Maqasid al Tasawwuf and How to Reach Ihsan (Human Perfection) – Imam Nawawi

Bismillahi rahmani raheem

The hadith of Jibril which occurred 86 days before the prophets (saws) death, is described by Imam Nawawi as one of the hadiths upon which the Islamic religion turns, and the Ullumah (scholars) are in agreement it is one of the most important Hadith’s in All Islam. 

Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “While we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless with him and grant him peace, one day a man came up to us whose clothes were extremely white, whose hair was extremely black, upon whom traces of travelling could not be seen, and whom none of us knew, until he sat down close to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, so that he rested his knees upon his knees and placed his two hands upon his thighs and said, ‘Muhammad, tell me about Islam.’

The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘Islam is that you witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and you establish the prayer, and you give the Zakat, and you fast Ramadan, and you perform the hajj of the House if you are able to take a way to it.’

He said, ‘You have told the truth,’ and we were amazed at him asking him and [then] telling him that he told the truth.

He said, ‘Tell me about Iman.’ He said, ‘That you affirm Allah, His Angels, His Books, His messengers, and the Last Day, and that you affirm the Decree, the good of it and the bad of it.’He said, ‘You have told the truth.’

He said, ‘Tell me about Ihsan.’ He said, ‘That you worship Allah as if you see Him, for if you don’t see Him then truly He sees you.’

He said, ‘Tell me about the Hour.’ He said, ‘The one asked about it knows no more than the one asking.’ He said, ‘Then tell me about its tokens.’ He said, ‘That the female slave should give birth to her mistress, and you see poor, naked, barefoot shepherds of sheep and goats competing in making tall buildings.’

He went away, and I remained some time. Then he asked, ‘Umar, do you know who the questioner was?’ I said, ‘Allah and His Messenger know best.’ He said, ‘He was Jibril who came to you to teach you your deen’.” (Muslim and Bukhari both narrated it and has a grade Higher than Sahih, which is “Agreed upon”).

“The use of the word deen in the last line, Atakum yu’aallimukum dinakum, He “came to you to teach you your religion” entails that the religion of Islam is composed of the four fundamentals mentioned in the hadith: Islam, or external compliance with what Allah asks of us; Iman, or the belief in the Unseen that the prophets have informed us of; Ihsan, or to worship Allah as though one sees Him; and The Hour, or the remembrance of death and the afterlife”.

The reason it is one of the most important Hadith’s in Islam is because it has summed up all the parts of the Deen (Religion of Islam), and the meeting with Jibreel occurred 86 days before the prophets (saws) death, a time when Allah revealed the verse that says, “This day have I perfected your religion for you (sent down all it should be about), completed My favor upon you (decided your blessings and what you shall receive spiritually and materially), and have chosen for you Islam as your religion (All that is mentioned in the Hadith of Jibril)” (Surah Al-Ma’idah 5:3).

Becouse Jibril (a.s) was the one who brought down this verse to the Messenger, Allah inspired him to prepare the Prophet (saws) and the Ummah for what it meant by first visiting them and instructing them on all the aspects of the Deen.

So there is no room to claim the hadith is missing any part of what Islam is, and to deny any part of it is to deny what Allah revealed, and is Kufr, because the Prophet (saws) said “He was Jibril who came to you to teach you your deen” its grading is Agreed upon which holds a place higher than the grade of Sahih with a Muhadith (scholars of Hadith) equal with the Quran.

From this Hadith the scholars understood Islam Has four main categories which all other areas of knowledge come under, they are Islam, Iman, Ihsan and The Hour.

From what rasul allah (saws) mentioned of Islam we know that the laws for the Shahada, the Prayer, Zakat, Fasting Ramadan, and performing the Hajj, each of them comes under the topic of Islam, and the Islamic Science of Fiqh and it’s codification into a legal system, Shariah, deals with this Topic. 

Under the Topic of Iman come the Laws regarding affirming Allah’s existence, His angels, His books, His messengers, the existence of the Last Day, and the Decree of Allah, the good of it and the bad of it, which the Islamic Science of Aqeedah deals with.

Most muslims know of these categories of knowledge and the signs of the Hour but hardly any in the western and modern world know about the knowledge that comes under the Islamic Science of Ihsan, because the Deen today is only learnt from the Fuqaha who are only knowledgable in Fiqh and Aqeedah but not Ihsan, they do not focus on it, rather only what they are qualified in and may touch upon it as they mention the verses in the Quran or Ahadith related to it, but this isn’t the same as dedicating ones time to the study of a science, rather it is an overview or a crash course.

