Shaikh Allah Yar Khan was born in Chakrala, a remote village of Mianwali District of Pakistan, in 1904. He completed his religious education in 1934. The same year, he met Shaikh ‘Abdul Rahim, who took him to the shrine of Shaikh Allah Deen Madni. By Divine Will his spiritual connection was immediately established with the saint of the 10th century Hijra (sixteenth century CE) and he started receiving spiritual beneficence. His sublime education in Sufism, signifying progressive spiritual growth and advancement, continued for about twenty-five years, after which he was directed to undertake the propagation of Prophetic blessings – a noble mission that he accomplished with singular zeal and dedication for a period spanning half a century. Anybody who visited him was duly rewarded with a share of spiritual bliss commensurate with his/her sincerity and capacity. Shaikh Allah Yar Khan’s mission produced men and women of deep spiritual vision and eminence.
He authored eighteen books, the most distinguished being Dalael us-Sulook (Sufism – An Objective Appraisal), Hayat-e Barzakhiah (Life Beyond Life) and Israr ul-Haramain (Secrets of the two holy Mosques). He was undoubtedly one of the most distinguished Sufi saints of the Muslim Ummah and a reviver of the Naqshbandiah Owaisiah Order.
He passed away on 18 February 1984 in Islamabad at the age of eighty. Six months before his death, he nominated his most illustrious and spiritually gifted student, Muhammad Akram Awan, as his successor to lead the Naqshbandiah Owaisiah Order.
I would like to discuss Tasawwuf(Sufism) in this sitting; what is its definition, need and reality? Allah has gifted man with immense intellectual ability and he has invented innumerable machines and gadgets to make life comfortable. These machines do the routine jobs of his life and they have relieved him of much of his workload but they haven’t brought him any peace. When he was doing all of his own work, he still had time to relax and reflect, but now, after operating and maintaining these machines, he has no time left at all. This busy life leaves him with no time to attend to his mandatory obligations. It is becoming increasingly difficult for him to find time for religion, family or even rest. In such a situation, what is the need or rationale to burden him with yet another obligation such as Zikr(Remembrance), which would certainly demand some portion of his scarce time and attention?
By nature, a human being seeks and trusts the opinion of experts and specialists for his problems relating to every aspect of his life. He would refer his health problems to a doctor, although it is his own body. He would similarly trust economists for his business and engineers for the construction of his house. Exactly on the same analogy, he must ask questions about human life from a specialist of this field. Questions about the origin and end of life, the Creator, His Attributes, the nature of His relationship with man, the reality of life and death, and the nature of life beyond life, could never be answered by an historian, philosopher, scientist, or for that matter, any expert of any field, because these are beyond the realm of their knowledge and perception. Their total knowledge about human life is bracketed between ones’ own birth and death; what is before birth and after death, they cannot answer. All these questions and many more like them are answered by a distinct class of specialists known as Prophets and Messengers. They don’t acquire this knowledge from any college or university because no such institution exists in the world. All institutions necessarily get this type of knowledge from Prophets, yet there is no institution where one could learn this subject and become a Prophet. The Prophets and Messengers are directly educated by Almighty Allah Himself. Now, as a matter of rule, the opinions and advice of these specialists should be trusted and followed in all matters relating to human life.
There is a fundamental difference between a specialist of worldly knowledge and a Prophet. A specialist can explain the theoretical aspects of his particular subject, but can never inspire anyone to acquire that knowledge. A technician, scientist or a doctor for example, can explain even the minutest details of their speciality but cannot produce an urge in your heart to adopt their professions. On the contrary, a Prophet doesn’t discuss theory alone, but along with it he also inspires very special feelings in the heart. For example, if someone believes a Prophet about the Unity of Allah, the Prophet has instilled a sublime feeling in the depths of his heart. Thereafter, even if the whole universe tries to negate him, he would remain firm about the truth of his conviction. That is the basic difference between a Prophet and a worldly expert.
The holy Quran describes this process as Tazkiyah (purification) and mentions that the holy Prophet-SAW invites mankind towards Allah by reciting Divine Revelation unto them. Then he infuses a sublime feeling deep into the hearts of those who accept his-SAW invitation which produces a remarkable change within them. It inspires in them the desire to achieve Divine Nearness, for which they don’t hesitate to make any sacrifice. We too make many sacrifices for comfort and status. There is hardly a family in this country whose members weren’t killed in the Second World War, some died in Hong Kong, some in Singapore, some lost their lives in the Arabian deserts, while some became POWs in Germany and Japan. The majority of them hailed from urban areas, simple village folk who had no interest in world politics. Then why did they stake their lives for a foreign government – the British? The reason was that they wanted to earn even a small salary for their families in order to live honourably. This is because worldly requirements and demands have a definite significance in our hearts and minds. We learnt about their importance from our elders and confirmed it through our personal knowledge and experience – we can see only that far. Therefore we endure many sacrifices for their fulfilment. When someone’s relationship with his Prophet grows stronger, it extends his vision to perceive and realise the facts and requirements of the next world also. A common Muslim, even an illiterate shepherd living in a jungle, knows for sure that he has been created by Allah and that death is not the total end of life but an entry to the next life where he would be confronting the consequences of his worldly actions. This realisation brings a revolutionary change in the life of a believer and rearranges his priorities in life. The sphere of his effort no longer remains restricted to this world but it extends to cover the comfort and honour of the next eternal life. He desires similar eternal peace and respect for his family, friends and all. This realisation flows into him through his connection with the holy Prophet-SAW and motivates him to make sacrifices not for the good of this world but for the betterment of the next. The effort to acquire this inner feeling and realisation which establishes the importance of the next life over this life and inspires a man to sacrifice his comfort, status and even this life for the next, has been described as Tazkiyah by the holy Quran.
Tazkiyahis the focal point of all Quranic teachings. The holy Quran mentions it before knowledge, saying that the Prophet-SAW of Allah first purifies the believers and then teaches them the Book and the Wisdom, so that they can realise and comprehend that world which the Quran exhorts them to strive for. It is natural that human effort is directly proportional to the realisation of a requirement. Is not a mad person the one who doesn’t realise his needs; he doesn’t bother to eat, sleep or dress! If you try to convince him about the importance of food or sleep or dress, you would certainly gain nothing because he cannot comprehend his needs. The holy Quran has adopted a unique style which has first given the importance of a requirement and then enumerated the ways for its fulfilment. ‘Tazkiyah’ is the realisation of this requirement to achieve comfort and honour in eternal life, it is the building block of Quranic teachings. Without this realisation, the effect of Quranic teachings is no different than a lecture to a mad person, which is unlikely to achieve anything. Tasawwuf(Sufism) is the translation of Tazkiyah(Purification).
