بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم
What follows are notes on the book “Adab of the True Seeker” by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Buzaydi. Normally, I would have kept the notes and writings on Islamic works to matters directly related to the Aqeedah and Usool of Islam, but this is a very good work and I hope that by composing notes on it, this may help to alleviate some of our ailments so far as implementing the religion is concerned. It is one thing to know what one has to do and this comes with knowledge, but it is another thing to have the enthusiasm and commitment to actually carry out what we know has to be done, and this is always a matter related to the heart.
One important I need to mention concerning this book, and that also has connections with other works on Islamic spirituality. I will present what the Shaykh mentions in his work and give few comments on his discourses/writings. But we all have to remember that many of the things this Shaykh is saying are good and proper within the context that he is speaking, but the question of how the advice he is giving is to be practically applied into our own lives would need a living spiritual master to clarify what points of his advice are to our best spiritual interests.
Then we also have the question that certain paths of spirituality may emphasize more on certain issues, such as trying to forego the normal good things of this world such as lawful good food and drink for all those who join their paths, while other paths have different routes for reaching spiritual advancement. We also have the issue that dissimilar advice may be given for even one disciple at different stages of his/her spiritual journey, while some other Shuyukh may have other prescriptions for spiritual advancement. This is somewhat analogous to the different methodologies evidenced in the schools of thought, only that here we are dealing with the inward aspect of Islam, where the better way to proceed with each person may need modifications many more times than those issues related to the outward aspects of Islam. So I hope that all of us will keep these points in mind while going through this work, so that we may not get confused about some of the things that are mentioned here.
The work itself can be purchased at: http://sharaaz.com/store/adab-true-seeker-p-513.html?osCsid=f92683b636d62a0a16895e2a5f921546
o Before I start with the work itself, there is the issue of what does Islamic spirituality entail? It is meant primarily to make the inward disposition of the heart become like the outward performance of deeds – the rigorous outer performance of deeds is accompanied with rigorous cleansing of the hearts. As we know, this is a very different goal than what we see of many of the claimed followers of Tassawuf, who almost do absolutely nothing of the external obligations, and say that their goal is to reach Allah mystically. Of course, this is totally wrong, since the different sciences of Islam are interconnected, and if someone takes this kind of “mysticism only” attitude, he is like a Hadith rejecter, who dispenses with a huge necessary chunk of Sharia (jurisprudence) and Aqeedah (belief) in his quest to “purify Islam”. But just as there is no purification of the Islamic texts without Ahadith, there is no purification of the heart and mind of a person without the practical performance of deeds.
o First, a passage from Imam al-Sha’fii’s (Rahimahullah) poems is shown at the very beginning of the work. In it al-Shafii (Rahimahullah) says that he is in fact of those who only hope to be among the righteous, though he is not one of them, and that he dislikes the sinners (or more precisely the traders of sin), even though his actions (his merchandise) is that of sinful people.
o The obstinate objector may say that right here we see that al-Shafii’ (Rahimahullah) is in fact admitting of his serious errors and shortcomings, so how does it occur to us to follow a person with such evil qualities, either this following is in belief, jurisprudence, or any other field of Islamic science.
o This objection is even more acute in the case of those Twelver Shias who accuse ‘Umar (Radhia Allahu Anhu) and Abu Bakr (Radhia Allahu Anhu) of wholesale injustice and disbelief due to related sayings reported from them (such as ‘Umar’s (Radhia Allahu Anhu) saying that he wished he were dust instead of his current situation, due to the sins he has accumulated).
o However, we need to understand that this indication is that of the servant who is experiencing a plenitude of reverence for His Lord, and who feels that there is only the Will of Allah between him and turning towards the evil path of perdition. Not only this, but he also understands that his own deeds are really of no worth in the scheme of earning salvation for him in the Hereafter, but rather, it is the Mercy of Allah alone which grants a person felicity; the deeds he performs are only an indicator that, Allah willing, his end will be with the righteous.
o The Introductory quote mentions that “He who does not die first shall never see the Real”. This is a quote from Abu Maydan Al-Ghawth. Even though a quote with this same meaning is not found in the Qur’an, and also only some few things can be pointed from the Ahadith in the exact sense of this quote, the statement does make an important point, which is the basis of al-Buzaydi’s (RA) whole work. This is that the one who takes up the road towards spiritual purification is to behave with the world as a dead person: If someone praises him or insults him, if all the world’s material goods are given to him or he is left with nothing, they are equal to him (as they are to a dead person), for his only goal is Allah, and the world should not distract him from this goal.
o “Seeing” in this quotation, as far as I can tell, does not refer to the Beatific Vision which is restricted to the Hereafter, but rather, it refers to the deep realization the servant may attain in this very world. However, we also need to remember that whoever claims to have attained a “literal and total” union with Allah is a liar and a disbeliever (of course, if he explains what he means in a satisfactory manner, then that is something else, but Muslims are neither pantheists nor panentheists neither in their formal logic nor in their spiritual explanations, so keep this in mind). The truths of spirituality cannot contradict those of established formal Islamic belief.
o The introduction of the book states that propriety (adab) is the fundamental principle of Tassawuf. This is so, to the best of my limited knowledge, since Adab is an extra element, beyond what the laws strictly stipulate, so that one may advance in truly incorporating the practices of the religion into one’s life from all angles. Thus, we certainly know that the Sharia may allow for the husband to order his wife to do a great number of tasks, but if he treats her with Adab, then he will never give her more responsibilities that she can bear, or he my not even tell her to carry out some things he needs out of respect, courtesy, and propriety.
o Of course, normally the rules of Adab are thought of in terms of the spiritual teacher – student relationship, or at most the student-student relationship (and this is also a very important part of the implementation of Adab and where many of its precepts are learned; there are a plenitude of rules about the proper way to traverse these relationships), but here I wanted to stress that this should eventually encompass all of one’s relationships, even those where the person legally (in the eyes of the Sharia) has leeway and permission to act with “dry directness”.
o Also, one sees that ‘Adab’ always encourages one to understand the insignificance of his own existence, and that it is Allah alone who is the Creator, who turns the hearts whichever way He wills. Even if the performance of Islamic acts is modest, yet done with propriety, this yields much greater benefits for people, rather than a huge amount of acts done without ‘Adab’.
o However, we should not let the Shaytan fool us into believing that obligatory acts can be totally or even minimally dispensed with and that cleansing one’s heart is the only way to go. Again, whosoever claims that Shiaria can be dispensed with is not a Muslim, and we have nothing to do with his “spiritual acts”.
o Certain people are seen, who have misrepresented some of the Prophetic Ahadith in this matter. For example, we know of the Hadith of the woman who did modest works and did not annoy anyone, versus the woman who did many voluntary acts, yet annoyed her neighbor, talked bad about people and so on, and that this last lady had ruined herself with the bad actions she committed (in spite of all the good she performed). However, certain people (either intentionally or unknowingly) think that the first woman mentioned did not even do the obligatory action, yet was saved! This is definitely not the case, and it can never be, as no person is above the Divine Laws. At the end of the day we are all equal before the Divine Laws, even if the Laws are different for different classes of people (such as men/women, husband/wife, teacher/student, etc.)
o Coming back to the main theme, this is why it is mentioned that our spiritual works are to be like salt (in their quantity), but our propriety is to be like flour – so Adab is the main quality of the Tassawuf spiritual seekers.
o But now, let us turn our attention to another trick of the Shaytan, in making people think that ’adab’ is just another type of ritualistic endeavor. This may be injected into the thinking of some people, since that which is done abundantly becomes like a “ritual” in the person’s psyche, and what we are trying to do is to break off of doing things in a ritualistic fashion without any inner dimension to it. But we say there are different types of “ritual”, those that are done only for the sake of finishing off a task, then those where the heart of a person is fully involved in it. Thus, we say that your heart should always be turned towards Allah and you should always know that He is watching you, and then all the rituals and outward acts of Islam will be performed by you with this observance of the heart, this love within your heart. If one thinks of the way that parents take care of their children with so much love, they will begin to understand that such type of love does exist, and that Allah should be the final Being we orient our love towards.
o Thus, we have to consider then, the thoroughness of both the outer and the inner aspects of a person. What is required of the outer is well-known, and the inner is to be consonant to this outer aspect. Duality is not allowed in this regard, and is considered a big failing for those on the path of Tasawwuf.
o We are told to reflect in the story of Hanzala and Abu Bakr (Radhia Allahu anhuma), and their concern of having become hypocrites due to their worry that they were not remembering Allah uniformly at all times. The Prophet ﷺ consoled them, saying that it was not possible for them to remain as if angels, but that people ebb and flow in their remembrance of Allah. But one more thing we can learn from this episode is how worried the Companions were in trying to reach that very high level of total remembrance of Allah, and that this was a natural concern of theirs (that is, they did not need to engage in this or that spiritual exercise, but their proximity to the Prophet ﷺ made them wish for this attainment. This also shows that there was an enormous benefit for the Muslims merely by being close to the Prophet ﷺ and being his Ashaab (Companions).
o Coming back to propriety itself, it is of such importance that the perfection of the spiritual path is predicated upon the amount of propriety one has. If you want to see who has surpassed you in Tassawuf, see who has surpassed you in Adab.
o Only by the pure generosity of Allah did He choose the Prophets and the ‘Awliyaa (the “friends” of Allah). Of course, we should talk a little bit of the difference between types of “choosing”: One is related to what Allah gives certain elects without any effort of their own, and this is Prophethood and Messengership. Then, there is that type of election that has an element of the person working for it, and which can be attained through efforts and works. Some people might say that we are intentionally conflating matters, that the original work mentions that only out of Allah’s generosity does He choose both Messengers and His friends (the ‘Awliyaa).
o We say that if we consider the objection from this angle, then the objector is talking about Allah’s “Takwini” type of Iraada, the Will of Allah as tied to the Creation by means of which things necessarily happen. In such a case, it should be noted that the generosity of Allah towards Prophets and Messengers is many times higher than towards the Awliyaa’. This is why all the Prophets/Messengers are the Awliyaa of Allah, but all Awliyaa are definitely not Prophets and Messengers.
o We can say that the generosity in the case mention in the original work refers to the attainment of certain types of gnosis regarding the divine truths that are hidden from the lay folk. But note that even in this case, we cannot say that the Wali has come to be equal to the station of the Prophet. Anyway, this matter can be closed by the saying of many sages that all the Awliyaa of the world put together would not reach the same absolute rank in the sight of Allah than the Prophet with the “lowest rank”.
o Next, it is mentioned that we have to realize that the ultimate and final example for the Sufis is the Prophet ﷺ himself, not their Shaykh or the founding Shaykh. [Because some people may think that the Prophet is too high and elevated to be imitated, so let me try to only imitate my Shaykh and put my Shaykh as my ceiling. But this is wrong thinking altogether, since the Prophet was sent so that people can see a practical example of the culmination of human perfections. Sure, we can never reach that level, but we should nevertheless imitate his example as much as possible]. As we know, the Qur’an itself extols the character of Muhammad ﷺ and says that he is of a great character. Of course, there are many reports of the Prophet’s good manners, his propriety, and his haya’ (modesty), which we do not need to go into details at this point.
o We also understand the importance of propriety and good characters from two Ahadith. In one of them, the Prophet ﷺ says that he was sent “only to perfect good manners”. Now, someone may say, that what about the well-known matters of ‘Aqeedah and Sharia? Allah knows best what the best answers is, but it could be that there is no true propriety independent of the proper beliefs and the following of regulations – which means that mere outward politeness and kindness is definitely not enough to reach the goal, just as only outward deeds does not mean that one’s inside is pure.
o The other narration if presented, where Ayesha (Radhia Allahu Anha) says that the Prophet’s ﷺ character was the Qur’an. Again, Allah knows best, but it could be that just as we see the Qur’an having beauty, eloquence, and excellence in all of its facets, and no Surah of the Qur’an is missing in these characteristics, likewise nothing of the Prophet’s character was faulty or lacking in perfection.
o The author then mentions that Allah’s love for any person depends on how much he follows the Prophet’s ﷺ example and the religion as a whole. So there I no love from Allah except if the person follows Islam. Thus, note that even if someone thinks that he is reaching theophanies by making up his own Sufism or his own meditations independent of the pure Sharia, then he is only deluding himself. He may indeed be reaching something, but it certainly is not the true love for Allah or the religion He has decreed.
o Of course, all of this derives from the Qur’an only, where this is seen in Verse 3:31 [Say, (O Muhammad, to mankind): If ye love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.]. Again then, those who claim to have reached spiritual heights of other religions may have reached up to some point, but even then we cannot say that they have actually reached the truth. As an analogy, think of Christian, Hindu, or even Atheist rational dialectics: We do not claim that every single sentence they say is wrong, as they may be saying some things that are true. But at the end of the day, the final result, the system that is produced, is incorrect and faulty. Only because there may be sentences conforming to truth in their writings, does not mean that we should follow their religion. Likewise then, concerning matters of spirituality, simply claiming to have reached heights (and perhaps having reached those heights) cannot undo the fact that the system of the non-Muslims is incorrect. So keep this point in mind, since it is crucial.
o The author reminds us that the ‘Ulaama (in here, also including the Shuyukh of Tassawuf) are the vicegerents of Allah on this Earth, and the inheritors of the Prophets (as per the well-known Hadith that enunciates this rule). (If it is said by Shias that we have made up the narration and that there is only one Infallible Imam at each point in the world, we say that among many other issues to consider in this vein, is the fact that the true Sharia, Usool, and ‘Aqeedah, which bind correct Tassawuf, are in fact quite different from what the Shias present, so we cannot accept their claims in this regard).
o Thus, the writer makes it clear that generally, one needs a Shaykh in order to reach he perfection of spirituality, since the Shaykh not only possesses theoretical knowledge of the path and how to traverse it, but also has practical experience on how to cross this path. So this is a different type of knowledge (we can call it wisdom) that is only available after actually experiencing the spiritual path and its travels.
o It is moreover mentioned that he does not have a Shaykh, then the Shaytan is his Shaykh. I am not sure if this is a narration of the Prophet ﷺ [it does not seem to be], but even if it is only from the sayings of the sages, one has to consider that there is wisdom behind it, since going across the spiritual path is indeed dangerous, and generally needs the elect to lead one across it.
o The author makes a noteworthy comment in this regard, that the rule [the one who has no Shaykh, then the Shaytan is his Shaykh] has exception, but that this only serves to show that the general rule is true, not vice versa. And this is a very good point to keep in mind, since there are many cases when the opponents of Islam cite an exception in order to show that the rule held by the Muslim religion is non-existent or very weak. But we should push our opponents relentlessly, challenging them to bring all the concrete examples related to their doubt, so that we may bring all the information together nd show that the objection is in fact nothing of importance.
o The noteworthy example of this that I can recall is when Twelver Shias say that the Companions apostatized in mss, and that merely being in the compny of the Prophet ﷺ means nothing at all. We say that, in all honesty, there is a mention of one or two people (or very few) who saw the Prophet became Muslim, and later apostatized and died upon Kufr. But these very anomalous instances only show that the rule is correct: Generally by and large, those who saw the Prophet became Muslims, they remained on Islam, and thus can be regarded as Muslims and as Sahabah.
