Blame (malamat ملامت)
Some of the Sufi Sheikhs have trodden the path of malamat ملامت (blame). Blame creates great effect in making love sincere. The followers of the Truth and especially eminent scholars of religious law have always been targeted by the people. Even the Prophet (peace be upon him), who is the exemplar and Imam (leader) of the adherents of the Truth, and head of the lovers of Allah, was honored and held in good repute by all until Divine inspiration was revealed to him and then the people loosened their tongues to blame him. Some called him soothsayer, some named him a poet, and others crossing limits called him a madman and a liar. And Allah describing the true believers says:
وَلاَ يَخَافُونَ لَوْمَةَ لآئِمٍ ذَلِكَ فَضْلُ اللّهِ يُؤْتِيهِ مَن يَشَاء وَاللّهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ
“And never afraid of the reproaches of such as find fault, that is the Grace of Allah, which he will bestow on whom he pleaseth. And Allah encompasseth all, and He knoweth all things. (Q 5:54).
Such is the ordinance of Allah, that He causes those who talk of Him to be blamed by the whole world, but preserves them from misdeeds of people. This He does in His jealously. He guards His lovers by keeping them away from the eyes of people, lest the eye of any stranger should behold the beauty of their state, and He guards their own beauty also, so they may not fall into self-conceit and arrogance. Therefore, He sets vulgar over them so they loose their tongue against them, and He activates lovers’ nafs lawama (inner soul) also to keep a check on them for any misdeeds. So when they do some blameworthy act, they are checked through their own inner soul, which even on their good deeds also blame them for doing less while they could do more.
There is no other veil or taint more serious in the Path than that one through his good deeds is preoccupied by self-conceit, and it is caused due to either on securing public honor and appreciation from the people, i.e. when they like some of his acts, they appreciate him which creates self vanity in his heart, or when one does not like the acts of others and feels pleased and pride with his own acts. Allah with His kindness to save His friends, make public against them, so that if their actions are bad, they do not spare them and even if their deeds are good, these are not approved by people because of their ignorance to reality, and they reproach them. Though the aspirants do a lot of self-mortification and abstinence but they do not regard them as proceeding from their own strength and power. Consequently they do not feel pleased with themselves and remain protected from self-conceit. In short people do not approve elects of Allah and similarly one who is slave of his self is not approved by Allah.
As Iblis (Satan) was approved by Genii and angels, but he was pleased with himself, therefore, he got disapproval of Allah. Their approval only brought a curse upon him. Adam, on the other hand, was disapproved by the angels, who said,
أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاء
wilt Thou place therein one who will make Mischief therein and shed blood?” (Q 2:30).
Adam was not pleased with himself, therefore, he said,
رَبَّنَا ظَلَمْنَا أَنفُسَنَا
our Lord! We have wronged our own souls” (Q 7:23),
therefore, he was approved by Allah Who further said,
فَنَسِيَ وَلَمْ نَجِدْ لَهُ عَزْمًا
but he forgot: and We found on his part no firm resolve.” (Q 20:115).
So, disapproval of the creation and Adam’s self displeasure bore the fruit of mercy from Lord and He made it evident to all that His approved one is not approved by the creation and His disapproved is approved of creation. Hence the blame of mankind is the feed of the friends of Allah, because it is a token of Divine approval. It is the delight of the saints of Allah, because it is a sign of nearness to Him, and they rejoice in it even as other men rejoice in popularity. There is in the Hadith Qudsi (tradition of Prophet which revealed to him through Gabriel, may blessings of Allah be on him) that Allah said,
اولياءي تحت قباءي لا يعرفهم غيري الا اولياءي
My friends (saints) are under My cloak: save Me and My friends, none knows them.”
The blame (malamat) is of three kinds:
- it may result from following the right way, or
- from an intentional act, or
- from abandonment of the Shariat (Religious Law).
In the first case, one performs his acts and devotion according to Shariat and is not worried on people’s reaction, but still people continue blaming him.
In the second case a man who is greatly honored by the people which causes vanity in his heart, he cures it through doing some act although which is not against the Shariat, but people might consider so. People seeing such acts develop hatred against him and openly blame him, but this gives satisfaction to his heart and he gets the proximity of Allah.
In the third case, a man is driven by his natural infidelity and erroneous belief to abandon the Shariat and abjure its observances, and claim that he has chosen path of blame.
