بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the most Merciful, the most Compassionate
All Praises be to Allah, who hath revealed the secrets of His kingdom to His Auliya اولياء (Saints), and hath manifested the mysteries of His Almightiness to His intimates, and hath shed the blood of Lovers with the sword of His Glory, and hath let the hearts of Gnostics taste the joy of His union! He is Who bringeth dead hearts to life by the splendor of the perception of His Eternity and Majesty, and breathes them with the comforting spirit of Marifat معرفت (knowledge of Allah) by divulging His Names. And peace be upon His Prophet Muhammad, and his family and his companions and his wives!
Sheikh Abu al-Hasan Ali b. Uthman b. Abi Ali al-Jullabi al-Ghaznavi al-Hujwiri (may Allah be pleased with him) says that I performed istikhara استخارہ (seek for Allah’s blessing) and after turning away all self worldly motives from my heart, and O Abu Said Hujwiri may Allah bless you, I have decided to write this book in accordance to your request. I have titled this book as “Kashf al-Mahjub كشف المحجوب” (The Revelation of Mystery). The beneficence of this book is evident from its title and having known your desire, I have arranged the book in different chapters suitable for the purpose. I pray Allah Almighty to help and prosper me in completion of this book, and I divest myself of my own strength and ability, as I have trust only on Him and He is the only Helper.
There are following two reasons to mention my name at the beginning of the book, one particular, and the other general. As regards to the general reason, the ignorant of Sufism, not finding the author’s name at different places in the book try to attribute his work to themselves and thus the author’s aim is defeated, since it is the desire of each author that his name be kept alive and the readers may reward him with their blessings. I have already been cheated on this account twice.
Once an individual took Diwan of my poetical works, of which I had no other copy and he omitted my name from it and publicized it as his own work, and caused all my efforts to go in vain. May Allah forgive him! The second incidence took place when I composed a book on manners of Sufism titled Minhaj al-Din منہاج الدین . An indecent pretender of Sufism, after omitting my name from the book, introduced it to the people with his own name. Although, the connoisseurs knowing his capabilities laughed at his claim, until, Allah withdrew His grace from him and erased his name from the register of those who seek to enter the Divine Court.
As regards to the particular reason, the people after seeing author’s name on a book, know that how skilled and versed is he on the subject. They try to protect his rights and attempt to read and understand it more seriously. This leads to better satisfaction and desire of both readers and the author is fulfilled.
As regards to the words “I performed istikhara استخارہ”, I wished to observe the respect due to Allah, who said to His Prophet (peace be upon him) and his followers:
فَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللّهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ
“When thou does read the Quran, seek Allah’s protection from Satan the Rejected One,”
The meanings of istaadat استعاذت, istikharat استخارت, and istaanat استعانت, are to ask for, committing all one’s affairs to Allah and seeking His protection from all worldly contamination and mischief. The companions relate that Prophet (peace be upon him) used to educate them to seek Allah’s blessing as it has been commanded in the Quran.
When one recognizes that goodness and improvement of each act does not depend on his own efforts and foresight, but all good and evil that happens to him is decreed by Allah, Who knows best what is beneficial for him, then he having no alternative but to surrender himself to the Destiny and pray Allah to deliver him from wickedness of his own soul and bless him with His mercy in all his acts. It is mandatory to perform istikhara before committing to any act, so that Allah may save one from all the evils and misfortunes, as He is the Only to grace favors.
As regards to “turning away all self worldly motives from my heart”, it means that any act which evolves around self interest is devoid of Divine’s Grace and diverts one’s heart from straight path. The result of every act is either success or failure. If the desire of the self motivated person is fulfilled, it brings him perdition, for any achievement of the nafs نفس (lower soul) is the key to Hell. And if he fails, he would still remain under constant inward pressure. Nevertheless, the key to Paradise is to restrain one’s nafs from its desires. Allah has said:
وَنَهَى النَّفْسَ عَنِ الْهَوَى - فَإِنَّ الْجَنَّةَ هِيَ الْمَأْوَى
“And had restrained (their) souls from lower Desires, their abode will be the Garden.”
The desires of the nafs نفس (lower soul) mean, is neither to desire blessedness and acquiescence of Allah in one’s act nor to aim at saving nafs from Divine punishment. Similarly, the misdeeds and follies of nafs have neither any limit nor it feels disgusted. Allah willing, a chapter on this will be found at appropriate place in this book.
Now as to the words “I have decided to write this book in accordance to your request,” since you considered me worthy enough for the answer of your question and asked to write this book, and you had a righteous aim before you, therefore, it was incumbent on me to write a comprehensive answer to your question. It may be possible that I might not fully justify your request; however, I have wholeheartedly made an intention to complete this work.
