Sunday, September 06, 2009

Of Books and Men

‘Abd al-Karim al-Jili:

I say unto thee: The levels of certitude alluded to by the terms ‘knowledge of certitude’ (‘ilm al-yaqin), ‘vision of certitude’ (‘ayn al-yaqin) and ‘experiential realisation of certitude’ (haqq al-yaqin), which we have said are the ultimate benefit to be obtained from reading books (of metaphysics and spiritual realities), are almost impossible to attain – not the slightest amount of them – by means of even a lifetime of pious works.

I have seen young men of my brethren on the Path, by means of reading such books for even a few days, reach that which men devoted to pious works could not reach in forty or fifty years, even though they themselves were the cause for these young men to come to the Path; for when they limited themselves only to their way of action, whilst these young men read books of metaphysics and spiritual realities and understood them, they fell short of their full potential, and these young men became the true elders, whilst the elders became youngsters to them. One such as these said:

I adopted all my fathers in full trust,
And there is no doubt that I am the exemplar for all fathers
This verse was composed by a certain Sheikh’s disciple, whose works in the Path were known to us to consist of nothing more than reading books of metaphysics and spiritual realities, until he reached a level of knowledge in this field such as was not reached by a great many of his predecessors. His name was Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad al-Hakkak, and he composed many verses concerning the science of metaphysics and spiritual realities; and whoever finds his collected poems and recognises their worth is lucky indeed!

I have only related to thee all of these stories in the preamble of this book in order to make thee understand the value of this science and its great eminence, that thou might yearn to attain unto this noble art by reading these books, applying them, and discussing them with those who are experts in them wherever they might be; for a man such as one of them might benefit thee with a single word more than all the books in the world could benefit thee in an entire lifetime. This is because what thou takest from books is dependent on thine understanding, whilst if a man who ‘knows through God’ (‘arif bi‘Llah) wishes thee to understand the matter as it actually is, he imparteth unto thee his own understanding of it – and what a difference there is between thine understanding and his!

For those of deep understanding, to read books of metaphysics and spiritual realities is superior to the pious acts of the ‘Wayfarers to God’ (as-salikin); and to sit with the Folk of God and keep good conduct with them is superior to reading all the books there are. I counsel thee, and I counsel thee again, to keep reading books of metaphysics and spiritual realities, and to act in conformity with the knowledge they impart; for in doing this, thou shalt achieve thy purpose and attain unto knowledge of thy God – if He so willeth!

(Maratib al-Wujud wa Haqiqatu kulli Mawjud)


darqawi said...

interesting opinion from the shaykh, qaddasallahu ta'ala sirrah. yet, in the last paragraph, he says suhba is better than books...this seems to be more in accordance with what i have heard from the shadhilis, radiyallahu ta'ala `anhum wa `anna bihim...the books are really there as notes to focus and direct the mudhakara of the mushayukh, not as "spiritual entertainment for murids...wallahu ta'ala 'a` would be nice to have some more context on the shaykh's words...

Lorena said...

Salam alaykum,

I do believe books may have an important impact on ones spiritual evolution but only together with suhba and constant spiritual exercising (wird, dikhr...)
Books also may cause distraction from obligatory and superogatory acts of obedience
I find hard to believe that one may attain Union with God by nothing more than reading books of metaphysics and spiritual realities but Allah hu Allam, "that would not be difficult for Allah" (Qur'an 14:20)

darqawi, have you ever been in the musium which is held in Darqawi's by the end of September?
I would appreciate it if you could tell me whether women attend also the musium, barakallahufek

Khalid Williams said...

Of course it is a matter of individual types. Some people can gain more from a single sentence than from years of spiritual exercises, whereas some people benefit more from a single glance from a Wali than by reading all the books in the world. I think the Sheikh does allude to this in the last paragraph. But obviously as a metaphysician himself, he was speaking to his own 'type', just as a Sheikh whose success and enlightenment came through arduous spiritual exercises will reccommend those as the best way, because they were what worked for him.

darqawi said...

i'm not sure what you mean by, "the musium which is held in Darqawi's by the end of September?" i believe you mean, the english word, "museum". i live in the u.s., so i may be out of your frame of reference...sidi khaled: i was thinking about this issue when my shaykh mentioned an utterance by imam al-shadhili(qaddasullahu sirrah) in the lata'f. he was basically telling his murids to read the `ihya and the yeah, it's all in the context...especially in tasawwuf, because there are so many types of nufus in people. of course, it goes without saying that many of the sufis became sufis merely through reading Allah's Mighty Book...nasrullahi tawfiq wa taysir...

Lorena said...

Salam alaykum
Waw, I believe your comments are more than enough to cover up the proposed issue :-)

Darqawi, my frame is Morocco, I went to the zawiya where Shayj Darqawi is buried and one member of his family told us that by the end of September there will be a museum there and many people from Tariqa shadili will attend it, but I wonder whether women also attend it

Unknown said...

I am looking for some introductory books on Tasawwuf. Would you please give me a list of such books ?

I would like to buy those books.

Unknown said...

Please keep updating the blog!

hasan1 said...

Thank you for your post Khalid and your blogspot. Its wonderful. May ALlahu tala Bless you.
Your reply to darqawi also brings home the point that I feel Shaykh Abdul Karim al-Jili was making. I would only add that not only would certain Shuyukh recommend the particular 'way' or method that 'worked for them', but would recommend a path for his murid, which has been inspired in the Shaykh 'from above'.
In this light it normally happens that those Shuyukh with an 'arifi' (gnostic) nature, or a more 'intellectual' soul type will 'arrive and return' through a path centered more on 'knowledge' (metaphysics) and will be inspired to open such a path for their murids.
However, after reading some time ago "A Sufi Sage of Arabia" by Moustafa Badawi, it appears that the celebrated Imam al-Hadad had more of an 'arifi' nature, but was inspired to call his murids to the path of Mahabba (Love) and Makhafa (Fear) which he explicitly states himself in the biography (not to mention that he was also inspired to modify the Ba Alawi way and to make it more conformable for the seekers of his times and the 'end times', which the Imam himself termed the Path of those of the Right Hand (ashabul Yamin) distinguishing it from the Path of the Sabiqun (Those brought Near) which was the path of the earlier Sufi Masters).
In this sense, the 'best way' is the way 'most inspired' in the Shaykh and his murid. Wallahu alam

Habib Matthieu said...

Salam alaikoum,

dear brother,

some links are not working anymore; can you please have a look.


Jazakallah khayran

Khalid Williams said...

Thanks Sidi, I've updated them. One has disappeared, the other changed.

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