Allah mentions in the Quran that Ihsan is the mission of Rasul Allah (saws), it is the reason why he was sent, the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said “I was only sent to teach”. My only purpose amongst you is to teach you. In another hadith, he tells us what he came to teach “I was sent only to perfect noble character”.

Imam an Nawawi wrote in his Sharh Sahih Muslim, “As far as Fiqh and Hikma (wisdom) are concerned, the former (fiqh) means to have a deep understanding of religion, whilst the latter (hikma) refers to having conscious acknowledgment of Allah Most High (ma’rifa), coupled with self-reformation, good character and abstaining from following one’s desires and falsehood.”(Nawawi, al-Minhaj Sharh Sahih Muslim, P: 158-159)

The prophet (saws) said Ihsan is ‘That you worship Allah as if you see Him, for if you don’t see Him then truly He sees you.’ Just like we know about Fiqh, which comes under the topic of Islam, and Aqeedah which comes under the topic of Iman, Tasawwuf or Tazkiya an Nafs (91:9) comes under the Topic of Ihsan, which means to perfect our self and character and reaching the stage of worshiping Allah as if we see Him. Tasawwuf is the Science in Islam that Deals with the third topic in the Hadith of Jibril, and this is the History of the entire Ummah from its beginning.

Before advancing scientifically Islams scholars set out the foundation for the Islamic state and community to live by, they codified the law, formulated the Sharia and developed the sciences and tools to investigate and understand the sources of Islam, the Quran and Sunnah, then they wrote about theories of law and established what the Maqasid (overall Aim and intent) of the Shariah was, which where identified and summarised in five principles known as the Five Maqasid al Shariah, in summary these five are the preservation of Religion, Life, Intellect, Procreation (family) and Property, other scholars added Justice or Happiness. Imam al- Ghazali, said regarding all the Maqasid (aims or intent) of the Shariah, they are only for the achievement and the realization of the very benefits of man on earth.

“The muslim community responded to the magnitude of this knowledge (that Allah revealed) and the ethical imperative of living it on a daily basis with a wide range of scholarly disciplines that furnished the means to distill this vast tradition into a clear, practical answer to the question: What does Allah expect of one?”

“This then is the basis for the study of sacred Law or Shari’ah in Islam: we have been ordered to follow the prophet (saws), but he is no longer alive to personally teach us”.

“All that reached us of it has reached us through men. And this is why Muslims from the earliest times have relied on the most knowledgable of these men whom they have taken their religion from – whether in hadith, tenants of faith (Aqeedah), Quranic exegesis (tafsir), or the other Islamic sciences. The foremost of them were termed Imams or “Leaders”, in view of their position in each field, so their knowledge could be accepted and followed.” “O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the messenger and those of you who are in authority” (4:59) “Say: “Can they who know and they who do not know be deemed equal?”(39:9),”And so We propound these parables unto man: but none can grasp their innermost meaning save those who [of Us] are aware.” (29:43)

“In previous centuries, students would come from their villages or neighbourhoods to sheikhs, who would have them memorise a matn or short basic text of fiqh, then teach the students what the condensed and often technical language of the particular rulings implies, the conditions for applying them, their evidential basis from Qur’an and Hadith, and so forth.

“In this way, students returning to their native places were able to give reliable answers based on qualified scholarship to most of the questions in sacred Law they encountered (as the matns memorised were comprehensive), and then go on to explain the details of them that they had learned from their sheikhs.”

With such educational interests in view, the first priority of a matn’s author was often to state the content as briefly as possible to facilitate memorizing. Imam Nanwai’s al Maqasid, The Objectives (of Religion) is such a matn and reflects this need, and we find in it, for example, that Imam Nawawi has summarized the prayer (salat) in a few brief lists of integrals, conditions, and sunnas, to enable students who learn them to answer a wide range of questions on whether a particular prayer is valid. In al Maqasid, Imam al Nawawi deals with the Objectives (Maqasid) of the Islamic science of Tasawwuf and has outlined the Principles that define its aims and intent:

The Rules of the Path of Tasawwuf:

The basic rules of the way of tasawwuf are five (1) having god fearingness (Taqwa) privately and publicly, (2) living according to the sunna in word and deed, (3) indifference to whether others accept or reject one, (4) satisfaction with Allah most High in scarcity and plenty, and (5) turning to Allah in happiness or affliction. (1) God fearingness (Taqwa) is attained by scrupulousness and uprightness; (2) Following the sunnah is attained through caution and good character; (3) indifference to others acceptance or rejection is attained through patience and trust in Allah; (4) Satisfaction with Allah is attained through contentment with what one has and submission to the will of Allah; (5) Truning to Allah most High is attained by gratitude to Him in Happiness and taking refuge in Him in affliction.