One must have right intention before committing to any act, so that if during completion if some flaws develop in his work, he may be excused. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
نيته الؤمن خير من عمله
the intention of believer is better than his deed.
It is better to start something with intention than doing without it. In committing to any act intention is a vital force and a reality through which one instantly moves from one command to another, though apparently no signs are manifested. For example, if one remains hungry throughout the day without having intended to fast, he gets no recompense for it but if he does the same with an intention to fast and bears hunger, he would be counted among the favorites of Allah, although apparently there is no difference between both. Similarly, if a traveler without any intention stays at one place for a longer duration he will remain a traveler but if he makes an intention to stay there, he will be considered resident. Many such examples can be given in this regard. Therefore, it is always must to make an earnest intention before any assignment is taken in hand.
When I said that I had named this book “Kashf al-Mahjub كشف المحجوب (The Revelation of Mystery)”, my object was that the name of the book should proclaim its contents to readers of insight. Beware that save Allah’s saints and His chosen friends, the rest of the mankind is veiled from the subtlety of the spiritual truth. Since this book is an elucidation of the Way of Truth, a clarification of mystical sayings, and an uplifting of the veil of mortality, therefore this title is much suitable to it.
As Kashf كشف (unveiling) destroys the hajab حجاب (veil), similarly veil is the cause of the destruction of Kashf. As there is no concept of remoteness in proximity and nearness or there is no existence of proximity in distance and remoteness or as an insect which germinates from vinegar dies when it is exposed to any other matter, while those animals which are the creation from other substances perish if they are put in vinegar, it is difficult to divert the meanings to others than they were meant for. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
كل مسير لما خلق
there is an ease in everything for what it has been created.
There are two types of veils which exist between Allah and the mankind:
- one is the hajab rayni حجاب ريني (veil of covering), these can never be removed, and
- the other is the hajab ghayni حجاب غيني (veil of clouding), these can easily be removed.
There are people whose own self is a veil between them and the Truth, so for them the truth and falsehood are the same. There are others who are veiled from the Truth because of their own attributes. The nature and heart of such people persistently seek the Truth and evade falsehood.
The veil of essence “hajab rayni” is never removed and rayn رين, Khatim ختم, and Tabaa طبع have the same meaning, i.e. sealing and imprinting. Thus Allah has said,
كَلَّا بَلْ رَانَ عَلَى قُلُوبِهِم مَّا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ
by no means! But on their hearts is the stain of the (ill) which they do! (Q 83:14);
then they are like those about whom Allah has said,
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ سَوَاءٌ عَلَيْهِمْ أَأَنذَرْتَهُمْ أَمْ لَمْ تُنذِرْهُمْ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ
as to those who reject Faith, it is the same to them whether thou warn them or do not warn them: they will not believe.” (Q 2:6);
and He explained the cause thereof, saying,
خَتَمَ اللّهُ عَلَى قُلُوبِهمْ وَعَلَى سَمْعِهِمْ
Allah hath set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing,” (Q 2:7)
طَبَعَ اللّهُ عَلَى قُلُوبِهِمْ
Allah hath sealed their hearts,” (Q 9:93).
The veil of attributes (hajab ghayni), may be removed at times, though change of essence is not achievable but the alteration of attributes is possible.
The Sheikhs have contributed many subtle hints on the subject of rayn رين and ghayn غين, as Junaid has said:
الرين من جملة الوطنات و الغين من جملة الخطرات
“Rayn belongs to the class of permanent things and ghayn to the class of transitory things.”
Therefore, watan وطن (the permanent thing) is perpetual, and khatar خطر (hazards) are momentary. It is impossible to make a mirror out of a stone, even if thousand experts may apply their skill together, but a rusty mirror can easily be made bright by polishing, for darkness is innate in the stone, and brightness is innate in the mirror. The essence is permanent and accepts no alteration but the temporary attribute is changeable and does not last.
I have composed this book to polish the hearts of those who are subject to hajab ghayni (veil of clouding), but in whom the substance of light of the Truth is existent, in order that the veil may be lifted from them by the blessing of reading it, and that they may find their way to spiritual reality. But those who are habitual defiant of the Truth and follower of falsehood, and they may be presented with ample proofs, will never find their way thither, and this book will be of no use to them.
