It was in the guesthouse, in the early morning of Sunday, the 2nd of Dhu’l-Qa’da, A.H. 545, that the Shaikh (may Allah be well pleased with him) said:
O young man! Your wish [irada] for the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He) is not genuine. You are not really wishing for Him, because when someone claims to wish for the Lord of Truth (Glorious and Exalted is He) while he is actually seeking something other than Him, his claim is null and void. Seekers of this world are very numerous. Seekers of the hereafter are comparatively few. Seekers of the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He), who are honest about their wish for Him, are the fewest of the few. In paucity and scarcity they are like the philosopher’s stone [al-kibrit al-ahmar]. They are unique individuals of such extraordinariness and rarity that even one of them is seldom to be found. They are the strangers among the tribes. They are mines in the earth, in which they are monarchs. They are the prefects of cities and men [shihan al-bilad wa’l-‘ibad]. Because of them the people are shielded from disaster. Because of them they receive rain. Because of them Allah sends rain down from the sky, and because of them the earth puts forth vegetation.
In the first stage of their career they flee from mountain height to mountain height, from land to land, from ruin to ruin. As soon as they are recognized in a place they move on elsewhere. They cast everything behind their backs, and surrender the keys of this world to its people. They continue in this manner until fortresses are built around them, rivers flow into their hearts, and they are surrounded by troops in the service of the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He), each assigned to specific guard duty. Thus they are honored and protected, and are put in charge of the people. All of this is beyond their conscious minds.
At this point it becomes their obligatory duty [farida] to make themselves available to the people. They come to be like physicians when the rest of the people are sick.
Woe unto you! You claim to be one of them, so what characteristic mark [‘alama] of theirs do you possess? What is the mark of nearness to the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He) and of His grace? In what rank [manzila] are you in the sight of the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He), and in what station [maqam]? What is your name [ism] and surname [laqab] in the Sovereignty Most High [al-malakut al-a’la]? Why is your door locked every night? What of your food and drink, are they barely permissible [mubah] or entirely lawful [halal talq]? What do you take as your bedfellow: this world, the hereafter, or the close presence of the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He)? Who is your friend [anis] in privacy? Who is your boon companion [jalis] in public? Liar! Your friend in private is your lower self [nafs], your devil [shaitan], your passion [hawa], and contemplation of your worldly interests [at-tafakkur fi dunyaka]. In public your companions are those human devils who are your wicked mates and fellow gossip-mongers.
This is not something that comes about through idle chatter and unsubstantiated claims. What you have to say on this subject is nonsense that will do you no good. You must be calm and unobtrusive in the presence of the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He), and give up bad behavior. If talking about this cannot be avoided altogether, your words should be devoted to the invocation of His blessings and speaking well of His people, not to making claims with your outer being when they have no substance in your heart. Everything external that is not matched by the inner is mere nonsense. Surely you have heard the saying of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace):
No fast is kept by one who goes on eating human flesh.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) has made it clear that fasting [siyam] is not just a matter of giving up food, drink and other things that technically break the fast [muftirat], but also of giving up sins. Beware of backbiting [ghiba], because it devours good deeds as fire devours wood. Successful people never make a habit of it, and those who are known for it enjoy little respect. You must also beware of the lustful gaze [an-nazar bi’sh-shahwa], because it plants the seeds of sin in your hearts, and its outcome is unworthy in this world and the next. Beware of the false oath [al-yamin al-kadhiba], because it leaves houses in ruins and takes away blessings both material and religious.
Woe unto you! You squander your material assets by swearing false oaths, and lose your religion as well. If you had any sense, you would realize that this is the very essence of loss. You say: “By Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), there is nothing in this city to compare with this piece of property, and no one else has anything like it! By Allah, it is worth so-and-so much, and it cost me so-and-so much!” Everything you say is a lie, but then you bear false witness and swear by Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) that you are telling the truth. Blindness and age will soon come upon you. Correct your behavior–may Allah the Exalted have mercy upon you!–in the presence of the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He). Those who do not discipline themselves to follow the rules of conduct [adab] prescribed by the sacred law [shar’], will be disciplined by the Fire [an-nar] on the Day of Resurrection [yawm al-qiyama].
