The Practice of Mysticism (‘irfan-i ‘amali) in Islam


Dr Seyed G Safavi,

SOAS, University of London

Philosophy@iranianstudies.org

 

Abstract

This article introduces the theoretical aspects of the practice of mysticism in Islam. It examines the nature of mysticism, the mystic and his states, the goal of the mystic and the ethics of spiritual wayfaring. The author addresses major themes that are central concerns of mystical authors and describes their meaning. He describes and analyses mystical states drawing on the major practical and homiletic manuals of the ‘Irfan tradition. The paper is both descriptive and prescriptive.

“In His name who taught the soul to think
Who enlightened the heart by the soul’s insight.”[i]

In this article, we attempt to provide a brief introduction to the theory of mystical practice as expounded in classical Islamic mystical texts. A range of issues is considered from the very nature of mysticism to specific states and stages of the path of the mystic. The mystic’s path begins with self-reflection and a contemplation of creation that leads him to the One, his origin, and once the mystic embarks on his journey to the One to his origin he completes his circle of being. His origin is the One and his return is the One. First, he must start with creation.

I: Purpose and design of creation

One of the most positive and decisive Islamic teachings is that the creation has a definitive purpose. Islam contends that the act of creation has not been aimless and in vain. It is for a purpose, as God says in the Holy Qur’an:

“Did you think that We had created you in vain and that you would never be recalled to Us?”[ii]

One of the most important, positive and exalted objectives of God’s prophets, indeed the ultimate purpose of creation, is for man to realise and perfect his being as a true servant of God, gaining intuitive knowledge and bearing witness to the Lord. As He said:

“I was a hidden treasure but wished that they would know Me, therefore, I created mankind.”[iii]

And in the holy verse:

“I only created mankind and the jinn so that they might worship Me.”[iv]

Indeed the divine phrase, “…that they would know Me” establishes the divine hadith. The truth, the inner reality and the ultimate in Islamic mysticism with respect to the infinite depth of meaning of the above Qur’anic verses amounts to divine service to, and intuitive witnessing of, God.

II: Forgetting oneself

Usually when man enters this world, he becomes negligent of himself as a result of such tendencies as neglecting the Lord, seeking the world, pursuing power and status, and satisfying his carnal desires. As God has said

…those who forgot Allah so He caused them to forget themselves.[v]

Man forgets the three essential questions of “Where have I come from?” “Where Am I going to?” and “Why am I here?” These are questions that establish the cause, the philosophy and the ultimate objective of the creation and set forth man’s basic essence and his authentic self.

Yesterday came and passed I did in it no action.

And today in it by me heat no any bazaar.

Tomorrow I will go without to know any secret.

Not to become was better for me than this coming.

III: Awakening

“Say: I exort you only to one thing, that rise up for Allah’s sake in twos and singly, then ponder: there is no madness in your fellow-citizen; he is only a warner to you before a severe chastisement.”(Qur’an, Surah Saba’, 46).

During a man’s lifetime often circumstances and certain conditions put an end to his negligence and awaken him to observe the blessings of God and make him realize his own sinfulness and how far he has strayed away from the exalted purpose of his own creation. Under such conditions, one understands one’s own shortcomings and spiritual and mental states and stages like those of Ibrahim ibn Adham (d. 778), Bishr al-Hafi (d. d. 841), Fudayl ibn ‘Iyad, developing his character. As a result, he becomes aware of his real self, of what he is and of what he can be. By the light of guidance, the traveller seeketh the path to the Beloved. Hafiz said:

In this city, my fortune, I have tried;

From this whirlpool, my chattels ‘tis necessary to draw.

IV: What is man and what is he capable of being?

Man has two facets or aspects, namely, matter and mind, body and soul, earthly and celestial, and the bestial and angelic. The Qur’anic verse “We created man from dry clay, from black moulded loam.”[vi] points to the material aspect of man. The verse (15:29) “…and breathed of My spirit into him” is indicative of man’s moral or divine aspects. Man’s creation is the loftiest and most exalted model of creation as we read: “Verily, We created man in the best form.”[vii], “In him both worlds have met now a devil, next a human set.”[viii]

Man, this trustee of God,[ix] this perfectionist and seeker of truth, this divinely trained[x] educated being,[xi] and possessor of wonders is capable of being more ferocious and savage than any rabid animal and can sink deep in sins, in self love, in false pleasures and happiness. But man is capable of ascension to the highest levels of heaven and can fulfil the function of being God’s caliph on earth.

“And about face from the Hades of the lewd.
All but prepares him to meet the highest good.”[xii]

And reach such status that, in the words of Hazrat ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (‘A.S):

“If veils are removed from the face of the unknown, the secret, nothing new will be revealed to him.”[xiii]

Love, lover and beloved, reason and the reasonable shall be the same to him. According to Shabistari in Golshan-i raz:

“No distinction left among the parts
The knower and the known united
And merged in all the charts.”[xiv]

“Naught but His knowledge
Can contain the mystic’s heart
Naught but the Absolute Being
Can his intuition acknowledge.”[xv]

And, if the ‘seventy thousand veils of darkness and of light’ [xvi] that bar the peripatetic mystic from the presence of the Lord be removed by rigorous religious practices and by purging the self, or soul, man becomes a theomorphic being and finds peace and tranquillity through his nearness to God. He acquires the contented soul (al-nafs al-mutma’inna), which converts him into an entirely divine being. The prophetic tradition sets forth this status of light in the following terms:

“And when My faithful servant approaches Me through prayers and good deeds, I shall bestow upon him of My affection. Hence forth, I shall be his ears by which He hears; I shall be his eyes to see with and he shall use My tongue and hands by which to say and to hold.”[xvii]

And if divine love sets fire to the heart of this gem of the world of creation, this most noble creature (man), he shall attain to such an exalted stage as the following divine edict purports:

“He who seeks Me finds Me
He who finds Me knows Me
He who knows Me befriends Me
He who befriends Me loves Me
He who loves Me shall be loved by Me
And I shall destroy him who loves Me
And he whom I destroy is entitled to revenge or ‘blood money’ from Me
And I shall stand ‘blood money’ and at the disposal of him whom I have destroyed.”[xviii]

However, attaining such a superb position and a pure life and eternal serenity is possible only when:

“Dust and dirt are you entire
Cast them away now
Get dust off your heart
Make room worthy of the Beloved
Make your exit to let Him in
His face shall be manifest to you
When you no more are
In your heart no light shall shine
Unless the snare are first removed
Your prayers shall avail you naught
Unless you give your-self up in full
When your essence is purged at last
Of things ugly and obscene
Your prayers shall surely shine
Well bright and all serene.”[xix]

V: Mysticism (‘irfan) as an agent for uniting man with God

Of all the Islamic tenets and teachings, the one that is exclusively devoted to the basic issue of the manner and quality of man’s spiritual conduct, his fight against carnal desires, is attainment of union with the Lord. Man thus ceases to exist independently but continues his existence in Him. This is mysticism or ‘Irfan.

Mystic knowledge, as a thorough cultural system that pertains to man’s spiritual life, has its theoretical base in an unimpeachable belief in the fact that the most perfect way to receive the essence and the truth of existence is through intuitive knowledge and perception, the unification of reason with the reasoned and the reasonable, love with lover and the beloved. From the practical point of view, it is based on the performance of lawful ascetic practices, purification of the ego or soul, vigilance, reckoning of the self, the saying of prayers and passing beyond the surface and the superfluities of worldly affair and in the utmost attachment to the truths of all matters relating to body and soul.

‘Irfan (mysticism) is both theoretical and practical. The theoretical undertakes the elaboration and interpretation of God, the world and the man from a mystical viewpoint. It provides mystical answers to the three essential questions of life, namely the whence, wherefore and whither.

Practical mysticism is also called wayfaring or peripatetic journeying and sets forth the realisations and duties of man with himself, with the world and with God.[xx] It denotes what a salik or walker, wayfarer, or peripatetic ‘arif or mystic’s initial conduct and its terminal points must be in order to become a Perfect Man (insan-i kamil) and successor of God on earth and reach the highest position that is possible for man to attain. That exalted human status is the dissolution (fana) of his being in God and his subsistence (baqa) by His will to eternal life. It describes an ‘arif’s duties of conduct, his means, his states and the experience he goes through on his way to join with the Lord. Ways to purge the self, to combat the ego and purify the soul are also included among these practices. Thus ‘irfan is described as an intuitive knowledge of God that leads man to His presence and to the ultimate which is to witness and be in presence with God (liqa’Allah).

