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being SOME




In the name of God, th e M e rciful and Compassionate

No pow e r i s there, and no strength, but by God, the High, the Great!

Transc e ndent are You! We hav e no knowledg e save that which You have taught us . You are indeed the Knowing, the Wise! [2:32]

ALL PRAISE BELONGS TO GOD, Who never disappoints those who hope in Him, never refuses those who ask of Him, never ignores those who quest for Him, never underpays those who act for Him, never deprives those who thank Him, never fails those who battle for Him , never allows those whose comfort is in His remembrance to be estranged,

never surrenders to others those who surrender to His might,


abandons to others those who depend on Him, and

never forsakes those who trust and commit themselves to Him. Those who firmly hold to His Book shall never err, and those who take refuge in His Presence shall never find disgrace .

for all that He has inspired and taught, and

thank Him for all His grace and bounties. His help I request

I praise Him

Gifts for the Seeker

to fulfil His immense right [upon us], and I seek refuge in the light of His noble Countenance against the loss of His favours

and the onslaught

His blessings and peace His most noble Proph e t , most emi- nent Messenger and great e st Beloved, who is our master and patron Muhammad, and his Family and Companions , who ar e the essence of excellence and generosity, the very foun- tainhead of knowledge and wisdom. And may these blessings and peace endure for as long as pens write and banners are

unfurled! To proceed. The righteous shaykh of integrity and intelli- gent understanding, ' Abd al-Rahman ibn 'Abdallah ' Abbad, has requested me to answe r a number of question s w hich he committed to writing and pr e sented to me in th e town of Shibarn after my visit to th e great gnostic shaykh S a ' id ibn ' Isa al- c AmiidI , I and to other people of virtue , both living and dead, in those regions. I perc e ived in him signs of e agern e ss for th e truth , combined with the fragrance of sincerity, and therefore promised him a response . The time has now come to fulfil that promise-by God's ability and pow e r-and to w e lcome the arrival of his pertin e nt questions with th e ho s pit- able offer of clear replies.

of affliction. It is God I ask to whelm with

to precede these answers with a

prologue which will giv e insight and reassurance both to the

qu e stioner, and to all other intelligent people of similar ten-

dency . Th e refore I seek God's help, r e lying on Him, committing mys e lf to Him, and asking Him (Transcendent is Hel) to guide me to that which is correct in His sight, for He guides whom He

will to a straight Path [10:25] ; the path of God to Whom belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. Indeed, to God do all things return. [42:53]

I fe e l it is appropriate

I say : Know that to put a question whenev e r

problem arises and to se e k further knowledge and insight is the wont and custom of the elite of every time and place . It is

a need or a

deemed obligatory where obligatory knowledge is concern e d,




and a virtue in the case of supererogatory knowledge. For questions are the keys to the sciences and the secrets of the Unseen which some people carry in their hearts and breasts . Just as valuables and goods kept within locked houses can be reached only by using keys fashioned of iron or wood, so too are these sciences and gnoses , borne by scholars and gnostics, to be reached only by questions fashioned out of the wish to profit, and accompanied by sincerity , enthusiasm, and cour- teous manners . Questioning is e ncouraged and enjoined by the Shari:a, for God the Exalted has said : Ask those who recite

the Book before you, [10:94] and Ask the people of remembrance if you do not know; with the clear signs and the Scriptures. [16:43-4]

And the Messenger of God , may bl e ssings and peace be upon him, has said : ' A good question is [already] half of know- ledge. ' The intention of every leading scholar or Imam who

has ever informed others of th e breadth of his knowledge was

that this should be known about him

ask and s e ek it from him. This was r e lated in the case of ' All , 2 may God ennoble his face , Ibn Mas ' iid, 3 Ibn 'Abbas." Ibn ' Urnar, > Abii Hurayra. ? and others among our [early] prede-

cessors and those who cam e lat e r , may God be pleas e d with them all. And there were oth e r scholars , such as ' Urwa i bn al-Zubayr , ? al-Hasan al-Basri " and Qatada, ? who likewise


Thawri ' ? immediately left any town he entered when none of

its people asked him for knowledge , saying: 'This is a town where knowledg e dies'. Whenever al-Shibli, [ I may God have

mercy on him , sat in his [teaching] circl e and no

were put forth to him,

so that people might

people ' to put questions to them. Sufyan al-


he would re c ite: 'And the word shall fall

upon them because of their wrongdoing;

they do not speak.' [27 : 85]

A scholar may sometimes question his companions to assess their knowledge and so be able to benefit them . It has been r e lated in a sound hadith' that the Messenger of God, may blessings and peace be upon him , once asked a group of his Companions about a tree the leaves of which did not fall and which resembled the believer. None of those pres e nt answer e d, so he informed them , may blessings and peace be


• Gifts for the Seeker

upon him, that it was the date-palm. Ibn 'U mar > was there, and had recognised it, but kept his silence; when subsequen- tly he informed his father the latter blamed him for his silence. ' Umar.P may God be pleased with him, often questioned his companions, and whenever one of them replied, 'God knows best,' he would become angry, and declare: 'I did not ask you about God's knowledge, but about yours: either say "I know" or "I know not"!' A scholar may question one of his companions about something which he already knows, so that others present may benefit . Such, for example, were the questions put to the Messenger of God, may blessings and peace be upon him, by Gabriel, peace be upon him, concerning Islam, iman and Ihsan. 13

A lesser man may for subtle reasons be in possession of a

particular item of knowledge unknown to a superior one, and the latter may thus need to ask him about it . An example of this is ' Umar's questioning of Hudhayfa, 14 may God be

pleased with them, about [future] tribulations , and about the hypocrites.

A scholar may ask his equal, or one who is nearly so, about

the way he has understood certain things in God's Book and the Sunna of His Messenger, may blessings and peace be upon him, to see whether they share the same opinion, which will serve to confirm or strengthen it. This again resembles the practice of ' Urnar, may God be pleased with him, who asked-a group of the Companions about a particular interpre- tation of the verse When support comes from God, and victory, [IIO:I] and only Ibn ' Abbas agreed with him-may God be pleased with them both . IS Many such things occurred with great men, in both the early and later [generations] . As for ' Umar's question to ' All, may God be pleased with them

both, the purpose behind it was to learn from him, since ' Ali

. was granted

a privilege shared by no other Companion ,

which was to be the ' Gate to the City of Knowledge'-the city being the Messenger himself, may blessings and peace be upon him. 1 6 As for the order given by the Messenger of God


I ~



to his Companions not to ask him too many questions, this

prohibition, although stated in general terms, was particu- larly directed at questions concerning legal judgements, retaliatory punishments [qi~a~] or hudiid'? and public affairs. This was out of compassion for the Nation, and out of the merciful wish that they should not be charged with some- thing they would be unable to implement. The evidence to support this is His saying, 0 you who believe! Inquire not after things which, if they were discovered to you, would vex you, yet if you question concerning them when the Qur'an is being sent down, they will be discovered to you. God has effaced those thingsJor God

is Forgiving, Forbearing. A people before you questioned concerning them, then disbelieved in them. [5:101-2] And there is also the saying of the Messenger of God, may blessings and peace be upon him: 'God has made certain obligations incumbent


you; so neglect


not .

He has drawn


therefore violate them not. He has prohibited certain things, therefore commit them not . And He has remained silent concerning certain things-out of mercy for you, not out of forgetfulness-therefore do not inquire about them.' And in another hadith: 'Those who came before you were destroyed by their great inquisitiveness and their arguments about [what was brought to them by] their Prophets.' A man once asked the Messenger of God, upon whom be blessings and peace, whether the Pilgrimage [hajj] was a yearly obligation, and the Prophet kept his silence. When he repeated his question, he replied : 'Once in a lifetime; and had I said "Yes!" it would have become obligatory for you, and you would have been unable to comply.' Underlying this anecdote is a noble secret which it is not permissible to disclose in writing, but you can search for it within the context of His saying (Exalted is He!): Whoever obeys the Messenger has obeyed God, [4: 80 ] and Those who pledge their allegiance to you do but pledge their allegiance to God. [48: 10]

A disciple who asks his shaykh a question,

or a student

who asks his teacher,

benefit, and should beware of wanting to test him, for that

should have no other aim but to



Gifts for the Seeker

may lead to his deprivation

student asks a shaykh or a scholar about something

knowledge of which may be harmful or beyond his under-


inform the questioner of his lack of qualification only if their

assessment of him is that [such a response]

heart, and be religiously damaging to him, or that no aversion will arise in his soul which would deflect him from

his quest; otherwise

level of knowledge and understanding. Should they divert the answer from the strict implication of the question they are not to say, as one of the people of realization once said:

then the latter should stop and ponder; they are to

and failure. When a disciple or


will not break his

they should stoop in their answer to his

It is my duty to carve rhymes

from the bedrock of

words; It is not my concern if cattle do not comprehend.

For such an utterance is peculiar to a certain spiritual state and situation.

a compassionate father and a a manner as to be of benefit

gentle tutor; he speaks in such

and profit. Gnostics, however, are subject to overpowering and absorbing spiritual states in which they become unable to keep in mind what we have just mentioned; their states should be concedingly ackowledged, for they are too high in

rank to be objected to or accused of ignorance or negligence .

This is not the place, moreover, to elaborate a justification of

such authoritative

A shaykh or a scholar is like

writers for divulging

in their books and



in private--to his real worth,

second is when one sees a hypocrite speaking assertively, and

to him. The

test and try him , so that this man may know

this being a form of counsel

threatening to confuse weak believers by introducing


question him in their presence to test him and demonstrate to

them his failings and his ignorance .

intention should be to counsel and warn him about his faults,

so, his




do not belong

to it ; he may then

While doing

in the hope that he will return

submit to the truth. It is this that has drawn the scholars, may


to a fairer judgement

God be pleased with them,

innovate, deviate: or falsify the truth.

into debates

with those who

which he

ought to be teaching, silent, for the Prophet

peace): ' On the Day of Rising, God will garb in a bridle of

fire the man who withholds knowledge him .'



a scholar is asked for information

it is not permissible

for him to keep

has said (upon him be blessings and

that is requested

The scholars

of the present

time must

not keep their


along and ask, for most people today are complacent

religion, uninterested in knowledge and in anything else that '

will benefit them in the hereafter,

beard may grow white and he still knows nothing


of the

parts of the ritual ablution and prayer, or what is

mandatory for him to know

Angels, Books, Messengers and the Last Day. The very

states of such people mute ly

to themselves

and wait for someone

to come



the extent that a man's

by way of belief in God, His

proclaim their ignorance; and


the secrets

of Lordship

and the realities

of the

for scholars endowed with understanding,

that is sufficient to


be a question.

It may be permissible

for a man to question another with

A seeker travelling

to God, whose sole aim is to acquire

of testing him in two situations.

