Tasawwuf is all about this!
حضرت شاہ وصی اللہ الہابادی رحمة اللہ علیہ
حالات مصلح الامت رح، جلد ٤، ص
Shaikh Muhammad ibn Ahmed al Mawahib al Tunisi (Allah have mercy on him) said,
‘The prerequisite for repentance according to the masters of this path (sulook) is to break from the company of the disobedient.’
‘Warning: Take care not to return to the place you deserted and to the spot where you parted (with disobedience), for there you might immediately suffer a relapse.’
Qawanin Hikam al Ishraq, page 38
This company, place or spot may include individuals, specific venues and materials that are heard, read or seen. This is, especially so for the indiscriminate use of Internet in our days.
Being unsatisfied with our present condition we contemplate about a change, for example in career, environment or relationships, etc. We assume that the change will be better for us.
Shaikh Abdullah Gangohi (Allah have mercy on him) explained,
Whoever desired for a condition other than the condition in which Allah has created him at any given time, has left no stone unturned in the demonstration of his ignorance and imbecility.
It is imperative for the Believer to confront every situation which is not in conflict with the Shariah, with acceptance (radha) and submission (tasleem), whether the situation is a calamity pertaining to life and property or whether it is a state (emotional or spiritual) of the heart. The attitude of radha and tasleem is the demand of Allah’s esteemed status, comprehensive knowledge, Gnosis and being The Lord.
If a person wishes that the condition which Allah has imposed on him be substituted with another condition, e.g., adversity with prosperity or despondency with elation, then he displays complete ignorance and imbecility of the mind. The basis of such wishes and regrets is the ignorance of his nafs. If he had truly possessed the ma’rifat of Allah, he would have understood that these predestined conditions can never be displaced, hence regret and wish would not have occurred to him. He would have been contented with every circumstance and have observed respect. Now by these wishes he is clashing with the pre-ordained Divine Decree.
Ikmal us Shiyam
Hakim al Ummah Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (Allah have mercy on him) has made it repeatedly clear in his instructions to the seekers asking for help in giving up bad habits, morals and activities, that their determination and use of self discipline abilities forcefully is the only effective way to do so.
No doubt this is going to be difficult initially. However, with repeated use of determination and self-control it will gradually become easier.
Heartfelt supplications, pious company and better time management with recitations from Quran and remembrance of Allah are all helpful in facilitating this. But they can not replace the strong determination and forceful self-control.
This is a very simple basic principle that is often overlooked by seekers.
The Self-reproaching nafs
لا أقسم بيوم القيامة ولا أقسم بالنفس اللوامة
I swear by the Day of Resurrection,
and I swear by the self-reproaching conscience, (that Resurrection is a reality.)
This is the stage where the conscience is awakened and the self reproaches one for listening to one’s ego. That is, in committing the evil acts or omitting the virtuous or doing them in a sloppy manner.
Its characteristics include; reproaching, greed, coveting, self praise, show-off, cruelty, back-bitting, lying and heedlessness, love of fame and status. In sharing many characteristics of nafs al ammarah it maintains the ability to differentiate between the good and evil. However, it is not proficient, as yet, to fully follow the good commands and abstain from sinful. Moreover, if it does do some good acts it develops desires of self-praise (ujub) or showing-off or expecting praise from others. In this stage it is imperative that he acknowledges and exposes these blame worthy desires to his fellow-brethren (as per the instruction of his Shaikh). Otherwise these blame-worthy morals will cut-off his journey on this path.
It is essential that in this phase he makes excessive remembrance of Allah and exerts in the struggle (to do good and abstain from evil).
Here he is inflicted will excessive abstract, useless ideas, and random, bizarre thoughts. He has to fight them off with assistance of excessive remembrance of Allah and supplications, asking Allah for assistance in doing so effectively.
If he does so, he passes to the third stage.
Shaikh Abdul Ghani at Tarablusi al Khalwati (Allah have mercy on him) said,
‘It is your lower self (nafs) that veils you from Allah.