VI: The Law, the Way and the Truth (shari‘at, tariqat, haqiqat)

In the clash of ideas among Islamic scholars and thinkers, some are exponents of pure fiqh or Islamic religious jurisprudence. They support the view that religion means the face value of what its laws and tenets signify. However, the ‘urafa’‘arif, meaning mystics) believe that religious laws and decrees have implications and meanings other than what meets the eye. [xxi] They hold that behind and beyond the surface and explicit meanings of religious edicts, there exist certain truths that are the real aims and objectives of religion. Therefore, the mystics have their own conclusions regarding the real import and significance of religious beliefs and precepts such as monotheism, prophethood, resurrection, daily prayers, the pilgrimage, fasting, and so on. The real mystics, to be sure, adhere to a holistic conception of life that comprises the law, the way and the truth (shari‘at, tariqat, haqiqat).[xxii] They maintain that attainment of truth is not possible except through religion. It has been said: (plural for

Shari‘at is the rind, Truth the kernel.
Between the two lies the Way.”[xxiii]

“Break up the shell
Hold up the peal
Cast off the rind
Take up the sweet nut Word,
With their rhetoric and syntax
All have but a letter at the core
No way to waste one’s life
The dear life to circle and spin
Green peels reveal the juicy nut
Crack the skin and get at the dehiscent pod
Unripe is the nut not covered in skin
Face-sheet in for often yield
Glorious data of faith in charming din.”[xxiv]

The ‘arif regards the shari‘at (face, appearance) and tariqat (the hidden, the concealed) as the guiding light and the way but his objective is his destination which is above these two and above all else. This he calls God and the Truth, al-Haqqhaqiqat, in which the realisation of all things and objects rest. The mystic regards the attainment to such knowledge as the ultimate point in all creation. He [xxv]sees all things and objects (in the universe) as seeking Him and desiring His knowledge, the tariqat and the shari‘at are both preludes to such achievement.[xxvi] and

The ‘urafa’ believe that the heart, the core and the essence (batin) or the inner being of shariat is the way which they term tariqat. This way or road ends in truth, which is monotheism and it occurs after the mystic has ceased to exist as an independent entity. Thus the ‘arif (mystic) believes in three things: the shari‘at, the tariqat and the haqiqat.[xxvii]

Know that shari‘at is the word of the prophets, tariqat is the deed or action of the prophets and haqiqat is the vision or perception or insight of the prophets. The salik or walker must first learn what he must of the shari‘at. Then he must perform of the actions of the tariqat as much as he should so that the lights of truth are revealed to him commensurate with his efforts. Nasafi in this regard said:

“O Dervish! He who accepts what his prophet has said is of the shari‘at and he who performs what his prophet has performed is of the tariqat and he who sees what his prophet has seen is of haqq (truth).”[xxviii]

And Rumi in Mathnawi said:

“Shari‘at is like a candle, it kindles the way, without acquiring a light, the path cannot be traversed. As you enter the way your wayfaring is tariqat. And, when you reach the destination that is the haqq (truth).”[xxix]

VII: Who is a mystic (‘arif)?

An ‘arif is a person who arrives at a knowledge of truth (as it is) through intuition and spiritual illumination and inspiration. He is submerged and deeply involved and engaged in divine affairs and matters. He is committed and dedicated to the commands and decrees of religion (shari‘at) and has merged shari‘at and haqiqat. A real mystic is one who has passed from the stage of certainty (‘ilm al-yaqin) and conviction of knowledge to the stage and level of conviction by perception and insight (‘ayn al-yaqin) and beyond to the certainty of truth (haqq al-yaqin).[xxx] He has passed from the stage of mental awakening and repentance. He has gained understanding to the stage of grace and awareness experienced in His Presence. He has undergone obliteration and found revival in the Lord. A true mystic is also one who performs prayers, purges his ego, and experiences religiously allowed rigorous ascetic exercises not from fear of hell, nor for love of paradise and not as extraordinary wondrous acts. Rather, he has God in mind in all this and nothing and no one else, as the Holy Qur’an says:

“My prayers and my devotions, my life and my death, are all for Allah.”[xxxi]

The Lion of Truth Imam Ali in lecture 184 (Sifat al-Mottaqin) of the Nahj al-Balaghih explains who is a true mystic (‘arif):

“The God-fearing are people of distinction. Their speech is ‘to the point’, their dress is modest, and their gait is humble. They keep their eyes closed to what Allah has made unlawful for them, and they strain their ears to gain that knowledge which is beneficial for them. They remain in the time of trials, as they remain in comfort. If there had not been fixed periods of life ordained for each, their spirits would not have remained in their bodies even for the twinkling of an eye, because of their eagerness for the reward, and for fear of chastisement if they live a long life full of (possible) sins. The greatness of the Creator is always in their hearts, and everything else appears small in their eyes. Thus, they see, and are enjoying Paradise’s favors; they also see, and feel the punishment of Hell.

Their hearts grieve, they protect themselves against evil, their bodies are thin, their needs are scanty, and their souls are chaste. They endure hardship for a short while, and consequently, they secure comfort for a long time. It is a beneficial transaction that Allah made easy for them. The world aimed at them, but they did not aim at it. It captured them, but they freed themselves from it by paying a ransom.

During the night they are upstanding on their feet, reading portions of the Qur’an in a well-measured way, creating through it grief for themselves and seeking by it the cure of their ailments. If they come across a verse creating eagerness (for Paradise) they pursue it avidly, and their spirits turn towards it eagerly, and they feel as if it is in front of them. And when they come across a verse which contains fear (of Hell) they bend the ears of their hearts towards it, and feel as though the sound of Hell and its cries are reaching their ears. They bend themselves from their backs, prostrate themselves on their foreheads, their palms, their knees, and their toes, and beseech Allah, the Sublime, for their deliverance. During the day they are enduring, learned, virtuous and God-fearing. Fear (of Allah) has made them thin like arrows. If anyone looks at them he believes they are sick, although they are not sick, and he says that they have gone mad. In fact, great concern (i.e. fear) has made them mad.

They are not satisfied with their meager good acts, and do not regard their major acts as great. They always blame themselves and are afraid of their deeds. When anyone of them is spoken of highly, he says: “I know myself better than others, and my Lord knows me better than I know. O’ Allah do not deal with me according to what they say, and make me better than they think of me and forgive me (those shortcomings) which they do not know.”

The character of anyone of them is that you will see that he has strength in religion, determination along with leniency, faith with conviction, eagerness in (seeking) knowledge in forbearance, moderation in riches, devotion in worship, gracefulness in starvation, endurance in hardship, desire for the lawful, pleasure in guidance and hatred from greed. He performs virtuous deeds but still feels afraid. In the evening he is anxious to offer thanks (to Allah). In the morning his anxiety is to remember (Allah). He passes the night in fear and rises in the morning in joy – fear lest the night is passed in forgetfulness, and joy over the favor and mercy received by him. If his self refuses to endure a thing which it does not like he does not grant its request towards what he likes. The coolness of his eye lies in what is to last forever, while from the things (of this world) that will not last he keeps aloof. He transfuses knowledge with forbearance, and speech with action.

You will see his hopes simple, his shortcomings few, his heart fearing, his spirit contented, his meal small and simple, his religion safe, his desires dead and his anger suppressed. Good alone is expected from him. Evil from him is not to be feared. Even if he is found among those who forget (Allah) he is counted among those who remember (Him) but if he is among the rememberers he is not counted among the forgetful. He forgives him who is unjust to him, and he gives to him who deprives him. He behaves well with him who behaves ill with him.

Indecent speech is far from him, his utterance is lenient, his evils are non-existent, his virtues are ever present, his good is ahead and mischief has turned its face (from him). He is dignified during calamities, patient in distresses, and thankful during ease. He does not commit excess over him whom he hates, and does not commit sin for the sake of him whom he loves. He admits truth before evidence is brought against him. He does not misappropriate what is placed in his custody, and does not forget what he is required to remember. He does not call others bad names, he does not cause harm to his neighbor, he does not feel happy at others misfortunes, he does not enter into wrong and does not go out of right.

If he is silent his silence does not grieve him, if he laughs he does not raise his voice, and if he is wronged he endures till Allah takes revenge on his behalf. His own self is in distress because of him, while the people are in ease with him. He puts himself in hardship for the sake of his next life, and makes people feel safe from himself. His keeping away from others is by way of ascetism and punfication, and his nearness by way of deceit and cheating.”

The term ‘arif has been defined variously. It has been given different meanings from differing angles, view and attitudes. Some have differentiated between ‘arif and Sufi but we have ignored such distinctions in this study. However, the following definitions are commonplace in the literature.

1) Avicenna (d. 1037) says that an ‘arif is one:

“Who has turned away his conscience, or heart and mind from all things except God and has opened up his inner being to the sacred and holy world so that the light of truth (God) may shine and become reflected in it.”[xxxii]

2) Junayd (d. 910) says:

“Tasawwuf (mysticism) is picking and screening…and anyone who is cut off or separated from all that is not of God, is a Sufi.”[xxxiii]

3) Junayd also says:

“A Sufi is one whose heart, like that of Abraham, is safe from love of this world; who performs God’s commands as Abraham and submits himself to His Will as Abraham and Ishmael; whose grief is such as David’s, whose ‘poverty’ is like that of Christ, whose patience is that of Job; whose enthusiasm be like that of Moses and whose sincerity be as that of Muhammad.”[xxxiv]

‘arif’s often trace their spiritual and initiatic lineage back to the Prophet through his family, especially the first eight Shi‘i Imams.

