The disciples long before never busied themselves or strived in anything unless it smote their egos and brought life to their hearts. Today we have turned things over on their heads. They strived to let go of their desires and lower themselves. I say these words to you only because I have seen the gifts of those who smite their egos and bring life to their hearts. Unfortunately we have become content with less; and whoever is content with anything other than arrival at the witnessing of God is an ignoramus.
However, being attached to one’s desires and seeking to raise one’s station in the eyes of others is not the only thing that prevents one from receiving these gifts; one also needs a natural gift in one’s heart. The inner meanings do not descend on a heart unless it has a mighty connection with seeing the essence of its Lord. If so, the realities of the Lord’s essence will descend upon it until they efface him, whereby he will no longer imagine there is anything else besides His presence. Whoever has a strong connection with his Lord will be thus so. As for one who is naturally drawn to knowledge alone or works alone, he will never obtain the inner meanings of things or taste them, because his heart is directed to other than the essence of God; and God provides for His servant according to his aspiration.
Know that these inner meanings are ever present in the human being and they are as many as there are waves in the ocean. However, the material world has overtaken them and taken a grip on their hearts and limbs, preventing them from obtaining these meanings, for they are opposites that never meet.
This arriving is not reached through acts, whether abundant or sparse; it is reached through the bounty and grace of God alone.
(Ibn Ata ‘Illah) ‘Were you only unable to reach Him after all your blameworthy traits and empty claims were effaced, you would never reach Him; if He wishes to bring you to Him, He covers over your traits with His, and your qualities with His. Therefore your arrival to Him is from Him to you and not you to Him.’
This is a grace from God that He has granted the masters of the path. Were it not for them, no-one would be able to reach Him, as to know a man of God is far more difficult than to know God himself.
(Ibn ‘Ata ‘Illah:) ‘Hallowed be He who only made guidance towards His close ones as a means of guidance towards Him, and only guided to them those whom He wanted to bring unto Himself.’
There is no doubt that our Lord of the heaven and earth, the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, was present and plain to see as the sun above the mountain, but despite that not everyone saw him. Others were veiled from him as were so many before amongst whom dwelt their prophets, and the men of God of their time, yet they rejected them and did not believe.
‘And you witness them looking unto you, but they do not see.’
‘And they say: “What sort of a messenger is this, who eats food, and walks through the streets?’ (Quran: 25/7)
More than two thirds of the Book of God is concerned with those who rejected the message and did not perceive the reality of the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace. Consider Abu Jahl! He saw him as a mere orphan charge of Abu Talib!
If one finds a master of the path, at times he will see that breaking free of the ego is accomplished some times by hunger and at other times by satiation. At other times he may see that he must call you to increase your means, and at other times to limit them. He may call you to sleep, and at other times order you to limit it. He may call you to flee from the people, and at other times to sit with them and take solace from them. This is because one’s inner light may become so strong that the master fears that it will crush the disciple as it has done to so many others before. He may therefore take him out of isolation into the company of others to quell the light within, so it does not crush him; or he may do the opposite.
‘To thy Lord is the final goal.’ (Quran: 53/42)
Due to the limited number of people whose hearts are ready to follow, spiritual training has become so scarce. However, God’s knowledge is never completely severed.
This path will always be, through God’s power and might, as it is taken from our masters all the way back to the Messenger himself, who took it from the archangel Gabriel, who took it directly from God Almighty. Whoever comes forth to teach it has done so with the authority of God and His messenger, may God bless him and grant him peace, and as Sidi al-Mursi said, ‘No teacher comes forth to teach the disciples until divine inspiration has overcome him and he has been given authority from God and His messenger.’ It is through the blessing of this authority that this matter still stands and its folk remain upright, and God knows best.
Sidi Abu al-Mawahib al-Tunusi, may God be pleased with him, said with regard to witnessing the essence of our Lord, ‘Annihilation (fana’) is effacement and dwindling away until you cease to remain and are removed.’
(Sidi Abu Madyan:) ‘Whoever has not ceased to exist has not seen the Real.’
Be wary of assuming it is the dense or opaque matter that has veiled you from your Lord. It is your own delusion that has done so; and delusion is opposed to the truth.
(Ibn ‘Ata ‘Illah:) ‘It is not the existence of something present alongside Him that has veiled you, for there is nothing besides Him; rather it is the delusion that there is something present alongside Him that has veiled you.’
The state of annihilation can be achieved in a short space of time, God willing, by invoking God’s majestic name ‘Allah’ in a specific method. I found this method mentioned by Imam Shadhili in a book which was in the possession of some scholars in my homeland of Bani Zarwal. My teacher Sidi ‘Ali also taught me this, but in different way which is even more effective, and which achieves results in a shorter space of time.
The method is to picture the five letters of the name when reciting it. Whenever you feel the image in front of you slipping away, you must go back to it, even if you had to one thousand times in one night and one thousand times in the day. Using this method, a great thought came to me. I used to invoke using it at the beginning of the path for up to one month. Divine knowledge in its plenty would come to me, but I was not distracted by it; rather I focussed my intention on invoking the Name, bringing the letters to my mind constantly for one whole month until the words of God came to:
‘He is the First and the Last, the Manifest and the Hidden.’ (Quran: 57/3)
I immediately turned my thoughts away from it back to the invoking of the Name as I had done to so many other notions that had come to me before. However, this one would not leave me; rather it grabbed a hold of me and would not let me go. I tried to turn my thoughts time and again from it but it would not leave me. I said to it, ‘As for His exalted words “He is the First and the Last” and “the Hidden” I understood, but I did not understand the word “Manifest”, as the only thing evident that we see is the creation. The notion replied back, ‘If the meaning of the word “Manifest” had meant anything other than that which you see before you, it would have been hidden, and not manifest, yet I say to you ‘The Manifest!’ From that point I realised that there was nothing present but God alone and there is nothing in the creation but Him, thanks and praise be to Him.
Annihilation in the essence of our Lord can be achieved, God willing, in a very short space of time by applying this method that we have laid down to you. By using it, it brings about divine thought from morning to evening if one has the time. I achieved it in the space of one month, and God knows best.
And without a doubt, if one is able to gain divine thought in his life even if it takes one year, two years or even three, then he has gained a great blessing and clear well-known secret. As the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, said:
“A moment’s contemplation is more virtuous than seventy years of worship.”
Contemplation can take one from the material realm to the realm of purity; or we can say from the presence of created being to the presence of the Creator, and I say this as God is my witness.
We stress to anyone who has come back from a state of heedlessness to a state of remembrance that he must attach his heart to seeing the essence of his Lord at all times in order that it grant him its meanings. This is the way of its folk. Also I stress that he not suffice himself with the notions that come to him, and leave the litanies of the path, in order that he not be deprived of obtaining the goal.