Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim and Sufism – Part One

Translated by Ismaeel Nakhuda

Translator’s foreword: Below is the first part of the second chapter of the incomplete yet ongoing translation of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hafiz’s Mawqif A’immat al-Harakat al-Salafiyyah min al-Tasawwuf wa al-Sufiyyah. In this chapter, the author, a student and khalifah of Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya al-Kandhalawi, produces several excerpts from the writings of Imam Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim that show the positive manner by which the shaykh regarded Sufism and the Sufis. The text is also preluded with three biographies — two of Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim and one of Shaykh al-Islam Abu Isma‘il al-Hirawi.

Imam Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim is known for his depth in the matters and intricacies of Tasawwuf, his great book Madarij al-Salikin bears testimony to this. I shall, insha Allah, soon quote some important sections of his precious words in relation to some beneficial and well-researched discussions pertaining to a collection of matters relating to Tasawwuf.

Prior to this, I wish to quote two short biographies of Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim — the first by Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali and the second by Professor Muhammad Musallam al-Ghunaymi, author of the book Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah[1] — to convey his personage as understood by the people of both the earlier and latter times in relation to Sufism.

1: Imam Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali writes in Al-Dhaylala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (vol. 2, p.448):

Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr ibn Ayyub ibn Sa‘d ibn Jurayz al-Zara‘i, then al-Dimashqi, the jurist, the theoretician (usuli), the exegete (mufassir), the grammarian (nahwi), the ‘arif, Shams al-Din (the Light of the Faith) Abu ‘Abdullah ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, our shaykh, was born in 691AH…

He mastered the madhhab,[2] became distinguished and delivered fatwas. He stayed in the company of Shaykh Taqi al-Din and acquired knowledge from him. He gained in-depth knowledge in the sciences of Islam. He was an expert in tafsir, in which none could contend, and the principles (usul) of faith — two sciences in which he was at the pinnacle of knowledge; hadiths, their meanings and understanding them, and the art of deducing fine points from them, subjects in which he was not joined; fiqh and its principles; and Arabic, in which he was most proficient. Apart from this, he studied belief (kalam), grammar and other sciences.

He was a scholar of the knowledge of Suluk, and the speech of the people of Tasawwuf, their instructions and intricate matters. In each of these sciences he was a specialist…

He, may Allah mercy him, was a man of worship and someone who performed tahajjud. He would prolong prayers to the utmost limit. He was a man of Allah. He was constantly in the remembrance of Allah; fond of the love of, turning in repentance to, seeking forgiveness of and showing a want for Allah, expressing a broken heart to Him, and throwing himself in front of Him on the threshold of His worship. I have never seen his like in that respect.

I have never seen anyone more knowledgeable than him, and more acquainted with the meanings of the Qur’an, the Sunnah and the realities of faith than him. He was not infallible. However, I have never seen anyone of his like in the meaning of the word. He was tested and troubled many times. He was imprisoned with Shaykh Taqi al-Din on the last occasion in the citadel in isolation from him. He did not leave the shaykh until he died.

During his imprisonment, he remained occupied with the recitation of the Qur’an, which he used to do with meditation and contemplation. On account of this, great goodness opened to him and he experienced a great deal of spiritual bliss (dhawq) and authentic ecstatic states (wajd). As a result he became overcome with speaking about the knowledge of the people of ma‘rifah[3] and delving on their mysteries. His writings are full of this.

He performed the Hajj numerous times and took up residence in Makkah. The people of Makkah used to remember him for his intense level of worship and abundant tawaf, something that they would marvel at. I attended his gatherings before his death for over a year and, in his presence, listened to his lengthy ode, Al-Nuniyyah, and things from his books etc.

2: Professor Muhammad Musallam al-Ghunaymi writes in his book Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (p.136):

Ibn al-Qayyim was a favourite of his shaykh, Ibn Taymiyyah, who would treat him like a son; as a matter of fact he was his spiritual son. He used to see in him goodness and righteousness, and used to see him as a blessing from Allah sent to complete that which he used to call to: the correcting of thoughts; rectifying the faith, and freeing it from those things that are not from it and which the passing of centuries had attached to it; returning it to that understanding on which the predecessors of this ummah were on in terms of belief, jurisprudence and Tasawwuf; and liberating it from the noose of those who do taqlid, which they had made religion.

In a section regarding the writings of Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Ghunaymi writes (p.111):

1. He has compiled books on jurisprudence and the principles of jurisprudence … 2. In Tasawwuf: Madarij al-Salikin, the commentary of Manazil al-Sa’irin, ‘Iddat al-Sabirin wa Dhakirat al-Shakirin and Hadi al-Arwah ila Bilad al-Afrah. 3. In the science of theology and debate: Shifa ’l-‘Alil

Professor al-Ghunaymi also writes in the introduction to his book:

… It is impossible to write regarding this great imam, perhaps Allah will inspire the lovers of good and righteousness to write about him in relation to those fields in which he excelled: fiqh, hadith, tafsir, Tasawwuf and monotheism. This is very important. By this, his personality would become manifest in its fullest sense for he was a faqih, a hadith scholar, an exegete (mufassir), a Sufi (mutasawwif) and a proclaimer of monotheism of a fashion different to that which is known regarding the faqihs, exegetes and hadith scholars. It is now apparent that indeed Ibn al-Qayyim is one of the greatest of men, not just from among the noteworthy men of Islam. And it is Allah who gives accordance.

Before I begin quoting some of the words of Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim from his book Madarij al-Salikin, which is a commentary of the excellent book of Tasawwuf, Manazil al-Sa’irin, I would like to produce a biography of its author, the great Sufi Imam Abu Isma‘il al-Hirawi (may Allah sanctify his soul), from the book of the great Salafi imam Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali. The following makes clear that Imam al-Hirawi’s Sufism — rather his depth in this science — was not hidden from his contemporary shaykhs. In fact, to introduce his personality and avoid confusion with anyone else, the people of earlier times would rarely mention his name without the word “Sufi”.

3: Imam Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali writes in Al-Dhaylala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (vol. 1, p.50):

‘Abdullah ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn ‘Ali ibn Ja‘far ibn Mansur ibn Mut al-Ansari al-Hirawi, the faqih, the mufassir, the hafiz (of hadith), the Sufi, the orator (wa‘iz), Shaykh al-Islam Abu Isma‘il … he studied [hadith] in Tus[4] and Bistam[5] from a large number of people whose mention would be exhaustive. He stayed in the company of many shaykhs and learnt discipline from them. He gathered anecdotes and commentaries [on hadith] for himself and others from the narrators of hadith. He narrated hadithfor many years.

He authored many books, including Dhamm al-Kalam, Al-Faruq, Manaqib al-Imam Ahmad, Manazil al-Sa’irin, ‘Ilal al-Maqamat, a comprehensive book called Tafsir al-Qur’an in Persian, an excellent book called Majalis al-Tadhkir, which is also in Persian, and others.

He was a great leader and an imam who was a scholar, an ‘arif, a worshipper and an ascetic (zahid). He was a man of many spiritual states (hal), spiritual stations (maqamat), miracles and sacrifice. He would remain abundantly awake at night, and was steadfast in aiding and defending the Sunnah and refuting those who opposed it; he was afflicted by many difficulties on account of this. He would greatly defend and exalt the madhhab of Imam Ahmad…

Shaykh Imam Abu Isma‘il’s shaykhs, contemporaries, and other jurists, hadith scholars, Sufis and writers etc. praised him. The saying of Sa‘d al-Zanjani concerning him has been mentioned in the biography of ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Munda: “Indeed, Allah has protected Islam through him and through Ibn Munda.”

