The World of Khulus and Ikhlas
By: Allama Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Husayni Tehrani (R.A.)
It should be known that these stations and degrees cannot be attained without attainment of sincerity (ikhlas; purity, freedom from any kind of taint) in the path of God. And until the wayfarer reaches the station of the Sincere (mukhlasin), he would not be able to discover reality as it should be.
It should be known that ikhlas or khulus is of two kinds. First, the ikhlas of one's faith in God, the Exalted, and obedience to Him. Second, the ikhlas [i.e. making pure] of one's own self for His sake. The first is referred to in the following noble verse: and they were not commanded but to serve God, making allegiance purely to Him. ..(98:5)
The second point is referred to in the noble verses, . . . except the sincere servants of God. (37:40, 74,128,160)
And the famous prophetic tradition: Whoever dedicates himself purely to God for forty days, will find springs of wisdom flowing out of his heart toward his tongue, refers to the second kind. That is, this stage is reached by someone who purifies himself for the sake of God To explain, God, the Exalted, has, in the Noble Qur'an, attributed salah (righteousness) in some places to one's actions, such as in His statement, whoever acts righteouslyâ€¦ (16:97)
or . .. whoever does righteous deeds. (25:70)
... those who believe and do righteous deeds. (2:25)
And in some places it has been attributed to the being of man, such as in His Statements: Verily, he is of the righteous. (21:75), ... And the righteous of the believers. (66:4)
Similarly, ikhlas and khulus have been at times attributed to deeds, and at times to one's essence and being. Obviously, the realization of ikhlas at the plane of being depends on ikhlas at the plane of action; that is, until someone has ikhlas in each and every one of his actions and deeds, speech, movements, and pauses, he would not attain to the stage of ikhlas of essence. God, the Exalted, has said, . . . Towards Him ascends the pure speech and righteous action elevates it. (35:10)
By referring the pronoun pertaining to the active subject (fa'il) implied in yarfa'u (raises) to alâ€‘`amal asâ€‘salih (righteous action), the meaning of this verse becomes: alâ€‘`amal asâ€‘salih farfa'u kalim alâ€‘tayyib (`righteous action elevates pure speech'). It should be known that when someone reaches the stage of ikhlas of essence and attains to this mighty grace, he would come to posses properties and characteristics which others lack.
Firstly, in accordance with the text of the Noble Qur'an, Satan cannot, by any means whatsoever, have domination upon him: By Thy honour, I shall seduce all of them save the mukhlasin among them of Thy servants. (38:83)
Evidently, this exception is not something consequent to a Divine instruction, but due to the essential authority of the Sincere at the station of tawhid, where Satan has no power and where he cannot find accesses to them due to his weakness and incapacity in this station. As the sincere have purged themselves for the sake of God, they see God in everything they behold. In whatever manner or form Satan may manifest himself for them they view that thing with a divine eye, arriving at a divine viewpoint. Accordingly, from the very first, Satan confesses to his inability and impotence in relation to this group; otherwise, Satan's very being is for the seduction of mankind, and he is not someone who may have mercy on anyone and refrain from misleading him.