VIII: The goal of mysticism as distinct from practical reason and philosophy

    1. The aims of an ‘arif or mystic are severance and separation from everything and all things that are not of God, purification, abstraction of the soul, dissolution in God (mahw) and revival by Him (baqa’).
    2. Mystic conduct is active whereas ethical conduct is static. In ‘irfan the various steps and stages and the beginning and ending of each ‘journey’ receives particular attention with respect to one’s deeds and conduct.
    3. Ethical acts embellish one’s soul without order or discipline, whereas in ‘irfan ethical factors assume a dialectic form.
    4. The spiritual elements in ethics are limited to some meanings and practices of movement and conduct. Discussions are often held with respect to states and intuitional revelations that are the salik’s exclusively and of which others are unaware.
    5. The objective of the philosopher is to turn the worldly man into an intellectual being, but the mystic wants to reach the core of truth, which is God and to witness His presence. The philosopher finds perfection in understanding. The ‘arif finds it in reaching (to the ultimate truth).
    6. A philosopher’s tools are reason, logic, argument and proof. An ‘arif’s tools are his heart, diligence, purification, inner effort and movement.[xxxv]

Shabistari says:

“Arguments of reason may all be jewels and gems. Yet, the pleasures of the heart are surely something else.”[xxxvi]

    1. The mystic seeks God and prays and praises the Lord for no reason except that He is worthy of praise.[xxxvii]

IX: What is wayfaring (suluk)?

‘Irfan is ever concerned with man’s conscience, the core of his being and heart. Suluk, which means walking, has a particular meaning in mystical terminology. Physical walking with the legs is not what is intended. Suluk means entrance of the mind and the heart into the world within, into the world unknown, the invisible world.

Suluk indicates ‘going’ generally. The walker may make physical journeys or he may make trips to the realms of the mind or the heart. To the ‘arif’s or mystics, suluk means a special going:[xxxviii] moving or going towards God, and moving or traversing within the Divine Realm. Going to the Lord is finite but moving within Him is infinite.

Sayr or movement towards God implies that the itinerant, the mover, should continue in the path until he ceases to exist as he is and finds survival in God. In other words, he hears, sees, speaks and knows through the Lord.

Thou art the Path, the Journeyer, and the Destination.

Sayr in God means that when the salik or the aspirant is to meet with the Lord, he finds new life, after submitting his being to Him. By His Will, he shall continue his sayr, or journey of discovery until the time that he can see and know all things in detail as they truly are and that nothing, whatever, on earth, in Heaven or else where in the Almighty’s Domain, remains unknown to him.[xxxix] Know that by suluk, the mystics means moving from bad words to worthy argument; from bad deeds to good deeds; from bad conduct to good conduct and from one’s own essence and being to that of the Lord.

X: The reality of wayfaring

“Everyone on it must pass away, and there will endure for ever the person of your Lord, the Lord of glory and honor.”(Qur’an, 26:55). (Fana wa Baqa).

The reality of wayfaring is to overwhelm the body and the soul or self under the banner of faith through the decrees and commands of the fiqh (religious laws and edicts) as pertain to the body and the mind under the Almighty’s divine banner. The entirety of the ups and downs of the path, its pursuits, crises and consequences are registered in these stages.[xl]

“So when the night overshadowed him, he saw a star; said he: Is this my Lord? So when it set, he said: “I do not love the setting ones”. Then when he saw the moon rising, he said: Is this my Lord? So when it set, he said: if my Lord had not guided me I should certainly be of the erring people. Then when he saw the sun rising, he said: is this my Lord? Is this the greatest? So when it set, he said: O my people! Surely I am clear of what you set up (with Allah). Surely I have turned myself, being upright, wholly to Him Who originated the heavens and the earth, and I am not of the polytheists.”(Qur’an, 76-79:6).

Hafiz says:

From the fire of my heart, my chest in grief for the Beloved consumed.

In this house, was a fire that the house consumed.

From the farness of the Heart-Ravisher (Dilbar), my body melted.

From the love’s fire of the Beloved’s face, my spirit consumed.

XI: Intention (niyyat) in suluk

“Actions are judged by their intention.”[xli]

The declaration of intention, that is, a deliberate, conscious, and willful undertaking of suluk is extremely important. Fiqh has decreed the enunciation of the intention to ensure that religious rituals like daily prayers are correct and acceptable. However, in mystical knowledge, every act and deed of man whether the compulsory ones, or the recommended acts, should express as their intention nearness to God. The salik’s wish behind his declared intentions should not be a request for material well-being, it should not be a request for knowledge and gnosis; it should not be a request, a wish to be human and have all human values and grades developed in him. For, if this is realised, all the above wishes shall be granted, even things that the salik has not dreamed of.[xlii]

XII: Aspects of suluk

Suluk consists of the following qualities: silence (samt), abstinence (or hunger), seclusion (khalvat), wakefulness (yaqza), nocturnal devotion or vigilance (tahajjud). The elders or authorities of ‘Irfan, hold that suluk is based on four pillars: frugal consumption, saying little, sleeping little, and staying in seclusion from people.[xliii]

Samt or silence is of two types. General silence is keeping one’s tongue from all that is unnecessary and talking only when necessary and avoiding speech in excess of what is necessary. It is to avoid talk that is not of God. Such silence must be maintained at all times. The ahadith (traditions) and narratives indicate this type of silence. According to one hadith:

“Silence is the motto of the lovers. It pleases God. Silence is the practice of the prophets and the elite.”

Special silence safeguards one’s tongue in talking with people or with non-initiates in the absolute and, in this sense it is regarded as a necessary condition in all exclusively theological recitals.[xliv] This category is silence by the heart, that is, keeping silence for the sake of what is not of God.[xlv] Thus he who is silent by the tongue has lightened his burden. But he who keeps silent by word and heart, seek him for Almighty God has made His Will manifest in him.

He, whose tongue is not silent but is silent in his heart, is a speaker in terms of hikmat (wisdom). He, who will not keep silent in words or in his heart, is possessed by the devil. Silence by the tongue is only the goal of the masses. Silence of the heart is an attribute of those who are near to the Lord and they are men of perception, insight and vision.

“There is no worship like silence
He remains safe who remains silent.”[xlvi]

Hunger (or abstinence) is also of two types, deliberate and of constraint. Deliberate abstinence belongs to the peripatetics. Abstinence of constraint is that of the searchers. A muhaqqiq or seeker does not hold the soul in hunger but his food intake is little. Hunger in any condition and for any reason it may be, is the strength of a salik’s claim and reveals great things to the seekers (of truth). Abstinence has states and stages such as humility, respect, courtesy, mendacity, absence of excess, quiescence of limbs and destruction or eradication of unworthy memories. Such are the states and stages of abstinence of the walkers of the Path.

But the abstinence or hunger of the muhaqqaqin or seekers is sympathy, serenity, fellowship, non-being and purification from human characteristics. It is divine seclusion from the veils of time, a most sublime status namely, samadani, an attribute of God meaning absolute lack of want and need but wanted and needed by everything and everyone, a status that contains secrets and revelations.[xlvii] It is better that abstinence be observed in such a way as not to weaken the salik’s conduct and upset the mind and heart. In this connection, Imam al-Sadiq (‘A) has said:

“Abstinence insures the believer’s constant progression, it is food for the soul and nourishment for the heart.”[xlviii]

“Hunger is a great aid to refresh the soul and to break habits.”[xlix]

There are two types of seclusion (khalvat), general and private. General seclusion (also called withdrawal) is staying away from all that is not of God, especially from such people who are sinful and seekers of this world. Association with these groups or individuals is permissible only to the extent that it is absolutely necessary. Association with the chaste, the faithful does not negate such seclusion. The words of the Immaculate Shi‘i Imams indicate that this is the type of seclusion that must be observed. As Imam Husayn (‘A.S) has said,

“There never was a prophet, messenger or apostle who did not go into seclusion at one time or other, in the beginning, during or at the end of his life.”[l]

The occasional retiring of the Prophet to the Cave at Hira is an indication of this type of seclusion. At any rate, this is the preferred variety of seclusion. Private seclusion implies being alone and staying away from upsetting noises. It calls for remembrance of God and saying prayers in isolation in an enclosure not much larger than the salik himself. The place should be clean and lawfully occupied and it is better that it have no window. This type of seclusion is observed and recommended by certain elders, if not by all, who perform recital exercises in remembrance of God.[li]

Solitude is of two kinds. The solitude (‘uzlat) of the devotees is observed by avoidance of physical association with others. The solitude of the seekers (muhaqqaqin) is the exercise of the heart in avoiding all things and objects and keeping the heart free and open only to God and His Knowledge. This leads to awareness of the Lord and to the divine secrets of the oneness of God. Seclusion and solitude purge the salik of any non-divine trait or impediment. Seclusion and solitude afford the seekers (of the Lord) the highest standing and opportunity for intuitive knowledge of God and for witnessing His Presence.[lii]

Wakefulness (or sleeping a little) refers to the alertness of the mind and heart and it is either through the eyes staying open, or by the heart being on the alert. Alertness of the heart means putting an end to being negligent, remiss and heedless and to seek and ask for divine perception. Wakefulness of the eyes means remaining in the wakeful state with eyes open to beseech for the alertness and vigilance of the mind and heart. Know that action of the heart is void with eyes close (negligence of watchfulness). If the salik keeps a vigilant heart with his eyes closed, he shall witness the alertness and the watchfulness of his eyes.[liii]

Therefore, the fruit of wakefulness will be the perpetuation of the heart’s action and ascension of the salik to exalted places that are reserved for the Lord. The state of wakefulness is to maintain and cherish those states that befall the salik or are bestowed upon him as he advances toward his goal. The searcher or seeker (muhaqqiq) enjoys divine qualities through the wakeful stage.

