Light Within Me
Stages of Spiritual Journey
Allamah Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai
A materialist passes his life in the dark valley of
materialism. He is plunged in the sea of evil desires and always is tossed
from this side to that side by the waves of material relations of wealth,
wife and children. He cries for help, but in vain and in the end gets
nothing but disappointment.
Sometimes in this sea a breath of enlivening breeze
(divine impulse) pats him and kindles in him a hope that he may reach the
shore safely. But this breeze does not blow regularly. It is only
"In your life you get some pleasant breaths from your
Lord. Make a point of being benefited by them and do not turn away from
Under the divine impulse the novice decides to somehow or
other pass the world of plurality This journey is called by the gnostics
sayr wa suluk (spiritual journey).
Suluk means to traverse the path and sayr means to view
the characteristics and prominent features of the stages and stations on
Riyazat and acts of self-mortification are the provisions
required for this spiritual journey. As it is not easy to renounce the
material relations, the novice slowly breaks the snares of the world of
plurality and cautiously begins his journey from the material world.
Before long he enters another world called "barzakh".
This is the world of his evil desires and inner thoughts. Here he finds
that material relations have accumulated a lot of impurities in his heart.
These impurities which are an offshoot of his material relations, are a
product of his voluptuous thoughts and sensual desires.
These thoughts obstruct the novice in the pursuit of his
spiritual journey with a result that he loses peace of mind. He wants to
enjoy the recollection of Allah for some time, but these thoughts suddenly
interrupt him and foil his efforts
Somebody has well said that man is always engrossed in
his petty thoughts and haunted by the ideas of gain and loss. As a result
he not only loses his composure and peace of mind, but can also not pay
attention to his spiritual journey to a higher world. It is obvious that
mental unrest is more harmful than any physical loss or pain. Man can
avoid the clash of external relations and interests, but it is difficult
for him to get rid of his own ideas and thoughts because they are always
Anyhow, the true seeker of Allah and traveler in his way
is not distressed and discouraged by these obstacles and continues to
boldly proceed to his destination with the help of his divine impulse,
till he safely gets out of the world of petty and conflicting ideas called
barzakh. He has to be very vigilant and watchful lest any vicious thought
may remain lurking in some hidden corner of his mind.
When these vicious thoughts are turned out, they usually
hide in some hidden corner of the mind. The poor spiritual traveler
wrongly thinks that he has got rid of their mischief, but when he has
found the way to the fountain of life and wants to drink from it, they
suddenly appear to ruin him.
This spiritual traveler may be compared to a person who
has built a water tank in his house but has not used long. In the meantime
the impurities and pollution have settled down in the bottom of the tank
although water appears to be clear from above. He thinks that water is
clean, but when he gets down into the tank or washes something in it,
black patches appear on the surface and he finds that water is dirty.
For this reason it is necessary for the sمlik (spiritual
traveler) to concentrate his thoughts with the help of riyمzat and acts of
self-mortification so that his attention may not be diverted from Allah.
At last when after passing through the barzakh the spiritual traveler
enters the spiritual world, he still has to traverse several more stages
the details of which we will describe later.
In short the spiritual traveler watching his own lower
self and the Divine Names and Attributes gradually advances till
ultimately he reaches the stage of total fanم (self-annihilation) that is
passing away from his own perishable will and then the station of baqم
(abiding in the everlasting Will of Allah). It is at this stage that the
secret of eternal life is revealed to him.
We can infer this doctrine from the Holy Qur'an also if
we ponder over certain verses of it.
Think not of those who are slain in the way of Allah, as
dead. Nay, they are living. With their Lord they have provisions. (Surah
أli Imran, 3: 169).
Everything will perish save His Countenance.1 (28:88)
That which you have is wasted away, and that which is
with Allah remains. (Surah an Nahl, 6:96)
These verses put together show that the countenance of
Allah are those "who are living and who have provisions with their Lord."
