TWELVE WISDOMS OF TRUE SUFISM AND ASTROLABE OF GNOSIS
TWELVE WISDOMS OF TRUE SUFISM
All praises are deserved by Allah and may Allah send blessings and greetings on his Messenger, our Master Mohammad (saw) and on his family and companions and all those who followed and will follow them until the Day of Judgement.
This humble work is an attempt, with the help of the One Who can really help, to transmit to all those who seek to walk in the way of Allah the knowledge and understanding granted to this humble author over so many years as one favoured with Islam and it’s practises, with the Sufi dimension added. It is written in a traditional style with only limited modifications in the interests of modernity feeling that without modernisation an Islamic-Sufi essay of this kind could not serve it’s purpose fully.
Any good you Insha-Allah find here is a gift from Allah the Most High and Most Generous and His Messenger (saw) and my long-standing mentor Maulana (Master) Sheikh Nazim Al-Haqqani as His channels of teaching and blessing, while any errors are mine and mine alone for which I ask your pardon and my Lord’s forgiveness.
Please do not misunderstand any criticisms you will find against certain bad practitioners of Sufism. In every age, all Sufi writers had to criticise some of their contemporaries. Any movement without internal criticism soon stagnates and becomes ineffectual. Mistakes will always happen and their correction be attempted. I also realise that I may be the one who is in the wrong for which cases I apologise to those who know better than me and ask forgiveness from my Lord.
I pray that this booklet renders a good service to its readers in their best interests.
O seeker! May Allah guide me and you and grant us the best of what we seek and best of what His best servants ever sought and will ever seek and what He keeps in store for His most beloved servants! Amen.
Know that all the reality and Truth you know and will ever come to know came and will come to you from and through yourself and nowhere else. That is because your Creator made you in such a way that you reflect His utter unity (Wahid al-Qahhar) and as such everything you know as yourself and the world around you are in fact aspects of your own self in the process of temporal development. And this fact throws light on the verse:
“He is the First and the Last and the Outer and the Inner and He is knowing of everything” (57:3)
Hence know thy worth and attend to the needs of your own unique being as dictated by your unbiased mind and rightly-guided heart.
But avoid the one satanic pitfall. It is not only you that is made so uniquely in the image of Allah! Everybody else is the same and as worthy of you. Hence do not be ignorant of this fact and led to pride. Allah has been and shall be creating countless numbers of selves like yours, and although, each has been and shall be fully self-contained and integrated universes no one of them is entitled to any pride or indispensability for that matter. Allah, as the real Utter One (Wahid al-Qahhar) precedes, overpowers and supersedes all, as the ocean is the absolute master of its waves and currents which cannot exist without it.
Now where does all this bring you?
It brings you to the fact that you are your only real subject of study and object of improvement and all else must be given a secondary and subservient status as far as study and improvements are concerned.
To study yourself, be alert to all your thoughts and emotions and actions, never letting any of them happen without you being aware and studious of it. In other words be like your Kiraman Katibin, your two appointed angels who are watching everything and recording everything you ever do for what they are, good and evil. Like a cat watching a mouse-hole infinitely patiently for any unwary mice to come out and be caught with lightning speed watch all your thoughts, emotions and acts in order to catch yourself red-handed in evil thoughts, evil emotions and evil acts. What about good ones, you may ask? There are hardly any good ones, I may assure you. That is because man is intended for a very high rank of perfection and almost all his life deliberately meant by His Creator to produce thoughts, emotions and acts less than perfect, to say the least. Of course, this does not mean that we shall not be allowed to produce some commendable thoughts, emotions and acts. We are occasionally granted them by our Creator Who wishes to show us what real good is and, we must thank Him infinitely every time we are enveloped in such grace. Only the Prophets and top saints are empowered to taste this grace with some continuity and please never make the false satanic assumption that you are (as yet at least) one of them. (Normally however, to the degree that we are successful in self discovery virtuous acts and habits shall increase and evil and immature ones shall recede).
