Friday, May 8, 2009

Adab al-Suluk by Sheikh Najmuddin Kubra


Alhamdulillah I found this gem from one distinguished Sufi, Sheikh Najmuddin Kubra (d. 1189 CE). It is called Adab al-Suluk: 'A Treatise on Spiritual Wayfaring: On the Inward Rules of This Journey'.

Sheikh Najmuddin Kubra was known as the 'Pillar of the Age' and one of the greatest Sufis of all time. He was the founder of the Kubrawi Tariqah. His close associates included prominent sufis like Sheikh Saadi of Shiraz (1184-1291) and Sheikh Shahabudin Suhrawardi (1145-1235) the founder of Suhrawardi School.

There are 10 principles for inner perfection (batin) with which a salik (wayfarer) should adorn his self (nafs) in order to be admitted into the proximity of God. Otherwise his sincerity and aspiration will be deemed false; his love will be merely a false claim; though he may consider himself as a wayfarer towards God, in reality he is plunged in the dungeons of sensuality.

First is keeping watch over the self (nafs). That is the salik should always keep vigil over his heart. He should not neglect it even for a moment for otherwise he would succumb to his carnal desires and Satanic temptations. He should consider himself as being watched by God, as He has said: "Surely Allah has been a watcher over you" (Quran 4:1) The Prophet s.a.w said: 'God watches your heart and acts not your apparent behaviour and worldly belongings.'

Second is the expression of humility, poverty and abasement before the Lord of the world. Abu Yazid Bistami (may Allah hallow his mighty soul) said that a voice (sarush) called me from within and said, "O Abu Yazid! There are many servants in Our service. So if you seek Us, bring humility and neediness." Abu Yazid further said, "You know for certain that you are in a crying need of your Lord at every hour on many counts; so you are needful of His guiding light as well as His merciful glance, guidance and His sustenance at every moment. And also, you are in need of Him at the time of death so that the light of Islam and its knowledge are kept intact in your heart. In the grave too you are in need of Him so that you successfully answer the questions asked by Nakir and Munkar. It is He Who will be your friend in the terrors of the grave. The greatest of all of your needs is your dependence on Him in the Day of Judgement, the day of regret and remorse so that God the Exalted, may make your face luminous, conceal your blemishes (with His mercy) and enhance the weight and worth of your good works in His balance (mizan), that He may facilitate the clearance of your account and put the book of your deeds in your right hand, that He may keep you firm on the Path (shat) and save you from hell‑fire and lead you towards paradise. His highest generosity and the most excellent favour is to bless you with His beatific vision." These are your essential needs with regard to your Master in this world and the other world. Hence your expression of poverty and humility before God should be according to your real poverty and need.

The third principle is repentance (tawbah) and penitence (inabah) before God, in all conditions of hardship and affluence, comfort and calamity. Referring to the Prophet Sulayman a.s. God said, "He was a good servant, because he was penitent." God said the same thing about the Prophet Ayyub a.s., for Sulayman saw his Benefactor in His bounties (ni'mah) and Ayyub saw the One who tries in His trials. Neither did the bounties enjoyed by the former blur his vision of the Provider nor the hardship and tribulations of the latter veil his sight from seeing the hand of their Sender. In both the cases they attributed all that happened to the Lord.

The fourth principle is surrender (taslim) to the command of God, the Exalted. Taslim means to surrender to God both with the heart and the body, both of which are under His ownership. To surrender a pro­perty to its owner is an essential condition (of submission). The owner has the right to control his property and dispose it in any way He deems proper. It is up to Him whether He honours or disgraces His slave, breathes life in him or kills him, causes sickness or bestows health on him, makes him rich or poor. Hence it is required of a salik not to raise any objection against His will. He should not complain overtly or covertly, for the protest against the real owner is absurd and violation of all norms. Complaint against the Lord by someone who claims to be His slave and lover is a shortcoming in one's love, servitude and devotion.

The fifth principle is rida (acquiescence) i.e. accepting Divine dis­pensations without questioning though they be bitter. The common believers take recourse in patience (sabr) when a calamity befalls. But the state of the elect in a similar situation is that of rida. The difference between sabr and rida is that the patient person (sabir) by virtue of his faith, faces calamity with forbearance; his faith remains unshaken and he does not get disturbed in times of calamity; he will not deviate from the path of servitude, howsoever great and unbearable the calamity should be but his heart resents the calamity. But the acquiescent person (radi) is the one whose heart is always in the state of acquiescence and happiness. Calamity and affluence do not affect him, for whatever he receives (from God) he considers it as a gift from a friend. He enjoys hardships inflicted upon him by his Beloved and Friend with the same pleasure as others enjoy favours. Imam Ali in a famous sermon named Khutbat Hammam, describing the qualities of the pious says, "They are as happy in the face of calamity as others are in the state of comfort."

