The Attributes of the Noble
The Attributes of the Noble
Khwajah Nasir al-Din al-Tusi
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Immeasurable thanks are due to God, Whose reality no intellect can fathom and the knowledge of whose Being no thought or science can apprehend. Any expression describing Him, if affirmative, does not enter the conceiving mind without the traces of anthropomorphism, and if negative, is not conceived by it in a manner secure from the scandalous negation of attributes (ta'til). Therefore, the leader of the elect, the exemplar of the saints (awliya') and the Seal of the Prophets, Muhammad Mustafa, may God bless him and his Household, said:
I cannot reckon Thy praise. Thou art only as Thou hast praised Thyself, and Thou art above what the describers say (in describing Thee). 1
May a myriad fold greetings, kudos, and blessings be upon his sacred soul and on the spirits of the pure ones of his Household, especially the Infallible Imams, as well as the elect of his Companions, by Thy right, O God!
After writing the book entitled Nasirian Ethics (akhlaq-e Nasiri), which discusses the noble dispositions and the sound policies of moral conduct according to the way of the philosophers (hukama'), the writer of this treatise and the author of this discourse, Muhammad al-Tusi, had it in his mind to write a concise treatise describing the ways of the awliya' and the methods of the seers according to the principles of the wayfarers of the Path (tariqah) and the seekers of the Truth (haqiqah) and one based on the principles of reason and tradition, containing the subtle theoretical and practical points that constitute the kernel and essence of that discipline.
However, countless preoccupations and vain obstacles did not permit him to carry that out, and what he had in mind could not emerge from potentiality to actuality, until this moment, when this idea materialized at the compelling behest of his honour ... , the master of the sword and the pen, the elect of the eminent from among the Arabs and the non-Arabs, the sun of the truth and the faith (shams al-haqq wa al-din), the glory of Islam and Muslims,
the chief of the viziers, the holder of the high office of the dominions, the pride of the elite and the nobility, the embodiment of justice and benefaction, the world's most meritorious and perfect, the refuge and shelter of Iran, the lover of the awliya', Muhammad ibn Sahib al-Said Baha' al-Din Muhammad al-Juwayni, may God strengthen his helpers and increase his power twofold.
As opportunity became available and time and circumstance became conducive, the plan at last materialized, to the extent that the mind would assist and was feasible in view of the various obstacles and numerous preoccupations, of compiling, in compliance with his order and in obedience to his command, this brief treatise in several chapters, expositing those truths and describing those subtleties. In every chapter, he has for witness' sake cited a verse of the glorious revelation, which is such that:
Falsehood cannot find way into it from before it or behind it. (41:42)
And where he could not find something that was expository of the purpose at hand he has confined himself to that which was more accessible. He has named it Awsaf al-ashraf and were it to be viewed with favour by his noble eye, its purpose would be achieved; otherwise, in view of what has been already stated in way of excuse,
it is hoped that his noble self, with his noble disposition and sublime virtue, will overlook its lapses and cover them with the mantle of his forgiving grace, so that God, the Glorious and the Exalted, may bestow upon him of divine grace and everlasting sovereignty in the real world in the same way as He has chosen him for mastery and leadership in this realm of appearance. Indeed He is Gracious, and answers prayer.
It would be proper at the outset to mention the contents of this brief treatise. There is no doubt that when one contemplates over one's state (reading ahwal, instead of af'al), one would find oneself to be in need of something besides oneself, and that which is in need of something else is deficient.
And when one becomes aware of his deficiency, there arises in his inner being a yearning to seek perfection. This prompts him to undertake a journey in the quest of perfection, which is called wayfaring' (suluk) by the people of the Tariqah (the mystic path). And one who desires to undertake this journey stands in need of six things.
First, the guidance for this journey and that which is necessary for the journey to be made, and this is similar to the provisions that one needs for a physical journey.
Second, overcoming the hindrances and obstacles in the way of the journey.
Third, making the movement which takes one from the starting point to the destination; it consists of wayfaring and the states of the wayfarer during its' course.
Fourth, the states which occur to the wayfarer in the course of his wayfaring from the start of the journey to the point of destination.
Fifth, the states that befall those who have completed the journey (ahl al-wusul) after wayfaring.
Sixth, the end of the journey and the culmination of the way faring which is called fana' (annihilation) in tawhid (Divine Unity).
Each of these consists of several matters, excepting the end of the journey wherein there is no multiplicity. We shall discuss these six matters in six chapters, each having six sections, with the exception of the last chapter which does not allow of any multiplicity.
It should be known that in the same way as in a physical journey the traversing of every part of the road depends on traversing of a preceding part and is succeeded by another part-excepting the last part-each of these states is an intermediate stage between the end of the preceding stage and the beginning of the next,
so that every stage is the sought after goal as its previous stage nears its end and is left behind and abandoned as one approaches its succeeding stage. Hence every stage is a perfection in relation to its previous stage and remaining in it is a defect when one ought to turn to the next desirable stage. Hence the Prophet, may God bless him and his Household, has said:
One whose two days are equal is a loser. 2 And that is why it has been said:
Merits of the virtuous are vices for the saints. 3
Section One: On Faith
God, the Exalted, has said:
Those who believe and obscure not their faith with wrongdoing, theirs is safety; and they are rightly guided. (6:82)
Iman literally means 'affirmation,' that is, believing, and in the terminology of the seers means a particular kind of affirmation, an affirmation of that which is known for certain and has been declared by the Messenger, may peace be upon him. The knowledge (ma'rifah) of the Prophet is inseparable from the knowledge of the Sustainer, the Powerful, the Knowing, the Living, the Perceiving, the Hearing, and the Seeing One, Who wills and speaks and has sent the Messengers and revealed the Qur'an to Muhammad Mustafa, may God bless him and his Household, and set forth the laws, the duties, and the sunan, the lawful and the unlawful, as affirmed by the consensus of the entire Ummah.
