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Essentials of Wayfaring and Suluk

By: Allama Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Husayni Tehrani (RA)
One of the most important things which is one of the essentials of wayfaring and suluk is muraqabah, contemplative selfโ€‘vigilance.
From the first step that he takes on the Path until the last step, the wayfarer should not be devoid of muraqabah. This is one of the definite principles of wayfaring. It should be known that muraqabah consists of various degrees and levels. During the first stages the wayfarer has one kind of muraqabah while his muraqabah at the other stages is of another kind. The further he advances towards perfection and traverses the stages and phases, his muraqabah becomes more precise and profound, so that if those degrees of muraqabah were to be imposed on a wayfarer in the initial stages, he would not be able to bear them and would abandon wayfaring all together, or he would be consumed or perish. But gradually under the effect of the preliminary โ€‘degrees of muraqabah and gathering strength in wayfaring, he is enabled to carry out the high degrees of muraqabah in the later stages. In these stages, many of the things which were permissible and lawful for him in the early stages become unlawful and forbidden.
Under the effect of intense muraqabah and careful exercise of it the signs of love appear in the consciousness of the wayfarer, because the love of perfect beauty and perfection is innate in man (fitri) and incorporated in his makeโ€‘up and engraved in his being. However, attachment to multiplicity and love of material things become veils blocking this innate love which do not allow this eternal light to shine through.
Gradually, through muraqabah the veils become flimsy until ultimately they disappear altogether and that innate love manifests itself in one's consciousness, drawing it towards the Source of beauty and perfection. This muraqabah is referred to as `may' or `wine' in the terminology of the gnostics: ุจู‡โ€Œ ูพูŠุฑ ู…ูŠูƒุฏู‡โ€Œ ฺฏูุชู…โ€Œ ูƒู‡โ€Œ ฺ†ูŠุณุชโ€Œ ุฑุงู‡โ€Œ ู†ุฌุงุชโ€Œ
ุจุฎูˆุงุณุชโ€Œ ุฌุงู…โ€Œ ((ู…ูŠโ€Œ)) ูˆฺฏูุชโ€Œ ุฑุงุฒ ูพูˆุดูŠุฏู†โ€Œ
I asked the old man of the tavern, What's the way to salvation, He called for a cup of wine and said, Secrets are to be kept secret!
ุฑุงู‡โ€Œ ุฎู„ูˆุชฺฏู‡โ€Œ ุฎุงุตู…โ€Œ ุจู†ู…ุง ุชุง ูพุณโ€Œ ุงุฒ ุงูŠู†โ€Œ
((ู…ูŠโ€Œ)) ุฎูˆุฑู…โ€Œ ุจุง ุชูˆ ูˆ ุฏูŠฺฏุฑ ุบู…โ€Œ ุฏู†ูŠุง ู†ุฎูˆุฑู…โ€Œ
Lead me into my solitary privacy, that, Thereafter, I with Thee may drink sweet wine, And think no more of the world's bitter woes.
When the wayfarer carefully maintains his muraqabah, God, the Exalted, out of His love and grace, makes certain lights shine upon him as the first glimmers. At the beginning, these lights appear like flashes of lightning and they disappear as suddenly as they shine. But these lights gradually become stronger, like a small star that grows in brilliance and then begins to shine like a moon and then like a sun, and, at times, appears like a candle or lantern. These lights are called `the gnostic sleep' (nawmโ€‘e'irfani) in the jargon of the gnostics. These lights belong to the class of entities of the realm of Barzakh.
But when these phases of the wayfarer muraqabah become more intense and he observes it with precision, these lights become stronger and the wayfarer sees the whole heaven and earth, the east and the west, as one expanse of light. This light is the light of the spirit, which appears while passing through the world of Barzakh. But in the first stages of passing, when the revelatory lights of the soul (tajalliyatโ€‘e nafs) are about to begin to shine, the wayfarer sees his soul in a material form. In other words, he might see himself standing before himself. This is the beginning stage of the immateriality of the soul (tajarrudโ€‘e nafs).