The f i rst is


of Him,

and whose

wish is to rid himself


the intention when a scholar,


and of good counsel, sees a


that may distract him from going to Him, should

man so deeply under the sway of s e lf-admiration

prevented from seeking knowledge, or from adding to the

knowledge which he already has, or from acknowledging merits of the virtuous; he may then question him-preferably


that he is


never ask for knowledge

particular] state and time. However,

ours, such a seeker is stranger than the Phoenix and rarer than

the philosopher's

in his [own

unless it is necessary

in this blessed time of

stone. So let each man be prolific in his


Gifts for the Seeker

qu e stioning after kno w l e dge ,

b e li e v e r is n e v e r s a t e d w i th good things. In a hadith' i t is s a id:

' Two [kind s of ] p e opl e c an never get enou g h: thos e who ar e avid for knowl e dg e, a nd those who are avid for money .' Th e

seeker is what is

r e lat e d a bout Dawud a l-Ta ' i , 1 8 may God's mercy b e upon

him. When h e d e cid e d to d e vote hims e lf to God he b eg an b y s ittin g w ith th e s c holar s : h e thus kept the company of Im a m Abu H a n i fa .I? ma y God's mercy b e upon him , f or n e arly a ye a r . Som e t i m es, w h e n a qu e stion arose [in his mind] whi c h h e w as, in h is o w n w o r ds: ' more eager to kno w th a n a th ir st i n g m a n i s eage r fo r cool water , ' he re frain e d from

ask in g a bout

see ker i s onl y to as k a bout th a t which i s a n e c es sity for him .

it , th e r ea son b e ing , as we said earl ier , th a t a

proof for what w e h a ve ju s t said about the

so as to profit and grow , for a

Th e r e a r e m a n y

proofs for the c orrectness of th e topi cs

d i scus se d in this bri e f int r oduction ; and it would l e ad us a w ay from our in te nd e d br ev it y i f we w e r e to d e lv e into e v e r y on e of th e m. Th e indi ca tion s th a t we h av e giv e n w ill , ho weve r , b e su f fi c i e nt . Su cce s s i s fr om G od, a l s o h e lp and confirmation . W e t r u s t in H i m , upon Hi m do we r e ly . He i s our suffici e n cy , a nd H e

i s B es t o f Custodi a n s.

It i s now t im e to b egi n fulfillin g our purpose. God speaks the

truth, and Heguides to the way. [33:4]



I '

On th e

meanings of La ilah a illa ' usi.

(a) Introduction to the Science of Unification


You a s k-ma y

stand i n g ,

God honour you w ith e nli g hten e d

o f Lordship

und e r-

and with the Op e nin g

[aljath al-

rahhant]2°- a bout

the meanin g of La ildha illa'Llah.


th a t all th e r e ligious knowledg e s a nd pra c tical m eas ur es a r e

but unfoldin gs of the m e anin g o f thi s nobl e phr ase a nd of t h e

r ights it has [ov e r mankind] , w hi c h t a k e th e f or m of i njun c -

tio ns, prohib i tion s ,

a nd th e i r e nt ai l-

m e nt s . Th at w hich is a n ex po s i ti on o f i t s rig ht s i s

c ons e qu e ntl y an ex planation

promi se s , wa rnin gs,

of it . Th e pu r p ose

[ of th is

Ii sta t e m e nt] is to m a k e y ou aw a r e that it is impo ssi bl e t o kno w full y th e d e t a ils of [each of] it s sc ie n ces, l e t a lon e w rit e th e m all do w n , a s [will b ec ome e vid e nt] from w hat i s to follo w .

To e xpl a in wh a t it m e an s in it se lf: it is th e kno w l e d ge te rm e d th e ' S c i e nce of Unification' [Cilmal-tawhid], w hi c h i s a t ee min g sea th e shor e of w hi c h c a n n eve r b e r e ac h e d a nd th e bottom n eve r f a thomed. Th e th e olo gia n s [mutakallimun] h ave s kimm e d o ve r i t s v ast surfa ce, w hil e th e r ea li zing gnos ti cs h ave p lun ge d into it s d e pths and a tt a in e d to so m e o f i ts pr ec ious a nd i nnum e rable s ubtl e ti es, gems, a nd w ond er ful a nd s tr a n ge things . Followin g th e ir prolon ge d and profou n d se arch , a nd having ex hausted their en e r g i es and a bilit ies , th e y unanimously conf e ssed th ei r inability to r ea ch i t s limit o r p e r ce iv e its end. This was becaus e in ord e r full y to appr e h e nd th e s c i e nc e of Unification, on e has full y to a pp re hend th e E s s e nc e and Attribut e s of th e Unifi e d- a nd H e is imm e a s u - rabl y too high fo r that. All sound a uthor i ti es ar e agree d t h a t


Gifts for the Seeker

fully to apprehend the Essence and Attributes of God the Exa lted is impossible , whether in this world or the next. Th e man b e longing to the Faction [!a'ifa ]21 who gave the

impression that it could occur was an exception. There is no


evident. Fully to apprehend Him is impossible because it would require a certain mastery and power to seize; for someone who 'apprehends' something , whether by know-

ing everything

need to mention his name, since the error of his position

about it, or in any other manner, is seizing

and mastering it, partly or fully, whereas the Real (Exalted is He!), is the Master, Who cannot be mastered. Know this!


There are two parts to the science of Unification .

first part is outward,

proofs. It is a duty for every believer to know a certain minimum amount of this, without which his faith will not

be sound. A 'theologian'

with the exposition

enquiry into its arguments and proofs . Although this gives him superiority over the common believers, this superiority must be one of faith and knowledge; otherwise it will be

nothing but an empty shell. The second part is inward;


perceived through Unveiling [kashj] and Contemplation

[mushahada). It is the bequest

that right-guidance

[mujahada]. It is a secret between the servant and his Lord. Those who possess it may speak about it among them- selves, but they are, may God be pleased with them, extremely careful not to divulge it to the unqualified . It was the practice of al-Junayd, 2 2 may God have mercy upon him, whenever he wished to discourse upon it with his compan- ions, to lock his door and place the key under his thigh. This they do out of compassion for the believers, for anyone who stumbles across this kind of knowledge with- out being qualified either denies it, and is thus regarded by God as being among those who reject that with which they

are unfamiliar,

of taqwd, and the essence of is the fruit of self-discipline

to be learned through arguments and

[mutakallim] is a man concerned

and defense of this science, and the

it is that which can only


or else will believe it but understand

it in a




way which differs from its original intention, and thus stumble into error.

Know that this science is hinted at in the writings of the people of realization, such as the Revival'? and the Nourish- ment.t+ Such authors permitted themselves to do this in order to arouse the yearning of sincere seekers, and because in some contexts the benefit to be derived from the science of religious transaction [muCamala], which it was their purpose to expound, depends on its mention. Otherwise, they have been very reluctant to make any mention of it . Have you not noticed how Imam al-Ghazali.e - may God have mercy upon him, whenever he nears these tumultuous seas, remarks:

'Here we shall withhold the pen' , or: 'Here is a secret into

which we shall not delve' , or: 'This

Unveiling [mukashafa], and it is not our purpose to discuss it in the context of the science of religious transactions,' and so on?

b e longs to the science of

some aspects of this

knowledge in their books, such as al-Hatimi. r" al-jilani, " ? and others who acted in similar vein, this should either be

attributed to their being overpowered-and

As for those Sufis who included

a man over-

powered is excusable-or

sion-for the man who receives such permission is under an order which he can but obey-and the secret of the permission granted in such matters is its e lf one that cannot be divulged.

to their having received a permis-

(b) The exoteric meaning of La ildh« iIIa'Llah

In this section we will discuss one part of the outward meaning of La ildha illa'Lldh, having already explained why we should keep silent about its inward meaning. We thus say :

He is the


Necessary Existent by His essence; the Unique, the One, the

Able Sovereign, the Living and Sustaining,

that there is no god other than Him.

the Ancient


Gifts for the Seeker

w ithout b e ginnin g,

l e dg e of a ll thin g s , a nd po we r o ve r all affairs. H e do e s w hat

He will ; nothing resembles Him, and He is the Hearer, the Seer.


th e Et e rnal without

end. H e has know-

[4 2 : II] Hol y i s H e , and E x alted b e yond bein g res e mbl e d

o r

e quall e d, or h a vin g to tim e, neither

anoth e r ;



tha t i s not H i m n ee ds Him in a way so total th a t it ca nnot

He is not subj e ct

by on e affair awa y from

a partn e r or a minist e r.

i s H e distra c ted

He is ne i th e r

subj e ct to location

nor a ff ec t e d b y of a ll thin gs,


on t in ge n c i e s.

hat e v e r

H e is absolut e ly Ind e pendent

th e ir n a ture a nd ho we v e r

th ey ar e e n v i s ag e d .

eve n b e c on ce i ve d t o diminish.

as w e ll a s th ei r ac tions, whether thes e be good or e vil. Blessed

is God, the Best of Creators! [23:14] He guides whom He

leads whom He will astray; [35: 8 ] He gives to whom He will, and

whom He will and

will, and

He ha s creat e d all c r e atur es,

withholds from whom He will; He forgives

chastises whom He will. [ 2:28 4] He is not questioned about what

He does, rather, they are questioned.

[2 1 :23] H e c r ea t e d

a nd

pro v id e d for th e m, s e nt do w n Book s a nd M esse n ge r s

t o


un i t y a nd ob ey


non e , f o r He i s th e Po sse s s or

ve r e i g nt y promi se

g r a c e , and His warn i n g

w ith e vil pro ceed s f r om Hi s ju s tic e . Onl y th e

a bo ve m e ntion e d undoubt e dl y

on e, l e t a lon e th e m


uid e th e m ,

ran smi tt e d

a ll out o f g rac e a nd kindn e ss.

H i m i s a n obligation

throu g h H is M e s seng e rs .

and Mas ter

To c onf ess Hi s

upon His ser va nt s,

H e i s obli ga t e d


of all ; non e sh a r es

w ith Hi m, a nd non e has a ny right o v er Him . Hi s

fr o m Hi s

to r ewa rd

tho se w ho a ct we ll proc ee d s

that H e will puni s h tho se who ac t

pos ses s or of th e

a tt ribut es is Divin e ; and, as th ese a ttribut es

all , ca n possibl y

be a ttribu te d


nd no other di v init y

di v init y to o th e r

b e lon g to God (E x alt e d is H e !) , a nd no t a sin g l e

t o an y ex ist s .

or a ttribut e

ot h e r , God alon e i s Di vi n e,

Tho se wh o d eny Hi s d i vinity ,

th a n Hi m, or g iv e Him a partner therein , commit an

a nd a re ov e rwhelmed

by lo ss. They a re

imm e ns e f als e hood


th e on e s re f e rr e d

to in God ' s statement



is the

Sp ea k e rl) : We have created fo'r hell many jinn and men; they


hearts with which they do not understand;

they have eyes


which they do not see; they have ears with which they do not hear.

1 2




They are like unto the cattle; nay, they are still further astray. Such are the heedless. [7: 179]

(c) Polytheism (shirk)

Kno w that this Noble Phrase has tw o halv e s : th e first is a

ne g ation :

La ildha: ' there is no god ' ; w h i l e th e s e cond i s an

affirmation :


' other than God' .

Wh e n th e n ega tion

followed by the a ffirmation

e mpartners

d e nied and refuted the illusion of th e pol y th e i s t s

may be anoth e r divinity ,

Unifi c ation th a t his heart

is utte r e d

b y s om e on e


no other d e ity to God, t hi s means that h e h a s

th a t ther e

and also mea ns that th e e ss e n ce of

for it is The

cont a ins will b e reinforc e d ;

of th ese words.

by the rep e tit i on

M e ss e ng e r of God , may bl e ssin gs and p eace b e upon him,

s aid: 'R e n e w y our faith b y [ s aying] La ild h a ill a' Ll d h :' Th e r e ar e subtl e and hidd e n va rie ties of shirk, w hi c h ar e

esc ap e d onl y b y gnostics of author ity and tho se p e opl e b e fore

activ e l y stre ngth e ned

w hom th e pur e truth

Som e b e lieve rs ma y

vari e tie s: the y m a y for instanc e b e liev e that som e on e b es id es

God ma y ind e p e ndantly bring th e m b e n e fit or pr ese r ve th e m

from misfortun e .

in c lud e a vi dity for power a nd lo ve of s up e riorit y ov e r oth e r s,

th e lo ve of b e ing unrestrain e d a nd ind e p e nd a nt ,

stands unv eil e d b y way o f ac tual v i s ion.

unwittin g ly

Other attitudes

f a ll p rey to s om e of th ese

in th e s a m e

c ateg o ry

pa ss io n for

so c i a l importance

a nd for e min e n ce

and pr a ise,




e opl e's

h e arts and in their sp e e c h . S ays a hadlth: 'Shirk


mor e hidde n Showing-off

ma y bl e ss i ngs and peac e b e upon him. A m a n may e mpartn e r hims e lf or someone e lse to God and not b e aw a r e of it.