Secondly, this group will be excused and spared from reckoning on the day of universal summons and from presence on the scene of judgement. It is mentioned in the Noble Qur'an: And the Trumpet shall be blown, and whosoever is in the heavens and whosoever is in the earth shall swoon, save whom God wills. (39:68)
That which is inferred from this verse is that there is a group which will be secure from the terrors of the day of resurrection and from swooning on that day. And when it is placed by the side another noble verse, Verily they would be made present save the sincere servants (mukhlasin) of God, (37:128)
it is known that the group which shall be saved from swooning on the day of resurrection consists of the sincere servants of God, the mukhlasin, because the sincere, in a sense, have no actions so as to be called for an accounting on the plain of resurrection. They have been `killed' by the means of muraqabah, religious exercises, and inner jihad, attaining eternal life, crossing the stage of greater resurrection of the souls (qiyamatâ€‘a `uzamaâ€‘ye anfusiyyeh), and their account has been scrutinized in the course of their spiritual struggle, mujahadah. And now, due to being killed in the way of God they have been dressed in the robes of eternal life in the Divine vicinity and enjoy a special sustenance from the Divine storehouse of bounty. God, the Exalted, says Don't consider those who have been killed in the way of God as dead; rather they live, being nourished near their Lord. (3:169)
Furthermore, the summons implies not being present, whereas they have been present all along even before the dawn of resurrection and are aware of all circumstances and states, in accordance with the Divine statement, `inda rabbihim yurzaqun, `they are nourished near their Lord: Thirdly, whatever reward and wages that everyone will receive on the day of resurrection will be in return for his deeds excepting this class of servants, for whom Divine munificence will have a form other than that of reward or wages: . . . and would you be rewarded save for what you used to do, except the sincere servants of God? (37:40)
Someone might say that the meaning of this verse is that the group to be punished will receive its punishment in accordance with its deeds and that the verse excludes God's virtuous servants from recompense, for their reward will not be in return for their works. They will be awarded by the generous Lord in accordance with His favour and bounty. Our answer is that the meaning of this verse is general; those who deserve punishment are not its sole addressees. Moreover, the rewarding of creatures in accordance with grace and generosity does not preclude their being recompensed for their works. For the meaning of favour (fadl) is that that the generous Lord will grant a large reward in return for small deeds and in fact He will considers small deeds as large. Nevertheless, the reward will be in return for the deeds, whereas the meaning of the noble verse cited above is something else. It means that the sincere servants of God (mukhlasin) are basically not recompensed in return for their deeds. Also it is stated in another verse There shall be for them whatever there wish, and there will be more with Us. (50:35)
That is, this group will receive whatever they desire and will, and they will receive from God over and above what they will and wish. Hence it is known that they will receive such gifts of Divine generosity as are over and above their desire and will and beyond the reaches of their thought and the flight of their will and volition, and this point deserves close and careful attention.
Fourthly, they have such a sublime station, such a high office and a position that is so great that they can praise God and thank the One as He is and as is worthy of that Sacred Being. God, the Exalted, has said God is above what they attribute to Him, excepting the sincere servants of God. (37:160)
And this is ultimate perfection for a creature and the highest possible station that it can possess.
What has been said hitherto reveals what excellences and graces pertain to the ultimate stage of wayfaring which is the station of the mukhlasin. However, one should know that attainment of these excellences and the realization of these realities becomes feasible when the wayfarer is `killed' in the struggle (jihad) in the way of God.' He would come to partake of those Divine graces when he drinks the cup of martyrdom. And that which is meant by `being killed' here is severance of the spirit's bondage to the body and all that accompanies it. In the same way that the martyr in the field of battle has his spirit liberated from attachment to the body with the outward sword, the wayfarer of the God's way cuts the chains that bind his spirit to the body and its accoutrements with the inner sword in the field of battle against the carnal self (nafsâ€‘e ammarah) with the assistance of the forces of Divine mercy.
At the beginning of the path, the Godward wayfarer, by acquiring the station of zuhd [renunciation, abstinence, asceticism] and contemplating the unworthiness of the world and the futility of attachment to it, should cut off the chains of attachment to the realm of pluralities. That is because the outcome of abstinence and zuhd is the absence of attachment to things, with the result that he is not delighted by events that bring material and mundane benefit and is not grieved by events that cause material harm and loss, . . . that you may not grieve over what you lose nor be joyous over what you obtain. (57:33)
This resignation and absence of desire is not contrary to feeling grief and delight for the sake of God, because this happiness does not pertain to the love of wealth and transient things and ends, but arises on account of his finding himself immersed in the ocean of Divine munificence and bounteousness.
After passing through this stage, the wayfarer will notice that he has an extreme attachment to his own being and loves himself to the point of extreme love (ishq). He will discover that whatever he does and whatever austerities he undertakes are all inspired by his extreme selfâ€‘love. This is because one of the characteristics of man is that he is of nature selfâ€‘seeking and selfâ€‘loving. He sacrifices all things for his own self and does not stop from destroying anything for his own survival. Annihilation of this instinct is very difficult, and to fight this selfâ€‘seeking urge is the most difficult of tasks. And as long as this urge is not annihilated and until this instinct is killed, the light of God will not shine in one's heart. In other words, as long as the wayfarer does not transcend himself he will not reach God. The wayfarer must weaken this tie of selfâ€‘love with the assistance of Divine grace and the consecutive relieves of Divine mercy and, after gradually weakening it, cut it off totally, forswearing this inner idol, which is the source of all vices, and consigning it to oblivion once and for all, so that a contemplative inner search reveals all his works to be for sake of the sacred Divine Being and his selfâ€‘love transformed into the love of God.