Hence faith consists of these matters, neither more nor less. For if lesser, it would not be faith at all, and if more, the increase will be a higher degree of faith, contiguous to faith. And the sign of belief is to know, to say, and to do that which should be known, said, and done and to refrain from that which has been forbidden. These pertain to righteous conduct and are subject to increase and decrease and are an essential part of the aforesaid affirmation. That is why in all the places the mention of faith is accompanied with that of righteous action, as in the following [Qur'anic] statement Those who believe and perform righteous deeds ... . (2:25)
And it should be known that faith has various degrees, the lowest of which is verbal confession. The verses:
O you who believe, believe in God and His Messenger and the Book that He has sent down on His Messenger. (4:136)
The Bedouins say: 'We believe: Say (unto them O Muhammad): 'Ye believe not; but say, "We submit;" for faith has not yet entered into your hearts. (Yet, if you obey Cod and His Messenger, He will not with-hold from you aught of your deeds. Cod is indeed Forgiving, Merciful.') (49:74)
Above that is faith by imitation, which is a convinced affirmation of that which must be affirmed, but it is subject to decline. When convinced affirmation is achieved it is necessarily accompanied by righteous action:
The (true) believers are those only who believe in God and His Messenger and afterward doubt not, but strive (with their wealth and their lives for the cause o f God. Such are the sincere.) (49:15)
Superior to this faith in the Unseen, in accordance with [the words of the Qura'an] who believe in the Unseen' (2:3), which represents inward faith in transcendence, as if one were affirming something on the other side of a curtain. Superior to it is the faith of those concerning whom He says:
They only are the (true) believers whose hearts tremor when God is mentioned, and when the revelations of God are recited to them they increase their faith, and in their Lord put their trust, who perform the prayer, and expend of what We have provided them, those in truth are the believers; (they have degrees with their Lord, and forgiveness and generous provision.) (8:2-3)
This is the rank of perfect faith. Next to it is convinced faith, to be explained later on, and that is the ultimate degree of faith.
The minimum degree of faith lesser than which is not appropriate in wayfaring, is faith by imitation and faith in the Unseen, for mere verbal faith is not actually faith. To this refers the following statement of the Qur'an:
And the most part of them believe not in God, but they associate other gods with Him. (12:106)
Wayfaring with a tranquility of the soul is possible when there is convinced belief in the existence of the absolutely perfect Being, the Creator. The acquisition of such a belief is extremely simple and can be obtained with a little effort.
Section Two: On Steadfastness
God, the Glorious and the Exalted, has said:
God confirms by a stable belief those who have faith in the life of the world and in the Hereafter ... . (14:27)
Unless faith is not characterized by steadfastness, the tranquility of the soul, which is essential for the quest of perfection, is not obtained, because one who is shaky in his belief cannot be a seeker of perfection. The steadfastness of faith depends on achieving the certitude that there is perfection and the Perfect Being. Without this certitude the quest of perfection does not materialize, and until the resolve to seek perfection and the steadiness of this resolve is not achieved, wayfaring is not possible.
One who makes the resolve without being steadfast in it is like one bewildered whom the devils have kidnapped in the earth' (6:71, The bewildered man has no resolve, and until he is resolute enough to advance in a direction, no movement, journey, or wayfaring will take place, and if there is any movement at all, it is accompanied with anxiety and hesitation and is fruitless and futile.
The cause of steadfastness is an insight into the truth believed in, the delight of having found it, and a perseverance in this state as a habitual condition of the inner self. That is why the performance of righteous works by those who have this steadfastness is perpetual as well as necessary.
Section Three: On Intention
God, the Exalted, has said:
Say (O Muhammad), 'Indeed, my prayer and my worship, my living and my dying, are for God, the Lord of the Worlds.' (6:162)
Niyyah means intention, and intention is a link between knowledge and action. For unless one knows at first that he has to do something, one cannot intend to do it and unless there is intention one cannot carry out an act. The starting point in wayfaring is intention, the intention to reach a certain destination, and since the goal is to acquire perfection from the Absolutely Perfect, the intention should be one of acquiring nearness to the Almighty, Who is Absolute Perfection.
Such being the case, intention by itself is better than action when taken alone, for The believer's intention is better than his works. 4
For intention is like the soul and action like the body, and (The intrinsic worth of) works only depends on the intentions (that lie behind theme) 5 that is, the life of the body is through the soul. And [as the Messenger of God has declared] Every man receives what he has intended: one who has migrated towards God and His Messenger migrates towards God and His Messenger, and one whose migration is to achieve a mundane purpose or to marry a woman, his migration will take him to the intended goal of his migration. 6
A good work accomplished with the intention to seek nearness to God will certainly achieve its due perfection, in accordance with the statement of God, the Exalted, There is no good in much of their secret conferences save him who enjoins charity and propriety and peace-making among the people. Whoso does that, seeking the good pleasure of God, We shall bestow on him a mighty reward. (4:114)
Section Four: On Truthfulness
God, above all descriptions is He, has said:
O you who believe, observe your duty to God and be with the truthful (al sadiqin). (9:119)
Sidq literally means speaking the truth and being true in one's promises. Here by truthfulness is meant the truthfulness of speech as well as that of intention and resolution (azm) and fulfillment under all circumstances of the promises made by one.
Siddiq is one who is truthful in all these matters as a matter of habit, and that which is contrary to fact in whatsoever manner, neither itself nor its trace is found in him. The ulama' have said that if one is such his dreams too would be true and come true. The verse:
(Among the believers are) men who truly fulfill the promise they have made with God, (33:23)
has been revealed concerning them. The truthful have been described as standing in the same rank as the Apostles and the martyrs:
(Whoso obeys God and the Messenger), they are with those unto whom God has shown favour, of the prophets, the truthful, and the martyrs and the righteous, (the best company are they). (4:69)
And such great prophets as Ibrahim and I'dris have been described as truthful ones,' with the words:
Indeed, he was a truthful one, a prophet. (19:41, 19:56)
And concerning others it has been said:
(And We bestowed upon them of Our mercy), and assigned to them true and sublime speech. (19:50)
And since the straight path is the shortest path to the goal, one who walks straight is the most likely to reach his intended destination, God willing.