Beli e vers should therefore

selv es again s t these hidden forms of pol y th e ism ,

guard th e mselves

sen se does not compromise

ju s t as th ey Shirk in this

in m y n a tion


th e foo tfa lls


of a nt s . '

w as called the ' smaller

b y t he Proph e t ,

to g uard th e m-

do th e ir utmost

against th e man i f e st

kind .

the bas i s of f aith upon w hich


Gifts Jor the Seeker

s a lv a tion dep e nds , but it do es compromis e its p e rf e ction. We s a id at th e beginning of this s e ction that wh e n denying divinity to an y other than God , th e monoth e i s t must intend to refute thos e who ar e otherwis e illusion e d , wh e th e r th ey be polythe i sts o r anyone e l se o f s imilar ori e ntation . W e called

th e ir f a l se b e l ie fs ' illusions' since th ey aris e from fals e conc e p- tions a nd f ee bl e thinking , and indi c at e that their c onstitution

h a s becom e corrupt e d and th e i r int e llect

oth e r w is e , ho w c a n the e x istenc e o f Him by Whom all things a r e manif e st e d not b e evid e nt t o a nyone po s s es s e d of sight and hearin g , l e t a lone one poss e ss e d of in s i g ht and the [ f a c ult y of th e ] h e art? But no ne can guid e tho se whom God l ea ds a s tr ay : such are th e p e opl e whose hearing and eyesight are

d i minish e d. For


Deaf, dumb and blind, they shall not return. [2:18]

away by God, and He left them sightless in the shadows.

o w ond e r! Ho w ca n H e b e di s ob eye d , Or b y t h e th a nkl e ss h ave Hi s n ame d e n ie d? For God in e a c h a nd eve r y mo ve m e nt mad e , a nd eve r y s tilln ess, tr aces th a t us g uid e. In eve r y thin g a si g n i s a lw ays laid , b y w hich H is On e n e ss s t a nd e th t e sti fie d.

A cer tain g nostic on ce said: ' A donk ey h a s mor e kno w - l e d g e o f God th a n som e on e who see k s p r oof o f His unit y . ' W e r e it n ot for our c on c ern fo r br ev ity , for reas on s th a t God kno ws, w e w ould h ave e l a bor a t e d on this in s u c h a way as w ould h ave t a ken a back int e llig e nt a nd p e rspi cac iou s m e n . And God is w itn e s s to wh a t I say.

(d) On Unification (tawl, i d)

S c hola rs o f authori ty,

th a t th e Di v init y is ' He who

is th e

on e w ho cr ea t e s a nd prov i d e s , a nd sinc e th e On e w ho c reat e s

m a y God b e ple a s e d with th e m, s t a te

is ri g htfull y to b e wor s h i pp e d ' ;

a n d sin c e th e O n e w ho i s .ri g htfull y to b e w orshipped

1 4



and provides for all being s is God th e E x alted , He alone is the Divinit y; H e alone is to be worshipped , and none is to be empartn e red to Him . For th e world to have mor e than on e god is an impos s ibi- lity , as ma y b e kno w n through both r e ason and rev e lation.

There is no divinity but God, the August, the Wise. [3 : 6] Wh e n

alluding to this impos s ibility ,

h a v e two gods, the Exalted d e clares: Were there gods in them

[h e aven and earth] other than God, they wouldgo to ruin. [21:22] God has taken to Himselfno son, nor is there any god with Him:Jor then each god would have left with what he created, and some oj them would have risen up over others. Transcendent is God, beyond that which they describe! [23:91]

nam e l y , that th e world may

No-on e eve r c l a im e d di v init y i n e mpartn er m e nt with God

(m a y God 's cu r s e b e upon

- a s

th e m)-nor was it eve r cl ai m e d fo r an y obj ec t , such as a star

or a stone , without si g ns of imp e rf e ction , ne e din e ss , inc a pa- cit y and subju g ation (whi c h a r e attribut es whi c h in e vit a bl y r e quir e contin ge nc y a nd s e r v itude) b e in g c l ea rl y ma n ifest in both th e human b e in g s w ho c l a im e d it for th e ms e l ve s , and th e obj e cts for which it w a s cl a im e d. It would a pp ea r that

tho se w ho c laim e d c o-divinit y with God we re d r iv e n

corrupt illu s ion

b e h e ld their o w n po we r o ve r ce rtain thing s . Thi s i s indicat e d

in the s aying of God t h e E x alt e d , in c onn ec tio n w i th

N i mrod ' s

disputat i on w ith the Fri e nd [al-khalll] about his

Lord: Abraham said: My Lord is He who gives life and death. And he said: I give life and death! [ 2:2 5 8 ] It i s s aid in on e of the

[tifslr] th at in ord e r to prov e his

Qu r' anic commentar i es

unt e nable claim , Nimrod brou g ht t w o m e n , exe cuted one of them, and r e pri eve d th e oth e r. And th e r e e xists a similar t ex t

wh e re Pharo a h told hi s p e opl e : 0 my people, do I not possess the

kingdom oj Egypt, and these riversflowing beneath me? Do you not

b y a th ey

d i d Nimrod and Pharoah

and a fal se r ea sonin g that aro se w h e n

see? [43: 51] It is not unlik e ly that thes e two accursed on es w e re a ware o f th e falsity of th e ir claim , but wer e driv e n by arroganc e and ingratitude to d e ny God a nd c laim for them- sel ve s th a t w hich wa s not rightfull y th e irs ; and the folly o f


Gifts for the Seeker


e ir follow e r s who submitt e d

to their authority

g a v e them


e opportunity

to do s o . Th e Exalted

God has said of

Pharo a h: So he deceived his people and they obeyed him; surely

they were a people corrupt. [43:54] It is said that when the Nil e becam e low , and his peopl e asked him to make it r i se for them , he took th e m out [to its b a nks], hid hims e lf from their

sight , and th e n b ega n to rub his f a c e in the dust and implor e,

b e s eech a nd pr ay to God. And God , by His powe r , mad e th e

Nil e to flo w, th a t H e m i ght furth e r entangle His e nem y, and

a t th is Pharo a h s a id t o


said ;

hi s p e opl e: ' It is I who h a ve caused i t to


for y ou! '

Thi s c on fir m s

w h a t

w e h ave just

althou g h within th ese word s, again, th e re ar e hidden matt e rs



And i n a noth e r hadith: ' Whoev e r has ts ild ha ill a' Ll d n a s his la s t w ord s s hall e nt e r th e Garden.'

And :

'Th e

p e ople

of la ildha illa ' Ll d h do not f ee l est-

r angement i n their

is . as though I w e re

sh a king the dust from their heads and s ay in g : "Praised be God,

Who did remove sorrow from us; our Lord is indeed Forgiving,

Compassionate and Thankful. '"

graves .r'' or wh e n th e y are r e surr ec t e d .


beholding th e m, rising from th e ir g rav e s,

s c rolls


str e t c hin g

of th e S ca l e s w hich contains his e v il d ee d s. T h e Tru e God

a s fa r as his eye can s e e ; and th e s e are s e t on th e pan

a c h



'A man

shall be called ,

and nin e t y -nin e

his sins shall be unfold e d

b e fore him,



hi c h on e is not all o w e d to rec o r d in


th e n says: " You have a good d ee d in Our k ee pin g ! "

A sma ll


scroll is th e n brought to him, on wh i ch it is w ritte n

La ildha

Kno w that w h a t w e ha ve written in these sections o ve rlap s .

W e h ave d e lib e r a t e ly omitt e d any mention of the grammati-

c a l a nal y si s o f th e Phrase, i ts s tatus in the Law and its m e rit .

Th e form e r point li es out s id e our pr e s e nt purpo se,

fa r as th e l a tt er t w o i s su e s a r e c onc e rned ,

s u ffi ci e nt ex po si t i o n

w ho re j ec t i t a r e unprot ec t e d ,

for eve r i n t h e fi r e o f He ll ; wh e r eas


with faith , r e nd e rs his l i f e and w ea lth sa c ro s an c t ,

slou g h of f hi s s in s and be c om e as pur e as the day hi s moth e r gave him b i rth. A se r va nt w ho m ee ts God th e E xa lted with

a s m a ny s in s as a ll th e a n c i e nt a nd

but who

fo rg i ve n if God w ill s, o r e l se punished

t o s ay that t h e liv e s and w e alth o f tho se

whil e as

b e a

it should

and that th ey shall r e m a in

a man who li ve s as a

s b e li ever

for s eve nt y y ea r s, for inst a nce , and then utt e r s it

a nd will

r e c e nt p e opl e s c ombin e d ,

an y thing

to God ,

w ill b e

for hi s sin s; bu t thi s

do e s not e mpartn e r

illa ' Ll d h , This is cast onto

th e r e st co mbin e d.'

th e oth e r pan , a nd outw e i g hs


Sh ay kh Ibn Ata'illih ha s m e ntion e d

s om e o f th e m e rit s o f

thi s Phrase

in his book The Key to Success. 2 9

Th e b e n e fits and ad va ntages

w hi c h att ac h to t his Ph rase,

wh e th e r

a tt ai n e d b y a n y on e who s e parate s th e T w o Testi mon ies,

th eir s t a tus is id e ntical.

mon y of Unity a nd d e ny that of th e M e s se n ge r

y i e ld e d in this world

or th e nex t ,

ca n n eve r b e


Thos e w ho ac qu ies c e i n th e T es ti-

do n ot b e long

to th e p e ople of Unific a tion .

w ho be lieves in both tawhid and th e M e s se n ge rship

ildha illa ' Ll d h , and not imme diat e l y

t estimon y o f M esseng e rship :

bl ess in gs w hich att a ch to th is Phrase. B e aw a re o f this!

But it do e s no h a rm to some on e

to sa y la

follo w it up w ith th e

h e w ill not m i ss a n y o f th e

This subj ec t ramifies into br a nch e s

a nd s ub t l e t ies w hi c h

puni s hm e nt will b e t e mpor a r y,

since none of th e p e opl e of


n ee d mor e

th a n

a w hol e

v olume

if thorou g hly


n ifi c ation will r e m ai n in h e ll for e ver.

pur s u e d;

our a im has b ee n only to i ndi ca t e

a few of th e

111 a ~adj"th i t is

said: ' I w as comm a nded

to do battl e aga in s t

but God ,

of God , and establish the Pray er

p e opl e until they b ea r w i tn ess that there is no god

and th a t I am th e M es s e n ge r

and pa y th e Zakdt. Wh e n th e y do this, the y prot e ct

t h e ir liv e s and the ir w e alth,

their wage i s in c umb e nt

from m e

ex cept for the right s ofIsl a m ; a nd

upo n God . '


m e ani n gs of the Phras e of Unification .