According to the text of Qur'an they never perish. Certain other verses
indicate that the countenance of Allah signifies Divine names which are
In one of its verses the Qur'an itself has interpreted
the Countenance as the Divine names and characterizes the Countenance of
Allah as of glory and honor: Everyone who is living will pass away, and
there will remain the countenance of your Lord of glory and honor (Surah
ar Rahmمn, 55:27)
All the commentators of the Qur'an agree that in this
verse the phrase "of glory and honor" qualifies the countenance, and it
means the countenance of glory and honor. As we know, the countenance of
everything is that which manifests it. The manifestations of Allah are His
Names and Attributes. It is through them that the creation looks at Allah,
or in other words, knows Him. With this explanation we come to the
conclusion that every existing thing perishes and wastes away except the
glorious and beautiful names of Allah. This also shows that the gnostics
to whom the verse, "Nay, they are living and have their provisions with
their Lord", applies, are the manifestations of the glorious and beautiful
Names of Allah.
From the above it is also clear what the Holy Imams meant
when they said: "We are the Names of Allah." Obviously to be the head of a
government or to be the highest religious and legal authority is not a
position which could be described by these words. What actually these
words denote is the state of passing away in Allah, abiding permanently
with His countenance and being a manifestation of His glorious and
beautiful Names and Attributes.
In connection with the spiritual journey another
important and essential thing is meditation or contemplation (muraqabah).
It is necessary for the spiritual traveler not to ignore meditation at any
stage from the beginning to the end. It must be understood that meditation
has many grades and is of many types. In the initial stages the spiritual
traveler has to do one type of meditation and at later stages of another
type. As the spiritual traveler goes forward, his meditation becomes so
strong that if ever it was undertaken by a beginner, he would either give
it up for good or would be mad. But after successfully completing the
preliminary stages, the gnostic becomes able to undertake the higher
stages of meditation. At that time many things which were lawful to him in
the beginning get forbidden to him.
As a result of careful and diligent meditation a flame of
love begins to kindle in the heart of the spiritual traveller, for it is
an inborn instinct of man to love the Absolute Beauty and Perfection. But
the love of material things overshadows this inherent love and does not
allow it to grow and become visible.
Meditation weakens this veil till ultimately it is
totally lifted. Then that innate love appears in its full splendour and
leads man's conscience towards Allah. The mystic poets often figuratively
call this divine love "wine".
When the gnostic continues to undertake meditation, for
quite a long time, divine divine lights begin to be visible to him. In the
beginning these lights flash like lightning for a moment and then
disappear. Gradually the divine lights grow strong and appear like little
stars. When they grow further, they appear first like the moon and then
like the sun. Sometimes they appear like a burning lamp also. In the
gnostic terminology these lights are known as the gnostic sleep and they
belong to the world of barzakh.
When the spiritual traveler has passed this stage and his
meditation grows stronger, he sees as if the heaven and the earth were all
illuminated from the East to the West. This light is called the light of
self and is seen after the gnostic has passed the world of barzakh. When
after coming out of the world of barzakh primary manifestations of self
begin to occur, the spiritual traveler views himself in a material form.
He often feels that he is standing beside himself. This stage is the
beginning of the stage of self stripping.
Allamah Mirza Ali Qمzi used to say that one day when he
came out from his room into the veranda he suddenly saw himself standing
quietly beside himself. When he looked carefully, he saw that there was no
skin or flesh on his face. He went back into his room and looked into the
mirror. He found his face was as empty as it had never been.
Sometimes it happens that the gnostic feels as if he did
not exist at all. He tries to find himself but he does not succeed. These
the observations of the early stages of self-stripping, but they are not
free from the limitations of time and space. In the next stage, with
Allah's help the spiritual traveler can rise above these limitations also
and can view complete reality of his self. It is reported that Mirza Jawad
Malaki Tabrizi passed full fourteen years in Akhund Mulla Husayn Quli
Hamdani's company and took from him lessons in gnosis. He says:
"One day my teacher told me about one of his pupils that
thence forward his training was my responsibility. This pupil was very
pains-taking and diligent. For six years he kept himself busy with
meditation and self-mortification. At last he reached the stage of knowing
his self and having been stripped of his evil self (passion and lust). I
deemed it proper that the teacher himself should tell that fact to this
pupil. So I took him to the house of the teacher whom I told what I
wanted. The teacher said: "That's nothing." At the same time he waved his
hand and said: "This is stripping." That pupil used to say: "I saw myself
being stripped of my body and at the same time felt as if another person
just like me was standing beside me."
It may be mentioned here that to see the things existing
in the world of barzakh is comparatively of small account. It is of
greater significance to view one's own lower self (nafs) in an absolutely
stripped state, for in this case self appears as a pure reality free from
the limitations of time and space The viewing of the earlier stages was
comparatively preliminary and partial and this viewing is so to say the
perception of the whole.
