The Qualities needed in the Way of Godward Wayfaring
The first thing that is to be done is to cast away social habits, customs, and conventions and to do away with fictitious values that hinder the wayfarer from traversing the path. What is meant is that the wayfarer should live in a moderate style among the people, for a group of people are perpetually immersed in social customs and all their thought and efforts are devoted to cultivating friends. They do not avoid any kind of formal and futile or harmful relations for the sake of keeping up their personal status.
They subject themselves to these formalities solely on account of habit and in order to maintain their apparent and imaginary prestige, often putting themselves to severe hardship. In order to preserve that which is peripheral they forgo the very substance of life. Taking the common people's appreciation and blame as a criterion and standard, they waste their lives and lifetime trying to conform to these standards. The ship of their existence is besieged with the tides of social habit and custom, swept hither and thither wherever it is carried away by the waves of common morality and etiquette.
Unconsciously, this group of people are totally submissive to the will of society. In opposition to them is the group of people who have withdrawn from the community, forsaking all kinds of social habits and norms, and depriving themselves of all social advantages. They have no intercourse or terms of friendly relations with the people and dwell in isolation, so much so that they become conspicuous by their very seclusion and known for their reclusion.
In order to attain his goal the wayfarer must adopt a policy of moderation and assume a middle position between those of these two groups, refraining from either extreme and moving on the straight path. This purpose is not attained without intercourse and dealings with the people to the extent of one's social needs. However, if there should arise an inevitable difference in sociability, in respect of quality and quantity, between a wayfarer and a nonâ€‘wayfarer, it would not be harmful. Such a difference, of course, will not arise, because while social intercourse is necessary and essential to a certain extent, but the wayfarer must not, by any means whatsoever, submit to the moral characteristics and ways of the people: And they are not afraid of the blame of any blamer in matters relating to God. (5:54)
This verse is indicative of their steadfastness in the pursuit of this straight policy and their fortitude in pursuing their own way On the whole, it may be said that the wayfarer must evaluate every social matter in respect of its benefit and harm and he should not submit pointlessly to the caprices and opinions of the mass of people.
1. Steadfastness (`Azm)
As soon as the wayfarer puts his foot into the field of spiritual struggle (mujahadah) he is faced with difficult and unpleasant developments arising from the conduct of the people and the behaviour of acquaintances who have no purpose in life except their base desires and social aspirations. By word and action they reproach him, desiring to dissuade him from his path and purpose.
On the whole, they are alarmed by the divergence that has emerged between him and themselves in respect of the program of life, and therefore with whatever means that they have at their disposal they try to dissuade the wayfaring novice from his path with the whip of blame and reproach and they try to crush his feet.
Of course, the wayfarer will confront new problems at each and every one of the stages in his journey, which cannot be overcome without fortitude and steadfastness. The wayfarer must have such steadfastness by relying on God's power and might that he can withstand all these difficulties and annihilate these obstacles with the weapon of fortitude and trust in God (tawakkul). In view of the greatness of the goal he should not be frightened by the terrible winds that obstruct the path of God and he should not allow any fear to enter his heart by any means.
And let the faithful put their trust in God. (3:160)
And let those who trust (anything) put their trust in God. (14:12)
2. Gentleness and Leniency (Rifq wa Mudara)
This is the most important of matters which the wayfarer must observe, because even a small negligence in this regard, aside from the fact that it may halt the wayfarer's progress and advancement, may totally put an end to his journey for ever. At the beginning of his journey the wayfarer finds in himself more than an expected amount of eagerness and zeal, or during the course of the journey he feels a lot of enthusiasm and yearning during the manifestation of formal revelations of Divine Beauty (tajalliyatâ€‘e suriyyehâ€‘ye jamaliyyeh), and, as a result, he decides to be diligent in performing the acts of worship.
Thus he may spend most of his time in prayer and lamentation, performing every rite and trying to learn something from everyone, taking mouthfuls out of every kind of spiritual nourishment. This kind of practice is not only not beneficial, it is harmful. Because, as it imposes a heavy schedule of worship on the lower soul (nafs), it suddenly reacts as a result of the pressure placed upon it and breaks down. As a result without having drawn any results the wayfarer is deprived of all activity, and he does not find any inclination in himself to perform even the smallest of supererogatory acts.
The secret behind this excess and the following breakdown is that the criterion and standard in performing supererogatory rites was taken to be one's temporary interest and zeal, leading the soul to be overloaded. When that interest and zeal subside and that intense flame becomes dimmer, then the soul, being tired from the heavy burden, suddenly plays truant throwing the journey's burden to the ground either at the outset of the journey or in the middle of it. It develops an aversion for the journey and becomes impatient with bearing the supplies needed to carry out the journey or to continue it.