Gifts for the Seeker

(e) La lldha illa'Lltih as a formula of dhikr

You should know that this phrase is the most comprehensive and profitable of all invocations; the nearest to bringing about the Opening and illumining the heart with the light of God. It is also the most suitable of invoc a tions for all people, since it in c ludes the meanings of all other invocations, such as

al-hamdu ii'Llah,3 0 subhiin Alldh," and so on . Each believer

should, therefore, make it his inseparable wird, 32 his constant dhikr,33 without , however, abandoning the other invoca- tions, of each of which he should have a wird. Every human being is either a traveller, an arriver, or a non-traveller, and all three should hold unceasingly to this invocation. Travellers and non-travellers, since they perceive objects and attribute to them an existence of their own- something which may lead to subtle forms of hidden

shirk-can only expel these from

r e peating this phrase. A s for the man who ha s arrived , this invocation is again the most appropriate for him, becaus e although he perceives things by God, and unceasingly sum- mons them to Him, he is not entirely free from perceiving his own s e lf from time to time, and from r e prehensible thoughts un w orthy of his rank. It has been handed down to us that Abii Bakr al-Siddiq , 3 4 may God be pleased with him, used to insert this phrase into his conversation : he would utter a few words, s a y u ildha illa'Lldh , and then r e sume what he was saying . This pertains to the Station of Subsistence [baqa'] which follows that of Extinction [[ana']. As w e said earlier, there is no invocation more appropriate for a man constantly to use than this ; however , when the traveller reaches the initial stages of extinction, and is liberated from perceiving anyof the worlds [as autonomous], then the most appro-


Allah. This is what the people of gnosis have advised. All the above is from the point of view of choosing the best and most appropriate alternative, for otherwise all the invo- cations are paths leading to God . The shaykhs, may God be


their s ouls by constantl y

thing for him at that time is to keep to the Name of



pleased with them, have many methods of uttering this honourable Phrase, whether aloud or silently, and have set conditions which the invoker who would expose himself to the Divine effulgence and the Lordly Opening needs to fulfil. These are explained in those of their treatises which deal with them specifically, where they can be found by whoever wishes to tread the path of such men. It is best that those who are able to find in their time a shaykh of authority should receive these from him directly , since books are a last resort for those who are unable to find [such a teacher]; and what a

difference there is b e tween a man who recei v es the Path from

a gnostic of authority who will

who only picks it up from a book! God guides to what is right. To Him is the return, and success is from Him and in His Hand.

take him to God , and one






and to the

degree in which the ominous

the heart are established therein. What we have just said does

not apply only to presence, but applies more generally to the processes of acquiring all the praiseworthy attributes which

things which have taken over

variations in his orientation and determination,


are the source of good works.

The man who

wishes to

On presence with God

acquire these needs an effort at the beginning,

when they

You have asked what 'forcible presence' means. Now,

should firstly know that the original nature of man is to be

free of heart, ready to receive whatever

whether it be that which reforms and enlightens him, or that

which brings corruption



to him,

and darkness.

It is the thing which

come only with toil and hardship;

until they are accompanied by pleasure and repose.

then the matter evolves


learnt this, you should know that presence with

God is the very spirit and purpose of all acts of worship; it is


gnostics stress. Acts which God's servants perform while in a

state of distraction are considered

[Sufis of] authority

are concerned


and what

by them more likely to

reaches him first which establishes and inscribes itself within

result in punishment and veiling than in contemplation


him, and he will need to strive and exert himself forcibly to

reward .

The way to attain to presence with God in acts of

be able to efface it. The first thing to reach the hearts of the


is for a man to watch for and dispel whatever


children of Adam-except those whom God preserves-is

distract him.

the knowledge

of the affairs of their worldly

milieu, of the


are two kinds of distraction:

those which come

things they do to live and take pleasure therein; these are the


the senses, including

hearing and vision, which are

first things

there comes to

them the knowledge

that are His, and they are then requested to fulfil these rights as befits the Holy Presence, they find in their hearts no space for them to dwell and be established; they thus remain shaky

and weakly ingrained.


that they hear and see from their own kind. If,

once these things have seized their hearts,

of God and of the rights of Lordship

The one who aspires for the firm

of God in his heart, and for

of the knowledge

presence with Him during his ordinary

circumstances to become his custom and sign, will inevitably

need to erase the knowledge

activities and in all

of worldly affairs that had first

dispelled through seclusion, and, secondly, those which arise

of the ego [nafi], which distract the

from the whisperings

heart with various insinuations and passing thoughts, which

are dispelled by ignoring

pied, either by echoing in the heart the same word that the

mouth is uttering, whether it be Qur'an or invocation,

listening to and hearing what proceeds from the mouth. The


heart against everything that reaches it, whether from the nafs

or the senses. When the servant

degree of forcible presence he should move on to the degree

them and keeping the heart occu-

or by

control and guard the

in this

thing in such situations is to

achieves mastery


his heart and which


him from devoting

which lies above it, namely, that of perceiving and holding in


to this matter

and achieving

it fully.

It is again

his heart the meaning of what is proceeding from his mouth,

inevitable that he suffer hardship

during his necessary self-

for instance,

Ia ildha illa'Lldh, or Alldhu akbar, If Qur'an


discipline and his battling [against his ego] . These two may

being recited, the meaning of what is being recited should be

be light

or hard; they vary in their fullness according

to the

present in the heart. And above this noble degree of presence

person's nature, and vary in power according

to the

there is a rank nobler still, which is attained when the heart,



Gifts for the Seeker

while occupied with recitation, invocation or worship, per- ceives, and is present in the Presence of He Who is Speaker, Invoked and Worshipped. This is indicated by the saying of the Prophet, upon whom be blessings and peace: 'Excellence [ihsan] is to worship God as though you saw Him.' Those who wish to attain this formidable degree of contemplation must thoroughly complete the steps which precede it, as we said before, and fully affirm that the Real God transcends all contingencies ; for a man lacking in insight may compromise this transcendence with false imaginings, the like of which the Real far transcends. At this degree, which is to contem- plate the Speaker in His words, and the Remembered in His remembrance, there is absence, absorption, and extinction, and other such states as are found among God's people . Whoever wishes to arrive, let him trav e l the path, embrace patience and resolution, and roll up his sleeves to devote all his effort and ability to his quest; and let him heed the words of the 'Master of the Faction', al-Junayd, may God's mercy be upon him, who, when asked how he had acquired so many sciences which none of his shaykhs had possessed, pointed to a stair in his house, saying: 'By sitting under that stair with God for thirty years.' It was the custom of al-Shibli, may God's mercy be upon him, at the outset of his spiritual career, to take a bundle of wooden twigs and seclude himself in an underground dwelling, where, whenever dis- traction overtook him he would take one and strike hims e lf with it. By the end of the night he would have struck himself enough times to use up the whole bundle. The beginning of the unveilings [mukashafa] and contemp- lation [mushahada] that they were able to attain was the effort they made and the hardship they endured, for although these things may be attained without such effort and hardship, this is in fact extremely rare. The man who reaches the degree of presence and intimacy with God then has actually to force himself to attend to the created world or to become involved in any worldly matter when this is necessary for him . At this, his state will have been turned around, from one of forcing




himself to be present with God, to one of forcing hims e lf to attend to the world. One of the greatest supports to the achievement of pres- ence with God is for the servant to make his heart feel that God sees him, his heart, and his inner intention and orienta-

form of his

actions alone. Gnostics teach that one of the factors that disturb one's presence with God during the ritual prayer or remembrance [dhikr] is for one's heart to be occupied with things other than the Hereafter. They hold that the important thing is to concentrate all one's outward and inner aspect on whatever activity one is engaging in for the sake of God the Exalted, for it will never be accomplished correctly and masterfully unless this be done . Distraction of the heart may even damage the outward form of the act, and not just its inner meaning, as we sometimes see . When presence is not forcibly striven for, acts of worship performed in a state of distraction do not lead one on to a state of presence, although they are not [entirely] lacking in blessings . A man once said to Abu Haf~ : 35 :1 invoke God, but achieve no presence', to which the reply was: 'You should thank God for adorning one part of you with His remembrance. '

tion, rather than his body and the outward


THE THIRD RESPONSE Some further explications

You have also enquired about what praise means, and what it means to attribute transcendence to God . You also ask how one should express one's denial of one's own power and ability [~awl wa-quwwa), about the meaning of remorse, and

and whether

asking for forgiveness,

these are exclusive to

sinners, or general enough to include the ascent from one

noble spiritual station to a higher one.

(a) Tasb'h and I;lamd

You should know that to attribute Transcendence

attribute holiness as well as exaltation.

is to

Its meaning is for the



say not anything but the truth concerning God, up to God is but one

Transcendent is He, above having a son. [4: 17 I] They have

taken their rabbis and monks as lords up to Transcendent is God above what they empartner. [9:31] Is it not of their own calumny that they say: God has begotten? They are truly liars up to Transcendent is God above what they describe. [37: I 51-9]


As for 'praise'

[thana'), this is to laud and extol, in other


befit the Praised One, His attributes ofloftiness, nobility and

majesty, and the gifts and attainments

those who praise Him as well as to others, and His protection of them against various kinds of hardships and opposition.

All of these things are to be accompanied awe .

by reverence and

that flow from Him to

words, to make mention of the qualities of perfection

One of the acts of worship


most completely contains

the various aspects of praise is to utter the phrase al-Hamdu li'Lidh. ['praise is for God! ' ]. Know that God the Exalted is

the [only] one who is absolutely transcendent

and worthy


praise, in every way and in all senses. This is uniquely


exclusively His, since He is free from all imperfections,


to Him belongs the whole of perfection,

Source of all good; and every attainment, transcendence and

because He is the

praise is real only in His case, and [mer e ly] figurative


heart to be convinced

that in His Essence, Attributes


others . In effect, neither transcendence nor praise can ever be


the Real (Majestic

and High

is He!) transcends


truly attributed to another, literally or metaphorically;


resemblance to created beings. He is Holy, Transcendent,

any creature who either achieves a kind of transcendence


and High above partners, likenesses, contingencies



does something

which is deserving

of praise, never does



begin and end, aims and causes, and limits of time and

location. He transcends

mind or imagination, and is beyond being apprehended by thought; for what He is lies beyond the scope of intelligence and the reach of knowledge. Exaltation [tasbl~] is often mentioned in the Qur'an when the Real affirms His freedom from everything that deviators [mul~idun] attribute to Him that is unworthy of His impreg-

nable perfection.

any form that may arise in one's


of this include His saying :


people of the Book! Go not beyond the bounds in your religion, and


by his own power

will, grace, and mercy; which come from God and belong to


praising or extolling a created being who is indeed free of that

of the]

kind. And when that is actually his, and praise to God.


which they say he is free of, is but the [manifestation

Him. The attributing by some people of transcendence

and ability,

but only by God's


that b e longs to this being's

they praise him for a quality of perfection they are but attributing transcendence

This is known to some people, and quite unknown to others.


also, that God the Exalted

stands in no need of


Gifts for the Seeker



anyon e's attribution

of tran s cend e nc e

or prais e to H i m.


a t th e acts th e y choos e to p e rform

e m in th e mann e r known as ' a c quisition'

will b e attribut e d


Tho se who do so n e ith e r fre e Him f rom imp e rfe c tion s -for


[kasb] and 'work -

He ha s non e , and it is incon ce i v abl e

that h e

h ave any- nor


g ' ,

and s hall b e, in con s equ e nce ,

lia bl e to rewa r d



stablish His p e rf e ction b y th e ir prai se --for

p e rf ec tion w a s


but that th ey e xercis e volition only wh e n God



b e n e fit s promis e d

a nd p e a ce be upon him : 'Al-hamdu li'Llah fill s the S ca l e s , and

v e r Hi s , and e t e rnall y rem a in s so . Th e m a n who a tt ri but es

r ans cend e nc e to his L ord , and prai se s Him, is onl y a t tr a ctin g

and g ood to hims e lf;

and God , in Hi s g r ac e , ha s

this to him . Th e Proph e t

has said , m ay bl e ssin gs

Sub~an Allah wa'l-hamdu Jj'Llah fill s th e d i stan ce w hi c h i s

b e tw een h e a ven and e a r th .' And h e sai d: ' God i s pl ease d w i th



i ms e lf

n y thing


unless H e rend e rs th e m abl e to. The y poss e s s not a

s o , and c a n n e ither

do nor a bstain


single atom's weight of the heaven or the earth, nor do they attain

to a n y partner s hip in its g overnan c e , Hi m .

or b e com e s upports


It i s on th e abil i t y and

pow e r to mak e choic es, which God

h a s g ranted to H i s servant s, that c omma nd s and prohibitions

a s e rvant

who, wh e n he e a t s a mors e l of food, p ra i ses

a nd

are base d . Thin gs which a r e don e inte ntionally a nd by choic e

thanks Him for it , a nd wh e n h e d r inks a d r ink , pra ises

a nd

a to th e m , a nd th ey are r ew arded

re a ttributed

or puni shed

thank s H i m fo r it.' Th e m a t er i a l b e qu e ath e d

S ubh d n Allah a nd al-Hamdu li'Lldh. i s both too vo lumin o u s

a nd too well-known

to u s c on ce rn i n g

to be r e pe a t e d h ere .