The scholars of Reality (al haqiqa) have mentioned seven stages of the nafs according to its changing states, the ammara, lawamah, mulhema, mutmainah, radhiya, mardhiya and kamilah.’
Al-Ifadaat al Wasiya,(Urdu translation of Tarsih al Jawahir al Makkiyah fi Tazkiya tul Aklaq al mardhiyah)
Following is a summary of Shaikh’s discussion.
1. The inciting nafs (nafs-i-ammara)
إِنَّ النَّفْسَ لأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ إِلاَّ مَا رَحِمَ رَبِّيَ
Surely, man’s inner self often incites to evil, unless my Lord shows mercy.”[12:53]
In its primitive stage the nafs incites us to commit evil: this is the corrupt nafs as the lower self, the base instincts. Its characteristics include; stinginess, greed, envy, ignorance, arrogance, lust, anger, heedlessness, coveting, bad manners, involvement in useless, making others’ fun, having malice for them and harming them with speech or hand.
It becomes the instrument of Satan’s seduction (to sin). It the most lethal enemy. Therefore extreme caution is needed in not listening to its insolent commands. (In a Prophetic saying the struggle against it has been mentioned as the highest level of righteous effort : jihad al akbar).
Being steadfast on the commandments of Shariah is essential. Keeping constant vigilance (muhasba) is required. It is imperative to have extreme humility and engagement in supererogatory deeds. This is facilitated by giving up (after consultation with Shaikh) the excessive permissible pleasures and all useless activities. By routinely crying in front of Allah asking for help and making remembrance of Allah as instructed by the Shaikh.
‘Never leave supplication because of being depressed and frustrated (by frequent slips) or lose hope by considering the goal to be unrealistic. This will severe the determination altogether.’
If one persists then Allah will spiritually enlighten the heart of the seeker that will make it possible to see the diseases that inflicts the nafs.
Then comes the second stage.
Imam Abdul Wahab al Sha’rani (Allah have mercy on him) quoted,
‘No level of servant hood (abdiyet) can be applied to an individual who does not consider all his good deeds to be ostentatious and all his states and conditions to be pretentious.’
Adurar al mandhood, (Hum say ‘ahd liyay giya) page 58
Hakim al Ummah Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (Allah have mercy on him) recommended a curriculum for the seekers to develop a clear understanding of the path of Tasawwuf.
The text included are arranged in particular order. They start with the simple basic books of Hakim al Ummah and move to Imam Ghazali’s Arbaeen and then to more advanced text such as Mathnawi of Mawlana Rumi, Adaab al Uboodiyah of Imam Sharani and Akmal ush Sheyam explanation of Al Hikam of Shaikh Ibn e AtaAllah al Iskanderi (Allah have mercy on them).
In addition to clearing concepts, the reading of these texts motivates the seeker to be firm on the path and to progress further.
Senior Shuyuk of our path used to complete the reading and explanation of this curriculum in special sessions reserved only for the serious seekers.
Individual seekers must read these books diligently like textbooks. They should mark the outstanding passages and take notes for later review.
Hakim al Ummah Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (Allah have mercy on him) said,
The sequence of events in the suook according to the people of this path are,
Firstly, there is development of determination (to traverse the path). At this time one should entrust one’s self to a perfect (kamil) Shaykh. In our era this is described as baiyah (or islahi ta’aluq).
Then the Shaykh e kamil will train the seeker either via general or comprehensive methods. This will create nisbet (experiential strong mutually friendly relationship with Allah) to an extent.
Alternatively, the Shaykh may initially bestow and transfer the nisbet and then proceed for training.
When the heart (qalb) is emptied from all the connections then the Shaykh may give khilafa (ijaza to instruct) to the seeker or wait till the down pouring of states and marifa. If they are destined then their knowledge and affects will descend on qalb (of the seeker). Their overwhelming is known as ascension (urooj ) and their peak is manifested as a indescribable effulgence (tajjali e bay kaif).
