Revelation of Mystery (Kashf al Mahjub)

Different Grades of Sufis in the reality of Audition

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Chapter XXV (g)

Different Grades of Sufis in the reality of Audition


Each Sufi has a particular state and degree in audition and the feelings which he has therein are in proportion to his state and degree. Thus, whatever is heard by:

-          a penitent would increase his desire of contrition and regret,

-          a longing lover increases his longing for vision,

-          those who have certain faith confirms their certainty,

-          novices verifies their elucidation (matters which perplex them),

-          lovers impels them to cut off all worldly connections,

-          the spiritually poor forms a foundation for hopelessness.

Actually audition is like the sun, which shines on everything but each gets its affect according to its degree and capacity. Some burns with its heat, some are illuminated; it nurtures something and dissolves something. All those discussed above can be divided into three categories, i.e., beginners, middlemen and adepts. I will now assert a section treating of the state of each of these three categories in regard to audition, that you may understand this matter more easily.


Beware audition is such an influence proceeding from the Truth which cleanse the human body from buffooneries and past time amusements. The novice is never in a perfect state to receive divine influence. The nature struggles and feels overwhelmed in grief by the descent of that spiritual reality. During the audition some loose their senses, even some die, and there is hardly anyone whose temperament keeps its equilibrium. It is well known that in one of the hospitals of Rome they invented a wonderful thing which they call ancalyun. It is a stringed musical instrument and the sick are brought to it for two days in a week and are made to listen it for a length of time proportionate to the problem from which they suffer.  If it is desired to kill anyone, he is kept there for a longer period, until he dies, although the time of death is predestined, but its circumstances do take place. Physicians and others may listen continually to the instrument without being affected in any way, because it is agreeable with their temperament but it does not suit to the temperament of newcomers.

In India I have seen a worm which takes birth in a deadly poison and lived by it, because that poison is its whole being. In a town of Turkistan, on the frontiers of Islam, I saw a burning mountain, from the rocks of which fumes of ammonium chloride were boiling forth and in the midst of that was a mouse, which died when it came out of the glowing heat.

My object in citing these examples is to show that all the agitation of beginners when the Divine influence descends upon them is due to the fact that their nature feels it an alien thing but when it becomes continual the beginner’s nature accepts it and his anxiety changes into peace. When Gabriel (may blessings of Allah be on him) first time came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) he could not bear his vision as he was an alien to him, but in the end he used to be distressed if Gabriel (may blessings of Allah be on him) ever failed to come, even for a brief gap. There are many such arguments and what I have related above show that beginners get agitated and that adepts remain tranquil in audition.

One of Junaid’s disciples used to get greatly agitated in audition, and would cause distraction to other dervishes. They complained to Junaid and he told the disciple that he would not remain associated with him if he displayed such agitation in future. Abu Muhammad Jurairi says that he saw that dervish during audition that he had kept his lips shut and was silent until every pore in his body opened. Then he lost his consciousness and remained in that state for a whole day. Jurairi said that he did not know whether his audition or his reverence for his spiritual director was more perfect.

It is related that a man cried out during audition. His Sheikh bade him to remain quite. He laid his head on his knee, and after some time he was dead.

Sheikh Abu Muslim Faris b. Ghalib al-Farisi said that one dervish during audition used to display extreme agitation and anxiety. One day during an audition when the dervish was passing through state of agitation, some one put his hand over him and asked him to sit down. He sat down and died at the spot.

Junaid said that he saw a dervish who gave away his life during the audition.

Abu al-Hussein Darraj and Muhammad b. Kab al-Qurzi were walking on the bank of the Tigris between Basra and Ubulla. When they came to a pavilion of a palace, they saw a noble man seated on the roof and beside him a girl was singing this verse:-

في سبيل الله ود    كان مني لك يبذل

كل  يوم  تتلون     غير هذابك اجمل

“My love was bestowed on thee for the sake of Allah;

How pleasing was thou changing countenance every day.”