Our teacher, marhum Hajj Mirza Aqa Qadiโ€‘may God be pleased with himโ€‘used to say, "One day emerging from the room into the verandah, I saw myself standing silent by my side. I looked very carefully at my face, and observed a mole on it. On returning to my room when I looked into the mirror, I saw that there was a mole on my face that I had not noticed until then." At times, the wayfarer finds that he has lost himself, and however he may seek he does not find himself. It was mentioned that these experiences occur in the preliminary stages of the immateriality of the soul and are bound to space and time. But later on, with the help of God, the wayfarer can witness the entire reality of his, soul in its total immateriality.
An episode is related about marhum Hajj Mirza Jawad Aqa Maliki Tabriziโ€‘may God be pleased with himโ€‘whofor fourteen years was the pupil and disciple of the master of gnosis and tawhid, marham Akhund Mawla Husaynquli Hamadaniโ€‘may God be pleased with him.
He used to say, "One day the Master said to me, `The task of training so ญandโ€‘so'โ€‘a disciple of his-is up to you: This disciple had a lot of courage and a firm determination. He carried out austerities and muraqabah for six years until he reached a station of pure receptivity for the perception of the soul's immateriality. I wanted that this wayfarer of the way of felicity to receive this grace of at the hands of the Master and to be dressed by him in this divine garb. I took him to the Master's home, and after I had mentioned my purpose, the Master said, `It is nothing,' and all of sudden he made a gesture with his hands, saying, 'Immateriality is like this.' That pupil later told me, `All of a sudden I saw that I had separated from my body and there was someone like myself standing at my side.'
It should be known that the observation of the beings of Barzakh is not much of an excellence, rather excellence lies in experiencing the soul in its complete and perfect immateriality. Since the soul, at this point, appears in its total immaterial reality, it is seen as a being unlimited by time and space, or, rather, as encompassing the world's east and west, and, contrary to the experience of the preliminary stages of multiplicity, this observation is of the kind of cognition of universals.
An episode is related about marhum Aqa Sayyid Ahmad Karbalaiโ€‘may God be pleased with himโ€‘who was one of the wellโ€‘known and outstanding pupils of the marhum Akhund. He said, "One day I was relaxing at a some place when somebody woke me up and said, `If you want to see the nurโ€‘e isfahbod (lit. the commanding light), wake up!' When I opened my eyes I saw a boundless light covering the east and the west of the world.' " May God grant it to us too! This is the same as the stage of the soul's revelation (tajalliโ€‘ye nafs) which is observed in this manner as a boundless light.
On crossing this stage, as a result of observing the muraqabah in a manner commensurate with those higher realms and the requirements of those stages and stations, the felicitous wayfarer succeeds in observing the Attributes of God, the Exalted, or the Attributes of His Holy Essence in the mode of universality. At this stage, it may happen that the wayfarer suddenly observes all the world's existents as constituting a single act of knowledge, or he may find that there is no power except a single power. This is at the stage of witnessing (shuhad) the Attributes. But in the stage of witnessing (shuhud) the Names, which is still a higher one, the wayfarer observes that in all the worlds there is but one knower, and one powerful being, and one living being. And this phase of the stage of perception of Attributes, which appears at the plane of the heart, is nobler and more perfect: ู„ูุงู†ูŽู‘ ุงู„ุณู‘ูŽุงู„ููƒูŽ ูŠูุตู’ุจูุญู ูˆูŽู„ูŽุง ูŠูŽุฑูŽู‰ ู‚ุงุฏูุฑุงู‹ ูˆูŽู„ูŽุง ุนุงู„ูู…ู‹ุง ูˆูŽู„ูŽุง ุญูŽูŠู‹ุงู‹ ุณููˆูŽู‰ ุงู„ู„ู‡ู ุชูŽุนุงู„ูŽู‰
Because the wayfarer reaches a point where he does not see any power, knowledge, and life except those of God, the Exalted.
And this experience mostly occurs during the course of recitation of the Qur'an. It might happen that the reciter of the Qur'an finds that it is not he who is the reader but Someone Else. And it might happen that he finds that the hearer is also Someone Else.