What is the sign of this Satanic self-assurance?
It is a sudden surge in your pride whereupon you cannot help looking down on others with contempt and behaving towards them arrogantly. As a watchful self-student, make it one of your top priorities to catch yourself red-handed in the mood of the contemptuous and the arrogant. Whenever you catch yourself like that repent and make amends lest you fall away from the right path and perish.
To sum up:
Make yourself your greatest and most absorbing field of study and try your best to identify and weed out every evil that you produce, for that is exactly how Allah intended to test and develop us towards our prescribed perfection.
Remember: There is no other way.
Those who content themselves with a formal and cerebral (argued out) belief in Islam and a dispassionate or complacent obedience to its external and public rules and forms are not doing enough to really save themselves. In the private, a lot of their actions and behaviours remain sinful because their hearts are starved of purifying medication – the medication of self-blame, repentance, mercy towards all and freedom from pride etc. A good and infallible sign of most Muslims failing in attending to the problems of their hearts and complacently making do with external observation is their dismal failing when there is something to share among a group of them. That is why there is not a single tariqa, Islamic movement or mosque where members are not fighting among themselves for various prizes, privileges and positions. So much for selfless Islam.
O SEEKER KNOW THAT Allah gave you all that you need to attain your goals in life and thereafter forever. On the plan of Eternity and Timelessness He did not create you inferior to anybody else, because He is Perfect and everything He creates is perfect. The apparent inequalities and gradations are only temporary experiences to give each one of us a chance and a change to work at our self-discovery, self-development and salvation. Accordingly we have to recognise and be reconciled to the temporal reality that we human beings are different and unequal in countless ways, and feel humble as a result but still we must retain in our hearts the certainty that eventually Allah will satisfy each one of us at levels of satisfaction which we cannot presently even begin to contemplate. Read the verse if you wish:
“Thy Lord shall give thee and thou shalt be satisfied” (93:5)
At this point I beg the reader not to misunderstand my contention that all men are equal in the eternal plan. As I said, so long as we exist in time and changing circumstances, differences remain and we respectively recognise those greater than us and feel honoured to get their kind attention. Even in the hereafter (Al-Akhira) there shall be change although always for the better, and differences of rank shall remain as long as Allah wishes. However, matters of Eternity are of a different order and only the most elect are allowed to glimpse something of it. Understand this.
Since Allah gave you everything that you need to attain your goal, know that (i) The best creation for you, I mean the best form, best intelligence, best ancestry, best inspiration is what he actually gave you in each case. In other words you are as handsome and intelligent as you need to be and so on and so forth. If you wish read the verse:
“We have created man in the best form” (9:54)
Again, the best time and place to start seeking and claiming your divine heritage is now and here and not later or elsewhere. The habit of postponing the unpostponable perhaps is the first bad habit among many you have to break if you are serious in spiritual work on yourself. A postponer lives in the wrong time zone and the most likely outcome of his illusion is failure in his supposed aims. You may and must start at this very moment to study yourself and secondarily everything else in order to gain more insight and wisdom. Do not make the hell-bound mistake of finding what Allah gave your insufficient and unsuitable for your goal of self-perfection (which is another term for salvation) and feeling jealous of the gifts given to others, like supposedly more intelligence, handsomeness, wealth etc. As far as your own salvation is concerned you are as well-equipped for it as anyone else, and if you look deep and hard enough you will make this cheerful discovery in yourself. That is the only way to debunk both despair and jealousy. Hence, beware of those supposed teachers who try to persuade you that you are worthless and inferior to most (and certainly to the teacher) in any essential sense. Our differences come more in the form of difference in the kinds of abilities we each have than a single difference in an overall sense which makes one of us absolutely superior to another. You may be a better craftsmen than me, while I may be your superior at running fast etc..