A young man clad in patched frock with a water leather bag in his hands was standing beneath the pavilion. He exclaimed from there and said, “O damsel, for God’s sake chant that verse again, for I have only a moment to live, let me hear it and die!” The girl repeated the poetry, whereupon the youth uttered a cry and gave up his soul. The owner of the girl freed her. He came down from the roof and committed himself with preparations for the young man’s funeral. When he was buried all the people of Basra said prayers over him. Then the girl’s master rose and said:

“O people of Basra, I, have devoted all my wealth to pious works and have set free my slaves.” With these words he departed, and so no one ever learned what became of him.

The moral of this tale is that the novice should be transported by audition to such spirituality that his audition shall deliver the wicked from their wickedness. But in the prevailing age some persons attend meetings where the wicked listen to music, yet they claim to have listening for the sake of Allah.  The wicked join with them in this audition and are encouraged in their wickedness, so that they destroy themselves and also put others in the same condition.

Some one asked Junaid that might they go to the church for the purpose of admonishing themselves and beholding the indignity of their unbelief and giving thanks for the gift of Islam. He replied, “If you possess sufficient spiritual force to lead some Christian in the way of the Truth, then go, but not otherwise.”

When a true worshipper goes into a tavern, the tavern becomes his worship cell, and when a haunter of taverns goes into a worship cell, that cell becomes his tavern.

An eminent Sheikh relates that when he was walking in Baghdad with a dervish, he heard a singer chanting:-

مني ان تكن حقًا لكن احسني المني     والا فقد عثنا بها زمنا رغدا

“If it be true, it the best of all objects of desire, And if not, we have lived a long life in it.”

Hearing this, the dervish uttered a cry and died.

Abu Ali Rudbari said that he saw a dervish absorbed attentively in the melody of a singer. He too inclined his ear, for he wished to know what he was chanting. The words, which he sang in mournful accents, were:

امدُ كفي بالخضوع     الي الذي جاد بالصنيع

“I humbly stretch my hand to him who acts liberally towards me.”

Then the dervish uttered a loud cry and fell. When I went near him I found him dead.

Some one narrated that once he was walking on a mountain road with Ibrahim Khawwas, a sudden thrill of emotion seized his heart, and he chanted:

صح عند الناس اني عاشق    غيراني لم يعلمواعشقي لمن

ليس في الانسان شي حسن    الا واحسن منه صوت حسن

“All are sure that I am in love, but they know not whom I love,

In man nothing surpasses beauty than a beautiful voice.”

Ibrahim asked him to repeat the verses, and he did so. In sympathetic ecstasy he danced a few steps on the stony ground and he observed that his feet sank into the rock as though it were wax. Then he fell in a swoon. On coming to himself he said to him that he had been in the garden of Paradise, and you did not observe.

I once in Azerbaijan saw a dervish walking in meditation among the mountains and chanting these verses, with tears and moans:-

الا  دانت  مني  قلبي   و   وسواس                                                           والله ما طلعت شمس ولا  غربت

الا   و  ذكرك    مقرون     بانفاس                                                         ولا تنفست  محزونا  ولا    فرحًا

الا  و انت   حديثي   بين     جلاس                                                         ولا  جلست  الي    قوم    احدثهم

الا رايت خيالا  منك   في     الكاس                                                        ولاهممت بشرب الماء من عطش

مجيًا علي الوجه ومشي اعلي الراس                                                    فل و قدرت  علي الاتبان زر لكم

“By God, sun never rose and set

But you were my heart’s desire and my dream,

And I never mentioned you in joy or sorrow

But love for you was mingled with my breath.

And I never sat conversing with people

But you were the subject of my talk in the midst of comrades.

And I never resolved to drink water, when I was athirst,

But I saw an image of thee in the cup.

And were I able to come I would have visited you,

Crawling on my face or walking on my head.”