o Besides, there is a hidden problem in the Shia presentation of matters, which is that they have a rule we do not accept at all, that one needs to accept the Imamah concept in order to be counted as a real Muslim [they may make a distinction between Muslim and Mu’min, but that does not matter for this discussion]. This is the real bone of contention, not whether the Companions did this or that action after or during the Prophet’s ﷺ life. So this matter has to be kept in mind.
o Next, is the declaration that one should have utmost adab towards one’s Shaykh, since he is the one that is to lead one to the spiritual destination. Of course, this is something obvious to the people of (traditional) Eastern culture, even the non-Muslims amongst them. But this is not so obvious to many in the West. For some of them, there is unfortunately little respect for teachers and sometimes even parents, since in their society, the person is brought up to basically “be expelled” [sp as to say] from the social relationships they were born into, so that they can face the world all by themselves. In a way, it can be said that the surprise of parents and elders when the younger people disrespect them in such a society is itself surprising, because one cannot expect there to be deference to others when people are brought up with the abstract idea that they should be a “person unto themselves” and they are to harness the Universe’s energies in order to promote one’s own agenda.
o But we know that in Islam, one has to be respectful to everyone, and we are not allowed to show gross indecency and foul language to whoever we can [this is also something that the Western-dominated culture goes against with their extreme “freedom of speech” that is protective even of insulting and false information].
o It is mentioned that the original author (Shaykh al-Buzaydi) used the famous saying that the spiritual aspirant should be in the hands of his Shaykh like a dead person in his washer’s hands. Again, this is not a Hadith as far as I know, but as the Shuyukh saw that people needed spiritual development, they also saw that those who wished to reach the true heights og getting rid of spiritual sicknesses needed to give up all traces of “being alive” so as to say, particularly in regards to their egos.
o Some people may say that is it not possible that the spiritual teacher may be wrong in what he prescribes to his students, or that he altogether a fake? We say that the aspirant should trust his Shaykh, and Insha Allah he will reach benefits, even if the Shaykh is not of the optimum caliber. Of course, there is no going against the Sharia, but we are talking in here about extra things to do away with spiritual sickness, and letting go of the ego is essential.
o It is mentioned tht Shaykh al-Buzaydi was illiterate. Of course, we know that the Prophet ﷺ was unlettered, but in general, this exposition about al-Buzaydi (RA) shows that Muslims have never been antagonistic against all the people from among the Ummah who were illiterate, not only due to the Prophet’s ﷺ status, but also because we recognize that the written word was not the primary means of information transference in Islam, and that there are many types of wisdom, some of which may not have been written down at all.
o In this respect, I heard from one of my university teachers that when NASA went to seek cooperation from the Russian Space Agency, they found that all of their designs had been passed down from person to person verbally with no written records of the detailed designs. Now, I do not know if my teacher was completely thorough with his explanation, but one can see that different cultures treat even very critical data in different ways, and it is not necessary that lengthy written notes and dissertations have to be recorded in order for the knowledge to remain within the community. So keep this point in mind, and do not discard the value of properly transmitted knowledge simply because it is not written down thoroughly.
o Next, it is mentioned that al-Buzaydi’s works were important during his own time, since the jurists held an antagonistic view towards the Sufis. I will need to ask about this, but we can imagine that, due to the problems sometimes associated with the practitioners of Tassawwuf, and their terminology/definitions that are mostly foreign to the scholars of the apparent sciences, there are bound to be problems from time to time. This is a reason why it is important to let the others of all the sciences to define their terms appropriately and lucidly, so that the problems may be averted in this sphere.
o It is also mentioned that it is true that in our day and age, people just do not like to talk about death. But this is due to the modern proclivity against death due to their attachment to this world, and the fact that they believe there is nothing other than living in this world and working to maximize production, profits, and so on. But of course, in Islam we are told to remember death much, and that death is the entity ending all pleasures on earth, etc.
o Some people may ask an unusual question, which is that would we still be Muslims if death were destroyed? We actually say that the fact of everyone’s death is mentioned in the Qur’an, so it is not a simple question that would be possible to answer with a ‘yes’ without compromising our religion. But even moving beyond this scripture-based answer, we say that we have to worship Allah, even if we had to do so eternally and we had no reward in store for us at all.
o Of course, we know that looking for no reward at all is simply not part of the human makeup, which is why the Qur’an has been sent with the nature of the human very much in Allah’s knowledge.
o We are also reminded of the Hadith, where the Prophet ﷺ answered that the most intelligent of all people was the one remembering death much. From this fact itself, we know that modern society is not constructed on intelligent bases, whatever may appear to certain people.
o A thought may come to some, that are there not some theorists talking about “taking” people’s lives into computers (that is, they would become analogous to code or data in computers) and/or that science may break the genetic code of death and make people live forever? These matters bring up an interesting topic, but first let us say that “computer-lives” are also not something outside of science-fiction, and just like such fiction, how would we not die if the power supply were somehow cut off?
o Additionally, the hope of some people that science will make them eternal shows that the underlying thought of certain people with regards to science is ultimately – in its opposition to religion and the people’s hope that they will live forever – a type of arrogance.
o If we come to the “genetic code” arguments, we wonder how immortality can be guaranteed, given that complications and problems can never be counted out in the genetic engineering projects. If the scientists can find an animal that seems to reproduce by itself in a way that it does not die, how do they suppose it evolved into this situation, and how do they know its genetic material cannot re-evolve into death, if death of the individual comes out to be more advantageous for the survival of the species as a whole. This is one thing we would have to consider from the strict viewpoint of science. These are, of course, very general objection, since there is no concrete evidence on who longevity would be attained through such means as those mentioned above.
o Coming back to the topic of death for Muslims, we see that the Shuyukh have mentioned that one will have to face death, either the natural death while one is immersed in this Dunya, or the death one goes through when ridding one’s self of all evil and useless “outer clothings” accompanying one’s existence.
o It is mentioned that death is a favorite topic of the Sufis, that they never tire speaking of it, and that we should keep in mind the famous proverb: “The one who loves something mentions it in abundance”. For the Sufis, this love stems from the fact that the Universe is too narrow to contain them, and death is their means of escape from this small prison. It seems as if this is a big paradox, but this is because for most of us, we can only see the materialistic world and not the truth of the spiritual world with the eyes of our heart.
o It is mentioned that death is the Sufis’ ticket to eternity, as it is their means of freedom from the constraints of humanity. Some might say that this is too close to the Christian conception, and what they say that human beings are, at the end of the day incorruptible and by that meaning, infinite, God-like, and that it was only the fall from grace that made them slip from this, a fall that was corrected by the crucifixion and resurrection of “God the Son”.
o But I say this presentation is inadequate for the Sufis, since “infinity” is not being referred to in here as an “eternal” quality of their very nature, but rather the fact that Allah will give the believers eternal life in His Paradise when they die.
o The Sufis then, see that the comforts of this world are limited and fleeting, and what is with Allah is lasting, so they discard what is in the world and opt for whatever is with Allah. A very logical choice, even though Sufis are normally portrayed as overly concerned with the heart only. We could say that the choice for Allah over the world is apparent whether one thinks with the mind, or thinks with one’s heart; in Islam there is no contradiction between true logic and rationality and true matters of the heart.
o Sufis use death to identify types of human conditions, connected with metaphorical death, “dying before you die”. Thus, there are four type of death: White death is hunger, red death is fighting the desires of one’s ego, green death is wearing the patched cloak, black death is putting up with harm in general, and particularly the harm of the people. If it is said that this classification is not from the Sunnah in the strict sense, we say that the encouragement to leave the pleasures of this world are ever-present in the Sunnah; Allah knows best, but perhaps the latter Shuyukh considered that these were the most important classifications that had to be stressed for the people in their times, same as an outward ruling may not be exactly found in the Ahadith but may still be derived from the original sources.
o Some might wonder as to why there is a separate category for the harm of the people, why is it not part of the ego category. Allah knows best, and I need to ask about this, but perhaps there is something special about the harm to the ego from the bad things people say about one. This is something that is probably witnessed as true by almost very person, since they really feel bad when someone denigrates them, the impact on the ego is much more than (for the males) even turning their eyes away from looking at women with lust…thus we see tht the temptation of putting up with people’s harm is enormous.
o So there is division of these types of death based on the agony and pain it brings (since death brings pain and agony, and this is what is dreaded). For white death (hunger) it is physical, green death (patched cloak) spiritual, read death (fighting the desires of one’s ego) is psychological, and black death (putting up with people’s harm) is mental. Thus, there I some connection between the psychological and mental, but there is a gradient on this as well.
o It is obvious that death involves pain, and that no one would like to experience any sort of pain except if this gives him a chance to avoid a greater pain in the future. Consider what Allah says in Surah as-Sajdah (the loose translation of which means) that He has made them taste the lesser torment rather than the higher torment so that they may return. So Sufis seek to die this metaphorical death before their physical death. The metaphorical death can only be done after a lot of arduous difficulty, and all of his lowly human attributes are also erased.
o There is one quote that the Sufi is to acquire “godly attributes”. But of course, there is no ontological similarity between Allah’s Attributes and the attributes of the highest Sufi. As we have discussed in other places, when we say that Allah is Merciful, Kind, etc., and apply this same word to the human being, this is only a coincidence in terminology/nomenclature. Please note this reality.
o So the metaphorical death is painful, difficult, and dangerous. This is why a Shaykh is indispensable, since it is the privilege of the elite, and the elite can only be trained by the elite.
o Some might say that this talk of “elitism” smacks of oligarchy and arrogance. But we say that this is the “elitism” of those who have understood the reality. The Qur’an says that “a few of My Servants are thankful”. We should seek to be thankful, and not procrastinate in this matter simply due to the danger of feeling elite… besides, it is an elite of those who show absolute humility, not those who have any arrogance.
About the Author
o It is mentioned that there is very little information about Shaykh al-Buzaydi (RA), other than his Shaykh, the Shaykh of his Shaykh, and his student [al-‘Arabi ad-Darwaaqi, Ali al-Jamal, and Ahmad ibn ‘Ajiba, respectively- Rahimahumu Allah]. But even in Arabic the amount of information directly about Shaykh al-Buzaydi is only scant.
o What is known is that Shaykh al-Buzaydi was from the Banu Salman subtribe of the Ghumari tribe. He started with Hifz of the Qur’an but quickly freed himself from the world in order to engage in worship and wandering. After some years, he felt a desire to meet a perfected Shaykh, who turned out to be Al-‘Arabi ad-Darqawi (RA), the reviver of the Shadhili Tariqa.
o The story of how he met his Shaykh is that ad-Darqawi was supervising some of the students from his Shaykh in the city of Fez, but that these students started to perform unsubstantiated acts, such as appointing Shuyukh from amongst themselves based on their own whims. When ad-Darqawi despaired of guiding them to the proper path in this respect, he asked Allah to grant him someone who could tread along with him on the path. The response came in his heart that someone would come to him from the sea, and so it was, that Shaykh al-Buzaydi went to ad-Darqawi and became his student.
o One interesting thing is that ad-Darqaawi pleaded to Allah to the effect that the remedy has been rejected by the patient, if Allah wills He would keep him alive and if the destiny is for them to die, then that would be his end. Note that he is not angry with the people for rejecting his advice, as people would normally be (i.e. “How dare they reject what I am instructing them in, do they not know that I am leading them to salvation”, etcetera). But he fully understood that guidance is only through Allah and even though he was disappointed in their wayward activities, he put everything in the hands of Allah without letting this become a personal matter of envy and hatred.
o Al-Buzaydi remained under his Shaykh for 16 years. He was given Ijaaza (authorization), plus he was his Shaykh’s only Khalifa (successor) – the endnote says that in fact there were other Shuyukh authorized by ad-Darqaawi, given that al-Buzaydi died 10 years before his teacher.
o Whatever the case about his Khilafah may have been, ad-Darqaawi confirmed the high level of spiritual maturity achieved by his student, to the point of saying that al-Buzaydi was the “master of all of us…whether we like it or not.” In his authorization, it was written that al-Buzaydi is the deputy of the people in “our lifetime and after our death”, and that he had perfected the path so much that others were merely followers of his footsteps, and were only trying to reach the sun of felicity that had settled into his heart already.
o There is also the attestation of al-Buzaydi as a Fard, a Solitary, a position that is even beyond that of Qutb (the Pole). We acknowledge that this statement, as well as some of the things mentioned in the previous note are of a more technical grade, and will need to be commented on more thoroughly at a later time.
o It is mentioned that al-Buzaydi did not have forml training in the outer Islamic sciences, unlike his student Ibn ‘Ajiba. Thus, he only dictated works to his students and that also very few of them. He did, though, send a good number of letters to his disciples, and these offer a glimpse into his temperament, demeanor, and method of guidance.
o So wht we see then is that other than writing books, he was mostly practically guiding people to spiritual perfection, and it is in this field that his legacy is most lasting within the sphere of Islamic sprotuality and particularly within the Shadhili-Darqawi Tareeqa.
o One thing that was noteworthy for me at least was the mention of one commentary al-Buzaydi did on the verses attributed to Imam Junayd (RA) which start with ‘tatahhar bimai al-ghaybi’ (purify yourself with the water of the unseen). I cannot comment too much on it, only to say that the apparent strange conglomeration of words could in fact lead to realizations concerning the facets of purity and of the unseen in our faith – again only under the guidance of those who have understood the inner and outer meaning of such a phrase.
