at arrival and departure. The next is marked by preference. You must prefer what you have or get, for your brother over yourself. The next is by service, waiting, patience and listening. The next is wanting what your Shaykh wants, as if it was your wanting. The last, in the first stage is the avoidance of the blow such as slapping the thigh or clenching the fist, and the avoidance of hard exclamations. Its middle stage is avoidance of extreme grief or joy. Its end is to have forgotten it altogether in the delight of presence of the Real.
Istaqama is being straight. Its definition is to put in practice the sunna of Messenger (P.B.U.H)-----his words, his acts and his states---according to your knowledge of them and your capacity to follow them. Remember that no one can attain his station of gnosis and radiance, while it is incumbent on us to follow in the dust of his footsteps.
Istaqama is taking on the character of one who fulfills the obligation. When someone washes and prays, when they fast and give sadaqa, when they move among the people of knowledge, when they visit the House of Allah, and the resting place of the Messenger (P.B.U.H), and sit in the Rowdah, they take on the color of people of these acts. By these acts even the bones become luminous. By these states experienced among the company, the heart itself is illuminated.
It may seem outwardly to be narrow while the people of this world are outwardly broad---yet see how they are inwardly narrow while the people of Istaqama are inwardly wide. Istaqama results in one who is outwardly dark and inwardly light, while the people of illusory freedoms are outwardly light while inwardly dark. The fruit of Istaqama is serenity while the fruit of unlimited behavior is terror. One is sanity while the other is madness. Suluk is the science of all the inward elements of way faring. The salik is the one who is grounded in the necessary wisdom to prevent insanity when the time comes that the heart moves and love awakens in it and the center of the creature is possessed by the winds of yearning and the storms of longing. When the world and everything in it becomes for the seeker a torment and trial it is suluk that holds the wayfarer to wisdom so that plunging is avoided when the restraint is necessary and courageous action is possible when with drawl is tempting. Suluk is the means by which the benefits of jadhb(attraction) become possible without becoming majdhoub, mad-in-Allah, that is, attraction can take place---for it is essential---and yet helpless attraction is avoided. That is to say one may have the experience without being condemned to the station.
Our way is to be salik/majdhoub. Outwardly sane and inwardly mad-in-Allah. Outwardly sober and inwardly drunk.
Suluk is outwardly to replace bad speech with good speech, bad action switch good actions, bad intentions with good intentions, until one lives in right speech, action and intention. The sign of salik is that one is safe from his hand and his tongue, and the proof is that salik is safe from his own hand and tongue.
Suluk allows one to benefit from the state by the absorption of the doctrine, and to leave the station in expectation of the further gifts of the Merciful Lord. Its term is return to its confirmation for the seekers, and avoidance of claim except on the tongue of the Real.
Yaqin. Certainty has three stages:
I ) 'llm al-yaqin -- knowledge of certainty.
2) 'Ayn al-yaqin----source of certainty.
3) Haqq al-yaqin--- truth of certainty.
These may be considered as the deepening of three primary elements; shari'at. tariqat, haqiqat. Now we have moved from the conceptual to a further degree, that of experience. Now we are prepared to look on Islam and Iman and lhsan not as propositions but rather as stages of direct life experience. The first is the capacity to accept the message and the Messenger. This is the foundation of one's humanity in the capacity to recognize and trust the genuine Messenger. Trust of the true other is nothing less than the mirror act of self-trust. This leads to an inward confirmation of how-it-is, and therefore of oneself, as genuine. This middle term is vital to further development. You must confirm your own inwardness---it is the time trial and the zone of departures. For man is weak and the middle is difficult. For the one with courage there is arrival at direct inner confirmation of the cosmic celestial realities and thus of the immutable jewel-essence of the self as being Light and not a shade dwelling in a decaying object, the body. The end is the truth of certainty. What is that? Quran says it is death itself. Die the meaning death and you arrive at the certain while in this life.
The Raja of Mahmudabad defined them thus:
You are told-----there is a fire in the forest.
You reach the fire in the forest and see it.
You are the fire in the forest.
The Wall of Bahlil said: 'The fuqra are a bunch of thorns.' Shaykh Abu Madyan said: 'The pleasure of life is only in the company of the fuqara --- they are the sultans, the masters and the princes. The faqir is the one who has turned from the futile search for this world and set out on the quest for the Real, that is, the secret of his own existence. The first requirement of this search is that he keeps company with people who also wish to acquire this science. To be one of its people means to be beset with their difficulties and to gain their delight. At first the faqir sees the faults of the fuqara. When he learns that they are to him a mirror ---- as in the famous hadith --- he ceases to struggle against them and love begins to grow in his heart for the lovers of Allah. By this means he approaches the Shaykh. The faqir is poor in Allah, and Allah is enough for him in his poverty.
