I seek refuge with Allah, from Shaitan the Outcast. With the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. All Praise is for Allah-swt, the Creator of the Universe and the Source of all knowledge. He-swt, Who has concealed so many mysteries in every particle that no creature can claim to know everything, this (claim) suits His Majesty alone. Creation can know only as much as He-swt grants to whomsoever He-swt wills. Man is the masterpiece of His creation. Every straw, leaf and particle houses countless secrets within itself and each secret is a witness to Allah-swt Greatness. The more the revelation of such mysteries to a person, the more he acknowledges the greatness of Allah-swt, provided his human nature has not been corrupted. However, if his nature has been contaminated, every medicine will produce the opposite effect and the revelation of each mystery will mislead him and inflate his ego. May Allah Kareem grant protection from this malady! By Allah-swt Grace, I wish to put across some basic points. Possibly these may serve as a guide for a true seeker and help in the attainment of Salvation. I have no capability except that granted by Allah-swt . Tasawwuf(Sufism) and Sulook(Spiritual Path) is a subject that is as important as it is unique. It deals with the feelings of faith and belief and the inspirations on the Qalb(Heart). Many scholars have written that these people (the Soofis) wore woollen clothing (soof) and thus came to be known as Sufis. However, my opinion is different. In my view, Tasawwuf(Sufism) is the Persian translation of the Quranic word ‘Tazkiyah’(Purification), which means cleansing of the heart, it is included within Prophetic blessings and, in reality, something one cannot do without. I don’t want to write anything as its proof, since beginning with the Companions and the Khair ul Quroon, countless scholars have written about Tazkiyah(Spiritual Purification) and have proved it as the essence and the most important part of the Deen. If someone isn’t convinced by their writings, then what is my position and what difference will my writing make to him? The present day situation is reflected in the letter of a friend from India. He wrote that he visited Dar ul Uloom Deoband but did not find anyone there who knew about Zikr-e Qalbi(Remembrance by heart); I was shaken when I read this letter. The scholars, who laid the foundations of this institution, were all, till the very recent times, Sufis. However, their successors have shelved their works that not only contained the evidence of Sulook(Spiritual Path), but also contained substantial material on different methods of Zikr(Remembrance) and on guidance for seekers. From Hadhrat Nanotvi to Maulana Thanvi, which scholar was not a Zakir and a teacher of Zikr(Remembrance), and who did not write about the various forms and methods of Zikr? Our Shaikh ul Mukarram-rua himself made a valuable and worthy contribution to this resource in the form of Dalael us-Sulook. I wish to mention just a few of the books that are available in the library of Dar ul Irfan (as the whole list would be very lengthy). In addition to this, every Mufassir and Muhaddith has written about it in his works on Tafsir or Hadith. The few words that I wish to pen down here deal only with the feelings of the Lata‘if(Spiritual Organs) and the Maraqbaat (meditations), their effect on practical life and the ways to find or determine the reality of the Lata‘if(Spiritual Organs) and the Maraqbaat(Meditation). It is a very delicate subject and has probably never been addressed in this manner before. Every age has its own requirements and probably this hasn’t been a requirement of the previous times. When we learnt Sulook(Spiritual Path), we would not dare to even speak to Shaikh ul Mukarram-rua. Rather, at times, when two of us realized a spiritual feeling differently (although the difference was only in its detail and interpretation, not in its essence), we kept to our individual version for the rest of our lives, but wouldn’t dare to ask the Shaikh-rua(Spiritual Teacher). Today, the time and its people have changed. They want to know the logic and the reason behind everything and ask for its interpretation and explanation. This change occurred in front of us and we have to put up with it. Therefore, with Allah’s Grace, this Faqeer (humble soul) is trying to write, to an extent, about those feelings. The purpose is not to convince those who deny, but that the travellers of this Path may be guided and enabled to understand the feelings of their Qalb(Heart) and their effects. A list of books is attached for those who want proof; they can benefit. Those are only a few tittles of the books in the Dar ul Irfan library; indeed, there should be many more treatises on the subject. Along with the above, is a topic that requires much attention and that is about Kashf and Mushahidah (spiritual visions and observations). These (spiritual visions and observations) are not integral or necessary elements (of Tasawwuf), but belong to the category of rewards bestowed by Allah-swt. It someone is blessed with Kashf, he should consider it a Divine blessing and not an indication that his Zikr(Remembrance) is being accepted. Indeed, it is the feelings and effects noticed in one’s practical life that are the criteria for acceptance, since the results of an effort that is accepted, which in turn depends upon one’s sincerity of intention and purity of faith, most certainly become visible in one’s conduct; and this is a special Divine Favour. Some friends remain under the misunderstanding that as they have not been blessed with Mushahidah(Spiritual Vision), their Lata‘if(Spiritual Organs) are not illuminated; this is not the right impression. What is essential is that the effect of the Lata‘if(Spiritual Organs) and the Maraqbaat(Meditation) is reflected in one’s character.