The Adab of the True Seeker
Divesting the Dead Person of His clothes
o The Shaykh goes straight away to the subject of death. The main topic of this work is of course, with respect to the novice, the beginner in the spiritual path, and he says that just as a dead person is first stripped of his clothing, the novice is to first strip himself of the clothing of worldly people.
o The physically dead person is going to Allah, and it is forbidden for him to do while wearing the garments of this world. As Verse 6:94 of the Qur’an points out, the dead person is going singly to Allah just as he was created the first time, leaving behind all that was conferred upon him. Likewise, the beginner in the path is entering upon Allah, and he cannot enter upon Allah while wearing the clothing of the people of habits [ the endnote says that a habit means slavery to one’s own will, ego, and daily routine, and this has to be broken in order to give Allah what is due to Him.]
o Thus, the beginner is to wear the attire of those who have broken their habits, since this has huge secrets and benefits. One of these benefits is to that they stop showing off for people, and instead they sit with the people of Allah and thy attain lofty traits [ the note mentions these lofty traits as those that Allah bestows people when they become the beloved of Allah through supererogatory acts, as mentioned in the famous Hadeeth Qudsi.]
o Another benefit is to walk equally among friend and enemy, and to acquire great quietude. Yet another benefit is to become lowly, humiliated, and alien. The endnote explains that the people of spiritual reality are alien to the people, while those who only perform the outward conformity to the Sharia are known and liked by the people. This is because the outer Sharia pertains to what is between this world and the afterlife, and its people are many. However, those of the inner dimension only pertain to Allah and behold only Him: they are only preoccupied with Him, and this frees them from seeing anything of this world, and even of the next.
o One thing that is noteworthy at least for me in here is that Shaykh ‘ali al-Jamal (who is quoted in this endnote) mentions that the people of outer Sharia are known and accepted by the people. Subhanallah, today even those who try to perform only the outer Sharia, even without knowing any of the deeper spiritual matters, are ridiculed and mocked by many.
o And when I say ‘many’, this unfortunately includes many people who term themselves as Muslims. I can only hope that such people simply do not know what the noble Sharia says about the matters they are mocking about, for if they have no doubt that Islam says something about an issue, while they keep mocking and ridiculing that very matter, then unfortunately their Imaan has left them and their deeds have been wasted. We ask Allah to save us from such a situation.
o One more thing that I see that could be of importance is the mentioning of the “people of Sharia” are many. Allah knows best, but this seems to be because the majority of good Muslims do want to have good and lawful enjoyment in this world, while understanding that they should not transgress the bounds. But those who have achieved the peak of inner reality have no concern for the world to begin with at all, and they behold only Allah, so they cannot even think about enjoyment and pleasure except that they behold Allah. Even the sensual pleasures of the Hereafter are irrelevant to them, since they only wish to behold and be close to Allah. I agree that this is a very high state of inner realization that does not even occur to most good religious Muslims (and how few are those belonging to even this category!), so this is why this presentation may seem strange to many of the readers.
o Yet another benefit of breaking the habits is to become veiled from the workings of causality, and this brings one closer in propriety with Allah the Exalted. Of course, this is obviously true, since when one finds out the truth about Allah being the True Sovereign for everything, there can be nothing other than more humility, awe, and Adab shown towards Allah.
o Actually, here we also see one more thing, which is how spirituality and the most rational of Islamic Kalaam sciences come together. And this is because in the rational sciences, we learn that there is no real causality for material agents, but rather that every object and event comes into existence only due to the direct Creation of Allah, as determined by His Power, Will, and Knowledge. So this is a truth of Muslim logicians that is perceived by the people of spirituality when they forgo of their “habits”. It shows also that there is indeed interoperability (to use a software term) between the different disciplines of Islam, even though one may need to venture somewhat deeply into such sciences in order to understand how such sciences in fact complement and agree with one another.
o Next, it is mentioned that only because of separating himself from the world can the beginner forgo earning a living, and only because of ridding himself from the world does he sit (in the total remembrance of) the Beloved, Allah. This is because making a living is a type of “habit” which prevents all kinds of benefits, and the beginner would have to seek a livelihood while his comportment and behavior are akin to those of the worldly people.
o Allah knows best about the total meaning intended in here, but one small tangential comment we can make is that is seems that (especially today), the things that have to be done in order to earn a living and advance in one’s professional life are many times blameworthy according to the Sharia. There are, of course, those who will keep an eye on the pleasure of Allah by following the Sharia while seeking their living, but such people are the exceptions rather than the rule. It does seem though that Shaykh al-Buzaydi (RA) is going even beyond this point of adherence to the Sharia while seeking a livelihood and talking about a total break with the world.
o The next paragraph shows that this is indeed what the Shaykh meant. He says that the Gnostics command that the beginner should divest his outward and reject it. Also, they say that this shedding of the outward is fight between himself and worldly means, and that he has to leave these means, either by force or by choice. They say that if the novice is sincere, he will leave these means by choice, but otherwise he will have to do it by force. But also in this last part, if after being forced, he persists in this divestment of means, then he will choose to leave worldly means (by virtue of his perseverance).
Paleness of the Dead Person
o We know the dead person looks pale, and so does the novice. For the beginner, this means that his spirituality has become preponderant over his humanity, that he has gone from this lower realm, this Dunya (the low place), to a higher realm.
o So the reason for the paleness is that the inhabitant of any world or realm is colored by that world due to his attachment and affinity with it. Even if we consider the small vermin of the soil, we will notice a compatibility in their colors, black, yellow, red and blue soil with vermin of the same color. Much more so then for the beginner in the spiritual path, if he departs to the other world he will attain its spiritual-based color, and likewise if he cannot detach himself from this world he will retain its color and will not be pale.
Closing the mouth of the dead person
o Silence is what we gather from closing the dead person’s mouth. When the novice goes to the spiritual world, his meditation and beholding take him away from himself and from his ego. This state takes over the outward appearance, so much so that only the movement of limbs differentiates him from fully physically dead person. Months or years may pass without him saying anything, since he is absorbed in meditation and beholding. The most he may do are gestures, akin to the one who cannot speak a word.
o The associated note gives a quote from Ibn ‘Arabi, where he says that silence is either of the tongue or of the heart. Silence of the tongue is not to say anything except if it is about Allah, with anyone but Allah. And silence of the heart is not to think of any created being. If one is silent with one’s tongue but not with his heart, his sins shall be made manifest to him. The one who is silent with his heart ad tongue, then Allah the Exalted will disclose Himself to such a person and his secret will be manifested to him [this last position I will need to ask about in more detail]. The one who is only silent in his heart will utter words of wisdom. But whoever has no silence in either his tongue or his heart is under the control of the Shaytaan. Silence of the tongue then is the characteristic of all, the common good religious Muslims and the spiritual travelers, while that of the heart is for those who are near to Allah and behold Him.
Closing the Eyes of the Dead Person
o In this there is an indication of absence, for the dead person does not see or hear the world; he is totally absent from it.
o The endnote mentions that absence means that one’s heart does not notice other people’s state of affairs due to preoccupation with one’s own state. But this may reach a stage where one is absent from others and even one’s own self upon remembering the rewards and punishments of Allah. There is the mention of Al-Rabi’ bin Khaytam (RA) passing out when he saw a piece of iron burning in the furnace, which reminded him of Allah’s punishment. In here the absence exceeded the limit his heart could tolerate, and became a swoon on his physical body as well.
o So what we see is that the novice is also absent from this world, he does not see it or hear it. And how could he, when his heart has gazed upon the other world, and the lights of that world have blinded the feeble lights of this material realm. But, we also see that for those who let their hearts grow weak, they can only see the lights of this world with their physical eyes.
o The associated endnote is from Shaykh Ibn ‘Ajiba (RA), who mentions that spiritual insight sees nothing other than Allah, and the physical eyes see nothing other than the Created. When Allah favors someone with spiritual insight, He busies that person outwardly with His service (the worship of Allah, etc.) and inwardly with His love, until the slave sees nothing other than subtle spiritual meanings and eternal lights [I am not entirely clear on what this means, will need to ask about it]. But also when Allah forsakes someone, he is busied with servitude to the creation and their love, until he sees nothing save the sensory and serves only the Creation.
o Someone might ask that how do we as Sunnis say that we will see Allah in the Hereafter with our physical eyes, while here the spiritual heart is mentioned as the seeing organ. We say that this is known through the explicit Ahadeeth regarding this matter; besides, there are two things to consider: Firstly, there is nothing in the saying of Ibn ‘Ajiba explicitly contradicting what Sunni belief says about this matter; that is, if we can see with our spiritual heart in this world and not with our physical eyes, why should this last possibility be forbidden in the next world? Such a forbiddance is not established through his quote. Secondly, the spiritual heart is also something created, while its ability to see [its insight, its Baseera, in this regard] is true. The objection of our opponents is that a created entity cannot see Allah, while even if we take only the spiritual heart (and provisionally accept the argument of our opponents), our position that created entities can see Allah is established without doubt. Of course, the weakness was that our opponents thought that only physical entities are created, while this is a rejected supposition, and a very strange one for people who profess Islam.
o If someone says that no, the impossibility of the seeing of Allah is there due to the necessity of a physical distance separating us from Allah (and this is the impossible condition), we say that even for the spiritual heart, it has its own dimensions, its own “distance” with respect other entities – even though the “length” in this case is something we may not be familiar with in this material world. And yet, the seeing of the spiritual heart is true, and thus the objection is not strong.
o So, the effect is that looking at any given world and persisting is doing so, will leave an imprint upon one’s heart, and his eyes will be disposed towards it. But when the ‘Abd (servant) came to this material world and his looking at it continued on and on, the “habit” that became formed was that the light of his spiritual eyes became dimmed out. The endnote says that the Universe is in fact darkness, and only the manifestation of Allah in the Universe is what illuminates it.
o So it is said that the ‘Abd initially saw the Universe with his physical eyes, a contingent beholding another contingent. But had he seen it with his spiritual Baseera (insight), he would be absent from the Universe due to beholding its Maker, Allah. Thus, if one is with those who ponder on the signs of Allah and meditate on His Creation, he is a vigilant. But if he is with those who are absent even from the signs, one is a beholder (since he can only see Allah’s Light, not the darkness of the Universe). Both have reached spiritual maturity, but the first reaches Allah through things, and the second reaches things through Allah; and this is a marked difference in the path taken towards maturity.
Positioning the Dead Person Towards the Direction of Prayer
o In this there is an indication that one’s physical body should be with Allah when one’s heart is already with Him. It is pointed to by Allah’s statement in Verse 41:30 (translation): “Those who have said: ‘Our Lord is Allah’ Then have gone straight…”
o The wisdom of positioning the dead person towards the Qibla is to make his last moment a time of turning towards Allah. Thus, the spiritual seeker’s arrival is as quick as the extent of his turning to Allah; his ascension is also proportional to his turning towards Allah after his initial arrival. Thus, the reality of Tasawwuf is said to be Ikhlas (sincerity) in turning towards Allah with that which please Allah, in the way that it pleases Him. Thus, when the ‘Abd is sincere in going to Allah both inwardly and outwardly, Allah will give him spiritual realization and he will become an ‘Aarif (Gnostic).
Purifying the Dead Person
o As we know, when one dies, his body and clothes are purified. Translated to the novice’s realm, it is an indication of perfection for him who understands that majesty is identical with beauty. The note says that this is so since the spiritually realized person experiences the Divine Oneness, rather than conceiving it only intellectually.
o The ‘Aarif’s purity of body and clothes are proportional to his spiritual perfection, for if the inward is clear and serene, the outward will also hasten to wear the attire of loyalty. This attire is the Shariah, and as per the Hadeeth, the very end of perfection is Sacred Law.
o This next point is important: Just as a dead person is quickly washed and shrouded, the novice should likewise quickly return from spiritual reality to the Shariah, from being blamed to being approved, and from gatheredness to individuatedness.
o This last issue needs some explaining, provided in the associated note: Individuatedness is to behold the senses of the creation and to fulfill the rulings of this beholding through servitude of Allah. Gatheredness is beholding the meaning that subsists in things. In other words, individuatedness is beholding the vessels, gatheredness the manifestations. The vessels are the locus of the Sharia and the manifestation is the inner essences of spiritual realities. Thus, individuatedness without gathredness is depravity, decline, and ignorance of Allah; gatheredness without individuatedness is blasphemy and unbelief, since it leads to the nullification of the Sharia as brought forth by the Messengers. Of course, this last possibility is indeed very grave and is to be avoided at all costs, but the first possibility should also be avoided, since it leads to laziness concerning following the internal aspects of the Sacred Law [that is, it leads to only following the minimum and to fulfill only the “letter of the law”]. Allah knows best, but in extreme cases it may lead to arrogance and pride, since Allah’s Total Control over everything is ignored and thoughts may start coming to a person that one’s deeds are only due to one’s own efforts, and this is false in its own right. This is why there should be a balance between these two dimensions, and also why the beginner must “come back” to the outer Sharia in full, since perfection must be of both the inner and outer aspects of Islam.
o When the novice “comes back to perfection”, this is at a time after his ego dies out, his senses are cut off from the world, and his heart is enlivened by Allah.
o There is also mention of “receiving his wedding day in the higher world”. This is explained in he endnote by saying that the meaning of Divine A’ras (bride/grooms) pertains to the stopping by of the traveler in a known placement in travel. The spiritual type of travel is related to those realities disclosed to the heart repeatedly. It is also mentioned that Allah’s jealousy pertains to His saints, in His concealing them from His servants (that is the generality of the Creation), and making concealment beloved to them. He also blessed them with knowledge of the rulings regarding the spiritual dwellings, and they are with Allah behind the veils of habits, Allah’s favorites and His ‘Araais (bride/grooms)
o As we know, there is a known Hadeetrh saying that “purity is half of faith”. This is because half of faith is ridding one’s self of bad traits, and the other half consists in acquiring good traits. There is also proportionality in that doing away with outward blemishes cleans up one’s inward faults. In this regard, we have another Hadeeth saying that “religion is cleanliness”, and as we know, the Sharia is built on cleanliness.
Cutting the Shroud of the Dead Person
o In this cutting and stitching of the shroud for the dead person’s burial, the lesson is to gather up patches, stitch them and wear them with happiness, cheerfulness, and presence of heart.
o There is a long note on this: First, we are to consider Verse 7:26, where Allah mentions the garment He has sent down on the humans, along with the “feathers”, and that the garment of Taqwa is better.
o The explanation here is that the outer garment is that which covers the legal nakedness, a protective garment. The “feathers” (the embellishment) is what exceeds this, as Allah has brought this out for His servants from His Mercy. This is for the believers in this world and (particularly so in) the next, and Allah, out of His Mercy, does not hold us accountable for this “excess”. However, if the person is proud when wearing this “excess”, then this is merely a worldly embellishment, and is blameworthy.
o We also see that the Verse mentions the “garment of Taqwa”. This resembles the outer garment, some of which is necessary to cover inward defects, and some of which is an “excess”, the attire of good manners, such as Nawaafil acts of worship, etc. Just like the outer garment, the rulings of the garment of Taqwa vary according to one’s intentions and aims.
o When the folk of Allah understood this, they wished to combine both garments so as to have both felicities. From what I understand, and Allah knows best, it is the wearing of all types garments in order to obey Allah to the utmost, and to be happy and at peace with respect to following Him. But ultimately they had to wear ([only] I need to ask about this) the attire of “outer Taqwa” in such a way so as to conceal one’s shameful traits: The shame of lying with truthfulness, betrayal with trustworthiness, and ostentation with sincerity. The adornment in here consists of other traits, such as being silent about what does not concern one, lowering the gaze from the unlawful, giving people the benefit of the doubt, and so forth.
o Anyway, the beginner should be happy when wearing the patched cloak, since this cause pain and sadness to his base ego, and this contains many benefits and tidings within it. Specifically, the first of these tidings is entering unto Allah, for this is what the Prophets did, and the Awliyaa are imitating them in this. The second benefit is to have no share in this world. Had the Islamic Sharia not ordered the Muslims to cover up our nakedness, such spiritual seekers would have gone about totally naked. They have complied with the outer Sharia by covering with garments, but in the spiritual realm they have no garments. The note explains that this is so since the outer garments are things extraneous to them, but in the plane of spiritual truths only, all they need to achieve is reaching Allah, and this must come from within.
o An interesting issue which I think is relevant is that we see some of the mendicants in the Eastern Dharmic traditions going about naked or almost naked in their spiritual wanderings. This seems to be a shedding of the Sharia that had been assigned to them many centuries ago, in the pursuit of spiritual perfection. Of course, we say that such spiritual perfection is right now not possible for them in this condition of theirs, since everyone in the world is bound to follow the Muhammadan Sharia without any excuses. But even if we had only considered the issue from an angle when their Sharia was still applicable, what happens is that such nakedness would have been a dismissal of individuatedness in favor of gatheredness.
o This seems to be the case as well, since it is under the influence of such “ecstasies” that one may make the huge doctrinal blasphemies of considering pantheism and panentheism to be true – that is, thinking that the Divine literally permeates the Universe, which is due to thinking that “only Allah exists, only the Real exists”, while not taking into consideration that created existents have relational and dependent existence, but this is a type of existence nonetheless. Granted that such thoughts may come about in a state of spiritual drunkenness, but to use this as the basis for dogma leads one straight to perdition.