Those who are allergic to the word Tasawwuf might as well leave it – the word has not been revealed by Allah; yet nobody can ever deny the importance of Tazkiyah. If its significance is undermined, it would adversely reflect on Prophethood and the religion, and would practically render the whole system meaningless. How did the Prophets-AS purify their followers? Allahblesses every Prophet-AS with a strength and a light in his heart that can instantly illuminate the heart of anyone who decides to accept his invitation. The light is so strong that Prophet Musa-AS said to Pharaoh, “Do you want me to purify your heart, so that you can start seeing the path leading to your Lord? So that your heart may also establish a connection with Allah so that you will prefer His Pleasure over everything else and dread His Anger?” Which means that even a person like Pharaoh still retains the right to choose guidance for himself. Allah has given two basic rights to every human being, the first is the right to live – which means that nobody can kill a human being except by Allah‘s leave. If someone kills a person, for any reason or way other than the one permitted by Allah, it is … As if he killed the entire mankind (5:32). He shall be made to account for the murder of the whole of humanity. It is because the right to live has been granted to every soul by Allah and He Alone can take it back – we can’t deprive anyone of this right. The second human right is the freedom to accept religion. Allah Alone creates and provides for every soul, He blesses everyone with different qualities and gives them health or disease and whenever He desires, causes them to die. If He wanted to compel human beings to obey Him, could anybody ever stop Him? On the contrary, He chose to bless man with a unique capability of perceiving Him. The holy Quran mentions that Allah offered this sublime attribute to the earth, the heavens and the mountains, but they all expressed their inability and inadequacy to accept. However, man accepted the grand challenge, saying, ‘Give it to me. I shall observe Your Splendour and Greatness, and I shall try to gain Your Nearness.’
Every human being can thus perceive the Divine Being and His Attributes according to his own capacity. He can realise Divine Greatness vis-a-vis his own humbleness and decide to submit before his Lord and this independent decision grants him the ability to accept the truth. If he then finds the company of a Prophet-AS he becomes a Companion and within no time, can rise to the highest level of human greatness after Prophets. Companionship is not a mere adjective, it denotes that level of human excellence in belief, honesty, reliability, piety, Divine Nearness and Presence which a non-Companion can never achieve. In an instant, the most sublime human attributes are poured into his heart.
The earliest group to respond to the call of the holy Prophet-SAW in Makkah comprised of weak and poor people who had remained slaves for generations. They were the most down trodden class who could never dream of raising their heads in front of their masters. However, Islam infused great strength in them. It enabled them to perceive the Greatness of their Lord and they realised that they had no reason to fear their ‘so called’ masters who were also human beings like themselves. They also had to try to build the correct relationship with their Lord; if they had to face death, it didn’t really matter – it had to come anyway. This realisation made them so strong that all efforts by the Makkan chieftains miserably failed to break them.
Imagine the scene when Pharaoh called the magicians to compete with Prophet Musa-AS before a huge crowd wherein Allah blessed the magicians with the light of faith. We won’t divert from our subject to discuss the reason for this Divine Favour, because that is a complete topic in itself, but we will address only the relevant portion. The magicians received no opportunity to learn even the basic beliefs of their religion, they just cast their ropes which became snakes. Prophet Musa-AS also threw his staff which turned into a bigger serpent and swallowed all their snakes. Seeing this, they fell prostrate saying, ‘We believe in the Lord of Musa andHarun.’ That immensely annoyed Pharaoh, because just moments earlier, the same magicians were humbly requesting his favours as a reward for their victory in this grand competition and he had promised them seats of distinction and honour near his throne in his court. Previously they were reposing all their hopes in Pharaoh but as soon as they accepted Faith, the reflection from Prophet Musa’s heart to their hearts changed their priorities. When Pharaoh threatened them with dire consequences for their disloyalty saying, “I shall punish you severely and you will soon come to know who is more powerful. I shall cut your hands and feet on alternate sides and hang you on palm trunks.” they simply replied, “Do what you may. We don’t desire the power and wealth of this world but we want to please our Lord, Whom we have been disobeying so far.” No doubt it was the same Pharaoh with his might, awe and wealth for whom they were ready to sacrifice their lives only a short while ago, but now they were talking to him in a completely different tone. They said, “We can see what you can’t. Death is a reality which may come just now or after a while. Allah has given you the authority to kill us but our death will surely earn us Allah‘s good Pleasure and that is not a bad bargain – we are ready for it.” Those who had come for the reward of this life were now eager to embrace death. The rising sun had seen them bowing before Pharaoh but the setting sun found them slain in the way of Allah. The holy Quran has recorded their conversation with the Pharaoh. They told him, “We have to return to our Lord and account for all our deeds. It will be good that your swords cut our hands and feet which have been disobeying our Lord and you hang us by our necks, maybe that way we can attract His Mercy and earn His good Pleasure.” But who taught them about the Hereafter and the Final Accountability? It was the sublime reflection from the heart of Prophet Musa-AS which carried this knowledge to their hearts. They became the custodians of Prophetic knowledge and started talking about those facts which Prophet Musa-AS had not yet spoken. That is the difference between a Prophet and other experts. A Prophet does not only impart theoretical knowledge, he also saturates the hearts of believers with sublime feelings. The holy Quran calls these feelings as Tazkiyah and it has been translated as Tasawwuf.
People say Tasawwuf is not required, Tasawwuf may not be required but every Muslim certainly requires Tazkiyah which has been prescribed for him by the holy Quran. Now, what was the effect of Tazkiyah? It filled the purified heart with Allah‘s Zikr and His Lights forever and its every beat reverberated with His Name. The thought, speech and conduct of such a person reflected his realisation of Divine Greatness. His entire personality underwent a complete transformation. If you look at the lives of the earliest Muslims in Makkah, you will find that even though they were slaves or poor people, they were living quite peacefully before accepting Islam. But the three years of Shoab-i Abu Talib, following the acceptance of Islam, brought them intolerable hardships. They were compelled to live under the open sky in the scorching heat of the desert. They were driven to the extreme limits of thirst and hunger, where they had to eat the ashes of old and dry hides. They were the same people who could never dare to annoy the Makkan chieftains even for a moment but now they withstood their entire wrath patiently. They said, “We can endure every hardship but we can’t give up our relationship with Allah, for which we are being punished, in exchange for better food, drink or dress”. After all, there must be something that had changed the priorities of their lives.