It should be known that recitation of the Qur'an has a great role in the attainment of this station, and it behoves the wayfarer to recite the longer surahs (suwarโ€‘e'aza'im) while performing the night prayer. Falling suddenly into prostration from the standing position is not without grace, and it has been proved by experience that the recitation of the blessed Surat Sad in the oneโ€‘rak'ah prayer (watirah) of the Friday's set of nightly prayers is very effective. The characteristics of this surah are known from the traditions narrated concerning its thawab.
When with Divine assistance the wayfarer covers these stages and succeeds in attaining these epiphanies, he is encircled by the Divine jadhabat, which bring him closer every moment to real annihilation, until, ultimately, he is encompassed with jadhbah, proceeding towards Absolute Perfection and Beauty, setting his own being and that of everything on fire, not seeing anything in front of the splendour of the Beloved: ูƒูŽุงู†ูŽ ุงู„ู„ูŽู‡ู ูˆูŽู„ูŽู…ู’ ูŠูŽูƒูู†ู’ ู…ูŽุนูŽู‡ู ุดูŽูŠู’ุกูŒ
God was, and there was nothing else besides Him.
And in this state the wayfarer leaves the valley of separation and is immersed in the boundless ocean of the epiphany of the Divine Essence.
It should not remain unsaid that the wayfarer's wayfaring does not preclude his life and existence in the world of matter. The realm of external plurality remains as it is, and the wayfarer finds unity while dwelling in plurality. And some of them have said, "For thirty years I have lived among the people, and they imagined that I was in their company and had constant intercourse with them, whereas throughout this period I have not seen, nor known, anybody except God."
This state is very important and significant, for in the beginning this state may appear for just a moment, but gradually it becomes more intense extending for ten minutes or more, and later on for an hour or more and still later on, with Divine grace, it might pass beyond being a state and become a station.
In the jargon of traditions and in the terminology of the sages, this state is referred to as `living in God,' baqa' bi ma'bud (lit. survival in the Worshipped One) and this degree of perfection cannot be attained except after attainment of total fana', annihilation, of the being of contingent existents in the Essence of the One. In this state the wayfarer sees nothing except the Sacred Divine Essence.
It has been written concerning one of the sages absorbed in Divine splendour (majdhubin), named Baba Farajullah Majdhub, who was captivated by the Divine jadhbah, that he was asked to describe the world, whereat he replied, "Since the time I have opened my eyes, I haven't seen the world that I might be able to describe it."[5]
At the beginning, when this shuhud (epiphany) has not yet become strong enough it is called hal (state). At this stage it is not a voluntarily condition for the wayfarer. But as a result of intense muraqabah and Divine assistance it passes from the stage of being a `state' to become a `station' (maqam). At this point it becomes voluntary.
It is obvious that a strong wayfarer is one who while witnessing these states also attends to the world of pluralities and who takes care of both the worlds. This rank is very sublime and elevated, and access to it very difficult. Perhaps it is exclusive to the prophets and the awliya' and whoever God wishes. While enjoying God's bounty [described in the words]: ุฃูŽู†ูŽู…ุง ุจูŽุดูŽุฑูŒ ู…ูุซู’ู„ููƒูู…ู’ ู„ููŠโ€Œ ู…ูŽุนูŽ ุงู„ู„ูŽู‡ู ุญูŽุงู„ุงูŽุชูŒ ู„ุงูŽ ูŠูŽุณูŽุนูู‡ูŽุง ู…ูŽู„ูŽูƒูŒ ู…ูู‚ูŽุฑู‘ูŽุจูŒ