As for nocturnal devotion or vigilance (tahajjud), the holy Qur’an says:

“Pray during the latter part of the night, an additional duty for which your Lord may exalt you to a position of praise and glory.”[liv]

It is recommended that the salik spend half the night, or a third, or two thirds in prayers and devotion. The Qur’anic verse which is addressed to the Prophet confirms this as we read:

“O you who are wrapped up in your mantle, rise to pray by night except a little, half the night or little less or little more.”[lv]

There have been eager salik’s who did not let up on their nocturnal devotions until daybreak and so were able to say the Morning Prayer with the ablution they had for evening prayers. Shaykh Abu Talib al-Makki (d. 996) has mentioned the names of forty such men, followers of the Prophet in the book named Qut al-qulub (Nourishment of the hearts).[lvi] It is recommended that nocturnal devotions take no less than one-sixth of the night time. Know that staying up at night is by Divine Grace and not merely the act of a seeker going in search of his beloved.[lvii] The light of love for getting up at night shall not be kindled in a salik’s heart unless the real Beloved has first made itself manifest in the heart of the believer. When the heart receives such inkling, the willing soul is awakened and in all honour and ecstasy stands in prayer before the Creator of all goodness and asks relief from the agony of separation of lovers and the Beloved.[lviii]

Shaykh’s who achieved spiritual states, all observed nocturnal vigilance. One can find many references to the excellence of tahajjud or nocturnal devotion, in the rising at nights to spend time in prayers of supplication in numerous Qur’anic verses and traditions.[lix] It is related that the most despicable men in the eyes of God are those who lie down like corpses all night and waste their days in loafing.[lx] Therefore, tahajjud means wakefulness as the Holy Qur’an directs night prayers, prayers of supplication, repentance, remembrance of God, reckoning with the self and reprimanding it. These are some of the major rites and exercises of ‘irfan.

XIII: The Four Journeys in Mysticism

Journeys are of various types in mysticism. There is the physical journey which the salik or walker along the Path undertakes. Then there are the inner journeys and journeys that imply a beginning and an end with superior destinations. These moral or spiritual journeys are divided into four journeys, each of which is endowed with very subtle points. The depth of ‘irfan and its sayr and suluk rest in these journeys. We shall not analyse them here in any detail but merely mention the most concise text concerning the four divine journeys:

“Know that four journeys exist for the seekers among the mystics and divine authorities. These are the journey from men towards God, journeying along with the Lord within Him. The third journey is the opposite of the first, it is from God to man with God and the fourth journey is in some respects opposite to the second for it is journeying with God among men.”[lxi]

The first journey is devoted to the removal of all curtains or veils of darkness and light and entering the world of matter, the Heavens and the Lord’s divine domain. The second journey is passing through the world of spirit. However, the third journey, the journey from God to man is superior to the second journey because the latter is sukr or intoxication in reaching God and disappearing in Him, which when achieved, the salik finds new life in the Lord and by his eyes, and through every means. In this fourth journey, he sees and perceives the entire world of matter and Heaven and witnesses the grandeur of the Divine Domain of Power and Majesty and imparts knowledge of actions, attributes and of essence.[lxii]

XIV: ‘Urafa’s character and conduct

The most significant feature of the ‘Urafa or mystics is their behaviour or conduct which consists of patience, humility, advice, sympathy, kindness, moderation, devotion, service, fellowship, joy, generosity, compassion, friendliness, pardon, munificence, fidelity, decency, affection, cheerfulness, calmness, prayer, good temperament, soothed ego, respect for brothers, honoring the elders, mercy toward minors and adults, belittling the ego of himself and rating high all that comes unto him.[lxiii] The Prophet said:

“I have been sent down to destroy bad habits and teach proper conduct to the servants (of God).”[lxiv]

In his counsel to Mu‘adh ibn Jabal, the Prophet in fact compiled all good and proper conduct as he says and ruled out improper conduct:

“O Mu‘adh! Practice chastity and virtue, be truthful in word and action, fulfil promises and return to the owner all that has been left with you in trust. Avoid treason and observe neighbourliness; have mercy and compassion for orphans”, talk softly and offer greetings, do good and do not seek plenty. Treat this world with disdain but cherish the next. Beware of the Day of Reckoning. Try, O Mu‘adh, not to curse the patient and the meek. Make sure you commit no sin; repent immediately if you do and continue in a state of repentance. Know that Almighty God admits those of His servants to His Presence who are equipped with these qualities.”

In regards to the characters of the ‘Arif, Imam Ali says in the Nahj al-Balaghah, (short speeches 325):

“A believer has a cheerful face, a sorrowful heart, a very broad chest (full of generosity), and a very humble heart. He hates high position and dislikes renown. His grief is long his courage is far reaching, his silence is much and, his time is occupied. He is grateful, enduring, buried in his thoughts, sparing in his friendship (with others), of bright demeanor and of soft temperament. He is stronger than stone but humbler than a slave.”

These are some of the qualities that an ‘arif must possess:

1. Humility

An ‘arif’s best quality is his humility. He who entertains humility in his heart can benefit by it all the time. He will be at ease in his association with others and others will be comfortable when dealing with him. The Prophet of God, in spite of his glorious status, set examples of humility by darning his own clothes and shoes with his own hands. He sat down and spoke with the poor, the orphaned and aided them. Bayazid Bastami (d. 875) said:

A man is humble who belittles his own ego and holds it at the lowest level and regards himself as the worse and lowliest living creature.

2. Moderation and Leniency

Another characteristic of an ‘arif is moderation and leniency, forbearance and toleration of others. The Prophet never said an unkind word to anyone. He never derided a food (put before him), nor did he punish a servant. It must be born in mind that the general moderation that people observe is a ‘Irfani characteristic. It is said that everything has an essence. Man’s essence is reason and patience is reason’s essence. The proof of a man’s reason is his tolerance of the pains and hardships inflicted on him by others and also courteous treatment of the people which purges the ego of impurities and palliates mulishness and quick anger. It is recorded in a hadith (tradition) that he who enjoys being lenient most shall reap more benefits.

3. Sacrifice

Another quality of the ‘Urafa is their readiness for sacrifice. Sacrifice generates from a powerful sense of compassion and mercy. It implies the strength of the soul to give away an only available object in sacrifice to others. It also implies patience and independence. Abu Hafs Suhrawardi (d. 1234) said:

Sacrifice means preferring brothers and friends to oneself in all affairs of this and of the other world, so that there is no distinction among blood brothers, relatives, and friends.

4. Pardon or Forgiveness

Pardoning of others is another ‘Irfani trait. Mystics go to the extreme in overlooking the wrongs done to them by others. Sufyan al-Thawri (d. 778) said:

If you do well to someone who has harmed you, then it can be said that you have done good, for returning good for good is the work of tradesmen.

The Prophet said:

“To do good means to pardon the cruelty of other’s to yourself and to make up with and join him who severs his ties with you and to be generous to him who withholds things from you.”

5. Cheerfulness

Good-naturedness and cheerfulness are other ‘Irfani characteristics. It warms the hearts and pleases others. Their joyfulness is a sign of the light of their hearts. As Almighty Allah says in Qur’an:

..There shall be beaming faces, smiling and cheerful.[lxv]

6. Indulgence

Another of the qualities of the mystic is that he is opposed to formalism and fastidiousness in his manner and conduct. A condition for this is imitation of the Prophet in softness of speech and joviality. The prophet once said:

“I do not make jokes and do not utter anything except the truth.”

Taking things hard or being hard to please is bad in everything including dress, food, reception of guests, in asking questions, in speech and in all other things pertaining to this world.

7. Generosity (Infaq)

Infaq is another specified characteristic of the ‘Urafa. Hoarding is abhorrent because the ‘arif sees himself as residing by the seaside. He considers that divine blessings shall remain with him indefinitely, and if one who lives by the sea takes to hoarding water he will be open to ridicule and accused of ignorance. The Prophet says:

“Each day two angels make the following declamation: “O Lord bless him with plenty who is busy performing charitable deeds and destroy the assets and holdings of him who is miserly and withholds things from the people.”

8. Contentment

The Master of the Faithful and Preceptor of seekers, Imam ‘Ali (‘A) said:

“Contentment is a blade that never becomes blunt.”

Dhu l-Nun al-Misri (d. 859) said:

He who exercises contentment shall be free of and at peace with the people and shall gain superiority and excellence over his peers.

9. Putting Off Enmity and Anger

An ‘arif must purge himself of all feelings of anger and animosity. There should be no such feelings in an ‘arif’s heart toward anything or anyone. Such feelings should be replaced by spiritual qualities in an ‘arif. The Messenger of God has said:

“Power and might do not consist in overwhelming someone by force. Mighty is he who controls his feelings of anger.”

10. Peacemaking

The ‘arif is able and willing to make peace, to agree with and befriend others and to give up a feud. The Lord has described His Messenger’s Apostles in these words:

“Let them be hard on Our enemies but lenient and merciful to Our friends.”

11. Proper Gratefulness

When a salik is first developed into a fountainhead for monotheism, he loses all beings in Almighty God. He sees the Lord as the source of all generosity and prohibitions. As he proceeds and develops farther and reaches monotheism in its pure and absolute form, he finds the proof and reason for divine bestowals and withholdings. He sees the cause first and next the effect and such awareness and knowledge are gained by insight. The salik will then offer thanks first to the Benefactor, the Absolute Donor and then to the Cause that has acted as intermediate. It is recorded in a hadith that the first and foremost group of people to be invited to Heaven shall be the thankful ones, those who are grateful in prosperity in hardship, in sorrow and in joy.