That is the distinction of a Prophet that he pours these feelings into the hearts. The custodian of these feelings is known as a Companion. The holy Prophet-SAW transferred the whole religion to his Companions before his departure from this world. He-SAW didn’t teach them only theory, but he filled their hearts with these feelings and realisation. Similarly the Companions didn’t pass down only religious knowledge of the Book and Sunnah but they also transferred these feelings to those who visited them. Their hearts were also purified and they came to be known as the Taba’in. Anyone who couldn’t get the company of the Companions might have become a very good Muslim otherwise but he couldn’t become a Tab’i. He couldn’t remotely achieve the state that was produced in the presence of a Companion, he was like the one who couldn’t meet the holy Prophet-SAW. He may have become a good Muslim warrior, scholar or a pious person, but he couldn’t become a Companion – it is a reflective process of the hearts. Only that heart which came near, absorbed the reflection – others could not. The group of Tab’a Taba’in is similarly distinguished in the Ummah. Their qualification was that they had met the Taba’in and their hearts had also absorbed the excellence radiated by the hearts of the Taba’in. After their time, the religious knowledge was classified into various branches like Tafsir, Hadith, Fiqh and many people devoted their whole lives to learn each branch. You will however, observe that each one of them, without exception, whether a Mufassir, Muhaddith or Faqih, also acquired these inner feelings of the heart. Name any of them, Imam Abu Hanifah or Imam Ghazali-RUA(call them Sufis or not) they all were the custodians of these feelings – Tazkiyah has always remained a prerequisite. If you study the life of religious scholars, you shall find that after completing their religious education, all of them spent some time in the company of an accomplished Shaikh. The point to ponder is that if they had already acquired complete religious knowledge, why did they waste their time with a saint? In fact they didn’t waste their time, but tried to get the blessings radiated by him, which he had in turn acquired from his Shaikh, so that their knowledge could be transformed from abstract information into perceptible feelings or an inner state of the heart. There is certainly a lot of difference between knowledge, news or information. According to a Persian proverb, Knowledge which does not lead to truth, is actually ignorance.
We have some friends from the press here journalists who collect news about the whole world, and everyday they receive assorted news about numerous murders, robberies, marriages, deaths, changes in governments, political victories and the like. All of this is nothing more than news which they write only to sell their papers. They collect and convey this information as a matter of routine, it doesn’t affect them any way. They neither cry over any death nor rejoice about any marriage. Similarly, someone may learn all of the knowledge of this world but if it fails to affect his practical life or produce any feelings within him, that is not really knowledge but information. Knowledge is that information which produces specific feelings in the heart, may it be a small sentence. Sad news causes grief and happy news fills the heart with joy. Information about something good arouses the desire to acquire it, and the news of an impending danger produces the urge to protect oneself against it – that is real knowledge. The collection of information is not knowledge but it requires Tazkiyah to convert that information into knowledge. Some fortunate ones found Tazkiyah from the same teacher from whom they had gone to get knowledge. However, those who couldn’t find them both at one place, went to an accomplished Shaikh for Tazkiyah after completing their education, and the information that they had gained was then converted into real knowledge. During the present time when we have become extremely busy in the pursuit of our requirements, the importance of Tazkiyah has also multiplied manifold; only that person whose heart contains some Tazkiyah will remain on the right track. It is not correct to argue that Tazkiyah is an extra obligation; on the contrary, it is the base and the foundation. It has assumed an even greater importance today, because a human being won’t then forget himself and his Lord in this busy life, and will then acquire the strength to reform his conduct according to the Will of his Master. New ideologies, orders and revolutions of the world should fail to impress him and his heart should remain occupied by only those thoughts and feelings which please his Lord.
You can see that since the time our hearts are bereft of these feelings, nothing seems to affect us. We are neither reformed by Tabligh (preaching) nor Hajj, our prayers also fail to influence our practical life, we only discharge our religious obligations as a matter of routine. Isn’t it correct that when we go to the market, we expect a similar level of honesty from two shopkeepers, the Hajji as well as the thief? There should have been at least some difference between a person who has performed Hajj and offers Salah, and the one who gambles and never prays. However, our apprehensions about both of them are absolutely similar and we don’t feel confident to trust either one of them. Above all, why isn’t there any difference between the two? The reason is that neither one of them has passed through the process of Tazkiyah. Therefore, the hearts of both of them are possessed by the lust of this world. The first one was weak and mild, so he chose the safe and easy way to earn the world; while the second one being courageous, adopted the difficult course to the same goal. We praise the first and condemn the second, whereas in actual fact their aim had been similar, only the methods were different. Their hearts remained alien to the feelings which Allah, His Messenger-SAW, and Islam wanted to infuse, for that reason, their conduct remained identical in practical life. However, if you pass the same thief through the process of Tazkiyah, it would reform his heart, correct the priorities of his life and purify his intentions. He will remain a thief no more, but will become better than many pious people.
The earliest people who were transformed by Islam, were neither imported from abroad nor created from any different material, and as such, were given to the holy Prophet-SAW. They were the same people who belonged to the most notorious society of the world. But when Tazkiyah set in their hearts, they became the torch bearers of civilisation and spread the light of peace and justice to all corners of the globe. This grand edifice of excellence was erected on the strong foundation of Tazkiyah. If you discard the word Tasawwuf and adopt the actual word Tazkiyah, it would further enhance its importance and necessity. The fruit borne by Tazkiyah is described by the Quran as, ‘Their skins and hearts soften at Allah‘s remembrance’. It indicates that Allah‘s Name didn’t penetrate only their hearts but it suffused each cell of their bodies right from the outer most skins to the inner most self. That was the fruit of Tazkiyah. It is an established law of nature that the fruit of every tree is also its seed. In the case of the Companions, the seed of Prophetic blessings bore the fruit of continuous Zikr. Therefore, Allah ordained continuous Zikr for all Muslims, including the Companions, to acquire the fruit of Prophetic blessings. Each chapter and page of the holy Quran contains an explicit or implicit Divine Command to perform Allah‘s Zikr, and also highlights the disadvantages of eluding Zikr.