Section Five: On Penitence (Inabah)
God, the Exalted and the Glorious, has said:
Turn unto Him penitent, and surrender unto Him, (before there come to you the chastisement, where after you wilt not be helped). (39:54) Inabah means turning to God and attending to Him. It consists of three things. First, turning with one's inner self, so that it is always turned towards God, the Exalted, and to seek nearness to Him in all one's thoughts and intentions, and to this refer the words:
... And comes with a penitent heart. (50:33)
Second, to attend with one's speech, which means remembering Him and His favours and to remember those who are nearer to Him, as referred to in this verse: None pays heed save him who turns penitent (unto Him). (40:13)
Third, (to turn to Him) in one's outward actions, which means being always watchful of one's acts of obedience and worship. These must be performed with the intention of seeking nearness, such as the obligatory and the supererogatory prayers, abstaining from things avoided by the leading figures of the faith, giving of charities, showing kindness to God's creatures, procuring the means of their benefit and preventing the causes of their harm, observing of rectitude in dealings, being just in regard to oneself and one's kin, and, in summary, observing the laws of the Shari'ah with the intent of acquiring nearness to God and seeking His good pleasure. Indeed, He, the Exalted, has said:
(On the day when ... ) the paradise is brought nigh for the God f eating, no longer distant. (And it is said): This is that which you were promised. (It is) for every penitent and watchful one, who feareth the Beneficent in secret and comes with a penitent heart. Enter it in peace. This is the day of eternity. There they have all that they desire, and there is more with Us. (50: 30-35)
Section Six: On Sincerity (Ikhlas)
God, the Glorious and the Exalted, has said:
And they were not commanded except to worship God, keeping religion pure for Him ... . (98:5)
Ikhlas in Persian means vizheh kardan' (to make exclusive'), that is, to purge a thing of everything else that has mingled with it. That which is meant here is that all of one's speech and action should be for the sake of seeking nearness to God, the Exalted, and exclusively for His sake, without being adulterated with any worldly or otherworldly purpose.
Indeed, to God belongs sincere religion. (39:3)
The opposite of sincerity is that there be some other purpose mingled with it, such as the love of honour and property, good name, or the hope of otherworldly reward, or salvation and deliverance from the chastisement of hell, all of which are signs of shirk. Shirk is of two kinds: open and concealed. Open shirk is idolatry, and all its other forms consist of concealed shirk. The Messenger of God, may God bless him and his Household, has said:
Amongst the people of my Ummah intentions contaminated with shirk are more invisible than the creeping of a black ant on a black rock in a dark night. 7
Shirk is the most destructive obstacle for the seeker of perfection in wayfaring.
So let him who hopes for the encounter with his Lord, work righteousness, and not include in his Lord's service anyone. (18:110)
And when the obstacle of concealed shirk is removed, wayfaring (suluk) and attainment (wusul) become easy:
If one is sincere to God for forty days, springs of wisdom, emanating from his heart, become manifest in his speech. 8
And safety from sin comes from God.
Section One: On Repentance
God, the Blessed and the Exalted, has said:
And repent you unto God together, O believers, in order that you may succeed. (24:31) The meaning of tawbah is turning away from sin. One must first know what is sin in order to turn away from it. It should be known that the actions of people are of five kinds:
First, those which must be done and which it is not proper to omit.
Second, those which must not be done and which it is not proper to do.
Third, those are better done than omitted.
Fourth, those which are better omitted than done.
Fifth, those doing or not doing which is equal.
Sin consists of not doing acts of the first kind and committing acts of the second kind, and it is a duty of all sane people to repent on committing all acts of this kind. And here that which is meant are not only acts of speech and those performed by bodily members but also all acts of thinking, speaking, and acting that are subject to the power and will of every sane person.
As to the omission of acts of the third kind and commission of acts of the fourth, they represent a breach of etiquette (tark-e awla), which is reprehensible for the Infallible Ones (ma'sumun, i.e. the prophets and their awsiya'), and their repentance is for commission of tark-e awla. For the wayfarers, it is sin to attend to other than God, the Exalted, Who is their cherished goal, and they should repent on perpetrating it.
Hence repentance is of three kinds: the common repentance of the generality of people, the special (khass) repentance of the infallible ones, and the exclusive (akhass) repentance of the people of the path. The repentance of the sinners of the ummah pertains to the first category. The repentance of Adam, may peace be upon him, and other prophets belongs to the second category. And the repentance of our Messenger, may God bless him and his Household, belongs to the third category, in regard to which he said:
Indeed, physical nature casts its shadow upon my heart and I seek God's forgiveness seventy times in a day. 9
As to the repentance of the common people, it depends on two conditions.
The first condition is the knowledge of the various categories of action, as to which action is conducive to the attainment of perfection and which action results in deficiency and loss. And this perfection varies with different persons; for some it is deliverance from punishment, and for some it is achievement of reward, and for some it is attainment of the Creator's good pleasure and nearness to Him. The deficiency and loss also varies likewise; either it is liability to punishment, or deprivation from reward, or the displeasure of the Creator and farness from Him, the latter being the state of the accursed.
The second condition is awareness of the benefit that lies in attaining perfection and the good pleasure of God, the Exalted, and the harm in incurring loss and earning His displeasure.
Hence every sensible person who fulfils these two conditions would not sin and would repent should he perpetrate any.
Further, repentance consists of three things, (1) one of which relates to the past, (2) another to the present, and (3) a third to the future.
As to that which relates to the past, it consists of two things. (a) First, remorse for the sin committed by him in the past and regret for it, a regret that is as complete as possible. This kind entails the two other things and that is why it has been said that Remorse is repentance. 10
(b) The second thing is to compensate for the past conduct, and this has three aspects. (i) One of them relates to God, the Exalted, Whom one has disobeyed. (ii) The second relates to one's own self, which was subjected by one to harm and the displeasure of God, the Exalted. (iii) The third relates to the other person who has been harmed by one's word or deed, and as long as the other person is not restituted his rights, repentance does not materialize.
The restitution of his right can be made either by apologizing or by accepting retributive action, or by doing something which will obtain his satisfaction. This means actually restituting his right or compensating him, or someone who represents him, for that breached right, or accepting his retributive action, or that of someone who represents him, and bearing the punishment that has been prescribed for that offense.
If the other person is one who has been killed, obtaining the satisfaction of his heirs is also part of the condition, for it is impossible to obtain the satisfaction of that man. If all the other requisites of repentance have been realized one may hope to be absolved in the Hereafter by God, the Exalted, with His all-inclusive mercy.
(ii) As to the rights of one's own self, that has to be compensated for by accepting the prescribed punishment in the world or the Hereafter.