The sixth principle is permanent grief (huzn). The Prophet s.a.w said, "God loves every grieving heart." Regarding the Prophet's attri­butes it is said that he was always in the state of contemplation and grief. According to the urafa', every heart which is devoid of grief is nothing but clay. How can a believer manage to be cheerful while he does not know what was written by the pen of pre‑eternity about his fate, whether it is felicity or wretchedness. Also he is unaware of his end for he does not know what he will earn tomorrow (in the way of virtue or vice). He does not know whether his obedience will be accepted by God or not, and whether his sins will be pardoned or not. Shaykh Abu al‑Hasan al‑Kharqani was among the people of grief. One day he was asked the reason of the grief of the great mystics. He replied that the reason is that they want to know God as He deserves to be known. But that is impossible. For no one can know God as He deserves to be known.

The seventh principle is to have good faith (husnul zann) in God, the Exalted. And He said in a sacred tradition (hadith qudsi), 'I treat My servant in accordance with his opinion of Me, so let him have whatever opinion he has.' Therefore, it is necessary for a servant of God to have good faith in God or a favourable opinion of Him. This state is reached as a result of discerning the Attributes of Beauty of God, comprising generosity, mercifulness, magnanimity and the vastness of His forgiveness. Who­ever mistrusts God or has an unfavorable opinion of his Lord and loses hope in His mercy. He considers his vices and sins bigger than the capacity of God's generosity and mercy. This amounts to ascribing defect and shortcoming to God.

The eighth rule is that one should not consider oneself out of reach of God's devising (makr). As God has said, "Are they then secure from Allah's scheme? None deem himself secure from Allah's scheme save the losers." (Quran 7:99) Further He has said, "The erudite among His bondmen only fear Allah." (Quran 35:28). This fear and awe is produced in one who contemplates God's attributes of magnificence and wrath. For in the same way as God is attributed with the qualities of generosity and mercifulness, He is attributed with wrathfulness and power as well. God the Exalted, has said, "Surely I shall fill the hell with the firm and mankind together." (Quran 11:119). It is said in a tradition that God, the Exalted, will say to Adam a.s. "Arise and throw them into the hell fire!" Adam will ask "How many?" The reply would be "Nine‑hundred‑and‑ninety out of every thousand". Then how can a slave with his burden of sins avoid being fearsome of Divine wrath and might after having been aware of it?

The ninth principle is love (mahabbah). In this regard God has said "He loves them, and they love Him." (Quran 5:54). Love is the essence of all stations (maqamat) and virtues (karamat) by means of which the slave of God progresses toward the Lord of the heaven and the earth, and by virtue of which he will attain to the higher degrees of the journey (suluk). Love is the fruit of the knowledge of the Beautiful Names of God. No one possesses beauty (which is his own) in the world except God. Whatever beauty and per­fection is seen in the creatures is in fact a particle of the sun of His beauty, a drop from the oceans of His perfection. If you consider beauty and perfection to be confined to material forms and worldly things, know that you are imprisoned within the world of (corporeal) form and are deprived of observing the reality. For the real beauty and rational perfection are found in the essence of a being that possesses power and life, has the attributes of generosity, benevolence, forbear­ance, and is devoid of any shortcoming and defect. It is due to this reason that the generous, the noble, and the wise are loved by all. Similarly, the warrior and the courageous are loved due to their might, and the learned and the pious are respected due to their honesty and purity. You know that each one of these attributes of glory and beauty are inherent in the Divine Essence, which possesses them infinitely and eternally. But beings other than God possess a beauty and perfection that is limited, reckonable, accidental, finite and mortal. Even such attributes are borrowed from the Divine ocean of bounty and benefi­cence. Hence, none except God deserves to be loved in the real sense, for every form of beauty (jamal) is derived from Him. So everyone who loves something other than God is surely blind to the beauty of God.

The tenth principle is to give up reliance on one's will (mashi'ah) and freedom (ikhtiyar) and to take up trust in the Omnipotent Lord of the world. God has said, "Allah coins a similitude: (On the one hand) a slave who has control of nothing and (on the other hand) one on whom We have bestowed a fair provision from Us, and he spends them secretly and openly. Are they equal?" (Quran 16:75) So a slave has nothing to do with freedom, for freedom suits those who are free. And the urafa' have said, if a seeker has a single desire, it means that his vision is obstructed by veils. They have also said that this (desire) is the greatest of veils. Hence even the desire of union with God is the darkest of all veils. So when even the desire of proximity to God is considered to be the greatest veil, what is to be said about the condition of one who is plunged in sensual desires and mundane entice­ments? Thus it is essential for a seeker to be like the corpse in the hands of the bathers (ghussal), so that he may attain communion with Haqq. Every desire takes one away from God.
# Source: Al Tawhid Islamic Journal vol VIII, No. 4, Qum, The Islamic Republic of Iran. This is an English translation by Ali Baqirshahi from a Persian version by Husayn Muhyi al-Din Qumshehi.

1 comment:

  1. The teaching of the Prophet s.a.w states that the BETTER of two people who love one another for the sake of Allah is the one who loves the other, MORE. The Prophet s.a.w said: "No two men love one another, but the better of them is the one whose love for his brother is greater." [Reported by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad]

    Islam goes even further in spreading love in the rightly guided Muslim society by telling the Muslim that if he loves his brother, he should tell him. The Prophet s.a.w said: "If a man loves his brother, let him TELL him that he loves him." [Reported by Abu Dawud and al-Tirmidhi, who said it is a sahih hadith.]

    Reference: The Ideal Muslim By Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Hashimi. Courtesy: