Saturday, June 27, 2009

28 Conditions of an Ashiq by Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmad


O son, Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmad Naqshbandi is one gem I discovered (virtually) while in seclusion (suluk riadah) recently. A contemporary Sufi Shaykh of high calibre, the murshid of Naqshbandi Mujaddidi, whose writings emit so much love that it gives me great joy to reproduce parts of them for you.

Below is an excerpt from 'Love for Allah' - the English edition of the Shaykh's famous book, "Ishq Ilahi". The book discusses basic principles of our love for Allah based on the Quran, Sunnah, and the noble tradition of our great scholars. Of note are the dozens of poems translated from Arabic and Urdu, which highlight the concepts discussed.

You will find these 28 states of an Ashiq (the one who loves Allah) spelled out in Chapter 3: 'The Condition of the Lovers of Allah in this World'.
Allah states: "We keep alternating the days (good and bad) among mankind." (Quran 3:140) Like the tides of an ocean, the tides of life are perpetually changing. At times life is stormy, at other times life is calm. At times everything appears to blossom; at other times everything appears dismal. At times a person feels close to his Lord; at other times he feels distant. At times there is vitality; at other times there is listlessness. At times there is sickness; at other times there is health. Human conditions never remain the same. According to the poet Allamah Iqbal:
Serenity is difficulty in the workings of fate,
Change is the only stable thing in time.
The state of the one who loves Allah is affected by the changing conditions of life. Hence at times he is happy and at other times he is sad. At times he feel close to his Creator and at other times he feel distant. At times there is affection and grace and at other times there is anger and reproach. At times there is fervor and excitement and at other times there is peace and contentment. Whatever the circumstance a sincere ashiq always remain pleased with his Beloved.
The Beloved's favors are regular, but His anger is occasional,
My Beloved is to be lauded under all circumstances.
Traversing the sea of love, an ashiq experiences various states. These are briefly mentioned below.

1. Restlessness
The ashiq is so anxious to reach (wasl) Allah that he is unable to find rest, even for a moment. So occupied is he in the remembrance of his Beloved.
I am not conscious of myself, nor of the world.
I sit entranced by Your beauty.
Ask the stars about the state of my life,
I remain awake at night, in Your contemplation.

2. Despair
When sadness and despair overcome an ashiq, there is no outlet except for crying. This increases the beauty of one's love and wins over the seemingly distant Friend.

3. Anticipation
The ashiq desires that the Beloved look at him with love. He anxiously awaits the mercy of the Creator of the universe. He knows that his aim would be fulfilled with a single glance from the Beloved.
Cast at least a slight glance toward the lovers,
If not always, at least every now and then.
With one glance, what hopes You plant in me,
The hope for just one glance of You.

4. Sacrifice
There can be no greater blessing than reaching (wasl) the Beloved. In comparison everything else seems futile and trivial. For the realization of this wasl the ashiq is prepared to forego everything else.
Except for wasl everything is useless.One wasl in exchange for one hundred worlds is gracioulsy accepted.
You ask me "What is entry into Heaven?"
Meeting with the Friend is itself entry into Heaven.

5. Development
Wherever Allah's grace is directed, things begin to flourish. In contrast (spiritual) withering away indicates Allah's indifference.
What this season of autumn? It is only His veiling.
If he casts His grace, it would soon be spring.

6. Ecstacy
When the Beloved showers His blessings, a sincere ashiq cries. These are not tears of sorrow but tears of joy. Both the happiness and sadness of love are expressed through tears. The heart of man is made of flesh, while the gaze of the Beloved affects even stone.
A beautiful being glanced in my direction,
Now I can only sigh - speechless and bedazzled.
What fault is it of mine? My heart is but a piece of flesh,
His gaze would make a hole even in stone.

7. Separation
The heart of a sincere ashiq is torn apart by separation and he can never find any solace in this condition.
O Beloved, my heart is mad about You,
Without worry, come into Your home, it is indeed Your home.
Sweeter You are to me than sugar and honey,
From your separation, my heart is torn to pieces,
And these pieces were made for You.

8. Insignificance
Worldly objects do not attract the heart of the sincere ashiq, nor does he give these things any importance. Compared with the pleasure of Allah and of reaching Him, this decadent world has no significance.

9. Obsession
If anyone advises the sincere ashiq that obsession is not appropriate he considers this person his enemy. In fact, he wishes that this person would catch a glimpse of the beauty and splendor of the True Beloved, so he too would become insane with love.
They ridicule my love for You.O Beloved, cast a slight glance upon them too.
So they become like me, mad for You.

10. Measure
For a sincere ashiq, his Beloved is the only criterion by which he gauges his friends and foes. If his own enemy were to fall in love with the Beloved he would begin to regard him as a friend. If someone were to have no affection for his True Beloved, then he would regard him a foe.

11. Comfort
The ashiq finds comfort in the remembrance of his Beloved. By taking His name again and again, his heart gains peace.
How much peace is attached to this name of Yours,
Comfortable sleep can be found on a bed of thorns.

12. Remembrance
An ashiq cannot imagine one moment of his life devoid of the remembrance of his Beloved. His waking moments are full of thoughts of Him and his sleep is full of dreams of Him.