While discussing Zikr, the Quran addresses the whole of humanity and not men alone. Once some women submitted to the holy Prophet-SAW that the Quran addresses only men and not women. He-SAW replied that the Quran, being a book of guidance for the entirety of mankind, addresses humanity as a whole, therefore, men and women are both equal members of the human race. Allah liked their observation and the Quran included women in the detailed description of laudable human attributes. It began with, Men who surrender (to Allah) and women who surrender, and men who believe and women who believe, and men who obey and women who obey, and men who speak the truth and women who speak the truth, and men who persevere (in righteousness) and women who persevere, and men who are humble and women who are humble, and men who give alms and women who give alms, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who guard their modesty and women who guard (their modesty), and it climaxed at, Men who remember Allah much and women who remember, for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and immense reward (33: 35). The Quran recounted these praiseworthy qualities like prayers, fast, piety, honesty, trust and modesty as the root, trunk, leaves and flowers of a tree, and compared Allah‘s Zikr with its fruit, thereby implying that Allah‘s Zikr is the fruit of all worship. Here, the Quran has placed men and women as equal because both are human beings. Their duties and responsibilities may be different but as human beings both are equally important and answerable and their deeds will be judged under the same law, by the same Lord.
We forgot the basic concept of leadership given by Islam that the departing Amir or the public should appoint the most suitable and capable person to manage the affairs of the state. Islam had prescribed ability alone and neither colour nor creed as the pre-requisite of leadership. But once one of us seized power he ensured that it was passed down his line. This practice introduced all sorts of good and bad people who affected the system in their own way. We treated Tasawwuf in exactly the same way. When a real eminent Shaikh, who illuminated the hearts of a host of people with his enlightened heart died, we didn’t bother to appoint his best student to succeed him, but brought his son to succeed the father in spite of the fact that the son never cared to even greet his father and acquired nothing worthwhile from him. Such successors who didn’t possess anything real, had to portray something, so they concocted baseless rituals and customs. They introduced music, songs, feast and the like. Truth was relegated to the background and rituals and ceremonies dominated the scenario. Such rituals certainly caused damage and the knowledgeable scholars rightly criticised them. This criticism spread so far and wide that now Tasawwuf appears to us to be the root cause of all evil. Actually, our actions which cast evil effects are diametrically opposite to the teachings of Tasawwuf and Tazkiyah, but we hold Tasawwuf responsible for all our problems and advocate its discard. On the contrary, Tasawwuf offers the fundamental protection against this nonsense. It is the real attribute of a Muslim which makes him a better human being. A Muslim is not a recluse, but an outstanding member of his society who maintains an excellent relationship with Allah and His creation, while a Wali is an outstanding Muslim who has an even better relationship with Allah and His creation.
Tasawwuf was our basic necessity. It was the guarantee for our survival and the nectar of our life, without which we can never exist as good Muslims or good human beings. It has assumed an even greater significance in the commotion of the present time. You can try it yourself. If you start performing Zikr, you will certainly feel the difference. Those of your friends, who may have been offering Salah since a long time, would also discern the difference of feelings in their prayers after performing Zikr. The criterion for the delinquents like me is that, if I start committing nine sins daily instead of ten, I have started improving. My journey towards the good has begun and I can see a ray of hope at the far end of the tunnel. For a healthy person, a temperature of 102 degrees will signify high grade fever but for a patient who has been running 104 degrees for years, it will indicate a sure sign of recovery. Everyone doesn’t transform into an angel overnight, a human being shall always remain a human being, ever prone to error. The process of Tazkiyah will however, revive within him the realisation of his relationship with his Creator and would inspire him from within to strive for His Pleasure. Previously, we unwillingly forced ourselves to offer Salah, but now we will feel an urge to pray because that is our requirement. We may not have been telling the truth in the past but now it will become our natural habit. We may have been dodging work and wasting our time, unwatched at the office, but the light of Tazkiyah revives the sense of responsibility and bestows the realisation that The Omnipresent, before Whom I am answerable, is always watching me. This realisation redirects life on the path of goodness. I think Tazkiyah is our essential requirement, without which a Muslim can’t really survive. In the absence of Tazkiyah, we can’t fully absorb and adopt the grace and excellence that Islam bestows on us. Although our names are still like Deen Muhammad, but we have seen that, without Tazkiyah, the essence of the Deen of Muhammad-SAW has disappeared from our lives. Tazkiyah is our requirement which has become even more important for us today. May Allah grant us this realisation, faculty and blessing!
Human beings have been blessed with two types of knowledge which make them superior to the other creatures. The first type relates to the physical body and every human being whether good or bad, believer or a disbeliever can acquire it. The second type is related to the Divine Being which cannot be acquired through intellect or experience but is granted by Allah Himself to Prophets and then acquired by their followers. Its seat is the human Qalb (heart). The Divine Word was similarly revealed unto the heart of the holy Prophet (Sall Allah-o Alaihi wa Sallam). But only those people whose hearts were illuminated with the light of Faith could benefit from him. Although every believer and disbeliever saw him-saw alike, yet the holy Quran asserts that the disbelievers did not see him … looking toward thee, but they see not – 7:198. They saw him with physical eyes; their hearts being devoid of Divine love, they tried to judge him with mundane intellect and as such failed to perceive his real self. They saw him as Muhammad-saw – the son of Abdullah and not as Muhammad-saw – the Messenger of Allah.
Arwah Bin Masood Saqfi (who had not accepted Islam till then) was representing the Makkans during the Truce of Hudaibiyyah. While writing the truce document, Hadhrat Ali (Radhi Allah Unho) inscribed ‘Muhammad – the Messenger of Allah’ in the opening sentence. Arwah instantly reacted and said, “That is the only dispute between us. If we accept him-saw as Allah’s Messenger, then why would we block his way to Allah’s House? His name should be written as Muhammad-saw – the son of Abdullah.”: he was right, in his own way. Unless the heart is revived and its faculties fully restored, it cannot discern reality. Also, this knowledge is beyond the realm of the intellect which can confirm only what it receives through its physical senses, it cannot perceive the intangible.