Al-Rahaway said: “I heard in Herat that when Shaykh al-Islam was exiled from Herat and reached Marw,[6] and was granted permission to return to Herat, he returned and had reached Marw al-Rudh[7] when Imam Abu Muhammad al-Hussayn ibn Mas‘ud al-Baghawi al-Farra, the author of many books, headed for him. When he reached him, he said to the Shaykh al-Islam: “Verily Allah has gathered for you many virtues; there was yet one virtue left, which he intended to complete for you and that is expulsion from one’s homeland in the way of the Prophet of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace)…”

Imam Abu al-Hussayn ‘Abd al-Ghafir ibn Isma‘il al-Farsi, the orator (khatib) of Nisapur, has also mentioned him in Tarikh Nisapur. He has mentioned his name and lineage. He writes: “Abu Isma‘il, the Imam and Shaykh al-Islam of Herat, was a man who was accepted in his age, and known in his time for virtue and [an ability to deliver] excellent speeches and orations. Not one of the imams of his respected field was seen even in a dream possessing that which was evidently seen in him in terms of abundant and overpowering bashfulness, unceasing beauty, ability to captivate the elite and common people in that region, ability to coordinate the affairs of [his] murids, followers and those who are devoted to him, ability to unite the madrasahs, friends, khanqahs[8] and the people of government, and many other qualities that are more well known and not in need of explanation.

“He was proficient in Arabic and the knowledge of hadith, lineage and history; he was a perfect imam in tafsir and in delivering orations. He was of excellent conduct and mode in Tasawwuf. He was a practitioner of Tasawwuf and would remain in the company of the Sufis.

“He was a bearer of the Sunnah; he would call towards it and encourage it. He would not preoccupy himself with earning means, estates, properties and being absorbed in the world. He would remain content with that amount that would please the murids and followers from his gathering once or twice a year. He would, at the head of a gathering, decide what he and his companions would need from one year to another…”

Shaykh al-Islam Abu al-‘Abbas Ibn Taymiyyah writes in his book, Al-Ajubah al-Misriyyah: “The Shaykh al-Islam is well-known and revered by the people. He was an imam in hadith, Tasawwuf and tafsir. In fiqh, he followed the school of the hadith scholars (Ahl al-Hadith); he would exalt al-Shafi‘i and Ahmad, and would combine between them in his answers in fiqh with that which agrees with the view of al-Shafi‘i at times and that which agrees with the view of Ahmad at times. The following of hadith according to the way of Ibn al-Mubarak and his like was predominant over him.”

He (Ibn Taymiyyah) added: “In his book, Al-Fusul fi al-Usul, Shaykh Abu al-Hasan al-Karkhi — the shaykh of the Shafi‘is in his country — wrote: ‘More than one of the students of Imam ‘Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Ansari told me that he recited to them this poem as a form of advice for the Ahl al-Sunnah:

When the one who is Ash‘ari in ‘aqidah and a human Satan diverges from the boundary of guidance, then let him be,

Shafi‘i in jurisprudence, Sunni in adornment, Hanbali in contract (meaning usul and ‘aqidah) and Sufi in conduct.

For the purpose of this treatise, I shall now begin — with the permission of Allah and His accordance — quoting from the writings of the great Salafi imam, Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him), as mentioned in his book Madarij al-Salikin, which is a commentary of the great book on Tasawwuf, Manazil al-Sa’irin by Shaykh al-Islam Abu Isma‘il al-Hirawi al-Sufi (may Allah sanctify his secret).

1: Ibn al-Qayyim writes in Madarij al-Salikin[9] (vol. 1, p.135):

The people of Suluk differ greatly in the number of spiritual stations (maqams) and their sequence. Each one describes the stations of his journey and the condition of his Suluk. They also differ in some of the stations (manazil) of the journey: are they a type of spiritual state (hals)? The difference between the two (maqams and hals) is that the spiritual stations are acquired (kasabi) and the spiritual states are divinely bestowed (wahabi).

Among them are those who say that the spiritual states are the results of the stations, and that the stations are the results of actions. So, whoever is the most righteous in action will be the loftiest in station, and whoever is the loftiest in station, he will have the greatest state.

Among those things in which they have differed with regards to satisfaction (rida) is whether it is a state or a station? In it there is a difference between the people of Khurasan and the people of Iraq. Some of the shaykhs have ruled between them and said: “If it were gained through acquisition (kasabi) then it will be a station, otherwise it is a state.”

What is correct in this matter is that inspirations (waridat) and stations have [different] names according to their condition. At their initial appearance and emergence they will be gleaming, shimmering and brilliant in the same way a glimmer of light sparkles and appears from a distance. So when inspirations come to him (the salik) and he associates with them, then they will be spiritual states, and when they take possession of him and become firm without moving on then they are stations.

They are gleaming and brilliant at the beginning, spiritual states in the middle and stations at the end. So, that which is shimmering is precisely a state and that which is a state is precisely a station. They are given these names according to their connection to the heart, their [mode of] appearance to him and their steadiness in remaining with him.

The salik at times may be stripped of his station in the same way he is stripped of his clothes and relegated to a level below. He may then at times return and at times not.

Among the stations are those that gather two stations, and among them are those that gather even more than that. Among them are those within which all of the stations are embodied. The one experiencing them is not in need of knowing their name save when all of the stations are gathered in him.

Hence, the station of repentance (tawbah) consists of the station of self-examination (muhasabah) and the station of fear (khawf); its (tawbah) existence cannot be contemplated without it (muhasabah). The station of trust (tawakkul) comprises the stations of entrusting (tafwid), seeking aid (isti‘anah) and contentment (rada); its existence cannot be perceived without them. The station of hope (raja) comprises the stations of fear and iradah[10]

The saliks, in relation to each of these stations, are of two types: the righteous (abrar) and the intimate (muqarribs). The righteous are at its (the station’s) lower end and the intimate are at its upper end — this is how all of the levels of faith are. Only Allah can enumerate the differences and superiority of grades of each of the two types.

Their categorisation into three — general (‘am), special (khas) and extremely special (khas khas) — only came into existence by making annihilation (fana) the end of the path; the people who exerted themselves in this know this and we shall soon mention this. The categories of annihilation are: praiseworthy and blameworthy, excellent and insignificant. Verily, the Community[11] (qawm) has indicated towards this, insha Allah, and their focus is on this.

However, regarding that category that has been mentioned, each of the classifiers of the stations will not be free from [mentioning things] arbitrarily and [making] claims that lack incongruity.

Indeed, when the slave holds tight to the covenant of Islam and enters it fully, then he has held tight to its exoteric and esoteric requirements, and reached spiritual stations and states. By completing each of the faith’s covenants and incumbent actions (wajibs), he will experience states and attain stations. He will only complete a covenant and incumbent act by experiencing states and attaining stations. Each time he completes a wajib he will face another wajib after it. Each time he crosses a station he will be faced by another.

At the beginning of his journey, lofty stations and states will appear to him; [at this time] the states of affection (muhabbah), contentment (rada), intimacy (unsiyyah) and tranquillity (tamaniyyah)which will not befall the salik at the end of his journey — will unveil to him. The salik, at the end of his journey, will be in greater need of things such as insight (basirah), repentance (tawbah) and self-examination (muhasabah), more than the beginner. There is no absolute and incumbent sequence for Suluk in this.

We have mentioned that indeed repentance (tawbah), which they have listed at the beginning of the stations, is the ‘arifs’ purpose and the walis of Allah’s finality. There is no doubt that their need for self-examination at the end is greater than at the beginning.

What is superior is the speech regarding these stations according to the way of those of the earlier times from among the imams of the Community; this is an absolute speech regarding each station by explaining its reality, effects and the spiritual dangers (afat) that hinder its acquisition and separates [one] from it, and its particulars.