Agha Sayyid Ahmad Karbalم'i, another well-known and
prominent pupil of the late Akhund says: "One day I was sleeping somewhere
when all of a sudden somebody awakened me and said to me: Get up at once
if you want to see the eternal light.' I opened my eyes and saw an
immensely bright light shining everywhere and in all directions."
This is a stage of the enlightenment of self. It appears
in the shape of an infinite light.
When a lucky spiritual traveler has passed this stage, he
passes other stages also with a speed in proportion to the attention he
pays to meditation. He views Allah's Attributes or becomes conscious of
Allah's Names as an absolute quality. On this occasion he suddenly feels
that all existing things are only a unit of knowledge and there exists
nothing but one single power. This is the stage of the vision of the
Divine attributes. The stage of the vision of Divine names is still
higher. At this stage the devotee sees that in all the worlds there exists
only one Knower and only one Omnipotent and Living Being. This stage is
far higher than that of the consciousness of the Divine Attributes, a
state which appears in the heart, for now the spiritual traveler does not
find any being knowing, powerful and living except Allah. This degree of
vision is usually achieved during the recitation of the Qur'an, when the
reader feels that there is somebody else who is listening to his
It may be remembered that recitation of the Qur'an is
very effective in securing this state. The devotee should offer the night
prayers and should recite in them those surahs during the recitation of
which prostration is obligatory, namely Surah Sajdah, Surah Hمmim Sajdah,
Surah Najm, and Surah al-Alaq, for it is very pleasant to fall
prostrating while reciting a surah. Experience has also proved that it is
very effective for this purpose to recite the Surah Sمd in the Thursday
night prayers (wutairah). This characteristic of this surah is indicated
by the report concerning the merits of this surah also.
When the devotee has completed all these stages and
visions, he is surrounded by divine impulses and every moment he goes
closer to the stage of real self-annihilation, till he is so seized by a
divine impulse that he is totally absorbed in the beauty and perfection of
the "True Beloved." He no longer pays heed to himself or to anybody else.
He beholds Allah everywhere. There was Allah and nothing was with
In this condition the devotee is plunged in the
fathomless sea of divine vision.
It must be remembered that this does not mean that
everyhing in the material world loses its existence. Actually the devotee
sees unity in plurality. Otherwise everything continues to exist as it is.
A gnostic has said: "I was among the people for 30 years They were under
the impression that I was taking part in all their activities but actually
throughout this period I did not see them and did not know anyone but
The coming about of this state is of great importance. In
the beginning it may come about only for a moment, but gradually its
duration grows longer, first it may last for about 10 minutes or so, then
for an hour and subsequently even for a longer period. This state may even
become permanent by the grace of Allah.
In the sayings of the gnostics this state has been termed
as "abiding in Allah" or "the ever-lasting life in Allah". Man cannot
attain to this stage of perfection unless he passes away from self. On
attaining to this stage the devotee does not see anything except Allah.
It is said that there was an enraptured sufi who was
seized by a divine impulse. His name was Bمbم Farajullah. People asked him
to say something about the world. He said: "What can I say about it? I
have not seen it since I was born."2
In the beginning when the vision is weak, it is called a
state and its occurrence is beyond the control of the devotee. But when as
a result of continued meditation and by the grace of Allah this state
becomes a permanent feature, then it is called a station. Now the state of
vision gets under the control of the spiritual traveler or devotee.
Obviously a strong spiritual traveler is he who along
with viewing these states keeps an eye to the world of plurality also and
maintains well his relations to the world of unity and to the world of
plurality at the same time. This is a very high position and cannot be
attained easily. Perhaps this position is reserved for the Prophets and
some other chosen people who are favorites of Allah and who can say: "The
state of my relation to Allah is such that the most favorite angel cannot
attain to it."3 and at the
same time declare: "I am a human being just like you." 4
Somebody may say that only the Prophets and the Imams can
attain to these high positions. How is it possible for others to attain to
them? Our reply is that Prophethood and Imamate are undoubtedly the
special assignments to which others cannot reach. But the station of
'absolute Oneness' and passing away in Allah which is called wilمyat is
not exclusively reserved for the Prophets and the Imams, who have
themselves called upon their followers to try to attain to this station of
perfection. The Holy Prophet has asked his Ummah (Muslim nation) to follow
in his footsteps. This shows that it is possible for others also to
advance to this position, or else such an instructions would have no
The Qur'an says: Surely in the Messenger you have a good
example for him who looks to Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah
much. (Surah al-Ahzمb, 33:21)
There is a report in the Sunni books that once the Holy
Prophet said: "Had you not been talkative and of uneasy hearts you would
have seen what I see and would have heard what I hear."