(Someone spoke up with the question: “If a person is guilty of these five bad habits, or some of them, do you declare his fast [sawm] and his ritual ablution [wudu’] invalid?” He said in reply: “His fast and his ritual ablution are not invalidated. These remarks are intended rather as an admonition, to give warning and alarm.”)
O young man! Perhaps when tomorrow comes you will be missing from the face of the earth, nowhere to be found. Or maybe at some other hour this will be so. What is this negligence? Your hearts are so hard! You are all rocks! I tell you, and others tell you too, but you are always the same way. The Qur’an is recited to you. The traditions [akhbar] of the Messenger and the life stories [siyar] of our forebears [al-awwalun] are read to you, but you pay no attention. You neither change course nor mend your ways. If someone is present in a place where warning is given, but he does not heed that warning, he is in the best of places but he is the worst of men.
O young man! Your contempt for the friends [awliya’] of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) results from your having so little direct knowledge [ma’rifa] of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). You say: “These folk invite suspicion. Why don’t they share our way of life? Why don’t they sit in our company?” You talk like this because of your ignorance of your own self. When your self-awareness is slight, you have little awareness of what other people are worth. Inasmuch as you lack awareness of this world and its eventual outcome [‘aqiba], you are ignorant of the value of the hereafter, and to the extent that you lack awareness of the hereafter, you are ignorant of the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He). O you who are so preoccupied with this world, you will soon experience loss and remorse in this world and the hereafter. Your regrets will show up clearly on the Day of Resurrection, the day of mutual cheating [yawm at-taghabun], the day of ignominious shame [fadiha], the day of remorse and forfeiture [an-nadamat wa’l-khusran]. Take stock of yourself before the advent of the hereafter. Do not delude yourself because of the tolerance [hilm] of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) and His generosity toward you. You are maintaining the worst possible state of affairs, through sins, mistakes and doing wrong to other people. Sin is the mailman [barid] of unbelief [kufr], just as fever is the mailman of death. Be sure to repent before death, before the arrival of the angel who is entrusted with the collecting of spirits [arwah].
O young men! Repent! Can you not see how the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He) is trying you with misfortune so that you may repent, while you do not comprehend, and persist in disobeying Him? Only a few individuals are made to suffer tribulation in this day and age, but they experience it as an affliction [niqma], not as a blessing [ni’ma]; as a punishment for sins, not as a promotion in spiritual rank and grace [ziyada fi’d-darajat wa’l-karamat]. The people [of the Lord] are put to the test in order to elevate their rank in the presence of their King. They bear with Him patiently, because they seek His countenance. When this is fully accomplished by them, they have achieved dominion [mulk]. But when this is not fully accomplished, they firmly believe that they are in damnation [hulk].
O Allah, no damnation! We beg you to let us be near to You, and behold You in this world and the hereafter; in this world with our hearts and in the hereafter with our eyes.
O my people! Do not despair of the refreshment [rawh] and relief [faraj] of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), for this is near at hand. Do not despair, because the Maker [as-Sani’] is Allah.
You do not know; it may be that Allah will afterward bring some new thing to pass. (65:1)
Do not run away from tribulation [bala’], because tribulation borne with patience is the basis of everything good. The foundation of Prophetship [nubuwa], of Messengership [risala], of saintship [wilaya], of direct knowledge [ma’rifa] and of love [mahabba], is surely tribulation. So if you have not borne tribulation with patience, you have no foundation. A building cannot last without a foundation. Have you ever seen a house standing firm on top of a garbage dump? You only flee from tribulation and misfortunes because you feel no pressing need for saintship, direct knowledge and the nearness of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). Be patient, and work until you can ascend with your heart [qalb], your innermost being [sirr] and your spirit [ruh] to the gate of nearness to your Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He).
The ‘ulama’ [learned scholars], the awliya’ [saints] and the abdal [spiritual deputies] are the heirs of the Prophets [anbiya’]. The Prophets are the brokers [samasira], and these others are their advertising agents [munadun].