Now with reference to my saying that having known your desire, I have arranged the book in different chapters suitable for the purpose, I mean that until and unless one fully gets aware of the quest of the questioner, suitable reply cannot be furnished. A question presupposes a difficulty, and it is insoluble until its nature is ascertained. General reply is only possible when the questioner has full knowledge of the subject but with a novice one needs to go into detail, and offer diverse explanations and definitions. In this case especially, you desired me to answer your questions in detail and write a book on the matter.
And with reference to my saying, “I pray Allah Almighty to help and prosper me,” means that without Allah’s help man cannot achieve any good; and taufiq توفيق means that when Allah blesses one to perform acts deserving reward, this is truly success given by Him. The Quran and Sunnah (Tradition of Prophet, peace be upon him) also affirm to seek taufiq from the Lord Almighty. The whole Ummah is unanimous in this regard, except Mutazilites and some who have a belief on qadar قدر (predetermination). They assert that the expression taufiq is void of meaning. Sufi Sheikhs have said,
التوفيق هوالقدرةعلي الطاعته عند الا ستعمال
“Allah increases the working strength of a man who shows obedience to Him.”
When a man renders obedience and submits himself to Allah’s command, he is graced with more strength and courage from Allah and he step by step advances to higher rank. Allah is the creator of all human actions and movements. In short the strength which forces a man to obedience to Allah is taufiq.
This very discussion is out of place here, as the aim of this book is different. I now return to the actual subject which is your desire and start this book by repeating your question.
The Questions Proposed
The questioner, Abu Said al-Hujwiri, has asked the answers of the following questions:
- Explain the true meanings of the Path of Sufism.
- Explain mystical allegories and hints and different maqamat (stations) of Sufis.
- How the love of Allah and ecstasy overwhelm the hearts, elucidate it.
- Why the intellect is incapable to perceive the reality of the Truth, explain it.
- Why the nafs (lower soul) is reluctant to attain the proximity of the Truth and how the spirit gets enrichment and life thereof.
- Explain the doctrine, sayings and the practical aspects of Sufism which are connected with these theories.
Ali b. Uthman al-Jullabi al-Hujwiri to whom question has been made, says:
Sufism is obsolete in our age and particularly in this country (India) where majority of the people is captivated with worldly lust. They have turned away their faces from being satisfied with the decree of the Truth. The divines and those who pretend to have knowledge of the path have formed a conception of Sufism which is conflicting to its basics. Therefore, wake up and gather your strength to attain that where the worldlings have no access. Who other than the chosen one can have access to this rare jewel? The prevailing conditions are such that leaving aside the elects rest all have lost their hearts and lack desire to acquire the knowledge of the path. The common people and the elite both derive delight from mere expressions and feel satisfied in veiled conditions. Their blind conformity has taken the place of spiritual enthusiasm. Search does not exist in their dictionary. The common people like these conditions and say that they recognize the Truth. The elects are happy and contended on that their hearts have desire and their nafs (lower soul) throb to seek the Truth. They feel in their hearts a desire for the next world and claim it to be a vision and ardent love. The claimants because of their pretensions are far away from attaining the reality. The seekers while neglecting their ascetic practices indulge in idle thoughts, and claim that to be contemplation.
I have already written few books on this subject, but all these efforts of mine went in vain as some pretenders picked out selected passages from them to impress their followers as it was their work and they destroyed rest of the works. This sort of people considers such sadism and denial as Allah’s blessing. Some did occupy themselves willingly but failed to gain anything from it. Some gained the knowledge of works, but did not comprehend the meaning. Such people only like the expressions thereof and think that the memorization and copying of such expression is the Sufism. This is their misfortune.
This all has been said because the state of the knowledge of Sufism is like alchemy which is very rare and when it is obtained very little of it converts brass into gold. One only desires that medication which may heal his ache. As a venerable man has said:
فكل من في فواده وجع يطلب شيءا يوافق الوجعا
“One seeks only that medicine which fits to his disease.”
That means nobody wants to mix pearls and coral with common remedies like shalitha and dawa al-musk. This is a very subtle hint and everyone cannot really apprehend it. Earlier also, when the works of eminent Sufis, fell into the hands of those who could not appreciate them, sold these works in the hands of binders who used them making lining for caps or binding for the poetry and made these works at par with that of Abu Nuwas and the pleasantries of Jahiz. The other example is that of the king’s falcon who when resting on an old woman’s cottage suffered in the hands of such illiterates who clipped away his wings.
We are born in the era when our contemporaries have given the name of:
- Shariat (religious law) to their lusts; pride and desire “honor and knowledge”; hypocrisy “fear of Allah”; concealment of anger “clemency”; and disputation is called discussion;
- For them wrangling and foolishness is dignity; insincerity is renunciation; and cupidity is “devotion to Allah”
- Their senseless fancies are called divine knowledge and the motions of the heart and affection of the nafs (lower soul) they call divine love”;
- For them heresy is poverty and skepticism is purity;
- Deviation and disbelief in religion is “self-annihilation”.