Hence the wayfarer must not be misled by his passing zeal, but he should, with care and foresight, correctly estimate his own spiritual resources and the requirements of his trade and profession, as well the extent of his capacities. He should select an act that he can continue and is somewhat lighter than his capacity, and. confine himself to it, and engage in it until he derives the complete benefit that accrues to his faith from that action.
On this basis, when engaging in worship the wayfarer must stop at a point when there is still interest left in him and the inclination to continue, so that this desire remains in him and he always find himself eager to perform worship. The case of the wayfarer's engagement in worship is like that of the man desirous of having a constant appetite for food: first he must select a food that suits his taste and then stop eating before he has eaten to his fill so that he continually feels an appetite. It is to this gentleness and mildness that the advice of Hadrat Sadiq (`a) to Abd alâ€‘Aziz Qaratisi relates: O Abd alâ€‘Aziz, verily faith has ten degrees, like the steps of a ladder, which one climbs step by step .... When you see someone who is at a lower step than yours, lift him up gently to yourself and don't put a burden upon him which would strain him to the breaking point.
On the whole that which can be concluded from what has been said is that a worship is effective in wayfaring which arises solely and exclusively from inclination and interest, and to this refers the statement of the Imam Do not force worship on yourself (making it unpleasant).]
3. Loyalty (Wafa)
That consists of not committing again a wrong action after one has repented, and fulfilling the duty that one has committed oneself to carry out and not to neglect it. It also includes remaining faithful until the end to the promises and pledges one has given to one's aware shaykh and trainer of the way of God.
4. Stability and Perseverance (Thubat wa Dawam)
Explanation of this notion requires an introduction. That which can be inferred from Qur'anic verses and sacred traditions is that whatever external entities we perceive by the means of our senses and whatever external acts we perform and which assume reality in the world of matter are accompanied with certain realities lying beyond the realm of material and physical bodies. Beyond these sensible appearances are realities of a higher order, divested of the dress of matter, time, space and all its accidents. And when those realities descend from their own reality they take material and sensible forms in the external world. It is to this fact that the blessed verse of the Glorious Qur'an expressly refers: [And there is no thing but that its stores are with Us, and We do not send it down except in a known measure.] (15:21)
To give a brief explanation, in general that which exists in this world of matter has a reality before its external occurrence, a reality that is without extensions and dimensions. However, on its descent it becomes defined and delimited to certain particular magnitudes with Divine determination and in accordance with the Knowledge of the Supreme Creator: [No affliction befalls in the earth or in yourselves, but it is in a Book, before We create it; that is easy for God.] (57:22)
The forms of the external world are subject to corruption and destruction as they are finite and limited and are subject to material accidents pertaining to their coming into being and perishing: [That which is with you is perishing . . . .] (16:96)
But nothing except permanence, unchangeability and universality applies to those higher immaterial realities which make up the Divine stores, and whose mode is that of immateriality and malakut: [And that which is with God is enduring, ] (16:96)
And to this fact and truth refers the following tradition which is accepted unanimously both by the Shi'ah and the Ahl alâ€‘Sunnah: [We prophets have been commanded to speak to the people in accordance with the level of their intellects.]
This tradition refers to the qualitative aspect of the description of these truths, not to their quantitative aspect, and it signifies that the Divine prophets had always brought these higher truths down to a lower plane appropriate to the understanding and grasp of their audience. The reason for this is that during the life of the world human intellects gather darkness and obscurity due to their attention towards and interest in worldly attractions and glamour and their hollow and protracted desires. They cannot perceive those truth in their original clarity and reality. Therefore, the great prophets were forced to simplify those truths and to bring them down to a lower plane, like some one trying to explain some matter to children with their ingenuous minds, who describes it to them in sensible terms which are comprehensible to children. Often by the means of the Shari `ah, of which they were defenders, the great prophets described those truth in terms that makes them appear as things that are devoid of sense and consciousness, although each of the exoteric elements of the Shari `ah, such as prayer, fasting, hajj, jihad, fulfillment of obligations towards blood relations, charities, amr bilâ€‘ma'ruf and nahy 'anilâ€‘munkar, and the rest of them possess a reality possessing life, perception, and consciousness.