12. Status and Dignity

Whenever a salik has knowledge and is aware of the blights of ego it maybe that he confers of what he has to assist friends and uses his status and wealth to improve and reform relations. A man’s integrity comes to a test in four things: interdiction, charity, honour and lowliness.[lxvi]

XV: Love

“O believers, whoever from among you turns back from his religion, then Allah will bring a people [instead of you] whom He loves them, and they love Him.” (Qur’an, 54: 5).

Love is the main gate to the city of God for many Islamic mystical orders specially Safavid and Mawlawi orders (See on Shaykh Safi al-Din Ardebili point of view on love: Ibn Bazaz, Safat al- Safa, p.515, 543-549, Rumi, Divane Shams, Mathnawi).

The basis and cause of love is beauty. Allah is absolute beauty. He is beautiful and he loves beauty.

Love is the engine for suluk/spiritual journey, without which the journey is impossible. By love the salik flies towards the Divine world; and the path of Love is better than any other path. Love makes the heart of the salik clean and soft. Love helps the salik leave behind and overtake his egoism faster than other traditions. Love purifies and filters the heart. The world of the one who is drunken by the Divine wine is the world of love. When the ‘arif reaches the world of love, the drunkenness of love becomes visible.  The spirit is the palace of love because it is from the Divine world. When the ‘arif is familiarised with the Divine love, his heart becomes filled by him, hence there is no place for anything else. “When the ‘arif enters the sea of love, his outside and inside becomes love, for when the ‘ashiq/lover sees himself, he sees love and also when he sees love itself, he sees the ma’ashuq/ beloved.”[lxvii]. For the ‘arif loves the Creator, hence, he loves both the creation and the universe. The ‘arif reaches peace and tranquillity by love. Love is the physician for all illnesses and disorders. It is the cure for all of the soul’s sicknesses such as selfishness, egoism, greed, jealousy, envy, pride, anger and lust. According to Rumi Love is the astrolabe of God’s secretes. It means by love we reach certain type of knowledge which is not reachable by particular reason.

The signs of the love of Allah according to Ghazali in the Alchemy of Happiness-Fourth Rukn, Ninth Principle:

Know that love is a dear treasure, and the claim of love is easy, so that humans think that they are of the lovers. But there are signs and reasons to love, and humans must desire these of themselves, which are seven.

The first sign is that the lover of Allah does not hate death, for no friend hates meeting a friend. And the Prophet said, “whoever loves meeting Allah, the exalted, Allah, also loves meeting him”, and Boyuti said to one of the ascetics “Do you love death?” the ascetic paused in answering, he (Boyuti) said, “if you were truthful you would have loved it.” But it is permissible for one to be a lover, and hate the hastening of death, not death itself. And the sign was that he was restless in making provisions.

The second sign is that the lover of Allah, sacrifices for his beloved, and should cleave to what he knows brings him closer to God, and should avoid what places him at a distance. The fact of a person sinning is not proof that he does not love God, but his love is not with all the heart. The great Sufi Fudhail said to a certain man, “If anyone asks you whether you love God, keep silent; for if you say, ‘I do not love Him, ‘you are an infidel; and if you say, ‘I do’ your deeds contradict you.”

The third sign is that the remembrance and invocation of God should always remain fresh in one’s heart without effort, for one abundantly remembers what one loves, and if one’s love is complete he will never forget it. So if the heart is forced into remembrance, it is feared that his beloved is that which its remembrance is dominant in his heart. While the love of Allah is not dominant, however the love of his love is dominant that he wishes to love. And love is one thing and the love of love is another

The fourth sign is that he loves the Qur’an, which is His word, and the Prophet (Mohammad) and whatever is related to him. And when love gains strength, he will love all human beings, for all are God’s servants, but his loves will embrace all beings, for they are created by Him. As whoever loves anyone, loves his compositions and his handwriting.

The fifth sign is that he will be covetous of spiritual retreat and supplication and will long for the approach of night and the obstacles are removed, so that he may supplicate with the Friend. If he loves conversation by day and sleep at night more that the spiritual retreat, then his love is weak. A revelation came to David that, “O David, do not become intimate with anyone; for except two kinds of people none are separated from me: those who are earnest in seeking reward and turns lazy when the reward comes late, and he who forgets Me and is content with himself. The sign of being separated form me is that I leave him on his own, and leave him amused in the material world” If love is complete all else is excluded

In the children of Israel there was a worshipper who prayed at night, and did his prayer under a tree on which a bird sang beautifully. A revelation came to the Prophet to go and say to him, “Thou hast mingled the love of a melodious bird with the love of Me; thy rank among the saints is lowered.” On the other hand, some have loved God with such intensity that, while they were engaged in devotion, their houses have caught fire and they have not noticed it.

The sixth sign is that worship becomes easy to him and its hardship is removed for him. One said, “During twenty years I performed my night prayers with great difficulty, then in twenty years I enjoyed them.” When love is strong no joy is equal to the joy of worship, for how can it be hard?

The seventh sign is that he loves his servants who are obedient to him and is merciful and compassionate to them, and hates all the disbelievers and the disobedient, as it (the Qur’an) says: “They are strenuous against the unbelievers and merciful to each other.” One of the prophets once asked. “O God, who are Thy saints and lovers?” and the answer came, “Those who as a child is infatuated by his mother, are infatuated by me, as a bird seeks refuge in it’s nest, take refuge in My remembrance, and as a leopard who fears naught becomes angry, they become angry when one sins.”

These signs and the like of them are numerous and those whose love is complete have all these signs, and those who have some of these signs, their love is also to that extent.

Rumi says the following in regards to love:

“Choose the love of that Living One who is everlasting, who gives thee to drink of the wine that increases life.

Choose the love of Him from whose love all the prophets gained power and glory.

Do not say, “We have no admission to that king.” Dealings with the generous are not difficult.” (Mathnawi, book1, verses: 219-221).

“Love is the All-subdeure, and I am subdued by love: by Love’s bitterness I have been made sweet as sugar.

O fierce Wind, before Thee I am (but) a straw: how can I know where I shall fall?

Whether I am (stout as) Bilal or (thin as) the new moon, I am running on and following the course of Thy sun.

What has the moon to do with stoutness and thinness? She runs at the heels of the sun, like a shadow.

The lovers have fallen into a fierce torrent: they see their hearts on the ordinance of love.

Like the millstone turning, day and night, in revolution and maoning incessantly.

Its turning is evidence for those who seek the River; least any one should say that the River is motionless.

If you do not see the hidden River, see the turning of the celestial water-wheel.

Since the heavens have no rest from Him (Love), thou, O heart, like a star, seek no rest.

See the giddy wind howling; see the billows surging at His command.” (Mathnawi, book six, verses: 902-905, 910-914 and 918).

Hafiz says:

“With the love’s eye one can behold the face of our Beloved.

The sea of love is a sea which there is no shore for it.

There the lover should be drowned; he should submit himself to Him.”

The assistance of the traveller on the path to God is by the love not by reason; reason is not capable of leading the traveller to the unity of God.

Qushayri in chapter Love of Al-Risala said that the Messenger of God said:

“Whoever loves to meet God, God, too, will love to meet him; and whoever does not love to meet Him, God, too, will not love to meet him.”

XVI: The Stages and Journeys of suluk

We conclude this paper with a discussion of the stages of the Path. The salik (seeker) goes through numerous states, positions and waystations from the beginning to the end of his procession toward God.[lxviii] There are various views regarding the number of such stages. Shaykh Mahmud Shabistari (d. 1337), says in his book, the Gulshan-i raz (The Rose garden of secrets):

“Two steps to a salik’s path
But nine perils they contain
Loss of identity comes first
Next to cross the wilderness
Known as life’s domain.”

However, prominent mystics contend these positions are seven. Abu Nasr al-Sarraj (d. 988), in his authoritative book al-Luma‘, discusses seven stages, namely, repentance, abstinence, asceticism, mendicancy, patience, trust, resignation or consent.[lxix] In his Mantiq al-Tayr (Language of the birds), Farid al-din ‘Attar (d. ca. 1221) considers the following stages: begging, love, knowledge, independence, monotheism, mendicancy and annihilation (fana) or ceasing to exist. The highest figure for a salik’s positions and stages provided in the books Sad Maydan (One hundred Fields)[lxx] and Manazil Al-Sa’irin (Stations of the wayfarers),[lxxi] by Khwaja ‘Abd Allah Ansari (d. 1089) is one hundred as follow: Al-Bidayat/The Beginning, Alabwab/The Doors, Al-Muamilat/The Bargains, Al-Akhlaq/The Morals, Al-Usul/The Principles, Al-Audiya/The Valleys, Al-Ahwal/The States, Al-Walaya/The Guardianships, Al-Haqayeq/The Realities, Al-Nihaya/The Extremities.[lxxii] The main reason for this discrepancy lies in the mystics’ elaborations or in their summarizing or in the differences of their statuses and points of destination. Or, they may each have posed the issue from a different view.

“From the expanse of oneness
A word was heard, saying:
“I am the Lord”
Another went by distance covered
By boats near and far
Yet another remarked
Of the tress, the mole and line Of the Beloved by candle and wine
When destination came to the fore
Men of understanding reasoned no more.”[lxxiii]

Finally, we conclude our short paper and shorter excursus on mystic states with a summary of the states, stages and way-stations that a salik must go through as given in Suhrawardi’s Adab al-muridin:

1-Awakening (intibah) from the torpor of neglect.