Then some are drowned in this forever while others recuperate. This recuperation is called descending (nuzool). The perfect viceregency (khilafat) and being a advanced level Shaykh is achieved at this level. ‘
Shariat wa Tariqat, page 51-2
Hakim al Ummah Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (Allah have mercy on him) said,
‘Khatir is the speech (kalam-e-nafsi: thought) that descends on the heart (qalb).
It has four categories. First is from Allah, the next from angel, another from the lower self (nafs) and the fourth from the Satan.
The first is known as khatir-e-Haq, the second as ilham, the third as hawajas and the fourth as wasawes.
Following is the way to distinguish them.
If the incoming thought is of virtuous nature and one can act against it, then it is a ilham. If one can not act against it then it is a katir-e-Haq.
If the incoming thought is of immoral nature and incites the blame worthy morals of the lower self, like lust, anger, etc. then it is from hawajes. If it lead to desires of sinful activities (in general) then it is from wasawes.
Shariat wa tariqat, page 355
A seeker inquired,
‘O Abu Saeed (Allah have mercy on him)! I spend the night in a sound state of physical health, I even have a desire to wake up at night for worship (tahajjud) and I also make arrangements for ablution but why is it that I can not get up?’
The Shaikh replied, ‘Your sinful activities hold you hostage (stopping you from getting up at this precious time to pray).’
What sinful activities?
Shaikh Taiwiri (Allah have mercy on him) said, ‘Once I was deprived of benefiting from the tahajjud prayers for seven month as a result of a sinful activity.’
On being question about this sinful act, he replied,
‘I saw a person crying and I thought (actively and with conviction) that he is being pretentious (riya kar).’
Awarif al-Ma’arif, (Urdu) 567
Qutub e ‘alam Shaikh Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi (Allah have mercy on him) said,
The reasons for loss of (spiritually) achieved benefit include, lack of vigilance in maintaining it, entrapment in sinful activities or being careless in (permissibility of) food consumed.
Therefore, search for cause (and rectify it).
If it is the third reason then be careful (about the permissibility of food).
If it is the second issue then repentance and abandonment of the transgression is required.
If it is the first reason then intimate supplications, expression of weakness and humility in the court of Supreme Benefactor and chastisement of one’s self (nafs) heedlessness (gaflah).
In short the treatment is excessive repentance and (acknowledgment of) remorse.
Makateeb e Rasheediyah, page 39 quoted via Ifadat e wasiyah 348-9
Shaikh Abu Saeed Gangohi (Allah have mercy on him) came to realize his spiritual loss after the death of his Shaikh. He had not completed his spiritual training as yet. He inquired about the senior spiritual inheritors of his Shaikh. It was mentioned that Shaikh Nizamuddin Balkhi (Allah have mercy on him) was the most distinguished deputies (khulafa).
For his islah Shaikh Abu Saeed travelled from Gangoh, India to Balkh, northern Afghanistan. A distance of approximately 1700 km (1050 miles). This was by horse or camel caravans and took many months to cover.
This was reflective of his yearning (talab) for islah and spiritual betterment to gain pleasure of Allah.
Compare this to our yearning!
Today we search for a Shaikh in the immediate vicinity of our residence, province or city. We want someone who will change his schedule to accommodate our convenience.
This is is NOT talab!
This only proves that we are not true seekers and do not realize the importance of islah.
If we were seriously sick and came to know of a expert physician we would seek his consultation irrespective of the location of his clinic, timings and charges. This is because we realize the potential danger of our illness if left untreated.
However, we are content with our spiritual maladies, the anger, arrogance, impatience, love of wealth & fame, ostentatiousness, insincerity, pretentiousness, the sins of speech and eyes, etc.
May Allah open our eyes and make us aware of our mistakes. May He facilitate this for us, the undeserving servants’, by His infinite mercy, kindness and philanthropy. Amin!