(1) As to the Godward aspect of the matter, its requisites can hopefully be achieved by turning to God with lamentation and tears, and by devoting oneself to worship and austerities after obtaining the satisfaction of the victim and restituting the rights of one's own self.
(2) As to the aspect of repentance that relates to the present, it consists of two things. One of them is to refrain from perpetrating the sin in which one has been engaged for the sake of attaining nearness to God. The second is to make the other victim of the sin secure from one's misconduct and to compensate him for the harm that has been inflicted upon him.
(3) As to the aspect relating to the future, that also consists of two things. One of them is to make a firm resolution not to commit it again, so much so that one would not commit a like sin, either voluntarily or under duress, even if one were to be killed or burnt. The second is to remain steadfast in that resolve; for it happens that one who resolves on something is not secure against relapse.
With the means of pledges and atonements, or some other of the various deterrents to resumption of sin, one should try to remain steadfast in one's resolution. And as long as one is hesitant and there is likelihood of resumption, steadfastness has not been realized.
And in all these matters one's intention should be the attainment of nearness to God and obedience of His commands so that one becomes one of those concerning whom it has been said:
One who repents for a sin is like one who has not sinned. 11
These are the requisites of the common repentance from sins, and it is about this group that it has been said:
O you who believe! Turn unto God in sincere repentance. It may be that your Lord will remit from you your evil deeds ... . (66:8) And also:
Forgiveness is only incumbent on God towards those who do evil in ignorance (and) then turn quickly (in repentance) to God. These are they toward whom God relents ... . (4:17)
And as to the special kind of repentance, which is for commission of tark-e awla, its requisites can be understood from that which has been mentioned in this regard. In this relation it has been said:
God has accepted the repentance of the Prophet, and the Muhajirun and the Ansar who followed him in the hour of hardship .... (9:117) As to the exclusive repentance (of the wayfarers), it relates to two things. One of them is repentance for the wayfarer's paying heed to anything other than the cherished goal, and that is why it has been said:
Deviance it is (to turn) to the right and the left. 12
the second thing relates to repentance for retreating to a previous stage from which one must have gone forward, or for halting in the present stage, or considering that stage with satisfaction with the aim of halting in .All these are sins for this group, and that is why it has been said: The merits of the virtuous are vices for the saintly.
They ought to repent for this sin, seek God's forgiveness abstain from persistence, be remorseful for past lapses, and plead in the presence of the Creator, the Exalted, the Holy, and the Pure.
Whoever repents and purifies his soul for the sake of God, God shall be his.
Indeed God loves the repentant and those who take care for purity. (2:222)
Section Two: On Zuhd
God, the Exalted, says:
Stretch not thine eyes to that We have given pairs of them to enjoy-the flower of the present life, that We may try them therein; and thy Lord's provision is better and more enduring. (20:131)
Zuhd is the absence of desire and the zahid is someone who is not fond of such mundane things as food and drink, dress and housing, other objects of appetite and pleasure, property and status, good name, proximity to rulers and influence, and every other thing that would depart from him at the time of death. This absence of love for mundane matters is neither because of incapacity or ignorance about them, nor for any purpose or reward. Someone who has this quality is a zahid in the above mentioned sense.
However, a real zahid is one whose zuhd, as described, is not accompanied even with the hope of deliverance from the chastisement of hell or the reward of paradise, but solely for the sake of restraining his soul after knowing the benefits and consequences of each of these things mentioned. His zuhd is habitual and is without any trace of greed, hope or expectation, worldly or otherworldly. This quality becomes habitual by means of restraining the soul from seeking pleasures, and by making it accustomed to austerities so that indifference to desire becomes firmly established in it.
In one of the anecdotes of the ascetics it is related that there was a man who had been selling the stew of sheep's head and paludah (a sweet beverage made of starch jelly) for thirty years without ever tasting any of them. Asked the reason for this austerity, he replied, "When my soul desired these two things, I told it that it would never get any of them if it were to touch any of them. I did that so that it would not incline towards any pleasure whatsoever."
One who adopts zuhd in the world with the hope of deliverance or reward in the Hereafter is like one who, out of his base disposition, abstains from eating food for days despite great hunger in order to eat to his fill at an expected feast. Or he is like a tradesman who does barter to make a profit out of his merchandise.
In wayfaring, the benefit of zuhd lies in the curtailment of preoccupations, so that the wayfarer is saved from being preoccupied with anything that would keep him from reaching his goal.
Section Three: On Poverty (Faqr)
God, the Exalted, has said:
Not unto the weak nor unto the sick nor unto those who can find naught to spend is any fault (if they are true to God and His Messenger) ... . (9:91)
The faqir is someone without means or someone who has less than his minimum needs. However, in this context 'faqir' is one who has no love of property and mundane things, and if he were to obtain any he is not keen to keep it. That is not out of ignorance or incapacity or some handicap or negligence, nor for coveting some other advantage.
It is not for the sake of status, for earning a name for being good and generous, nor for fear of the tortures of hell or hope of the rewards of the Hereafter, but due to the need to be free from diversions, which is necessary for attentive wayfaring on the path of Reality and concentrating on the Divine, so that anything that is apart from God, the Exalted, does not become an obstacle in his way. And, in fact, this poverty is a branch of zuhd.
The Prophet, may God bless him and his Household, once said (to his Companions)
"Do you want me to tell you concerning the princes of the people of paradise?"
They replied, "Yes." Whereupon he said, They are the weakest (of their society dusty, with disheveled hair, putting on two worn out pieces of clothing for dress, but who, nevertheless, were they to swear by God (to do something) would fulfill their oath. 13
And when the Prophet himself was told, "If you wish, We shall fill the Baths and Makkah for you with gold," he replied, No. Rather would I prefer to pray to Thee when I am hungry and to thank Thee when I satisfy my hunger.
Section Four: On Self-Discipline (Riyadah)
God, the Exalted and the Glorious, has said:
But as for him who fears the Station of his Lord and forbids the soul its caprice, surely Paradise shall be the refuge. (79:40-41)
'Riyadah' literally means the breaking in of a horse or mule by restraining it from carrying out its undesirable inclinations and habituating it to obey its master and to carry out his purposes. In the present context, riyadah means restraining the animal soul from following its instincts of Desire and Irascibility and that which is associated with them,
and deterring the rational soul from obeying animal instincts and restraining it from vicious dispositions and conduct, such as greed, acquisitiveness, ambition, and their associated characteristics such as cunning, deceit, fraud, backbiting, prejudice, anger, hatred, envy, and vice, and that which takes an evil or some other form, and habituating the human soul to such conduct as would lead it to the perfection it is capable of.