The first type of people who maintains the right way and they do not need the hypocrisy of the second type of people. They pay no heed to the blame of the vulgar but invariably take their own course, and it is all the same to them by what name they are called.
One day Sheikh Abu Tahir Iraqi riding a donkey which was being managed by one of his disciples was passing through a bazaar. Some person cried out on him and shouted see here goes the nonbeliever Sheikh? This annoyed the disciple and he tried to rush at the speaker. The people around them also could not hide their resentment. The Sheikh calmed them down. When they returned home, he asked the disciple to bring a certain box which contained letters. The Sheikh showed him letters addressed to him by various people who had honored him with titles such like “the Sheikh of Islam”, “the pure Sheikh”, “the ascetic Sheikh”, “the Sheikh of the two sanctuaries”, and so on. The Sheikh said that these were all titles but there was no mention of his name. He was not worthy of any of those, but each had honored him with the title in accords with his belief concerning him. If that poor fellow did the same, why should you quarrel with him?
The second type of people who incurs blame intentionally and resigns honor and withdraws from authority is like the Caliph Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) who, although had four hundred slaves, one day came forth from his date plantation carrying a bundle of firewood on his head. On being asked why he did so, he answered that he wished to make trial of his nafs to know whether dignity which he enjoyed hinder him from any work. This clearly establishes the reality of blame. A similar tale related of the Imam Abu Hanifa will be found elsewhere in this book.
Another story is told about Abu Yazid, that when people of Rayy came to know about his arrival from the Hijaz, they rushed out of the city to honor him. Sheikh knew that they would welcome him and their attention would distract him from dikr (remembrance of Allah). When he entered the bazaar, he took a loaf from his sleeve and began to eat. Seeing that people deserted him for it was the month of Ramadan. Although being traveler, fasting was not mandatory for him. He said to a disciple who was traveling with him, “You saw how I got rid of them just by parting from a single rule of the Shariat.”
I, Ali b. Uthman al-Jullabi says that during those days it was necessary to do some incorrect act for incurring blame, but in our time, if anyone desires blame, he need only to lengthen his voluntary prayers or fully adhere to prescribed religious practices, at once everybody will call him a hypocrite and imposter.
And now the third group who abandons the Shariat and says that he is doing it for malamat (blame), is guilty of manifest wrong and wickedness and self-indulgence. There are many in these days who seclude themselves from public to seek popularity and their acceptance. To occupy isolation suits to him who is already popular but one who is not popular his act of secluding himself is a mere pretext for winning popularity.
Once, I was in the company of one of these vain pretenders. He committed a wicked act and excused himself by saying that he did it for the sake of blame. One person present there, reproached him for that act which he did not like and got annoyed. I said to him why he was showing annoyance to that person. If he had blamed you, it was confirmation of your doctrine. You should have felt happy instead of getting angry with him. And since you are committed to the propagation of religion which demands proof and most valid argument in this case is the respect for the Shariat (religious law). When your act is in contradiction to Shariat, it is anti religion.
The doctrine of Blame was introduced by the Sheikh Hamdun Qassar. He has many subtle sayings on the subject. He said,
الملامة ترك السلامة
blame is the abandonment of wellbeing.
If anyone purposely abandons his own welfare and invites misfortunes, he has to lose his comfort, prosperity and honor, and abandon expectations from creature of Allah. The more one is alienated from mankind the more he is united to Allah. Accordingly, the votaries of Blame turn their backs on their welfare activities, to which the people have the greed. They have different kind of abject desires than the rest of the creature, for their aspirations is Unitarian. Hussein b. Mansur, in reply to the question that who was the Sufi, said,
واحداني في الذات
he who is single in essence.
When Sheikh Hamdun was asked that what malamat (Blame) was, he said that it was a hard way to follow but tell you one part of it: He said,
رجاء المرجيه وخوف القدريه
it is hope of the Murjites and the fear of the Qadarites.
This saying has a hidden meaning which demands explanation. The followers of the Path do not hate anything more than to have even a little honor in the eyes of people. When someone admires him he may whole heartedly inclined to that praise and that may causes him farness from Allah. The aspirant who fears this danger is always striving to avoid it, and in his effort he is confronted with perils, that is to say, veil from Allah and fear of blame from creature. Accordingly, one who is blamed must, in the first instance, takes care to have no quarrel with the people for what they say of him and then for the sake of his own salvation he must commit some act which, legally, neither a great sin nor a trivial offence, in order that the people may reject him. Hence his fear in matters of conduct is like the fear of the Qadarites, and his hope in dealing with those who blame him is like the hope of the Murjites. There is no love surpasses the love of Blame, because blame of the Beloved makes no impression on the lover’s heart. He heeds not what the strangers say, for his heart is ever faithful to the beloved.