Those who strive, do so for themselves; for God is surely

l n d e p e nd a nt of the worlds. [29 :6 ]

(b) Ascribing power and ability

You should kno w th a t th e mo s t compr e h e nsiv e and in c lu sive

formul a for exp re s si n g th e re pudi a ti o n

po wer a nd a b i lit y is Lei hawla wa-ld quwwata illa bj'Llah (' th ere

of o ne's o w n c l a i m to


I s lam, ma y God be pl ease d with him, sa id : "' Pow er"


poss esse s e ith er abilit y or po we r o ver anything s ave throu g h

God, Who i s Abl e a nd

s ne i th e r

po we r

no r a bilit y s a v e b y God ' ) .

[quwwa] is a pt i tud e''' .

Th e Proof of

[~awl] is

No c r e atur e


and "a bilit y"

C apabl e . It i s in c umb e nt


cc ordin g l y.

H e n ce th e m ea nin g o f la hawla wa-ld quwwata illii bi'Lldh. i s

th e d e ni a l o f on e 's possess ion

a bil i t y, and th e simultan e ous

th a t [ re lat ive ] po we r and a bility to mak e c hoice s tha t H e h a s

pow e r a nd


f autonomou s

conf e ss i on

of th e ex istenc e of


i ve n His

serv a nts to b e th e ir o w n.

H e w ho c laim s that m an ha s no c hoice or ability, th a t the


, an d tha t h e i s in all c irc umst a n ce s

a cts h e se l ec ts ar e id e nti ca l with th e acts h e is c omp e lled


t ic [jabri]3 6 inno va tor

th e r e was a ny purpo s e in se nding M e s se nger s

c o er c e d is a determin i s-

den y that


ho se

f a lse cla im would

and rev ea ling

. S c riptur e s . By contrast ,

h e who c l a ims that man posse sses

th e w ill and pow er

Mu ' t a zili - ? inno va tor . But h e w ho believ e s that a responsible

[mukallaj] man posse s ses pow e r

compl y

n eit h e r ind e p e ndant

has found th e Su n na , join e d the m a jorita ria n communit y, and

ther e b y nor th e cr e ator o f hi s own acts ,

to do what eve r

h e

do e s b y c hoi ce is a

and choic e to a llow him to

and prohibitions,

bu t is

w i t h God 's commands


e li eve r s to hav e faith th a t in wh a t e v e r G o d p e rmit s th e m to


e com e

s a f e from repr e h e nsibl e

innov a tion.


is a

do or a bstain from -a s, for in s t a n ce,

in c onformin g

to an


e n g thy ex planation


thi s , which follows

a rugged

r oad

injunct i on,

their pro v ision b y r es o r ting to action in the

profes s ion s, a nd so on-it

a nd or ig inat e s th e ir int e ntions, a biliti e s and mov e m e nts ;

w h e th e r

b y a c t in g or a b s tainin g ,

or in see k i n g

form of c r a fts an d

is God th e Ex a lt e d Who cr e a tes




wh e r e man y hav e slipp e d and g on e

th e s e cr e t of Destin y, which has alw a y s p e rple x ed intelligent

mind s,

command e d

astr ay; and beyond i t is

o f Mess e ngers


b e con t ent




the Ma ster

us not to d e l ve. So l e t the i nt e lligent


Gifts for the Seeker



anyon e's attribution

of tran s cend e nc e

or prais e to H i m.


a t th e acts th e y choos e to p e rform

e m in th e mann e r known as ' a c quisition'

will b e attribut e d


Tho se who do so n e ith e r fre e Him f rom imp e rfe c tion s -for


[kasb] and 'work -

He ha s non e , and it is incon ce i v abl e

that h e

h ave any- nor


g ' ,

and s hall b e, in con s equ e nce ,

lia bl e to rewa r d



stablish His p e rf e ction b y th e ir prai se --for

p e rf ec tion w a s


but that th ey e xercis e volition only wh e n God



b e n e fit s promis e d

a nd p e a ce be upon him : 'Al-hamdu li'Llah fill s the S ca l e s , and

v e r Hi s , and e t e rnall y rem a in s so . Th e m a n who a tt ri but es

r ans cend e nc e to his L ord , and prai se s Him, is onl y a t tr a ctin g

and g ood to hims e lf;

and God , in Hi s g r ac e , ha s

this to him . Th e Proph e t

has said , m ay bl e ssin gs

Sub~an Allah wa'l-hamdu Jj'Llah fill s th e d i stan ce w hi c h i s

b e tw een h e a ven and e a r th .' And h e sai d: ' God i s pl ease d w i th



i ms e lf

n y thing


unless H e rend e rs th e m abl e to. The y poss e s s not a

s o , and c a n n e ither

do nor a bstain


single atom's weight of the heaven or the earth, nor do they attain

to a n y partner s hip in its g overnan c e , Hi m .

or b e com e s upports


It i s on th e abil i t y and

pow e r to mak e choic es, which God

h a s g ranted to H i s servant s, that c omma nd s and prohibitions

a s e rvant

who, wh e n he e a t s a mors e l of food, p ra i ses

a nd

are base d . Thin gs which a r e don e inte ntionally a nd by choic e

thanks Him for it , a nd wh e n h e d r inks a d r ink , pra ises

a nd

a to th e m , a nd th ey are r ew arded

re a ttributed

or puni shed

thank s H i m fo r it.' Th e m a t er i a l b e qu e ath e d

S ubh d n Allah a nd al-Hamdu li'Lldh. i s both too vo lumin o u s

a nd too well-known

to u s c on ce rn i n g

to be r e pe a t e d h ere .

Those who strive, do so for themselves; for God is surely

l n d e p e nd a nt of the worlds. [29 :6 ]

(b) Ascribing power and ability

You should kno w th a t th e mo s t compr e h e nsiv e and in c lu sive

formul a for exp re s si n g th e re pudi a ti o n

po wer a nd a b i lit y is Lei hawla wa-ld quwwata illa bj'Llah (' th ere

of o ne's o w n c l a i m to


I s lam, ma y God be pl ease d with him, sa id : "' Pow er"


poss esse s e ith er abilit y or po we r o ver anything s ave throu g h

God, Who i s Abl e a nd

s ne i th e r

po we r

no r a bilit y s a v e b y God ' ) .

[quwwa] is a pt i tud e''' .

Th e Proof of

[~awl] is

No c r e atur e


and "a bilit y"

C apabl e . It i s in c umb e nt


cc ordin g l y.

H e n ce th e m ea nin g o f la hawla wa-ld quwwata illii bi'Lldh. i s

th e d e ni a l o f on e 's possess ion

a bil i t y, and th e simultan e ous

th a t [ re lat ive ] po we r and a bility to mak e c hoice s tha t H e h a s

pow e r a nd


f autonomou s

conf e ss i on

of th e ex istenc e of


i ve n His

serv a nts to b e th e ir o w n.

H e w ho c laim s that m an ha s no c hoice or ability, th a t the


, an d tha t h e i s in all c irc umst a n ce s

a cts h e se l ec ts ar e id e nti ca l with th e acts h e is c omp e lled


t ic [jabri]3 6 inno va tor

th e r e was a ny purpo s e in se nding M e s se nger s

c o er c e d is a determin i s-

den y that


ho se

f a lse cla im would

and rev ea ling

. S c riptur e s . By contrast ,

h e who c l a ims that man posse sses

th e w ill and pow er

Mu ' t a zili - ? inno va tor . But h e w ho believ e s that a responsible

[mukallaj] man posse s ses pow e r

compl y

n eit h e r ind e p e ndant

has found th e Su n na , join e d the m a jorita ria n communit y, and

ther e b y nor th e cr e ator o f hi s own acts ,

to do what eve r

h e

do e s b y c hoi ce is a

and choic e to a llow him to

and prohibitions,

bu t is

w i t h God 's commands


e li eve r s to hav e faith th a t in wh a t e v e r G o d p e rmit s th e m to


e com e

s a f e from repr e h e nsibl e

innov a tion.


is a

do or a bstain from -a s, for in s t a n ce,

in c onformin g

to an


e n g thy ex planation


thi s , which follows

a rugged

r oad

injunct i on,

their pro v ision b y r es o r ting to action in the

profes s ion s, a nd so on-it

a nd or ig inat e s th e ir int e ntions, a biliti e s and mov e m e nts ;

w h e th e r

b y a c t in g or a b s tainin g ,

or in see k i n g

form of c r a fts an d

is God th e Ex a lt e d Who cr e a tes




wh e r e man y hav e slipp e d and g on e

th e s e cr e t of Destin y, which has alw a y s p e rple x ed intelligent

mind s,

command e d

astr ay; and beyond i t is

o f Mess e ngers


b e con t ent




the Ma ster

us not to d e l ve. So l e t the i nt e lligent



Gifts Jor the Seeker

with hints, and let it suffice them to beli e v e th a t e v e rythin g wa s c r e at e d by God , and nothing exi s ts without Hi s will a nd pow e r. Th e n l et th e m r e quire their s e lv e s to conform to th e commandm e nts a nd prohibitions , and take th e ir Lord's s id e a gainst th e ir s e lves in e very circumstanc e. A hadith. s a y s th a t

'La hawla wa-ld quwwata illa bi'Lldh. is one of th e tr e asur es of

th e Gard e n ' . Und e r s t a nd the indication c ont a in e d in t e rmin g

it a ' t re asur e' a nd y ou w ill know that its me a nin g is a mon g

th e m y st er i e s; for r ewa rd i s of th e same spe c i es a s th e ac t . Th e

Prophet h a s a lso s a id , m ay blessings and p e a ce b e upon him :

' Two rakcas i n th e d e pths o f th e night ar e one of th e tr eas u re s of goodn e ss. ' Th e i r r e w a rd c ompris es a hidd e n t reas u re

b ec aus e th e tim e o f th e ir oc c urr e nc e, impli e s th is.