There are five senses, one of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing associated with the human body; there is yet another, a sense of thought also. The information processed by them directly affects the Qalb(Heart). If the eye sees something beautiful, a beautiful flower, a lovely picture, the Qalb(Heart) also feels delighted; if it sees something ugly, the Qalb(Heart) also feels distressed. If the ear hears something good or bad, or if the tongue indulges in noble or loose talk, the Qalb(Heart) feels their effect. Similarly, the thought process of the brain also affects the Qalb(Heart). When, it is advised to close the eyes during Zikr(Remembrance), lock the tongue, move the body slightly and focus the mind on ‘Allah Hoo’, all these steps are aimed at reducing the external effects on the Qalb(Heart). If the Qalb(Heart) is distracted, it will divide its attention and consequently its connection with Zikr(Remembrance) Allah will be lost. It means the Qalb(Heart) can remain attentive to only one thing at one time. The ‘power of concentration’ is, in fact, one of the yoga practices and worship of Hindus. These are exercises of the brain that are similar to telepathy. This power is attained by focusing the entire mental energy at one point. Such people start with constantly gazing at the flame of a candle for five minutes in the beginning and gradually extend this time to several hours. Those who become experts can continue gazing at the sun for hours at a time. They do this to attain the ability to focus the entire mental energy at one point. Having attained it, they use this ability to transfer their thoughts to other people’s minds or to read their minds to some extent. During these times, you are using machines for similar purposes.
The holy Quran invariably associates guidance with illumination and reformation of the heart. It always ascribes the delusion of previous nations to the gloom of their hearts and also indicates the factors that contribute towards this malady. Similarly, it attributes guidance to heart’s reformation and also suggests the methods of its attainment. This point has not just been mentioned casually but this is the fundamental and focal point of all its teachings.
Different exercises are prescribed to keep each body organ healthy and fit. These exercises are practically taught in special schools of physical education. The patients who cannot do any other exercise are advised to stroll in their rooms to keep their organs agile and active. But it is amazing that we devote whole attention to our bodies and do not care about the health of our hearts. On the other hand, this important point has been repeatedly stressed in the Quran and it forms the basis of salvation in the Hereafter. The Muslim masses in general and the religious scholars in particular, ignore this important aspect as if it would come automatically. In our practical lives we never expect anything to happen by itself. No body leaves his children at large, hoping that they would be automatically educated by the society. On the contrary, he spends a lot of time and money to select a good school for them and despite best efforts, always remains concerned about the standard of their education. If you want to learn any profession, you would certainly have to devote a lot of time and effort. To learn a simple profession like masonry, driving, tailoring or shoe making, you would have to look for an expert and get his instructions. No body has ever argued that he can learn it on his own because all these professions are already being practised in the society. Had that been a correct contention, we would have learned to stitch our clothes, make our shoes or construct our houses, all by ourselves. No body believes this theory in his practical life. When we don’t expect even the smallest event to happen by itself, how can we ignore the most important task, which is the key to eternal bliss, and expect to acquire it without any effort.
The holy Prophet (Sall Allah-o Alaihi wa Sallam) has stated that there is a lump of flesh in the human body whose health reforms the entire body and its malady disturbs the whole physical balance. “Hearken”, he said “that is the Qalb” (heart). It is a miracle of the Prophets that the heart of every believer who attends their august company, attains to the acme of human excellence in a single moment. Even then, we find many Companions who specifically requested the holy Prophet-saw to give special attention to their hearts for greater reformation. Some requested him to move his blessed hand over their chest. In the words of Quran, every cell of a Companion’s body resonated with Allah’s Zikr(Remembrance). On their part, however, they didn’t feel satisfied about their achievement and remained worried about their shortfalls. Once the holy Prophet-saw praised Hadhrat Abu Bakr Siddiq-rau and said, “He is not superior to you because he excels you in worship but because of what I have poured from my heart into his. No other heart can acquire what his heart has acquired from mine.”
The indifference shown to this most important aspect is the malady of our modern times only. During the yesteryears even the common Muslims tried to require this blessing. If you read the biography of previous scholars, you would discover that each one of them, without exception, after completing his education, remained in the company of some Shaikh(Spiritual Teacher) for a definite period of time. It had been a regular practice of the religious institutions and scholars to dispatch their students to some Shaikh(Spiritual Teacher) for spiritual enlightenment and self reformation.