The faqir has opted for the war against the self. Thus he must set out on the most difficult part of his journey. Even success in it is dangerous, for contentment with acquiring good qualities is in turn a fault. There is no escape from it. Now he must break norms inwardly as he has already done outwardly. Wrong actions are gone they must be replaced with right actions. So with intentions. The faqir, however, must guard against thinking that the goal is moral. Do not loose the sight of goal ---- it is direct witnessing the living Lord.
Tawba -- turning away from wrong action --- is the beginning of the transformative process of the self. The middle is turning from wrong qualities to the right ones. The end is turning from creation to absorption in the vision of the Real.
The act of tawba is confirmed in the sunna of repeating one hundred times the supplication:
Sufyan ath-Thawri said: ‘Real tawba has four signs:- qilla, illa, dhilla, ghurba.’ That is:- decrease (of the self), weakness, humility and exile (from the wrong.)’
Tawba is the sign to the faqir from himself that he has engaged in the battle. As long as the faqir persists in finding fault in others while failing to find fault with himself the journey has not even begun. The first engagement with wrong actions in tawba is a great victory. In one step the most difficult moment of the journey is over.
The common make tawba for wrongs: the elite make tawba for right actions and their praise: the elect of the elite make tawba for Forgetfulness of' Allah at any Instant.
The proofs of the Path are the confirmations of the rewards of tawba, which confirm the seeker on his path and the people of arrival in the mercy of the Compassionate Lord.
Wara scrupulousness, in its lowest phase is avoidance of the haram and the doubtful. In its middle phase it is moving from the doubtful to what is certain to bring benefit. It is avoidance of anything that will cast a shadow on the heart. In its highest phase it is avoiding any desire except desire for Allah.
Hasan al-Basri was asked. What is the pivot of the deen (life-transaction)? '' He replied: 'Wara'.'
If you are scrupulous with yourself and generous in judgment of others it is better for you than that you should he scrupulous in judgment of others and lax in your own behavior.
The faqir must guard against contemplating his own scrupulousness, or basking in it, or resting in it, lest it too become a snare for him. Remember that .there are people who make all the right actions and are careful in everything yet their hearts become hardened. The act of wara' is to release the self in its urgent quest for illumination and knowledge. It is a price to be paid, a tax to be levied, but joyously, and aware that it has nothing but benefits in it, for yourself and for others. So it has nothing in it to justify self satisfaction, for it is for your own gain. If you rest in wara'--others are safe but you are not. If you make it a means you are safe and others are taught.
Zuhd means doing-without. The Hadith (Ibn Majah, al-Hakim, Bayhaqi) says; 'Do-without the world -- Allah will love you. Do-without what you find in the hands of men - men will love you.’
The zuhd of the sufis is that their doing-without should be an emptying of their hearts from desires of this world. Its aid is the emptying of their hands in sadaqa and generous gifts. The word ‘ascetic’ has nothing to do with zuhd as understood by Islam. Zuhd is a giving-up only when you have recognized that your need was a fantasy need. It is not zuhd to go in rags and to fast too much. Rather it would be zuhd to take care of clothes and patch them or to eat less and not to cat one's fill. Zuhd is not, therefore, in any way a repression of appetites. It is an abandoning of excess appetite when the self has developed to the point of no long needing that thing.
To be zahid of objects is easy. To be zahid of words is more difficult, or the attention of others, or reputation. Do without Praise. Do-without reputation. Do-without being in the right. Do-without being seen. It is often easier for a king, to be zahid than a poor man -- beware!
The true zahid does-without a glance which sees creation and not the Lord. Zuhd is easy. Its opposite is difficult. Remember the journey is to the place where the opposites have become the same for one. Do not dwell in the means --- traveler --- would you live in the stables?
Tawkkul (Reliance). The dhikr of this quality is strongly recommended for the faqir who is eager to move swiftly on the Path.
Hasbunallahu wa ni’amal wakil. Allah is enough for us and he is the Best Guardian.