2-Repentance (tawba), which is returning from all that is not of God after having gone astray and to maintain a state of constant repentance.

3-Inabat is going back to the remembrance of God. Some have said that repentance is by fear and inabat is by desire and choice. A third group maintains that repentance is external and inabat is internal.

4-Wara‘a is foregoing something about which a doubt has risen. It means abstinence and self-restraint.

5-Taking stock of oneself and examining one’s soul (muhasabat al-nafs), reflecting upon one’s actions.

6-Sincerity implies tolerance of pain and forsaking comfort.

7-Renunciation (zuhd) is turning away from things that are permissible or religiously sanctioned and to guide or re-channel the desires and passions.

8-Mendacity (faqr) involves absence of self and property and removing from the heart all that leaves the hand.

9-Truthfulness (sidq), both external and internal.

10-Tassabur, or tolerance is forbearance of bitterness and these are the final positions or stages of the novitiates (muridan).

11-Patience (sabr) that relinquishes complaints.

12-Submission is the enjoyment of mishap.

13-Ikhlas (sincerity) implies forcing men out of the Lord’s business.

14-Resignation or trust (tawakkul) means relying upon Him, who destroys lust for all except Him. [lxxiv]

Endnotes:


[i] 1-Mahmud Shabistari, Gulshan-i raz, ed. ¯. Muvahhid, Tehran: Tahuri 1368 Shamsi, first stanza. On this theme in his thought, see L. Lewisohn, Beyond faith and infidelity: The Sufi poetry and teachings of Mahmud Shabistari, Richmond: Curzon Press 1995, pp. 217ff.

[ii] Al-Qur’an, al-mu’minun (The Believers) 23: 115.

[iii] Ibn ‘Arabi, al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya, Cairo: Bulaq 1911, vol. II, pp. 231-32, 310; Muhammad al-Khwarizmi, Sharh Fusus al-hikam, ed. S.J. Ashtiyani, Tehran: Intisharat-i Hikmat 1364 Shamsi, pp. 285, 242; Qadi Sa‘id al-Qummi, Shar¦ Tawhid al-Saduq, ed. N. Habibi, Tehran: vol. I, pp. 40; 54, 101, 507, 686, 703; Javadi Amuli, Tahrir Tamhid al-qawa‘id-i Sa’in al-Din ‘Ali Ibn Muhammad al-Turka, Tehran: Intisharat-i Zahra’ 1372 Shamsi, p. 510. Cf. A. Schimmel, Mystical dimensions of Islam, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press 1975, pp. 139, 189, 268, 291, 382; W. Chittick, The Sufi path of knowledge: Ibn ‘Arabi’s metaphysics of imagination, Albany: State University of New York Press 1989, pp. 66, 126, 180, 204, 250.

[iv] Al-Qur’an, al-Dhariyat (The scattering winds) 51: 56.

[v] Al-Qur’an, al-Hashr (The resurrection) 59: 19.

[vi] Al-Qur’an, al-Hijr (The Rock) 15: 26.

[vii] Al-Qur’an, al-Tin (The Fig) 95:

[viii] Shabistari, Gulshan-i raz, couplet 151.

[ix] Qur’an, al-Ahzab (The Confederates) 33: 77.

[x] Al-Qur’an, al-Isra’ (The Night Journey) 17: 70.

[xi] Al-Qur’an, al-Baqara (The Cow) 2: 31 and al-‘Alaq (The Clot) 96: 6.

[xii] Shabistari, Gulshan-i raz, couplet 329.

[xiii] Amidi, Ghurar al-hikam wa durar al-kalim, ed. J. Urmawi, Tehran: Tehran University Press 1366 Shamsi, vol. V, p. 108, Hadith # 7569; Maytham al-Bahrani, Sharh mi’at kalima, ed. J. Urmawi, Beirut: Mu’assasat al-A‘lami li l-matbu’at 1996, pp. 52ff; Haydar Amuli, Tafsir al-Muhit al-A‘zam wa l-bahr al-khidam, ed. S.M. Musawi Tabrizi, Tehran: Vizarat-i farhang va irshad-i Islami 1374 Shamsi, vol. I, p. 249;

[xiv] Shabistari, Gulshan-i raz, couplet 411.

[xv] Shabistari, Gulshan-i raz, couplet 395, referring to the hadith

My heavens and My earth embrace Me not, but the heart of My believing servant does embrace Me.

See Ghazali, Ihya’ ‘ulum al-din, Cairo: Bulaq 1908-09, vol. III, pp. 1, 12; Ibn ‘Arabi, al-Futuhat, vol. I, p. 216 and vol. III, p. 250 inter alia; ‘Allama Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, 3rd edition, Beirut: Dar ihya’ al-turath al-‘arabi 1983, vol. LV, p. 39; Qummi, Shari Tawhid, vol. I, p. 414. Cf. Chittick, The Sufi path of knowledge, pp. 107, 276, 339-40, 348, 379; Schimmel, Mystical dimensions, p. 190.

[xvi] Ibn ‘Arabi, Rasa’il, ed, N.M. Hiravi, Tehran 1369 Shamsi, p. 70; eadem, Futuhat, vol. II, p. 262; Qummi, Sharh Tawhid, vol. I, p. 491; Majlisi, Bihar, vol. LV, p. 44, hadith # 9-13. Cf. Schimmel, Mystical dimensions, p. 96; Chittick, The Sufi path of knowledge, pp. 217, 328, 364; al-Ghazali, The niche of lights, tr. W.H.T. Gairdner, New Delhi: Kitab Bhavan 1991, p. 44.

[xvii] Ibn ‘Arabi, Rasa’il, p. 29; eadem, Futuhat, vol. II, p. 553; Kulayni, al-Kafi, ed. ‘A. Ghaffari, Tehran: Tehran University Press 1957-60, vol. II, p. 352; Majlisi, Bihar, vol. LXVII, p. 22; Qummi, Shar¦ Tawhid, vol. I, 29-30, 702. Cf. Chittick, The Sufi path of knowledge, pp. 176, 326-29; Schimmel, Mystical dimensions, pp. 43, 133, 144, 277.

[xviii] Qummi, Shar¦ Tawhid, vol. I, pp. 736-37; cf. Schimmel, Mystical dimensions, p. 136.

[xix] Shabistari, Gulshan-i raz, couplets 397-99, 402, 409, 410.

[xx] Schimmel, Mystical dimensions, pp. 98-108.

[xxi] Lewisohn, Faith and infidelity, pp. 274-77, 304ff.

[xxii] See the classic work of Shi‘i Sufism on this topic, Asrar al-shari‘a of Sayyid Haydar Amuli (d. after 1385), tr. A. Yate as Inner secrets of the Path, London: Element Books for the Zahra Trust 1991.

[xxiii] Shabistari, Gulshan-i raz, couplet 455.

[xxiv] Shabistari, Gulshan-i raz, couplet 575-580.

[xxv] ‘Abdul Husayn Zarrinkub, The value of the Sufi heritage, Tehran 1362 Shamsi, p. 101.

[xxvi] Murtada Mutahhari, ‘Ulum-i Islami, Tehran: Intisharat-i Sadra 1366 Shamsi, vol. II, pp. 94-95.

[xxvii] Cf. the hadith in Mirza Husayn Nuri, Mustadrak al-wasail, Qum: Isma‘iliyan n.d., vol. XI, p. 173; Amuli, Tafsir, vol. I, p. 195 and pp. 227-28 for discussion; Schimmel, Mystical dimensions, p. 99. 34.

[xxviii] ‘Aziz-i Nasafi, Kitab al-Insan al-Kamil, ed. M. Mole, Tehran: Tahuri 1362 Shamsi, p. 3.

[xxix] Rumi, Mathnavi-yi Ma‘navi, ed. R.A. Nicholson, London: Gibb Memorial Trsut 1925-40, preface to Book Five.

[xxx] On these concepts, see Martin Lings, The book of certainty, Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society 1992, pp. 1-11.

[xxxi] Al-Qur’an, al-An‘am (The Cattle) 6: 162.

[xxxii] Ibn Sina, al-Isharat wa l-tanbihat with commentaries, ed. M. Shihabi, Qum: Nashr al-balagha 1375 Shamsi, vol. III, p. 369.

[xxxiii] ‘Attar, Tadhkirat al-awliya’, ed. R.A. Nicholson, London: Gibb Memorial Trust 1905-7, vol. II, p.

[xxxiv] ‘Attar, Tadhkirat al-awliya’, vol. II, p. 34.

[xxxv] Murtada Mutahhari, ‘Ulum-i Islami, vol. II, pp. 87, 90-91.

[xxxvi] Shabistari, Gulshan-i raz, couplet 121; Muhammad Lahiji, Mafatih al-I‘jaz, eds. M.R. Khaliqi & ‘I. Karbasi, Tehran: Intisharat-i Zavvar 1371 Shamsi, pp. 66-72. Cf. Lewisohn, Faith and infidelity, pp. 228-37.

[xxxvii] Ibn Siina, al-Isharat wa l-tanbihat, vol. III, p. 375.

[xxxviii] Nasafi, Insan-i Kamil, pp. 12-3, 84.