After uttering these verses he changed countenance and leaning his back against a cliff sat down for a while, and gave up his soul.


Some of the Sufi Sheikhs have objected to the hearing of odes and poems and to the recitation of the Quran in such a way that its words are intoned with undue emphasis. They have warned their disciples against these practices and have themselves avoided them and have displayed the utmost zeal in this matter. There are many groups of such objectors and each has a different reason to support their arguments. Some have found traditions declaring the practices in question to be unlawful and have followed the pious Muslims of old time in condemning these. They cite for example, the Prophet’s rebuked Shirin, the handmaid of Hasan b. Thabit (may Allah be pleased with him), whom he forbade to sing. Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) flogged one of the companions who used to hear music. Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) found fault with Muawiya (may Allah be pleased with him) for keeping singing girls, and he did not allow his son Hasan (may Allah be pleased with him) to look at the Abyssinian woman who used to sing and he called her the Devil’s mate. They say that their main argument for objecting the music is the fact that the Ummah (Muslim community), both now and in the past, are generally agreed in regarding it with disapproval. Some pronounce it absolutely unlawful, quoting Abu–Harith Bunani, who relates as follows:

I was very persevering in audition. One night a person came to my cell and told that a number of seekers of the Truth had assembled and desired to meet me. I went out with him and soon arrived at the place. They received me with extraordinary mark of honor. An old man around whom they had formed a circle, asked my permission to recite some poetry. I assented, and one of them began to chant verses which the poets had composed on the subject of separation (from the beloved). They all rose in sympathetic ecstasy, uttered cries and made exquisite gestures, while I remained lost in amazement at their behavior. They continued in that enthusiasm until near daybreak, and then the old man asked me that was I not curious to know who were he and his companions. I answered that the reverence which I felt towards him prevented me from asking that question. He said:

“I was once Azazil and now Iblis and all the rest are my children. I derive two benefits from such concerts: firstly, I bewail my own separation (from Allah) and remember the days of my prosperity, and secondly, I held holy men astray and cast them into error.”

From that time I have never had the least desire of audition.

I have heard Imam Abu Abbas Ashqani that one day, being in an assembly where audition was going on, he saw naked demons dancing among the members of the party and breathing upon them, so that their emotions were further engulfed.

Some others neither heard audition nor attended such gatherings on the ground that, if they indulge in it, their disciples would conform with them and thereby run a grave risk of falling into mischief and of returning from penitence to sin and of having their passions violently roused and their virtue corrupted.

Jurrairi at the time of his repentance was advised by Junaid:

“If you wish to keep your religion safe and to maintain your penitence, do not indulge, while you are young, in the audition which the Sufis practice. When you grow old, do not let yourself be the cause of guilt in others.”

Some say that there are two categories of audiences, those who are playful and those who are divine. The former are in the very centre of mischief and do not shrink from it, while the latter keep themselves remote from mischief by means of self-mortification and austerities and spiritual renunciation of all created things. We belong to neither former category nor we are among the latter category. It is better for us to abstain from audition and to occupy ourselves with something that is suitable to our state.

Others say that since audition is dangerous to the common people and their belief is disturbed by our taking part in it, therefore, it is incumbent on us to extend our sympathies to common people and give sincere advice to the elect and unselfishly decline to indulge in audition. This is a laudable course of action.

Some others say that the Prophet (peace be upon him) has said:

من حسن اسلام المرء ترك مالا يعينه

“The excellence of one’s belief of Islam is not to indulge in irrelevant things.” Accordingly, we renounce audition as being unnecessary, for it is a waste of time to busy one's self with irrelevant things, and time is precious between lovers and the Beloved.

Others of the elect argue that audition is hearsay and its pleasure consists in gratification of a desire, and this is mere child’s play. What value has hearsay when one is face to face? The act of real worth is contemplation (of Allah).

Such, in brief, are the principles of audition.


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Zahid Javed Rana, Abid Javed Rana, Lahore, Pakistan

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