It i s a l s o r e port e d that 'La hawla wa-ld quwwata ilia bi'Llah i s

the l e a s t o f w h ic h i s

a r e m e d y fo r nin e t y -nin e s orro w . ' It i s a r e m e d y


d is tr ess ful thin g oc c u rs; a nd wh e ne v er e ith e r o f th e s e thin gs

o cc ur s w h e n on e mi s se s som e thing one lov es, o r w h e n

nam e l y

th e ni g ht ,

ailm e nts ,

for sorrow b e cau se g ri e f mostl y


a chi eve t h ei r d esi r e d a im s; h e nc e the y fe e l sor row . If a t s u c h tim es t h ey re p eat in th e ir h ea rt a nd with th e ir t on g u e s w ord s

w h ic h m ea n th a t th e y dis a vo w th e pos se ssion of a n y abil i t y or pow e r of th e ir own , th e n this giv e s th e m c e rtitud e in th e ir knowl e d ge th a t th e y ar e h e lpl e ss and weak exce pt wh e r e God

with th e r e sult that th e ir

s orrow i s b a nish e d , and th e ir knowled ge

gi ve s t h e m power

of th e ir Lord i s

i ncr ease d. This can b e c l e arl y und e rstood from th e Proph e t 's

say in g , m ay bl e s s in g s a nd p eace b e upon him : ' Wh e n o n e

b e li eves i n d es t i ny , on e ' s sorrow departs . ' And in attributin g

is th e a x i s of

abilit y and po we r to Hi s Nam e, Allah, which

o cc ur s p e opl e p erceive th e ir helpl e ssness a nd inab i lit y

a nd abilit y ,

t h e Nam es a nd th e mo s t supr e me of them, and in follo w in g it on most o cc a s ions with the two noble N a m es whi c h

indi ca t e two of th e attribut e s of the Holy Ess e n ce , nam e ly,

those of E x alt a tion and Magnitude. t"

totall y t ra n sce nd s a nd is a bsolut e l y holi e r th a n the illu s ion s o f

thos e who h ave str aye d from the path , ar e blind to t h e

2 8

lies a s ign th a t H e



e v ide nce , and have d e lved without in s ight into th e s e cr e t of d e stin y and th e acts of God's creatures . So t a ke h ee d!

(c) Remorse, and seeking forgiveness

R e morse [nadam] is the turning of the h ea rt , in sorrow and re g r e t , a wa y from somethin g which th e s e r v ant h as c ommit- t e d , a nd w hi c h angers God the E xa lt e d , s uch a s si ns o r th e negl e ct of obligator y acts. It m a y also oc c ur follo w i ng an e x c ess i ve involvement in permissibl e plea s u res or th e n e glect of super e rogatory devotions . A s incere r e mors e is on e which leads to persever i ng in earnest, and avoiding n e gl e ctfulness . When sound , i t includes n ear l y all th e c ondit i ons of repentance [tawba], which is why th e Proph e t has said, may bl e ssings and p e ace be upon him: 'R em ors e is r e p e ntan ce.' Thos e who a re r e morseful about th e ir m isb e haviour, but s till p e rs i st i n it , ar e onl y jesting , and their r e mo rse wi ll not ava il th e m. Se e kin g forgiv e ness [istighJar] m e ans a s kin g God to for- giv e , which in turn m e ans His c on c eal i n g th e m i sde e d [from

th e

he n e ith e r e xpo se s its doer to s hame, nor punishes him for it , wh e th e r in this world or in th e n ex t . Th e high es t kind of

for g iv e ness is for God to plac e a v ei l , a barri e r , b e tween th e s erv ant and sins , until it i s as though h e w er e fr ee of th e m . In

th e c onte x t of Prophethood

[Ci~ma];a nd in that of sainthood , ' prot e ct i on ' [hif.?l T hi s is th e m e aning of God's saying , addressed to the Ma s t e r of the In e rrant, may the best of blessings and peace b e upon him:

eye s of oth e rs] . When God, b y His gr ace , forgi ve s a sin ,

this v e il is t e rm e d ' i ne r ra nc y '

Ask Jorgiveness oj your sin, and Jor believing men and women.

[47 : 1 9] And:

That God may Jorgive you your Jormer and

subsequent sin. [48:2] It is well known

not l i able to sin. But He her e reminds him o f His f av our i ng

him with H i s protection from ever y thing that w ould d i stan ce


that th e P r ophet was

from Him, and commands him to pra y to H i m in that







Gifts for the Seeker

manner; prayer in this context being the consequence

thankfulness, and thankfulness being the cause of further

increase. If you are thankful, I shall give you more. [14:7] And

God knows best.


(d) A distinction between subtle gradations of sins

Know that although obedience is the path to God and the means of approach to His Holy Presence, it may induce in those who are liable to distraction many things which are

reckoned among the major sins,

admiration, arrogance, the feeling that one has obliged God , forgetfulness of His grace in granting [acts of obedience], and

so forth . These may result in the deprivation of the obedient man's reward, and may even lead to painful punishment. The believer who is intent on following the path of seriousness

and is concerned to attain salvation should always accuse his own soul [nafs], and refuse to give it the benefit of the doubt; he will ask forgiveness even for his acts of obedience, even if no contravention has outwardly occurred, fearful that his


You now know why . one should seek forgiveness even for

such as ostentation, self-

may have led him into one of these hazardous faults.

acts of obedience.


even more subtle than this may befall the

people of gnosis under some circumstances: they may notice that they have come to find comfort in their virtuous acts [rather than in God], or to rely on them [rath e r than on God]; and they then turn back to Him in repentance, asking for forgiveness. The same things may again befall them while they pass through the noble stations and states with which they are invested; and they have then to repent and ask forgiveness for them .

of all

attachment to the worlds, sin is to attend to other than God, whatever this 'other' may be. We see them fleeing fearfully to

For the people of God who

divest themselves

3 0




God and seeking refuge in Him from states which,


experienced by others, would have been considered great acts of devotion, such as, for instance, setting one's hopes in one's acts of obedience and having thoughts of fear [of God] or of renunciation. It is in this context that you should understand

the saying: 'The good deeds of the righteous are the evil deeds of those who are brought nigh to God. ' 39 Were it not that the Path is fading away and the lights of realization are setting, we would have said some astonishing things on this

subject. So take heed, 0 people of intelligence!

Shaykh Shihab al-Din al-Suhrawardi.v " may God have mercy upon him.Tias said:

There are certain factors which impair spiritual sta- tions, for these latter may be infiltrated by extraneous elements , and the gnostic may fail to perc e ive this while still in them, and only become aw a re of this upon rising from one station to a higher one, at which, experiencing an imperfection, he looks back at the former with better insight, and returns to it in

order to repair the defect and render

can only be done through repentance and asking for forgiveness .

it sound . This

This is a summary of what the gnostics have taught, with some explanations and clarifications . Some have interpreted the saying of the Prophet, may blessings and peace be upon him: 'My heart becomes covered, so that I ask God for

forgiveness seventy times a day , ' along the lines suggested by

Suhrawardi, but in fact it is far from

whatever to the Muhammadan

bearing any r e lation which embraces all

perfection of form and character. I have another interpre- tation for it, which I can only divulge verbally to those worthy to receive it.


And God knows best.

3 1



On whom we perceive ourselves as receivingfrom

You inquire about how one should judge , according to religi- ous criteria, a man of the Path who says: 'Those who receive from the hands of other creatures must be receiving from God, and this by unveiling and tasting, not by faith and knowledge. ' These are the words of a gnostic speaking of his own state and expressing what he beholds. It is the state of someone who is extinct to everything that is other-than-God, absorbed in the contemplation of His majesty and beauty, conscious of no creature, neither fe e ling nor perceiving anything that exists, deprived of the ability to dispose and choose, no longer perceiving the traces ; " his secret immersed in the depths of the ocean of secrets, the dark night that is existence effaced by the dawning of the day that is the Object of his contemplation. You behold him behaving with his Lord as the dead body behaves towards its washer , moving only when He moves him. He has lost awareness of

all causes by beholding the Causer of all causes, and is extinct

to other-than-Him through beholding the act of the One Who chooses and acts . As a noble gnostic once remarked:

Great is that bewildered youth , perplexed , Whose Lord has extinguished his name , and raised him up.

Time passes, and he knows not its reckoning, as he is made to quaff the wine.

A man in this state has been overwhelmed and overmastered

by what he is contemplating. He is unable to avoid whatever





warid 42 comes to him in this state, while God guards and protects him in whatever proceeds from him while in that condition. Those who are true in these situations never indulge in anything which is contrary to the attributes of servitude [Cubudi"ya], even though they stand under no legal responsibility, since they have lost those powers of discrim- ination upon which [legal responsibility] depends. The people of realization, may God be pleased with them, are extremely eager to receive and hold this wdrid, because in it they depart from the physical forms (rusum: of dense existence]; and their human attributes , which are the veil which lies between them and the contemplation of the divine

secrets, are effaced . Know that this state, even should it come, does not persist . If it does, strange things will become manifest in the servant, and he may finally reach to the condition of fading and


whom He will, and is not to be attained by hopes and the illusions of the nafs. Nonetheless, a man can render himself receptive to it by means of proper self-discipline and sincere striving, in conformity to the Book and the Sunna . A man who merely pretends to be in this condition and to

possess the attributes proper to those who have attained it, is deluded, and will be held to account, for because of it he will have left unfulfilled some of the rights which both God and

creation have upon him. For

man in Extinction that he cannot be conceived of as loving, fearing or expecting anything from any created being. He will neither thank nor reward any being for a service rendered, for he sees none but God. Know that the man of Extinction sees God and does not see creation , while the man of Subsistence [baqa']-and there is no Subsistence before the occurrence of true Extinction- sees things by God, and therefore gives each his due, puts each thing in its appropriate place, and fulfils to perfection the rights of the Real as well as those of creation; and this neither distracts him from his Lord nor veils him from his

This is a divine favour bestowed

by God upon

it is one of the attributes of the




Gifts jor the Seeker

st a tion. Th e man of E x tinct i on

Sub s i s ten ce,

tion ; w hil e th e a ctu a l spiritual stat e of a man is that which h e

e x peri e nce s most of the tim e. You hear of men w ho hav e

r e ach e d the state of Subsistence, and yet about whom things

are re lated that b e ar witn e ss to absorption and Extinction ; for instanc e, that w hi c h we h ea r about Shaykh Abu ' l-H asan

ma y be subject to flash e s o f

and th e m a n of Subsi s t e nce to flashes of Extin c -

al-Shadhili .P

ma y God b e pl e ase d with him,

when h e said :


W e lov e non e b u t God! ' Som e one said : ' Your

ancestor , m ay

bl ess ings and p ea c e b e upon him , s aid: "Hearts a r e g i ve n a n intrin s i c n a ture to lo ve thos e w ho a r e good to th e m , " to which th e Shaykh re pli e d : " W e s e e no doer of g ood apart

from God ; i f we mu s t , then a s a c loud of du s t whi c h yo u t a k e

fo r som e th i ng to b e nothin g mann e r i n w hi c h

until y ou e xamine it more c los e ly, and find i t a t a ll . " , B y this h e meant that such wa s th e h e sa w cr ea tion . To e xpress th e e xp e ri e n ce

of thos e who see only God, in both the act of givin g a nd t h a t

o f withholdin g,

far . Ho weve r , on e c an r e cogn is e the possesso r o f s uch a

station b y it s outwardly m a nif e st signs.

i s di f fi c ult ; l a n g u age can h a rdl y stret c h th a t

T h e im po rt ant and indisp e ns a ble

thing , wh e n r ece i v in g

an y thing

both knowl e d ge a nd c ourt e sy

wa rd . Outward kno w l e d ge impli e s th a t y ou mu s t ac ce pt

onl y that whi c h is a c ce pt a bl e

kno w l e dg e

e nou g h ,

accept nothin g that y ou r eg o ex p ec tantly d e sir es. T h e mean-

a ft er

thi s i s p a rt


obli g ation conn e ct e d to inward knowledge

c e rtaint y th a t th e r e al giv e r is God the Exalted, for H e is th e On e Who ga ve to th e on e who gav e to you, command e d him


of gi v in g it a w a y ; and

from t h e h a nd o f a cr e at e d being , is to do s o w ith

[adab], both inward a nd out -

in th e Shari a, w hil e inward

impli e s that you t a k e noth i ng ,

exce pt w ith th e int e ntion

w h e n pos sessin g

h e r e is hoping and hank e r i n g

Th e

ing of 'ex p ec t a nt d esire'

om e thin g

f inn e r court esy ,

fr om a p a rti c ul a r sourc e. Suppr e ssin g

to conform

to which

is a virtu e .

is to know with

him with what is nobl e r a nd fin e r

is th e On e Who cast in his h ea rt th e

irr e sist a bl e ur ge s w hich h e could not counte rmand, m a d e th e

t han wh a t h e gave . H e

to give , and w ill re wa r d




o f ] y ou

th a t

b e n e fit i n doin g y ou a f a vou r; whil e

[in r ea lit y ] h e did a favour onl y to himse lf. Now , t e ll m e , c an


oc c ur to hi s mind , and in s pire d him w ith

ther e was goodness and

c t o f g i v ing pl e asant to him, made [th e

thou g ht

th e thoug ht

on e p e rc eiv e cr e ated beings, or a bid e with th e m , as lon g a s

on e h as th i s particular

knowl e dg e

of God? Non e th e l e s s,

e ver fail to thank those who r e nd e r y ou a se r v i ce ; be kind to


them and pray for them, for H e has command e d


lo c ation s for goodn e ss , mediators

s e r va nts ,

us to do so.

ac ts,

Him and His

e onl y

mad e th e m

the instrume nt s


o f b e n ev ol en t

e t wee n

b e cau s e i t pleas e d Him th a t th is b e th e irs, and i t

Wh e n y ou

thank th e m , y ou are ' in re ality thankin g God.