How highly someone has spoken:
اجد ملامته في هواك لذيذةَ لان الملامته روضته العاشقين ونزهته المحبين وراحته المشتاقين وسرورالمريدين
“O lover, in your love I have not seen anything more delicious than malamat (blame), because it is the garden of lovers, aroma of beloved, delight of the aspirants and merriment of the seekers heart.”
This is the only sect of lovers distinguished above all creatures in the universe by choosing to be blamed in the body on account of the cleansing of their souls. No other creation such like angels, Genii and the saints have attained this high degree, nor has it been reached by the ascetics, devotees, and seekers of Allah of the olden age, but it is reserved for those of this Ummah (Muslim Nation) who journey on the path of entire severance from the things of the world.
But to me blame is ostentation, and ostentation is hypocrisy because the effort of a pretender is always that to gain popularity and malamati (who is blamed) tries for people’s rejection. Both have their thoughts fixed on mankind and do not see beyond that. The dervish, on the contrary, never even thinks of mankind, and when his heart has no desire for them, their presence as well as their absence is meaningless for him and he feels no restrictions of anything on him.
I once asked from a malamati (who is blamed) of Transoxania with whom I had long association that what was his object in those perverse actions? His reply was that to make the people non-existent in regard to himself. I said to him that people were many, and during your life time you would not be able to make them non-existent in regard to yourself rather in this struggle you would make yourself non-existent in regard to the people, therefore, the best option for you would be not to give them any importance and make your thoughts free of them, so that you may be saved from all this trouble.
And the reality is also this that those who are occupied with the people imagine that the people are occupied with them. So, if you do not see yourself, no one will see you. This whole trouble is self created, as you have no business with others? If a sick whose remedy lies in abstinence seeks to indulge his appetite, he is fool. Some practice the method of Blame from an ascetic motive. They wish to be despised by the people in order to achieve higher degree of spirituality, therefore, they feel delighted by making their soul wretched and abased.
Ibrahim b, Adham was asked about that when he had attained his goal. He answered, twice his heart achieved its desire. Once I was aboard a ship, clad in common clothes and my hair was long and my appearance was such that all the people in the ship mocked and laughed at me. Among them was a clown also, who on his frequent appearance to me, teased me a lot through pulling my hair and such other mockeries towards me. At that time I felt entirely satisfied, and I rejoiced in my garb. My joy touched its highest pitch when one day the clown rose from his place and urinated on me.
On another occasion, during winter night I was traveling in heavy rain due to which my muraqqa (patched frock) was soaked with rain water and I was shivering with cold. Under such condition I approached a mosque to avail shelter there but was refused admittance. The same thing happened at two other mosques where I tried to seek shelter. In despair, as the cold had overpowered me, I ran towards a bathhouse and threw myself near the stove. The smoke enveloped me and blackened my face and clothes. On that occasion also I felt entirely satisfied.
Once I found myself in a difficulty. I tried to solve it but all my efforts went in vain. I spent three months at the tomb of Abu Yazid as a devotee of the tomb. There, I daily used to take three baths and thirty ablutions in the hope that I might get the solution of my difficulty but failed to achieve any desire. Then I left that place for Khurasan. On my way, one night I arrived at a village where there was a monastery inhabited by a number of aspirants to Sufism. Although I was clad in Muraqqa but had nothing with me of the Sufi’s regular equipment except a staff and a leathern water carrier. I appeared very contemptible in the eyes of those Sufis, as I had no previous acquaintance with them. They regarded only my external habit and pointed out to one another, that I was not one of them, and so was the truth. I was not one of them, but I had to pass the night at that place. They asked me to stay on a floor, while they themselves went up to a roof above that. They gave me dry bread which had turned green, while I could smell the savor of the delicious food with which they were entertaining themselves. All the time they were mocking at me. After the food, when they were enjoying with sweet melon, they began to throw skins of the melons on me, posing how low they though of me. I said in my heart:
“O Lord, it might not have happened with me, if I was not clad in dress of Thy friends.”
And the more they scoffed at me the gladder became my heart. Through endurance of this insult, my problem got solved and I perceived why the Sheikhs have always given fools leave to remain associated with them and for what reason they submit to their follies.