o Now, the third benefit is of being of those who practices the Islamic Sharia, as there are a number of traditions showing the superiority of wearing that which entails no airs, and of wearing patched clothing. And as we know, that which entails airs is a terrible thing to wear, since no one wears anything with pride save if he does not recognize Allah in his heart at the time of wearing such clothing.
o Now, no one moves for his ego save that he forgets Allah, and if he dies like that, Allah will “forget” him on the Day of Judgment. Another Verse is also brought forth showing the distinction between those whose bodies are pleasing [in the context of the hypocrites], and the people of the inward, whose outer bodies may seem displeasing, since they have thrown the world and its people to one side.
o The associated note says that there are many Islamic texts showing that the believer is tried with illness, humiliation, etc., and that these take a toll on his body and his wealth while his sins are expiated. Not so with the disbeliever, who will come strong and with apparent health, but will not weigh even an insect’s wing in the sight of Allah.
o Now, the fourth tiding is that of throwing aside haughtiness, for the one wearing the patched cloak will never display arrogance, and will not oppress others with his state. And how can he do this, when what surrounds him of sensory things are patched wrappings, and what will happen is that Allah will call Him directly into His Presence. The endnote provides the well-known tradition that no one will enter Paradise if he has even a mustard-seed’s weight of haughtiness in his heart, and likewise he will not enter Hell if he has this small quantity of faith in his heart.
o There is one relationship that seems to be true when analyzing the extreme of haughtiness. Just as we considered that the extreme in gatheredness may fall into the blasphemy of discarding the Sharia, and with it discard all the sensory things to the point of embracing pantheism or panentheism, if someone were to become haughty and immersed only with sensory and material things, he may become a materialist, even to the point of atheism. This is why the most arrogant of peoples, Fir’awn, did not even want to accept Allah’s existence, and said that only he himself was the “god” of all, something that even other very evil peoples never said to their Messengers (Alayhima Salaam). As we know, Fir’awn went all the way to the limit that even while he was drowning and at his weakest moment, he did not want to say that he “believed in Allah”, but rather he said that he believed in the god that the Israelites believed in. So this is very important in our day and age as well, since the extreme of materialism and self-reliance can only lead to such types of thoughts about the nature of reality and of the true religion/ideology.
o The greatest Adab (propriety) one can have with Allah is to set haughtiness aside, and this cannot be done totally except by beholding only Allah and leaving aside the common folk. There is the presentation of Ayah 7:143 [about Allah revealing Himself to the mountain and causing it to crumble] and that this is the mountain of haughtiness, and it cannot be discarded except if the person has great vigilance or is a beholder of Allah.
o The endnote says that the reference to Verse 7:143 is in fact an allusive Tafseer used to bring about spiritual meanings – the apparent meaning is of course that the physical mountain was crushed in front of Musa’s (Alayhi Salaam) eyes. Such allusive interpretations are complementary, rather than contradictory, to the outer apparent interpretations. Thus, there is no claim to bringing something new to the religion, but rather there is a new understanding of the Qur’anic truths. In this respect, what we have to remember is that there are narrations indicating the huge depth and shades of meaning of the Qur’an. Thus, there is no nullification of the apparent Tafseer, or a claim to be the “only ones who understood the Verses correctly”.
o We finally have to remember that the Speech of Allah accords with His Knowledge, and Allah’s Knowledge encompasses the absolutely true, the contingent, and the absolutely impossible, so it is not far-fetched that such meanings, plus the many esoteric and exoteric meanings that the ‘Ulaama and Mashaaykh have extracted are correct – along with many other interpretations they have yet to uncover.
o There is also one thing we have to consider, which is that the scholars carrying out exegesis give their interpretations based on what their eyes see: If they are more turned towards the exoteric, then they will give a straight-forward apparent Tafseer, but if they are more attuned to seeing with the eyes of their inner heart, then they will see something additional, such as Verse 7:143 referring to the tearing apart of haughtiness. So one has to keep in mind from which angle one sees, and that this second Tafseer is just as vivid and true as the first one, for those who have spiritual insight.
o So, haughtiness is a great darkness, that can only be done away with the great light, which comes either at the end of great vigilance or at the beginning of beholding. Note that normal beholding is much greater in this regard than vigilance, for the reasons alluded to previously in this work.
o The fifth tiding is that of contentedness with regards to the world; if he is strong, he will call contentedness by his own choice, otherwise contentedness will call him; but whichever way, this calling is inevitable, since he is wearing the patched cloak.
o A sixth tiding is of casting aside the extra burdens that normal people who are heedless of Allah are carrying in their lives. Thus, he who is wearing the patched garments is satisfied with whatever food and dress he receives, without any affectedness [artificially airs] from his side.
o The seventh tiding is to sleep wherever he might be whether in populated or deserted areas, eating whatever he might find, and walking at any time of the day. Thus, he eats, sleeps, and walks based on whatever Allah puts in front of him, and he is happy with that.
o The eight tiding is of him being safe from everything and everything being safe from him. Allah knows best, but this seems to be alluded to by a number of Islamic texts, where, in the very general meaning, the believer is the one from whom others are safe, the creatures of the Earth are always supplicating for him, and also that when he dies, the earth mourns for his passing away since he was a beneficial presence in the world.
o The ninth tiding is that he is not magnified by praise or diminished by blame. In fact, a counterintuitive thing might happen. Since the spiritual seeker is always blamed by the masses, he might feel magnified by blame, and this is what he has to fight against in his heart. But as for praise, he will be diminished by it, since he is very conscious of the effects this has on the “share of his ego”.
o The tenth tiding is of this world becoming his enemy, even if he takes off the dress of divestment. This is because the worlds considers him a traitor and cheat for having totally abandoned its means and trusted only Allah. But the world never turns away from the people of worldly means, since they remain, at the very end of the day, loving and sincere to this world.
The Stillness of the Dead Person
o In this there is a pointer of the beginner’s trust in Allah, and of paying little attention to sustenance due to how close he is to Allah. So we see that when a Muslim dies, he has departed from this world, he does not plan for tomorrow or make any choices about his life. Likewise, the perfect beginner is not worried about provisions, and he neither chooses nor plans. The Shaykh mentions that worrying about how to gain sustenance is that which cuts of one from the clear suns of spiritual truths.
o Also, if the novice can actually sustain this blow regarding sustenance and come out unscathed, then there is nothing to fear for him: Wisdom remains with him, and all misfortune shall disappear from him. However, what happens most often is that the beginner stumbles in this crucial matter and loses his way. This is because such people eventually capitulate to their original “habits”, and become disposed to what they possess of material goods, and become far away from properly knowing Allah’s treasures.
o The Shaykh says that when you see a novice worrying about sustenance from apparent material sources, then know that he has been devoured by individuatedness, because the people of gatheredness know that their needs are with Allah, from Allah, and unto Allah. As the Qur’an says (in the general meaning, in Surah at-Talaaq Verses 2-3), Allah will make a way out, provide from whence there was never even a reckoning for it, and will suffice the people of Allah, those who fear and put their trust in Him. As was mentioned earlier, if the novice can get rid of this habit of worrying about sustenance, then all other habits will flee away from his automatically.
o There is a comment about Verses 65:2-3 in the endnote, from Shaylh al-Bursaawi (RA), where he says that poverty and sustenance may be of this world of other-worldly. Obviously, the worst poverty relates to the next world, and the best sustenance is the spiritual one. We see that the best of Allah’s Creatures are the Prophets, followed by the saints, and for all of these, they were straitened with outward poverty, and there was great benefit in that for the spiritual progress in this world and their spiritual provisions in this world and the next. So much so that we know of the narration where the Prophet ﷺ was offered the keys to the treasures of this world, but he chose to remain hungry for a day (or two days), and eat one day. This type of indigence is something we have to keep in mind, since it was not forced upon Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, yet he willingly went ahead with it in order to achieve very high stations.
o Secondly, there is a narration where the Prophet ﷺ told one of the Companions to be in a state of ritual purity if he wished to be relieved of his poverty. What this shows is that those in a state of purity are given either both outward and inward provisions, or only inward provisions, which include gnosis, wisdom, and knowledge of the spiritual realities.
o Turning the Dead Person while Washing Him
o The pointer here is to the beginner giving himself up to his Shaykh and putting himself in the Shaykh’s hands, so that he may be turned left and right in order to achieve spiritual realization – which will come very fast if the beginner truly implements this advice.
o The advice is also given for the novice to be an indication to his Shaykh for the common people, to answer the gestures of the Shaykh and to answer the requests of fellow-seekers; beyond this, there should be no listening to, or meeting with anyone else.
o In the turning of the dead person while washing him, there is also an indication of withholding harm from others and putting up with their harm. If the dead person is turned violently during the washing, he does not care since he is dead, and likewise the perfect beginner does not occupy himself with the harm done to him by others, and this is one of the pillars of Tasawwuf.
o Now, in the metaphorical death there is never negation of lack of interest of the Sharia. Thus, if there is a contravention of the Sacred Law, the novice will definitely get upset and angry, but this is not due to a harm done to him personally, but due to a “harm” done to Allah’s religion. This is just like what has been reported of how the Prophet ﷺ would get angry only for issues related to Islam.
o Next is a Hadeeth from the Prophet ﷺ where he told the people that if they wished to see a walking dead man, they should look at Abu Bakr [or Talha (Radhia Allahu Anhum) according to the well-known narration]. This was because their ego had died with respect to things of this world, but their spirits were live through Allah. Thus he – and whoever follows this path – had died from both the angle of spiritual reality and that of the Sharia [need to ask what this final phrase means].
o If someone were to ask that doesn’t this person also need to die the physical death, the answers is that such a death is not like the death of ordinary people, since he has already passed the huge hurdle of getting rid of this lower world. It is this love for the Dunya that makes death bitter for most, but had they known the spiritual realities, they would have longed to leave this world and go to Allah.
Seeing the Nudity of the Dead Person
o The washer gets to see the nakedness of the dead person during the washing, and the Sharia allows for this. The indication is that the seeker should point out his ugly blemishes to his Shaykh, who is to cure him of his diseases. He may also turn his heart to Allah and ask for this cure in an “inward” manner, since he may be too shy to show his metaphorical nudity to his Shaykh – and Allah will put in the heart of the Shaykh as to which blemishes should be cured. But if there is no desire for curing of one’s blemishes, the Shaykh will not cure them, even if he knows what the disciple’s problems are. The advice is to hide one’s good traits and reveal one’s evil traits to ones Shaykh, so that all ills may be cured rapidly.
o The seeker should follow the outward words of the Shaykh, since the Thaahir and the Baatin of the true Shaykh are one and the same. Besides, the inner state of the Shakyh definitely benefits the people, even if they do not know what it is. The endnote mentions that certain Shuyukh of Tasawwuf were of such high caliber, that even totally ignorant people, even Jews or Christians, would reach Allah very quickly once in the presence and under the guidance of such Shuyukh. [If someone asks as to how can a Jew or Christian “reach Allah” without being a Muslim, we say this is a wrong supposition. The status of such Shuyukh was such that they would look at this Jew or Christian and order them to enter Islam, and the Jew or Christian’s heart would immediately change and accept Islam, and from this point their spiritual journey would start.]
o More things are mentioned about the true worth of a Shakyh. He is like water running underground, which has extreme benefits for the one who knows how to dig it up and use it, but for the ignorant ones, no amount of freely flowing water makes any difference to them.
o Or it can be likened to herbs and plants used for making medicine – they are useful and even life-saving in the hands of experts, but they have almost no use in the hands of others, since these latter will simply throw them away, thinking that they are weeds, etc.
o And another analogy is that the Shaykh is a house full of gems. The wall is made of iron, the door of hard steel, and the key is the true saint who knows the reality of volition. The novice seeker will have this door opened for him so that he can take his need of these gems (i.e. the light from this Shaykh), his whole life changing due to this encounter.
o The endnote makes a comment about volition: it is the starting point for the seekers, the intention to reach Allah through spiritual struggle, the heart’s restlessness until they reach the goal, along with other descriptions highlighting their love for Allah, sincerity with the community, and their perseverance in patience and retreat from the world.
o Another indication in this aspect of the dead person is that just as the Sharia does not consider the dead one blame-worthily nude in the hands of the washer, likewise the novice has no nudity in the hands of his Shaykh. The purification of the dead person with the washer is outward, the one of the novice with his Shaykh inward.
o Yet another analogy is presented. The beginner with his Shaykh is like a glass bottle in front of a physician, who can see the inside from the outside when others cannot do so. Likewise the washer of the dead one can see his inward and outward for a limited amount of time. There is a distinction in here though, in that the seekers show their ‘nudity’ to their Shuyuukh continuously. The reason for this is that both the sense and the meaning of the seeker are alive.
o The endnote explains what this denotes: Sense is the outward solidification of things, meanings their inward subtilization. The senses are the vessels carrying the meanings. The example is that the Universe is an ice ball, outwardly ice (sense), and inwardly water (meaning). Sense cannot subsist except in meaning, and meaning cannot be manifested except in sense; in fact it is impossible for it to be perceived except in the moulds of created beings.
o The next point is important: Meaning will not depart until it takes sense along with it. On the contrary, the senses of the dead one have departed with his meaning, that is why looking at the physically dead body does not last long (there are some things I need to ask concerning this last phrase).
Shrouding the Dead Person
o In this there is an indication that when the seeker is freed from his ego totally, and leaves all of its desires aside, then Divine Omnipotence itself will raise him up, fortify him, clothe, feed, and give him to drink… in short will give him whatever he may wish of this world and the next. This is related to what is mentioned in the Qur’an (in Verse 7:96) in that had the people of the towns believed and been God-fearing, the blessings of the heavens and the earth would have opened up for them.
o Next, it is said that the one who is truly in abstinence, then the world will come to him and be at his disposal even if he does not really want it. This is because what he is given is considered of the next world, not of this world.
o Now, we see something crucial: This is all provided as a “rejoicing” for the body that returned to its origin; but the seeker may be denied everything of this world, and he would still not be upset or harmed, since he knows that being given or deprived are the same. The endnote says that these two are in fact the same, because when Allah gives someone, he witnesses His Kindness, and when He denies that person, he witnesses His Rigor. We know Allah either through His Rulings or the events He makes us face. When these agree with our disposition, we call it a ‘gift’, and when they go against our caprice, we say it is a ‘denial’. But the spiritually wise one knows that in both, Allah is coming to the person, either with His Attributes of generosity when He gives, or with His Attributes of Majesty when He withholds – so both of them are in fact gifts of Allah for the one without an ego.
o Again, it is said that this is unlike the people of commonality, for they see gift and denial, but the mature ones only see the Giver and the Withholder, knowing Allah in all conditions. We can understand this also from the Qur’an in Verse 16:29, where the God-fearing are asked as to what their Lord has given them, and they say: ‘Good’.
Putting Linen Slippers on the Dead Person
o This is done by some even though it is not strictly speaking a Sunnah. But in here is the indication of the novice walking barefoot, since the only thing he needs is that which breaks his habits; the dead (in both cases) has broken his habit. And likewise should be his knowledge, and his overall state, so that he will recognize subtle secrets and spiritual realities.