The statements of the imams of the Path are of this manner. Those who have understood this — like Sahl ibn ‘Abdullah al-Tastari, Abu Talib al-Makki, Junayd ibn Muhammad, Abu ‘Uthman al-Nisaburi and Yahya ibn Mu‘adh al-Razi, and those who are loftier than those of this category such as Abu Sulayman al-Darani, ‘Awn ibn ‘Abdullah, who used to be known as the Physician of the Ummah (Hakim al-Ummah), and their like — speak regarding the actions of the heart and the spiritual states (hals) in a type of speech that is detailed, comprehensive, clear and general, without categorizing and enumerating the stations according to a fixed number.

They were greater than this, and their concerns were greater and nobler. They were only concerned with acquiring wisdom and ma‘rifah, cleansing hearts, purifying souls and correcting social conduct. On account of this, their speech was little and in it there were blessings (barakah) whereas the speech of those of the latter times is very lengthy and of little blessing.

However, there is a need to address the people of each age according to their terminologies, as they do not have the ability to buckle down to learn Suluk from the first predecessors and their statements and instructions. If their instructions and states were to appear to them they refuse to acknowledge them and deem them as a general-type of Suluk and [say] that the elite have another type of Suluk in the same way that the divergent theologians (mutakallims) and the ignorant among them say: “Indeed, the others were [on a] safer [path], but our path is more knowledgeable.” Likewise, those who attribute themselves to jurisprudence say regarding those whose worth they have not understood: “Indeed, they (those whose worth they have not understood) did not free themselves from deriving rules, and fixing principles and rulings that they may become occupied with something else, whereas the people of the latter times freed themselves from this and so they possessed greater knowledge in jurisprudence.”

All of these [types of people] are shrouded from understanding the worth of the predecessors, the depth of their knowledge, the lack of affectation in them and their perfect insight. I swear by Allah, the people of the latter times have only surpassed those of the earlier times in affectation and being occupied with peripherals; the concern of the Community was in observing the core of the peripherals, fixing their rules and strengthening their strong points. Their purpose was to attain lofty pursuits in everything. Hence, those of the latter times have a standing and the Community has a standing, and Allah has surely created everything according to a measure.

2: Ibn al-Qayyim writes in Madarij al-Salikin (vol. 2, p.307):

Section — Religion consists entirely of good character. Whoever supersedes you in good character then he has superseded you in religion. Likewise, this is with Tasawwuf. Al-Kattani said: “Tasawwuf is good character. Whoever supersedes you in good character then he has superseded you in Tasawwuf…”

It is said: “[Tasawwuf is] abandoning blameworthy traits (radhail) and adorning oneself with lofty attributes (fadail).” Good manners rest on four principles. Their inception can only be imagined through them: patience, chastity, bravery and justice… The origin and basis of all basely habits comprises four elements: ignorance, oppression, lustful desire and anger…

For indeed, the most difficult thing for human nature is the changing of those habits which the carnal selves (nafs) have become accustomed to. The people of difficult spiritual exercises (riyadat) and arduous mujahadat (striving with one’s soul) have only worked on that, and the majority of them have not been successful in changing them; however, the self (nafs) has been occupied, on account of the spiritual exercises, from allowing its authority to appear. When the authority of those [basely] habits appears and becomes prominent, then the spiritual exercises will be defeated and dispersed, and the authority of the nafs will dominate the domain of [the person’s] character…

Then, in a delicate discussion about which path is more beneficial to the salik — adorning oneself with virtue or stripping oneself from blameworthy traits — Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim writes:

One day, I asked Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah mercy him) regarding this issue — the stopping of spiritual dangers, and preoccupying oneself with cleansing and purifying the path. The summary of what he told me was that: “The soul is like a pit of dirt, each time you clear it, the dirt will reappear and come up. However, if you can cover it, and cross it and pass it, then do so and do not preoccupy yourself with cleaning it for you will not reach its bottom. Each time you remove something, more will appear.”

I said: I asked some shaykhs regarding this issue. They told me: “The example of the spiritual dangers of the soul is like snakes and scorpions in the traveller’s path. If he begins to look for them on the way and occupies himself with killing them, then he will be interrupted and he will never be able to travel. However, your goal should be travelling, avoiding them and not paying them attention. If any of them were to hinder your travelling, then kill it and continue your journey.” Shaykh al-Islam approved of that greatly and praised the person who said it…

He [Shaykh al-Islam al-Hirawi al-Sufi] said: “The words of those who speak regarding this science are united in saying that Tasawwuf is good character; all discussions on this subject revolve around one pivot — that is doing good and refraining from wrong.”

I say: there are some who have made it three: refraining from wrong, bearing difficulties and creating ease. Some have, as the shaykh has said, made it two: doing good and refraining from wrong. Some have made it one and that is doing good. All are correct.

He [Shaykh al-Islam al-Hirawi] said: “The possibility of attaining that (doing good and refraining from wrong) can only be achieved through three things: knowledge, generosity and patience.”

Knowledge guides one to those places where good can be done; it differentiates between good and reprehensible acts, and guides one to do good at its appropriate place. Hence, one will not be angry at the time of gentleness, nor vice versa. Nor will one be restrained at the time of spending, nor vice versa. Rather, one will know the places of good and evil, their statuses and the appropriate place for all character traits — in terms of where one should employ them and where their usage is better.

Generosity encourages one to forgo one’s rights and be concerned instead with the rights of others. Generosity is the commander of the armies of good.

Patience protects one in continuing that, and allows one to endure suffering, suppress anger, remove difficulties [from others], not seek revenge and remain on all of the good as mentioned above. It is the biggest aid in acquiring all that is desired from the goodness of this world and the hereafter. Allah Most High says: “Seek help in patience and prayer; and truly it is hard save for the humble-minded.” (2:45) These are three elements through which Tasawwuf can be attained.

Tasawwuf is one of the elements of real wayfaring (suluk), and the purification and rectification of the soul to prepare it for its journey to the companionship of the Al-Rafiq al-A‘la (The Greater Company) and the company of He Who you love. For indeed a man will be with whom he loves. It is as Simnun said, “The lovers have taken the glory of this world and the hereafter for indeed a man will be with he whom he loves. And Allah knows most.”

Section — He (Shaykh al-Islam al-Hirawi) says: “The third level is adorning one’s manners by purifying them, then rising beyond the ‘separation’ of adorning one’s manners and then adorning one’s self by passing all of the manners.

This level consists of three things. One of them is purifying the manners by completing what has been mentioned in the two levels before. So one should clear them from every speck of dirt, dust and confusion. When you have done so, then you will ascend from its separation (tafriqah) [from Allah] to associating (jam‘iyyah) yourself to Allah. Indeed, [the concept of] adorning one’s self with good manners and Tasawwuf involves rectifying and preparing for the association. [The concept of not being attached to Allah due to the preoccupation with adorning one’s manners] has only been called “separation” (tafriqah) because it involves preoccupation with something apart from Him, and Suluk demands one’s complete attention and the preoccupation of one’s self to the Cherisher alone from anything apart from Him.

Then he shall rise above all of that — that is passing all manners in such a way that he disappears from all manners and from adorning himself with them. This absence is, according to them, of two levels: One is preoccupation with Allah Most High from everything apart from Him. The second is annihilation (fana) in the uniqueness [of Allah], which they call the divine union (hadhrat al-jam‘a) and which is the highest objective according to them. It is awarded (wahabi) and not earned (kasabi). However, the slave, when he persists and is truthful in searching, it is hoped he will be successful in attaining his purpose. Allah knows most.

Section — good manners with Allah and with the creation rests on two traits which ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Kilani has mentioned, “Remain with the Truth without any creation [coming in between] and with the creation without any carnal desires (nafs) [coming in between].”

