Istidraaj – Respite

Be fearful of the daily state of favour (Ihsaan) of Allah Ta’ala despite your disobedience, for this may be a respite for you.

Sometimes Allah Ta’ala does not apprehend the transgressors. Inspite of their rebellion and transgression He gives them time and continues to shower His favours on them. When they completely lose themselves in sin and reach the point of no return, He suddenly apprehends them. The granting of such respite to the transgressors is called Istidraaj which is a matter of utmost gravity.

On the other hand, some servants of Allah are immediately forewarned when they commit any misdeed. As a result, they quickly engage in Thikrullah and abandon the transgression. They banish ghaflat.

Here the Shaikh (rahmatullah alayh) discusses Istidraaj. He says that Allah’s ihsaan (kindness, favour) settles over you every moment while you persist audaciously in transgression. You are not even being reprimanded. Instead, your wishes are granted. This condition is fearful. You should fear this state, for perhaps it is respite allowed by Allah Ta’ala. Thereafter, He will suddenly apprehend you with His punishment. Proof for this is in the Qur’aan which warns of Allah’s punishment arriving suddenly in the wake of the respite granted to the transgressors. When their transgression exceeds the bounds, His punishment comes swiftly. The period of grace granted (the Istidraaj) should, therefore not be misunderstood. When Allah Ta’ala gives man respite, his ghaflat (negligence) increases in stages, but his hopes and desires are fulfilled. When his ghaflat has thoroughly set in, the Divine Chastisement suddenly overtakes him.

The great foolishness of the mureed is to behave disrespectfully. When there is a delay in the arrival of the punishment, he thinks that if he was in error, then the zaahiri and baatini bounties of Allah would have ceased. Sometimes Divine Aid ceases without one being aware thereof because Allah may block off only the additional (or excess) favours or He may distance the mureed in rank (i.e. depriving him of proximity) without him being aware or sometimes He simply leaves one to dwell in one’s hopes.

The applicability of Ahkaam (Laws) and apprehension (i.e. punishment) are in proportion to one’s proximity (Qurb) to Allah Ta’ala. The closer one is to Allah, the severer is the applicability of the laws. In many aspects the general public is excused and not apprehended for misdeeds. However, the elite (Khawaas – the Auliya) are immediately apprehended (rebuked or punished) for any slips they make. On being Divinely Apprehended, they readily understand the error for which they are being caught.

Sometimes the Thaakir, Saalik, Shaakir utters a disrespectful word regarding Haqq Ta’ala, e.g. a word of complaint slips from his mouth because of some occurrence or he complains to someone about the hardship on him or he criticises someone among the Masha-ikh or he regards a disrespectful act of his as being insignificant because he was not immediately overtaken by punishment. He, therefore, thinks that if his act was truly disrespectful, the physical and spiritual favours (ni’mat) in which he is basking would have ceased. The zaahiri (physical) favours are wealth, children, health, strength and other material comforts. The baatini (spiritual) favours are the rays of spiritual illumination which continuously cascade into the heart of the Saalik from a lam-e-Ghaib (The Unseen or Celestial Realm). The idea that this Divine Aid and favour would have terminated is the result of extreme ignorance. It is not necessary for the Saalik to be aware of the termination of baatini fuyoodh because such cessation can happen in several indiscernible ways. Sometimes this happens by way of the cessation of only further progress and his spiritual station becomes stagnant. This stagnation leads to a gradual development of a barrier between the Saalik and Allah Ta’ala and while he labours under the impression of being on his former pedestal (i.e. of Divine Proximity), a great change has in fact taken place – Nauthubillah minhu (We seek Allah’s protection from it).

Sometimes the Saalik drifts far from Allah’s Qurb (Proximity). However, inspite of him being trapped in this position, he does not realise it. Sometimes the Saalik is left to his whims and fancies. Whereas formerly Allah Ta’ala held the Saalik’s choice and freewill subservient to His Will, now his subservience is eliminated and the Saalik is placed under the domination of his nafs. Allah Ta’ala then withholds His aid.

The mureed should, therefore, live with the utmost respect and control his speech and movement. It should here be understood that this type of disrespect (as mentioned above) is committed by a mureed whose nafs has not attained complete fanaa (annihilation). After attainment of fanaa, the possibility of disrespect is entirely precluded. The question of any barrier (hijaab), therefore, developing between the mureed and Allah does not arise. (However, even after attainment of Fanaa [self-annihilation], the state of an ignorant Sufi who has no shaikh remains precarious. Without a Shaikh-e-Kaamil and lacking in Ihm-e-Deen, he can end up worshipping shaitaan – May Allah Ta’ala protect us – translator.)



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