Now we hav e s aid this, you ha ve com e to know th e rules whi c h g ov e rn those ' who ta ke from th e hand s of c reate d


Subsist e nc e.

pl e a se s Him

that' the y b e tre ated

ac c ordin g l y.

b e in gs, wh e ther th e y be peopl e of Wa y f a rin g, Ex tin c tion ,

Tak e these rul e s firmly, a nd act acc ordin g l y !

Th e autho r of th e book Nourishment jor H ea rts . i + may God


sho w him H i s m e rc y, and bring b e n e fit b y h i m , sa i d: ' I f y ou find , to r e c e iv e a f av our of y ours, a m a n o f c er t a i n t y w ho see s

nothin g but God , se ize th e opportunity

E ve n if his s t a t e force s him

for y ou , s ince h e do e s not ev e n se e you , hi s cer taint y w ill b e

mor e profitable,

pr aye rs and th a nk s of someon e e lse . '

to do h i m a fa v ou r !

n e ith e r to th a nk y ou nor to p ray

and we i gh mor e in you r b a l a n ce , th a n the




(a) Reciting Sura al- WaqiCa ('The Event')

As for your question about th e regular recitation

al- Waqi"a, know that the following account has been narrated in this regard : 'To read it each night is to be fr e e from want, '

that is, to be independant

' dependance ' meant here being that which shames a man, both in his worldly affairs and in his manly virtue). When Ibn

Mas'iid , may God be pleased with him , was told on his deathbed that he had left his children in poverty , he replied : ' I g a ve e a ch of them a treasure : Sura al- Waqi"a.' The special attributes of certain suras and verses of the Qur ' an, and those

of the invocations

creatures (the kind of

of Sura

of other

and prayers

of the Prophet

a re no t

unknown : the books of hadith are full of them . Imam al-Ghaz a li wrot e an entir e book on the subject, entitling it:

Unalloyed Gold: The Properties of the Majestic Book. 44

The regular recitation of al- Waqi'a and other siiras of the same type, in order to bring benefit to oneself and ward off worldly harm , does not compromise one's intentions or actions . Noneth e less , the motive should not be e ntir e ly

lacking in religious purpose: since for a servant d e liberat e ly to guard himself against depending on others is the best of intentions . For an intelligent believer will not intend, in wanting in dependance from others and safety for him s e lf and his family, those things which are associated with physical

comfort and pleasure; instead his intention

himself from whatever may damage him r e ligiously, of the things which can be seen in many people who suffer from such afflictions. This is why the great men of God ar e always keenly occupied with asking Him to safeguard the wellbeing

will be to free

3 6

:L r



[CafiyaJ of both their souls and their bodies, being fearful of the manner in which their souls, weak and wavering by nature, respond when faced with things that are repellant to them. The Messenger , may blessings and peace be upon him, repeatedly sought protection against poverty and sickness.

He said: 'Poverty is not far from being disbelief [kufr]', because people afflicted with it are liable to feel discontented with God's decree, or angered against Divine providence ; or

at least assailed by some form of anxiety . Sufyan

Thawri ,'° may God show him His mercy, once said : 'I do

not fear hardships because

fear that w e re I to be afflict e d with hardship, I might fall prey to disb e lief. ' Perfection for the servant lies in his being

content with his Lord's choices on his behalf , in sufficing himself with His knowledge , and in being mor e concerned with His choosing and disposing than with his own. A certain gnostic once said:


of the pain they cause me; but I

In the r e gular r e citation of Sura al- Waqi"a there lies a secret which increases one's c e rtainty, engender s peace in the heart, and adds to this a serenity, whether one possesses [one's provi s ion] or not . Th i s i s because God opens and closes it with a mention of the Appointed Time , and the ways in which people shall differ on that day . Anyone who reflects on this will be too preoccupied with it to attend to any worldly


makes mention of the origin of man's creation, how

He makes his beginning a drop of seed expelled [75:37],

and how the crops and - the water upon which their subsistence depends originate . He enjoins them to

reflect on this , and makes them all aware that they did

which may occur to him. Here, too, God

not possess

the power to create , grow and protect

their crops,

or bring down the rain; and this incul-

cates the most profound

power and the pre-existent will and knowledge of

awareness of the Divine

3 7





Gifts for the Seeker

God . Wh e n thi s awa ren e s s is c oupled with th e kno w -

ledg e th at God ha s guarant ee d His ser va nt 's pro v i s ion

and su s t e nanc e,

att e nds to th e wo rs hip of th e best.

Lo r d. And God knows

th e heart is pacified,

a nd on e th e n

(b) A caution

A man m ay p e r se v e r e i n r e citin g c e rtain siiras, in v o ca t i ons,


m a d e, and ye t s ee no res ult.


promi ses,

him se lf, an d a ttribut e to him sel f a d e ficien cy in c e rt a inty a nd


raye rs, for w hich pr o m ises o f imm e di a t e

e s s of th ese truth f ul

b e n e fit s h a v e b e en

He should not doubt th e sound-

but should

r a th e r bl a me



On Audition

You ask w heth er


session s, a nd a s a ' re sult s u f f e r s a c e rtain amount

a man should s till a tte nd audicio n =

a s thou g h

wh e n

e f ee ls his spirit becoming

a g ita t e d during su c h

of fatigue .

Kno w,

matt er, s o mu c h s o th a t m y m a ste r, th e lo r dl y qutb, c Abd a lla h

may God in s truct

y ou , that a ud i tion

is a hazardou s


onc e ntr a t i on .

For a m a n w ho r ecite s or i n v ok e s is not t e rmed


ibn Ab i B a kr a l - C A y dariis,4 6 may God b e plea se d w ith h i m


[ re al] ' r eci t e r'

or ' in v ok e r'

a ccording

to th e r e lig i ou s l a w


nd sp rea d his b e n ef it, h a s re m a rked :

' For every m a n whom


n l e ss all th e cond i tion s

ar e fulfill e d , a nd th e fact is that most

God g uid e s with th i s aud ition ,

H e l ea d s a thou s and

oth e rs


e opl e fall s ho r t o f doin g this . Th e essent ia l thing whi c h will

astr ay. '


k e th ese pra c ti ces

ef f e cti ve a nd fru i t f ul

i s to n u r tur e


It mu s t

be m a d e clear th a t th e r es ul t s of a udition

w ill


t a inty in t h e

h e art th a t the m a tt e r is as it h as b ee n sa id , and


dep e nd o n the motive b e h i nd i t. Th e motiv e must

ther e fore


h a v e n e i t h e r doubt s a bout it no r th e d esir e to put it to trial.


e a true

one , free from ca p r i ciou s a nd p a ssion a l d es ires , and


e s hould b e trul y c on ce ntr a t e d ,

unitin g on e's out wa rd to

one s hould

lis t e n only

to what is d ee m e d

p er mis sibl e



e' s

in wa rd [ f a c ulti es] in eng ag in g

th e m at t e r ,

wi th o n e's


e li g iou s crit e ria. Audit i on

is mo s t

b e nefici al

w hen

on e



c om e to ge th e r in a ma n who i s int e nt on r ea chin g som e

ea rt sin ce r e l y thinkin g

t e ntiv e l y

well o f God,

H im .

a nd b e utt er l y

a nd

ori e nt e d to w ards

Rar e l y do th e s e things

listen s to the Qu r'a n , Su n na or appropria te


rhythmi c m e lodies are a l s o pra ise w orthy wh e n r e lated to

ever ,

discour s es ; ho w-

fin e v oi c es ,

t h e effe cts o f liste nin g

to po etr y,


ec ti ve b y

m e ans o f ve r ses a nd i n v ocation s - w h a t ever

thi s

religion ; oth e r w i se

they a re [simply] p e rmi ss ible



ec ti ve m ay b e -- w ithout

thi s qu e st b e comi ng his to c ontrol

and th e r e is no h ar m in list ening a s lon g

a s th ey do not d e part

a nd m a n age a t will. So l e t a s e r va nt who se d e t e rmination

s hort and w ho se e arne s tn e ss a nd zea l ar e d efic i e nt bl ame onl y

h im s e lf. And God is never unjust to the servants. [3: I 82 ]

f all s

3 8


from th e l aw ful. Our i ntent i on in say in g thes e f ew summary

words is to treat the question brie fly; oth e rwise, the wr i tin g s

th e Reviva(23 and the Gift s 4 0 ) ar e

full to th e brim with long e x planations a udition .

As for the ma n in th e sta t e y ou d e s c r i be, ifh e f e ars that in a ttendin g h e may slip i nto sho w ing o s tent a tion or a ffe ctation

with oth er s, then i t is mo re a ppropriate

If he h as no such f ea r s, but find s no b e n e fit i n audition (su c h

of th e rule s for

of th e P e opl e - ? (in p a rticular ,

for him n ot to attend.


N "



G i ft s for the Seeker

as an increase in the determination and energy he fe e ls for his d e votions, his yea r ning for Contemplation , or an y other

such thing) , then i t is again b e tter

no man should subject hims e lf to unprofitable e ffort. But if h e do e s ben e fit , and mak e s religious gains , th e n h e must we i gh thes e against the effort in v olved , and choos e th e b e tt e r a nd mor e profitable c ours e. On the whole , gnost i cs attach no

importance to physi c al discomfort and pain wh e n s e t against t h e b e n e fits and gains of th e h ea rt , for the es se n ce of their method is the heart's puri f ication and reform , and dir e cting it

tow a rds God .

for him not to attend, for

th e ir Glorious L ord . Know this! Suc ce ss is from

4 0



On some of Imam al-Gha z all J s precepts

(a) Knowing a thing is distinct from knowing that one

knows it.

You a s k abou t the sa y ing of th e Im a m , the Proof of Isl a m ,

the prid e o f ri g htl y -guided le a d e rs, th e g r ea t e st of scholars , Muhammad i bn Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Gh a zali (m ay God sanctif y his secret and besto w upon u s som e thing of his wid e s piritual effulg e nc e !) : ' Th e k n o w l e dge of a thin g

of th a t

thing .' Know t h a t these word s a r e c l e ar, a nd w e shall off e r an

exampl e to r e nd e r them mor e int e lli g ibl e .

fo r

instanc e, that it is God Who has c r e at e d y ou and ev e r y thin g

els e: this is th e kno w l e dge of t h e th i ng. You a lso kno w th at

you know tha t God has creat e d you ; th i s i s kno w ledg e of th e kno w l e dg e, and i s d i stinct from th e former. The separation

of each from th e other is capable of conc e ptu a lization .