This report shows that the real cause of not attaining to
human perfection is fiendish thoughts and vicious acts. According to a
report from the Shi'ah source also, the Holy Prophet has said: "Had not
the satans been roaming around their hearts, the human beings would have
seen the whole kingdom of the heavens and the earth."
One of the characteristics of this high human position is
that it enables the individual holding it to comprehend the divine
kingdoms according to his capacity. He gains the knowledge of the past and
the future of the universe and can dominate and control everything,
The famous gnostic, Shaykh Abdul Karim al-Jili writes in
his book, the 'Perfect Man' that once he was overcome by such a condition
that he felt as if he had been unified with all other existing things and
could see everything. This state did not last more than a moment.
Obviously it is because of the devotees' preoccupation
with their physical needs that this state does not last long.
A well known sufi says that a man gets rid of the traces
of material development only 500 years after his death. This period is
equivalent to half a day of the divine days. Allah has said: Surely a day
with your Lord is like one thousand years of your reckoning. (Surah
It is evident that the next worldly blessings and divine
bounties and favors are innumerable and unlimited. The words expressing
them have been coined on the basis of human needs and new words need to be
coined with the expansion of human requirements. That is why it is not
possible to express all divine truths and favors by words. Whatever has
been said is only symbolical and metaphorical. It is impossible to express
the higher truths in words. It has been said: "You are in the darkest
world." According to this tradition man is living in the darkest of the
worlds (earth) created by Allah.
Man coins words to meet his daily requirements on the
basis of what he sees and feels in this material world. He has no
knowledge of the relations, blessings and spirits of the other worlds and,
therefore, he cannot coin words for them. That is why there do not exist
proper words in any language of the world which may express higher truths
and concepts. Now when our knowledge is limited and our thinking faulty,
how can this problem be solved?
There are two groups of people who have talked about
higher truths. The first is that of the Prophets. They have direct contact
with the non-material worlds, but they also say: "We, the Prophets, have
been ordered to talk to the people according to their intellectual
capacity." That means that they are compelled to express the truths in a
way intelligible to the common people. Therefore they have avoided to
describe the nature of the spiritual lights and their brilliance. They
have not talked about the truths unintelligible to man. They have only
used such words as paradise, houries and palaces for the truth about which
it has been said: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard and no one
has thought about it". They have even admitted that the truths of the
other worlds are indescribable.
The second group is of those who advance along the path
prescribed by the Prophets and perceive the truths according to their
capability. They also use a figurative style.
Sincerity of Devotion
It must be remembered that without being sincere in the
way of Allah it is not possible to attain to spiritual stations and
stages. Truth cannot be unraveled to a spiritual traveler unless he is
fully sincere and single-minded in his devotion.
There are two stages of sincerity. The first stage is of
carrying out all religious injunctions for the sake of Allah only. The
second stage is of devoting one's entire self exclusively to Allah. The
first stage is indicated by the following verse:
They are ordained nothing but to worship Allah keeping
religion pure for Him. (Surah al-Bayyinah, 98:5)
The second stage is indicated by the following verse:
Save single minded slaves of Allah. (Surah as Saffat,
There is a well known Prophetic tradition to the effect
that he who has kept himself pure for Allah for 40 days, fountains of
wisdom flow from his heart to his tongue.
This tradition also alludes to the second stage of
sincerity. The Qur'an has at certain places described a deed as salih
(virtuous and pious). For example it said: "Whoever did a salih (virtuous
and pious) deed", And at some other places it describes some men as salih.
For example at one place it says: "Surely he was one of the salih
(pious)." Similarly it has sometimes described a deed as sincere and
sometimes a man as sincere. It is obvious that man's sincerity depends on
his deeds and he cannot be sincere unless he is sincere in all his deeds
and in all that he does or says. Allah says: "To Him ascends good word and
the good deed raises it. (Surah al-Fatir, 35:10)
It may be remembered that a man who attains to the grade
of personal sincerity, is endowed with certain other characteristic
qualities which are not possessed by others.