Putting a linen hat on the Dead Person
o In this practice, which is again not strictly speaking a Sunnah, there is the indication of uncovering the beginner’s head, just as is the case with his feet. With this he shows total servitude to Allah, so as to totally do away with the vestiges of ‘Shirk’. The beginner will then realize his own attributes (and these are what pertains to contingent existents, such as total indigence, need, helplessness, and so forth).
o There is the comment that created beings have no ‘real existence’, and it is important to explain this so that there is no confusion. In this context, “real” is taken to mean that which has absolute independence and freedom of needs from anything else in order to remain in existence. And this is only for Allah, while the created beings are always under the Will and Power of Allah, as to whether He wishes for them to live, and if so, with what characteristics they will live, etc.
o Another important matter is then brought up: The ego has no share in wearing any type of garments that one is used to wearing. If people had commonly been naked, the novice would have had to break this habit in order to achieve spiritual maturity.
Putting a wrapper on the Dead Person
o In putting a wrapper over the lower part of the dead person, the indication is to take of this world only that which covers one’s nakedness. The very strong people of Allah, such as Abu Al-Darda’ (Radhia Allahu Anhu) – the sage of Islam in the Levant – did exactly this thing during his lifetime, so as to live a life on the bare minimum. The Shaykh says that had it been allowed to uncover one’s nudity, the people of Allah would have done exactly that. The main issue here is that “Love (for Allah and His Messenger) broke the hearts of these people to the extent that they became alien to this world.
Putting a Gown on the Dead Person
o In this, the pointer is to protect one’s body from heat and cold, so that one can worship Allah properly, because if the body complains of pain, the person will also complain likewise, and will be unable to carry out his worship properly.
Putting a Robe on the Dead Person
o In the upper part of the shroud that is put on the dead person, the indication is for the beginner to have a house – if he has a family. Otherwise, he is like a guest or a traveler, sleeping and staying wherever his journey might find him.
Putting the Dead Person on the Bier
o In this, the indication is that the beginner has cast down his body and does not pay attention to it on account of his indifference for it. The note clarifies that this is said to emphasize the role of the spiritual over the material and physical. It could also mean to break free from the psychological and physical habits of the person. Of course, the Shuyuukh know that there can be no spiritual journey without the body, and they are also aware of the narrations telling us to give the body its rights.
o The Shaykh also says that when the body is “neglected”, the spirit will ascend to the higher world and will be fit to receive the higher knowledge and cognizance. Thus, the spirit cannot rise while one is too concerned with the body and its desires.
o One interesting comment is made, in that the “spirit is restricted in the prison of this Universe due to the fetters of delusional impressions”. This simply means that the concern for the body is a type of delusion, since it is an overarching concern with regards to something that is only contingent and lowly, rather than a concern with Allah the Exalted. It does not, and cannot, be taken to mean what certain Hindu philosophies may take it to mean, of a panentheistic ontological equality of all existents. So this point must be kept in mind.
o Modeover, whoever has reached spiritual maturity will realize that Allah seeks him only through that which pleases Him.
o The Shaykh asks that how can a servant claim the attributes of the King [in the sense of conforming to them], while he is still a slave to the Makhluuq [the created]? If the servant conforms to Allah’s Omnipotence, then he will be taken to guidance and to Allah. And if he opposes it in this world, then he will only be ‘led’ to his ego’s desires and will be left floating in ignorance. There will ultimately be a yielding to Omnipotence, but this will be within the confines of Allah’s Punishment and Retribution.
o The note points out that contentment is the happiness of the heart to whatever befalls one, and of leaving any thought of condemnation regarding one’s predestined affairs. Submission means to leave one’s choice and planning when destined things occur. It is said then that submission begins through patience and strife, then moves through calmness with respect to thoughts of weariness and dislike, and ends with happiness and quietude, with a lack of weariness. The first is common to all, the second to the elite, and the third to the elite of the elite. It is mentioned that the first thought occurring to one when destined things happen is excused due to the weakness of the humans in this regard. (And we can imagine how difficult it would be for people to suddenly receive a very bad news and not have an unpleasant feeling come to their minds in the first instance. It is only with a lot of effort that one can reach the level where all pre-destined affairs are seen only through the prism of being the Creations of Allah, manifestations of Allah’s Grandeur, and nothing else).
o Next, we see that the intelligent person will quickly repent and obey His Lord when he wakes up from heedlessness, and will not be fooled by it. But the foolish one will only follow his desire until he is taken to total perdition. If someone thinks he is safe from the machinations of his ego, then this is the greatest problem he can ever face, since he feels he is in safety until he is put deeply into a hopeless state. So there must always be vigilance against one’s own whims and desires.
o The endnote mentions that every disobedience and evil deed is due to being pleased with one’s own self, while the source of obedience is not being pleased with one’s self. This is because when one thinks highly of one’s self he will conceal its traits and faults, so much so that the truly evil traits seem to be good. On the contrary, when one is not pleased with one’s self, he will always reproach it, and will not feel smug about its obedience, no matter how much it may be carrying out acts of worship. Thus, whoever is pleased with his self will yield to it, until he does not screen his thoughts, and the desires erupt without him being able to stop them at all. Again, on the other hand, the one who is displeased with his self will always be careful of misfortunes that may befall his heart. Thus, he will have continence that will make him leave all that Allah prohibits, and this is obedience, the end result of not being pleased with one’s self.
o The Shaykh says that the beginner might incline towards his desires due to his ignorance and boasting about himself, doing ‘Dhikr’ (remembrance) of himself while he is thinking that he is doing ‘Dhikr’ of Allah through the Sacred Law. Thus, knowledge of spiritual reality must be followed by action, as pointed to by Verse 41:30 [“Those who have said ‘Our Lord is Allah’, then have gone straight…”]
o The endnote mentions a quote from al-‘Arabi ad-Darqaawi, where he says that the one wishing to adorn himself with good traits must abandon caprice, the connection being made with Verses 53:29 and 19:25, and as per the Hadeeth: ‘Seek means, you shall be given sustenance’. A commentary on this is that it is impossible to reach spiritual illumination if one is still chained by desires and heedlessness, and that one must constantly scrutinize one’s intentions in all actions.
o The beginner is advised that if he wants a full recovery and the best of cures, he must not obey his whims, as Allah says that He has not commanded indecency [‘Fahshaa’]. Another advice is to apply the Sharia in full, and inwardly the advice is to be absent from worship by beholding Allah, the object of worship.
o The associated endnote is a quote from Ibn ‘Ajiba (RA) and is somewhat deep in nature: The Sharia is the imposition of responsibility on the outward, the Tareeqa (Path) is to purify the inward (i.e. to betake one’s self to Allah), and Haqeeqa [Ultimate spiritual Reality] is to behold Allah. The Path, then, is a route taken to correct the inward so that it can behold the Haqeeqa. It is said that Sharia is identical with Haqeeqa in that it is made incumbent through Allah’s Command, and likewise Haqeeqa is identical with Sharia in that it is made incumbent by the Sharia. Among the Sufis, laws may also signify that which leads to something or is a means for its apprehension. “Causes are laws, goals are realities”, this is one phrase we can keep an eye on. Seen from this angle, sense is the law of meaning, humiliation the law of sublimity, indigence the law of independence and so on. Another phrase of the people of Tasawwuf is that “whoever plants laws will reap realities, whoever plants realities will reap laws”. All of this again points to the connectedness and complementarity of the various aspects of Islam when each one of them is properly understood.
Carrying the Dead Person to his grave
o The dead person is taken over people’s heads, and the remembrance of Allah is done in front of and behind him. This is a pointer to the disclosing of the Wali whom Allah wishes to make known. This is so that all people can gain benefit from him and draw closer to Allah. Of course, only few people achieve this goal, but for the ones that do, he is just like a dead person: whoever sees him takes admonition. The endnote mentions the Hadeeth (in general meaning) that there is enough admonition in death, and enough plenitude in certitude. There is a commentary on this tradition in that death spoils all material bounties, so the (wise) ones sought a life without death. Even the mere mention of death destroys the joys of life. In the use of the word “admonition” in the narration, there is a lesson for people to submit to Allah, and it promotes abstinence. One in fact becomes free when he has control over his base desires, his anger, etc. But if his desires overwhelm him, he is like a beast taken by desires to wherever the desires want.
o This is a very pertinent comment, taking into account the craze for freedom as a value that we see today, where people think that submitting one’s body and mind to Allah is a form of imprisonment and debasement. No, in fact, it is true freedom, since the submitter (the Muslim) will be free of all worries and anxieties, and will be with His Lord after death. But the one who is “free in his material desires” can never be truly free; he will constantly be under mental strain, and even if he has no worries in this world, even then, he will be flung to Hellfire if he does not come to the path of Islam… so what was the proportion of his worldly happiness in comparison with what Allah had in storage for him if he had controlled his base desires? Does anyone think that this is a good bargain, a good business?
o Coming back to the main text, we see that the saint is basically dead, for he has entered the realm of spiritual realities where his soul is dead with regards to desires. Next, a Hadeeth is presented (the general meaning of which is that) the Prophet ﷺ pointed out that the righteous ones are those who, when seen, Allah is remembered. This is what happens with mere seeing, so what about sitting and learning from them? Thus, whoever is not at all moved when sitting in the company of such saints has no share of goodness, just as the one who sees a dead person as if nothing has happened is in real spiritual disarray.
o A person who sits with the saints remembers Allah, and whoever remembers Allah is in the company of Allah, as per the Hadith Qudsi: “I am the Companion of him who remembers Me”
o Another thing is mentioned, in that there is a difference between the saint made known for the benefit of the people and the one who is kept hidden, and this is like the difference between a Messenger and a Prophet. As we know, the Prophet receives the revelation through an angel; the Messenger also has this trait, but he additionally brings a new Sharia or abrogates some of the rulings of the previous Sharai’.
o There are some more narrations presented, such as the one where the Prophet ﷺ says (in the general meanings) that all people are Allah’s people, and those who are beloved to Allah the most are those who are most beneficial to His people, and also the narrations talking about the enormous reward for guiding even one person to the Path of Allah.
o People find guidance in such a saint, for he has been granted Khilaafa through Allah, to Allah, and in Allah. Then, the indication is given to Verse 17:80-81, where Allah gives the great positions to the Prophet ﷺ and says that the truth has come and falsehood has vanished. The indication is that the saint is an heir to the spiritual treasures awarded to the Prophet ﷺ.
o It must be noted that such a saint has Karaamaat (prodigies/wonders) drawn from this very spiritual support of Muhammad ﷺ. There are a number of wonderful and amazing things that may occur at the hands of saints, to show that they are truly saints. But of course, they are considered true “wonders” only when the saint in question follows the Sacred Law outwardly and inwardly to perfection. Another important point is that the Karaamaat of the Awliyaa are in fact considered a miracle for the Prophet ﷺ.
o Also, note that the manifestation of these Karaamaat depend on the type of people who meet the saint. It is through gentleness and mercy for people of goodness, compulsion and adversity for the evil people. In this, the saint is like a marketplace, where each one buys what he wants, whether good or bad.
o In this carrying of the dead on the shoulders of men, there is also an indication to carrying the beginner to the Divine Presence through Divine Providence, and to “drink the Divine wine” at the hands of the perfected spiritual masters. Through this, his vigor and strength will quicken and he will be revived for Allah.
o The endnote talks about what “wine” means: It refers to the Divine Entity before Its manifestation, and also to the secrets subsisting in things after Its (the Divine Entity’s) manifestation. This is why it is said that the wine is manifested in such-and-such a thing. It is also at times called wine-flavored because people may lose their senses in the Divine Presence; and the term is also used to refer to spiritual drunkenness itself.
o In this, the indication is also that the seeker’s affairs, his load in this Dunya, will be taken care of for him. This is as per the narration where it is said that Allah will suffice all the worries of him who makes Allah his only concern. This, of course, also includes his family, close relatives, in such a way that he does not have to go out of his way to provide for them.
o Indeed, how wonderful is it, that Allah makes things so easy for the one who directs himself only to Him, so it is as if he had an “endless supply” of vigor, stamina, and reserves in both the outward and the inward realms so that he can climb higher and higher towards the Divine Goal.
Placing the Dead Person in Front to Pray Over Him
o In this, there is an indication of the viceregency of the great saint, and that he has conjoined the two states, commands, and “seas” within himself. The meaning of these two states is the Existence of Allah and our own disappearance, which is the reality of beholding; by the two commands it is meant: the Amr al-Takwiini [through which things are created] and the Amr al-Takliifi [the normative Command]; by the two seas that of the Sacred Law and ultimate spiritual Reality, or the seas of necessity and that of impossibility.
o This great saint is also known as the heart, the pole, and the marrow, since his conduct is on the footsteps of the Prophet ﷺ. He is a guided guiding person, all beings with spirits will follow him, and all will draw spiritual support from him.
o This position is also sometimes given to someone totally unknown, whom people overlook under normal cases. The pointer is to the narration where it is said that Allah will vindicate certain dusty, disheveled, and unnoticed men wearing only two wrappers, if they were to swear upon Him.
o The Shaykh then praises Allah, as it is He who made the strong with Him seem like the weak ones of this world, who covered His bounty with the robe of (apparent) misfortune, who deposited the high secrets of His different realms in the (supposedly) weakest of His creatures.
The Great Function of the Pole
o The Shaykh says that as far as he knows, the function of the pole (viceregency) is always given to the gnostics, whether those who are perfected or those who are walking on the path towards perfection. This is because the Universe emulates the manners of the pole – if he is pulled by Divine Attraction this is visible in the Universe, and if he is a traveler, this is also manifested.
o This shows that “viceregency” is not conditioned by beginnings and endings. However, it is given to the Gnostics who combine both Divine Attraction and are also travelling the spiritual path. They know that Allah is the Lord, and the created ones are only the slaves. In synthesis, it may be given to those who are perfect in both attraction and travelling, or those who are as yet imperfect in one or both. However, it is not given to a completely absent person (only attraction and no travelling), nor to a traveler that has no Divine attraction.
Burying the Dead Person
o In this, the indication is to bury the seeker’s humanity in the light of his spirituality, as it means to bury the sense in the sea of meanings, to such an extent that he sees nothing but meanings even when beholding the vessels of the senses.
o In this, there is an indication of the end state, and the analogies to this are as follows: return to devotion towards worship after divestment, to spiritual travel after Divine Attraction, individuatedness after Divine Attraction, rigor after beauty, a descent to earth after ascending to Heaven, a return to Sacred Law after the attainment of spiritual realization. This bounty is only for those who have the Muhammadan viceregency, so do not get confused about this issue.
o The Shaykh says that there are 2 types of viceregency, that of the person over his own self (those who combine travel, attraction, and the application of the Sharia, and in this group there are many), and those who have viceregency also over the Universe (this type is passed down from person to person until the Day of Resurrection).
o And as we know, this position may be given to the perfected ones (the end of the path), as well as those who have yet to realize it (the beginning or middle of the path), both being through the agency of Divine Favor upon the elect.
o The Shaykh then concludes this epistle with Salawaat and the asking of forgiveness on all Muslim and Mu’min men and women.
o Before I move to the next epistle, someone may ask that doesn’t the “Universal viceregency” have overtones of the Shia “Imaamah” concept? We say this is a wrong assumption, since the mention is made of those who are not yet perfected in their travel and Divine attraction getting this type of viceregency, while others who are already perfect may not be given this status. In fact then, this would go against the principles of Twelver Shiaism, since it would show that Allah chooses for the leadership of certain important religious matters those people who are not as perfect as others, yet He gives them this post anyway totally out of His own Divine Favor and Decree. So going by what the Shaykh is saying, what he is alluding to is not a hidden type of Shiaism by any stretch of the imagination.
