Advice of Hadhrat Sheikh
On expansion and constriction
Hadhrat Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani (RA)
Question: When does expansion [bast] give way to constriction [qabd], and having fun to being serious?
As long as He is going easy on you [basataka], you can take it easy [inbasatta]. Then your license to enjoy concessions [rukhsa] will be converted into strict attention to duty ['azima], and then your strict performance will become a pleasure, until eventually, when the whole of you has become strictly devoted to duty, He will cause you to enter the abode of gracious favor [fadl] and intimate friendship [uns]. All that is left for you then will be action pure and simple [fi'l mujarrad], with no question of either concession or strictness. Your situation will be comparable to that of a person who has in front of him a dish containing a bit of food, and who is then told: "Go into a different house. Everything over there is for you." Concessions are for those who have made little progress, while strict requirements are for those who are fully developed [kamil], and the Kingdom is for those who have transcended this worldly existence [fanun].
Previously, I always dwelt here on earth in private seclusion, but now the situation is the very opposite of that. In general, I am a person who is not embarrassed by being talked about, because I take no notice of anyone's opinion.
Proper behavior [husn al-adab] is called for in two instances: in the renunciation of this world and in the acceptance of it. You must not go into seclusion with ignorance for company. Do not make a practice of it before you are adequately prepared. "Complete your studies, then retire [tafaqqah thumma' 'tazil]." How often do you attend these sessions [majalis] without putting one word you hear into practice? How many of you have seen a single saint [wali], asked him for a piece of good advice, received such advice from him and then put it into practice, taking it as provision for your journey?
As for you there, you pore over the annals [akhbar], you peer into the traditions [athar], you attend the sessions of divine remembrance [majalis al-adhkar], yet you make no progress at all. If only you could hold your footing at the point you have already reached, but no, whenever you come forward you go into reverse.
If there is no difference for a person between one day and the next, he must be a dimwit. Come to your senses! May Allah have mercy upon you! This world can offer only momentary satisfaction, so do not rely on it.
There are some people who have been rendered weak by awe and dread, whose limbs have been rendered immobile and whose hearts have been overwhelmed by bewilderment at the creation, so that they have come to be a state of paralysis and inactivity. When the time comes for them to receive their full quota of allotted shares, Allah sends someone to feed them bit by bit.
No one past or present has anything to hold against this servant (meaning himself). Preserve the most important part of your religion [din], or else you must sever your connection with me and my path. Do not be an ignorant fool, sitting at home and indulging in your fantasies. Here we have medicines that we have drunk and found beneficial. Here we have something tried and tested, to which we can show you the way.
Beware of a day when neither wealth nor sons will be of any avail! What is wealth? Wealth is something you have accumulated from what has fallen due to you and what you have managed to acquire, and you have acquired it by any means. You claim that tomorrow [at the Resurrection] it will stand you in good stead, along with all the sons you have, just as the Arabs in the old days used to claim.
But Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) has said: The day when neither wealth nor sons will avail [any man], except one who comes to Allah with a whole heart. (26:88, 89)
Such a person will not have paid too much attention with his heart to his worldly goods and his sons. Rather than letting his heart rely on them, he will have recognized that he was entrusted with their care. He will have looked after them in order to comply with the wishes of his Lord. Thus his heart would be safe from the perils that come with having wealth and children.