The Foundation of these consist of five things:

(1) high aspiration (2) Keeping Allah’s reverence, (3) giving the best of service, (4) keeping one;s spiritual resolves, and (5) esteeming Allah’s blessings. (1) whoever’s aspiration is high, his rank rises; (2) Whover revers Allah, Allah maintains his respect; (3) Whoever’s service is godly is necessarily shown generosity; (4) Whoever keeps his spiritual resolves continues to have guidance; (5) whoever esteems Allah’s blessings will be gratefulll for them, and whoever is grateful for them will necessarily see them increased.

The Signs of Tasawwuf’s Priciples showing on a person through practice are also five;

(1) seeking Sacred Knwoledge in order to perform Allah’s command; (2) keeping the company of sheikhs and fellow disciples in order to see with insight; (3) forgoing both dispensations from religious obligations and figurative interpretations of scripture, for the sake of cautiousness; (4) organising ones time with spiritual works to maintain presence of heart; and (5) suspecting the self in all matters, in order to free oneself from caprice and be safe from destruction.

(1) Seeking Sacred Knowledge is vitiated (spoilt or impaired) by keeping the company of juveniles, whether in age, mentality, or religion, who do not refer for guidance to a firm principle or rule; (2) Keeping the company of sheikhs and disciples is vitiated by self-deception and concern with the unimportant; (3) Leaving dispensations and figurative interpretations is vitiated by leniency toward the self; (4) Organising one’s time with spiritual works is vitiated by looking for more and more supererogatory worship; (5) Suspecting the self is vitiated by satisfaction at its goodliness and uprightness.

The Principles of curing the Ego are Five;

The principles of curing the ego are also five: (1) lightening the stomach by diminishing one’s food and drink; (2) taking refuge in Allah Most High from the unforeseen when it befalls; (3) shunning situations involving what one fears to fall victim to; (4) continually asking Allah’s forgiveness (istighfar) and His blessings upon the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) night and day with full presence of mind; and (5) keeping the company of him who guides one to Allah (dis: 8.10).

Reaching Allah

One reaches Allah Most High (dis: 8.12) by (1) repenting from all things unlawful or offensive; (2) seeking Sacred Knowledge in the amount needed; (3) continually keeping on ritual purity; (4) performing the prescribed prayers at the first of their times in a group prayer (and praying the confirmed sunnas associated with them); (5) always performing eight rak’as of the nonobligatory midmorning prayer (al-duha), the six rak’as between the sunset (maghrib) and nightfall (‘isha) prayers, the night vigil prayer (tahajjud) after having risen from sleeping, and the witr prayer (n: an odd-number of rak’as as one’s last prayer before dawn); (6) fasting Mondays and Thursdays, and the “full moon [lit. “white”] days” (n: the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth of each lunar month), as well as the days of the year that are meritorious to fast; (7) reciting the Qur’an with presence of heart and reflecting on its meanings; (8) asking much for Allah’s forgiveness (istighfar); (9) always invoking the Blessings on the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace); and (10) persevering in the dhikrs that are sunna in the morning and evening.

These include:

(1) Allahumma bike nusbihu wa bike numsi wa bike nahya wa bike namutu wa ilayka nashuru (10.39) (“0 Allah, through You we reach morning, through You we reach evening, through You we live, through You we die, and unto You is the resurrection”) [saying this in the morning; and in the evening substituting ilayka l-masir. (“unto You is the final becoming”) for ilayka n-nushur (“unto You is the resurrection”)].

(2) Asbahna wa asbaha al-mulku li Llahi wa l-hamdu li Llahi wa l-kibriya’u li Llahi wa l-‘adhamatu li Llahi wa l-khalqu wa l-amru wa l-laylu wa n-naharu wa ma sakana fihima li Llah. (“We have reached morning and the dominion is Allah’s, the praise Allah’s, the exaltedness Allah’s, the immensity Allah’s, the creation, the command, the night and day and all that dwells in them Allah’s”).