Appendix I: Extract from al-adab al-Mardiyya li Saalik Tariiq al-Suufiyya (the Proper Manners of the Traveler of the Sufi Path) by Shaykh al-Buzaydi (Rahimahulla)
Sufism is Propriety
o It is through propriety that the distance of spiritual travel is shortened, and the truth is that all outer laws are in fact Adab (good conduct) with respect to ultimate spiritual reality. Had there been no adab, the secrets of spiritual reality would have never become known. Thus, adab should be has with all created existents, and the seeker should even “force” himself in this regard, if he already is not disposed to this kind of demeanor.
o Veneration (inward adab) comes about through outward propriety. This is because impropriety is due to the lack of veneration, and this latter comes due to lack of love, and this is because one’s heart turns away from others. If love occurs, veneration follows, then propriety ensues, after which one attains spiritual firm-footedness.
Good and Bad Manners
o The Shaykh says that propriety is a “pre-eternal trait” of the soul and impropriety is a contingent one. One is a heavenly person when good manners appear, but an earthly person when bad manners show up. (Will need to ask what “pre-eternal trait of the soul” means. I suppose it may have something to do with the soul being created in “one go”, being from the world Amr. But I will need to ask further to clarify all potential pitfalls.)
o But also, having earthly sense is part of man’s perfection. The state of Adam (Alayhi Salaam) in Paradise were that lights were predominant over multiplicity [again, I need to ask what is the meaning in this context], until Allah willed that Satan extract his humanity, and he was taken down to the world of multiplicity. But when Adam (AS) quickly repented, then he became one belonging to both the world of power, and the world of spirit.
o The endnote says that the world of power is that world manifested in terms of sensory aspects of created beings, and the world of spirit that which is hidden in these sensory aspects from among the secrets of spiritual meanings. The existence is one, but the apprehension of the “world” depends on how one looks at things, based on one’s spiritual ascension.
o This combining of “opposites” is what made Adam (Alayhi Slaam) a viceroy of Allah, and the same is the case with all other humans. However, this was not given to the angels or the Jinns, since in them; the spiritual has predominance over the corporeal. And the balance for humans comes down through the grace bestowed upon Muhammad ﷺ.
o It should also be noted that the manifestation of humanity is not really a short-coming, except if one is only preoccupied with the corporeal and material. Otherwise, great spiritual positions may be given to man that are not given to the other creatures, and he becomes the deposit of Allah’s Perfect Beauty. As we know, the angels were told to prostrate to man, not the other way around.
o The viceroy amongst mankind only becomes so after the age of puberty, or the age of forty as some people say. And this is because people’s love and reasoning are only perfected at this age and never before, with the exception of the Prophets (Alayhima as-Salaam). A viceroy is he who is not distracted, either by the Sacred Laws from spiritual realities, or vice versa. We see that for Adam (AS), his Khilaafa was perfected only after he came to Earth, and not before that, as is clear from Verse 2:30. In heaven, the manifestation of Allah’s Majesty predominates over that of His Beauty, and man could not have reached perfection except when coming down to Earth. The Shaykh says that man is situated between Heaven and Earth, but his position is the world of spiritual meanings which surrounds all existents, this world of meanings being the opposite of the sensory world.
o Thus, man should know his true worth, and repeat the name of Allah, until the true secrets are given to him. In such a case, the created beings will all be seen as part of His Secrets.
o However, this secret is not bestowed except through propriety, but man tends to forget his Lord much. Thus, it behaves with impropriety, and this can be explained by saying that the soul points to its initial perfection, and that it rules through Allah but is not ruled. But it is ignorant that it emerged from the world of (spiritual) meaning veiled from Allah, due to the earthly traits inherent in it. The reason for this veiling was so that man could bear witness to the Oneness of Allah, and to observe perfect propriety with respect to Allah and understand its helplessness in all cases.
o The Shaykh says that prior to its ignorance the soul was in the world of meanings observing perfect Adab. But the Adab was not manifest except in this earthly world, which is a position of remoteness.
o It is mentioned that the Real revealed Himself through this soul in many forms, all of which point to Him alone. Of course, some of the explanations about this are forthcoming, but in all cases “forms” does not refer to any change in Allah, Exalted be He from such thoughts.
o It is mentioned next that the soul knew (and knows) Allah only through His Favor and Generosity. Moreover, there are, so as to say, “intermediaries for the soul to know Allah”. Thus, whoever knows Allah through direct experiential knowledge, will have deep propriety. The one who knows Allah through intellectual proofs, will be in a position of worship. The man of worship also has Adab, but this is only outward Adab. The man of “true servitude”, has both inward and outward Adab, because he knows himself, and through this, He knows his Lord (as also said by a great Sufi scholar that he who knows himself knows his Lord). When this occurs, the servant is annihilated in Allah’s Love, and will be “removed” from his contingent might and will only observe full Adab towards Allah.
o This is the mark of the soul that sees only Allah, and this is because Adab became its nature. Propriety is a pre-eternal trait of the spirit, and it did not leave the spirit save for its remoteness. It is called ‘soul’ due to this lack of Adab, and when it returns to propriety it is called ‘spirit’.
o The endnote says that soul, intellect, spirit, and secret are in fact one thing, but the naming differs according to what is grasped. If what is grasped is desires, it is called ego (soul). If it is legal rulings, it is termed intellect, if theophanies and spiritual intuitions, it is called spirit, and if it is firm-footedness and phenomenalities of spiritual realizations, it is called secret (as mentioned by Ibn ‘Ajiba (RA)).
o The Shaykh continues by saying that the spirit is the well-guarded secret that none knows except Allah, as the Qur’an [Verse 17:85] mentions. The ‘Aarif only alludes to this secret and never speaks openly about it in his normal states. He behave likes this out of bashfulness in front of Allah, and he does not divulge its reality, since it would otherwise be unbelief.
o Propriety then is a pre-eternal trait of the soul and impropriety a contingent one, Adab relating to the Spirit and returning to the truth of Lordship, and impropriety relating to the soul and returning to the trait of servitude. (I need to ask about the last two statements)
o As Allah wills, He gives the servant either the trait of the Spirit so that his character is good with all created beings, or He forsakes the servant and gives him the trait of the soul so that he becomes bad in his behavior with all created beings.
o All Adab comes from beholding Allah. As we know, when people are close to an earthly king, they observe Adab to the best of their abilities. So what about the people of Allah, who is the King of Kings? His people will observe the highest of Adab as much as they can, and based on the level of proximity they have with Allah.
o There are different levels of proximity to Allah. There is that of the Prophets, which is like seeing the sun in a clear sky, then that of the saints, which is like seeing the sun in a sky covered with thin clouds, and that of the righteous, which is like seeing the moon in a clouded sky.
Sincerity is the Key
o Sincerity in intention and trueness, are the keys in obtaining benefits in this path of spiritual realization and reform. That is why it is proper to stick only to one Shaykh. If the seeker takes on multiple Shaykhs, he will never benefit no matter how perfected the Shuyuukh are (since the seeker is in doubt about the benefit he will receive and about the path he is talking itself, and doubt in these matters will make one fail.) Conversely, the seeker with the proper intention will benefit, even if it is from a “Shaykh” that is a fake, since the seeker’s intentions were correct and proper. Again, this does not mean to give up on the Shariah or on the essentials of Islam, but it means sticking and not having doubt in that which is beyond the rules that everyone knows are to be followed.
Uprightness is the Real Prodigy
o The proper way is for the seeker not to ask for Karaamaat from his Shaykh, nor to serve him for the sake of seeing such wonders. Only those devoid of knowledge, reason, and goodness travel this path. What the seeker should do is to request the Shaykh to remind him of Allah and to forget the world and his desires. And the seeker should behave with his Shaykh in such a way so that the Shaykh leads the seeker tactfully to acquire all the benefits and traits associated with the Shaykh.
o The seeker will not attain true love until he only asks his Shaykh these things. Because at the end of the road, remembering Allah and walking in the footsteps of the Prophet ﷺ is the best of Karaamaat. But if one does not feel that he is in the Presence of Allah, then there is sufficiency in the Shaykh’s love for Allah. But he should not lose this contentment (of being with the people of Allah) for otherwise it is an ingratitude that takes blessings away. Thus, at the very least, the seeker should be content that the Shaykh guided him to the right path after he was lost, and made him receptive to his admonitions.
o Thus, the advice is to summon one’s sincere intention and good opinion while drawing near to the Shaykh, and with that, the goal will be attained.
Thinking Good of the Shaykh
o The proper Adab is that one should not think that the Shaykh detests him or is there to humiliate him; this is the way of the people without sincerity, and such people never succeed. Thus, one should never slander the Shaykh by saying that he is behaving bad with the seeker (i.e. himself). The reason why this is mentioned is that many a times, the Shaykh might speak harshly to the seeker, even in front of a large multitude of fellow seekers. So the simple-minded seeker might think that the Shaykh is only seeking to humiliate him and disgrace him, to show his power over him to everyone, while in fact, the Shaykh is seeking to reform him and put down the seeker’s ego. Besides, one should always think the best of one’s Muslim brothers, so how much more about one’s teacher, and that too, one’s teacher in the spiritual path?
o The advice is that one’s heart should be purified from the traits of humanity which bar one from the secrets of spirituality. For this is the most difficult and unfortunate of situations, where one has been veiled in the place where veils come to be lifted, and committed a lack of Adab where Adab was most badly needed. So at this stage, one has to let go of the ego either one way or the other.
Veneration of the Shakyh
o One of the manners is that when the seekers gather for sessions of learning, they are not to close their sessions. But rather, they should leave the space where the Shaykh sits unoccupied, both in the presence and the absence of the Shaykh, for if the Shaykh is not physically present, then he is at least spiritually present, and is always so whenever proper veneration of him is made.
o Thus, veneration to the Shaykh is the key in here: The Shaykh’s spiritual influx is, after all, commensurate with the seeker’s veneration towards the Shaykh. When the seeker has proper veneration for his Shaykh, there is great illumination that has been showered on him from Allah. That is because Allah has gathered His secrets in the forms that He has made His deputies. (I need to ask about this, but it seems to be simply saying that Allah has deposited His secrets in those who follow the path of spirituality.)
o Also, when the novice keeps on showing veneration to his Shaykh, then all of Allah’s servants become his “Shuyukh”, since he sees in them all what he sees in his Shaykh, and draws support from all.
o Now, for circles of remembrance, these gatherings should be closed, due to the prevailing of spiritual states such as spiritual dance, ecstatic utterances, and the like. If such states were not occurring to the weak people, then these circles should also have been left open, since such is the manifestation of propriety and of Sufism.
o One interesting thing in here can be mentioned, which is that Shakyh al-Buzaydi (RA) includes himself among one of those weak people due to whom the gatherings of remembrance are to be closed. Subhanallah, a lot of Adab is shown here, and also the full divesting of the ego is also apparent on part of the Shaykh (RA).
o The state of volition is only for those who reach the pinnacle of good manners. Volition is always manifested only through an intermediary [the Shaykh], and then through all things. Only through propriety is one’s ego suspended, and through this one’s volition is also suspended. Thus, only through Adab towards the created (through spiritual strife) can one reach propriety towards Allah through beholding Him. The beginning must be illuminated so that the end is made likewise illuminated.
Consigning Everything to the Shaykh
o The proper manner of comportment is that the seeker should never exchange opinions with his Shaykh. If the Shaykh consults him about something, he should never issue opinions, while the Shaykh, as a Wali’ and a Beloved of Allah, issues his opinions through his Lord (as per the Hadeeth Qudsi where Allah says: “and when I love him I become his hearing with which he sees…”) To those who think that this is strange behavior, they should recall that the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ, out of total awe and reverence for him, would always answer: “Allah and His Messenger know best” whenever the Prophet ﷺ asked them something, even if they knew the answer. This is an indication to the humility that one should have in front of the teachers to the path of guidance.
o Thus, in this consultation there may actually be a testing as to whether the seeker’s volition has been totally given up to the Shaykh. If the Shaykh sees that the seeker is qualified, then he will be granted more spiritual realities. But if one fails in this, then he drops from his Shaykh’s heart, and if one acknowledges one’s weaknesses in this respect, then he should stick to this light, so that he may “end up well”.
o Sometimes, it may be allowed to exchange opinions with one’s Shaykh. But this is only when the Shaykh has fully authorized the seeker after confirming his firm-footedness. In this case, the seeker has been overtaken by spiritual meanings, and nothing is left of “spiritual strife”, thus his knowledge is only the result of beholding the Divine. In this case there is nothing wrong in exchanging opinions with one’s Shaykh, but even here, it is better to still refer matters back to one’s Shaykh. And this is a tremendous propriety and a very lofty position.
o This was how the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ used to handle the matter in his presence. They had reached spiritual perfection thanks to the Prophet ﷺ guiding them, and they knew the answers to the questions referred to them, but they still referred matters back to him ﷺ. So it is not that the Companions were “normal seekers”, but many had achieved great ranks and a very high station in spirituality.
