Revelation of Mystery (Kashf al Mahjub)

Maqam مقام (station) and Hal حال (state)

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Chapter XIV (c)

Maqam  مقام (station) and Hal حال  (state)


You must know that maqam مقام (station) and hal حال (state) are in common use both among Sufis and theologians, and it is necessary that the seekers of Truth should know their exact definitions. Although it will not be possible to provide proofs and elaborate their definitions in this section, however endeavor is there to discuss the needed details.

Maqam مُقام (station)“ denotes one’s stay in the Way of Allah, and his fulfillment of all rights and  obligations pertaining to that "maqam“ and his keeping it until he comprehends its perfection. It is beyond man’s power to pass through a maqam without meeting its due obligations. There are following stations:

-          the first station is repentance, (tawba توبه)

-          the second station is conversion to Allah (inabat انابت),

-          the third station is abstinence (zuhd زهد), and

-          the fourth station is trust in Allah (tawakul توكل).

It is not permissible that one should pretend to conversion without repentance, or to abstinence without conversion, or to trust in Allah without abstinence.

وَمَا مِنَّا إِلَّا لَهُ مَقَامٌ مَّعْلُومٌ

(Those ranged in ranks say): “Not one of us but has a place appointed;” (Q 37:164).

"Hal حال (state)" is that state which descends from Allah into a man’s heart. It is not attainable by efforts neither it can be repelled with efforts when it happens.

The term maqam (station) denotes, the way of the seeker of the Truth, progress in his diligence and efforts and acquisitioning of rank in the Court of Lord on the merit of one’s excellence and efforts. The term hal (state) denotes that favor and grace of Allah which descends on man’s heart without any mortification on his part. 

Therefore, maqam (station) belongs to the category of acts and hal (state) is favor and grace of Lord. Maqam (station) is acquired through efforts whereas hal (state) is gifted. Hence the man of maqam (station) stands by his own self-mortification, whereas the man of hal (state) is dead to self and stands by a "state" which Allah creates for him.

Here the Sheikhs are at variance. Some hold that a state may be permanent, while other rejects this view. Harith Muhasibi maintained that state may be permanent. He argues that love and longing, and contraction and expansion are all states and if the states lack permanency then the lover would not be a lover and desirer would not be a desirer. And until a man’s state becomes his attribute the name of that state is not properly applied to him. It is for this reason that he holds rida (satisfaction) to be one of the states, and the same view is indicated by the saying of Abu Uthman,

منذ اربعين سنة ما اقامني الله علي حال فكر هته

for the last forty years I am satisfied in whatever state Allah kept me.” 


The other group denies that a state can be permanent. Junaid says:

الاحوال كا لبروق فان بقيت فحديث النفس

“States are like flashes of lightning: their permanence is merely a suggestion of the lower soul.”

Another group has said:

الاحوال كاسمها يعني انهاكما تحل بالقلب تزول

“States are like their name, as soon as they reveal on the heart they perish,”

and whatever remains behind is the attribute and the attribute subsists in an object which must be more perfect than the attribute itself. This is absurd. I have set forth the distinction between hal (state) and maqam (station) in order that wherever they occur in the phraseology of the Sufis or in the present work you may know what is signified by these terms.

This leads to know that satisfaction is the end of maqamat (stations) and the beginning of the ahwal احوال (states). It is such a stage whose one side rests on acquisition and effort, and the other side on love and longing. There is no maqam (station) above it and at this point mortification ceases. Its beginning is through efforts and mortification and its end in on Divine’s gift and blessing. It is likelihood that one who in the beginning keeps an eye on his rida (satisfaction) may consider it a maqam (station) and one who at the end see his Rida (satisfaction) through the Truth gives it the name of hal (state). This is the basis of the doctrine of Muhasibi as regards to the theory of Sufism.

As regards to practice, however, he made no difference, except that he used to warn his disciples against expressions and acts which might lead to error, though the expressions and devotions be very sound.

Once Abu Hamza Baghdadi one of his disciples and an ecstatic man, came to see him. Muhasibi had a cock with him who was habitual of uttering loud notes of and on. One day the crowing of the bird was loud and Abu Hamza gave a shriek. Harith rose up with a knife in his hand and cried on Hamza that he had committed an infidelity. He made an attempt to kill him but his disciples intervened and got saved the life of Hamza. Then he said to Abu Hamza, “Become a Muslim, O miscreant!”

The disciples exclaimed: “O Sheikh, we all know him to be one of the elect saints and Unitarians: why does the Sheikh regard him with suspicion?”

Harith replied: “I also do not suspect him. His heart is adorned with the vision of the Truth and he is a profound Unitarian, but why should he do something which resembles the actions of those who believe in incarnation or his action has the appearance similar to their? The bird is a senseless creature who by nature or habit crow randomly, why should he behave as though its note was the voice of the Truth? The Truth is indivisible, lovers have no rest without supplication to Him and He does not become incarnate, or united with phenomena or commingled with them.”

When Abu Hamza perceived the Sheikh’s insight, he said: “O Sheikh, although I am right in theory, yet, since my action resembled the action of heretics, I repent and withdraw.”

There are so many similar anecdotes referred to him but we have chosen the concise path. His method is laudable, safe for the way of Truth and accomplished for attaining the degree of sahw صحو (sobriety).The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

من كان يومن بالله و اليوم الاخر فلا يقض مواقع التهم

“Amongst you who have belief in Allah and Resurrection should refrain himself from imputation”

And I all the time pray to Allah that He may keep my conduct above suspicion! But this is impossible when one associates with worldly formalists whose enmity is aroused by anyone who does not submit to their hypocrisy and sin.



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Zahid Javed Rana, Abid Javed Rana, Lahore, Pakistan

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