Consider the case of a man who is informed that the king wishes to marry him to a slave girl, and that he intends to have him killed by her hand. The man says to himself: "If I try to run away, the king will catch me with his soldiers. If I refuse to obey him, he has the power to destroy me, but if I comply with his wishes, he will destroy me anyway, by means of his slave girl." The king does in fact command him to marry one of his slave girls, and he orders her to poison him or to slit his throat when he has fallen asleep.-- Oh, how much is being missed by those who have stayed away from me today! Oh, how much they are missing! --But the best thing he can do is to behave politely and show himself ready to comply with the royal command, while keeping his heart on the alert. "To hear is to obey," says he, and in he goes to accept the marriage and the gift [hadiyya]. The wedding night [zifaf] has arrived. He dons the armor of caution. He anoints the eyes of his heart with the ointment of wakefulness, to make sure that he will notice her every movement, pause and action. She turns out to be his joy and delight, and the attendants and servants all think he must have found himself in an enviable situation. When the new day dawns, she has not murdered him with her poison! ...except one who comes to Allah with a whole heart [bi-qalbin salim]. (26:89)
This world is the wife in whose company he has not fallen asleep, and with whom he has never in his life been alone in private. He has reached the hereafter, and she has neither robbed him of his dutiful devotion [taqwa] nor altered his religion. That is keeping safe and whole [salama]! It is like this for one who really knows ['arif] Allah, who abstains from this world and yearns for the hereafter. The messenger of knowledge [rasul al-'ilm] comes into the pure serenity of his innermost being [sirr] with this information: "Allah wishes to assign to you a group of people from this world, so that there may be life for the hearts of the champions of truth [siddiqun]. This is a kind of task, one that requires labor and trouble and attention. Be careful how you perform it. Your heart and your innermost being [sirr] must be sound and whole, so the innermost being must be fully conscious of this." The innermost being and the heart are escorted together to the King's door. They ask: "What do You propose to do with us? Do You intend to exclude us from Your presence, to banish us from your door, to make life painful for us? We shall not leave without the proper assurances [mawathiq] and covenants ['uhud]." They will not leave until He says to them: Fear not, for I am with you both. I hear and I see. (20:46). Then they will return together to this world, accompanied by escorts and guards. ...except one who comes to Allah with a whole heart. (26:89)
[Such a heart is sound and free] from harmful influences, from pretense and hypocrisy and the desire to impress mere creatures.
O seeker far from home, O wanderer lost in the trackless wilderness of destiny [qadar]! You need to tidy up your private room. Leave in it neither dirham [silver coin] nor dinar [gold coin], and as for jewelry you have enough with the key in your pocket. You need to empty your heart of this world, of carnal appetites and pleasures and trivial concerns of every kind. You must let it contain only remembrance [dhikr] and contemplation [fikr], the remembrance of death and the remembrance of what lies beyond death. In it you must practice the alchemy [kimiya'] of curtailing expectation. You must say: "I am already dead," because actions become pure through the curtailment of expectation [qasr al-amal].
If you exaggerate your expectation, on the other hand, you will be seeking to make an impression on this person here, and behaving hypocritically toward that person there. Someone who has mastered the curtailment of expectation is separated from everything, disconnected from everything. He wears the garb of abstinence [zuhd], then the garb of annihilation [fana'], then the garb of real experience [ma'rifa].
Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) has said: Guarantee me six things and I will guarantee you the Garden [of Paradise]: When one of you talks, he must not tell lies; when he is trusted, he must not cheat; when he makes a promise, he must not break it; you must restrain your hands [from evil deeds]; you must not look for trouble; and you must keep your genitals safe.
When your innermost being [sirr] has become pure and unified, you will hear the call of your Lord directly, without any intermediary. When your fear and your hope have been united, the speech of your Lord [Rabb] and Master [Mawla] will address you.
O my dear son, cast yourself down in front of the hoofs of the horse of His destiny [qadar]; it will either trample you or leap over you. "If someone suffers destruction [talaf] because of Allah, his compensation [khalaf] is Allah's responsibility." If it does leap over you, catch hold of it and cling on, exposing yourself to the arrows of His destiny. When you become a target for the arrows of His destiny, their impact will only cause a scratch, not a fatal wound.
O you who are destitute of all this, you must improve, make progress and set to work. Get to grips with it all. Give up your bad habit of sitting at home while I am sitting down to give a talk. Here are the qualities of saintship [wilayat]. Here are the degrees [darajat].