An important characteristic which he acquires according
to a text of the Qur'an he becomes immune from the domination of Satan.
The Qur'an quotes Satan as saying: My Lord, I swear by Your honor, I shall
adorn the path of error for them in the earth and shall mislead all of
them, except such of them as are your sincerely devoted slaves. (Surah
It is clear that Allah's sincerely devoted slaves have
been excluded here not because Satan was forced by Allah to do so. They
have been excluded because owing to their attaining to the station of
unity', Satan can no longer gain control over them. As these people made
themselves pure for Allah, they see Allah wherever they cast their eyes.
Whatever shape Satan may assume, they see the manifestation of Allah's
glory in it. That is why Satan has admitted from the beginning his
helplessness against them. Otherwise, it is his job to seduce the children
of Adam and to lead them astray. He can have no mercy on anyone.
The second point is that the sincerely devoted slaves of
Allah will be exempted from reckoning on the Day of Judgement. The Qur'an
says: And the trumpet is blown and all who are in the heavens and the
earth swoon away save him whom Allah wills. (Surah az-Zumar, 39:68)
This verse definitely shows that an unspecified group of
people will be saved from the horrors of the Day of Judgement. When we
match this verse with another verse which reads:
They will surely be produced save sincerely single-minded
people, (Surah as Saffat, 37:39 - 40) it becomes clear what that group
will be. The sincerely devoted people need not be brought up for
reckoning. They have already secured eternal life as the result of their
meditations, self-annihilation and ceaseless acts of devotion. They have
already passed the reckoning and judgement and as having been slain in the
way of Allah, they have provision with their Lord.
Think not of those who are slain in the way of Allah as
dead. Nay, they are living. With their Lord they have provision (Surah Ali
Moreover, only that one is produced who is not present.
These people are already present even before the beginning of the Day of
resurrection, for Allah says that they have a provision with their Lord.
The third point is that on the Day of Judgement people
will generally be rewarded and recompensed for their deeds. But these
sincerely single- minded people will be favored with rewards beyond their
deeds. Allah says: You are not requited but what you did, save sincerely
single-minded slaves of Allah. (Surah az-Zumar, 39:40)
If it is claimed that this verse means only that the
sinners will be punished for their sins, but the reward given to the
virtuous will purely be a favour bestowed on them by Allah, we will say
that this verse is general in its connotation and does not exclusively
refer to the sinners. Moreover, there is no contradiction between Allah's
favour and His recompense, for Allah's favor means that He sometimes
rewards a great deal for small deeds. In spite of this kind of favor the
reward still remains for the deeds performed. But what this verse says is
quite a different thing. It says that what Allah will bestow on His
sincerely single-minded slaves, will be a pure favor, not a reward for any
deeds at all.
Another verse says: There they have all that they desire
and there is more with Us (Surah Qaf, 50:35)
This verse means that the inmates of Paradise will have
all that man can desire or wish Not only that, but Allah will bestow on
them what they cannot imagine or think of. This point is worth
The fourth point is that this group holds such a high
position that its members can glorify Allah in the most appropriate
Allah says: Glorified be Allah from what they attribute
to Him, except what the sincerely single-minded slaves of Allah say of Him
(Surah as -Saffat, 37:159 - 160)
This is the highest position that a man can occupy.
The above mentioned details show what the blessings of
this last stage of gnosis are. But it must be kept in mind that these
blessings can be obtained only when a spiritual traveler's ceaseless
devotion reaches the stage of self-annihilation so that he may be called
to have been slain in the way of Allah and may become eligible for the
reward reserved for martyrs. Just as in the battlefield the sword cuts off
the connection between the body and soul of a martyr, similarly a
spiritual traveler snaps off the connection between his body and soul by
fighting against his appetitive soul. For this purpose he acquires the
help of his spiritual power instead of using his physical force.
In the beginning of his spiritual journey a devotee
should lead an ascetic life and should constantly contemplate on the
worthlessness of the vanities of the world and thus should break off his
relation to the world of plurality. When he would cease to be interested
in the world, no material gain will ever please him nor will any material
loss grieve him.