The believer [mu’min] is afraid of none but Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), and looks in hope to none but Him, for he has been given courage in his heart and his innermost being. How can the hearts of believers fail to be encouraged by Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), since He has made them ascend to Him? Their hearts [qulub] are always with Him, while their outer form [qalab] is here on the earth. As Allah (Exalted is He) has said:
And in Our sight they are surely of the chosen, the excellent. (38:47)
They are chosen over their own relatives and their contemporaries. Their inner natures [ma’ani] are marked with distinction, and their outer frames [mabani] are enlightened. This is why they have detached themselves from people and abstained from ordinary habits. They have forged ahead, and the grass has sprung up to cover their tracks. They can no longer turn back. They have grown accustomed to solitude. They prefer the desert, the shores of the oceans, the open spaces and the wastelands, not civilization. They eat the herbs and drink from the pools to be found in the deserts. They become like the beasts of the wild.
In this situation, He draws their hearts near to Him and delights them with His company. He lodges their frames with the frames of the Messengers [mursalun], the champions of truth [siddiqun] and the martyrs [shuhada’], and He lodges their inner natures with Himself. They always stand ready to serve, all night and all day, in private. Such is the comfort of those who yearn, and the pleasure of those who seek intimacy with Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He).
O young man! Sweetness is inevitably paired with bitterness, righteousness [salah] with corruption [fasad], and turbulence [kadar] with serenity [safa’]. If you wish for total serenity, therefore, you must detach your heart from creatures and connect it to the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He). You must part company with this world. Leave your family and entrust them to the safekeeping of your Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He). Strip your heart bare of everything, approach the door of the hereafter and then enter it. If you do not find your Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He) in there, come out of it and flee in quest of nearness to Him. When you find Him, you will find complete serenity in His presence. What has the lover [muhibb] of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) to do with anything other than Him? Paradise is the home of those who seek spiritual status [darajat], the home of merchants who have traded this world for it. This is why Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) has said:
And therein is all that selves [al-anfus] desire and eyes delight in. (43:71)
He does not mention the heart [qalb]. He does not mention the innermost being [sirr]. He does not mention spiritual content [ma’na]. Paradise belongs to upright keepers of the fast, to those who renounce and abstain from the desires and pleasures of the flesh. They have traded one kind of food for another kind of food, a garden for a garden, an abode for an abode.
From you I want deeds without talk. The gnostic [‘arif] who works for the sake of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) is an anvil that gets hammered on, but never says a word; a plot of land that gets trodden over, changed and altered, but stays quite dumb. The [Lord’s] people see none other than Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), and none but Him do they hear. They have an inner core [janan] but no tongue [lisan]. They become extinct [fanun] to themselves and to others, and they remain in this condition. When Allah wishes, He resurrects them [ansharahum]. He makes the inner core a tongue, as if they were drugged [mubannajun]. The King takes them to Himself with the hand of His compassion [ra’fa] and mercy [rahma]. He shapes them for Himself and creates them for Himself, not for any other. He fashions them for Himself as He fashioned Moses (peace be upon him), for as He told him: “I have fashioned you for Myself” (20:41).
There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. (42:11).
He brings into being a rest with no weariness, a friendship with no alienation, a blessing with no pain, a joy with no unpleasantness, a sweetness with no bitterness, a dominion with no damnation.
There, protection belongs only to Allah, the True. (18:44)
When someone has attained this state, comfort [raha] is made available to him here and now. In the condition you are in, however, you will not find comfort in this world, because it is the abode of turbulence, the abode of disasters. You are bound to leave it, so you should expel it from your heart and from your hand. If you cannot manage this, then keep it in your hand, but expel it from your heart. Then, when you get stronger, let it go from your hand and give it to the poor. The needy are the dependents of the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He). Besides, what is meant for you will not pass you by; it is bound reach you whether you be rich or poor, an ascetic [zahid] or one with an appetite for things [raghib].
The central point is the soundness and purity of your heart and your innermost being, both of which become pure through the acquisition of knowledge, its application in practice, sincerity in that practice, and honesty in seeking the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He).
O young man! Have you not heard the saying: “Study jurisprudence, then retire [tafaqqah thumma-‘tazil] “? Study the external jurisprudence [al-fiqh az-zahir], then retire to the inner jurisprudence [al-fiqh al-batin]. Follow this outer practice until it brings you close to a knowledge you have not been applying. This outer knowledge is the light of the outer being, and the inner is the light of the inner. It is a light [diya’] between you and your Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He). Whenever you put your knowledge into practice, your path [tariq] to the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He) is shortened, the door between you and Him is widened, and He raises the panel of the door that is specially for you.
Our Lord, give us in this world good, and good in the hereafter, and guard us against the torment of the fire! (2:201)