O you who are afflicted with the burden of having dependants to provide for, let your earning be devoted to your dependants and your heart to the gracious favor of your Lord. For one group of people, their lawful goods [halal] are acquired though what they earn. There are people whose lawful goods are what they obtain in answer to their supplication [du'a']. There are people whose lawful goods are what they receive from others without having to ask, and then there are people whose lawful goods are what they get by begging. This is the state of affairs during training [riyada], which cannot go on indefinitely.
The first case, namely earning, is in accordance with the Sunna. The second, namely asking [in prayers of supplication], is of weak validity. The third, [accepting what comes without asking], is the approach that is strictly correct ['azima].
As for begging, this is allowed as a special concession [rukhsa]. It may happen that someone goes begging when he is not in need, in which case he represents a trial and a tribulation for the person asked to give. The request made by this servant [of the Lord] is like the request that comes in the night.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) has said: Do not reject the request that comes in the night, for someone who is neither a jinni nor a human being may come to you, in order to see how you are handling the blessings that Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) has bestowed upon you.
In just the same way, this servant is commanded to ask, so that the Lord of Truth may see how you are handling the blessings that He has bestowed upon you.
Make a frequent practice of attending the sessions [majalis] of the scholars and of visiting the tombs and the righteous [salihun], then perhaps your heart will be brought to life.
Once they [the people of the Lord] have become thoroughly proficient in carrying out the commandments and observing the prohibitions [of the sacred law], the decrees of destiny [aqdar] come to their aid. 'Abdullah ibn az-Zubair used to eat one meal a week. Your spiritual state [hal] will not be correct until you are like a cracked pot in which no liquid can remain. Consider the example of the ship belonging to some poor folk, which was boarded by al-Khidr, who damaged it and then passed on to another situation. There is one state of being that features integration [jam'] and there is another that features differentiation [tafriqa], as there is one state that features paucity [qilla] and another that features multiplicity [kathra].
If someone goes out of my presence in the direction of the Fire [of Hell], may Allah have no mercy on him!
O Allah, pardon! O Allah, protection! O Allah, steadfastness! O Allah, contentment!
When you attain to the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He), He will be satisfied with you as long as you perform the fara'id [obligatory religious duties, as distinguished from those that are merely commendable or supererogatory].
The King's cook is now an old man. No longer can he think, see, hear and give instructions [as he did in his prime]. He must now have done for him what he could do himself in his active condition.
Let Allah be your witness, O seeker, if you are speaking the truth about the claims you make. When have you ever used your strength for your neighbor's benefit rather than your own? When have you offered him your shirt, your turban and your prayer-mat [musalla] before using them yourself? When have you put your wealth at his disposal first of all?
These people [of the Lord] have dissolved their lower selves [nufus], their natural impulses [tiba'], their passions [ahwiya] and their tastes [sharab], to the point where they have died in the spiritual sense [ma'nan], where they have become extinct [fanu] in the spiritual sense. The hand of [divine] power [qudra] has taken control of them. The mortician [ghasil] of destiny [qadar] rolls them over to right and to left, while their dog is stretching out its paws on the threshold. (18:18)
The remnants of the lower self are stretched out beneath the threshold of destiny.
The medication prescribed for the limbs and organs of the physical body is to refrain from sins [ma'athim]; that is to say, from perpetrating atrocious misdeeds and offenses. Your hand must refrain from stealing and striking, while the foot must refrain from walking into sinful disobedience, and from walking toward the worldly ruler [sultan] or indeed any of the children of Adam. This eye of yours must be restrained from looking at pretty women.
The lower self [nafs] has become calm and quiet in the presence of the law [hukm]. The heart has flown off into the company of the Beloved [mahbub].
If the friend [wali] of Allah (Exalted is He) behaves correctly, he will acquire the attributes [sifat] of Prophethood [nubuwwa].
The law [hukm] fluctuates between nature [tab'] and knowledge ['ilm], sometimes rejecting nature and sometimes rejecting knowledge. Whatever the Messenger gives you, take it. (59:7)
The law says to the heart: "What will supply your needs? I am standing at the ready, like a servant at your disposal, a guardian to look after you, while you are in the company of the King."
