Friday, July 29, 2011

The Tariqa in a Few Words

Sidi Ali al-Jamal:

All existence is like a single man, and you are like a single finger of this man. If you gain power over this finger (which is your soul), you will gain mastery over all of existence, conquering and overpowering it whether it likes it or not. You will then be able to act in existence however you please, and nothing will happen therein unless you please.

If you are overpowered by this finger (which is your soul), however, then all of existence will overpower you, dominating and conquering you whether you like it or not. All of existence will do with you whatever it pleases, however it pleases.

If you gain mastery over your soul, all of existence becomes your slave; if your soul gains mastery over you, you become the slave of existence. Now mastery over the soul can only be achieved by gaining knowledge of ‘those who know through God’ (al-‘arifin bi-Llah), and by keeping their company constantly.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Veil of Light

Imam al-Shādhilī (Allah have mercy on him) said: ‘I heard related to me the words of the Messenger of Allah (upon whom be blessings and peace), “Indeed my heart becomes veiled, and I ask forgiveness of my Lord seventy times a day”, and could not understand what it meant. Then I had a vision of the Messenger of Allah (upon whom be blessings and peace), and he said to me: “O blessed one! That is the veil of light, not the veil of contingent things!”’

يا مبارك ذاك غين الانوار لا غين الاغيار


والحمد لله وحده

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ibn Ajiba on the Spiritual Virtues (6)

Love, Witnessing & Intellective Vision, and Gnosis

13 – Love is the permanent inclination of the fervent heart. This inclination is first manifested in the body in the form of servitude – this is the station of the pious; then secondly in the yearning heart in the form of purification and adornment – this is the station of the initiatic spiritual wayfarers; then thirdly in the spirit and the pure secret (sirr) in the form of spiritual firmness – this is the station of the gnostics. Thus the beginning of love is its manifestation in servitude; the middle of it is its manifestation in gratitude and fervour; and the end of it is its manifestation in tranquillity and sobriety, in the station of gnosis. Thus people are divided into three groups: the folk of servitude, the folk of spiritual states (ahwal), and the folk of spiritual stations (maqamat). Its beginning is wayfaring and servitude, its middle is attraction and extinction, and its end is sobriety and subsistence.

14 – Witnessing (mushahada) means to see the Subtle Essence in its manifested and coagulated forms; it is a question of the coagulation of subtle substance. And when love ascends higher, and the coagulated lights become subtle once more, this is intellective vision (mu’ayana)*; it is a question of the return of the coagulation to its subtle state. Thus intellective vision is more penetrating and complete than witnessing. The upshot of this is that the Essence cannot be seen unless Its subtle mysteries are coagulated into manifestations, for the subtle cannot be perceived as long as it is subtle. To see these manifestations in their coagulated form is called ‘witnessing’; and to return them back to their subtle origin by immersing them in the Ocean of Oneness is called ‘intellective vision’. Others say that mushahada and mu’ayana are simply synonyms.

15 – Gnosis (ma’rifa) means that witnessing becomes firm and perpetual; it is the permanent witnessing of the fervent heart. One sees nothing but one's Lord, and turns to none but Him, all the while maintaining justice and keeping to the formalities of the Sacred Law.

*Translator’s note: Sidi Ibn Ajiba is making the distinction here between the gnostic’s recognition of visible things as manifestation of the Real, which he calls mushahada, and the gnostic’s direct vision of subtle realities, which he calls mu’ayana. The term ‘intellective vision’ seems appropriate for describing this latter vision, which takes place via the vehicle of the ‘eye of the heart’ directly, without outward supports.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ibn Ajiba on the Spiritual Virtues (5)

Contentment & Resignation, Vigilance, Self-Reckoning

10 – Contentment (rida) means to meet misfortunes with a smiling face; or it means the happiness the heart feels as fate unfolds; or it means to forgo one’s own free choice and leave things to God’s plan and decree; or it means the expansion of the breast and the absence of any resentment for what comes to one from the One Invincible God.

Resignation (taslim) means to leave all planning and free choice by being still and tranquil as fate unfolds. Thus it is like contentment in essence, except that contentment is greater than it. It is said that the time for contentment is when things actually happen, whilst the time for resignation is before they happen. In this sense, resignation is the same as spiritual abandonment (tafwid). Its beginning is patience and effort; its middle is outward tranquillity despite feelings of resentment and unhappiness; its end is joy and peace without any resentment. The first is for ordinary people, the second for the elite, and the third for the elite of the elite. Even the first stage is not always possible for everyone, because of the human weakness that they, being human, cannot be free of; and thus they are forgiven if they fall short of it.

11 – Vigilance (muraqaba) means constant awareness that God is watching one; or it means to fulfil the rights of God both secretly and openly, without indulging any doubts or delusions, and with complete sincerity. This is the root of all that is good. Vigilance leads to beatitude and determines its power: the more powerful one’s vigilance is, the more powerful the beatific vision he experiences later on will be. Exoterists are vigilant by protecting their bodies from sin; esoterists are vigilant by protecting their hearts from indulging in vain thoughts; the elite of the esoterists are vigilant by protecting their innermost secret from inclining to anything but God.

12 – Self-Reckoning (muhasaba) means to censure oneself from wasting one’s breath and time on anything but obedience to God. It takes place at the end of the day, just as forming one’s spiritual intention (musharata) takes place at the start of the day. One says to oneself at the start of the day: ‘This is a new day, and it will bear witness against you; strive to fill it with that which draws you nearer to God. Had you died yesterday, you would have missed out on the goodness you have a chance to win today.’ One says the same thing as the night approaches, and reckons it when it passes. One continues to do this until he becomes firm in the Presence, whereupon his time becomes unified; this is to drown in the witnessing of the Divine, so that there is no longer anyone to reckon or to chastise. Thus forming one’s spiritual intention comes first, and reckoning oneself comes last; and vigilance must be constant, as long as one walks the path – and when one arrives, there is no longer any reckoning, nor any intention.


الصوفي لم يُخْلَق