This earth has seen many periods of material progress; there have been great scientists, scholars and intellectuals of high eminence before our time and the process of amazing discoveries and miraculous inventions has continued all along. The other day, scientists discovered the remains of an ancient civilisation under the sea bed where they unearthed houses, utensils, bones and skulls. The design and beauty of those old houses even excel the present standard of our construction. It was a continent once, but those people were probably seized by Divine punishment and buried underwater. This world has witnessed many turns of time; it has seen nations rise, fall and perish forever. But despite all of the material progress and development, the intellect has only discussed a very small portion of human life, that which starts from birth and ends at death. Nobody could disclose anything about his remaining eternal life of the Hereafter, nor could provide any information about his Ruh (The Spirit). No philosopher or thinker could claim any knowledge about the Divine Being, His Attributes or the nature of His relationship with man. This aspect of knowledge is beyond the access of the human mind and intellect. There has been only one group, that of Allah’s Messengers and Prophets, who provided sure knowledge about the transcendental truths. They were blessed with knowledge from the Divine Presence and their hearts were its treasure-houses.
My friend, if the intellect acquires knowledge while the heart is dark, it works more for human destruction than for its peace, it generates more distress than comfort. If you analyse the Western society, it is devoting more funds for armament research than for medicine. But if the heart comes alive, it starts guiding the human intellect. It works for the betterment of humanity and not for its destruction. It consciously migrates from vice to virtue. The life of the heart (Qalb) is related to Allah’s remembrance. Man has only to implant Allah’s Name firmly in his heart, what follows is really amazing. Although the eyes cannot see Him, yet the belief becomes surer than visual observation. The hands cannot feel Him, the mind cannot grasp Him but the heart recognises Him vividly. It cannot describe Him but it discerns Him, hears Him, establishes a relationship with Him, entreats Him, obeys Him and acts according to His Will.
This is an abstract state which cannot be verbalised. If you ask a lover about love, how will he describe it? Similarly, if a person who has never remained hungry asks about hunger, how can he be told? Keep him hungry for sometime and he would understand it himself. Similarly, ask the person who wants to know about love to start loving, he would himself taste love and discover its logic. We ourselves experience these natural instincts quite often. Similarly, faith is also an arcane state of the heart. It can be experienced only after it is professed. The holy Prophet-saw has said, “Worship Allah as if you see Him”. Now, to conceive an impossibility is naturally impossible. If you ask a man to imagine giving birth to a child, he would never succeed even after years of mental effort. The holy Prophet-saw has commanded the believers to worship Allah as if they see Him, while according to Quran, the human sight cannot encompass Allah. It signifies that there must be some other way to perceive His Transcendence. This is achieved through the esoteric state of Qalb(Heart), which discerns Him and assures man of His Omnipresence.
The majority of the early Muslims belonged to a poor class who were slaves of the Makkans through generations. They were tuned towards instinctive and unqualified obedience of their masters. When they professed Islam, the Makkan masters employed all means of torture to dissuade their helpless and destitute slaves. Through inhuman persecution, they demanded their slaves to renounce the Absolute Unity of Allah. The newly converted Muslims replied that it was not possible for them to comply because they knew for sure that Allah was actually, absolutely One. Their hearts had achieved that state where they perceived Allah to be present before them. Had their hearts been veiled from Divine Presence (as ours have been) they could not have resolutely withstood that suffering and may have succumbed to it – may Allah forgive us! Our hearts are so unmindful of Him that we sin, steal and lie, right in His Presence. On the other hand, we never sin in the presence of other human beings, even children, due to fear of disclosure and subsequent humiliation. If we are equally convinced that our Lord is ever Present with us, we would never dare to sin. This conviction is absent from our faith because even when our intellect accepts this fact, our hearts remain void of Divine observation. Hearts that perceive Divinity, behave differently!
I read in the biography of Ba Yazid Bustami-rua that once he went for Hajj. Travelling was difficult during those times; people went on foot or on camels and horses. Now, air travel has reduced the time and increased the comfort, and the House of Allah always remains full of pilgrims, day and night, throughout the year, like in the Hajj season. However, during earlier times it was possible to get a moment of solitude in the Inviolable Precinct. Ba Yazid Bustami-rua went there at night hoping to worship alone. As he entered, he heard the Angel’s shout, “Get out of My House!” He froze with fear and thought that it was he, who was the target of Divine retort. But, he instantly observed a man, going round the K’abah and frantically crying “I am present, O my Lord! I am present”. After a few moments, he again heard the angel shout, “Get out, don’t pollute My House, don’t make any noise here!” When that man passed in front of Ba Yazid-ruahe was shivering from top to toe. Ba Yazid-rua held him by the arm and said, “Why are you bent upon getting the whole world destroyed? Don’t you hear the Divine reprimand?” The man replied, “Isn’t it me who is being addressed? If you can hear it, why can’t I?” Ba Yazid-rua said, “Then, why don’t you get out? Why are you inviting destruction for the whole area?” The man said, “I would leave but I know of no other door to go and cry at! Whether He accepts or rejects, He is the Only One for me; there is nobody else!” Ba Yazid-rua saw that as soon as the man uttered these words, he was instantly covered by Divine Refulgence and blessing.
An illuminated heart always turns towards Allah, whether He accepts or rejects. But a gloomy heart declines His call for prayers five times every day. That indeed is a great difference. We hear His call, accept it mentally but do not answer it on one pretext or the other. At times we claim that we have more important business to attend or that our clothes are not clean for the prayers or that we feel indisposed. But when the heart is alive, Allah Himself grants it the strength to worship. Then He proudly presents such slaves before the angels who have said that man would work corruption on the earth. “Look at My slaves!” He says, “If there are corrupt ones, well there are good ones like these too! Where can the devil take them? Even when I reproach them, they do not leave My door.” He had similarly addressed Satan on the First Day, Lo! As for My slaves, thou have no power over any of them – 15:42. That is, ‘You have no power over those who become My slaves but if anyone chooses to be your minion, I do not care about him.’
The life of the heart, its light and peace depend upon Allah’s Zikr (remembrance). How can it be acquired? There is a fundamental difference between knowledge given by Prophets and knowledge given by others. A non-Prophet offers only words, but a Prophet also distributes certain invisible feelings along with his words. The beneficence of Prophethood comprises two distinct divisions of knowledge and blessings. Recites His verses unto them and makes them grow (spiritually) and teaches them the Book and Wisdom – 62:2. The religious preaching is followed by purification of the hearts and subsequently knowledge of the Book and Wisdom. Unless the heart is purified, the mind can only remember words but cannot assimilate these feelings. A gloomy heart would definitely command the mind to devour prohibited things and perform sinful acts.