(3) Allahumma ma asbaha bi min ni’matin aw bi ahadin min khalqika fa minka wahdaka la sharlka lak, fa laka l-hamdu wa laka sh-shukr (three times). (“O Allah, any blessing that has come to me or any of Your creation is from You alone, without partner, so Yours is the praise and Yours the thanks”).

(4) Allahumma inni asbahtu ush-hiduka wa ush-hidu hamalata ‘arshika wa mala’ikataka wa jamia khalqika annaka Anta Llahu la ilaha illa Anta wahdaka la sharlka lak, wa anna Muhammadan ‘abduka wa rasuluk (four times). (“O Allah, I hereby take You as my witness, with the bearers of Your Throne, Your angels, and all of Your creation, that there is no god but You alone, without partner, and that Muhammad is Your slave and messenger”).

(5) Amantu bi Llahi Rabban wa bi l-Islami dinan wa bi Sayyidina Muhammadin salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallama nabiyyan wa rasula (three times). (“I accept Allah as Lord, Islam as a religion, and our liegelord Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) as prophet and messenger”).

(6) Amana r-Rasuolu … to the end of the sura (n: i.e. the last two verses of al-Baqara: Amana r-Rasulu bima unzila ilayhi min-Rabbihi wa l-mu’minun(a), Kullun amana bi Llahi wa mala’ikatihi wa kutubihi wa rusulih(I), la nufarriqu bayna ahadin min rusulih(I), wa qalu sami’na wa a-ta’na ghufranaka Rabbana wa ilayka l-masir(u). La yukallifu Llahu nafsan illa wus’aha, laha ma kasabat wa ‘alayha ma ktasabat, Rabbana la tu’akhidhna in naslna aw akhta’na, Rabbana wa la tahmil ‘alayna isran kama hamaltahu ‘ala lladhlna min qablina, Rabbana wa la tuhammilna ma la taqata lana bih(I), wa ‘fu ‘anna wa ghfir lana wa rhamna Anta mawlana fa-nsurna ‘ala l-qawmi l-kafirln. (“The Messenger believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the believers; Each believes in Allah, His angels, His Books, and His messengers; We draw no distinction between any of His messengers; And they say: ‘We hear and obey; Your forgiveness, Our Lord, to You is the becoming.’ Allah does not charge any soul except its strength: what it earns is for it, and what it commits, against it. O Lord, do not take us to task if we forget or make mistakes; O Lord, do not burden us with hardship as You did those before us; And do not laden us with what we have no strength to bear; but pardon us, and forgive us, and show us mercy; You are our Master, so give us victory over the unbelieving folk” (Qur’an 2:285-86)).

(7) Fa in tawallaw faqul hasbiya Llahu la ilaha illa Huwa ‘alayhi tawakkaltu wa Huwa Rabbu l-‘Arshi l-Adhlm (seven times). (“So if they turn away, say: ‘Allah is enough for me, there is no god but He, on Him I rely, and He is the Lord of the Mighty Throne” (Qur’an 9:129)).

(8) Fa subhana Llahi hina tumsuna wa hina tusbihun. Wa lahu l-hamdu fi s-samawati wa l-ardhi wa ‘ashiyyan wa hina tush-hirun. Yukhriju l-hayya min al-mayyiti wa yukhriju l-mayyita min al-hayyi wa yuhyi l-ardha ba’da mawtiha wa kadhalika tukhrajun. (“So glory be to Allah, when you reach evening and when you reach morning. And His is the praise in the heavens and earth, and at the coming of night, and when you reach noon. He brings forth the living from the dead, and brings forth the dead from the living, and gives life to the earth after it is dead; thus shall you too be brought forth” (Qur’an 30:17-19)).

(9) Ya Sin (Sura 36).

(10) Auodhu bi Llahi s-Sami’i L-‘Alimi min ash-shaytani r-rajlm (three times). (“I take refuge in Allah, the AllHearing, the All-Knowing, from the accursed devil”).