This does not mean that there are no exceptional men who surpass the rest of us in too many ways (like a prophet for example) but in general men are roughly equals, each being better in certain things than others. What is more each person is as necessary as any other, or Allah would not have created him. A seeker thrown into depression and despair on this path of ours will but either quit or stay on against his better judgement and act out a role of abject subservience and slavery to the supposed teacher, which role the seeker will both secretly resent and be unable to break away from. And that is real hell, I assure you, here and hereafter (beware of some supposed teachers of doing this to their pupils).
The real teacher, your real helper and well-wisher is the one that inspires in you realistic self-worth and hope both of which you must have in abundance for your health and happiness as well as motivation to propel you towards your salvational goals. You can ask: If you are really so worthless and defective whose fault is it? Yours or your Makers? How could He make you of such poor quality and then demand from you deeds and feats of angels? That pessimistic and self-ruining belief is total rubbish: The truth is that Allah did create you to highest standards and in the highest capability and potential (which is what ‘Ahsan al-Taqwim’ means) but to try you out, like an engineer trying his prized invention, sent you down to the bottom of the heap to see how you would work your way up to your rightful position. That is why He said:
“We have created man in best form, then we returned him to the lowest of the low, except those who believed and did good works. For them there is an endless reward.” (95:4-6)
Which means man is created with the highest capabilities and potential, capabilities like intelligence, curiosity, willpower, moral sense etc, and the potential of attaining the company of Allah Himself (in fact more than any angel could ever attain). He sent man down to the level of the lowest animals (by equipping him with all the bestial instincts found in animals) and then He expected man to climb up the scale with his given powers getting disentangled from the traps and trappings of bestiality one by one and rise up the moral and spiritual ocean like a swimmer floating higher up from the bottom where he was deliberately trapped by his mentor in order to train him in the art of breaking free from the traps and trappings of bestiality (and its accompanying satanicallness). In other words it is breaking free from the traps and trappings of bestiality (and its accompanying satanicallness). In other words it is your natural quality to float up and not to sink down as long as you are free from sinking weights and tying knots.
To sum up: You have been given everything, absolutely everything you need to work at your salvation and you only have to realize this fact and use everything you are given to achieve your divine goal. A teacher is the one who inspires you with hope and provides you with constant, recognisable help every step of the way without enslaving or humiliating you. The best equipment is what you have already been given, the best time is now, the best place is here. So get started.
O SEEKER, know that everything that happens to you happens to you (from a psychological standpoint) because it is the most needed thing to happen to you and happens because you decisively contributed to its happening. In other words had you not had the need for it to happen to you the way it did, it would not and could not happen to you.
Example: It suddenly rains when you were preparing to have a nice day out or you miss the plane to your long-desired destination. You are upset and depressed and feel like cursing or hurting somebody. Now these two events are serving you in showing you where you are still weak: Obviously you are yet unable to accept realities with equanimity and to direct any upset you feel to a positive purpose – that of being better prepared for natural averse probabilities and also taking extra precautions where possible. Therefore the events that happen to us and psychological reactions we display towards them can be used with profit to mature more. So your reaction should be that you would use events to promote your aim of salvation and not to harm that aim. How? Let us take another example.
Suppose that you are in a queue waiting for your turn for getting something you want and somebody squeezes into the space in front of you. Certainly he has done an unjust act and you can be angry with him if you want, but if you are angry with him you cannot avoid feeling a hurt in yourself and that hardly leaves you even if you punish him. In fact it will keep hurting you whether you punish him or not. Instead, try two other self-helpful attitudes towards this happening. Firstly see that the person who did this unjust and rude act must be an immature person. See that he is suffering from the bestial entanglement Allah sent him down into (as you are suffering from yours most probably).