The teachings of the holy Prophet-saw contained so much strength, that even after fourteen centuries, anybody who professes Islam can still discriminate between right and wrong. It is indeed an extremely strange phenomenon that a person who lives in a jungle, far from civilisation, can instinctively differentiate between lawful and taboo, and between virtue and vice. But then why doesn’t everybody act according to his knowledge? It is because knowledge influences the mind, but the mind cannot transform knowledge into practice. No positive change can occur unless the Qalb(Heart) realises that the Divine Word is addressing it directly. This is through the beneficence of the holy Prophet-saw. As far his teachings are concerned, both direct and indirect recipients were equally benefited. But his blessings were only available to those who found his august company. His blessings instantly elevated everyone who accepted Islam and came to him-saw to the status of Companionship notwithstanding the misdeeds and gross misconduct of his past life. Companionship is not just a label – it denotes the highest level of piety and morality after Prophethood. During the present times, it has become a custom to criticise the Companions we grade them as our equals (or even lower) and criticise them without any reservations. This happens when we are completely ignorant of the exalted status of Companionship; as stated earlier, it denotes the acme of human excellence. The dust raised by the shoes of a Companion is more valuable in the sight of Allah than the collective sainthood of the entire Ummah. Someone asked Imam Abu Hanifah-rua about the relative status of Hadhrat Amir Muawiyah-rau and ‘Umar Bin ‘Abdul Aziz-rua. He replied that Hadhrat Muawiyah-rau was decidedly better. The questioner was amazed and submitted that ‘Umar Bin ‘Abdul Aziz-rua was a Tab’a Tab’i and the holy Prophet-saw had prophesied that he would be the best person of his time in the whole World. The Imam-rua replied, “Millions of such ‘Umar Bin ‘Abdul Aziz-rua can be sacrificed for the dust gathered in the nostrils of the horse which Hadhrat Muawiyah-rau rode while in the company of the holy Prophet-saw – he was a Companion!”
Unquestioned adherence to the holy Prophet-saw is obligatory for the believers. His blessed company purified the beliefs and conduct of his followers to the highest conceivable level. It is the singular distinction of his Companions that their adherence has been made obligatory for the entire humanity for all times to come. And the first to lead the way, of the Muhajirin and the Ansar and those who followed them in goodness – 9:100. There are only two groups in Islam – the group of the Companions and of those who followed them in earnest – there is no third group. The point which merits consideration is that the Companions were neither Prophets, nor they were innocent – then why have they received so much importance? That is because they had completely submitted themselves before the holy Prophet-saw – they represented his will and pleasure. Once someone asked the holy Prophet-saw, “After all, they are human beings and they would interpret your instructions according to their different levels of intellect. What should be done in case of their difference of opinion?” The holy Prophet-saw replied, “Follow any one (of them) and you would be rightly guided.” That is, even with different opinions they would follow the truth and would not go astray and their adherence would lead you to eternal salvation. Their mutual difference is a blessing which provides various courses for the remainders to follow – anyone can adopt the course of his choice.
After the Battle of the Trench, the holy Prophet-saw was commanded to attend to Bani Quraizah. The Companions had not yet laid down their arms when the holy Prophet-saw ordered them to offer their ‘Asar (afternoon) prayers at the location of this tribe. They were hurrying towards their destination which was about six or seven miles away when the prayer time came. Some opined that the prayers should not be delayed because the holy Prophet-saw had only desired them to reach their destination immediately. The other group maintained that the holy Prophet-sawhad explicitly ordered them to offer their prayers at the destination and that they would obey him in letter and spirit even if it delayed their prayers; each group acted according to its interpretation. Upon reaching the destination, the issue was placed before the holy Prophet-saw, he ruled that both groups had acted correctly. Their illuminated hearts were brim with sincerity for Allah and His Messenger-saw; therefore, their actions were not governed by worldly motives or personal impulses. The blessed company of the holy Prophet-saw had granted them this honour. The Quran has described their condition in a strange manner: So that their flesh and their hearts soften at Allah’s reminder – 39:23. It means that each cell of their bodies, from the outermost skin to the innermost compartment of the heart, was constantly engaged in His remembrance. This blessing was naturally available, distributed and acquired in the company of the holy Prophet-saw.
Khawajah Owais Qarni is famous for his piety, abstinence and love for the holy Prophet‑saw, who had desired that someone should meet him and requested of him to entreat Divine forgiveness for his-saw Ummah and so he directed Hadhrat ‘Umar Faruq-rau to convey his greetings to him. It was a great honour for Owais Qarni and in pursuance of the orders of the holy Prophet-saw, Hadhrat ‘Umar-rau searched for and met him. But despite this singular honour and his special relationship with the holy Prophet-saw, he could not become a Companion because he was unable to physically meet the holy Prophet-saw. These blessings did not fade during the Companions’ times, anybody who accepted Islam and came to them became a Tab’i. The Taba’in also enjoy a distinguished status within the Ummah. Then, all those who found their company became Tab’a Taba’in. Companionship was the greatest blessing but it was distributed without any discrimination. Everybody who accepted Islam and came to the holy Prophet-saw became a Companion; his further attainments depended on his subsequent endeavour and effort but they all commonly shared the title of Companionship. Again there was no precondition to become Tab’i except to attend the august company of a Companion. Similarly the Tab’a Taba’in had only to go to a Taba’i to acquire this status.
Every Muslim is blessed with a heart that can perform Zikr(Remembrance). The Quran and the holy Prophet-saw have repeatedly exhorted the believers to keep performing Zikr (Remembrance) . The Quran has enjoined Zikr (Remembrance) alongside every worship like Salah, Hajj and Jihad. The holy Prophet was himself commanded, “So remember the Name of thy Lord and devote thyself with a complete devotion.” – 73:8. This blessing was similarly distributed down through the ages. Some religious scholars devoted their lives for Tafsir (interpretation of the Quran), some dedicated themselves for Hadith and some others attained excellence in Fiqh (jurisprudence). But despite their diverse fields, all scholars of Tafsir, Hadith and Fiqh used to perform Zikr (Remembrance) and had acquired this blessing. If you look back only fifty years, you would discover that every religious scholar, after completing his education, went to some spiritual master to learn Allah’s Zikr (Remembrance) . It was only after acquiring this blessing that he set out for religious service. This has been their common practice, without exception. The objection that Zikr (Remembrance) is not necessary is the product of our time only. In reality, the life of the Qalb(Heart) is dependent upon Allah’s Zikr (Remembrance) , “Verily, in Allah’s remembrance do hearts find rest.” – 13:28. This Divine Verse asserts that the hearts can find peace only in Allah’s Zikr (Remembrance) and nowhere else. The holy Prophet-saw has said that the best provision is the one which just suffices, where one neither borrows nor accumulates and it is sufficient for his needs; and the best Zikr (Remembrance) is the hidden Zikr (Remembrance) and that which illuminates the heart. “There is a cleanser for everything and the cleanser for the heart is Allah’s Zikr”, he-saw is reported to have said.