So that you grieve not for what you have missed and exult
not for what you have been given. (Surah al-Hadid, 57:23)
Indifference to the happiness and sorrow does not mean
that the spiritual traveler does not feel happy even about the bounties of
Allah or does not grieve at anything which may distress Him, for happiness
about Allah's favors is not the result of his love for worldly
trivialities such as wealth, rank, honor, fame etc. He loves the bounties
of Allah because he finds himself overwhelmed by His mercy.
After passing this stage the devotee feels that he still
loves himself ardently. Whatever spiritual effort and exercises he makes
is the result of his self-love. Man is selfish by nature. He is always
ready to sacrifice everything else for his own self. He would be willing
to destroy anything for the sake of his own survival. It is difficult for
him to do away with this natural instinct and to overcome his selfishness.
But so long as he does not do so, he cannot expect the divine light to
manifest itself in his heart. In other words unless a spiritual traveler
annihilates his individual self he cannot establish his connection with
Allah. Therefore it is necessary for him first to weaken and ultimately to
smash the spirit of selfishness so that whatever he may do, is done purely
for the sake of Allah and his sense of self-love may turn into love for
For this purpose ceaseless effort is necessary. After
passing this stage the devotee's attachment not only to his body and every
other thing material ceases to exist, but even his attachment to his soul
is finished. Now whatever he does, he does for Allah alone. If he eats to
satiate his hunger or provides for the bare necessities of life, he does
so only because his Eternal Beloved wants him to continue to live. All his
wishes become subject to the Will of Allah. That is why he does not seek
any miraculous power for himself. He believes that he has no right to
undertake any sort of spiritual exercise with a view to know the past or
predict future events or to practice thought-reading or to cover very long
distances in a very short time or to make any changes in the universal
system or to invigorate his libidinous faculties, for such acts are not
performed for pleasing Allah, nor can they be motivated by sincere
devotion to Hirn. They mean only self-worship and are performed for the
satisfaction of one's licentious desires, although the person concerned
may not admit this fact and although he may apparently be sincerely
devoted to Allah. But according to the following verse he only worships
his desire. Have you seen him who makes his desire his god? (Surah
Therefore the spiritual traveler should pass all these
stages cautiously and do his best to gain complete control over his
vanity. We shall further talk on this subject later.
When a devotee reaches this final stage, he gradually
begins to lose interest in himself and ultimately forgets himself totally.
Now he sees nothing except the eternal everlasting beauty of his True
It must be borne in mind that it is essential for the
spiritual traveler to gain complete victory over the fiendish horde of
licentious desires, love for wealth, fame and power, pride and conceit. It
is not possible to attain perfection if any trace of self-love is left,
that is why it has been observed that many a distinguished man even after
years long spiritual exercise and ceaseless acts of devotion could not
attain perfection in gnosis and was defeated in his battle against his
phenomenal self. The reason was that his heart was not fully purified, and
petty desires still lurked in some corner of his heart, though he was
under the impression that all his evil qualities had been uprooted. The
result was that at the time of test the suppressed desires once again
raised their head and began to thrive, with the result that the poor
devotee fell on evil times.
Success against the lower self depends on the favor of
Allah and cannot be achieved without His help.
It is said that one day the late Bahrul 'Ulum was very
cheerful. On being asked about the reason of that, he said: "After
performing ceaseless acts of devotion for 25 years now I find my deeds
free from ostentation." The lesson in this story is worth being remembered
It is to be remembered that a spiritual traveler must
abide by the Islamic injunctions from the very beginning of his embarking
on the path of gnosis to the end of it. Even the slightest digression from
the law is not allowed. If you find that anyone inspite of claiming to be
a gnostic, does not follow all the rules of Islamic law and is not
strictly pious and virtuous, he may be regarded as a hypocrite and
impostor. But if he commits a mistake and has some valid reason to justify
his wrong action, then it is a different thing.
It is a big lie and calumny to hold that the Islamic code
of law may be disregarded by a wali (Muslim saint). The Holy Prophet held
the highest position among all living beings, but he still abided by the
injunctions of Islam till the last moments of his life. Therefore it is
absolutely wrong to say that a wali is not obligated to observe the law.