Secondly see your anger and ask why you are so touchy in the first place. Imagine the following situation. Two adults are holding two babies in their arms. Both babies urinate on their holders. One adult is upset, disgusted and crying hysterically drops the baby and kicks it as well in revenge. The other in exactly the same situation, after the initial confusion breaks into merry laughter and mock-reprimanding the baby puts it down slowly and kindly, even kisses it with gusto and explains “It was my fault really. Babies cannot help being like that. Wasn’t I like that when I was a baby? Next time I must make sure that the baby has its nappy on. Oh poor child, it needs a wash and a change. Never mind my wetting, it was my fault.” Now, what is the difference between these two adults? Why, one is more mature than the other. Make no mistake about it: Salvation is maturation and nothing else. Do not listen to false and confused teachers who explain salvation in words and ways that explain nothing, clothing them in religious and Sufi terminology the real meaning which they neither know nor can pass on to you. The more we can understand, forgive and accommodate the more mature we are and closer to Allah Who is the Mature (Al-Rashid). Without it there is no salvation. Read if you want.
“Whoever is blind here, he is blind in the hereafter as well, even more lost in ways.” (17:72)
However, please see that you cannot claim your maturity by simply straining yourself to role-act as an understanding and forgiving person. If you strain to behave at levels you have not yet earned, you end up resenting your efforts and the person you supposedly forgave and the backlash from the two may cause you drop down your ‘bestiality scale’ instead of rising up. In other words, at least for a while, you may begin to feel and behave awfully, surprising both yourself and others with your reasserting evil. The correct way is as follows: Before or after reacting to anything that happened to you in a hurtful, negative way (like anger, jealousy etc.) stop and look deeper! Why are you reacting so badly? What does this awful reaction to the event represent as far as your divine goal (salvation or maturation aim) is concerned? Certainly it is a negative indicator. Then why not try to see it and try to outgrow it. If you do that you will be cheerfully surprised to find that the hurtful effect of the happenings in your life will gradually decrease and in their place more understanding, acceptance and forgiveness, or in the religious terminology, more light will emerge.
To sum up: Use everything that happens to you to catch yourself red-handed in negative, hurtful reactions and to gradually replace that kind of immature, dark, bestial reaction with mature, illuminated and saintly reactions based on self-insight as well as other-insight.
(What a pity most Muslims rather try to catch others red-handed)
In other words, everything that happens to you no matter how pleasant or awful are God-sent gifts which contain golden keys to the unlocking of your divine potential and has no other purpose whatsoever. If you want read the verse, where Allah asks:
“What shall He do with hurting you while you believed and gave thanks (already)?” (4:147)
Which means the more mature (saintlier) you grow the less hurt experience in your life. Read if you wish the verse:
“Beware of the friends of Allah, for them there is neither fear nor shall they grieve. (They are) Those who believed and have been observing Allah’s pleasure and displeasure (i.e. the interests of their highest selves which is in the company of Allah). There can be no change in the words of Allah. This is the greatest success” (10:62-63)
Never succumb to the temptation of believing that, as long as you are alive, you have achieved all the maturation you have been required by Allah your Creator. For, know that, Allah in His mercy takes the soul of every one of us when we have achieved the very most that we could achieve for our salvation in this world and neither before nor after. Read if you want the verse:
“When their appointed time for dying (Ajalahum) come they are not delayed even an hour, nor they are prematurely taken” (10:49)
So, long as you live and are not in the throes of death be assured that you still have some way to go in maturation: In other words you can still have defects which you are required to repair yourself before being taken in as an in-patient, so to speak (that is what ‘Qabr’ is).
However, although realising the task that still awaits you, you are not to be discouraged or depressed because you are imperfect despite all your efforts. The truth is that so long as you try your best you are always perfect relative to the stage you are at while knowing that more stages are awaiting to welcome and empower you (from this angle perfection means not a static result but the very process of your trying to do better and better all the time. Only in the hereafter the full and final result will be established with the help of Allah and His mercy). ‘Proud’ means foolishly satisfied with himself which means he forgets that there is a long way to go and whether he realises it or not everybody else is also going somewhere and he is not special in that sense. Read if you want the verse:
“There is no living being, but Allah holds it from its forehead (to guide it). Verily my Lord is on the right path” (11:56)
Why from its forehead? Because there is the seat of intelligence and the seeing eyes that the living being uses to steer itself through its life. Look at the eloquence of the Almighty in His Qur’an!