This takes place through mujahadah. After traversing this stage the wayfarer is librated from attachment to the body and its effects, and even from the bondage to his spirit, which is also severed. Now whatever he does is for sake of God. If he satisfies his hunger or works to obtain such means of livelihood as are necessary for his needs, that is because the Eternal Beloved desires his life; otherwise he would not take a single step for maintaining this life. However, this desire of his is one which is a continuation of the will of God, not one which is parallel to it.
For this very reason the wayfarer has no right to seek occult experiences and miraculous qualities, or to take any step for performing austerities or chanting invocations to obtain such powers as the ability to make miraculous journeys over land and sea (lay alâ€‘ard), or to acquire the knowledge of occult matters, or of the secret thoughts of others or the power to control the materials of the universe, or to take any kind of step whatsoever for the sake enhancing his psychic powers, because one who does that does not move on the path of the Beloved's pleasure and his worship is not for the sake of God, nor will he be one of the mukhlasin.
Rather, in such a case, it is his own self that he worships and seeks to satisfy his own needs with the acts aimed to develop his powers, though he may not admit it by word of mouth and appear to perform all his worship for the sake of God. In accordance with the noble verse, Haven't you seen him who has taken his desire to be his god? (25:43)
such a person will be one who has made his desire the object of his worship, worshipping as he does his own personal ambitions. The wayfarer should pass through this stage and shed his self and its egoism. We will have more to say about it later on, God, the Exalted, willing.
When at last the wayfarer reaches this station, gradually the love he had for himself for the sake of God, the Exalted, will also be forgotten. Now he no longer sees himself, not beholding anything that may absorb his attention except the Eternal Beauty. Gradually, he is submerged in that shoreless ocean without leaving any trace.
It should be known that the wayfarer should be careful in the battle against the carnal soul to rout the troops of Satan thoroughly and to wipe out completely the effects of the carnal soul (atharâ€‘e nafsaniyyah) and remove their roots from the hidden corners of the heart. For even if a particle of the love of wealth, glory and office, or of pride, ambition and self love should remain in him, he will never attain perfection. Accordingly, it has often been seen that many of the Perfect (kummalin) do not attain to the perfections saught even after years of austerities and mujahadah and are defeated in the battle against the carnal soul (nafs). Its reason is that the roots of certain qualities still survive in their hearts while they imagine that they have been completely wiped out. Therefore, at the times of Divine tribulation and in temptations involving the carnal soul and manifestation of its effects, those roots suddenly send forth shoots which grow and finish off the wayfarer.
Success in overcoming the carnal soul and its drives depends on the special aid and grace of the Lord of lords, for it is not possible to traverse this stage without His special assistance and favour.
It is said that one day the pupils found marhum Sayyid Bahr al-`Ulum, may God be pleased him, smiling and in a joyous mood. When inquired about the reason for it, he replied, "After a mujhadah of twentyâ€‘five years, now when I peer into myself I see no trace therein of ostentation (riya') and I have at last succeeded in wiping it out." These words call for serious reflection.
It should not remain unsaid that from the beginning of wayfaring to its final stage the wayfarer must abide by all the precepts of the luminous Shariâ€™ah, not departing from it even to the smallest extent. Hence should one come across anyone who claims to be a wayfarer without being committed to piety and abstinence from sin and who does not follow all the Divine laws of the Shariâ€™ah and deviates, even to the smallest extent, from the straight path of the true Shari ahâ€‘excepting that which may occur due to some error, of for an excuse or on account of forgetfulnessâ€‘ one should consider him to be a hypocrite. And that which is heard from some people that the wayfarer is spared of shar'i obligations after attaining to the higher stations and reaching the Divine gracesâ€‘that is a big lie and slander. That is because the Noble Messenger (S) did abide by all the Divine precepts until the last moments of his life, although he was the noblest of all beings and the most noble of all creation. Hence freedom from the obligations, in this sense, is a lie and a slander. Yes, one may interpret such a statement in another sense, which is, of course, not intended by its proponents. It is this: the performance of the rites of worship leads to the development of the human soul, and adherence to the rites of worship brings human capacities from potentiality to actuality. Accordingly, for individuals who have not yet attained the stage of complete and allâ€‘round actuality, the rites of worship, for them, are for the purpose of development. But for individuals who have attained complete actuality, the performance of worship for the sake of development and attainment to the station of Divine proximity is meaningless. Rather, the worship of such persons has another meaning implied in their actualized perfection. Thus the Noble Messenger (S) was asked by `A'ishah why he took so much pains in worship when God had declared to him: . . that God may forgive you former and future sins. (48:2)
The Prophet (S) replied: "Don't you want me to be God's grateful servant?"
