7 – Scrupulousness.
Scrupulousness means to hold back the soul from indulging in anything with blameworthy consequences. Ordinary people are scrupulous by avoiding all that is plainly unlawful; the elite are scrupulous by avoiding all that disturbs the heart with ugliness and darkness, as summed up by the words of the Prophet (upon whom be blessings and peace): ‘Leave that which makes you doubt for that which makes you doubt not’. The elite of the elite are scrupulous by refusing to be attached to ought but God, and closing the door to desire for ought but God, and channelling the aspiration towards God, and being content with nothing but Him. This is the scrupulousness of which Hasan al-Basri was speaking when he said: ‘The essence of religion is scrupulousness, and the bane of religion is greed.’ Now the scrupulousness which is diametrically opposed to greed in every way is the scrupulousness of the elite of the elite; a single bit of is worth thousands of prayers and fasts. Thus (Ibn ‘Ata ‘Illah) says in the Tanwir: ‘The servant’s understanding is not proved by his having much knowledge or by his adherence to his litanies; his illumination and understanding are rather proved by his being satisfied with his Lord, and his heart’s being attached to Him, and by his breaking free of the thrall of greed and adorning himself with the robe of scrupulousness.’ (He is speaking of the scrupulousness of the elite of the elite.) God knows best.
8 – Asceticism.
Asceticism means for the heart to have no attachments save to the Lord; or for the life of this world to be alien to the heart and worthless to the soul. Ordinary people are ascetic by leaving all that is above their needs; the elite are ascetic by leaving all that distracts from the act of drawing nigh unto God in all situations; the elite of the elite are ascetic by refraining from looking towards anything but God at all times. In all cases, the essence of the matter is that the heart is alienated from all but God, and from any desire save for the Beloved. Thus, asceticism engenders love, as the Prophet (upon whom be blessings and peace) said: ‘Be ascetic in the world, and God will love you…’ It also engenders spiritual wayfaring, and is the means of arriving at its end; for the heart cannot undergo this journey whilst it is attached to ought but the Beloved.
9 – Reliance.
Reliance means for the heart to trust in God so that it depends on nought besides Him, and to be attached to God and consign all things to Him, secure in the knowledge that He knows all things. Or, it means to trust what is in God’s hand more than what is in one’s own. Its lowest level is to be with God as the deputy is with the kind and compassionate commissioner; its middle level is to be like the child with his mother: he turns to no one but her for anything; its highest level is to be like the dead body in the hands of the washer. The first is for ordinary people, the second is for the elite, and the third is for the elite of the elite. Doubt may enter the head of the first; the second is without any doubt, but he only attaches to his mother when he needs her; as for the third, there is no question of either doubt or attachment, for he is annihilated from his own self, and at all times he sees nothing but what God does with him.