I have with God certain states which are beyond the capacity of any archangel, their outward appearance is a manifestation of: โ€ฆ ุฅูู†ู‘ูŽู…ูŽุง ุฃูŽู†ูŽุง ุจูŽุดูŽุฑูŒ ู…ู‘ูุซู’ู„ููƒูู…ู’ โ€ฆ
I am only a mortal like you. (18:110)
Should anyone think that these stations are exclusive and attainment to this summit of Divine teaching is exclusively confined to the great prophets and infallible Imams, may God's benedictions and Peace be upon all of them, and that others, by no means whatsoever, have any access to it, the answer is that the office of prophethood and Imamate is something exclusive, but attainment to the station of absolute tawhid and fana' in the Essence of the Oneโ€‘which is called wilayahโ€‘is not at all exclusive. In fact, it is to this plane of perfection that the prophets and the Imams, may Peace be upon them, have summoned the community of believers. The Noble Messenger, may God bless him and his family, has summoned his ummah to reach a plane where he himself stands, and this summons implies the possibility of travelling towards that purpose. Otherwise it would mean that the invitation has been pointless: ู„ูŽู‚ูŽุฏู’ ูƒูŽุงู†ูŽ ู„ูŽูƒูู…ู’ ูููŠ ุฑูŽุณููˆู„ู ุงู„ู„ู‘ูŽู‡ู ุฃูุณู’ูˆูŽุฉูŒ ุญูŽุณูŽู†ูŽุฉูŒ ู„ู‘ูู…ูŽู† ูƒูŽุงู†ูŽ ูŠูŽุฑู’ุฌููˆ ุงู„ู„ู‘ูŽู‡ูŽ ูˆูŽุงู„ู’ูŠูŽูˆู’ู…ูŽ ุงู„ู’ุขุฎูุฑูŽ ูˆูŽุฐูŽูƒูŽุฑูŽ ุงู„ู„ู‘ูŽู‡ูŽ ูƒูŽุซููŠุฑุงู‹
And for you there is a good model to be emulated in the Messenger of Allah, for someone who seeks God and has faith in the Last Day and remembers God profusely. (33:21)
And it has been narrated through a chain of authorities in Sunni sources that [the Prophet (S) said]: ู„ูŽูˆู„ุงูŽ ุชูŽูƒู’ุซููŠุฑูŒ ูููŠโ€Œ ูƒูŽู„ุงูŽู…ููƒูู…ู’ุŒ ูˆูŽุชูŽู…ู’ุฑููŠุฌูŒ ููŠโ€Œ ู‚ูู„ููˆุจููƒูู…ู’ ู„ูŽุฑูŽุฃูŽูŠู’ุชูู…ู’ ู…ูŽุง ุฃูŽุฑูŽูŠโ€ŒุŒ ูˆูŽู„ูŽุณูŽู…ูุนู’ุชูู…ู’ ู…ูŽุง ุฃูŽุณู’ู…ูŽุนู
And were it not for this loquacity of yours and this agitation and disturbance in your hearts, you would indeed see what I see and hear what I hear.
This statement of the Noble Messenger, may God bless him and his family, indicates clearly that the cause of one's failure to attain human perfection is the same false and satanic thoughts and meaningless and futile actions. And it has also been related through a Shin chain of authorities that he said, ู„ูŽูˆู„ุงูŽ ุฃูŽู†ู‘ูŽ ุงู„ุดู‘ูŽูŠูŽุงุทููŠู†ูŽ ูŠูŽุญููˆู…ููˆู†ูŽ ุญูŽูˆู’ู„ูŽ ู‚ูู„ููˆุจู ุจูŽู†ููŠโ€Œ ุขุฏูŽู…ูŽ ู„ูŽุฑูŽุฃูŽูˆู’ุง ู…ูŽู„ูŽูƒููˆุชูŽ ุงู„ุณู‘ูŽู…ูŽู€ุงูˆูŽุงุชู ูˆุงู„ุงู’ุฑู’ุถู
And were it not for the fact that Satan besieges the hearts of the children of Adam, verily they would have witnessed the malakut of the heavens and the earth.
Among the effects of that sublime human station is universal comprehension of the divine worlds, in accordance with the contingent receptivity [of the wayfarers], and the result of this comprehension is the knowledge of the past and the future and the ability to exercise power over the materials of the universe, for that which comprehends has total domination over that which is comprehended, accompanying everyone and present everywhere.
Shaykh `Abd alโ€‘Karim Jili, one of the gnostics, in his book alโ€‘insan al-ญkamil, says, "I remember that once for a moment I went into a state wherein I found myself united with all existents so that they were all directly present for me, but this state did not last for more than a moment."