That which follows the faculty of Desire is called the bestial' (bahimi) soul; that which follow the Irascible faculty is called predatory' (sabu'i), and that which is habituated to vicious dispositions is called satanic,' and these are together referred to as the inciting soul' in the Qur'anic revelation (ammaratun bi al-su', mentioned in 12:53), that is, a soul that incites one to evil should these vices have become permanent in it.
But if they have not become permanent, it would sometimes incline to evil and sometimes to good, and when it inclines to good it would feel remorse and blame itself. Such a soul is called the 'blaming soul' (al-nafs al-lawwamah).
A soul that is submissive to the intellect and habituated to seeking what is good is named the 'contended soul' (al-na f s al-mutma'innah). The purpose of self-discipline is threefold: First, the removal of obstacles, including outward and inward preoccupations, from the way towards God. Second, the subjugation of the animal soul to the practical intellect, which motivates the quest for perfection. And third, habituating the human soul to remaining steady in the condition that prepares it for the reception of Divine effusion, so that it may attain to the perfection that is possible for it.
Section Five: On Self-Scrutiny (Muhasabah) and Watchfulness (Muraqabah)
God, the Exalted, has said:
Whether you make known what is in your souls or hide it, God will bring you to account for it. (2:284)
Muhasabah means taking account, and muraqabah means being watchful. In the present context it means taking account of one's acts of obedience and sinfulness to see which of them are more. If the acts of obedience are more, he should see where these remaining acts of obedience stand in relation to the bounties bestowed upon him by God, the Exalted. In this regard, first he should consider his own existence and the numerous benefits that relate to the creation of his bodily members.
The scholars of anatomy have compiled numerous books describing them to the extent of their understanding, although what they have understood is not even a drop out of an ocean. He has placed in man's being several benefits relating to his faculties of growth and movement and fashioned numerous subtleties of creation in his soul, which is capable of knowledge and apprehends the intelligibles with its essence, perceives the perceptibles, and governs the body's functions and organs. He has ordained his sustenance from the beginning of creation and fashioned the means of his growth and development all the way from the highest to the lowest planes.
Hence, if one were to compare his extra acts of obedience with these above-mentioned bounties and other innumerable bounties besides them, concerning which He has stated:
... and if you count the bounty of God, you shall not be able to reckon it ... (14:34)
He would come to realize his own nonfeasance under all circumstances.
And if his acts of obedience and sins be equal, he should know that he hasn't performed any act of service in return for these bounties and his nonfeasance is all the more evident.
And should the extent of his sins be preponderant, woe to him! Woe to him!
Hence whenever the seeker of perfection takes this account of himself, nothing except obedience will come out of him and he would consider himself at default even if he were to do nothing but obey, and this is why it has been said:
Take any account of yourselves before you are called to give account. 14 And if one does not take one's own account and continues to remain in sinfulness, he will encounter the day when he will be subjected to reckoning in accordance with (the Qur'anic statement):
(And We set a just balance for the Day of Resurrection so that no soul is wronged in aught). Though it be of the weight of a grain of mustard seed, We shall bring it. And We suffice as reckoners, (21:47)
and face painful chastisement and great loss when ... nor will intercession be accepted from it, nor will compensation be received from it .... (2:48)
May God save us from that.
As to muraqabah, that consists of being watchful over one's outward and inner being so that one does not perpetrate anything that would annul his good works. That is, one should constantly be watchful over one's states so that one does not fall into sin, open or secret, and so that any preoccupation, significant or trivial, does not keep him from journeying on the path of Truth. He should always keep this verse in his mind: ... know that God knows what is in your souls, so beware of Him ... . (2:235)
until he reaches his sought destination. And God grants success to any of His servants that He wishes, and He is'All-Subtle and All-knowing.
Section Six: On Godfearing (Taqwa)
God, the Glorious and the Almighty, has said:
Verily, the more honoured amongst you in God's sight is the one who is more Godfearing amongst you. (49:13)
Taqwa' means refraining from sin with the fear of God's displeasure and drifting away from Him. In the same way as a sick person seeking health, in order to achieve health and cure his disease, has to refrain from what is harmful for him and would exacerbate his sickness, so also a deficient being in the quest of perfection should avoid everything that is contrary to perfection or an obstacle in its way, or which would divert its attention from wayfaring on the path of perfection, in order that that which is essential or conducive to wayfaring be beneficial and effective:
And whosoever fears God, God will appoint a way out for him, and will provide for him from whence he has no expectation. (65:3)
in reality, taqwa consists of three things: one is fear, the second is avoidance of sins, and the third is the desire for attaining nearness to God. Each of these three will be fully explained in its proper place in this brief treatise. That which has been said in the (Qur'anic) Revelation and the traditions concerning taqwa and in the praise of the muttaqun (Godfearing) far exceeds what can be mentioned in this brief discourse. And the end of all goals is the love of the Exalted Maker.
Nay, but (the chosen of God) is he who fulfils his pledge and fears God; indeed, God loves the God fearing. (3:76)
Section One: On Solitude
God, the Exalted, says:
And leave alone those who take their religion for a pastime and a jest, and whom the life of the world has deceived .... (6:70)
In the sciences of reality it has been established that every being that has the preparedness to receive Divine effusion (fayd-e ilahi) cannot be deprived of it when the preparedness exists and any obstacles are absent. However, one can seek the benefit of Divine effusion only when one knows two things. First, one should have convinced belief and a faith free of doubt in the existence of that effusion. Secondly, he should know that the existence of this effusion in every being will lead to its perfection.
The knowledge of these two matters is at all times an essential part of preparedness for receiving that effusion.
Now that this preliminary fact is known, it may be stated that the seeker of perfection, after acquiring preparedness, is now obliged to remove the obstacles. The biggest of these obstacles are the unnecessary engagements that direct the soul's attention toward other-than-God and keep it from attending fully to its real goal. These preoccupations pertain either to the external senses, or the inner perceptual faculties, or some of the vital faculties, or illusory thoughts (afkar-e majazi, as opposed to waridat-e haqiqi, mentioned hereafter).
