Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ibn Ajiba on the Spiritual Virtues (2)

Penitence, Fear and Hope

2 – Penitence

Penitence goes deeper than repentance, because it means renouncement accompanied by a feeling of humble regret and a firm resolve to return to the straight path. It has three levels: To turn from sin to repentance, and from heedlessness to attentiveness, and from being divided from God to being united with Him.

3 – Fear

Fear is the heart’s worry of encountering something it dislikes or losing out on something it desires. Its fruit is that it makes one resolve to be righteous and flee from sin. And to act as though one is fearful whilst being remiss in piety is a false claim. Ordinary people fear punishment and the loss of reward; the elite fear rebuke and the loss of nearness; and the elite of the elite fear to be veiled from God because of poor etiquette on their part.

4 – Hope

Hope is the heart’s gladness in anticipation of something it loves, on condition that one does what one can to attain it – otherwise it is but a wish and a fancy. Ordinary people hope to attain unto reward in the hereafter; the elite hope to attain unto God’s goodly pleasure and His nearness; and the elite of the elite hope to be firmly rooted in the Beatific vision, and to continue to learn more and more of the mysteries of the Loving Sovereign.

Fear and hope are like the wings of the heart, without which it cannot fly; and perhaps the gnostics have more hope, whilst the righteous have more fear.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ibn Ajiba on the Spiritual Virtues (1)

1 – Repentance

Repentance means to renounce every vile action and adopt every pleasant one; or to renounce every base attribute and adopt every high one; or to renounce the vision of created things and immerse oneself in the vision of the Real.

Its conditions are regret, renunciation and a firm resolve not to repeat the sin; as for returning the rights of others, it is a separate obligation and repentance may be valid without it, just as it may be valid to repent from one sin while persisting in another. Ordinary people repent from sins; the elite repent from faults; the elite of the elite repent from everything which distracts the spirit from the Presence of God. Every spiritual station requires repentance: when one repentance has been sincerely made, another is then required. The station of Fear requires repentance at times of security and pride; the station of Hope requires repentance at times of hopelessness and despair; the station of Patience requires repentance at times of anxiety; the station of Asceticism requires repentance at times of desire; the station of Piety requires repentance at times when dispensations are needless sought out, and at times of avarice; the station of Confidence requires repentance at times when one engages in planning and decision-making and when one is concerned about one’s provision; the station of Contentment and Resignation requires repentance at times when one dislikes and objects to what fate brings one; the station of Vigilance requires repentance at times of poor outward comportment or evil thoughts; the station of Self-Awareness requires repentance when time is wasted on things which do not bring one closer to the Real; the station of Love requires repentance when the heart inclines to anything but the Beloved; the station of Vision requires repentance when the spirit’s attention is directed to anything but the Beheld, or when it is absorbed with a sensory matter instead of ascending further the ladder of divine mysteries. This is why the Prophet (upon him be peace and blessings) would seek forgiveness seventy or one hundred times in a single gathering.

Sincere repentance entails four things: to seek forgiveness with the tongue, to abstain with the body, to refrain from persisting with the heart, and to shun bad company. Sufyan al-Thawri summarised this by saying: ‘The signs of sincere repentance are four: Speech, intention, humility and solitude.’

(Mi‘raj al-Tashawwuf)