To sum up: You are not supposed to be perfect all your life and therefore accept the fact that you have always something more to do to please your Lord and realise your prescribed potential. You can not be proud knowing that everybody else is following his own special way by the uttermost hidden hand of Allah. Regard them as your beloved replicas and help them and pray for them to succeed. The more you help others in situations where you can be of help, the more you help yourself. This is unbreakable spiritual law and its recognition by the seeker is his remedy against selfishness.
O seeker, know that the sum total of all perfection is the acquisition of the qualities of the grace (Sifat al Jamal) of Allah to the exclusion of qualities of majesty (Jalal) which only befits Allah Himself.
Ignorant and mean souls, like the Satan and people of his character instead aspire at the acquisition of Allah’s qualities of Majesty like Greatness (Kibria), Pride (Kibr), Qahr (Overpowering), Intiqam (Revenge), Irresponsibility (La yus’al) etc. (Those people who burn with dictatorial desires, the desire to dominate, control and exploit others and admit to no mistakes or errors easily, from plain political dictators to exploitative false sheikhs, gurus etc. as well as all petty tyrants from power-hungry organisation leaders to business tycoons and mafia godfathers are all satanical people out to usurp the Majesty of Allah in their little and mean ways and cause enormous harm as a result. Beware of misunderstanding the last quality. Allah said:
“Allah cannot be questioned (held responsible) for what He does while they (the people) are held responsible.” (21:23)
Which means that Allah’s absolute and utter perfection is beyond doubt and is the basis of all existence and any question and doubt concerning it is a self-defeating delusion and waste of time. It is like blaming life-giving water for being water or blaming your intelligence which contains your power of blaming it. You either have the water as it is or die in search of another kind of liquid; you either use your intelligence as best as you can or look in vain for another means of perceiving things and solving problems. Whatever you will find, you will find through your very same intelligence and to use it you will need the very same intelligence again (like designing and using a computer).
To come to our point again, avoid the temptation of aspiring at majesty as it will lead you to collision with others, to infinite pains and hurts arising there-from and rejection by Allah, as it happened to the Devil. Instead aspire at the acquisition of the grace and beauty qualities from the Divine.
The first and foremost, in fact the mother of all the graces is mercy (Rahmat). Both the second and the third ‘beautiful names’ of Allah are based on it and it is these three names that constitute the key to all good in existence; hence “Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim”.
This most sacred and powerful formula opens each Surat of the Qur’an (except one) and we are required to repeat it every time we do anything as servants of Allah and are promised all the help in achieving our goal and meeting good and being spared from evil.
Therefore, make it your prime concern to increase in mercy all your life towards everybody. But like everything else in maturation business, you cannot will yourself to mercifulness. If you are incapable of feeling mercy towards somebody, say an enemy or a criminal, you should neither pretend nor try to create mercy. You simply loathe him and you should both see and accept this fact. At the developmental level you are what comes naturally to you is just loathing that person and that is both right and healthy. You should realise that spiritual growth is but growth in understanding and to understand somebody you have to live through the same kind and level of existence as well as transcend it. For example, the best person to understand a gangster is an ex-gangster who genuinely repented. The most qualified person to understand a prostitute is an ex-prostitute who again has genuinely repented. That is why Allah is humbling each one of us by allowing us to commit many unspeakable sins, mostly in secret under His merciful cover. Sinning is a basic human condition and even best saints are not entirely free from it. This is because Allah is the Forgiver (Al Ghafur) and His forgiveness makes it necessary for each of his servants no matter whom to need His forgiveness all the time !
