The Uncovering of the Ninth Veil
Companionship, its Rules and Principles
Allah has said:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا قُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ وَأَهْلِيكُمْ نَارًا
“O ye who believe! Save yourself and your families from a fire,” (Q 66:6),
i.e. teach them the manners.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
حسن الادب من الايمان
“Good manners are a part of faith.”
And he also said:
ادَّبني ربي فا حسن تاديبي
“My Lord taught me manners and gave me an excellent teaching.”
You must know that the beauty and elegance of all religious and temporal affairs depend on decorum. There are rules for every occasion and for everyone. All, whether they are Muslims or infidels, atheist or Unitarians, heretics or Sunnis all agree that observance of virtue in dealings is appreciable and nothing can be achieved in this world without good manners. Among people good manners consist in the observance of virtue, and in religion good manners consists in the observance of the Sunnah and as regards to love they consist in the observance of reverence. All these are connected with each other, because one who is without virtue does not comply with the Sunnah, and whoever fails to comply with the Sunnah does not observe due reverence. In matters of conduct the observance of discipline is the result of reverence for the object of desire. The reverence for Allah and His signs springs from piety. Anyone who disrespectfully treads the reverence which is due of the evidences of Allah gains nothing in the Path of Sufism. The seeker of the Truth under all circumstances of intoxication and rapture is bound to observe the discipline, for they are habituated to such rules, and habit is second nature and it is impossible that a living creature should be divested of its natural humors. Therefore, so long as the human body of the seeker remains in existence he with or without efforts observe the rules of obedience. In the state of sobriety he observes the rules of obedience with efforts but when he is in the state of intoxication Allah keeps them in discipline. A saint under no circumstances neglect manners, for love is the product of manners and good manners are the sign of love. When Allah vouchsafes a karamat (miracle) to anyone, as a proof He causes him to watch over the code of conduct of religion. This is contrary to the view of heretics, who assert that when a man is overpowered by love he is no longer subject to obedience. I shall set forth this matter more clearly elsewhere.
The rules of discipline have three aspects.
The first type is of observance of discipline in Tawhid (unification) that one must guard one's self in public and private from any disrespectful act, and behave as though one were in the presence of a king. It is related in the genuine Hadith (Tradition) that one day the Prophet (peace be upon him) was sitting with his legs extended. Gabriel (may blessings of Allah be on him) came and said, “O Muhammad, sit like a slave in the Court of thy Lord.”
It is told that Harith Muhasibi for forty years never leaned his back against a wall, and always sat on his knees. On being asked why he gave himself so much trouble he replied, “I feel ashamed to sit otherwise than as a slave while I am contemplating Allah.”
At Kumand, a village at the extremity of Khurasan I saw Adib Kumandi, a reputable man. For twenty years he had never sat down except while in tashahhud (reciting invocation) during his prayers. When I inquired the reason of this, he answered that he had not yet attained such a degree that he should sit while contemplating the Truth.
Abu Yazid was asked that by what means he had gained so high spiritual rank. He answered, “By keeping good manners of companionship with Allah, I always remained respectfully and behaved alike both in private as well in public.”
People must learn from Zulaikha how to observe and preserve good manners in contemplating the object of their adoration, for when she was alone with Yusaf (may blessings of Allah be on him) and besought him to consent to her wishes, she first covered the face of her idol. When Yusaf inquired from her about that act she replied that it was in order that it might not witness her in profanity. This is against the manners. And when Yusaf met Jacob and Allah blessed them with union, He also bestowed on Zulaikha her youth and wealth of Islam, and she was honored of being the wife of Yusaf. When Yusaf tried to have matrimonial affections with her, she ran away. Yusaf said to her, “I am your same beloved, why are you running away from me. Have you been relieved of my love?” Zulaikha replied, “No, it’s not like that, I love you more now but I always kept the honor of my Deity. First time my deity was an idol which was unable to see. Since it had two eyes, though lifeless, I had covered him to safeguard against any accusation of disrespect. But now my God is He Who without any aid can see. In whatever condition am I, He is seeing me, and I do not want to leave good manners.
And when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was blessed with ascension, his observance of discipline restrained him from paying any regard either to this or to the next world. In the words of Quran,
مَا زَاغَ الْبَصَرُ وَمَا طَغَى
(His) sight never swerved, nor did it go wrong! (Q 53:17).
The second kind of discipline is that which is observed towards one's self in one's conduct, and which consists in avoiding, when one is in isolation and alone, any act that would be improper in the company of one's fellow creatures or of Allah, e.g., one must not utter untruth by declaring one's self to be what one is not, and one must eat little in order that one may seldom go to the lavatory, and one must not look at anything which is not decent for others to see. It is related that Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) never beheld his own nakedness, because he was ashamed to see in himself what he was forbidden to see in others.
The third kind of discipline is observed in social intercourse with the fellow-creatures. The most important rule for such intercourse is to act well, and to observe the custom of the Prophet (peace be upon him) at home and out.
These three sorts of disciplines cannot be separated from one another. Now I will set them forth in detail as far as possible, in order that you and all my readers may follow them more easily.