The night is their royal throne. The private retreat is their bridal chamber. The day excites their interest in certain material means [asbab].
Afflictions ought to be kept secret:
O my dear son, do not narrate your vision to your brothers. (12:5)
You must be strong in dealing with them. Protect one another and support one another until the book [of destiny] reaches its appointed conclusion.
Ask Munkar and Nakir about me when they come to visit you in your grave, for they will tell you all you need to know about me. Your present name is Mudhnib [sinner]. Tomorrow [at the Resurrection] your name will be Muhasab [called to account] and Munaqash [subject to interrogation]. In the grave you must suffer having all your faults exposed. You do not know whether you will be included among the people of the Fire [of Hell] or among the people of the Garden [of Paradise]. Your ultimate destination is uncertain, so do not overestimate the purity of your spiritual state [hal]. You do not know what your name is going to be tomorrow.
O my dear son, if you are still alive in the morning, do not take the evening for granted, and if you are here when evening comes, do not take the next morning for granted. Yesterday is past and gone with everything it contained, to be a witness for you and against you [when the Resurrection comes]. As for tomorrow, you do not know whether you will survive till then or not. You are simply the son of your today. How stupidly careless you are! The symptom of your heedlessness is your addiction to foolish company.
O stupid fool, why do you associate with those on whom the mark of the Truth [Haqq] is not apparent? Why do you seek the company of someone whose foundation is unstable, whose outer [zahir] is all lower self [nafs], and whose inner [batin] is all stubbornness and insolence toward the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He)? This [business of ours] is not something that comes about through rubbing shoulders, nor through anointing the eyes with cosmetics [kuhl] but not with sleepless vigil.
The entire creation is of no consequence. All nonessential effort [takalluf] is of no consequence. O stupid fool, you go around begging from door to door, in order to accumulate a mass of worldly stuff. How can you have any hope of real success [falah]? Why not stand at the King's door like the chamberlain [hajib], informing the King of new arrivals, listening to their stories and making them feel less lonely? Why not treat your fellow creatures as your dependants, instead of depending on them? Why not work at your craft or profession in your own home, so that when they come to your door they will discover that you have something useful to offer them? Your home is your private retreat, your home is your heart, your home is your secret soul [sirr], your home is your inner being [batin].
To deserve the company of your Lord, you must carry out His commandments, observe His prohibitions and comply with His wishes by accepting whatever has been decreed [maqdur] by Him.
The blessings bestowed on your fellow creatures are in proportion to your prayer of supplication [du'a'] and your spiritual aspiration [himma], in the ratio of a thousand to one. When you honor the virtuous noble ones in your private retreat, you are obeying your Master [Mawla] and not offending against Him. If you honor the people [of the Lord] and do not disgrace yourself in their sight, you deserve to be called noble [karim]. Then, once you have come to be noble, a thousand individuals will be honored for your sake. Misfortune will be averted from your family, your neighbor and the people of your town.
You are always begging. You are always going to people's doors. How long will it be before others can beg from you? How long before others can expect a meal from you? How long before they can come to your door? When will you be finished with your business? When will a tent be pitched around you? When will you celebrate your wedding in the close presence of the King? When will you demonstrate your excellence, your worthiness and your fitness for the proximity of the King? When will your titles [alqab] be made known and your magnificence be revealed? When will you be the noblest of the noblest of the descendants of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), so that his blessed grace [baraka] may be conferred upon you?
[As the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) has said:] The learned scholars ['ulama'] are the heirs of the Prophets [anbiya'].
[They are their heirs] in speech and in action, in spiritual state [hal] and in teaching [maqal], not in name and title. Prophethood [nubuwwa] is a name [ism], while Messengership [risala] is a title [laqab]. O ignorant one, although Prophethood and Messengership have passed you by, it is not yet too late for you to experience Saintship [wilaya] and attain to the stations of Ghawth [ghawthiyya] and Badal [badaliyya] .