Not to Exceed One’s Limits
o Of the proper manners of all “lay people” [seekers and more so other people], is that they should not authorize any spiritual works [such as telling people to do different types of Tasbeeh, etc.] to anyone except by way of general advice. For otherwise, it is a terrible lack of Adab, a sign that the seeker is not occupied with his heart, but rather that the inciting soul [an-Nafsul Ammaarah] wishes for the seeker to be showered with false ranks and praises. So one should avoid this at all costs, so that corruption does not enter his heart and the hearts of those who wish to behold Allah.
o Also, if one advises one’s fellow spiritual seeker, it should be only with what the Shaykh has already ordered him with, since it depends on each individual’s spiritual state. But he mat do a more general advising through his spiritual state, since this is common to both Shaykh and seeker [while verbal advising is only for the Shaykh]
Minding One’s Own Business
o The proper Adab is not to convey repugnant words that would change the hearts of other seekers, or his Shaykh, or of the Muslims in general. This is so even if he thinks there is a need in conveying these messages; rather, he should consign the matter to Allah and be convinced that Allah will convey the matter to his Shaykh, and everything will be taken care of without a need for explicit talking about the matter. Whoever follows this route will have followed the reality of veneration for his Shaykh, and of propriety in this path.
o Thus, the one who sees something bad in his brethren and conveys it to his Shaykh is actually the one who is heedless of Allah. If this person had been really busy with Allah, he would have been blind to the faults of others. One should reflect on the story of the young man who visited al-Saqatyy (RA). The young man asked what the reality of repentance is, and al-Saqatyy said: “Repentance is not to forget your sin.” The youth answered back saying that it was: “forgetting your sins through your Lord.” But the young man was terribly wrong in saying this, for how can the beginner behold his Lord while still turning to his ego? This is simply not possible.
o Remembering one’s self is commensurate with forgetting one’s Lord, and vice versa. Allah says in the Qur’an [translation]: “and mention thy Lord, when thou forgettest…” [Verse 18:24], which means, when you forget other than Allah, then you shall be mentioning your Lord.
o And the sin to which the Sufis allude to is not that of the limbs, but rather of the heart, and this “Shirk” is to remember others alongside Allah the Exalted.
o The Shaykh will be affected when he hears anything bad concerning the beginners, and even more so concerning those whom he thought possessed spiritual maturity. Thus, before saying anything, one has to keep in mind that people err and are prone to forgetfulness, and none of these blameworthy traits become manifested by the seeker except that he seeks through this manifestation to get rid of his ego and all of the bad traits within himself.
o Note that the seeker should not speak about goodly things, let alone evil ones. The condition of the people of Allah is one of three things: remembrance, meditation, or teaching, as per the Hadeeth: “Blessed is he whose speech is remembrance of Allah, whose silence is meditation, and whose speculation is learning lessons.”
o The novice should not speak unless if it is absolutely necessary, and then too, sparingly. That is because speech is of the nature of the ego, and while the ego is speaking, it will predominate over the Spirit. However, if it keeps silent and silence becomes its nature, then the spirit is predominating over the ego, and when there is speech, it is the spirit that is speaking.
o The “spirit’s speech” means that the spirit takes its knowledge from Allah, and the only thing obstructing it from getting to this stage is human nature, such as speech and similar things. He spirit is the “locus” of Lordly knowledge, while the ego is the locus of wandering in the empty sites of the created. If one looks at the created without taking lessons is like being thrown in desolate regions. One should not look at created things unless he sees them as part of Allah’s making and a manifestation of His Omnipotence. Allah told them to ‘be’ and they ‘were’, and when He wills their disappearance, they will disappear.
o From this, one’s poverty, indigence, and duress in front of Allah are magnified; and it also shows that if Allah grants one things of this world (only), or if one is heedless of Allah, then Allah intends to forsake such a person and to set Satan on him; this is what the people of intellectual proof have mentioned. The “speculation” of the people of direct experiential knowledge is such that it directs them to see the meanings characterized with the lofty Divine Attributes and Names.
o The endnote makes it clear that Allah’s Attributes are as innumerable as His Perfection, but that the ‘Ulamaa have singled out 20 which are the basis for all the other attributes to be derived. These are: (1) Being (2) Eternity (3) Subsistence (4) Contrariety to contingent beings in Entity, Attributes, and Acts (5) Being independent of a locus or determinant (6) Oneness in Being, Attributes, and Acts (7) Omnipotence (8) Will (9) Knowledge (10) Life (11) Hearing (12) Sight (13) Speech (14) the fact that He is Omnipotent (15) Willing (16) Knowledgeable (17) Living (18) Hearing (19) Seeing and (20) Talking.
o The Shaykh says that such people carry on pondering the spiritual, and persevere in being absent from the vessels until the spiritual insights [the meanings] rise up and behold the reality of the vessels’ innermost secrets. At this stage, they see only Allah and they subsist only through Him. Of course, they were always subsisting only through Allah, but now they have reached experiential certitude regarding this fact, which is even beyond intellectual certitude.
o The beginner should busy himself with observing his heart, and should also watch his every moment and breath until he may taste the sweetness of the love of His Lord. He should also neither start nor end his speech except through reference to Allah, so that his speech may be right and true.
Reliance on Allah and Contentment with His Knowledge
o The proper Adab is that one should cling to two of the doors of Allah, the first being reliance on Him and the second one contentment with His Knowledge, and whoever seeks these doors will instantly enter unto the presence of Allah.
o Also, the one who wants sincerity should train himself in these two “doors” more than anything else, since all sincere acts of worship return to these two traits. The endnote mentions that sincerity means to single out Allah in one’s acts of worship, that they are done only in order to draw nearer to Allah, and for no other reason. Habitually, we understand that putting on airs for the creation or obtaining their praise is far away from sincerity towards Allah. But we also see that there are some other marks for sincerity towards Allah, such as counting praise and condemnation of the people as being one, that one is oblivious of one’s works while doing them [Allah knows best, but this is so that people do not feel that they are doing something special, so that they do not become arrogant, as if they were doing a “favor” to Allah by worshipping Him], and also, that one forgets all about Heaven and Hellfire [the highest form of sincerity, so that he understands that if Allah were not to give him a “reward” that would not be an issue at all, since the servant loves Allah and “love” does not necessitate “reward and punishment”. I know it is somewhat difficult to visualize, especially in this era of so-called “intrinsic human rights” that everyone supposedly has, but that is why it is the climax of sincerity, and this is not what the lay people may generally think about such matters.
o The Shaykh mentions that whoever trusts in Allah will not be concerned with sustenance and whoever is content with His Knowledge will not be concerned with people, and that if the novices can grab onto these two aspects, they will instantly reach their goal, otherwise they will always be stuck in their places.
The Traits of Lordship and the Traits of Servitude
o The true seeker should not look to meet oppressors, even if they come to meet him in his own house. He should flee from them as much as possible and if there is no other hope for him, then he should only obey Allah and His Messenger – otherwise he will become a dispossessed person, turned away from his religion. Note the definition of oppressor that is given: whoever assumes the traits of Lordship, rather than the traits of servitude that befit every mortal.
o Only the strong can withstand the heart’s inclination towards the status and wealth of such people. But their temporary things will never sway the strong-hearted; and also, for the truly blessed beginner, his wealth is indigence and his status is humiliation.
o As per the extension of an allusive interpretation of the Qur’an in Verse 11:113, when the people of pure hearts come into the presence of the transgressors, their servitude becomes corrupted, and they may be touched by the Fire due to this. What is meant by transgression is that such oppressors have adopted the traits of Lordship while it was definitely not appropriate for them. The allusive interpretation of the Verse under discussion is that the Fire in here is that the heart of the novice may be stolen by such evil people until it is corrupted, since the previous love and concern for Allah will be replaced with concern and love for the created beings. And what is greater or worse than stealing the hearts away from loving the Beloved, after this was their status. The Shaykh mentions that none knows what punishment is except he who has tasted mercy.
o In this last phrase there is a partial answer to those who ask as to why there is an arena for testing such as the Earth. For in here, we get a very small taste of rewards and punishments, of happiness and sorrow, along with the clear path being elucidated to us. Those who pass this test will receive tremendous reward and those who fail shall receive huge punishment, but none of this would have been so clear to the people had they not know what is joy and happiness, and what is difficulty and sorrows. So from this saying of the Shaykh (RA) we can comprehend this answer in a partial form.
o The beginner may want to be dignified through the oppressor’s dignity, though the truth is other than that: Really, if he had known the huge dignity there is in humiliation, he would always ask Allah for humiliation. Likewise, with the true sufficiency there is in indigence, he would have only asked for indigence from Allah. This is the allusion to the Qur’anic phrase “you have no protector”, meaning no protector (other than Allah) in the guise of the assumed traits of Lordship. So we see that whoever is dignified through his ego, he is always humiliated whether he likes it or not. Likewise, the one who humiliates one’s self before his Lord is always dignified through this, whether he likes it or not.
o Also, none reaches with his limbs towards the oppressors except that his heart is also tempted automatically, and this must be so, since these oppressors are the very embodiment of temptation. When this happens, his thoughts will be dispersed and he will only be floating in random imaginings. In such a case, he will forget his religion, and his heart will be occupied only with hypocrisy, and other terrible spiritual internal diseases and evil thoughts about the people of Allah.
o The Shaykh then says that any seeker who longs for these oppressors is only cheating himself. As we know, the oppressors assume the traits of lordship while the beginners assume the traits of servitude, and the former always overpowers the latter. The advice for the beginner is then, to run away from such people and to cling to obscurity. Also, the beginner should not compare himself with the spiritually perfected, since Allah has manifested Himself to such people in a way through which they can overpower those who assume only outward and false dignity. The rule in this case is that those who possess tangible power are overpowered by those who possess inward and outward spiritual power. Thus, mastery is always for the one who possesses the source rather than he who has the derivative – the condition being that the former has control over his states, for otherwise he will also eventually be overpowered.
o Now, there are four categories of people who keep the company of such oppressors. We have the ignorant novice, the jurist who loves the world, the righteous person who is not content with Allah’s knowledge, and the ‘Aarif who has mastery over all spiritual states and can overpower such oppressors, “whether they like it or not.” Take note that the Shaykh, more than 200 years ago, said that such gnostics were rare, so how much rarer would they be today.
o Allah knows best, but one issue I think is of importance is that some may take the Shaykh (RA) to be speaking out against the jurists and those who are outwardly righteous. Of course, this is not the totality of the matter, because the Shaykh (RA) is highlighting the importance of staying away from the transgressors at all costs, and then saying that even among those who are good Muslims, or are trying to be good Muslims, or appear to be good Muslims, there are still some who cannot but fall into the trap of keeping company with such oppressors.
o So the Shaykh is speaking about the spiritual state of such people, and the blemishes that may be contained therein. Thus, it is perfectly possible that the jurist may be a very fine jurist who gives all of his opinions in accordance with the mandates of the Shariah, yet he may have some internal spiritual problems that prevent him from achieving the full goodness he may have attained. This would still not depreciate his role as a jurist per se, since the lay Muslims, and even the spiritually realized ones, would have to follow the jurist’s rulings, since these agree with the Muhammadan Shariah.
o And likewise with the righteous person, what he is doing (other than keeping company with these oppressors) is all well and good, and no one can say that he is deficient in his ritual actions, nor can the performance of the Waajibaat or avoidance of the Haraam be depreciated. However, the danger that the Shaykh (RA) has been pointing out all this time is that there may be drop in the sincerity one has for Allah, and he is trying to clean the hearts of all Muslims from straying into problems either in their internal or external states. It may happen that even one’s external actions start to suffer due to company with such people, but in that case, even the “only outward” people would say that he has to reform himself immediately. So in this sense, the warnings and advice of the spiritually realized are like the “foreshocks” that one has to take into account before the “large earthquake” strikes one’s heart and actions.
o The Shaykh says one must be extremely careful of being in the company of would-be Sufis, since they are totally ignorant. The endnote clarifies that such people are worse than swallowing deadly poison, since the ignorant beginner who is pleased with himself for no reason (thinking that he has actually gotten somewhere) is further away from Allah than the normal people. The example he gives is that the common person is like an empty pot, that accepts whatever is poured into it, but the ignorant novice is like the tar-filled pot, that has been ruined, and nothing useful can be done with it.
o So this last class is worse than other types of people, since they have claimed for themselves the title of Shaykh without being able to do anything to back it up, thus dimming their spirituality. Such people only love status, leadership, and wealth, and this is a terrible thing, from which we ask Allah’s protection.
o It is in allusion to these oppressors, and the ignorant would-be Sufis that the Prophet ﷺ told us not to keep the company of the dead, those who love the world, lest our hearts die. Next in rank in terms of diming one’s heart are the flatteres among the Qur’an reciters, for whoever keeps their company will have a bad opinion concerning Allah’s servants, and arrogance will grow in his heart.
o And the one who sits with the ignorant pseudo-Sufis will be filled with making big claims while carrying out reprehensible innovations in his religion. Finally, the one keeping the company of oppressors becomes arrogant, an oppressor himself, hard-hearted, harsh and rude towards others, elevating his ego above his head and his spirituality below his feet, and so greedy that he wishes to take anything he sees that someone else has.
o The proper Adab is that the seeker should not stop visiting his brothers in Allah; he should not disdain the young among them, or ignore the poor, or raise himself above the ignorant. Rather, he should conduct himself as they do, with humility. Even if these seekers are not at all humble and do have blameworthy characteristics, then he himself should nevertheless comport himself in a proper manner, since his goal is Allah, not his Shaykh or the fellow seekers.
o An important issue is that the seeker visiting other seekers must leave greed behind, and only intend Allah’s Countenance [from what I understand, meaning that Allah alone is the goal.] This is what will bring happiness to both the visitor and the visited. We should also know that greed is never shown between people save that their company dissolves, their Mawaddah (love) ceases, they start back-biting one another, and all the evils of the heart such as pride and envy become visible between them (We should remember that the Qur’an mentions that the very close friends in this world will become enemies to one another in the Hereafter, except those who have Taqwa. But what does greed have to do with Taqwa of Allah?)
o The Shaykh further mentions that love and greed are like fire and water respectively, and it is not possible for the fire of love to remain if the water comes to douse it.
o Greed is such a bad quality that no one can benefit from the knowledge of the greedy person. This is because the greedy one is on edge: If he gets what he wants of this world then he is happy, but if not, then he feels rebuked and cast aside. Thus, the benefit is only from those who intend with their knowledge Allah’s Countenance, and in this way, their knowledge will be beneficial, whether he teaches it to people or practices it himself, whether others practice what he has taught them or do not practice the knowledge, and whether they praise him or rebuke him for the knowledge he has imparted to them.
o The slave who has left the means of earning a living, and finds himself in need should be patient until Allah provides for him. And if he is in extreme need, then he should behold Allah “as manifested in” the creatures and extend his hand to ask from others, out of indigence towards Allah and disdain towards himself. If he is given, then he should take from Allah, as the humans are only apparent causes that conceal Allah’s Secret. And if he is denied, he should know that Allah has denied him physical sustenance in order to increase his spiritual sustenance, and this is something much better. None is deprived of gain except the one who only sees granting as coming from the creatures. But for him who sees both gift and denial as gifts, there is no way that he is not always given. And this is what it has to be, since Allah is the Generous as He has named Himself, and thus He will never continuously deny His slave.
o Also, one should know that if a servant is denied, that is only because of himself, since he only sees the physical gift that comes from people. Otherwise, he would have seen Allah as the Giver in all cases.
o We should also know that when Allah denies one, He actually gives him; but when He gives him outward things, it may be that He has given to that person, and it could be that he has not given to him. Allah does not give inwardly and outwardly except to a servant whom He loves, as was the case with Sulayman (Alayhi Salaam), as we know from Verse 38:39. As for Muhammad ﷺ, he was offered more than this, but he preferred servitude, eating one day and going without food the next. Thus, the leader of all mankind chose to be given in being denied, even when Allah assured him that none of what was already being given to him would be diminished.
o And this is a tremendous status of servitude towards Allah, for if Allah were to give anyone the choice that He will give him all that he wants, while none of this will be counted against him, then we can be sure that all of us would just take it. It was only the Prophet ﷺ that could take the other choice of utmost servitude.
o Thus, Allah chose servitude for the Last Prophet ﷺ, since it is the very essence of eminence and the highest station which Allah has singled out.
o All Prophets and saints had a share in this station, but Muhammad ﷺ had this share in its entirety. In all the other Prophets and saints, there were still traces of ‘freedom’, but none of this remained with Muhammad ﷺ, and none can withstand this state except him. And it is for this reason that he is the head of all the ‘Aarifeen (Gnostics) who ever did and ever will come on this Earth.
o The Shaykh then asks, that what about the normal seeker, who was given ‘servitude’ on a silver platter against his will, out of love from Allah for that person, and yet he threw it back, not knowing what it entailed? How miserable is that person then? If we knew what goodness lies in indigence and humiliation, we would have fought with its possessors for it. The Shaykh mentions that this refers to all the traits of the seeker, for had these been absent, he would have remained in non-existence. Thus, one should do away with greed, and do all things (such as visiting one’s fellow seeker, as this is the topic of discussion) for Allah’s sake.
