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Intention (Niyyat)

By: Allama Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Husayni Tehrani (R.A.)
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 (dhat‑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.]
Careful reflection over these words will show that the worship of the first two groups is not real worship, because their worship is not of God and for the sake of God but derives from their egoism and self‑worship. In reality they have worshipped themselves, not God, the Exalted, for the motives behind their worship are their self‑seeking appetites and attachments. And since self‑worship is not consistent with the worship of God, therefore, at first sight, this group are unbelievers in God and His Divinity. However, as the Noble Qur'an explicitly describes God‑worship as being innate to the human being, it has negated any kind of change and alteration in creation: [So set your face toward religion as a man of pure faith (hand; that is theoriginal creation of God wherewith He originated mankind. There is nochanging the creation of God. That is the right religion, but most people donot know it.] (30:30)
Accordingly, this is not a deviation of man from the path of God‑worship but from the path of tawhid, as they do not consider God to be One in His Act and Attribute and so make others His partners. Accordingly, the Qur'an, throughout, has stood up to affirm the Unity of God and to negate any partner in relation to Him. On this basis, the first two groups consider God as a sharer in their purpose, and while they worship God they do not leave off worshiping themselves, and carry out their acts of worship with a dual purpose and this is shirk (polytheism). In reality these two groups are mushrik (polytheist) in respect of God, the Exalted, which is unforgivable in accordance With express Qur'anic texts: [Verily, God does not forgive that anyone should assign partners to Him, yet He forgives anything besides that for anyone He wills.] (4:48)
Accordingly, their worship will never be fruitful or bring them close to God, the Exalted.
As to the third group of persons, who worship God for their love of Him, that is the worship of freemen, and it is mentioned in some traditions that: [That is the worship of the noble ones.]
This is the real and correct kind of worship which is not attained by anyone except the pure ones of the Divine Threshold: [This is the hidden station, untouched by anyone except the pure ones.]
Love consists of attraction, that is one's being gravitated towards some thing or towards some reality. The third group consists of those who have based their worship on the foundation of love and attraction towards God, and they have no purpose in. view except being drawn towards Him and coming closer to Him. It is the sole attraction towards the Beloved that they feel in themselves which is the motive that drives them towards the Beloved and impels their journey towards His sanctity.
It is mentioned in some traditions that we should worship God, the Exalted, because He is worthy of worship. Obviously, this worthiness does not derive from the Divine Attributes but from the station of His Sacred Being, glorious is His Majesty and great is His station. Accordingly, it means that we must worship God because He is God.
[My God, I did not worship You for the fear of Your hell, nor in the hope of Your paradise. Rather, I found You worthy of worship and so I worshipped You.]
[You have guided me to Yourself and have summoned me to Yourself andwere it not for You I would never have known what You are!]
The wayfarer of God's way begins his wayfaring with the feet of love, but after covering some stages and attaining to a certain degree of perfection he will notice that love is something other than the beloved. Therefore, he tries to leave behind the love that had been a means for his wayfaring and his Godward ascent. He finds it as having been an effective means up to this point and but thereafter he considers it harmful. Accordingly, from this point the wayfarer keeps solely the beloved in his view and worships Him as the Beloved.
But when he goes further and covers further stages he finds that this kind of worship too is not free of the taints of shirk, because in this worship he has considered himself as the lover, and God as the beloved, and that his egohood is other than the love of the Beloved. Accordingly, viewing the Beloved as a lover involves otherness and is contrary to the worship of God's Sacred Being. Therefore, at this point he tries to forget love and the beloved so as to totally overcome otherness and pass beyond plurality to lay his feet in the world of Unity. At this time the wayfarer becomes devoid of all intention (niyyat) because there is no more an ego or personality from which intention may arise.
Until before this stage the wayfarer had sought gnostic visions and disclosures (shuhud, kashf wa mukashafah), but at this station he consigns them all totally to oblivion, for he has no more any will or intention to have any sought object in view. At this stage, the wayfarer's eyes and heart have renounced vision as well as the absence of vision, attainment and the absence of it, knowledge and the absence of it. Hafiz Shirazi says: [Don't brag of miraculous deeds before the tavern haunters, Every continent has an occasion and every point a place.]
It is related of by Yazid Bistami that he said, "I renounced the world on the first day, and the Hereafter on the second; the third day I renounced everything other than God, and on the fourth I was asked, `What do you want?'