Ponder how great these two sentences are in spite of their brevity, and how well they gather the principles of Suluk and every beautiful manner.

The corruption of manners only comes about due to the intervention of the creation between you and Allah Most High and the intervention of the carnal desires between you and His creation. So, when you have separated [yourself] from the creation at the time of your being with Allah Most High, and from the carnal desires at the time of your being with the creation, then you have succeeded in everything that the Community[12] has indicated towards, that which they have embarked on and around which they have hovered. It is Allah from Whom help is sought. It is mentioned that Sufyan al-Thawri (may Allah have mercy on him) said, “The greatest of people are of five types: the ‘alim who is abstinent, the jurist who is a Sufi, the wealthy person who is humble, the poor person who is thankful and the nobleman who is Sunni.”

3: Ibn al-Qayyim writes in Madarij al-Salikin (vol. 2, p.366):

Two ambiguous sentences regarding iradah[13] have been narrated from Junayd and each requires explanation. The first sentence is as follows: Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami narrates from Muhammad ibn Mukhallad, from Ja‘far, from Junayd who said, “The true murid is not in need of the ‘ulama.” He also said, “When Allah wishes good for a murid he places him with the Sufis and prevents him from the company of the Qur’an reciters (qurra).”

I say: When the murid is sincere and has corrected the covenant of his sincerity with Allah, then Allah will open his heart — on account of the barakah of the sincerity and good dealing with Allah — to that [knowledge] which spares him from the knowledge which is the outcome of people’s ideas and views, and from that knowledge which is surplus and not from the provisions of the grave, and from the many instructions of the Sufis and their knowledge for which they spent their lives such as understanding the soul, its harms and its defects and understanding that which ruin actions and the rules of Suluk. Indeed, his being sincere and the soundness of his quest mean all of this in effect.

Its example is that of a man who sits in a city and devotes his night and day in understanding the stations of the path, its mountain passes, valleys and trackless desolate regions, and the places where there is water and deserts. On the other hand, passion and true iradah encourages another to travel the path and journey in it. His sincerity leaves him not in need of the knowledge of the man who does not travel, allowing him, in his journey, to witness the path with his eyes.

As to the sincerity of one’s iradah relieving one from the knowledge of what is halal and haram, the rulings of what has been ordained and forbidden (amr wa nahi), understanding the acts of worship, their conditions, their necessary points (wajibat) and what makes them invalid, and the knowledge of what Allah and His Prophet has ordered (ahkam), both exoterically and esoterically, then Allah has protected he who is less than Junayd let alone the sayyid al-taifah and their imam.[14] The only ones who say such [things] are those who are robbers on the path, and the freethinkers and heretics from among the Sufis who do not view the following of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) to be a condition in the path.

It is also the case that Allah opens the heart of the true murid, radiating it with His nur which adds to the nur of knowledge that he already has and with which he understands many issues regarding his religion. He is, therefore, relieved of much of the knowledge of the people, for indeed knowledge is nur and the heart of he who is true is full of the nur of truth and with it is the nur of iman, and nur guides to [other] nur. Junayd informed of his spiritual state (hal) through this saying. This (what Junayd said) is a partial matter and does not concern knowledge on the whole. Rather, the murid’s sincerity leaves one not in need of many types of knowledge.

As to knowledge on the whole, the speech of Abu al-Qasim [Junayd al-Baghdadi] that is established from him — that the murid needs knowledge, that he who has no knowledge will not be successful, that the way of the Community is bound to knowledge and that it is not permitted for anyone to speak regarding the path except with knowledge — is famous and well-known.

We have already mentioned before some of this, such as his saying, “He who is not mindful of the Qur’an and not written hadith cannot be followed in this matter for our knowledge is bound to the Book and the Sunnah.” He also said that the knowledge of the ‘ulama whom he has indicated towards “is that which they have understood and derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah.” And the sincere murid “is he who reads the Qur’an and is mindful of the Sunnah. Allah grants him, due to the barakah of his sincerity and the nur of his heart, the understanding of His Book and the Sunnah of His Prophet, relieving him from following the understanding of others.”

As to Junayd’s saying, “When Allah wishes good for a murid he places him with the Sufis and prevents him from the company of the Qur’an reciters (qurra).” The qurra in their terminology are the people of devotion and worship, regardless of whether they recite the Qur’an or not. The qari[15] according to them is he who indulges in plenty of worship and devotion and has confined himself to exoteric worship, not the essence of ma‘rifah, the realities of faith, the essence of love and the actions of the heart. All of their ardour is spent in performing worship; they have no knowledge of what the people of Tasawwuf, the people of the hearts and the people of ma‘rifah have. It is because of this that someone said: “Our path can be weakened but not conquered.” Their (the Sufis’) journey is with the heart and soul, while the journey of those (the qurra) is only with the outer shell and form. There is also a type of disagreement and discord between them. None of them can remain in the company of the other except with some self-restraint, and the burdening of one’s character with that which it does not like. Their disagreement is of the type that exists between them and the Zahiri fuqaha. The Sufis call them [the Zahiri fuqaha] ashab al-rusum and those the qurra. Both groups, according to them, are people of the exterior (zahir) and not people of ma‘rifah. The Zahiri fuqaha have with them the rituals of knowledge and the qurra have with them the rituals of worship.

Then, they (the Sufis) among themselves are of two types: the Sufis and the fuqara. They, according to three views, differ with regards to giving the Sufis preference over the fuqara, or to the contrary or considering both equal.

There is the group that gives preference to the Sufis — among them are many of the people of Iraq; the author of Al-‘Awarif is of this view. They consider the place where the faqir ends the place where the Sufi begins. There is also the group that gives preference to the faqir — they have made faqr (a want for Allah) the essence and outcome of Tasawwuf. Many of the people of Khurasan are of this view. The third group say that faqr and Tasawwuf are the same. These are the people of the Levant.

It is not correct to judge between them until the reality of faqr and Tasawwuf becomes clear. Then it would become known whether they are either one reality or two realities, and what is preferred over what is not.

You shall soon see that explained, insha Allah, in the sections regarding al-Faqr wa al-Tasawwuf when we reach them if Allah wills and grants through His benevolence and accordance. There is no power or strength except with Allah. From He it is that help is sought and upon He it is that trust is placed. What He wishes will be and that which He does not will not.

In summary, the stages according to them are three: the stage of taqwa which is the stage of worship and devotion; the stage of Tasawwuf which is the stage of endeavouring to acquire every praiseworthy trait and abandoning every reprehensible trait; and the stage of faqr which is the stage of isolation and breaking every relation that comes between the heart and Allah Most High. These are the stages of those who seek the afterlife. Those apart from them are with those who are left behind seated.

Hence, Abu al-Qasim Junayd has indicated that when Allah wishes good for the murid who sincerely wants Allah, he places him in the company of the Sufis who rectify his manners, direct him in purifying his soul, removing its reprehensible traits and replacing them with praiseworthy traits, and acquaints him with the stations of the path, its desert areas, the robbers on the path, and its danger points.

As to the qurra, they pound him with such forms of worship such as fasting and prayer; they do not allow him to taste anything from the sweetness of the actions of the hearts and the purification of souls, as that is not their way. It is on account of this there is a sense of dislike between them and the people of Tasawwuf as has been mentioned before.

The sincere one with understanding takes benefit of every opportunity and remains with each group in the best of what they have. He does not incline to any group or remains completely aloof from the other in such a way that they do not have with them anything that is true. This is the way of those who are sincere.

4: Ibn al-Qayyim writes in Madarij al-Salikin (vol. 2, p.371):

He (i.e. Shaykh al-Islam al-Hirawi al-Sufi) said: “Iradah is from the principles of this knowledge and from among its great edifices. [Iradah] is complying willingly and unwillingly to the demands of haqiqah.”