The `wayfarer' is someone who, with God's help and His succour, and with the means of wayfaring and inner struggle (mujahadah), and in the shelter of the lowliness of servanthood, humbleness, pleading and supplication, removes the obfuscations and crests from the soul (nafs) and the intellect and, with a purified intellect and a clear and luminous soul purged of taints and impurities, witnesses those higher realties in this very material life and dark realm with the purity and burnish of his spirit. Often it happens that the wayfarer observes this very prayer and wudu' in their real form and sees clearly their excellence which is a thousand times superior to its physical form in respect of consciousness and perception. Hence there are traditions of the Immaculate Imams, may God's Peace and benedictions be upon them, containing very sublime and precious descriptions concerning the Imaginal forms (suwarâ€‘e mithali) of the rites of worships in the worlds of Barzakh and Resurrection and their conversing with persons. Also there is a verse in the Glorious Qur'an concerning the possession of the faculties of speech, hearing and sight by bodily members. Hence it must not be imagined that a mosque is something made up of mere bricks and mud; rather it has a reality that is living, conscious, and perceptive. Hence it is mentioned in the traditions that the Qur'an and the mosque will complain before their Lord on the dawn of Resurrection.
One of the wayfarers of the way of God was resting in his bed. As he wanted to turn from one side. to another suddenly he heard a wail from the ground. When he sought the cause for it, he perceived or was told, "It is the earth that is wailing due to separation from you!"
Now after this preliminary introduction, we may say that with perseverance in performing the pertinent acts the wayfarer must reinforce the related immaterial malakuti forms in his soul, so that his passing state (hall) rises to the plane of habit (malikah). By repeating every act the wayfarer must derive his share of spirituality and faith from that act, and until this is achieved he must not stop it. That stable malakuti aspect is attained when the wayfarer performs that act steadily and contiguously until the enduring effects of transient external acts are well established in the realm of the soul and become engraved on it, where, after their establishment, they become irremovable.
Hence the wayfarer must try to select an act that suits his capacity, and should he have no plans of continuing it and stabilizing it he should not opt for it. Because on abandonment the reality of that act becomes hostile and it departs from him resentfully carrying away with it its fruits and effects once and for all. As a result there emerge in his soul effects that are opposite to those of that act. May God be our refuge!
The meaning of its becoming inimical is that when the wayfarer abandons that act, as a reaction the reality of that action distances itself from the wayfarer, carrying away with it its characteristics and effects. And since that act possessed goodness and luminosity, as the soul loses those luminous effects, inevitably opposite effects such as darkness, gloom and evil take its place. The fact is that: [Nothing except good is to be found with Allah.]
And: [As to evil, ugliness and darkness, they derive solely from ourselves.]
Accordingly, every evil and defect and deficiency that arises derives from human beings can not be referred to God: Hence on this basis too it becomes clear that Divine graces are not exclusive or limited; rather, they are proffered from the realm of Divinity and from the station of infinite mercy to all human individuals, including Muslims, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and the worshippers of fire and idols. However, the qualities present ii the recipients, or their illâ€‘advised choices, cause this expansive mercy to produce delight, happiness and bliss in some people and sorrow and grief in some others.
5. Selfâ€‘vigilance (Muraqabah)
Selfâ€‘vigilance means that the wayfarer must be watchful and on his guard in all conditions so that he is not guilty of misfeasance in respect of his duties and does neglect what he has resolved upon.
Muraqabah has a common meaning and it differs according to the difference of stations, ranks and degrees of the wayfarers. At the beginning of wayfaring muraqabah consists of abstaining from anything that is of no benefit either for one's religion or one's world, and avoiding that which is of no concern to one, while trying not to say or do anything that is contrary to God's pleasure. But gradually this muraqabah becomes more intense and heightens degree by degree. At times muraqabah may consist of concentrating on one's silence and at other times on one's soul, and at other tines, at a higher plane, on the reality of the Universal Divine Names and Attributes. Its ranks and degrees will be explained shortly, God, the Exalted, willing.
It should be known that muraqabah is one of the most important requirements of wayfaring and the great masters have laid great stress on it. Most of them have considered it to be a definite necessity of wayfaring, for it is like the foundation whereupon is built the superstructure of contemplation, dhikr and other requirements. Therefore, without muraqabah, contemplation and dhikr will remain fruitless. Muraqabah in relation to wayfaring is like the sick man's refraining from improper foods, while contemplation and dhikr are like medicines, and until the sick person does not purge his physiological condition and refrain from that which does not suit his condition the medicines will be ineffective, or they may even produce an opposite result. Hence the sages and the grand masters of this way forbid the wayfarer from contemplation and dhikr without muraqabah, and they prescribe contemplation and dhikr in accordance with the rank and degree of the wayfarer.
6. Selfâ€‘Accounting (Muhasabah)
This consists of fixing a certain time during day and night for oneself wherein one may scrutinize all one's actions during past twentyâ€‘four hours. It is to this that the statement of Hadrat Musa ibn Ja`far, may Peace be upon him, refers: [He who does not take account of him own soul once every day is not one of us.]