(11) Law anzalna hadha l-Qur ‘ana … to the end of the sura (n: i.e. the last four verses of al-Hashr: Law anzalna hadha l-Qur ‘ana ‘ala jabali l-la ra’aytahu khashi’an mutasaddi’an min khashyati Llah(i), wa tilka l-amthalu nasribuha li n-nasi la’allahum yatafakkaruon(a). Huwa Llahu lladhi la ilaha illa Huwa ‘Alimu l-Ghaybi wa sh-Shahadati Huwa r-Rahmanu rRahim(u). Huwa Llahu lladhi la ilaha illa Huwa l-Maliku l-Quddusu s-Salamu l-Mu ‘minu l-Muhayminu l- Azlzu l-Jabbaru l-Mutakabbir(u), subhna Llahi ‘amma yushrikun(a). Huwa Llahu l-Khaliqu l-Bari’u l-Musawwiru lahu l-asma’u l-husna, yusabbihu lahu ma fi s-samawati wa l-ardi wa Huwa l- ‘Azlzu haklm. (“Had We sent this Qur’an down upon a mountain you would have seen it humbled, split asunder for fear of Allah. And those similes, We strike them for men, that haply they may reflect. He is Allah besides whom there is no other god; the Knower of the Unseen and the Visible —He is the Most Merciful and Compassionate. He is Allah besides whom there is no other god; The King, the All-Sanctified, the All-Peaceful, the All-Faithful, the Guardian, the Invincible, the Overmastering, the Exalted. Extolled be Allah’s glory above what they associate! He is Allah, the Creator, the Originator, the Former. To Him belong the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and earth extols His glory; and He is the Invincible, the All-Wise” (Qur’an 59:21-24)).

(12) Al-Ikhlas, al-Falaq, and al-Nas (Suras 112, 113, and 114) (three times each).

(13) Bismi Llahi lladhi la yadurru ma’a Smihi shay’un fi l-ardi wa la fi s-sama’i wa Huwa s-Sami’u l-‘Alim (three times). (“In the Name of Allah, with whose Name nothing is harmed in the earth or sky, and He is All-Hearing, All-Knowing”).

(14) A’udhu bi kalimati Llahi t-tammati min ghasabihi wa ‘iqabihl wa sharri ‘ibadihl wa min hamazati sh-shayatina wa an yahdurun (three times). (“I take refuge in the perfect words of Allah, from His wrath, His punishment, the evil of His servants, and from the whispering of devils, and lest they come to me”).

(15) Astaghfiru Llaha l-Adhima lladhi la ilaha illa Huwa hayya l-Qayyuma wa atubu ilayh (three times). (“I ask forgiveness of Allah Most Great, who there is no god besides, the Living, the Ever-Subsistent, and I repent to Him”).

(16) Subhana Llahi wa bi hamdih (three times) (10.53) (“I glorify Allah’s absolute perfection and extol His praise”).

(17) Subhna Llahi wa bi hamdihi ‘adada khalqihi wa rida nafsihi wa zinata ‘arshihi wa midada kalimatih. (three times) (“I glorify Allah’s absolute perfection and extol His praise with the number of what He has created, the amount of His satisfaction in His person, the magnitude of the weight of His throne, and the plenitude of that by which His words are eked out”). And if one has enough time, one may recite:

(18) Subhana Llahi wa l-hamdu li Llahi wa la ilaha illa Llahu wa Llahu akbar (a hundred times). (“I glorify Allah’s absolute perfection, Praise be to Allah, There is no god but Allah, Allah is ever greatest”).

(19) La hawla wa la quwwata illa bi Llahi l-‘Aliyyi l-‘Adhim. (one hundred times) (“There is no power and no strength save through Allah, the Most High, the Most Great”).

(20) La ilaha illa Llahu l-Maliku l-haqqu l-Mubin. (one hundred times) (“There is no god but Allah, the Manifest True King”).

(21) La ilaha illa Llahu wahdahu la sharlka lah(u), lahu l-mulku wa lahu l-hamdu wa Huwa ‘ala kulli shay ‘in qadlr. (one hundred times or three times) (“There is no god but Allah alone, without partner, His is the dominion, His the praise, and He has power over everything”).

(22) Allahumma salli ala Sayyidina Muhammadin ‘abdika wa nabiyyika wa habibika n-nabiyyi l-ummiyyi wa ala alihi wa sahbihi wa sallim (one hundred times or three times). (“O Allah bless our liege lord Muhammad, Your servant, prophet, and beloved, the Unlettered Prophet; and his Folk and Companions, and give them peace”). “And in this amount is a sufficiency, for those reached by the divine help, and Allah gives guidance, and guides to the path. Allah is our sufficiency and best to rely on. Ameen” (Al Maqasid by Imam Nawawi, chapter 7 – Tasawwuf).

“Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise. They fight in the cause of Allah , so they kill and are killed. [It is] a true promise [binding] upon Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur’an. And who is truer to his covenant than Allah? So rejoice in your transaction which you have contracted. And it is that which is the great attainment”(9:111).

