Studying their Works
Once I was complete with these sciences [philosophy, scholasticism, and some occult sciences], I diligently turned to the Way of the Sufiyah. I realized that their Way was only accomplished with Ilm and Amal [knowledge and practice].
The summary of their system is: scaling the obstacles of the nafs (bestial self), steering clear from its (the nafs’) despicable traits and evil qualities, and by virtue of that accomplishing a vacuum in the heart for only Allah, and adorning the heart with the Zikr of Allah.
Ilm was easier upon me than Amal. So, I commenced studying their science from their kitaabs, like Qootul Quloob of Abu Taalib Makki (Rahmatullahi alaih), the kitaabs of Haarith Muhaasibi, the miscellaneous articles narrated from Junaid, Shibli and Abu Yazeed Bistaami (Qaddasallahu Sirrahum), and other Mashaaikh. I pored over their works until I came to know of the reality of their academic objectives, and I acquired whatever was possible to acquire from their methodology through study and listening.
The Difference Between Ilm and Zauq
It thus dawned upon me that their finest attribute cannot be attained through study, rather through zauq [tasting of a spiritual condition], haal [experiencing spiritual sensation] and changing one’s traits.
There is a big difference between you knowing the definition of health; the definition of satiation, and the causes and conditions for the two, and between you being healthy and satiated.
There is a big difference between knowing the definition of intoxication – it is a condition where vapours emanating from the digestive tract overwhelm the faculties of the mind – and between becoming intoxicated. In fact, the intoxicated person does not know the definition of intoxication. He has no knowledge of intoxication in his intoxicated state. A healthy person knows the definition of intoxication and its ingredients, whereas he is not intoxicated at all.
The physician whilst being sick knows the definition of health, its causes and tonics, whereas he has lost his healthy state.
Similarly, there is a difference between you knowing the nature of zuhd (abstinence), its requisites and causes, and between your condition being of zuhd and distancing oneself from this dunya.
I thus came to know for certain that they (the Sufiya) were Men of Spiritual States, not men of mere talk, and that whatever academic knowledge I could get I had acquired. Now what remained was not to be gained by way of hearing and studying, but by tasting and treading (zauq and sulook of the Way of the Sufiya).
I thus quitted Baghdad…
Treading and Experiencing the Way of the Sufiya
Then I entered Shaam (the Levant) and resided there for about two years with no other occupation other than seclusion, solitude, spiritual training and discipline, engrossing in purifying the nafs, reforming the character and cleansing the heart with the Zikr of Allah Ta’ala, as I had learnt from the Kitaabs of Tasawwuf.
I used to make I’tikaaf in the Masjid of Damishq (Damascus), climbing up the Minaarat of the Masjid and spending the whole day there whilst locking the door behind me.
Then I travelled to Baitul Maqdis (Al-Quds). I would enter the Sakhrah every day and lock the door behind me.
Then a strong desire moved me to offer the duty of Hajj and seek aid from the blessed sites of Makkah, Madinah and the Ziyaarat of Rasulullah (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam), after having completed my Ziyaarat of Al-Khaleel (the resting place of Hazrat Ibraheem) Salawaatullahi Wasalaamuhu alaih.
I thus set out for Hijaaz (the Land of Makkah Mukarramah and Madinah Munawwarah).
…Then I returned to my homeland… but I gave preference to seclusion, desiring to be alone and cleansing my heart with Zikrullah.
I endured in this manner for ten long years. During these periods of solitude innumerable and countless manifestations dawned upon me. I shall mention just a portion for benefit.
The Sufiya are the True Saalikeen
I realized with certainty that the Sufiya are the True Saalikeen [Treaders] of the Path to Allah Ta’ala; their Seerat [lifestyle] is the best lifestyle; their way is the most correct way; their Akhlaaq [character] is the choicest Akhlaaq.
In fact, if all the intelligences of the intelligentsia, all the philosophy of the philosophers and all the knowledge of the erudite holders of the mysteries of the Shariah are put together to neutralize just one detail of the Sufiyah’s life and their character, and to replace it with something better, the plan will fail. The reason for this is that all the actions, motions, rest and repose of the Sufiya, externally and inwardly, are drawn from the Noor of the Niche of Nubuwwat. And there isn’t on the surface of the earth any Noor besides the Noor of Nubuwwat. [In other words, guidance in this world is solely on account of following explicitly the Sunnah of Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam. Following any other way is darkness and it leads to doom in this world and the Aakhirah.]
What a Journey!!!
In sum, what must be said about a methodology, its Tahaarat (cleanliness) – which is its first requisite – is cleansing the heart completely from everything, leaving nothing but Allah Ta’ala; its key which is representative of the Takbeer Tahreemah for Salaah is total absorption in the Zikr of Allah; and its completion is total self-immolation at the Altar of Allah.
This is the conclusion in regard to what falls within volition and earning from the preliminaries of this Path. In actual fact, it is the Beginning of the Journey. Prior to this was just the preparations.
From the Beginning of the Journey, mukaashafaat and mushaahadaat (divine manifestations and experiences) commence. So much so that they (the Sufiya) observe the Malaaikah, the Souls of the Ambiya, and they hear voices (from another world) and they draw from the beneficial words.
Then the stage goes higher, and visions and images are witnessed, climaxing to a stage words cannot describe, and no orator can explain.
(Imaam Ghazaali Rahmatullahi Alaih)
Al-Munqidh Minadh Dhalaal/Deliverance from Deviation)
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