It was in the guesthouse, on Sunday the 9th of Dhu’l-Qa’da, A.H. 545, that the Shaikh (may Allah be well pleased with him) said:
The believer [mu’min] takes his rations, while the unbeliever [kafir] takes his pleasure. The believer takes his rations because he is on a journey. He is content to use a tiny fraction of what he owns, while investing the greater part in the hereafter. Apart from giving himself a traveler’s allowance, based on what he can carry, he keeps all his property in the hereafter. His heart and his aspirations [himma] are all there. His heart is concentrated there, indifferent to this world. He forwards all the merit of his acts of worship to the hereafter, not to this world and those who belong to it. If he has some tasty food, he donates it to the poor, knowing that in the hereafter he will have something even better to eat. The goal of the aspiration [himma] of the experienced [‘arif] and learned [‘alim] believer is the door of his nearness to the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He), and that his heart should get there in this world, before the hereafter. Nearness to the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He) is the goal of the steps taken by the heart and the secret journey of the innermost being.
I see you [going through the motions of the salat-prayer:] standing upright [qiyam], sitting on your heels [qu’ud], bowing from the waist [ruku’], and falling in prostration [sujud], as you lose sleep in weary vigil. But your heart never moves from its place, never leaves the home of its being, and never changes its familiar habits. Be honest in your quest for your Master (Almighty and Glorious is He); your honesty [sidq] may enable you to dispense with a lot of exhausting effort. Peck open the egg of your being with the beak of your honesty, and knock down the walls of your devotion and attachment to creatures with the pickaxes of sincerity [ikhlas] and your affirmation of Unity [tawhid]. Break the cage of your appetite for things with the hand of your abstinence from them. Fly away with your heart until you alight on the shore of the ocean of your nearness to your Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He). Then the sailor of Preordination [as-sabiqa] will come to you. He will have with him the ship of Providence [al-‘inaya], and so he will take you across to your Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He).
This world is an ocean, and your faith [iman] is its ship. This is why Luqman the Wise [al-hakim] (may Allah’s mercy be upon him) said: “O my dear son, this world is an ocean. Faith is the ship. The sailor is your obedient worship [ta’at]. The shore is the hereafter.”
O you who persist in sinful disobedience! Coming to you very soon are blindness and deafness, old age and poverty, and the hardening of people’s hearts toward you. Your possessions will all be gone because of losses, confiscations [musadarat] and thefts. Be sensible. Repent to your Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He). Do not make idols of your possessions and put your trust in them. Do not become attached to them. Evict them from your hearts. Keep them in your houses and your pockets, and with your servants [ghilman] and your agents [wukala’]. Be ready for death. Diminish your appetite and reduce your expectations.
Abu Yazid al-Bistami (may the mercy of Allah be upon him) is reported as having said: “The experienced believer [al-mu’min al-‘arif] seeks nothing of this world and nothing of the hereafter from Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). All he seeks from his Master is his Master [innama yatlubu min Mawlahu Mawlahu].”
O young man! Return with your heart to Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). One who is repentant [ta’ib] to Allah is one who is returning [raji’] to Him, and His words (Almighty and Glorious is He): “Repent unto your Lord,” (39:54) i.e., “Return to your Lord,” mean: “Turn back and surrender everything to Him.” Surrender your own selves to Him, and cast them down in submission before His decree, His destiny, His commandment, His prohibition and His transformative workings [taqlibat]. Cast your hearts down in submission before Him, without tongues, without hands, without legs, without eyes, without “How?”, without “Why?”, without argument and without contradiction, but rather with agreement and confirmation. Say: “The commandment [al-amr] is true. Destiny [al-qadar] is true. Preordination [as-sabiqa] is true.” If you are like this, your hearts will surely be repentant unto Him and witness Him directly. They will not take a liking to anything, but rather feel distaste for everything beneath the heavenly Throne [al-‘arsh] down to the surface of the earth. They will flee from all created things, and remain separate and cut off from all temporal phenomena [muhdathat].
No one knows how to behave correctly with the Shaikhs unless he has served them and become aware of some of the spiritual states [ahwal] they experience with Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). The people [of the Lord] have learned to treat praise and blame like summer and winter, like night and day. They regard them both as from Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), because no one is capable of bringing them about except Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). When this has become real for them, therefore, they do not place their confidence in those who praise them, nor do they fight with their critics, and they pay no attention to them. Their hearts have been emptied of both love and hate for creatures. They neither love nor hate, but rather feel compassion.
What benefit can you derive from knowledge without sincere belief [sidq], since Allah may allow you to go knowingly astray? You acquire learning and do the salat-prayers and keep the fast, all for the sake of people, to get them to be well disposed toward you, to lavish their goods on you, and to sing your praises in their homes and their social gatherings. Suppose you do get all this from them; when death comes to you, and torment and anguish and terror, you will be cut off from them and they will do nothing to help you. The goods you got from them will be consumed by others, while you must suffer punishment and face the final reckoning. O deserter! O outcast! You are one of those who are “toiling, weary” (88:3) in this world, and weary tomorrow in the Fire [of Hell].