Ibn ‘Ajiba has said that the three degrees of tawakkul are:-
1. Like the contracted one is with the contractor, so one is with the contractor, so one is with Allah---vigilant and concerned over his interests.
2. Like the child is with the mother --- he turns only to her in all things.
3. Like the dead body in the hands of the washer.
The first has need in it, the second attachment, but the third is free of either need or attachment. The last is the station of those whose self has been wiped out, they wait only to see what He will do with them. These are the free.
Tawakkul gives strength to the faqir just as zuhd weakens the self in its energy for wrong actions. Tawakkul is nourishment, encouragement and sheer compassion from Allah to His slave in the difficult part of his journey. It is the dikhr of the moment when the faqir cannot go on. It is the dikhr for the moment of crisis when the faqir wishes to give up. It is the dikhr of trust for the moment when the faqir falters, sure he has made a mistake in imagining he can attain to the Real. If you set out you will arrive. Allah is enough for you. At the beginning. In the middle. At the end.
Repeat it inwardly for strength. Say it loud to move forward. Shout it out, banging both fists on the table, to destroy all doubts and whisperings, and to subdue the most unruly self. Do it 73 times.
Sabr (Patience) is a medicine which is bitter, whose fruits are sweet. Our Imam has said that sabr is to be patient with patience.
The first patience to be learned is patience with others. This is the most difficult and if it is gained it is a great gain and a great victory. It has in it the seeds of forgiveness for others, and thus the noble quality of compassion before the weakness of human beings.
The second patience is patience with oneself. If one is harsh with the self it will wither. The self does not like to be treated harshly, let alone changed. The simple faqir will alter wrong actions first time round. The ‘intelligent’ who can argue and intellectualize can repeat wrong action several times before relinquishing it. The faqir must persist, again and again against the self. If he is patient --- he will see the way to outwitting himself. The one who can do this has found a quick road and a sure victory.
The third patience is patience with the Decree of Allah and it is to this that Imam Junayd refers. This is grappling with the very core of the doctrine of tawhid. This does not just refer to adversity and pain, such may even prove possible, or easy. What is difficult and vital is patience in the realm of event. 'Allah wants something. You want something. What you want is not what Allah wants, but know, that what Allah wants will certainly happen.’ Patience in its fullness is wanting.
Shukr, giving thanks is a knowledge and an encouragement. It makes you aware of the source of your life and it reminds you that He is the Answerer of prayers.
Its first degree is thanks with the tongue, which is dhikr. Its second degree is thanks with the whole body, which is service to Allah both in the prescription and in assisting His creatures. The third degree is thanks with the heart, which is thanks in the Presence of Lordship, and recognition in the audience chamber.
Shukr is the act due the slave. According to us shukr should never be expressed unless it is preceded with hamd. For hamd, praise, belongs entirely to Allah, it is His and the slave has no portion in it. Thus it is more fitting to present to Allah what has none of the slave in it before presenting what is entirely from the slave. If there has, been du'a, then the shukr follows His answering it. If there has been no supplication then He has given the slave even without asking.
The dikhr of shukr therefore begins with hamd in every case. It should be repeated 100 times.
Al-hamdu lillahi was-sh-shukrulillah
‘No power, no strength but from Allah, the Exalted, The Vast.’
Shykh Ibn-e-Ajiba has said that the first degree if taqwa, guarding oneself, is the avoidance of wrong actions. Its second degree is the removal of faults and its third degree is to turn from all that is other than Allah in order to withdraw into the Presence of the Knower of the Unseen.
One could say that the beginning of taqwa was the embracing of the moral parameters of the shariat, while its middle was the deep acceptance of the self which Allah lead allotted one so that its improvement and perfecting became the limit of one's interference in the world. The end of taqwa can then be seen as the arrival at the core, or at the centre of the circle of' the self. Thus the end of taqwa is nothing less than khalwa, retreat, deep inner contemplation and the delight of witnessing the Lights of the attributes and the essence.
Far from making the human being a recluse or one who plays no part in the world the opposite is true. His arrow hits the mark. The man of taqwa is heard when he speaks, is copied when he acts and illuminates others when he emerges. The man of taqwa has no fear of the creation, thus the world belongs to him and the elements are his willing servants. All his fear is placed in Allah, the Vast, the over-seer of his affair and the Mover in all his dynamic activities. Its dhikr is especially commended for travel. It is a dikhr most fitting in all matters concerning action and large movements involving many like war.
La hawla wala quwwata illa billa hil aliyyul adhim.