Anyhow, it is possible to say that an ordinary man worships Allah in order
to consummate his potentialities, but a wali worships Him because his high
position requires him to do so. Aisha is reported to have said to the Holy
Prophet: "When Allah has said about you: So that Allah may forgive you of
your sin, that which is past and that which is to come, (Surah al-Fath,
48:2) then why do you exert yourself so much to perform the acts of
worship?" The Holy Prophet said: "Should I not be a thankful slave of
This shows that certain individuals worship Allah not for
the consummation of their personality, but to show their gratitude to
The states which a spiritual traveler experiences and the
lights which he beholds, should be a prelude to his acquisition of certain
traits and qualities. Otherwise a simple change in his condition is not
enough. The spiritual traveler must completely get rid of all remnants of
the lower world in himself by means of meditation and ceaseless acts of
devotion. It is not possible to acquire the position of the virtuous and
the pure without acquiring their qualities. A little slip in the matters
of meditation and acts of devotion may cause a spiritual traveler a
tremendous loss. The following verse throws light on this point: Muhammad
is but a messenger. Other messengers have passed away before him. Will it
be that, when he dies or is slain, you will turn back on your heels?
(Surah Ali Imran, 3:144)
Therefore the spiritual traveler must cleanse his heart
and purify himself inwardly and outwardly so that he may be graced with
the company of the pure souls.
Allah says: Forsake outward as well as inward sins.
(Surah al-An'am, 6:120)
Acting according to this verse the spiritual traveler
must pass all those stages which enable him to arrive at the stage of
sincere devotion. These stages have been briefly enumerated in the
Those who believe, and have left their homes and strive
with their wealth and their lives in Allah's way, are of much greater
worth in Allah's sight. These are they who are triumphant. Their Lord
gives them good tidings of mercy from Him, and acceptance, and Gardens
where enduring pleasures will be theirs. There they will abide forever.
Surely with Allah there is an immense reward. (Surah at-Tawbah, 9:20-22)
According to this verse there are four worlds preceding
to the world of sincere devotion: (i) World of Islam, (ii) World of faith,
(iii) World of emigration, and (iv) World of Jihad in the way of Allah.
According to the Prophetic tradition in which it has been said: "We have
returned from a minor holy war to a major holy war", the spiritual
traveler's struggle is a major holy war (major jihad), and as such his
Islam also should be a major Islam and his faith also a major faith. After
passing the stages of Islam and faith he should muster enough courage to
be able to emigrate in the company of the inward messenger with the help
of the outward messenger or his successor. Thus he should undertake
self-mortification, so that he may gain the status of a person slain in
the way of Allah.
The spiritual traveler must keep it in mind that from the
beginning of his spiritual journey till the stage of self-mortification he
has to face many obstacles, which are created either by man or the Devil.
He has to pass through the worlds of major Islam and major faith before
reaching the stage of self-mortification and gaining the status of a
martyr. In the spiritual journey major Islam, major faith, major
emigration and major holy war are preliminary stages preceding the final
stage. The major obstacles in the way to these stages are called major
infidelity and major hypocrisy. At this stage the junior devils can do no
harm to the spiritual traveler, but Satan who is their supreme head still
tries to obstruct his progress. Therefore, while passing through these
stages he should not think that he is out of danger. So long as he does
not pass out of above-mentioned "major worlds", Satan will continue to
obstruct his way. The spiritual traveler should keep up his spirit and
beware of Satan, lest he be involved in major infidelity or major
hypocrisy. After passing through the worlds of major Islam and major faith
the spiritual traveler undertakes major emigration and then by means of
self-mortification he passes through major self-resurrection and then
passes into the valley of those who are sincerely devoted to Allah. May
Allah grant us all this success.
1. Countenance of Allah signifies the
Divine names and attributes through which Allah manifests Himself in all
existing things. All things will perish but their countenance will remain
because that is the manifestation of Allah. In simpler words it may be
said that the 'basis' on which depends the existence of things does not
2. The biography of Baba Faraj, the
enraptured is available in Tarikh Hashari. It is about the learned men and
the sufis and gnostics of Tabriz. There is a couplet in it regarding the
above words of Baba Faraj. There are similar versified sayings of Hمfiz
and the renowned Arab mystical poet, ibn Fمriz.
3. A tradition of an Imam.
4. In the Qur'an Allah asks the Holy
Prophet to tell the pagans: "I am a human being just like you, except that
I receive revelation."