From this it becomes clear that the performance of the rites of worship for some human souls is not for spiritual development but purely for the sake of expression of thankfulness and gratitude to God Almighty.
The states that befall the wayfarer as a result of muraqabah and mujahadah, and at times, off and on, he might have certain experiences and see certain lightsâ€‘all these are a preliminary to an enduring condition (malikah). Because the sole occurrence of experiences and changes of state are not sufficient and, rather, the wayfarer must struggle through mujahadah to completely wipe out the traces of the lower world that lie hidden and concealed within his being. And as long as he does not attain some semblance to the pure ones of the higher world, it will not be possible to attain to their degree. In fact, the smallest lapse in wayfaring and spiritual jihad would bring him down again to the lower world, and it is to this subtle point that the following noble verse refers: And Muhammad is not but a Messenger and there have indeed been other Messengers before him. So if he should die or is killed, would you turn back on your heels? (3:144)
Hence the wayfarer must purge his inner and outer being once for all and remove all impurities from the nooks and corners of his heart so that he comes to partake of the company of immaculate spirits and the comradeship of the pure ones of the Higher Elite: And get rid of sins that are outward and inward. (6:12)
On this basis he should cover completely the realms which are a preliminary to the world of khulus and its gist has been stated by God, Blessed and Exalted, in this blessed verse: Those who have believed, and migrated, and have struggled in the way of God with their possessions and their selves are mightier in rank with God; and those are the triumphant; their Lord gives them good tidings of mercy from Him and good pleasure; for them await gardens wherein is lasting bliss, therein to dwell forever and ever; surely with God is a mighty wage. (9:20â€‘22)
On the basis of this, there are four worlds that precede the world of khulus: first, Islam (submission); second, Iman (faith); third, hijrah (migration); four, jihad (struggle) in the way of God. And as the jihad of this traveller is the greater jihad, in accordance with the statement of the Messenger (S): We have returned from the lesser jihad towards the greater jihad, therefore, that which is required in this journey is that the Islam and Iman of the mujahid should be greater Islam and greater imam. It is after this that it is proper for the seeker to muster his resolution and set out on his migratory journey with the inner apostle and with the assistance of the outward Apostle or his successor (khalifah), and then enter the battlefield of mujahadah to attain the victory of martyrdom in the path of Allah.
But the wayfarer must be aware of this point that from the beginning of the journey to this stage of jihad there will be many obstacles, created by men and devils. But when he attains to the triumph of this martyrdom and passes beyond the worlds of greater Islam and greater Iman and succeeds in the mujahadah and is killed, he stands at the beginnings of the world of greatest Islam, greatest Iman, greatest hijrah and greatest jihad, and its obstacles are the greatest kufr (infidelity) and greatest nifaq (hypocrisy). The troops of Satan have no access to this valley and no power therein; rather, Satan himself, who is the ringleader of the devils, will intercept the wayfarer in his journey. Accordingly, the wayfarer must never imagine that as he has passed these worlds he has been rescued from the perils and reached his destination. Rather, he must be aware that after traversing the preceding worlds should he fail to traverse these greatest worlds he would become a prey of Satan who will stop him from reaching his ultimate destination.
However, the wayfarer must have a lofty courage and determination, and he should not permit Satan to afflict him with the greatest kufr or the greatest nifaq. Rather, after traversing the stages of greatest Islam and greatest Iman he must carry out the greatest hijrah and, with the greatest mujahadah, pass through the plain of greatest resurrection of the souls (qiyamatâ€‘e `uzmaâ€‘ye anfusiyyah) to enter the valley of the mukhlasin. May it be granted to us by God, the Exalted, God willing!