As to the outer senses, their preoccupation lies in infatuation with viewing attractive forms and shapes, listening to harmonious sounds and [pursuing] other objects of smelt, taste and touch.
As to the inner perceptual faculties, their preoccupation lies in imagining forms and states that absorb attention. It may be an imaginary love, or enmity, an exaggerated delight or an underscored loss, an imagined order or disorder, or some memory of a past condition, or the thought of some object of desire, such as wealth and status.
As to the vital faculties their preoccupation may be caused by grief, fear, jealousy, or shame, anger or lust, or some treachery, an expected pleasure, or the hope of overpowering some enemy or avoiding something painful.
As to illusory thoughts, preoccupation with them lies in reflecting on insignificant matters, or devoting oneself to some non-beneficial science or anything preoccupation with which keeps one from one's desired goal.
Khalwah means the avoidance of all these obstacles. Hence one seeking khalwah should try to be free of inward and outward sensory preoccupations and to discipline his animal faculties, so that they don't divert him toward things which, being compatible with these faculties, prompt him to avoid that which is not attuned to them. He should refrain totally from illusory thoughts, which are thoughts whose goal is attainment of good things of the life of the world and the Hereafter. The good things of worldly life are ephemeral, and as to the goods of the Hereafter, their goal is the attainment of lasting pleasures for the ego seeking them.
After removing the outer obstacles and freeing the inner self from preoccupation with anything other than Allah, one should direct all his concern and his undivided intention to being watchful over the happenings of the Unseen' (sawanih ghaybi) and being vigilant over real intuitions (waridat-e haqiqi). That is called contemplation (tafakkur), which shall be dealt with in a separate section which follows.
Section Two: On Contemplation
God, the Exalted and the Glorious, says:
Haven't they pondered within themselves? God created not the heavens and the earth, and that which is between them, except with the Truth ... ? (30:8)
Although many meanings have been ascribed to [the term] tafakkur, their essence is that contemplation is an inward journey of humanity from the preliminaries (mabadi) to the goals (maqasid). The same sense is ascribed to nazar in the terminology of scholars. None can make the transition from deficiency to perfection without undertaking this journey, and hence it has been said that the most essential of obligations is contemplation and thought. The instances of encouragement given to contemplation in the [Qur'anic] Revelation are countless:
And in that are signs for a people who think. (13:3)
And it has been stated in hadith:
An hour's contemplation is better than seventy years of worship. 15
One should know that the starting point from where this journey should commence are 'the horizons and the souls' (afaqq wa anfus; 41:53). It is a rational journey (sayr-e istidlali: lit. 'evidence-seeking journey') guided by the signs (ayat) pertaining to each of the two. That is, the wisdom found in every particle of these two realms of being (kawn) guides to the greatness and perfection of their Originator, until one witnesses the light of His creativity in every individual particle:
We shall show them Our Signs on the horizons and in their selves until it is manifest unto them that it is the truth. (41:53).
And after that is attaining to the witness of Divine Glory over everything else from among the creation:
... Does it not suffice that thy Lord is witness over all things? (41:53)
so that its manifestation in every particle is disclosed.
As to the 'signs on the horizons,' they pertain to the knowledge of all existents apart from God as they really are, and the wisdom in each being, perceivable in accordance with human capacity, such as [is disclosed by] the science of astronomy, the [study oft the heavens, the stars and the motions and configurations of each of them, the measurements and dimension of bodies and their properties, the science of the lower world, the compositions and interactions of elements in respect of form and quality,
the formation of dispositions, the composition of mineral, plant and animal constitutions and formations, the celestial and terrestrial spirits, the sources of motion of each of them and that which occurs in them and is caused by them of the contraries and opposites, as well as their specific and common properties, and the relevant sciences of numbers, quantities, and that which pertains to them.
As to the signs within the soul,' they pertain to the sciences of the bodies and the souls, known through the study of anatomy of simple tissues, such as bones, muscles, nerves, and veins and that which is beneficial for them, such composite organs as the main and subservient members and the auxiliaries of each of them,
the bodily members and the study of the faculties and actions of each of them and their states, such as health and disease, the science of the soul and the character of its relation to the body, their actions and mutual interactions, the causes of deficiency and perfection of each of them and the factors responsible for their worldly or otherworldly felicity and wretchedness and all that which pertains to these. These constitute the preliminaries of this journey of contemplation.
As to the goal and destination of this journey-as will be known in later chapters and sections-it is the attainment of the ultimate degree of perfection.
Section Three: On Fear and Grief
God, the Glorious and the Exalted, says:
And fear Me if you are believers. (3:175) The ulama' have said: (Grief relates to that which is gone, and fear to that which has not yet come'). Hence grief is the inner pain felt on account of the occurrence of something undesirable that cannot be avoided or for the loss of an opportunity or something desirable which cannot be restituted.
Fear is the inward pain felt on account of some expected undesirable occurrence whose causes are probable, or due to expected loss of something desirable and sought after which cannot be restored.
Further, if the causes are certain to occur or very likely, it is called anxiety and involves greater pain. And if these causes are known to he unavoidable, the pain resulting therefrom is called fear caused by melancholy' The fear and grief felt by the wayfarers is not without benefit, because if the grief be on account of commission of sins, or due to lost opportunity, as a result of past negligence of worship (ibadah) or cessation of wayfaring in the path of perfection, that could prompt one to resolve on penitence.
And if the fear be due to commission of sin, the incurring of loss, or failure to attain to the rank of the virtuous, that could result in the endeavour to acquire virtue and induce one to set out on the path of perfection.