I said, `I want not to want anything!' "
And in this there is a hint about what some sages have said in defining the fourfold stages: "First, renouncing the world; second, renouncing the Hereafter third, renouncing the Master (mawla); fourth, renouncing renunciation." Reflect over these words. And it is this stage which is meant by the expression `renunciation of yearning' (qat‑e tam`) used by the wayfarers, and this is a stage which is very great, as it is a valley most difficult to traverse and passing through which is a most formidable task. For, the wayfarer, after much introspection and study fords that in all the phases of journey at this stage he has not been free from intention and purpose; rather there was a purpose and end that he cherished in some corner of his heart, even though that purpose should have been to transcend the stages of deficiency and weakness and to attain perfection and excellence. And should the wayfarer, by the means of denuding his mind and stripping away his thoughts, make repeated attempts and exert himself to the utmost so as to get across this valley and to liberate and denude himself of these purposes and notions, he will not make any success. That is because the very effort to obtain this denudation (tajrid) implies the absence of denudation, for the wayfarer's effort at denuding himself of purpose has behind it a motive to attain an end, and this very motive and having an end in view is an indication of absence of denudation.
One day I mentioned this mystery to my teacher marhum Aqa Hajj Mirza Ali Aqa Qadi, may God be pleased with him, and I requested him to suggest a remedy. He said, "This problem can be solved through the means of the method of incineration. That method is that the wayfarer must perceive the truth that God, the Exalted, has made him a covetous being. However much he may want to overcome his desire, as his covetousness lies in his innate nature it would not produce any result, for the very desire to eradicate desire implies the presence of desire and all that he has done is to overcome a lower desire by the means of a higher one. Accordingly when he fords himself impotent to eradicate desire and fords himself defeated, naturally he would entrust his affair to God abandoning the intention to eradicate desire. This admission of impotence and helplessness burns down the very roots of desire, purging and purifying him."
However, it should be known that the attainment of this matter is not something possible through discursive thought, and discursive thought does not yield any result in this regard. Rather its true perception requires gnosis and spirituality. Should one be able to perceive this matter once through gnosis, he will ford that the attainment of all the world's‑pleasures does not equal [the delight of perceiving] this truth.
The reason for calling this method `incineration' is that it burns down the entire harvest of existents, intentions, frustrations and difficulties, destroying their very roots, not leaving any of their traces to remain in the wayfarer's being.
The method of incineration (ihraq) has been referred to in certain cases in the Noble Qur'an. Should anyone use this method for the attainment of the goal and move on this path, in a short time he would cover distances which would otherwise take several years. One of the cases in which it has been employed in the Glorious Qur'an is the utterance of istirja`: [Verily we belong to God and to Him do we return].(2:156)
Because at times of adversity and affliction man can console himself in several ways, for instance by recalling that everyone is bound to die and everybody has to face misfortunes and in this way he can gradually pacify himself. But God has shortened the way, solving the problem once and for all through the means of the method of incineration by suggesting the formula of istirj `. Because when one remembers that he himself and all that belongs to him and pertains to him belongs to God, which had been given to him one day and is taken away from him another day and that no one has a right to interfere in the matter, when one perceive clearly that he was not their owner from the very first day and that his ownership was something metaphorical and that he had. baselessly imagined himself to be its owner, he would of course not be affected by its loss. Attention to this point suddenly makes things easy for him to bear.
The knowledge that from the very first God has made man covetous is like the knowledge that the Absolutely All‑Sufficient Lord had created His servant poor from the very beginning, putting poverty into his very being. Hence the affirmation of poverty and the affirmation of need, which is implied in poverty, do not stand in need of a proof. One cannot find fault with someone who is poor as to why he is a beggar, because poverty presumes begging. Accordingly; if the wayfarer of God's way is covetous during the course of his journey, he must be perceptive that God has fashioned his being from its very origin with covetousness and that he cannot get rid. of desire by any means whatsoever and free himself from it. On the other hand, as annihilation 11 the Essence of the One has been based on the foundations of the worship of freemen, it is not consistent with covetousness and intention. Accordingly; he feels helpless and finds himself in a strange state of anguish and helplessness, and this very state emancipates hi from his egohood with its associated covetousness, and after crossing this stage there remain no ego or egoism with its associated desire. So understand this point and reflect upon it well!

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