[xxxix] Nasafi, Zubdat al-haqa’iq, ed. Haqq-vardi Nasiri, Tehran: Tahuri 1985, p. 111.

[xl] Sayyed Mahdi Bahr al-‘ulum, Sayr va suluk, ed. S.M. Husayni Tehrani, Tehran: Intisharat-i Hikmat 1981, p. 131.

[xli] Bahr al-‘ulum, Sayr va suluk, p. 131.

[xlii] Jamul al-Din Khwansari, Sharh ghurar al-hikam, ed. J. Urmawi, Tehran: Tehran University Press 1366 Shamsi, vol. I, p. 260, hadith # 1040 and vol. IV, p. 191 hadith # 5792.

[xliii] Nasafi, Insan-i Kamil, p. 86.

[xliv] Abu Hafs ‘Umar Suhrawardi, ‘Awarif al-ma‘arif, tr. Q. Ansari, Tehran n.d., p.

[xlv] 104. Cf. The ‘Awarif al-ma’arif, tr. H.W. Clarke, Lahore: Mohammad Ashraf 1979 repr., pp. 44-45, 72-73.

[xlvi] Ibn ‘Arabi, Rasa’il, p. 11.

[xlvii] Khwansari, Sharh ghurar al-hikam, vol. VI, p. 3 hadith # 10471.

[xlviii] Ibn ‘Arabi, Rasa’il, p. 15-6.

[xlix] Bahr al-‘ulum, Sayr va suluk, p. 150.

[l] Amidi, Ghurar al-hikam, vol. VI, p. 163 and 166 hadith # 9918 and 9942.

[li] Kulayni, al-Kafi, vol. II, p. 225; Majlisi, Bihar, vol. XV, p. 140; cf. Bahr al’ulum, Sayr va suluk, p. 161.

[lii] Bahr al-‘ulum, Sayr va suluk, p. 151-53.

[liii] Ibn ‘Arabi, Rasa’il, p. 13-14; Amidi, Ghurar al-hikam, vol. VI, p. 124 hadith # 9758.

[liv] Ibn ‘Arabi, Rass’il, p. 17-8.

[lv] Al-Qur’an, al-Isra’ (The Night Journey) 17: 79.

[lvi] Al-Qur’an, al-Muzammil (The Shrouded One) 73: 1-3. ==57-‘Izz al-Din Mahmud Ksshsni, Misbah al-hidaya, ed. J. Huma’i, Tehran: Majlis 1946, p. 314.

[lvii] Suhrawardi, ‘Awarif al-ma‘arif, p. 147.

[lviii] Suhrawardi, ‘Awarif al-ma‘arif, p. 147.

[lix] Javad Maliki Tabrizi, Sayr ila Llah, tr. M. Tahirchi, Tehran 1984, p. 106.

[lx] Javad Maliki Tabrizi, Asrar al-salat, tr. R. Rajabzada, Tehran 1985, p. 457.

[lxi] Mulla Sadra Shirazi, al-Asfar al-Arba‘a, ed. R. Lutfi et al, 3rd edition, Beirut: Dar ihya’ turath al-‘arabi 1981, vol. I, p. 13.

[lxii] Mulla Sadra Shirazi, al-Asfar al-Arba‘a, vol. I, p. 13, scholia of Muhammad Rida Qumshehi.

[lxiii] Abu Najib Suhrawardi, Adab al-muridin, tr. M. Shirkhan, Tehran 1363 Shamsi, p. 72. Cf. A Sufi rule for novices: Kitab Adab al-muridin, tr. M. Milson, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press 1975, p. 37.

[lxiv] Tabarsi, Majma‘ al-bayan, Beirut: Mu’assasat al-a‘lami 1995, vol. X, pp. 86-7.

[lxv] Al-Qur’an, ‘Abasa (He frowned) 80: 38.

[lxvi] Suhrawardi, ‘Awarif al-ma‘arif, pp. 108-20.

[lxvii] Ibn Bazzaz. Shaykh Safi, p.546

[lxviii] Cf. S.H. Nasr, “The spiritual states in Sufism,” in Sufi essays, Albany: State University of New York Press 1991, pp. 68-83; Schimmel, Mystical dimensions, pp. 98-129.

[lxix] Al-Sarraj, Kitab al-luma‘, ed. R.A. Nicholson, Leiden: Gibb Memorial Trust 1914, p. 42. Cf. Nasr, “The spiritual states,” p. 76.

[lxx] Khwaja ‘Abdallah Ansari, Sad maydan, ed. Q. Ansari, Tehran: Tahuri 1360 Shamsi. Cf. Chemins de Dieu, trois traités spirituels, tr. S. de Laugier de Beaureceuil, Paris: Sindbad 1985.

[lxxi] Khwaja ‘Abdallah Ansari, Manazil al-sa’irin, ed. A. ‘Atwa, Cairo: Maktabat Ja‘far al-Haditha 1977; cf. French translation by S. de Laugier de Beaureceuil, Cairo: IFAO 1962.

[lxxii] Ravan Farhadi, Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Richmond: Curzon Press 1995; S. de Laugier de Beaureceuil, Khwadja ‘Abdullah Ansari, mystique hanbalite, Beirut: Dar el-Machreq 1965.

[lxxiii] Shabistari, Gulshan-i raz, couplets 25-30.

[lxxiv] Suhrawardi, Adabb al-muridin, pp. 775. Cf. A Sufi rule, p. 38.


Endnotes:



[i] 1-Mahmud Shabistari, Gulshan-i raz, ed. ¯. Muvahhid, Tehran: Tahuri 1368 Shamsi, first stanza. On this theme in his thought, see L. Lewisohn, Beyond faith and infidelity: The Sufi poetry and teachings of Mahmud Shabistari, Richmond: Curzon Press 1995, pp. 217ff.

[ii] Al-Qur’an, al-mu’minun (The Believers) 23: 115.

[iii] Ibn ‘Arabi, al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya, Cairo: Bulaq 1911, vol. II, pp. 231-32, 310; Muhammad al-Khwarizmi, Sharh Fusus al-hikam, ed. S.J. Ashtiyani, Tehran: Intisharat-i Hikmat 1364 Shamsi, pp. 285, 242; Qadi Sa‘id al-Qummi, Shar¦ Tawhid al-Saduq, ed. N. Habibi, Tehran: vol. I, pp. 40; 54, 101, 507, 686, 703; Javadi Amuli, Tahrir Tamhid al-qawa‘id-i Sa’in al-Din ‘Ali Ibn Muhammad al-Turka, Tehran: Intisharat-i Zahra’ 1372 Shamsi, p. 510. Cf. A. Schimmel, Mystical dimensions of Islam, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press 1975, pp. 139, 189, 268, 291, 382; W. Chittick, The Sufi path of knowledge: Ibn ‘Arabi’s metaphysics of imagination, Albany: State University of New York Press 1989, pp. 66, 126, 180, 204, 250.

[iv] Al-Qur’an, al-Dhariyat (The scattering winds) 51: 56.

[v] Al-Qur’an, al-Hashr (The resurrection) 59: 19.

[vi] Al-Qur’an, al-Hijr (The Rock) 15: 26.

[vii] Al-Qur’an, al-Tin (The Fig) 95:

[viii] Shabistari, Gulshan-i raz, couplet 151.

[ix] Qur’an, al-Ahzab (The Confederates) 33: 77.

[x] Al-Qur’an, al-Isra’ (The Night Journey) 17: 70.

[xi] Al-Qur’an, al-Baqara (The Cow) 2: 31 and al-‘Alaq (The Clot) 96: 6.

[xii] Shabistari, Gulshan-i raz, couplet 329.

[xiii] Amidi, Ghurar al-hikam wa durar al-kalim, ed. J. Urmawi, Tehran: Tehran University Press 1366 Shamsi, vol. V, p. 108, Hadith # 7569; Maytham al-Bahrani, Sharh mi’at kalima, ed. J. Urmawi, Beirut: Mu’assasat al-A‘lami li l-matbu’at 1996, pp. 52ff; Haydar Amuli, Tafsir al-Muhit al-A‘zam wa l-bahr al-khidam, ed. S.M. Musawi Tabrizi, Tehran: Vizarat-i farhang va irshad-i Islami 1374 Shamsi, vol. I, p. 249;

[xiv] Shabistari, Gulshan-i raz, couplet 411.

[xv] Shabistari, Gulshan-i raz, couplet 395, referring to the hadith

My heavens and My earth embrace Me not, but the heart of My believing servant does embrace Me.

See Ghazali, Ihya’ ‘ulum al-din, Cairo: Bulaq 1908-09, vol. III, pp. 1, 12; Ibn ‘Arabi, al-Futuhat, vol. I, p. 216 and vol. III, p. 250 inter alia; ‘Allama Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, 3rd edition, Beirut: Dar ihya’ al-turath al-‘arabi 1983, vol. LV, p. 39; Qummi, Shari Tawhid, vol. I, p. 414. Cf. Chittick, The Sufi path of knowledge, pp. 107, 276, 339-40, 348, 379; Schimmel, Mystical dimensions, p. 190.

[xvi] Ibn ‘Arabi, Rasa’il, ed, N.M. Hiravi, Tehran 1369 Shamsi, p. 70; eadem, Futuhat, vol. II, p. 262; Qummi, Sharh Tawhid, vol. I, p. 491; Majlisi, Bihar, vol. LV, p. 44, hadith # 9-13. Cf. Schimmel, Mystical dimensions, p. 96; Chittick, The Sufi path of knowledge, pp. 217, 328, 364; al-Ghazali, The niche of lights, tr. W.H.T. Gairdner, New Delhi: Kitab Bhavan 1991, p. 44.

