The Uncovering of the Fourth Veil
Purification from Foulness
After faith, the first thing incumbent on Muslims is purification, so they be able to say their prayers. The purification is to cleanse the body from filth and pollution, and to wash the three members (face, hands, and feet), and to wipe the head with water as the Shariat prescribes or to perform dry ablutions with dust in the absence of water or severe illness. The laws on purification are known to everyone.
Purification is of two kinds, outward purification and inward purification. As prayer is not just without purification of the body, similarly gnosis also is not right without the purification of the heart. The water for body purification must be clean, unpolluted, free of impurity, and unused. For inward purification, the Tawhid (unification) must be pure and belief undefiled. The Sufis are always connected in purification outwardly and in unification inwardly. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“Be constant in ablution, that two guardian angels may remain friendly with thee,”
And Allah has said:
إِنَّ اللّهَ يُحِبُّ التَّوَّابِينَ وَيُحِبُّ الْمُتَطَهِّرِينَ
“For Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.” (Q 2:222).
The one who keeps his body clean, the angels keep him as friend and who keeps his heart prosperous with unification, Allah make him His friend. The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to call in his invocations,
اللهم طهر قلبي من النفاق
“O Allah, keep my heart pure from hypocrisy.”
Although hypocrisy never touched the heart of the Prophet (peace be upon him), he regarded the honor and respect bestowed on him as an affirmation of other than Allah, and in unification it is hypocrisy to affirm other than Allah.
Although each aspect of the karamat (miracles) of Sheikhs are eye opener and perfect guide for the disciples but ultimately at the maqam (station) of excellence the same becomes a veil between the seeker and the Benefactor of the honor and karamat, may the attention be towards self or other, hence Abu Yazid said:
نفاق العارفين افضل من اخلاص المريدين
“The hypocrisy of Gnostic is better than the sincerity of disciples,” for which is a maqam (station) to the novice is a veil to adept. The novice desires and struggles to gain karamat (miracles), but the attention of the adepts is fixed on the Giver of karamat. In fact, the affirmation of karamat, or of anything that involves the thought of other than Allah, appears hypocrisy to the people of the Truth, for karamat involves embracing others.
Accordingly, where the friends of Allah because of the proximity of maqam (station) are in difficulty and danger, that is a maqam (station) of deliverance for all sinners, and where sinners are in difficulty and danger, there the infidels are fearless of their infidelity. Because, if infidels knew as sinners know, that their sins are displeasing to Allah, they would all be delivered from infidelity. Similarly if sinners knew, as the friends of Allah know, that all their actions are defective, they would all be saved from sins and purged of contamination. Therefore, outward and inward purification must go together.
- When a man washes his hands he must wash his heart also from the love of worldliness,
- when performs cleansing after urination or natural evacuation he must purify his heart from love of others,
- when he puts water in his mouth he must purify his mouth from the remembrance of others (than Allah),
- when he washes his nose he must make promise not to smell the lust in future,
- when he washes his face he must turn away from all familiar objects and turn towards Allah,
- when he washes his arms he must forego all his authority,
- when he wipes his head he must resign his affairs to Allah, and
- when he washes his feet he must not form the intention of taking his stand on anything except according to the commands of Allah.
Thus he will be purified both inwardly as well outwardly, for all the outward acts are combined with inward, as to mention of faith through tongue is an outward action and its confirmation through heart is an inward action. The validity of intention depends on heart and obedience and devotion is the work of the body.
The method of spiritual purification is to deliberate and mediate on the evils of this world and to perceive that it is false and transitory and except through self-mortification the heart does not get independent of it. The most important act of mortification is to observe the external rules of discipline diligently in all circumstances. Ibrahim Khawwas said:
“I pray Allah to give me everlasting life in this world, in order that, while mankind after getting free from the pain of the worldly devotion and obedience is engrossed in the pleasures of the Paradise and forgotten the devotion of Allah, I may observe the rules of religion amidst the affliction of the world and remember Allah.”
It is related that Abu Tahir Harmi lived forty years in Mecca, and he never attended to natural call in the vicinity of the sacred place and always went outside of the sacred territory whenever he had to release himself. He used to say that he would not pour the water which he had used to cleanse himself on ground that Allah had called His.
When Ibrahim Khawwas was ill of dysentery in the principal mosque at Rayy, he had to perform sixty ablutions in the course of a day and night, and ultimately died in the water.
Once, Abu Ali Rudbari got afflicted with devilish thoughts about purification. One day he went to the river at dawn time and remained in the water till sun rose. During that interval his mind kept on troubling him until he cried out: “O Allah! Grant me peace.” He heard a voice from Unseen saying: “Peace consist in knowledge.”
Sheikh Sufyan during his disease which led him to death, for the performance of one prayer he purified himself for sixty times and said: “I shall at least be clean when I leave this world.”
One day Shibli purified himself with the intention of entering the mosque, he heard a Heavenly voice saying:
“You have washed your outward self, but how about your inward purity?”
He turned back and gave all his possession in charity and spent the next whole year in no more clothes than were necessary for prayer. In the same condition he came to Junaid, who said to him:
“O Abu Bakr, that was a very excellent purification which you have performed, may Allah always keep you purified!” so, after that, Shibli was never without purification.
When he was dying and could no longer purify himself, he made a sign to one of his disciples that he should purity him. The disciple did so, but forgot to let the water flow through his beard. Shibli was unable to speak. He seized the disciple’s hand and pointed it to his beard, whereupon the rite was duly performed.
Shibli also said that whenever he neglected any rule of purification, always some vain conceit arose in his heart.
Abu Yazid said:
“Whenever a thought of this world occurs to my mind, I perform purification; and whenever a thought of the next world occurs to me, I perform a complete ablution,” This world is temporary and place of filth, therefore, its thoughts are also filthy, whereas the next world is the place of absence and repose, and the result of thinking of it is like pollution, hence impurity involves purification and pollution involves total ablution.
One day Shibli purified himself. When he reached to the door of the mosque a voice whispered in his heart:
“Is it your purification that you have entered to My house with such boldness?” Shibli turned back, but the voice asked:
“Do you turn back from My door? Whither will you go?” Shibli was unable to bear it and he uttered a loud cry. The voice said:
“Do you protest before Me?” Hearing this, Shibli stood still and the voice came:
“Do you pretend to endure My affliction?” Shibli exclaimed:
“O Allah, I implore Thee to help me before Thyself.”
The Sufi Sheikhs have discussed the true meaning of purification in quiet length, and have commanded their disciples not to cease from purifying themselves both outwardly and inwardly. Since they are the travelers of the way to the Court of the Truth, therefore, they have a principle that he who outwardly desire to worship must purity himself outwardly with water, and he who desires to be in proximity of the Truth must purify himself inwardly. The outward purity takes place through water and inward purity is attained with repentance. Now I will explain the principles of repentance and its corollaries.