o If he host has some food, it is proper to offer it to his brother, since this does away with stinginess, and true Sufis are not supposed to be stingy. Nay, true Sufis cannot possibly be stingy, since stinginess is a trait of the ego, and true Sufis have no ego at all.
o It should be known that quitting greed is the mark of high spiritual aspiration, connected to the folk of Allah, while greed is the quality of the heedless, those who have low spiritual aspiration. Only the anxious person is greedy, since he always withholds. If he had been giving, he would never have been greedy with anyone.
o Stinginess is the mark of the greedy ones. If they give something, they always do so for an ulterior motive, and they do not do so for Allah’s sake; this is because giving for Allah’s sake is a type of remembrance of Allah. Greed shall never disappear from a person unless he has contentment, relies only on Allah and despairs about what the people have.
o Whenever a brother (I understand by this a fellow seeker) gives something to one, without the person being greedy for it, without the ego turning towards it, then one should take it, since it is an act of generosity from Allah. Note that Allah’s regard for that gift precedes the regard of one’s ego. In such a case, what one is given is the most lawful thing. Now, when one sees the created when presented a gift without desiring the gift itself, then one may take or refuse the gift. He may refuse it since he has seen the created, or he can accept it due to his despair of what is in people’s possession.
o The Shaykh says that according to him, the best position to take is that if one is poor, one should take what is given to one, but if one is of means, then one should refuse the gift. He should also explain to his brother the reason for the refusal if the brother is not of those who knows the ways of training the heart [so that he will not be offended.] Otherwise, if the brother already knows the reason, then there is no need to reiterate.
o The Shaykh then addresses the seeker, saying that abstinence with regards to the world is the foundation of abstinence regarding the ego, and this leads to abstinence regarding everything other than Allah. The one who cannot go through this should not expect the veil to be lifted from him. Thus, the seeker should despair of this world, of ego, and of false status entirely, so that, through indigence and humiliation, the highest of ranks may be achieved.
o If one cannot do this, then he is to cling to contentment, humbleness, love of the poor and being with them, as their humility will pass on to one. But if one sits with the people of wealth and status, then no goodness of the hearts will be attained. Rather one will be “blessed” if he can merely carry on performing the outward divine commandments in such a case. In conclusion, the Shaykh says that the illness of the ego should be done away with, the aspirations should be turned towards Allah, and the remembrance of the hearts should always be present [with the Dhikr of Allah! Allah! Allah!]; and Insha Allah if this is carried out with perseverance, then the goal of seeking Allah’s secret will be met.
Appendix II (Letters of Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Buzaydi to his students)
1. Letter to Ahmad ibn ‘Ajiba
o The Shaykh says that there is nothing more beloved to Allah than the Divine Names He is remembered with, and there is nothing more beloved to the Names than the one who uses them in remembrance. The names are identical with the Named. Thus, whoever occupies himself with repeating the name of something will be “annihilated” in that thing, until he sees it everywhere, until his being is annihilated in the being of that thing (Note: but do not consider this to be a promotion of pantheism.) The reason for this “annihilation” is that this person’s reasoning faculty, with which he apprehended his own existence is with something else, due to the repetition of the name of that thing.
o The true lover of Allah should be like this. He should always be busy with the remembrance of Allah, until this remembrance becomes admixed in his very being. He should not notice movement or stillness coming from himself, due to the extreme proximity he has to Allah. When this happens, he will behold the lights resulting from meditation, and this is the fruit of remembering Allah. There are two types of remembrance: That of the outward limbs, and that of the heart. The first is annihilation in the Supreme Divine name, and the latter is the prerogative of those who are annihilated in the Divine Entity. Those who know Dhikr of the heart are rare (that was more than two centuries ago, so how much rarer are they today!). There are 3 signs indicating that a person is of those who are annihilated in Allah: (1) Complete shunning of the world (2) Quietude in humiliation by choice (3) Withstanding of all people’s harm with a good disposition of the soul.
o This is an extremely, extremely tall task for the one who is by himself, for it cannot be done properly except by him who is totally absent from his ego. But the rule is that one cannot be absent from the ego except after keeping company of one who has already become totally absent from his own ego.
2. Letter to Ahmad ibn ‘Ajiba
o The Shaykh exhorts Sidi Ahmad again to keep remembrance of Allah, to never turn to anything else, either with his heart or with his limbs; for this is the secret, the solicitude, the great sainthood, the greatest spiritual illumination, and the best of the two worlds. And as the Qur’an and the Ahadeeth mention, Allah remembers the one who remembers Him. The Shaykh says that whoever wishes not to become weary of remembrance should continue remembering Allah with his heart and limbs, for remembrance is actually in the heart while the limbs are the means of achieving it. But, this heart-remembrance does not happen unless love of this world and all its trappings are not done away with. Once the beginner is cleansed of the traits of the ego then he will be likewise cleansed from attachment to sensory things; otherwise he cannot remember Allah in his heart.
o A personal note: What a difference there is between Islam and other religions. Others say that one should stop being attached to the things in this world so that he may realize the great void, the divinity within, or to attain ontological unity with God. But in Islam, the light that comes through the spiritual truth is that we ourselves are only contingent relative beings, and that Allah alone is the Real (in the sense of Self-Subsisting). So we should note that any tangential coincidences in the spiritualities of Islam vis-à-vis other religions are not important, since the goal, the end is so different from one religion to the other.
o It is only the vile traits of the heart that prevent the rising of lights and the unveiling of secrets from the heart. This is more so when the ego is alive and still accustomed to the dwellings from which it emerged. Whoever wants to reach the goal quickly ought to despair of returning to this world, or of returning to any desire or habit from which he has thus far abstained. If he does slip, he should repent quickly. Once the soul despairs of these, it will travel to the spiritual world and acquire what that world possesses of gifted knowledge from the All-Merciful.
o The Shaykh also exhorts Sidi Ahmad to look after the brethren who have left worldly means as well as those who earn a living. But the former should be looked after more, since they are now in a strange land which is completely unknown to them, and thus their stay should be made agreeable so that they can appreciate its true worth. After that, they are to be left; but they should be encouraged to cling on to the Sunnah, since it is the true way to total spiritual realization. In fact, the Sunnah is total spiritual realization itself, nothing more and nothing less, if one were to know its true value. However, only the ‘Aarifeen (Gnostics) know this fully, since they are absent in the beholding of Allah’s Glory.
o The Shaykh then says that the secrets of the Sacred Law manifest themselves in acts such as silence, hunger, humiliation, indigence, contentment, patience, quietude, submission, humility, generosity, seclusion, and similar acts, and thus the seekers should be encouraged to perform such acts. One personal note is that look at the range of activities that the seekers should perform, and how far we are from performing even the obligatory acts of the Shariah, let alone acts that will help us behold the secrets of the Shariah. And Allah is our Helper.
o The Shaykh then says that there should be no idle talk if the seekers truly wish to succeed. Also, they should not be exceedingly intimate with people, since he who is intimate with the people will never gain intimacy with Allah, nor should he expect to behold Him. Spiritual expansion should also be avoided, since it corrupts the way (I need to ask what is meant by ‘expansion’ in here. I do not think it refer to the ‘gatheredness’ we had mentioned before. And Allah knows best.)
3. Letter to Ahmad ibn Ajiba and all the Darqaawi brethren
o The seekers should be confined to humble submission. For it is through this trait that the folk of Allah are known, and through its opposite that all the evil ones are known, except for the person who is overpowered against his will by Divine Omnipotence (I need to ask what this exactly refers to.) Whoever lets go of humble submission after having found it will never find it again. This is because it is one of the highest and most honorable of ranks, and the Prophet ﷺ spent all his life in humble submission, the most respected people for him being those who were poor and of modest status. Thus, the seekers ought to take on the Prophet’s ﷺ qualities of humble submission, clemency, humility, generosity, veracity, love, glorification, and so forth, to the best of their abilities. Also, there should be no schism between knowledge and action, putting knowledge on one corner and actions on the other. Rather, the seeker should be like the one who “sings” about sweets, eats them, and feeds them to others as well.
o The Shaykh also advises against keeping the company of meddlesome people, since it corrupts both the heart and the limbs. It also seems to be part of the manifestations of the inciting soul, and it is one of the actions that has to be let go off in the quest to purify the soul.
o There are some who think that their egos will be humbled even if they do not let go of their egos, but this is impossible. Rather, one should let go of all evil traits, and substitute them with good traits, especially when the vile traits become manifest. This is because it is easy to either kill off or give life to the ego “in a flash” in such cases. Thus, one should be totally occupied with Allah when the ego is trying to overpower one through its tricks. This is a type of remembrance of Allah done in times of hardship, which is not the same as remembering him in times of ease.
o What happens is that in times of ease, one feels that many people are making remembrance of Allah, but during hardship only the true saints keep making Dhikr, since this is the time when people seem to have run away from the person in every direction. So this is the big test, has one really forgotten the created and remembered Allah when all apparent hope is lost, or are they still tied to the apparent phenomenalities?
o So, the Shaykh says that we should conduct ourselves to the opposite of what our egos wish to do of evil deeds: we should be clement when they are angry, deliberate when they are agitated, humble when they are elevated, generous when they are stingy, humiliated when they are arrogant, and indigent when they feel independent. Whoever can do this will be from Allah’s chosen slaves.
o The Shaykh also gives counsel that the servant is not to specifically occupy himself with fighting the ego, since this is a type of heedlessness as well. Rather, one should occupy himself with Allah and His Remembrance and then Allah will suffice the seeker in fighting against the ego’s might and its evil. When one remembers Allah, and forgets his ego, the latter disappears ‘automatically’, and as such the person’s very existence disappears, after which nothing remains other than spiritual insight in the eye, ear, and foot; this is the explanation of the Qudsi Hadeeth where Allah says that He becomes the hearing, sight, hand, and Helper of the one who performs an abundance of supererogatory acts. These Nawaafil acts then, amount to leaving the traits of corporeality and assuming the traits of spirituality.
o Another important advice is with respect to acquiring only the easy things from among those that are necessary for the person. If these things are difficult, they should be discarded, since there is no good in going after them. If a person is preoccupied with fulfilling his needs, it means that he is heedless of his Lord and conscious of his ego. If he had been aware of Allah he would have forgotten the ego and its needs.
o The Shaykh further says that any need that is not very important is a need of the ego. The Shaykh advised a seeker that he should only go after the needs that are very important only when they become necessary. And that too should be taken when it is easy to do so, but if it is a little difficult then it should be left, and this is the method that should be followed throughout the seeker’s life. Also, one should not lose heart, for this is a sign that there is preoccupation with inward and outward needs. But if these had been forgotten, then nothing would preoccupy us from Allah. Thus, one should occupy himself with Allah, and consequently, the limbs will be occupied with us (what I understand, and Allah knows best, is that they will not be crying out for outward sustenance every moment, since the spiritual food is enough for them.) The Shaykh says that our needs are far from us only because we are remote from Allah.
o The Shaykh next says that if the ego is dark, earthly, and abysmal, it will try to acquire the maximum of its needs whether these are fulfilled or not. But if the soul is heavenly and spiritual, it tries to acquire its needs due to love for Allah and utmost servitude towards Him, not due to ulterior selfish motives; and this, interestingly, will be the case whether his needs are fulfilled or not (also as per the previous case). In this case, he tries to acquire the needs in both cases since the soul is independent of all besides Allah, while in the case of the evil ego, it tries to acquire everything at every time since it talks big things about independence for itself, while in actions its shows its abject dependency on all phenomenal existents [of course, in here the ego is also ultimately dependent upon Allah as well, but it boasts that it needs nothing at all, not even Allah, and not even the phenomenal delimited things of this Universe. Its foolishness is extreme on many levels.]
o The Shaykh also councils that seekers should not put on airs with one another, let alone with one’s selves. This is because affectation is nothing other than heedlessness, while what we require is wakefulness. What the Shaykh means by affectation is that a poor person spends what he does not own (in the hopes of showing off, at least this is what I understand of the matter, and Allah knows best). This type of action is disliked in the Islamic religion, as per the Prophet’s (SAW) saying, that he and the god-fearing of this Ummah are exonerated from affectation. The true Sufi then, spends on others when he has the means, but avoids affectation when he does not; thus it is strictly not allowed to put on airs for anyone, not even ourselves, and through this we may perchance acquire Taqwa.
4. Letter to Ahmad al-Bishri
o The Shaykh tells Sidi al-Bishri to always be in the remembrance of Allah, and to find repose and love only with Allah. That is because Allah is the most Exalted of what is mentioned and the purpose in which the servant must spend his entire life. This is the reason for which Allah created us and if anyone spends his life busy with other things, then this is a regret that will not avail him in the Hereafter.
o The Shaykh then encourages Sidi al-Bishri to be in attendance of the Zawiya (i.e. the spiritual retreats), and to visit those who cannot attend. Also, he is told that all these people should be with Shaykh Ibn ‘Ajiba, since he is a master who can gather people around him.
o They are also told to have contentment with regards to this world, so that they will be sound of state in front of Allah. The Shaykh says that those who are not of sound state will not enjoy even the religious duties; but those who are content, they have such great joy with the slightest good action, and many blessings will open up for them when performing any good action. The Shaykh says that had it not been for the desire of the world and its people that tire one with abundant works, then people would see, hear, and have knowledge of amazing things, even with very little effort. The Shaykh then reiterates that this is the path they must take if they wish to attain this world (and the Hereafter) since abstention from the world is the only path to success.
5. Letter to Ahmad al-Bishri and all the Brethren of Tittwan
o The way of the Sufis is built on: trueness, abandoning one’s ego, and abandoning one’s wealth. They are the foundation, the wall, and the ceiling, respectively, of the Sufi way. Trueness means to comply with everything that one is told, while abandoning one’s ego means to abandon all its habits and desires. And within this bad trait is included paying attention to what others think about one, as well as love of status, distinction, power, wealth, and praise. But more subtly, the root of all this is love of the world which lies deep in the heart. Were this to cease, the heart would be filled with the Light of Allah, and the servant would become Allah’s servant and would also behold Allah’s secret.
o We should remember that nothing veils us from Allah except our lack of servitude to Him, for whoever doesn’t devote himself to Allah will devote himself to his ego, and therefore to all things. In such a case, the slightest thing in this world will dispose of him. The advice then, is to be absent from watching the ego so that we may become absent from watching things. What we should do is to watch Allah in these things, so that vigilance becomes for Allah and not for things (and the ego). If one reaches humility at that stage, it will be towards Allah, unlike those who are humble towards things due to ignorance.
o Thus, the servant’s humility is commensurate with his knowledge of Allah. The truly humble ones become humble even towards stones, mud, the good, and the bad, due to beholding the Creator in these things. They may even bring themselves to the level of dogs, and they don’t care. As for those who elevate themselves above dogs, they are really arrogant. Do they not know that dogs, like they themselves, are a possibility from among the possibilities, brought into existence through Allah’s Wisdom, Omnipotence, Will and Knowledge? When we know this truth fully in our minds and in our hearts, then we will truly understand humility as it should be understood.
o Thus, one should bring his soul to assume their real traits so that ignorance leaves the person, and knowledge is disclosed so that the heart will be at rest from the potential worries that may come to it. And finally, the Shaykh reiterates that the only dwelling is that of servitude, through which salvation will be reached.
 As accessed on the 22nd of April 2013