Skip to content

Part 4

Excerpts from Shaykh Fadhlalla's book Transformative Worship in Islam: Experiencing Perfection.

Shaykh Ahmad al-`Alawi said that whoever has arrived at this station cannot see anything other than Allah even if he intends to do so. He also said that when it is established within one’s self that it is an obligation to abstain from anything other than Allah, the self will begin to long for the knowledge of Allah, and this is like what occurs with the rising of the crescent moon of Ramadan:

Whoever among you witnesses the month, let him fast... [2:185]

This station is that of witnessing or seeing, first outwardly and then in the subtle spiritual realms, and whoever does not raise his head will not witness the spiritual realms of the heavens and the earth. The determination and concern of the seeker should not be concentrated in the senses as this will cause the heart to turn away from witnessing the Lord. It is for this reason that he abandons everything which reaches him by way of the senses. The seeker will not be able to concentrate his will and direction until he is detached from his senses. The senses may dominate the outward, as one of the Masters has said that the senses will obliterate meaning unless the senses become the essence of meaning themselves.

Shaykh al-`Alawi says that the self of the seeker is afflicted by separation which is often expressed as being in a state of janābah; absorption in Allah, then, is forbidden to him and the veil will descend upon him because of the existence of this obstacle. When the barrier is removed, then the seeker is obliged to make up whatever he missed. Allah has warned those who are not patient with ‘one food’ [2:61], that is, with the Unity of Essence, and who long for anything other than that from among the realms of creation, when He said:

Would you exchange that which is good for that which is low and base? Then go down to a city and your wish will be granted... [2:61]

The significance of ‘city’ here is that it represents the consuming self with all that it contains of desires and expectations both open and hidden. This is alluded to in:

...from whatever the earth causes to grow of greens, cucumbers, garlic, lentils and onions. [2:61]

Here Allah alludes to the desires of the self which lead to degradation:

...and they were afflicted with degradation and helplessness and were forced to endure anger from Allah. [2:61]

This is the state when the lower self is in command and the way out is to take strength by way of the friendship of Allah. For this reason it is said that if you want strength which will not vanish, then do not take pride in strength which will vanish.

Whoever fasts the fast of haqiqah, and consequently abstains from anything other than Allah, is fasting according to the following hadith qudsi:

For every good action there is the recompense of ten to seven hundred times its worth except fasting, for, indeed, it is solely for Me and I shall surely be the reward.

At the earlier phases of spiritual evolvement, the fast is rewarded by the Garden, joy, houris and palaces, or by nearness, attainment, unveiling, and witnessing. At the advanced level the fast has its reward in Allah Himself, the Granter of rewards.

The difference between the fast of the people of tariqah and that of the people of haqiqah is that the former is a means for refining the behavior and taking on the Attributes of Allah, as the Prophet said:

Mould your character with Allah’s Attributes.

The fast of the people of haqiqah, on the other hand, is a means of attaining annihilation and of cleansing oneself by Allah in the station of Pure Unity, which is referred to as annihilation in Unity; as Allah has said in a hadith qudsi:

Whoever has sought Me has found Me. Whoever has found Me has come to know Me. Whoever has known Me has loved Me. Whoever has loved Me I have slain. Whomever I have slain the payment of the blood money is on Me, and I will Myself be the payment for the blood money that I owe.

One relevant example often given is that of a lump of charcoal and fire. Suppose that there is a strong fire which is described in terms of light, burning, and heat, and that next to it lays charcoal which may be described as dark and cold. As this charcoal is gradually moved closer to the fire, we see that it begins to take on the same characteristics as the fire as fire begins to glow from the charcoal itself. Thus, the charcoal becomes fire and no longer remains charcoal.

These parables We make for the people and they are not understood except by the wise. [29:43]

The Feast of Fast-Breaking (`Id al-fitr)

This feast that marks the end of the month of fasting alludes to the breaking of the fast which cannot be realized as long as the seeker’s senses are suppressed, for during the correct fast the senses are made redundant. If the senses return to him from his Lord that is indeed what is sought after; it is this which is referred to as the `Id, ‘that which returns’ (from the word `ada, which means to return). The seeker abandons his senses because he abstains from sensual contact and worldly pleasures. But if the senses actually become conveyors of meaning rather than mere physical experiences, then he no longer needs to abandon them. When this occurs, the senses, the meaning, the uniqueness of Allah and His allegorical similarities become as one:

...Thus wherever you turn, there is the Face of Allah. [2:115]

It is with this same meaning that one Master has said:

I penetrated the outward and discovered the inward. I examined the inward and found it to be the outward. Thus, there is no inside to the inward and no outside to the outward and I found it to be in accordance with the meaning which is taken from Allah’s words: ‘He is the First, the Last, the Apparent and the Hidden.’ [57:3]

We find that most of the great Masters in their later stages appreciate human companionship from which they were alienated earlier on. After spiritual solitude and meditation (khalwah), the entire existence for them becomes as if it were solitude in which they see only One Reality, and that is exactly what is sought after from the beginning.

If the seeker returns to creation and humankind before being immersed and absorbed in the witnessing of Allah, then he has broken his covenant and his fast is invalid.