So, understand in general that in one respect all people (who are sinners) are excusable and for your part you must never ever elude yourself that you are either sinless or your sins are less serious or at least will remain less serious than another person whom you came to loathe. That is why Allah made His Messenger say “no one among you may denounce another among you with a sin but Allah will not let him die before he commits the same (or a similar) sin”. (Note that what is a ‘sin’ for a saint is a totally innocent act for an ordinary person. In that sense saints are ‘protected’ from sins). By denouncing is meant a spiteful, self-righteous condemnation of another and not the sad observation we make regarding the other Muslim’s reported witnessed guilt. Please observe that there can be two alternative reactions to another’s sinning. One is the satanical reaction whereby the hearer or witness to that person’s sin feels elated as if one more rival in his perfection race had tripped and fallen down and hopefully is ‘disqualified’, so it is him the elated ignoramus that will attain Allah’s company to the exclusion of one ‘rival’ (we shall explain this in our next wisdom). Indeed this is exactly how the Satan feels every time men, sons of Adam, err and fall with the only difference that for his part he gave up the hope of ever pleasing Allah and will not attempt to please him; instead to cool his inner hell, he is trying to fill up the ranks of the desperadoes like sharing the hell with him.
The second and alternative reaction to another’s sinning is your feeling very sad about it as if it was you who committed the sin which means that you start asking Allah’s forgiveness for your brother as well as do your best to keep it hidden from the public.
Compare this with the behaviour of most people among mainstream Muslims and more sadly and tellingly among the so-called Sufi-tariqa members! Curiosity into any secret or suspected affairs of brothers is rife among them and if they find out anything sinful or think that they found out anything sinful they are excited and elated and cannot wait a minute longer before they broadcast it far, wide and loud, with great relief and gusto thus showing unawares that they are still in the grip of Satan. In comparison to this sorry self-exposure, the exposed (and perhaps supposed) sin of the victim is trifling because no sin is greater than the sin of being an ally of Satan! ‘Rahamt’ dictates that you identify with your brothers, feel ashamed for any shameful things they might have done and conceal it utterly and fanatically as you would conceal your own scandal. Allah Himself is “Sattar” (Coverer-up of sins) and will rarely expose a servant and that only for a good reason containing even greater mercy in the long run.
Do you now understand that until and unless you outgrow your lustful interest in exposing others you are still dwelling in the palm of Satan or at the existential level of the devil, say it whichever way you wish and unless you realise this terrible fact and break away from it you are risking very grave danger indeed.
All other grace qualities of Allah, like love (hubb), justice (adl), generosity (jud), nobility (karam), forgiveness (ghufran) etc., derive from his rahmat which is inseparable from his Godhead (uluhiyya). Some ignorant people, mostly among Christians and to a lesser extent among Muslims regard love as the greatest quality but that is not so; it is rahmat which is the mother and top of all grace. Love is only a branch of rahmat which applies to those whom we perceive as nearer to Allah than ourselves, be it an innocent child or an animal or a saint or a prophet, on top of being first and essentially being applicable to our attitude towards Allah the Most High. Rahmat in general, however and applies to everything and everybody except to our attitude towards our Lord i.e., we are not supposed to feel mercy towards Allah or those whom we perceive higher then us in His sight, like Saints and Prophets. Towards them we are required to entertain love and deference and even some degree of awe, for Allah clothes them in part in His majesty without them ever asking for it.
To sum up: Approaching Allah means availing yourself of more of His grace qualities thereby growing a more merciful, more generous, more tolerant, more forgiving, nobler and sweeter person and not as many ignorant aspirants attempt, appropriating for yourself more arrogance, self-righteousness, spitefulness, vindictiveness, bitterness, sourness, rudeness and mercilessness. I am sure you agree with me that among the so-called religious people such majesty-seeking devils are plenty and there has never been and shall never be a dearth of them. Unfortunately many misguided people are attracted to religion in general and to Sufi tariqas in particular by the example of such people, being motivated by a disastrous lust for spiritual power as an alternative to plain worldly power which that may have found too difficult to achieve. Either having had no courage to join the worldly rat race or learnt that they cannot win as much as they would like, a pseudo-religious route to crude personal power attracts them as the softer option. Learn to recognise such and steer clear off them even if miracles are reported from them.
Remember: The only true path lies along mercy and its derivative graces. Make it your exclusive concern to acquire more of them and you cannot fail.