The Obstacle
Of course, the obstacle to the continuity and persistence of this state is preoccupation with the functions of the body, and the complete attainment of this rank can occur only after [the soul's] freedom from the management of the body. One of the Indian gnostics, Shaykh Waliullah Dehalawi, in his book Hama'at, says "I have been given the knowledge that relief from the effects of material life takes place five hundred years after crossing the world of matter and death." And this period corresponds to half of a divine `day' as mentioned by Him, Almighty: โ€ฆ ูˆูŽุฅูู†ู‘ูŽ ูŠูŽูˆู’ู…ู‹ุง ุนูู†ุฏูŽ ุฑูŽุจู‘ููƒูŽ ูƒูŽุฃูŽู„ู’ูู ุณูŽู†ูŽุฉู ู…ู‘ูู…ู‘ูŽุง ุชูŽุนูุฏู‘ููˆู†ูŽ
And verily a day with thy Lord is like a thousand years in accordance with what you reckon." (22:47)
Of course, it is obvious that the other degrees and graces of this world are unlimited and unbounded. The basis for verbal conventions is human need, although with the extension of these needs verbal conventions have become more multiple. Accordingly, a description of the immaterial realities and lights of the divine worlds through ordinary language is impossible, and everything that has been said about those realms does not go beyond hints, and that sublime reality cannot be brought down to the level of common understanding.
The corporeal human being lives in the world of matter, which, in accordance with the explicit text of traditions (anta fi azlami'lโ€‘`awalim) `You abide in the darkest of the worlds') is the darkest of the divine worlds. He coins words within the limits of his daily needs for whatever he sees with his eyes and touches with his corporal hands. However, he does not have any knowledge of the other worlds with its attachments, rays, lights, and spirits so as to be able to coin words for them too. Accordingly, in the all the vocabularies of world languages there are no words to describe those sublime meanings. So how can one describe those realities and express them with one's tongue?
ู…ุดูƒู„โ€Œ ุนุดู‚โ€Œ ู†ู‡โ€Œ ุฏุฑ ุญูˆุตู„ุฉโ€Œ ุฏุงู†ุดโ€Œ ู…ุงุณุชโ€Œ
ุญู„ู‘ ุงูŠู†โ€Œ ู†ูƒุชู‡โ€Œ ุจุฏูŠู†โ€Œ ููƒุฑ ุฎุทุง ู†ุชูˆุงู†โ€Œ ูƒุฑุฏ
The problem of love is beyond the reach of our knowledge.
This puzzle cannot be solved with these erroneous thoughts.
Two groups have spoken about these realities.
First is the group of the noble prophets, may peace be upon them, and it is obvious that they had links with the worlds transcending the material realm. However, in accordance with the dictum,
ู†ูŽุญู’ู†ู ู…ูŽุนูŽุงุดูุฑูŽ ุงู„ุงูŽู†ู’ุจููŠูŽุงุกู ุฃูู…ูุฑู’ู†ูŽุง ุฃูŽู†ู’ ู†ููƒูŽู„ู‘ูู…ูŽ ุงู„ู†ู‘ูŽุงุณูŽ ุนูŽู„ูŽูŠโ€Œ ู‚ูŽุฏู’ุฑู ุนูู‚ููˆู„ูู‡ูู…ู’
We, prophets, have been commanded to speak to the people in accordance with the level of their intellects, they were forced to express these ,realities in a way understandable for the common people. Accordingly, they abstained from describing the luminous realities and their extreme brilliance, refraining from describing something which has not even entered the heart of a mortal. They have spoken of such realities as ู…ูŽุง ู„ุงูŽ ุนูŽูŠู’ู†ูŒ ุฑูŽุฃูŽุชู’ ูˆูŽู„ุงูŽ ุฃูุฐูู†ูŒ ุณูŽู…ูุนูŽุชู’ ูˆูŽู„ุงูŽ ุฎูŽุทูŽุฑูŽ ุนูŽู„ูŽูŠโ€Œ ู‚ูŽู„ู’ุจู ุจูŽุดูŽุฑู
No eye has seen, nor any ear has heard, nor ever passed through a mortal's heart, in such terms as `paradise,' `houris', `palaces,' and so on. And so they ultimately confessed that the description of the reality of those realms is not possible.
Second, there have been a series of persons who were honoured with the perception of these realities and who attained these graces, in accordance with their different capacities, by following the path of the prophets. They too have spoken about them under the veil of metaphors and similes.

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