And should it appear to the wayfarer during muhasabah that he has violated his duties, he must seek forgiveness (istighfar) and, in case he hasn't done any, he should thank God, die Exalted.
7. Selfâ€‘Censure (Mu'akhadhah)
It consists of the wayfarer's taking disciplinary measures against his lower soul in case of observance of any betrayal on its part and taking steps to discipline it and warn it in a manner that he himself deems fit:
8. Speedy Action (Musara`h)
It means taking speedy action in carrying out one's resolve, for this path has havocs that may pose obstacles to the wayfarer at every station pertinent to his state. The wayfarer must be very clever and judicious and carry out his duty before any hindrance arises and spoils his poise, and he must leave no stone unturned in the way of achieving his goal.
9. Affection (Iradat)
That is affection for the master of the Shari `ah and his true successors. This affection must be so pure and sincere as to be free of any kind of taint or impurity, and this stage must be raised to the frontier of perfection. Because iradat has a great role in the effect of actions, and the greater the intensity and excellence of one's iradat, the better and more enduring will be the effect of actions in the soul of the wayfarer.
And since all existents are the creatures of God, the wayfarer must have affection for all of them and have respect for them in accordance with their rank and degree. Affection and kindness towards all creatures of the Lord, whether human beings or animals, all of them and each in accordance with its station and rank, are manifestations of the love for God. Hence it has been stated in traditions that the main product of faith is affection for God's creation: [O my God, I beseech You to grant me Your love and the love of those who love You.]
[Her love makes me love the sand dunes of Najd, And why would they delight me were it not for her love? In her longing, I humble myself for Layla's family, And bear with its humble and stately.]
10. Reverence and Etiquette (Adab)
This consists of veneration for the Sacred Lord of Honour and His vicegerents, and this is different from the affection and love mentioned above. For reverence consists of being careful of oneself lest one should trespass one's limits and commit some action contrary to the demands of servanthood. That is because there arc limits and bounds for the contingent in respect of the Necessary Being, and that which is implied by the observance of this reverence is the observance of the requirements of the world of plurality. But love and affection consist of attraction towards the threshold. of the One and that which is implied in it is attention to Unity.
The relation of affection and reverence is like the relation of that which is obligatory (wajib) to that which is forbidden (haram) in the Law, for in carrying out the wajib the wayfarer's attention is towards the Beloved while in refraining from the haram his attention is toward his own limits and bounds, lest he should trespass the bounds of contingency and violate the demands of servanthood. In fact reverence refers to the taking of a middle path between fear and hope (khawf wa raja'), and the consequence of absence of reverence is immensity of expansion (inbisat) which would not be desirable if it exceeds the desirable limit.
In the marhum Hajj Mirza Ali Aqa Qadi, may God be pleased with him, expansion and affection were predominant over his fear. Similar was the case with marhum Hajj Shaykh Muhammad Bihari, may God's mercy be upon him. On the contrary, the station of fear in Hajj Mirza Jawad Aqa Maliki Tabrizi, may God be pleased with him, predominated hope and expansion, and this is visible in his statements. Someone whose expansion is predominant is called "kharabati" (lit.`tavern haunter'), and one whose fear is greater is named "munjati" (supplicator). But perfection lies in observance of moderation, and that consists of possessing perfect expansion while possessing perfect fear, and this is something that is exclusive to the Immaculate Imams, may God's benedictions and His Peace be upon them.
To return to the main point of our discussion, that which may be concluded is that etiquette lies in this that the contingent being should not forget its bounds of contingency. Accordingly, whenever anything was said in the presence of Hadrat Sadiq (`a) that had a trace of ghuluww [i.e. ascription of divinity to the Imams] in it, the Hadrat would immediately fall down and rub his forehead in the dust.
The perfect degree of etiquette is that in all conditions the wayfarer must consider himself as being in the presence of God, the Glorious and the Exalted, and observe the rules of etiquette in his speech and silence, while eating and sleeping, while moving about and while resting, and in all his states, movements and pauses. Should the wayfarer's attention be always towards the Names and Attributes of God, he will inevitably be wellâ€‘mannered and humble.
11. Intention (Niyyat)
It consists of the wayfarer not possessing any purpose in his wayfaring except the making of the spiritual journey itself and seeking annihilation in the Essence of the One (dhatâ€‘e ahadiyyat). Hence the wayfarer's quest must be sincere and pure: [So call on God with pure allegiance to Him.] (40:14)
It is mentioned in many traditions that intention has three ranks. Among them is the one in which Imam Sadiq (`a) says: [The servants are of three kinds: a group worship God for fear, and that is the worship of slaves; another group worship God for the sake of greed, and that is the worship of merchants; yet there is another group that worships God for the sake of His love, and that is the worship of freemen.]