Al-Khalil ibn Ahmad+ " said: 'M e n ar e offour categori es : [ i J

A man w ho knows ,

learned man, so follow him; [iiJ A man who knows but is not

aware that he knows: this is a man a s l e ep, so awaken

[iiiJ A man who does not know but knows that he does not

kno w: this i s a seeker of guidance, so gu i d e him ; [ivJ A man

who do e s not know, and is unawar e that he does not kno w :

this i s an i gnorant man, so reject h i m! '

is dist i n c t from the knowl e d ge of th e kno w ledg e

You know ,

and knows that he knows: th i s i s a

him ;







Gifts for the Seeker

(b) Knowledge brings to fruition spiritual states, and states bring to fruition spiritual stations.

You also ask whether al-Ghazali's saying : 'Knowledge brings

to fruition a state [~al), and the state brings to fruition a station [maqam]', is an acknowledged fact, since one may gain

a different understanding from the statements of other


Know that the position of the Proof of Islam [al-Ghazali],

may God have mercy upon him, is the one to be relied on in this matter, and those who say otherwise are to be dis- counted. The meaning of what he said can be clarified by

explaining one of the stations of certainty, so that the case of other stations may be analogously appreciated. Know that renunciation [zuhd) is one of the noble stations.

of what is

stated in the Book, the Sunna, and by the virtuous men of

this nation by way of disparagements of the world , criticisms

of those who chase after it, and praises of those who turn

away from it and are more intent on the hereafter. Following

this, if one is given to succeed, one's heart is affected in such a way as to compel one to renounce the world and desire only the hereafter. Knowledge thus comes first, while its conse- quence is the state. There then appear from the bodily organs and limbs acts which indicate the presence of this effect, such as shunning the pursuit of worldly riches or the accumulation of material things, and holding to the good works which bring advan- tage in the Hereafter. This effect then meets contrary influ- ences, such as the insinuations of the devil and the ego, which encourage him to desire the world. Following this onslaught, his state may then change, waver or weaken; it may at times vanish completely (which is why it is termed a 'state'). But when it becomes firmly established and is reinforced, and its roots are deeply implanted in the heart so that no passional


It is established on the basis of the knowledge

are capable of affecting

or shaking it, it is called a to know that knowledge

'station'. Thus you have come




brings to fruition a state, and the state brings to fruition a station. States and stations have signs and marks to indicate how sound and comprehensive they are; these appear on one's outward form and are called 'works'; which are also the result of knowledge, although they pertain only to the outward aspect, this being the difference between them and states. The author of the GiftS4 0 says that 'states are the initial stages of stations, and the one who becomes firmly estab- lished in one of the stations of certainty will thereby possess the state b e longing to the station immediately superior to it.' You should be awa~e of this fact. Now, there are two types of state: the first is the one we have just mentioned, while the second comprises the noble gifts such as Intimacy [uns],49 Absence fghayba],5 0 Intoxi- cation [sukr),5 1 and Union Uam C ) , 52 which come to a heart illumined with the lights of s e lf-discipline and spiritual effort. States in this category are not the result of knowledge, but of a penetrating concentration which takes the form of sincere transactions and truthful intentions; these were not meant by the Imam in his statement. The states often spoken of by the Sufis are those of the second kind. And God knows best.

(c) It is insufficient, in performing an act of obedience to God, to know that it is one.

You also ask about his saying : 'It is insufficient , in perform-

ing an act of

also necessary to know the timing, procedure, and condi- tions. '

obedience to God, to know that it is one; it is

The 'timing'

is the specific time prescribed for its perform-

ance . The 'procedure' is the correct manner of this perform- ance, including the correct sequence. (Ritual ablutions and prayers, for instance, are only valid if performed in the correct sequence.) This is obligatory in those acts of worship



Gifts for the Seeker

where it can be conceived to apply. The status of timing and procedure is self-evident. As regards 'conditions', he prob- ably means whatever the validity (or, alternatively, the perfection) of the act of obedience depends on. For example, the possession of reason is a condition for the validity of faith and Islam, and these in turn are the conditions for the validity of obligatory acts, the avoidance of forbidden things, and the seeking of nearness through supererogatory devotions and sincerity with God. And to purify one's intentions from the vice of ostentation is a condition for attaining to the benefits which all the abovementioned actions will yield in the Hereafter. And God knows best.

(d) On involuntary thoughts [khawatir].

And you ask about his statement, may God be pleased with

him, on involuntary thoughts which come into

and whether one is morally accountable for them. This matter is clear; however, in order to explain it summarily we may say that a thought, whether good or evil, brings neither reward nor retribution as long as it remains indecisive; but in the presence of decision and resolution, it attracts a reward of the same kind as itself. You also ask about the relationship between these thoughts

and the questions he discusses towards the end of the Book of Fear and Hope, 53 where he states that 'the inward attributes of a man who is a mixture [of good and evil], such as arrogance, ostentation, envy and their likes, will appear to him after

death in horrifying forms which will torment

the rule for everyone who leaves this world before he has purified his inward aspect from such repugnant traits.' If this is indeed the passage you are referring to, then no problem exists, for thoughts are things which occur to the soul, and then reverberate in the breast until their aim is fulfilled- although they may vanish before this. In the Book of Fear the

the mind,

him. This is




which a man may

harbour in himself and persistently

category of major sins of the inward, and expose those who possess them to great retribution, both immediate and deferred. Great is the difference between the [ingrained] attributes of the heart and the thoughts that simply occur to it. If we have answered with our exposition the query you intended, then thanks be to God; if not, then send us the specific passage that you found problematic, so that we may clarify it for you, with God's help.

author refers to the ruinous attributes


They are a

(e) On the relationship between the tongue, the mind, and the heart.

You ask about the following statement of Imam al-Ghazali in

is a

his Book of the Secrets of Recitatiomw

'The tongue

counsellor, the mind an interpreter, and it is the heart which is influenced.'

of the tongue is to

produce the words which convey concepts ; the mind listens to these words, extracts the concepts, and then casts them into the heart, which is then influenced by them. The mind is thus the heart's minister and disposer; and, because it medi-

The passage is clear : the function

ates between

the tongue

and the heart,

it is called an


in contexts

such as this. This applies to the

Companions of the Right Hand [a~hab ai-yamin], to whom the concepts come during and after the recitation of Qur'an . The Ones Brought Nigh [al-muqarrabun], on the other hand, actually receive the ideas before the recitation, since the concepts are already established in their hearts and blended with their essential realities, so that they are ever present, whether the tongue is actively reciting or not .


Gifts Jor the Seeker

(f) On the difference between jealousy for God, and envy.

You also ask about his saying, concerning

to disobey Him: 'To

to be taken away from him is not

God's favours

a man who uses

wish for those favours a kind of envy, but a

jealousy [ghi"ra] on behalf of God


that what

he writes,

the Exalted.' may God show

him His

mercy, is correct. However,

for the disobedi e nt

instead, that he may find guidance and be granted the good

to pray for him

it is better, instead of wishing

man to be deprived,

fortun e of thanking

beloved by Him. An example of the first policy is an

episode in which Dhu'1-Nun,55

mercy, once saw a boat carrying

to bear false witness


questioned about it he said, 'Martyrdom

is better than false witness [shahada al-zur].'5 6

[shahada] in the sea

his Lord and using

His favours in ways

may God show him His

some people on their way

against an innocent


and he


God against them

so that they drowned .

An example

of the second

is provided

by a tale of upon him. He

along the banks of

people in a


was once walking with his companions

the Tigris,

boat, occupied with drinking

al-Karkhl, 57

may God have mercy

when he saw a group

of corrupt

and other kinds of dissipa-

tion. His companions

said to him:


invoke God

against them!'

And he raised up his hands,

and said: '0

God, just as You have granted them joy in this


grant them joy in the next!' When his companions


him about this, he r e plied:

the next world,

in effect,

shaykh, having made their repentance.

'If He is to grant them joy in

them.' And,


He shall surely relent towards


it was not long

they came before

Now ,

the course taken by Ma ' ruf is the more perfect, for

it displays the attribute


Beauty is unveiled . also a noble station,

of mercy present in God's people,

the [Divine] Attribute


cited by the Imam is on behalf of God,


for whom

But the attitude that of jealousy




which is more frequently

whose contemplation is that of the Divine Majesty .

You should also know that rightful jealousy

two kinds. The first is for one to be jealous for his Lord when

His forbidden

this is also termed

'enjoining good and forbidding evil', and detesting the unjust

and invoking

God against them, as was done by Noah and

Moses, may peace be upon them. 58 The second is a man ' s

found among

those of the elect

[ghi"ra] is of

limits are violated

and His rights neglected;

and lies at the root of

'anger for God',

jealousy for something

that is his and does not bear sharing,

such as a wife. One may be excessive in this, and [go so far as

to] accuse guiltless people.

things which are susceptible of sharing , such as knowledge,

One may also dislik e sharing


anyone who acquires a share of such things, and all this has nothing to do with the kind of jealousy that is praiseworthy .

As for the jealousy of God the Exalted, it means th a t He is

honour, and eminence .



even detest

jealous towards

disobey and flaunt His commands. He is also jealous regard-

ing His servants who claim to share in attributes

exclusively His, such as Glory and Might , Exaltation

Impregnability; for such attributes are appropriat e ly ascribed

only to God, the Real, the Kind, the

deity save Him, the Mighty, the Wise.

His servants when they serve another,


which are


there is no





On dream-visions

You also ask about the statement

Zayn al-' Abidln ' All ibn ' Abdallah al- ' Aydarus,59

have mercy on him, concerning dream-visions [ru'ya]. Now,

you should be aware that dream-visions

Prophethood.P? They have a realm of their own which is


of the most perfect sayyid,

may God

are a fraction

intermediate between inner unveiling [kashj] and outward

wakefulness .

just as they attended the Messenger, may blessings and peace

They are the first things that attend the Saints,

be upon him, at the outset of his prophecy.

has dreams of this nature, and they case of people who are doing evil

fulness of the tongue, tions and illusions,

are preconditions

righteousness of dreams.

may receive something devil adds falsehoods

to them, so that the true and false are

inseparably confused when an interpretation

The man who is under the devil's mastery in his waking

state, a time when

even more under his sway when asleep and deprived of his

sense-faculties. Dream-visions

tions in one's physical body, provided that one's inner faculties remain sound. However, when one is overpowered

by a severe illness, or dominated by

humours, especially phlegm or black bile, one's dreams may become confused so that one sees a thing in a way that differs from what it is really indicating . Imam al-Ghazali, may God have mercy on him, also said that it is rare for a man's dream


will be


People who mix [good with evil] in the nature of true dreams, but the

Yet not everyone

are rarely genuine in the as well as good. Truth-

and the avoiding of corrupt imagina-

for the truth

is attempted .

he is able to listen and understand,

are unaffected by imperfec-

one of the natural




busies himself with saying things which lead to no good, or himself believes and perceives things differently from their


should knowthis,

for it is a

to be true if he is given to dwelling

on impossibilities,

the same path.

and then leads others



and reflect on it as it deserves,

valuable insight. My success is only from God. On Him do I rely, and to Him is my return .

Here end the responses which I wished to provide

for your

questions; they are brief , but nonetheless



tions and clarifications which should prove more than suffici-

ent for people endowed with understanding, and for those