Religious scholars have spent their lives in the company of those whose hearts performed Zikr (Remembrance) . They ardently endeavoured to absorb these lights in their own hearts and subsequently distributed them to other Muslims, that was the beginning of Shaikhdom in our religion. Most of the present day concepts which ascribe worldly powers to a Shaikh (spiritual guide) are outrightly false. The belief that anyone without a Shaikh would be subjected to distress and affliction is equally unfounded. A Shaikh is also a human being and also undergoes worldly trials and tribulations. How can he alleviate the miseries of others? A real Peer (Shaikh/spiritual guide) is the one who strives to acquire this light of the heart from an erudite spiritual guide and spends his life in total submission to Allah according to the Sunnah of the holy Prophet-saw. Allah grants him the strength to illuminate the hearts of those who come to seek his spiritual attention, such a seeker is called a Mureed(Spiritual Seeker) and the spiritual mentor is known as a Peer (Shaikh)(Spiritual Teacher). If there is no transfer of blessings, then this relationship is unnecessary and of no consequence whatsoever.
In the present time, Jews, Hindus and even atheists, who do not believe in Allah and His Prophet-saw rule countries, possess wealth and property. If everyone else can have all these worldly facilities and comforts, why can’t a Muslim get his basic provisions of life without a Peer? Allah Himself has proportioned the worldly provisions of everyone and a Peer has absolutely no say in this matter. If someone adopts virtue, Allah arranges his provisions from lawful and permitted means; but if some choose to adopt a sinful life, He directs his provisions through unlawful and wrong ways. But in both cases, each person gets only that which has already been divinely destined for him.
Hadhrat Ali-rau used to visit different areas during his caliphate. One day he was passing through a village when the time for ‘Asar (afternoon) prayers drew near. He arrived at the mosque slightly late, when people were coming out after offering their prayers, so he requested a passer-by to hold his mule so that he could offer his prayers in the mosque. While coming out, he decided to pay two dirhams to the man for this service, but when he came out he found the man missing along with the reins of his mule. He walked to the market to buy another set of reins, where he found the reins of his mule at a shop. “Would you sell them?” he asked the shopkeeper. “Of course, yes!” was his reply. Hadhrat Ali asked, “For how much?” The shopkeeper said, “For two dirhams.” After he purchased the reins, he asked the shopkeeper wherefrom he had procured them. “A man has just sold them to me for one dirham and I sold them to you for two.” Hadhrat Ali-rau said to himself, “I had decided to pay two dirhams to the wretched thief but he chose the wrong way and still got one. This shopkeeper told the truth and earned a lawful profit of one dirham.”
If someone decides to change the course of his life, his decision cannot increase his divinely ordained provisions, only the means of its acquisition are modified according to his new course – he still gets only that which has already been destined for him. A Peer or a religious scholar has simply no say in this matter. A Peer is the one whose own heart is illuminated and he can illuminate the hearts of others. The indication of an illuminated heart is the reformation of one’s belief and conduct and not the mere observation of Divine lights. If the heart rejects unsound belief and conduct, it has come alive and has started doing Zikr (Remembrance) ; otherwise it is still dead. The association with such a Shaikh(Spiritual Teacher) is a sheer waste of time, one should immediately search for another Shaikh(Spiritual Teacher) who is capable of reviving his heart. The speech and conduct of a Shaikh(Spiritual Teacher) should not be oriented towards self exaltation but towards acquisition of Divine Pleasure. He should not covet others’ riches but should earn his sustenance through lawful means. His conduct should corroborate his firm belief in the Omnipresence of Allah. His countenance should reflect Divine Lights and when he bows his head before his Rabb(Lord), the earth should quake with the grandeur of Divine Refulgence. If these blessings are available, this institution of Shaikhdom is of immense value.
The Gracious Lord has given complete freedom of choice in the method of Zikr (Remembrance) , “Such as remember Allah, standing, sitting and reclining.” – 3:191, “And remember your Lord when you forget.” – 18:24. Various Mashaikh(Spiritual Teachers) have adopted different methods of Zikr (Remembrance) for the common aim of illuminating the hearts; there may be many means of transport to reach the same city. Similarly, all these different methods aim at acquiring the Prophetic blessings that were transferred from one bosom to the other and can only be acquired in the company of their custodians. However, this freedom can be exercised within the limits prescribed by the holy Prophet-saw. The adoption of any method prohibited by the Shari‘ah would be incorrect under any pretext.
Allah has defined the form and frequency of all obligatory worship. The rak‘at (cycles) of Salah, various recitals therein and the timings of each Salah have all been laid down. Similarly, all details about Hajj and Saum have also been defined. Allah has however, not defined any form and frequency for His Zikr (Remembrance) . There is neither any pre condition nor any time limitation, even ritual purity or cleanliness of garments is not obligatory. It is not mandatory to perform Zikr (Remembrance) in the mosque, although ritual purity and the holy atmosphere of the mosque would definitely attract more blessings. Zikr (Remembrance) must continue at all times, under all circumstances and conditions. It must continue in mosque, in market, standing, sitting or reclining.
However, it is not possible to perform this continuous, uninterrupted Zikr (Remembrance) with the tongue, that is, orally. Every conversation would interrupt Zikr (Remembrance) and finally, during sleep, all organs would become listless and the tongue would also be quiet. But, if someone receives the attention that was distributed in the company of the holy Prophet-saw, it would saturate his heart with Allah’s Zikr (Remembrance) . Every beat of his heart would reverberate with Allah’s Zikr (Remembrance) and his every breath would be modulated with His Name. Each drop of his blood would carry His blessings to every part of the body, So that their flesh and their hearts soften at Allah’s reminder – 39:23. The condition of continuous and frequent Zikr (Remembrance) can be met only in the company of an accomplished Shaikh(Spiritual Teacher) when his attention initiates Allah’s Zikr (Remembrance) in every cell of the body. This is our primary need because only this attention can revive our hearts, a live heart observes Divine Splendour according to its capacity. This observation can only be experienced – it cannot be described, words fail to translate these indefinable feelings.