Worshipful service [‘ibada] is a skilled craft, and its experts are the saints [al-awliya’] and the sincere Abdal [spiritual deputies] who are brought close to the presence of the Lord of Truth (Glorious and Exalted is He). Those scholars who put their knowledge into practice are the deputies [nuwwab] of Allah upon His earth, and of His Envoys [rusul]; they are the heirs of the Prophets [al-anbiya’] and the Messenger [al-mursalun]. Not you, O deluded fools, O you who are preoccupied with tongue-wagging and legalistic knowledge [fiqh] of the outer [az-zahir], accompanied by ignorance of the inner [al-batin].
O young man! You do not amount to anything. Islam [submission to the will of Allah] has not become a fact for you. Islam is the foundation upon which everything is built. The profession of faith [ash-shahada] has not become completely real for you. You say: “There is no god but Allah [la ilaha illa’llah],” but you are lying. In your heart there is a whole collection of gods [aliha]. Your fears of your ruler [sultan] and of your local governor [wali] are gods. Your reliance on your earned income and your profit, on your power and your strength, on your hearing and your sight and your energy, all these are gods. Your ways of viewing creatures as the source of injury and benefit, of giving and withholding, are also gods. Many people talk about these things with their hearts, while making it appear that they are talking about the Lord of Truth (Glorious and Exalted is He). Their mentioning the Lord of Truth (Glorious and Exalted is He) has become a habit for their tongues, not for their hearts. When they are challenged on this score, they fly into a rage and say: “How can such things be said of us? Are we not Muslims?” Tomorrow the shameful facts will be disclosed, and things kept hidden will be revealed.
Woe unto you! When you say: “There is no god [la ilaha],” it is an absolute negation [nafy kulli], and “except Allah [illa’llah] ” is an absolute affirmation [ithbat kulli]. You are asserting this as true of Him, not of any other than Him, so whenever your heart relies upon anything other than the Lord of Truth (Glorious and Exalted is He), you are making your affirmation falsely, for the thing you have relied upon has become your god [ilah], regardless of outer appearances. It is the heart that is the believer [mu’min], that is the monotheist [muwahhid], that is sincere [mukhlis], that is devout [mutaqqi], that is pious [wari’], that is abstinent [zahid], that is convinced [muqin], that is experienced [‘arif], that is effective [‘amil], that is the leader [amir] while all the rest are its troops and its followers.
When you say: “There is no god but Allah,” speak first with your heart and then with your tongue. Trust in Him and rely on Him, to the exclusion of any other than Him. Devote your outer [zahir] to the law [hukm] and your inner [batin] to the Lord of Truth (Glorious and Exalted is He). Leave good and evil to your outer, and concentrate on your inner together with the Creator of good and evil. When someone knows Him directly [‘arafahu], he submits to Him. His tongue grows weary in His presence. He behaves humbly toward Him and toward His righteous servants. His cares, his grief and his weeping are multiplied. His fear and his dread increase, as well as his sense of shame and his remorse for previous shortcomings. He becomes intensely wary and afraid of losing the direct experience [ma’rifa], the knowledge [‘ilm] and the nearness he has attained, because the Lord of Truth (Glorious and Exalted is He) is:
Doer of what He will, (11:107) and: He shall not be questioned as to what He does, but they shall be questioned. (21:23)
He fluctuates between two prospects. Looking back over his negligence, his impudence, his ignorance and his indulgence in pleasure, he melts with shame and fears chastisement. Then he looks toward the future, wondering whether he will be accepted or rejected, whether he will be stripped of all he has been given or allowed to keep it, and whether on the Day of Resurrection he will be in the company of the believers or that of the unbelievers. This is why the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) has said:
I am the one amongst you who knows Allah best, and I am the one amongst you who fears Him most.
The most extraordinary and rare of all those who have real experience [‘arifin] is one who receives safe conduct [amn]. What has been preordained for him is read out to him, so he knows his refuge and how he will come to arrive there. His innermost being [sirr] reads what is destined for him on the Preserved Tablet [al-lawh al-mahfuz]. Then it informs his heart of this, telling it to keep it a secret and not to make it known to the lower self [nafs].
The first stage of this business is Islam, compliance with the commandments and avoidance of the prohibitions, and patient endurance of misfortunes. Its final stage is the renunciation [zuhd] of everything apart from the Lord of Truth (Glorious and Exalted is He), and an attitude of indifference toward gold and dirt, praise and blame, gifts and the withholding of gifts, Paradise and the Fire [of Hell], blessing and suffering, affluence and poverty, and the presence and absence of creatures. When this has been fully accomplished, there is Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) beyond it all. Then comes the appointment by Him to leadership [imara] and authority [walaya] over creatures. All who see one so appointed will derive great benefit from him, because of the awesome dignity [haiba] and radiance [nur] of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) with which he is invested.
Our Lord, give us in this world good, and good in the hereafter, and guard us against the torment of the fire! (2:201)