Some people object to our method of Zikr(Remembrance). We uphold their objection and concede that our method may not be necessarily correct. They should however, not stop us from Zikr (Remembrance) but tell us the correct method and the number of people reformed by their way. Otherwise, we would be justified to conclude that they are only trying to undermine the efforts of those who are serving this cause. Actually, Allah and His Prophet-saw have not forbidden any particular method of Zikr (Remembrance) . There is only one restriction; the form of Zikr (Remembrance) should not cross the bounds of Shari‘ah. No one can adopt a method of Zikr(Remembrance) which is evil or prejudices the rights of others or violates any injunction of the Shari‘ah. All forms of Zikr(Remembrance) which remain within these prescribed limits are permissible. You can perform Zikr (Remembrance) sitting, standing, walking or reclining. When Allah has given the permission, how can anyone else impose any restrictions? The form and frequency of Salah (prayers), Zakat (poor due) and Hajj have been defined by the Shari‘ah but no form has been prescribed for Zikr(Remembrance) . The Divine Command enjoins the believers to perform Zikr (Remembrance) continuously. It should be done at every moment and under all conditions, standing, sitting, reclining, sleeping and while awake. There is only one restriction. You cannot violate the limits defined by the holy Prophet-saw.
We are neither authorised to compel others to adopt our method nor declare a particular form as wrong. Similarly, no body has the right to ask us to leave our method. It is not the method of Zikr (Remembrance) which really matters, but the spiritual attention of the Shaikh(Spiritual Teacher) received by the seekers during Zikr (Remembrance) . That is the real blessing. Without this attention, continuous Zikr (Remembrance) of a whole lifetime cannot illuminate even the first Latifah (subtlety) Qalb(Heart). It simply cannot happen by itself. If someone has the land, water for irrigation, fertilisers and cultivation equipment, he still cannot grow any crop unless he sows the seed. Without the seed, his efforts would bring no fruit. The spiritual attention is akin to this seed. Even with the best of efforts, no spiritual growth can even be imagined without this attention. Reformation of the soul is one of the duties of Prophethood. The Taba’in reformed themselves in the company of the Companions and the Tab’a Taba’in acquired it from them. Just as a person has to go to a scholar to acquire knowledge, one has to similarly remain in the company of an accomplished Shaikh(Spiritual Teacher) and strive earnestly to acquire spiritual blessings.
Allah has mentioned that these people are not the first ones to inhabit the earth. Many generations have passed before them. Their predecessors also governed mighty empires and possessed huge property. Where have they all perished? If their forefathers could not perpetuate their existence, can these people live for ever? If they are following in the footsteps of their elders then have they prepared themselves for their onward journey? This single example is sufficient to teach a lesson. An infant spends his childhood in a family, becomes a father one day and ultimately a grandfather. His children know nothing about his grandparents, who had died much before the birth of his children. He doesn’t realise that after a couple of generations no body will remember him. Only those, who are in his own lap, know him, but he would cease to exist in the memory of his grandchildren.
Allah has warned mankind that He can grasp them instantly, if He so desires. Allah’s grasp is always instant but people do not perceive. Apparently, the heavens do not fall and the earth is not torn asunder, but actually, an extremely important change takes place unnoticeably: hearts of the evil doers are sealed; they do not perceive and cannot differentiate between right and wrong. It is not necessary that the Divine wrath should descend in the form of a visible calamity, as for the previous generations. The sealing of hearts and the loss of sense of discrimination is an equally grave punishment, because no amount of good advice can ever reform such a person. This deprivation, when accompanied by worldly affluence, has been graded as the greatest curse by the Quran. These townships, whose fables are included in the folk lore, similarly sailed to their ultimate perdition. A darkened heart cannot perceive. Although a person retains his outwardly human form, but inwardly, he turns more beastly than an animal. By Allah’s grace we are Muslims. Despite being delinquent, we still retain some honour and shame. But these human values are almost totally extinct in the non-Muslim societies. Their habits and relationships are not based on mutual human respect and consideration, but are driven by the animal instincts of selfishness, oppression, immodesty and the like. Apparently they are healthy, wealthy and strong people but their hearts are unclean. Like animals, they possess no sense of shame.
The Divine Book informs us that Allah never destroyed the earlier people before sending them guidance. His Messengers brought clear proofs to them but they refused to believe. Allah’s Book and words of the Prophets do not impress a heart that has lost its faculty of perception. How can that heart be affected by any other preaching, advice or book? Such people with ruined hearts do not remain trustworthy. Their loyalty keeps swaying between Faith and Kufr (disbelief), and they are blinded by the frenzy to satisfy their vain desires. Their hearts take to vice. Perversion of thought and practice completely shrouds their lives.
We know that the symptoms of physical diseases are similar throughout the world. No disease is restricted to a particular area but would definitely develop at every conducive place. AIDS is not restricted to UK or USA alone; if we don’t protect ourselves, it can invade our society also. The diseases are not related to colour, area or religion. They have the same effect everywhere. Similarly, when the hearts are ruined, they produce the same spiritual maladies at every place. We feel secure by presuming that only those nations whose heats are ruined will ultimately face their consequences. That is not a correct concept. If we fear the spread of physical epidemics and apprehend similar disaster as in other countries, why don’t we realise that this spiritual epidemic can also engulf us? The maladies of hearts can import the same disaster from other countries.
We have seen the effect of Tabligh (preaching) day and night. Although preaching is a religious obligation, whose importance cannot be undermined, but actually it is the vehicle to acquire the reformation of heart. If you keep preaching about food but don’t give someone a morsel throughout life, what good is your preaching for? I feel greatly surprised about the religious scholars. They accept the importance of heart reformation in their books and lectures but out rightly deny it in their practical lives.
When the Tartars ransacked Baghdad, it was a seat of great religious learning. Every street resounded with religious discussions and meetings. Its libraries stocked the most valuable religious books. But despite all religious preaching what was the end result? The entire city along with its people, libraries and civilisation was completely destroyed. The whole Ummah still laments the destruction of its literary treasure. Why did all this happen? It happened because their hearts had been completely ruined. They rendered only lip service to religion, without absorbing its blessings in their hearts, least realising that it is the heart and not the tongue which generates effect.
The same principle has been recounted here. Earlier generations and civilisations were destroyed as a sequel to the ruination of their hearts. Human beings of today should also examine their own hearts. Are their hearts alive? A live heart would try to obey Allah; that is actually its food, without which it cannot survive. If it does not demand this food, then it would at least be unconscious or sick, if not totally dead. No one can really succeed unless he devotes proper attention to the reformation of his heart. That is what I have understood by Allah’s grace. May Allah make it easy for us! Ameen!
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.
Islam, as a complete code of life or Deen, was perfected during the life of the holy Prophet Muhammad-SAWS. He was the sole teacher and his mosque was the core institution for the community. Although Islam in its entirety was practiced during that blessed era, the classification and compilation of its knowledge into distinct branches like ‘Tafsir’ (interpretation of the Quran), Hadith (traditions or sayings of the holy Prophet-SAWS), Fiqh (Islamic law), and Sufism (the soul purification) were undertaken subsequently. This Deen of Allah passed from the holy Prophet-SAWS to his illustrious Companions in two ways: the outward and the inward. The former comprised the knowledge defined by speech and conduct, i.e., the Quran and Sunnah. The latter comprised the invisible blessings or the Prophetic lights transmitted by his blessed self. These blessings purified the hearts and instilled in them an ardent desire to follow Islam with utmost love, sincerity and devotion. Sufism is the effort to acquire these Barakah (Blessings).
The Companions handed down his-SAWS teachings as well as blessings to the Taba’in. Their strong hearts were capable of infusing these blessings into the hearts of their followers. Both aspects of Islam were similarly passed on by the Taba’in to the Tab’a Taba’in. The compilation of knowledge and its interpretation led to the establishment of many schools of religious thought; famous four being the Hanafi, the Hanbali, the Maliki, and the Shafa’i, all named after their founders. Similarly, in order to acquire, preserve and distribute his blessings, an organized effort was initiated by four schools of Sufism: The Naqshbandiah, the Qadriah, the Chishtiah, and the Suharwardiah. These schools were also named after their organizers and came to be known as Sufi Orders. All these Orders aim at purifying the hearts of sincere Muslims with Prophetic lights. These Sufi Orders also grew into many branches with the passage of time and are known by other names as well.
The holy Quran has linked success in this life and the Hereafter with Tazkiyah (soul purification).
He, who purified, is successful. (87: 14)
Sufi Orders of Islam are the institutions where the fundamentals of Tazkiyah (soul purification) and its practical application are taught. They have graded programs in which every new seeker is instructed in Zikr-e Lisani (oral Zikr) and is finally taught the Zikr-e Qalbi (Remembrance in heart). However, in the Naqshbandiah Order, Zikr-e Qalbi is practiced form the very beginning.
Adherence to the Sunnah (Prophet’s way of life) is greatly emphasized in this Order, because the seeker achieves greater and quicker progress through its blessings. The essence of Zikr(Remembrance) is that the Qalb(Heart) should sincerely accept Islamic beliefs and acquire the strength to follow the Sunnah with even greater devotion.
‘If the heart is acquainted with Allah and is engaged in His Zikr(Remembrance); then it is filled with Barakaat-e Nabuwwat (Prophetic blessings) which infuse their purity in the mind and body. This not only helps in controlling sensual drives but also removes traces of hatred, greed, envy and insecurity from human soul. The person therefore becomes an embodiment of love, both for the Divine and the corporeal. This is the meaning of a Hadith, “There is a lump of flesh in the human body; if it goes astray the entire body is misguided, and if it is reformed the entire body is reformed. Know that this lump is the Qalb(Heart)”.’
(Asrar at-Tanzil by Ameer Muhammad Akram Awan [RH])