- The neglect of the Shariat is the mystic path and evil communication with time servers is exercise of piety.
They have really subdued the true Sufis and have created the similar situation for them as it existed for Ahl-i Bayt (family of the Prophet) during the rule of the family of Marwan. As Abu Bakr al-Wasti said:
ابتيلنا بزمان ليس فيه اداب ولا اخلاق الجاهليه ولا الحكام ذي المروة
“We are afflicted with a time in which there are neither the religious tenants of Islam nor the morals of Paganism nor the virtues of Chivalry.”
Shibli adds to the same:
لحا الله ذي الدنيا مناخالراكب فكل بعيد الهم فيها معذب
“Allah has provided refuge to the humankind at the halts which fall on their way, and who has to go afar, he remains agitated at these halts.”
I have found this universe an abode of Divine mysteries, which are deposited in created things. The whole creation is a trustee of His Grace and everything possess subtleties and marvels for His friends. Substances, accidents, elements, bodies, forms, and properties all are veils of Divine mysteries. From the standpoint of tawhid توحيد (Unification) it is polytheism to affirm them. Allah has kept this universe in a state of veil, so that every identity according to its nature and being remained within the bounds find satisfaction from His decree and their own selves develop veil between them and the Truth. Their spirits become captive because of their association with the phenomenal being and go afar from the maqam مقام (station) of intimacy, so much so that their intellect and thoughts fail to apprehend the Divine mysteries and the spirit can but dimly perceives the marvels of proximity to the Truth. They get entangled into their own selves because of the darkness of their heedlessness and in concern to higher objectives they are lost behind self created veils. Therefore, Allah describing the condition says,
وَالْعَصْرِ - إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ
“By (the token of) time (through the ages), verily Man is in loss,” (Q 103:1-2),
i.e. the way universe has been created and designed because of that man is in loss (he has been veiled from the Truth).
Further it is said,
إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ
except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds,” (Q 103:3),
إِنَّهُ كَانَ ظَلُومًا جَهُولًا
he was indeed unjust and foolish,” (Q 33:72).
The Prophet (peace be upon him) has also said,
خلق الله الخلق فِي ظلمته ثم القي عليه نورا
“Allah created the universe in dark and then enlightened it with His Tajalli (Nur).”
Thus, these veils are part of the human nature, and intervene in proportion to the use of nature and intellect, until one becomes ignorant. One whole heartedly accepts the veil and prefers life over these. He remains unaware of the beauty of the revelation and by renouncing the mysteries of the Truth, he down grades him to the level of beasts. Such an individual enamored of his gross environment, remains sunken in ignorance and apathy, making no attempt to cast off the veil that has fallen upon him. Blind to the beauty of Oneness, he turns away from Allah to seek the vanities of this world and allows his appetite to oppress his reason.
Hence, his nature, all his acts and deeds get committed to satisfy his animal desire, so that he is left with no activity but eat, sleep and follow the nafs (lower soul). But Allah saves His friends from these miseries. He says,
ذَرْهُمْ يَأْكُلُواْ وَيَتَمَتَّعُواْ وَيُلْهِهِمُ الأَمَلُ فَسَوْفَ يَعْلَمُونَ
leave them alone, to enjoy (the good things of this life) and to please themselves: Let (false) Hope amuse them: soon will knowledge (undeceive them),” (Q 15:3).
The inclination of their nature has hidden the mysteries of the Truth so as they are engulfed with misfortunes and deprivation. They are subdued by the nafs (lower soul) which is a great veil and root of all evils. The Quran describes it as
إِنَّ النَّفْسَ لأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ
the (human) soul is certainly prone to evil.” (Q 12:53).
Now I begin and explain to you, fully and lucidly, what you wish to know concerning the maqamat (stations) and the veils. I will interpret the expressions of the learned and add thereto some sayings of the Sheikhs and anecdotes about them, in order that your object may be accomplished. Even if the learned Ulama or others look into this work may recognize that the Path of Sufism has a firm root and fruitful branches. All the Sufi Sheikhs possessed this knowledge and encouraged their disciples to acquire it. They preserved it in doing so. They have never been addicted to frivolity and levity. Many of them have composed treatises on the method of Sufism. They elucidated excellent expressions of what were manifested on them by the Divine.
 The translation of the full verse is: “We did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the Mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: But man undertook it-- He was indeed unjust and foolish.”