Hakim al Umma Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (Allah have mercy on him) said,
‘As there are different levels of imagination (when making remembrance of Allah) therefore, to make it concise, clear and to classify them into five stages I use an example;
1. Remembrance is made of a Beloved who is neither present (in front of the the one making dhikr) nor he is aware(that he is being watched). He is absent (from his imagination) and (he is) unaware (of it).
2. Remembrance is made of Him who is in front but faraway and can not be visualized clearly.
3. Remembrance is made of Him who is in front and closer. He can be visualized clearly.
4. He is very close. Observing Him is engrossing. To extent that due to overwhelming love one becomes unaware on himself.
5. This engrossment progress to the stage that one becomes oblivious of this unawareness.
Now I apply the technical known names for theses stages;
1. This is ‘dhikr’. This is because there is only remembrance (of the name) in it.
2. This is ‘hudur‘ (being in presence). This is because the One being imagined is in front and present.
3. This is ‘mukashafah‘ (unveiling). The close proximity of the One being imagined leads to perfect sense of being in the presence and complete unveiling of the details.
4.This is ‘shuhood‘ or ‘mushahidah‘ (witnessing). Technically witnessing is the epitome of hudhur. This leads to overwhelming affection, infatuation and rapture. It is also known as ‘fana‘ (annihilation) because of these engrossing emotions one in unaware of himself.
5. This is ‘mu’ainiah‘ (viewing). This is because it is a hudur that exceeds the technical limits of shuhud. One is oblivious of his unawareness and therefore it is also known as ‘fana ul fana’.
(Applying this further on the schema of ‘lataif‘)
1. The action of latifa al qalb is dhikr (remembrance)
2. The action of latifa al ruh is hudur.
3. The action of latifa al sirr is mukashafah.
4. The action of latifa al khafi is shuhud, mushahida and fana.
5. The action of latifa al akhfa is mu’ainah and fana ul fana.
Some of the spiritual masters are of the opinion that remembrance (of Allah) must be done in the specified manner to the extent that these five lataif become active individually. That is they perform their actions.
Other (spiritual) masters opine that remembrance (of Allah) should be done only with (latifa) al qalb to the extent that all the actions (of other lataif) happen. There is no need at all to talk about the specific actions of lataif. They consider focusing on lataif in detail to be a veil. Also, in the Prophetic saying only qalb has been mentioned in this context. Moreover, even those who engage in activating these lataif (individually) acknowledge that there is a interconnection between these lataif. Therefore, making remembrance via al qalb eventually affects and activates the other lataif. This is because these lataif are like mirrors that reflect into each other.’
Bawadir al Nawadir, page 565-6