That is wherewith God frightens His servants:["O My servants, so fear you Me!"] (39:16)
One who is free from fear and grief at this stage is one of the hardhearted:
Then woe unto those whose hearts are hardened against remembrance of God. Such are in manifest error. (39:22)
Any sense of security at this stage that removes this fear from the heart is destructive:
Do they feel secure against God's devising? None feels secure against God's devising but the losers. (7:99)
However, as to the perfect, they are free from this kind of fear and grief:
Surely God's friends-no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow. (10:62)
Although 'khawf' and 'khashiyyah' are synonymous lexically, in the terminology of this group (i.e. the gnostics) there is a difference between the two, 'khashiyyah' being reserved for those who know ('ulama'),
Even so only those of His servants fear God who have knowledge. (35:28)
and their paradise too is exclusive:
... that is for him who fears his Lord. (98:8)
and they are devoid of any fear (khawf):
... No fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow. (10:62)
Hence khashiyyah is a feeling of awe arising from consciousness of the awe-inspiring greatness of the Truth, Majestic and Exalted, and awareness of one's inadequacy and shortcoming in serving Him, or due to an imagined lapse in the etiquette of servanthood, or a breach in necessary obedience. That khashiyyah is a special kind of fear is indicated by [the following Qur'anic verse]:
... and fear their Lord, and dread the evil [outcome of] reckoning. (13.21)
And rahbah is close to khashiyyah:
... a guidance and mercy unto all those who hold their Lord in awe. (7:154)
And when the wayfarer attains to the station of rida (satisfaction), his fear is turned into security (amn).
... to them belongs the [true] security, and they are the guided. (6:82)
Then he is neither repelled by anything repulsive nor attracted by anything desirable, and this security is due to perfection. And if the aforementioned security he due to deficiency, the possessor of this security does not become free from khashiyyah until illuminated by the vision of Unity (wahdah), whereat there remains no trace of khashiyyah, for khashiyyah is associated with plurality (takaththur).
Section Four: On Hope
God, the Glorious and the Exalted, says:
But the believers, and those who emigrate and struggle in God's way-those have hope of God's compassion .... (2:218) Whenever something desirable is expected to be achieved in the future and the seeker considers the actualization of its causes as likely, there arises in his heart a feeling of delight, intermingled with expectation of success, from the idea of its acquisition; it is called hope.
And should one know for certain that the causes have materialized and that which is expected would of necessity occur in the future, it is called waiting' for the object sought after, and, to be sure, the delight in that case is greater.
And if the materialization of the means of attainment be not likely, it is called 'wishing' (tamanna). And if the achievement of the means be known to be impossible and unlikely, should there still remain an expectation of achieving, that hope is either illusion or folly.
Fear and hope are opposites. In wayfaring, hope, like fear, has many benefits, for hope causes progress in the degrees of perfection and rapidity of movement on the path towards the goal:
... They look for a commerce that comes not to naught, that lie may pay them in full their wages and enrich them of His bounty ... . (35:29-30) And hope is the cause of optimism in the forgiveness and pardon of the Creator, the Glorious and the Exalted, and trust in His mercy: ... those have hope of God's compassion. (2:218)
And in respect of attainment of the goal as a result of this expectation, He has said: I deal with My servant in accordance with what he expects of Me. 16
The absence of hope at this stage results in despair and loss of hope:
[Do not despair of God's mercy;] of God's mercy no one despairs, excepting the unbelievers. (12:87)
Iblis was eternally damned on account of this despair.
... Do not despair of God's mercy. (39:53)
However, when the wayfarer attains to the station of gnosis (ma'rifah) his hope disappears, for he knows that he deserved whatever has actualized and that which did not materialize wasn't deserved.
In view of this, should hope still remain, that is either due to ignorance of all that is deserved and not deserved, or an account of a grudge against the Cause of all causes (musabbab al-asbab) for depriving one from one's cherished goal.
From the previous section it was known that the wayfarer is not devoid of fear and hope as long as he is in the state of wayfaring:
... They call on their Lord in fear and hope .... (32:16)
Hope accompanies fear, and it is not possible for one side to preponderate over the other, far one who listens to the verses bearing the promise and the threat, while he scrutinizes the symptoms of deficiency and perfection, with the likelihood of one rather than the other, knows shat the end of wayfaring might be either realization of the goal or failure and deprivation:
Should the believer's fear and hope be weighed, they would be found to be equal. 17
Should hope be preponderant, it would imply a misplaced sense of security. Do they feet secure against God's devising? (7:99)
And if fear be preponderant, it would result in a despair leading up to perdition:
... Verily of God's mercy no man despairs, excepting the people of the unbelievers. (12:87)
Section Five: On Patience
God, the Glorious and the Exalted, says: ... and he patient; surely God is with the patient. (8:46)
Sabr (patience) in the lexicon means restraining the soul from anxiety at the time of occurrence of something undesirable, and that consists of keeping the inner self from agitation and restraining one's tongue from complaint and the bodily members from untoward movements.
Patience is of three kinds:
First is the patience of the common people, and that involves restraining the soul in the path of forbearance and showing steadiness in enduring, so that one's apparent condition appears to be satisfactory to the mentally mature and ordinary people:
They know an outward part of the present life, but of the Hereafter they are heedless. (30:7) Second is the patience of the ascetics (zuhhad) and the devout ('ubbad), the God-fearing and the forbearing, in expectation of an otherworldly reward:
Surely the patient will be paid their wages in full without reckoning. (39:10) Third is the patience of the gnostics (urafa), as some of them feet pleasure when something undesirable befalls them, for they think that the Worshipped One, may His remembrance be glorified, has singled them out of His servants to bear that affliction and that He has graced them with a fresh care:
... and give thou good tidings unto the patient who, when they are visited by an affliction, say, 'Surely we belong to God, and to Him we return'; upon those rest blessings and mercy from their Lord,[and those -they are the truly guided] (2:155-157)
It is reported in traditions that Jabir ibn Abd Allah al-Ansari, one of the eminent companions [of the Prophet (s)], was afflicted with weakness and decrepitude late in life. Muhammad ibn 'Ali ibn al-Husayn, known as [al Imam] al-Baqir [may peace be upon him], went to pay him a visit and inquired concerning his state [of health]. Jabir replied, "My state is such that I prefer old age to youth, illness to health, and death to life!"
Muhammad [a] said to him, "As for me, should He make me old, I would prefer old age; should He keep me young, I would prefer youth; should He make me ill, I would prefer illness; should He make me healthy, I would prefer health; should He make me to die, I would prefer death; and should He kelp me alive, I would prefer life:"
When Jabir heard this, he embraced Muhammad ['a] on his face and said: "True was the Messenger of Allah [s1 who said to me, You shall see one of my sons who will be my namesake. He shall plough [the fields of ] knowledge thoroughly as the oxen plough the earth" For this reason he was called "Baqir ulum al-awwalin wa al-akharin" (the plougher of [the fields of] the sciences of the ancients and the later generations').