My brother, I am also a simple, delinquent person of the present time – may Allah forgive me and all of us! He blessed me to remain in the company of His Aulia (sing – Wali: lit. friends) for thirty years and I declare that while sitting in the mosque, I had never thought of becoming a Shaikh – I have always been afraid of this appointment. I had gone there for my own reformation but was assigned the responsibility to teach others, it is no favour but my duty to convey this blessing to you. Now, if someone accepts this, it is his sweet pleasure and if someone rejects this, it is his own choice. You have seen policemen on duty in the markets. People abuse them, scorn them and at times pelt them with stones and throw empty bottles at them. Do they run away? Of course not, because that is their duty.
Similarly this is my duty which I must perform under all circumstances. People insult me – some pass verdicts; once I was driven out of a mosque for teaching Allah’s Zikr (Remembrance) I do not have to care about the reaction of people nor do I have any expectations from anyone. I repose all my hopes and expectations in my Lord Who has assigned me this duty. I have learnt His name and He has so blessed me, that if you remain with me for a while and perform His Zikr (Remembrance) , you would also get these blessings – this is nothing difficult. It is incorrect to believe that only the son of a Peer can become a Peer – there is no truth in it. Every Muslim is a Shaikh and a Wali(Friend of Divine Being). If every Muslim could become a Companion, why should then Wilayah(Friendhsip with Divine Being) be the lot of a chosen few? There is no discrimination between male and female in this respect; Companionship, the highest title after Prophethood, was also achieved by men and women alike. While mentioning laudable human attributes in the Quran, the Gracious Lord concludes, And the men who remember Allah much and the women who remember Allah much. Here females have been bracketed with males because both are members of the same human race. Therefore, in our Order, every member is permitted to teach Zikr (Remembrance) to the ladies in his house, you can try it yourself. Whenever you give spiritual attention to your mother, sisters, wife or daughters during Zikr (Remembrance) , the hearts of all of them will be illuminated. Life becomes most pleasurable when the entire family, including all of the men, women and children, perform Allah’s Zikr (Remembrance) . At that moment even the walls, stones and bricks resound with His Name. The holy Prophet-saw has said that such houses appear like stars to the dwellers of the Heavens.
This is a blessing over which you have a claim, you have a share in it and it is your basic requirement as well. You should learn it and adopt it, for the sake of Allah, for the Hereafter and for attaining the good pleasure of the holy Prophet-saw – may Allah bless you! May He grant us His Zikr (Remembrance) during this life, death and Hereafter! May He raise us with His Zikr (Remembrance) on the Day of Resurrection and include us in the ranks of His slaves! Ameen!
Our method is called Pas Anfas, which, in Persian, means guarding every breath. Zikr(Remembrance) is performed with the heart using breath as the medium. Sit down facing the Qiblah (direction of Mecca; in case the direction is not known then any direction is alright), fully attentive towards Allah and close your eyes. Recite the Ta’awwuz and Tasmiah and start the Zikr(Remembrance). When you breathe in, imagine that the word Allah penetrates the depths of your heart and when you breathe out, the word ‘Hu’ strikes the heart or the Latifah(Spiritual Organ) on which the Zikr(Remembrance) is being performed. (The beginners may only do Zikr[Remembrance] on the Qalb[Heart]). Do Zikr(Remembrance) on each Latifah(Spiritual Organ) for suitable duration. When all seven Lata’if(Spiritual Organs) have been covered, return to the Qalb(Heart). After doing Zikr(Remembrance) on it for some more time, start the meditation. The body should now be relaxed and the mind set at ease. Concentrate on the Qalb(Heart) and imagine that the word ‘Allah’ rises from Qalb(Heart) and the word ‘Hu’ rises upwards to Allah’s Sublime Throne. This is the first meditation; it is known as Rabita (contact), it illuminates the Path for the Ruh(Soul) and facilitates its flight toward Allah’s nearness in subsequent meditations.
Remember that no worthwhile progress can be made without the Tawajjuh (spiritual attention) of a Shaikh(Spiritual Teacher), because the Barakah(Spiritual Blessings) that initiate a seeker along the Sufi path are transmitted only through him. The Companions got this blessing from the holy Prophet-SAWS and transmitted it to the Taba’in, who in turn passed it on to the Taba Taba’in. The Aulia (men of God) acquired this wealth of Barakah(Spiritual Blessings) from them, and it has similarly been transferred through the generations. Allah willing, this process will continue forever, and every believer, regardless of race, caste or gender can acquire these Barakah(Spiritual Blessings). Sound beliefs and sincerity are the only prerequisites for this acquisition. Constant Zikr(Remembrance) reforms the heart and initiates the journey from vice to virtue, from anxiety to contentment and from a lost life to Falah – success in this world and the Hereafter.
Allah ordains every soul in the Quran to Perform Zikr(Remembrance). This not only means reciting the Quran and Tasbeeh(recitals) but also Zikr-e Qalb(Remembrance of Heart). It is only through Zikr-e Qalbi(Remembrance of Heart) that Prophetic Lights reach the depths of human soul and purify it from all vice and evil. Zikr(Remembrance of Divine) infuses a realization of constant Divine Presence and a seeker feels great improvement in the level of sincerity and love towards Allah and the holy Prophet-SAWS. Such levels of sincerity, love and feelings of Divine Presence can never be obtained without Zikr(Remembrance).
It would be a mistake to believe that Zikr(Remembrance) may be a requirement only for the very pious and virtuous people. Zikr(Remembrance) provides the Prophetic blessings which are in effect the life line of every human soul. It transforms even the most corrupted humans into virtuous souls by bringing out the best in them.
The fact is that Zikr(Remembrance) is the only way to achieve true contentment and satisfaction in life. The holy Quran has pointed to this eternal fact that it is only through Zikr Allah(Rmembrance of Divine) that hearts can find satisfaction. Such satisfaction and peace are the ultimate requirements of every person, regardless of religion, race and ethnicity. Practicing Zikr(Remembrance) regularly removes all traces of anxiety and restlessness, and guides the human soul to eternal bliss and peace.