Teachings of Hakim al-Umma Mawlana Ashraf 'Ali Thanawi & his spiritual successors, particularly 'Arifbillah Dr 'Abdul Hayy 'Arifi (may Allah bless them) and Sayyidi Mawlana Mufti Mohammad Taqi Usmani (may Allah preserve him) regarding Tasawwuf
A spiritual aspirant wrote, Sir! The conditions of wilting and constriction is ever increasing. Weeks and months pass by without experiencing any happiness. It looks like mind and heart are dead. There no solace either in being alone or in gatherings. I’m extremely disturbed by the vacuum and suspension in life. The work is merely for acquiring sustenance there is no aspect of interest in it at all. ……………
……. The wish for dying has not as yet developed, however, life is a burden……………
Hakim al Umma Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (Allah have mercy on him) replied,
‘This condition is called spiritual constriction (qabd). It happens to all (spiritual wayfarers:salikeen ). Outwardly it appears to be an affliction, however in reality it is a blessing.
Its causes are different. Sometimes it is disturbance in normal physiological (bodily) functioning or mixing (in unsuitable company) or seasonal affect or medicinal side effects or (consumption of inappropriate) food or psychological factors, or (excessive) thinking or (overwhelming) sadness or anger. All of these are treated by there opposites.
Sometimes it is due to sinful involvement. It’s treatment is abandoning the sinful and excessive repentance.
Sometimes it to elevate the spiritual status of the aspirant. That is, the deficiency in volitional good actions is compensated by forced spiritual struggle. This increases the spiritual status.
At other times it is to rectify one’s morals (ikhlaq). That is, by observing one’s imperfections there is development of humbleness and humility. This cures many blameworthy morals, like narcissism (ujub), arrogance (kibr) and hard-heartedness (qasawet), etc. .
Sometimes it is a test of love and reverence. That is to see if the individual works only when happy and experiencing enjoyment or continues with good actions when there is no experiencing at all. Because the later condition can only be due to overwhelming love and reverence.
At other times it is leads to attraction (jazb) to the sanctified realm (‘alam al quds) by removing the veils and obstacles.
And sometimes the causes are beyond descriptions.
After this prelude, there are some points of caution,
1. Sometimes various different causes are combined
2. When this (qabd) occurs it is futile to investigate and identify the reasons behind it. Moreover it is detrimental to do so. This is because there is no way to ascertain it definitely. And it will be a wasted effort.
3. The rights of all the possibilities should be fulfilled. That is (practice ) repentance, patience, thankfulness, assigning affairs to Allah (tafweez) , relying on Allah, humility, supplications, turning to Allah, excessive remembrance, being steadfast in good actions, decrease in useless affairs, involvement in activities that relax and strengthen the mind like meeting friends, interaction with spouse and children, consuming one’s favorite foods in moderation. All these must be combined in a efficient way.
4. All of these (above mentioned) activities should be done without the intention of treatment or expecting (a hastened) spiritual opening (bast) or blissful state. These are in themselves (necessary) to be done. One should be ready to be steadfast in fulfilling these rights even if this spiritual constriction prevails till the end of life.
5. Staying away as much as possible from all the astringent and worrisome affairs.
Use of these interventions meticulously, InshaAllah, will result most of the times in spontaneous (physical/tabaii) spiritual opening and for sure in intellectual (‘aqli) spiritual opening.
If there is suspicion of relapse then as per ان عدتم عدنا be ready. Like an individual who get a seasonal fever (every year). He doesn’t despair. He just renews the prescription again (for use).
Hakim al Umma Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (Allah have mercy on him) said,
‘After bayiah (spiritual allegiance) the things that need to be rectified upfront include, arrogance, negligence in fulfilling the rights of others (huqooqal ‘ebad), envy, hatred, creating adversity (fitna) between people, etc. However, nowadays no restrictions are instructed for these things. Whereas, previous pious elders (Mashāyikh) used to give priority to these things from first day.
The litanies & recitations (wazaif) were instructed after many years.
Moreover, these restrictions were not merely verbal instructions, they recommended various practices to uproot these spiritual ailments from the heart.
Like, if they saw an individual afflicted with self adoration (زینت پرستی) he was instructed to sweep and tidy up the spiritual lodge (khanqah) or streets. Similarly, if they saw arrogance in an individual, he was instructed to tidy up the shoes of people coming to pray. These acts of humility have the ability to create humbleness in heart. ‘
When the Prophet (ﷺ) got up at night to offer the Tahajjud prayer, he used to say: Allahumma lakal-hamd.
Anta qaiyyimus-samawati wal-ard wa man fihinna.
Walakal-hamd, Laka mulkus-samawati wal-ard wa man fihinna.
Walakal-hamd, anta nurus-samawati wal-ard.
Wa lakal-hamd, anta-l-haq wa wa’duka-lhaq, wa liqa’uka Haq, wa qauluka Haq, wal-jannatu Han wan-naru Haq wannabiyuna Haq.
Wa Muhammadun, sallal-lahu’alaihi wasallam, Haq, was-sa’atu Haq.
Allahumma aslamtu Laka wabika amantu, wa ‘Alaika tawakkaltu, wa ilaika anabtu wa bika khasamtu, wa ilaika hakamtu faghfir li ma qaddamtu wama akh-khartu wama as-rartu wama’a lantu, anta-l-muqaddim wa anta-l-mu akh-khir, la ilaha illa anta (or la ilaha ghairuka).
(O Allah! All the praises are for you, You are the Holder of the Heavens and the Earth, And whatever is in them. All the praises are for You; You have the possession of the Heavens and the Earth And whatever is in them. All the praises are for You; You are the Light of the Heavens and the Earth And all the praises are for You; You are the King of the Heavens and the Earth; And all the praises are for You; You are the Truth and Your Promise is the truth, And to meet You is true, Your Word is the truth And Paradise is true And Hell is true And all the Prophets (Peace be upon them) are true; And Muhammad is true, And the Day of Resurrection is true. O Allah ! I surrender (my will) to You; I believe in You and depend on You. And repent to You, And with Your help I argue (with my opponents, the non-believers) And I take You as a judge (to judge between us). Please forgive me my previous And future sins; And whatever I concealed or revealed And You are the One who make (some people) forward And (some) backward. There is none to be worshipped but you . Sufyan said that `Abdul Karim Abu Umaiya added to the above, ‘Wala haula Wala quwata illa billah’ (There is neither might nor power except with Allah).
Shaykh Ahmed Zarruq (Allah have mercy on him) said,
‘The beginning of each sin is a random thought (khatrah).
It should be fought with loathing (karahah).
Otherwise it becomes a (recurring) opposition (mu’aradah). Here it should be met with aversion otherwise it becomes a (repeated) whispering (waswasa). Here it should be resisted with great effort (mujahida). Otherwise it becomes lust (shahwah) accompanied by capricious desire (hawa). Here all reason, knowledge and understanding will be obliterated and he will become to weak to save himself from sinking in to the bottomless pit of sin and crime.’
Shaykh Ahmed Zarruq (Allah have mercy on him) said,
‘Although the traveler (salik) must be more cautious after returning to sin he must not give up and despair. After every return, even a thousand time, he must renew his intention to repent.
If the Devil argues: “What is use of a repentance following a repetition of the sin?”, he must be answered, “Just as we made the sin’s repetition a habit, we make the repetition of repentance a habit too. ‘