[xvii] Ibn ‘Arabi, Rasa’il, p. 29; eadem, Futuhat, vol. II, p. 553; Kulayni, al-Kafi, ed. ‘A. Ghaffari, Tehran: Tehran University Press 1957-60, vol. II, p. 352; Majlisi, Bihar, vol. LXVII, p. 22; Qummi, Shar¦ Tawhid, vol. I, 29-30, 702. Cf. Chittick, The Sufi path of knowledge, pp. 176, 326-29; Schimmel, Mystical dimensions, pp. 43, 133, 144, 277.

[xviii] Qummi, Shar¦ Tawhid, vol. I, pp. 736-37; cf. Schimmel, Mystical dimensions, p. 136.

[xix] Shabistari, Gulshan-i raz, couplets 397-99, 402, 409, 410.

[xx] Schimmel, Mystical dimensions, pp. 98-108.

[xxi] Lewisohn, Faith and infidelity, pp. 274-77, 304ff.

[xxii] See the classic work of Shi‘i Sufism on this topic, Asrar al-shari‘a of Sayyid Haydar Amuli (d. after 1385), tr. A. Yate as Inner secrets of the Path, London: Element Books for the Zahra Trust 1991.

[xxiii] Shabistari, Gulshan-i raz, couplet 455.

[xxiv] Shabistari, Gulshan-i raz, couplet 575-580.

[xxv] ‘Abdul Husayn Zarrinkub, The value of the Sufi heritage, Tehran 1362 Shamsi, p. 101.

[xxvi] Murtada Mutahhari, ‘Ulum-i Islami, Tehran: Intisharat-i Sadra 1366 Shamsi, vol. II, pp. 94-95.

[xxvii] Cf. the hadith in Mirza Husayn Nuri, Mustadrak al-wasail, Qum: Isma‘iliyan n.d., vol. XI, p. 173; Amuli, Tafsir, vol. I, p. 195 and pp. 227-28 for discussion; Schimmel, Mystical dimensions, p. 99. 34.

[xxviii] ‘Aziz-i Nasafi, Kitab al-Insan al-Kamil, ed. M. Mole, Tehran: Tahuri 1362 Shamsi, p. 3.

[xxix] Rumi, Mathnavi-yi Ma‘navi, ed. R.A. Nicholson, London: Gibb Memorial Trsut 1925-40, preface to Book Five.

[xxx] On these concepts, see Martin Lings, The book of certainty, Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society 1992, pp. 1-11.

[xxxi] Al-Qur’an, al-An‘am (The Cattle) 6: 162.

[xxxii] Ibn Sina, al-Isharat wa l-tanbihat with commentaries, ed. M. Shihabi, Qum: Nashr al-balagha 1375 Shamsi, vol. III, p. 369.

[xxxiii] ‘Attar, Tadhkirat al-awliya’, ed. R.A. Nicholson, London: Gibb Memorial Trust 1905-7, vol. II, p.

[xxxiv] ‘Attar, Tadhkirat al-awliya’, vol. II, p. 34.

[xxxv] Murtada Mutahhari, ‘Ulum-i Islami, vol. II, pp. 87, 90-91.

[xxxvi] Shabistari, Gulshan-i raz, couplet 121; Muhammad Lahiji, Mafatih al-I‘jaz, eds. M.R. Khaliqi & ‘I. Karbasi, Tehran: Intisharat-i Zavvar 1371 Shamsi, pp. 66-72. Cf. Lewisohn, Faith and infidelity, pp. 228-37.

[xxxvii] Ibn Siina, al-Isharat wa l-tanbihat, vol. III, p. 375.

[xxxviii] Nasafi, Insan-i Kamil, pp. 12-3, 84.

[xxxix] Nasafi, Zubdat al-haqa’iq, ed. Haqq-vardi Nasiri, Tehran: Tahuri 1985, p. 111.

[xl] Sayyed Mahdi Bahr al-‘ulum, Sayr va suluk, ed. S.M. Husayni Tehrani, Tehran: Intisharat-i Hikmat 1981, p. 131.

[xli] Bahr al-‘ulum, Sayr va suluk, p. 131.

[xlii] Jamul al-Din Khwansari, Sharh ghurar al-hikam, ed. J. Urmawi, Tehran: Tehran University Press 1366 Shamsi, vol. I, p. 260, hadith # 1040 and vol. IV, p. 191 hadith # 5792.

[xliii] Nasafi, Insan-i Kamil, p. 86.

[xliv] Abu Hafs ‘Umar Suhrawardi, ‘Awarif al-ma‘arif, tr. Q. Ansari, Tehran n.d., p.

[xlv] 104. Cf. The ‘Awarif al-ma’arif, tr. H.W. Clarke, Lahore: Mohammad Ashraf 1979 repr., pp. 44-45, 72-73.

[xlvi] Ibn ‘Arabi, Rasa’il, p. 11.

[xlvii] Khwansari, Sharh ghurar al-hikam, vol. VI, p. 3 hadith # 10471.

[xlviii] Ibn ‘Arabi, Rasa’il, p. 15-6.

[xlix] Bahr al-‘ulum, Sayr va suluk, p. 150.

[l] Amidi, Ghurar al-hikam, vol. VI, p. 163 and 166 hadith # 9918 and 9942.

[li] Kulayni, al-Kafi, vol. II, p. 225; Majlisi, Bihar, vol. XV, p. 140; cf. Bahr al’ulum, Sayr va suluk, p. 161.

[lii] Bahr al-‘ulum, Sayr va suluk, p. 151-53.

[liii] Ibn ‘Arabi, Rasa’il, p. 13-14; Amidi, Ghurar al-hikam, vol. VI, p. 124 hadith # 9758.

[liv] Ibn ‘Arabi, Rass’il, p. 17-8.

[lv] Al-Qur’an, al-Isra’ (The Night Journey) 17: 79.

[lvi] Al-Qur’an, al-Muzammil (The Shrouded One) 73: 1-3. ==57-‘Izz al-Din Mahmud Ksshsni, Misbah al-hidaya, ed. J. Huma’i, Tehran: Majlis 1946, p. 314.

[lvii] Suhrawardi, ‘Awarif al-ma‘arif, p. 147.

[lviii] Suhrawardi, ‘Awarif al-ma‘arif, p. 147.

[lix] Javad Maliki Tabrizi, Sayr ila Llah, tr. M. Tahirchi, Tehran 1984, p. 106.

[lx] Javad Maliki Tabrizi, Asrar al-salat, tr. R. Rajabzada, Tehran 1985, p. 457.

[lxi] Mulla Sadra Shirazi, al-Asfar al-Arba‘a, ed. R. Lutfi et al, 3rd edition, Beirut: Dar ihya’ turath al-‘arabi 1981, vol. I, p. 13.

[lxii] Mulla Sadra Shirazi, al-Asfar al-Arba‘a, vol. I, p. 13, scholia of Muhammad Rida Qumshehi.

[lxiii] Abu Najib Suhrawardi, Adab al-muridin, tr. M. Shirkhan, Tehran 1363 Shamsi, p. 72. Cf. A Sufi rule for novices: Kitab Adab al-muridin, tr. M. Milson, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press 1975, p. 37.

[lxiv] Tabarsi, Majma‘ al-bayan, Beirut: Mu’assasat al-a‘lami 1995, vol. X, pp. 86-7.

[lxv] Al-Qur’an, ‘Abasa (He frowned) 80: 38.

[lxvi] Suhrawardi, ‘Awarif al-ma‘arif, pp. 108-20.

[lxvii] Ibn Bazzaz. Shaykh Safi, p.546

[lxviii] Cf. S.H. Nasr, “The spiritual states in Sufism,” in Sufi essays, Albany: State University of New York Press 1991, pp. 68-83; Schimmel, Mystical dimensions, pp. 98-129.

[lxix] Al-Sarraj, Kitab al-luma‘, ed. R.A. Nicholson, Leiden: Gibb Memorial Trust 1914, p. 42. Cf. Nasr, “The spiritual states,” p. 76.

[lxx] Khwaja ‘Abdallah Ansari, Sad maydan, ed. Q. Ansari, Tehran: Tahuri 1360 Shamsi. Cf. Chemins de Dieu, trois traités spirituels, tr. S. de Laugier de Beaureceuil, Paris: Sindbad 1985.

[lxxi] Khwaja ‘Abdallah Ansari, Manazil al-sa’irin, ed. A. ‘Atwa, Cairo: Maktabat Ja‘far al-Haditha 1977; cf. French translation by S. de Laugier de Beaureceuil, Cairo: IFAO 1962.

[lxxii] Ravan Farhadi, Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Richmond: Curzon Press 1995; S. de Laugier de Beaureceuil, Khwadja ‘Abdullah Ansari, mystique hanbalite, Beirut: Dar el-Machreq 1965.

[lxxiii] Shabistari, Gulshan-i raz, couplets 25-30.

[lxxiv] Suhrawardi, Adabb al-muridin, pp. 775. Cf. A Sufi rule, p. 38.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses cookies to improve your browse experience. By browsing this website, you agree to our use of cookies.