[In the words of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He):] Are you content with the life of this world, rather than the hereafter? (9:38)
The life of this world [hayat ad-dunya] is your lower self [nafs], your passions [hawa] and your natural inclinations [tab']. This is what is meant by this world-not carnal appetites [shahawat] of brief duration, for they are portions allotted to you by destiny [aqsam]. This world is what you take hold of with your own mental and physical powers [bi-himmatika wa-jawarihika]. What the King imposes upon you does not count as belonging to this world. Vital necessities do not count as belonging to this world, for you cannot do without a house to provide you with shelter, clothes to cover and protect you, bread to satisfy your hunger and a wife to make you feel at home. Living the life of this world means devoting one's attention to creatures and turning one's back on the Lord of Truth.
Passion [hawa] is at odds with rational contemplation [fikr]. Passion is at odds with worshipful service ['ibada]. The material means [sabab] is at odds with the Originator [Musabbib]. The outer [zahir] is at odds with the inner [batin]. Once you have mastered the outer, you will be commanded to master the inner. Once you have mastered the law [hukm] by putting it into practice, you will be His servant, you will be His follower, you will be His companion [sahib]. You will be constitutionally extinct to your natural inclinations. Knowledge ['ilm] will hold your reins, to keep you tightly in control. You will be like a husband between two spouses. You will be like the chamberlain [hajib] between the king and his chief minister [wazir]. You will be the beloved of this world and of the hereafter, of creatures and of the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He) and the angels [mala'ika], a joy to all hearts.
We experience a state of being that is beyond your present awareness.
David said to his son Solomon (peace be upon them both, and upon all the Prophets [anbiya'], the Messengers [mursalun], the angels drawn near [to the Lord], the saints [awliya'] and the righteous [salihun] ): "O my dear son, how vile is sinful error after humble submission [maskana], and how much worse than that is a man who used to be a worshipper ['abid], but who then abandoned the worshipful service ['ibada] of his Lord."
Are you content with the life of this world, rather than the hereafter? (9:38)
The life of this world is your personal existence [wujud], while the hereafter is your nonexistence [fana'].
Our aspirations [himam] have a way of undergoing change, and our innermost beings [asrar] also have their way of experiencing transformation. The common people ['awamm] have a way of going through changes, and the special few [khawass] also have their way of experiencing transformation.
This world is what you can see, while the hereafter is that which is revealed [yuftahu] to you. You are presented with something you cannot comprehend, so you feel bewildered, but then all is made clear to you. When something presents itself to you as a matter of common sense ['aql mushtarak], it is of this world, but if something comes to you in terms peculiar to the intellect which is the intellect of intellects ['aql al-'uqul], then it is of the hereafter. Your innermost being [sirr] is otherworldly, while your outer [zahir] is this-worldly. The involvements of this world are with everything apart from the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He), whereas the hereafter is attachment to the Master [Mawla], and indifference to tittle-tattle [qil wa-qal], to praise and approval as well as to blame, and to the pursuit of self-interest. "Your interest is what is important to you [hammuka ma hammaka]."
If you are sincere about your purpose, the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He) will take you by your hand. He will cause you to walk in the company of His destiny [qadar], and the strides you make will be longer than the strides of Adam (blessing and peace be upon him), because of the sincerity [sidq] of your purpose [irada], the excellence of your behavior, and the way you turn a deaf ear to whatever your neighbors may have to say.
Let perdition befall you, O ignorant one, ignorant of the Lord of Truth, of the fact that His gracious favor is all around you, of the presence of His servants who have heard and obeyed!
The servant [of the Lord] sees his own allotted shares on the Preserved Tablet [al-lawh al-mahfuz], then he moves on to see the shares allotted to his wife and his children. Eventually, when he is lost in amazement, he hears a voice calling from his inner being [batin]: He is only a servant on whom We bestowed favor. (43:59). And surely in Our sight they are among the chosen, the excellent. (38:47)
This is something that comes about through preordainment [sabiqa]; it can then be purified by following in the footsteps of the Shaikhs.