Those who are destined to be closer to Allah have the greater burden and more is expected from them, in the way of Allah, for their place in Jannah.

Human experience is mentioned often because Tassawwuf is the study of the self, and labelling types of behaviour and experiences is required in order to teach this knowledge and to identify this same experience and behaviour in more than one person hence each science in islam defined its own scientific terminology separate from the scientific terminology of modern times we all accept such as Psychology or Psychiatry, we only need ask how where things named in the ancient world, usually the name described the matter literally, take of example the Land of Sham (modern Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine) the word simply means the land on the left, while the word Yemen means the land on the right, derived from the word Yameen, the right, by comparison modern science often labels matters after the discoverer.

The modern sciences have identified the stages of human development and growth from birth until death, Islam has also done this along the lines of Morality but has gone one step further in accordance with Allah’s Maqasid (Aim and Objective) and that is the stages of Human Perfection and development, from Nafs al Ammara, the sinful self, to nafs al Mutma’in, the self in contentment, then the stages of development to reaching Human Perfection or Ihsan and worshiping Allah as if you see him, in Islam’s scientific terminology these are called maqamat or stations of growth “What could inform thee but that he might grow (spiritually)”(80:2).

“The maqamat are the stations of spiritual advancement the disciples are encouraged to take (and work towards) “And serve thy Lord, until there comes unto thee utmost certainty” (al-Hijr: 99).They involve work on certain mental (internal) conditions involving acceptance and awareness of the world, this is part of the first station of Ihsan the station of Muraqaba where the student begins to connect what is occurring in the physical world with the signs of Allah in creation.”

The Prophet (saws) said: ittaqu firasat al-mu’min fa innahu yara bi nurillah, “Beware the vision of the believer, for he sees with the light of Allah,” then he recited the verse: “Therein lie portents for those who read the signs” (al-mutawassimin) (15:75) (Tirmidhi) 

“AND [remember:] We have not created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them without [an inner] truth; but, behold, the Hour [when this will become clear to all] is indeed yet to come. Hence, forgive [men’s failings] with fair forbearance: (15:86) verily, thy Sustainer is the all- knowing Creator of all things!(15:73-86)

The Prophet (saws) said,”Many amongst men attained perfection but amongst women none attained perfection except Maryam (Mary), the daughter of ‘Imran, and Asiya, the wife of Fir’aun (Pharaoh). And the superiority of Aishah to other women is like the superiority of Tharid (an Arabic dish) to other meals.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

“And lo! it is a revelation of the Lord of the Worlds, Which the True Spirit hath brought down Upon thy heart, that thou mayst be (one) of the warners“.(26:192-194)

“According to the measure of light which has been allotted to a person by Allah, Exalted is He, he will find guidance for his heart and insight (baṣira). Lights from His light will be manifested in his characteristics. Allah, Exalted is He, has said: …For any to whom Allah has not granted light, there is no light. [24:40] Thus the Qurʾān is Allah’s rope (ḥabl) [linking] Him with His servants. Whoever holds fast to it is saved, for Allah has made the Qurʾān a light, and has said:…but We have made it a light by which we guide whomsoever We wish of Our servants… [42:52]'(Tafsir al Tustari)

Allah specifically mentions in the Quran three types of “selfs” (Nafs), these are states that people go through as they move towards Allah, these are Nafs al Ammara (12:53), Nafs al Lowamah (75:2) and Nafs al Mutma’ina (89:27). Indirectly Allah has also mentioned other states humans will go through in the Quran and these are the states along the path of perfection, that of the Awliya and then the prophets (saws). The other states the Ullumah have said people go through as they draw even closer to Allah, and belong to the Awliyah and the Prophets (as), and the special few who have attained nearness to Allah.

Before one reaches Nafs al Mutma’in (the self at rest and tranquil) a person will reach Nafs a Mulhima (the inspiring self), “the state in which the good has begun to predominate in this struggle to improve our self and the tyranny of egoism has been overcome”. After a person has reached Nafs al Mutma’in (Tranqiul or calm self), He will move throughout the stages of the Awliya and the prophets (as), the first is Nafs al Radiya, the Contented self, Allah will grant this to humanity before they enter Jannah but those who attain closeness to Allah will reach it in this world, “Return to your Lord content”(89:28), Allah addresses the people on the day of Judgment by saying “O thou human being that hast attained to inner peace!”(89;27) (Nafs Mutma’in), he will then elevate them to Contentment and Gratafication with Him, “Return unto thy Lord, content in His good pleasure!”(89:28) (Nafs al Radiya and Nafs al Mardiya), then He will grant man the state of the Angels “So enter among My servants (Angels)” (89:29), then He will enter man into heaven, “And enter into My garden.(89:30). After Nafs al Radiya is Nafs al Mardiya, At this stage, the self is not only content with its Lord, but also gratified by Him, at this stage, the light of the heart is complete.