An understanding of these ranks [of patience] discloses that Jabir enjoyed the station of patience and Muhammad ['a] the station of satisfaction (rida). Rida' will be explained later on, God, the Exalted, willing.
Section Six: On Thankfulness
God, the Glorious and the Exalted, says:
... And we shall reward the thankful. (3:145) "Shukr" in the lexicon is the approbation given to a benefactor (mun'im) for the sake of his favours (niam), and since most of the bounties, or rather all of them, are from God, the Exalted, the best of things is to engage in thanking Him.
Thanksgiving entails these things: First, the knowledge of the Benefactor's favours, which extend all the way from the horizons' to the souls'. Second, the feeling of delight on attaining those favours.
Third, making an effort, within the limits of possibility and one's capacity, to obtain the satisfaction of the Benefactor. That consists of: loving Him inwardly; praising Him, by word and deed, in a way that is worthy of Him; and endeavouring to conduct oneself vis-a-vis the Benefactor in a way commensurate with His station, through obedience and by confessing one's inability to do that.
God, the Exalted, says:
If you are thankful, surely I will increase you ... . (14:7)
And it is stated in a tradition: (Faith consists of two halves: patience and thankfulness'). 18 That is because the wayfarer is never without a state which is either agreeable or disagreeable. He should be thankful for that which is agreeable and patient in bearing that which is disagreeable. In the same way as impatience is the opposite of patience, ingratitude is the opposite of thankfulness. Infidelity (kufr) is a kind of ingratitude (kufran):
... but if you are thankless My chastisement is surely terrible. (14:7)
From this it is known that the station of thankfulness is above that of patience. And as gratitude cannot be expressed except with the heart, the tongue and the other members, each of them being a bounty from Him and the capacity to employ them an additional bounty, should one want to express gratitude for every bounty, one shall have to thank again for this bounty and this would entail an endless expression of gratitude. Hence that which is better is to begin and end thanksgiving with the admission of inability. The confession of the inability to thank is the ultimate degree of gratitude, in the same way as the confession of the inability to praise Him is the ultimate degree of magnification. That is why it has been said:
Thy praise cannot be encompassed; Thou art as Thou hast praised Thyself and above what the speakers say sin praising Thee. 19
For the people of submission (ahl al-taslim), gratitude ceases, for gratitude depends on the [idea of] restituting and compensating the Benefactor, and one who has reached such a point in servitude as to consider himself noshing, how can he place himself before Someone Who is everything? Hence the ultimate point of gratitude is until where one considers oneself to be an existent and the Benefactor to be another existent.
Section One: On Aspiration
God, the Glorious and the Exalted, says:
And be patient thyself with those who call upon their Lord at morning and evening, aspiring for His Face ... (18:28). Iradat' in Persian means desiring' (khwastan), and it entails three things:
i) awareness of the object sought, ii) awareness of the perfection that it possesses, iii) absence of access to the object of desire.
Hence if the desired goal is something that is attainable by the seeker and the aspiration is accompanied with the power [to realize it], these two would lead to the attainment of the goal of aspiration.
And if it be something that is realized and existent but not present, these two would lead to the realization of the goal. Hence if there is a delay in realization (wusul), seeking leads to a state called longing' (shawq) in the aspirer. Longing precedes realization.
And if realization be gradual, the effect it produces is called love' (mahabbah), which has several degrees, the ultimate degree of it being al the time of complete realization and the end of wayfaring.
As to the aspiration associated with wayfaring, it is entailed, in a sense, by the wayfaring itself, for the desire for perfection is a kind of aspiration, and when aspiration ceases, either as a result of attainment or due to the knowledge of impossibility of realization, wayfaring also terminates. This aspiration associated with wayfaring is particular to the deficient; and as to the perfect, their aspiration is identical with perfection itself and the goal sought.
It is mentioned in traditions that there is a tree in paradise called Tuba, and whoever has a desire and aspiration for something it is immediately delivered to him from that tree without any delay or waiting. 20
And it has been said that some people are rewarded for their acts of obedience in the Hereafter, 21 whereas for some their deeds themselves are their own reward. 22
This also affirms that aspiration and the goal of aspiration are identical for some people, for aspiration ceases for one who attains to the station of rids in wayfaring. One of the adept who sought this station said:
If I were asked, "What do you aspire to?" I would say: "My aspiration is to have no aspiration."
Section Two: On Longing
God, the Glorious and the Exalted, said:
... and so that they who have been given knowledge may know that it is the truth from-thy Lord and believe in it, and so their hearts be humble unto Him ... . (22:54)
Longing (shawq) is finding the pleasure of love, mixed with the pain of separation, that accompanies intense desire. In the state of wayfaring, longing is necessary after the intensification of desire. At times longing is attained before wayfaring when consciousness of the ultimate goal is attained without the power to make the journey and with loss of patience over separation.
As much as the wayfarer progresses in this journey, his longing increases and patience diminishes, until he reaches the goal, whereafter the pleasure of attaining perfection becomes pure and free from the traces of pain and longing.
There are people of the Path who call the vision of the Beloved as longing,' and this is in the sense that (the wayfarer] seeks union (ittiharl) and has not yet reached shat station.
Section Three: On Love
God, the Glorious and the Exalted, has said:
And amongst men there are those who take to themselves compeers apart from God, loving them as God is loved; but those that believe love God more ardently. (2:765)
Love (mahabbah) is an ecstatic feeling occasioned by some perfection, or imagination of some perfection, real or supposed, in the object of consciousness.
From another aspect, love is the inclining of the soul towards something consciousness of which is accompanied by some pleasure or perfection. And since the pleasure of perception is associated with realization of perfection, love is not devoid of actual or imagined pleasure.
Love is subject to strength and weakness. Its first stage is aspiration, for aspiration cannot be without love, and thereafter it is proportionate to the longing. With complete realization, whereas aspiration and longing cease, love becomes predominant.
As long as there remains a trace of otherness between the seeker and the Sought, love remains fixed, ishq being extreme love.
And it may be that the seeker and the Sought are uni
Share this article