What he means is that this knowledge[16] is built on iradah, which is its foundation and the place where its structures meet. This knowledge consists of the detailed explanation of the rulings of iradah. It is an action of the heart and it is because of this that it is called the science of esoteric knowledge (‘ilm al-batin) just like the science of fiqh concerns the detailed explanations of the rulings of the limbs and it is on account of this that they call it the science of exoteric knowledge (‘ilm al-zahir). These are two voluntary actions. The slave also has an involuntary physical action, and the science concerning its detailed explanations and rulings is medicine. These three types of knowledge are responsible for understanding the actions of the soul, the heart, the tongue, the limbs and a person’s physical disposition.

The doctor looks at those actions from the perspective of what effect the body has taken in terms of health and sickness, and that which comes as a result of that etc. The faqih looks at those actions from the angle of them being in agreement with what the Shari‘ah has enjoined and forbidden, given permission to and disliked etc. The Sufi looks at all those actions from the perspective of their being a means to join the person to his objective or a means of breaking him off, and that which is a cause of corrupting his heart or setting it right.

5: Ibn al-Qayyim writes in Madarij al-Salikin (vol. 2, p.438):

From among the stations of “It is you who we worship and it is you from who we seek aid” (1:5) there is the station of want (faqr). This station, according to the Community,[17] is the most exalted of the stations of the path, and the loftiest and highest. In fact, it is the soul of every station, its heart, essence and apex.

This can only be understood by understanding the reality of faqr. The meaning that this group[18] intends is more specific than its original meaning, for the word faqr has appeared in the Qur’an in three places — the first is in His Most High’s saying: “(Your charities should be preferably meant) for the needy (fuqara) who are confined in the way of Allah, unable to travel in the land. An ignorant person takes them as free of need because of their abstinence from begging…” (2:273); the second is in His Most High’s saying: “The sadaqat (prescribed alms) are (meant) only to be given to the poor (fuqara) …” (9:60); and the third is in His Most High’s saying: “Oh men, you are the ones who need (fuqara) Allah …” (35:15).

The first type are the distinguished (khawas) from among the fuqara; the second are the fuqara from among the Muslims, both the special and general among them; and the third is of a general faqr for all of the people of the earth, the rich and the poor, and those who believe and disbelieve.

Those who are wealthy and able to travel in the path of Allah are in contrast to the fuqara mentioned in the first verse. In fact, those who do not conceal their poverty due to their abstinence from begging are in greater contrast than even the second group.

The rich and the people of wealth stand in contrast to the second group. Those who abstain from begging etc. and those unable to travel in the path of Allah etc. are included in the second group. There is none that is opposite the third group except Allah the Generous alone. Everything apart from Him is in need of Him.

What the Community[19] means by faqr is something more specific than all of these meanings, and that is the manifestation of servitude (‘ubudiyyah) and want for Allah Most High in every situation. This meaning is greater than it just being called “want” (faqr) — it is the reality of servitude and its essence, it is disassociating the nafs from emulating lordship.

Yahya ibn Mu‘adh was asked regarding faqr, he said, “Its reality is that one remains not in need of anything except Allah, and the way of acquiring it is to leave all means (asbab).” He also defined it saying, “Not relying on means while utilising them.” It is as some of the shaykhs said, “It (faqr) is a thing that Allah does not place except by he who He loves and drives to he who He wishes.” Ruwayyim was asked regarding faqr, he defined it saying: “Letting loose the nafs in fulfilling the commands of Allah.” Letting loose the nafs is only praiseworthy in issues pertaining to religion and matters of fate regarding which it has not been ordered that one withstands them and guards against them.

Abu Hafs was asked: “What will the faqir offer his Lord?” He replied: “There is nothing that the faqir can offer his Lord except his faqr. The reality of faqr and its perfect form is as some of them said when they were asked: When does the faqir deserve the name of faqr? They said: When he has nothing of it left. They were asked how that can be and they said: Idha kana lahu falaysa lahu, wa idha lam yakun lahu fahuwa lahu. (The meaning of this follows in the next paragraph — translator)

This is the best explanation of faqr that the Community has indicated towards — that is that one becomes completely for Allah Most High and that nothing from his nafs, self and desire remains. So, as long as anything of his nafs remains, then his faqr will be incomplete. Abu Hafs explains that by saying, “Idha kana lahu falaysa lahu, wa idha lam yakun lahu fahuwa lahu. In other words when he is devoted to his nafs then he is not devoted to Allah, and when he is not devoted to his nafs then he is devoted to Him.

The reality of faqr is that you do not devote yourself to your nafs, and that it does not have any part of you in a way that you are Allah’s. When you are devoted to your nafs, then there is then a sense of ownership and free of want (istighna) that is contrary to faqr.

The faqr towards which they have indicated is not inconsistent with wealth and properties, as the Messengers of Allah and His Prophets were at the peak of faqr while being in possession of wealth and property such as Ibrahim al-Khalil (peace be upon him) who was Abu al-Dayfan[20] and had wealth and livestock. Likewise, this was the situation with Sulayman and Dawud (peace be upon them) and so was it with our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). He was as Allah Most High said: “And He found you in need, then made you need-free.” (93:8) They were wealthy in their faqr and faqirs with their wealth.

The real faqr is always thinking of Allah in every situation, and that the slave witnesses — in his smallest of actions, exoterically and esoterically — a complete want for Allah Most High in every way. Faqr is an inherent characteristic of the slave that only renews itself to the slave when he sees and reaches a spiritual state (hal), or else it would be the haqiqah. It is as Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah sanctify his soul) said:

For me faqr is always an intrinsic innate quality,

In the same way ghani is His inherent quality.

It [faqr] has effects, affiliations, consequences and means towards which the Community has made references to, such as some of them saying, “The faqir’s ambition does not go beyond his step.” Meaning he is a man of his state and time (ibn al-hal wa al-waqt); his ambition is confined to his time and it does not go beyond it. It is also said the fundamentals of faqr are four: knowledge that guides him, piety that restrains him, belief that carries him and dhikr that gives him solace.

Al-Shibli said, “The reality of faqr is that one does not have want for anything except Allah.” Sahl ibn ‘Abdullah was asked, “When will the faqir be at rest?” He replied, “When he does not see himself in a time that he is not in.” (In other words he is preoccupied with the demands of that particular time and not with anything beyond — translator) Abu Hafs said, “Perfect that by which the slave turns to Allah — constant want (iftiqar) of Allah, adherence to the Sunnah in all actions and seeking of sustenance through halal means.”

It was said, “From the requisites of faqr is that the faqir is devoid of any longing. And if he does, and that is inevitable, then his longing should not go beyond that which suffices him.” It was said, “The faqir does not own and is not owned.” Better than this is, “[The faqir is] he who owns and the master does not own him.”

It was said, “He who intends the glory of faqr has died a poor man and he who coveted it so he does not busy himself with anything apart from Allah has died wealthy…”

There is a detailed discussion regarding faqr at this point in Madarij al-Salikin, which can be seen by those who so wish. Imam Ibn al-Qayyim then comments on the texts of Shaykh al-Islam al-Hirawi al-Sufi in which he mentions the levels of faqr:

Abu Isma‘il al-Hirawi writes: “The third level [of faqr is]: idtirar (to be devoid of will) and falling into solitary separation or being confined in a desert subject to isolation. This is the faqr of the Sufis…” [Ibn al-Qayyim said,] it can be understood from his saying, “This is the faqr of the Sufis,” that Tasawwuf according to him is greater than faqr, as this third level — which to him is the highest level of faqr — is from among some of the stations of Sufism.