The heart advances from wholesomeness (Qalb Saleem) to a heart that is in total awe (Hashyat) of Allah, constantly inclined (Muneeb) toward Him, imbued with humility (Hayaa) toward Him in every condition. The Last state of the self is Nafs al Safiyya, The Perfected Slef, The Complete Self Which the Prophets (saws) and Awliya (r.a) like Sayidah Maryam (r.a) and Sayidah Asiya (r.a) have reached.

Jibril (as) taught the Ummah that the Deen is in three Stations, that of Islam, Iman and Ihsan the Ullumah defined the steps of human growth and evolvement along the path (Tariqah) Jibril taught us.

The First station of the Deen is al Islam;

• The first degree of Al-Islam is Repentance (Tawba).

• The second degree of Al-Islam is Righteousness (Al-Istiqama).

• The third degree of Al-Islam is Conscious Awareness of Allah (Taqwa).

The Second Station of the Deen is al Iman;

• The first degree of Faith is Truthfulness (As-Sidq).

• The second degree of Faith is Sincerity (Al-Ikhlas).

• The third degree of Faith is Stillness and Tranquility (Tu’manina).

The Third Station of the Deen is al Ihsan;

• The first degree of Spiritual Perfection is To Observe Allah in Everything (Al-Muraqaba).

• The second degree of Spiritual Perfection is Direct Witnessing (Mushahada).

• The third degree of Spiritual Perfection is Divine Gnosis (Ma’rifa).

When the commander of the faithful, Ali ibn Talib (r.a) was asked concerning Ma’rifa (To first Observe Allah in Everything then to have Direct Witnessing then Divine Gnosis or Ma’rifa), he said, “I know Allah by Allah, and I know that which is not Allah by the light of Allah.”(15:75) Allah The Almighty says in Qur’an: “I am the Creator of Light in which believers are illumined.” (39:23) And “It is God that opens and seals the hearts of men.” (2:6).

Rasul Allah (saws) defined Ihsan by “worshiping Allah as you see Him”  this is what Maarifa is, worship isn’t to pretend you see him it is to see what He wants us to see of Him in creation and this is done by reaching him as Imam Nawawi mentioned.

“Among the disservices done to Islam by some Western scholars is their tireless insistence that the Sufi term wusul (“to arrive, to reach”) be translated as if it meant ittihad (“to unify”) with the result that their translations of Sufi works are filled with talk of “union with God,” a rendering that has come to be traditional and authoritative among them, while it is a fallacious conception that the masters of Tasawwuf from every age (in history) have taken pains to dissociate themselves, their method, and their students from. So it is perhaps fitting to mention two of the aphorisms of the great Shadhili master Ibn ‘Ata’ Illah, who said: Your reaching Allah is reaching the knowledge of Him, for other than that, Our Lord is too exalted for anything to be joined with Him or for Him to be joined with anything; and He also said, The affirmation of electhood (being selected) does not necessitate a negation of the fact of being human. Election is merely like the rise of the daylight’s sun: it appears on the horizon without being part of it. Sometimes He takes it from you and returns you to your own bounds. For daylight is not from you to yourself, but rather it comes over you. (al-Hikam al- ‘Ata ‘iyya wa al-munajat al-ilahiyya (9.24), 59, 66, aphorisms 2\3 and 249)”

There are many examples of the companions Ma’rifa with the unseen spiritual world and experiencing miracles or karamat, they are obligatory for us to believe because they are mentioned in the Quran such as the Karamat of al Khidr, the people of the cave, Dhul Qarnian and Mary (as).

‘A’ishah narrated: “When he (Abu bakr) was on his deathbed, my father (Abu bakr) said to me: “Verily, you have two brothers and two sisters.” So, I became startled at this, as I only had two brothers and one sister. He referred to his then-pregnant wife, Bint Kharijah, saying: “I see that she is pregnant with a girl,” and that turned out to be exactly the case.”(Reported by ash-Shatibi in ‘al-Muwafaqat’ (4/85)

“The Romans imprisoned a son of the Companion, Abu Qurfasah. So, whenever it was time for prayer, Abu Qurfasah would climb the wall of ‘Asqalan (in Syria) and call out: “O, son! It is time to pray!” And, his son would hear him all the way from the land of the Romans.”(‘Majma’ az-Zawa’id’ (9/396), Sahih)

“Ibn ‘Abbas died in at-Ta’if, and a bird, the likes of which had never been seen before, was seen at his funeral. The bird entered the hole in the ground where Ibn ‘Abbas was to be buried. So, we looked and waited to see if it would come out, and it didn’t. When his body was finally placed in the ground, we could hear the verse {“O, the one in rest and satisfaction! Come back to your Lord, Well-pleased and well-pleasing!”} [al-Fajr; 27-8] being recited from the edge of his grave, but we were unable to find out who had recited it.”(Reported by al-Hakim in ‘al-Mustadrak’ (3/543), Sahih)

‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud narrated: “A man from among the humans went out and was met by a man from among the jinn, who said: “Will you wrestle with me? If you throw me to the ground, I will teach you an verse which, if you recite it when you enter your house, no devil will enter.” So, he wrestled with him and threw him to the ground. He said: “I see that you are very small and your forearms are like the front paws of a dog. Are all the jinn like this, or only you?” He said: “I am strong amongst them. Let us wrestle again.” So, they wrestled again and the human threw him to the ground. So, the jinn said: “Recite Ayat al-Kursi, for no one recites it when he enters his house except that Satan leaves, passing wind like a donkey.”” It was said to Ibn Mas’ud: “Was that man ‘Umar?” He said: “Who else could it have been, other than ‘Umar?”[‘Majma’ az-Zawa’id’; 9/71, Sahih)

“Zayd bin Kharijah al-Ansari died during the reign of ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan. When he was wrapped in a shroud and being prepared for burial, a gurgling sound was heard coming from his chest, then Zayd got up and said: “Ahmad! Ahmad! He is in the first Book! Abu Bakr has spoken the truth! ‘Umar has spoken the truth! ‘Uthman has spoken the truth!””(‘al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah’; 6/293; Sahih)

Sa’id then said: “Then, another man died shortly thereafter. When he was wrapped in a shroud and being prepared for burial, a gurgling sound was heard coming from his chest. The man then got up and said: “Zayd bin Kharijah has spoken the truth!””(‘Majma’ az-Zawa’id’; 8/230, Sahih)

“When the bodies of the martyrs of Uhud were being relocated forty years after their burial (during the reign of Mu’awiyah), the foot of Hamzah bin ‘Abd al-Muttalib was scratched in the process of being moved, and it started gushing blood.”(‘al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah’; 4/43, Sahih)

Abu Hurayrah narrated: “al-‘Ala’ al-Hadrami supplicated for rain, and it then began to rain in the middle of the desert. In another incident, he supplicated, and we were able to walk over the water in the Arabian Peninsula (near Bahrain), without even the bottom of our feet getting wet. When he died, we buried him, and after a while, we opened up his grave to find that he was not there.”(‘Majma’ az-Zawa’id’; 9/276)

“When Sa’d and the Muslim army arrived at the Tigris River during the battle of Qadisiyyah, Salman stopped and said: “A river from the rivers of Allah. Will it not carry the soldiers of Allah?” So, he took Sa’d by the hand and stepped onto the water, leading all 30,000 soldiers across the Tigris River on foot. The Persians saw this and escaped, saying: “The demons have arrived! The demons have arrived!””(Reported by at-Tabari in ‘at-Tarikh’ (3/123), and Ibn Kathir in ‘al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah’ (7/64))

“Khalid bin al-Walid came to a man carrying a jug of alcohol, so, he said: “O Allah! Turn it into honey!” So, it turned into honey.”(Reported by Ibn Hajar in ‘al-Isabah fi Ma’rifat as-Sahabah’; p. 414)

The Sahaba acted with a certainty of what the outcome will be when they asked Allah for the karamat, certainty only comes through experience and knowing what the outcome will be and this is clearly stated in a hadith Qudsi;

The Messenger of Allah (saws) said that Allah (mighty and sublime be He) said: “Whosoever shows enmity to someone devoted to Me, I shall be at war with him. My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory (extra voluntary) works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it. I do not hesitate about anything as much as I hesitate about [seizing] the soul of My faithful servant: he hates death and I hate hurting him.” (Bukhari)

They knew when they asked, Allah would answer them no matter what it was.


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