There is a group that has disputed with them on that and say, “Tasawwuf is far below this stage. Tasawwuf is a means to this faqr, as Tasawwuf is all manners and faqr is the reality and goal. There is no goal beyond it.” The dispute among the Community with regards to this issue has been mentioned before and we have mentioned three views — these two and a third that each one is not superior over the other, as each of their realities cannot be perfected except by the other. This is the view of the people of the Levant. And Allah knows most.

6: Ibn al-Qayyim has established in Madarij al-Salikin (vol. 1, p.154) a separate chapter discussing fana (annihilation) according to the Sufis, and mentions its types and stages, and its praiseworthy, irreprehensible and moderate traits:

As to annihilation (fana) from seeing anything apart from He, this is a concept that the majority of the latter Sufis have called towards and which they consider the goal, and it is that on which Abu Isma‘il al-Ansari has based his book and made the third stage in each of his chapters.

They do not mean the annihilation of the existence of everything apart from Allah on the outward, but the obliteration of the self from seeing and feeling everything apart from Allah. Its true nature is the absence of one of them from everything apart from what he is witnessing, rather also his absence from seeing himself and his being. This is because he becomes absent from his worship on account of He who is worshiped, absent from his dhikr on account of He who he is remembering, absent from his love on account of his beloved, and absent from seeing himself on account of He who is being seen.

At times, a spiritual state such as this is called intoxication (sukr), annihilation (istilam), obliteration (muhw) and being in the state of union (jam‘a). They sometimes differentiate between the meanings of these terms and, at times, the prevalent meaning is the seeing of the heart its Beloved and the One it is remembering until he disappears into Him and becomes annihilated in Him and thinks he is in union with Him and that he has joined Him, rather he thinks he is He. This is similar to the story in which a man saw his beloved throw herself into water and so the lover threw himself behind her. The beloved said, “What made you throw yourself into the water?” The lover replied, “I lost myself in you and thought surely you were I.”

When his sense returns, he understands he was mistaken in that and that the realities are distinguished in themselves. Hence, the Cherisher (Rabb) is the Cherisher, the slave is the slave, and the Creator is separate from the creation, there is nothing from Himself in His creation, and nothing in Him from His creation.

However, at the time of sukr, muhw, istilam, fana and jam‘a this difference becomes absent, and at this time, those involved may say such things as have been narrated from Abu Yazid who said, “Glory be to myself,” or, “There is nothing in this jubbah except Allah.” Speech such as this would render the speaker a kafir if his mind were with him. However, on account of the absence of the faculty of differentiating and feeling, he is not held blameworthy.

Some of this fana is praised, some of it is criticized and some of it is excused. That which is praised is his annihilation from loving anything apart from Allah, and from fearing and having hope in anything apart from He, and having trust in Him, seeking aid from Him and turning to Him in such a way that the din of the slave, exoterically and esoterically, is for Allah in its entirety.

As to the lack of feeling and knowledge that the person in this state cannot distinguish between himself and others, and between the Cherisher and the slave even though his belief is that there is a difference, and nor between his seeing and that which he has witnessed, rather he does not see what is the other, then this is not praiseworthy, nor a perfect quality, nor something that is desired and which has been commanded.

Rather, the final outcome of such a person is to be excused — on account of his inability and weakness of heart and mind — from distinguishing and differentiating; from treating every person of rank according to their rank in line with the requisites of knowledge and wisdom; from seeing realities according to how they are; from differentiating between what is eternal (qadim) and temporary, and acts of worship and the one being worshipped, something that would allow him to treat acts of worship according to their rank and witness their levels, and give each stage its due in worship and see himself perform this.

Indeed, the slave seeing himself in servitude is in itself a more perfect form of servitude than him being absent from seeing that, for the action of servitude in a situation in which the slave is absent from seeing it and from himself is like the action of a drunkard and sleeping person. The action of servitude in the state when he is wide-awake and aware has its own details. His doing so like this is a more complete, perfect and strong form of servitude.

This situation is also not necessarily that of all saliks but it comes to some of them. Those who have been afflicted include Abu Yazid and others like him. There are some who are not afflicted by it. Their situation is more perfect and strong. Indeed, the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) are the leaders of the ‘arifs, the imams of those who have reached [Allah] and are close [to Him], and the exemplars of the saliks. There was none among them who was afflicted by this in spite of the strength of their iradah, their passing of so many stages, and their seeing that which others did not see. They did not even have a whiff of its smell and nor did it pass their hearts. If this fana was perfect then they were more deserving of it and would have been the people of it, and they would have had from it that which others have not.

This was also not the case with our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), and nor was his state. It is on account of this that on the night of Mi‘raj when he was taken and he saw that which he saw from that which Allah showed him from His great signs, this state did not come to him. Rather, he was as Allah Most High has described him in the verse, “The eye neither went wrong, nor did exceed the limit. He has indeed seen a part of the biggest signs of your Lord.” (53:17-18) He also said, “And We did not make the vision We showed to you, but a test for the people.” (17:60) Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “This is the vision that He showed the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) on the night he was taken…” In spite of this, he came amongst them in the morn and his condition did not change, nor was he left senseless or unconscious, he informed them of the details of what he saw, he was not annihilated from his self and nor from seeing it. It is because of this that his situation was more perfect than Musa ibn ‘Imran (may Allah bless them both and grant them peace) when he fell senseless when his Cherisher revealed Himself to the mountain, turning it into rubble.

Section — There are two reasons for this fana: one is the strength of the inspirations (warid) and weakness of the one receiving, and this is not criticism of the person [who is experiencing this]; the second is deficiencies in knowledge and [the faculty] of differentiating, and this is criticism of the person [involved]. He (Imam Abu Isma‘il) saw this as an obstacle from the obstacles of the path. This is blameworthy and feared.

It is because of this that the Community[21] has greatly advised the pursuit of knowledge; warned against suluk without knowledge; ordered the leaving of he who abandons knowledge and turns away from it, and not to take from such a person because they knew the consequences of the affairs of such a person and the terrible outcome of their journey. He who generally turns heretic from among the saliks becomes so because of his turning away from the demands of knowledge while journeying along the path of tasting spiritual bliss (dhawq) and ecstasy (wajd), which takes him on to a path of many ways. This is a fitnah, a fitnah that is great. It is Allah Who grants success.

7: Ibn al-Qayyim differs in Madarij al-Salikin (vol. 1, p.198) with Shaykh al-Islam al-Hirawi al-Sufi when he mentions in Manazil al-Sairin, “From the realities of tawbah is seeking the apology of the creation.” Having criticized him, Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim writes:

This lapse from the shaykh al-Islam does not necessitate the invalidation of his good qualities and a poor opinion of him; his standing in knowledge, leadership, ma‘rifah and pre-eminence in the way of Suluk is something that is not unknown. [It is with regards to] each person that some of his speech is taken and some of it left, save with regards to he who is infallible (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). Perfect is he whose mistakes are counted; and this is surely the case in the likes of this difficult situation and gruelling battleground in which feet slip and minds go astray, and in which the saliks divide into different paths and then they — except a few of them — arrive on the valleys of perdition. How can it not be? It is the sea in which the ship of those riding it moves among mountain-like-waves and the battle in which the valour of the brave shines due to their being there, and in which the minds of intelligent men become perplexed. The creation reaches its coast, seeking to navigate it.

Among them there is he who stands with his head bowed and stunned, unable to cast a look at the sea and move his feet from his place. His heart is full of the greatness of that which he has seen and so he says, “Standing on the coast is safer. He who places himself in danger is not wise.”

Then there is he who turns back when he hears its rage and the sound of its waves; he is unable to cast a glance at it. There is also he who throws himself into its depth; a wave takes him down and another raises him.

All of these three are in danger because the one standing on the coast is exposed to water reaching below his feet; the one who runs, even if he makes every effort, has no final destiny except towards it; and he who is daring is looking at those who have drowned every hour before his eyes. Only the fourth type of person will be saved and they are those who await the arrival of the Vessel of Command.[22] When it draws near to them, the captain will call out, “Embark it. With the name of Allah it sails and anchors.” (11:41) This is in reality the Ark of Sayyiduna Nuh (peace be upon him) and the vessels of those prophets who came after him. Whoever climbs aboard them will be saved and whoever remains behind will drown.

They will climb on board the Vessel of Command by divine fate; it will take them in the movements of its waves by surrendering to He who has the right of disposition in the seas. It will only be like a light nap until it is said to the earth and skies, “O earth, suck in your water, and Oh heaven, stop. And water subsided, and the matter was over. It (the Ark) came to rest on the Judi.” (11:44) In other words the Dar al-Qarar (the Permanent Abode).

Those who remain behind from the ship, like the people of Sayyiduna Nuh (peace be upon him), drowned and were then destroyed. It was called out against them at the tops of the worlds, “and it was said, ‘Away with the wrongdoers,’” (11:44) and, “We did not do injustice to them, rather, they themselves were the unjust.” (43:76) Then it will be announced in a sufficient and powerful language, while verifying His tawhid and establishing His writ and He is the most just, “Say, ‘Then, Allah’s is the conclusive proof. So, had He willed, He would have brought all of you on the right path.’” (6:149)

Section — the task of the one riding this sea in the Vessel of Command is to clash with the waves of fate and to oppose one with another, otherwise he will perish. He should repel fate with fate and this is the journeying of those with strong wills from among the ‘arifs. This is the meaning of the saying of the shaykh, the ‘arif, the exemplar ‘Abd al-Qadi al-Kilani, “When the people reach a point of fate and destiny, they withhold, except me. A window opens up to me in it and I fight the destinies of truth with truth for the truth. The (true) man is he who fights destiny, not he who surrenders to it.”

When the interests of people in their livelihood only materialize by pushing back destinies, one with another, then what is the condition when it comes to matters of the hereafter? Allah Most High has ordered that an evil deed, which is from one’s destiny, should be fought back with a good deed, which is also from one’s destiny. Likewise, hunger is from one’s destiny and He has ordered that one repels it by eating which is also from one’s destiny.

If a person were to surrender to the destiny of hunger — in spite of his ability to repel it by eating — until he died, then he has died sinful. This is the same with cold, heat and thirst. All of these are his destinies and He has ordered that one repels them according to that which opposes them. The one who is repelling, the repelled and the repelling itself are his destiny.

The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) has eloquently described this meaning when the Companions asked, “O Messenger of Allah, do you think that the medicine that we use, the incantations that we recite and the taqwa that we adopt repels what Allah has destined even a bit?” He replied, “That is from the destiny of Allah.” In another hadith he said, “Surely, supplications and difficulties wrestle with each other between the sky and the earth.”

When the disbelieving enemy knocks at the cities of Islam, then they knock due to what Allah has destined. Is it permissible for the Muslims to surrender to fate and abandon repelling them in appropriate ways — and that is Jihad with which they repel the fate of Allah according to one’s ability?

It is the same with a sin; when it is destined for you and you do it due to fate then repel its consequences with sincere tawbah and that is from fate.

8: Ibn al-Qayyim writes in Madarij al-Salikin (vol. 2, p.39), and that is after he has opposed some of the views of Shaykh al-Islam al-Hirawi:

That is the reason for his words and the most beautiful of meanings. It is said that this and other words of ecstasy (shatahat)[23] — the forgiveness of which is hoped through an abundance of good deeds, and which one is drawn deeply into due to perfect truthfulness (sidq), correct dealing, utmost sincerity and pure monotheism, and no human after the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) is guaranteed fallibility — has forced two groups of people into fitnah:

The first group has been blinded from the goodness of this group, the gracefulness of their souls and the truthfulness of their dealings on account of these words of ecstasy. They consider them (the Sufis) invalid on account of these shatahat; they severely reject them and view them poorly in an absolute fashion. This is enmity and excessiveness.

If everyone who commits a mistake or errs were to be abandoned indiscriminately, and all of his good points were to be considered invalid, then all knowledge, crafts and wisdoms would be ruined and those who are distinguished for their knowledge in these matters would be without work.

The second group has been blinded by the goodness of the Community, the purity of their hearts, the correctness of their intentions and their good dealings from seeing the defects of their shatahat and their shortcomings; they have praised the shatahat and give them their approval. These people have also exceeded the limit and are extreme.

The third group are the people of justice and equity who give every man their due and treat people according to their ranks. They do not adjudicate he who is healthy as being ill and poorly, and nor consider healthy he who is ill and poorly. They, rather, accept that which should be accepted and refute that which should be refuted.

These words of ecstasy and their like have been warned against by the leaders of the Community, they have criticised their outcome and expressed themselves free from them so much so that Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri has mentioned in his book that Abu Sulayman al-Darani was seen after his death and was asked, what did Allah do with you? He replied, “He forgave me and there was nothing more harmful to me than the allusions (isharah) of the Community.”

Abu al-Qasim said, I heard Abu Sa‘id al-Shahham say, “I saw Abu Sahl al-Sa‘luki in a dream and so I asked him, O shaykh. He said, ‘Leave the honorification.’ So I said, and what about those spiritual states (hal)? He replied, ‘They did not come in any use.’ So I asked, what did Allah do with you? He said, He forgave me because of some issues of fiqh that some elderly ladies would ask.’”

Al-Jariri said that he saw Junayd after his demise in a dream and so he asked, “How are you Oh Abu al-Qasim?” He replied, “Those allusions (isharah) perished and those texts disappeared. The only thing that benefited us were those tasbihat that we used to recite in the mornings.”

Abu Sulayman al-Darani said, “Subtle points mentioned by the Community are presented to me, but I only accept them in light of two just witnesses — the Book and the Sunnah.” Junayd said, “Our way is bound by the Book and the Sunnah. He who does not recite the Quran and writes hadith will not be followed in our way.” There are these and many other sayings which have been narrated from them, may Allah be pleased with them.

9: Ibn al-Qayyim writes in Madarij al-Salikin (vol. 2, p.52):

May Allah thank the shaykh al-Islam[24] for his efforts, raise his status, reward him in the best way and gather us with him at the place of His generosity. If his murid[25] were to find an opportunity and occasion to raise an objection against him and object to his words, then he would not. How could he? Allah has benefited him through his speech, he has sat before him like a student in front of his teacher, and he was the one on whose hands Allah bestowed many good things both whilst awake and asleep.

This is the utmost effort of a destitute man at this place. He who has the superiority of knowledge should strive earnestly with it, or offer an excuse and not hasten to object. How much was the difference between the hoopoe and the Prophet of Allah Sulayman who told him, “I have discovered what you did not.” (27:22) The shaykh al-Islam is not more knowledgeable than the Prophet of Allah and the one who raises objections against him is no more ignorant than the hoopoe. It is from Allah that help is sought and He is the most knowledgeable.

10: Ibn al-Qayyim writes in Madarij al-Salikin (vol. 3, p.330):

Let it be known that the language of the Community[26] includes metaphors, the usage of general words (‘am) while intending specific meanings (khas), and the usage of words while intending their alluded meanings (isharah) — not their apparent meaning — which do not exist in the nomenclature of other groups. It is because of this that they say, “We are the people of isharah and not the people of actual text,” and, “the isharah are for us and the texts are for others.”

At times they use a phrase used by a heretic and intend a meaning in which there is no corruption. This becomes a means of fitnah for two groups: the group that attributes the exoteric meaning of texts to them and then considers them to be innovators and astray; and the group that looks at what they aim and intend, and approves those texts and considers correct those alluded meanings. The seeker of truth accepts it from whoever has it and rejects that which opposes it regardless of who it is.

11: Ibn al-Qayyim writes in Madarij al-Salikin (vol. 3, p.151):

Be completely aware of ambiguous, obscure words that are in the nomenclature of the Community. They are indeed the root of difficulties, and the source of both the siddiq and the heretic. When a person who is weak in recognising and knowing Allah Most High hears the words ittisal (union), infisal (separation), musamarah (conversing), mukalamah (communion), and that nothing is in existence in reality except Allah, and that the existence of the worlds are thoughts and illusions like a shadow which exists on account of another, then he hears that which fills the ears with hulul (incarnationism), ittihad (unification) and shatahat (words of ecstasy).

When the ‘arifs, on the other hand, use these words and others like them, they intend the correct inherent meaning. But some err in understanding what they mean and attribute heresy and kufr to them.

12: Ibn al-Qayyim establishes a specific section in Madarij al-Salikin (vol.1, p.430) to explain the contemplations (mashahid) of people and has mentioned thirteen mashahid — four belonging to those who are astray and the rest for those who are steadfast. He also mentions regarding this section that “it is one of the most important sections of this book and greatly beneficial to all. It is worthy of great praise.” He also said “it is possible you will not come across this in another book.”

At the end of the Twelfth mashhad he writes:

When he is endowed with knowledge in this mashhad, and it becomes firm in his heart, and he enjoys it, and tastes it and its sweetness, then he ascends from there to the Thirteenth Mashhad, which is the objective that the saliks strive towards, the travellers intend and that which those who toil eye. It is the mashhad of servitude (‘abudiyyah), love and eagerness to meet Him, rejoice in Him, and be happy and joyful with him. His [the salik’s] eye will become cool, his heart will take solace in Him (Allah Most High) and his limbs will be in a state of rest towards Him, His remembrance will take possession over the tongue of His lover and his heart, and thoughts of love shall take the place of thoughts of disobedience, intentions of gaining His proximity and the proximity of deeds that please Him shall take the place of intentions to disobey and displease Him, and the movement of tongues and limbs in His obedience will take the place of actions of disobedience.

His heart shall be filled with His love, his tongue shall be devoted with his remembrance and limbs will be guided to His obedience. Surely, this particular [type of] self-defeat has a bewildering effect in love that cannot be described.

It has been narrated from some ‘arifs that they said, “I tried to access Allah through all of the doors of obedience but whichever door I tried to enter from I would see a crowd of people and I could not enter until I came to the door of meekness (dhill) and showing a want (iftiqar), which was the nearest and widest door to Him and did not have any crowds and hindrances. I had only placed my foot at its threshold when all of a sudden He Most High took me by the hand and brought me in.”

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (may Alah be pleased with him) used to say, “Whoever intends eternal happiness, then let him hold tight to the threshold of servitude.”

Some ‘arifs said, “There is no shorter path to Allah than servitude and no veil more dense than making false claims; actions (‘amal) and striving hard will not benefit in the presence of pretension and pride; and showing a want to Allah and meekness is not harmed by valour.” This is all after the fard actions are carried out.

The point is, this meekness and special self-defeat enters him upon Allah and throws him on to the path of love from which a door opens for him which would not open for him at a different route. Even though the paths of all actions and forms of obedience open for the slave doors of His love, that door which opens to him through meekness, selflessness, showing a want for Allah (iftiqar), contempt for the carnal self and viewing it as weak, helpless, faulty and defective in a way that he sees it as something that is not sought after but, powerless, neglected, sinful and wrong, is of a different type and different opening.

The salik who is on this path is strange among people — they are in one wadi and he is in another. It is also called the Way of the Birds (Tariq al-Tayr); he who is asleep in his bed will supersede those who endeavour hard. When he awakes in the morning, he will have traversed the path and passed those who were mounted. While he is speaking to you, he will have outstripped fast horses and those who strive hard are left behind. It is from Allah that help is sought and He is the best of those who forgive.

To be continued

Previous sections:

Sufism and the Imams of the Salafi Movement: Introduction
Shaykh Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Wahhab and Sufism


  1. This is an excellent book regarding the life of Ibn al-Qayyim, published by Al-Maktab al-Islami, Beirut. []
  2. The Hanbali madhhab. []
  3. They are the Sufi shaykhs. []
  4. Tus is an ancient city in the Iranian province of Razavi Khorasan. The city was almost entirely destroyed by the Mongol horde (translator). []
  5. Bistam is located in the historic province of Khurasan in present-day north-eastern Iran (translator). []
  6. Marw or Marw al-Shahidjan (also presently known as Merv) was a city on the north-eastern fringes of Persia. It used to be in the historic province of Khurasan. The city, now in ruins, falls within Turkmenistan and is a UNESCO World Heritage site (translator). []
  7. Marw al-Rudh (or Marw on the river) was a town on the Murghab River in mediaeval Khuarasan. It used to be close to the city of Marw. Marw al-Rudh currently falls in north-west Afghanistan and is known as Bala Murghab (translator). []
  8. A khanqah is a building designed specifically for Sufi gatherings. It is a place for spiritual retreat and character reformation. The word is from Persian and is synonymous with the Arabic words zawiyah (translator). []
  9. Published by Dar al-Kitab al-‘Arabi, Lebanon. []
  10. Among the Sufis this means preferring the will of the Master over one’s will (translator). []
  11. An indication towards the Sufis. []
  12. In other words the Sufis (may Allah mercy them). []
  13. Among the Sufis this means preferring the will of the Master over one’s will (translator). []
  14. Note (may Allah shed mercy on you) how Imam Ibn al-Qayyim treats these great people. Compare him to those deluded foolish ones who affiliate themselves to knowledge and always attribute to the Sufis that which is not part of them. []
  15. Qari is singular of Qurra (translator). []
  16. Tasawwuf. []
  17. This is in reference to the Sufis (may Allah mercy them). []
  18. The Sufis (may Allah mercy them). []
  19. This is in reference to the Sufis (may Allah mercy them). []
  20. Aba al-Dayfan was the kunyat of Sayyiduna Ibrahim (peace be upon him) (translator). []
  21. This is in reference to the Sufis (may Allah mercy them). []
  22. In other words fulfilling the commands of Allah (translator). []
  23. Shatahat is the plural of shath and are words that are not in line with Shari‘ah and spoken by some Sufis while experiencing a spiritual state. Hakim al-Ummah Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi writes in Ta‘lim al-Din that “shath are those words spoken without choice and are contrary to exoteric rules due to being overwhelmed by warids (divine inspirations). Such a person is not sinful but should not be followed” (translator). []
  24. That is Shaykh al-Islam Abu Isma‘il ‘Abd Allah bin Muhammad al-Ansar al-Hirawi al-Sufi. []
  25. In other words Imam Ibn al-Qayyim himself. []
  26. The Sufis. []


  • Asallamu-Allaykum:
    Sufism is not against the Quran And Sunnah, but it is due to the wrong practices of some sects that it has been misunderstood, if somebody wants to judge real sufism he should study the life of Imam Gazali and Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani(May Allah have mery on them)…

  • or if he wants to see it first hand then he can go and meet the living elders of Deoband around the world the like’s of Maulana Shah Hakeem Muhammad Akhtar sahib(DB)The elders of the Tiblighi Jammat and all the other Elders

  • True Sufism is the quickest way to get close to Allah (SBT). The beauty of Deoband Ulama and Mashaikh is that they strictly follow Shariah and refute anything against Quran and Sunnah.

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