13. Thirst
Love for Allah is such that even if continuously sipped glass after glass, neither the thirst of the ashiq would be quenched nor the drink diminished.
I die when I think of You, then I come back to life,
If the water of Your wasl did not exist, I would not be alive.
Hope keeps me alive and desire kills me,
For you how many times have I lived, how many times have I died.
I drink love, cup after cup,
Yet the drink does not diminish, nor am I quenched.

14. Eagerness
The name of the Beloved always remain in the heart of an ashiq and the conception of Him always lingers before his eyes. Thus, the heart and eyes of an ashiq always remain eager for the Beloved.
I have a Friend whose thoughts remain before my eyes,
and whose name is hidden in my heart.
When I remember Him, my entire body becomes my heart,
And when I look at Him, my entire body becomes my eyes.

15. Consolation
When a sincere ashiq senses that his every sigh and lament is reaching his Beloved, his heart gains consolation.
The heart of an ashiq finds contentment in the fact
That he has sent his sighs to the heavens.

16. Progression
An ashiq advances toward his Lord with each tear. Just as distances in the physical world are crossed by foot, distances in the spiritual world are traversed by the shedding of tears.

17. Tearfulness
The condition of an ashiq is truly worthy of pity. When there is separation, he cries craving for nearness (wasl). And when there is wasl, he cries in profound gratitude. Perhaps intense love ('ishq) and crying go hand in hand.
To cry is the duty of the ashiq,
Without crying there is no acceptance.
Whether the heart cries or whether the eyes cry,
In love crying is necessary.
Some cry to see You, others cry at seeing You,
In profound love one must cry, whether in wasl or in distance.

18. Verbal Praise
When the eyes are in constant search of the Beloved and the heart is flooded with His love, the tongue of the ashiq remains engaged in singing His praise.
Your image is in my eyes and your remembrance on my lips,
Your abode is in my heart, so where can You hide?

19. Constant Reflection
When the sun rises, the ashiq is reminded of his Beloved. When it sets, he is reminded of his Beloved. When an ashiq sits with friends he speaks of his Beloved. And were he to receive an invitation to meet his Beloved, he would go walking on his head.
By Allah the sun does not rise nor set,
but that You are in my heart and in my thoughts.
I do not sit in the gathering of friends,
but that You are my conversation among the people.
I do not remember You in grief or joy,
but that Your love is woven into my breath.
I do not intend drinking water in thirst,
but Your image I envision in the glass.
If I had the strength to come,
I would, dragging my face or walking on my head.

20. Sincerity
When muslims perform acts of worship (ibadat) they are motivated by the reward (thawab) they will receive for their righteous deeds. Although this is a noble objective, the condition of the ashiq is extraordinary. He does everything purely for the pleasure of his Beloved.

21. Renewing Fervor
Allah states: "Every day there is a new glory for Him." (55:29). The beauty of the Beloved gains new luster and charm with each passing day. In response the love in the heart of the sincere ashiq also grows in fervor and adds dimensions. There is neither a limit to the beauty of Allah nor a limit to the intense love of the ashiq. Thus, there remains no possibility of being attracted toward another. In the words of a poet:
My love is You, my companion is You.
My religion is You, my faith is You.
My body is You, my soul is You.
My heart is You, my life is You.
My kaabah, qiblah, masjid, pulpit and Quran are You.
My worship - hajj, alms, prayer, fasting and adhan are You.
My remembrance is You, my reflection is You.
My pleasures are You, my existence is You.
My support, hopes, and trust are You.
My religion and faith are You, my honor is You.
My shame is with You and my glory is with You.
My pains, sorrows, tears and laughter are You.
My pain is You and my respite is You.
My reasons for my happiness are You.
My reasons of comfort are You.
My beauty and youth are You.
O Farid, if only the Friend accepts you, then you are the king and you are the ruler.

22. Establishment of the night vigil
The sincere ashiq longs to intimately converse with his Beloved. There is no better time for this than during the darkness of night. Therefore, it becomes the habit of the ashiq to wake at the time of the night vigil (tahajjud prayer) to delight in its secrecy and to win over the Beloved through his sighs and tears.
O sleeping Farid, awake and sweep out the masjid,
You are sleeping and the Lord is awake!
How will your friendship continue?

23. Humility
In spite of his nightly worship (ibadah) a sincere ashiq never feels he has done as much as he should. Even a dog remains awake at night guarding its master's home. As such, he does not regard spending the night awake as any great accomplishment.
You remain awake at night and are called 'Shaykh',
the dog that remains awake at night is better than you.
It eats bland, dry food and sleeps during the day under the tree shade.
It is better than you.
It leaves not the doorstep of its master, even if beaten a hundred times.
It is better than you.
O ingrate, you sleep upon a soft bed, whilst the dog sleeps on stone.
It is better than you.
Rise and win over your Friend,
Otherwise, the dog will have outdone you.
Another poet stated it differently:
By spending the nights awake, do not presume
That you have attained the ranks of the awliya.
Brother, a dog spends its nights awake on guard.
It remains awake in exchange for a small morsel of food,
Whilst you have received thousands of blessings.
The dog has outdone you. O faqir, hang your head in shame.
Erase yourself until effaced. O faqir, efface yourself until erased.

24. Appreciation
The ashiq even regards the sadness inflicted upon him by his Beloved as better than any (worldly) happiness.
Even your grief is very dear to me,
As it is something given by Thee.
The more the Beloved rebukes the ashiq, the more the ashiq's zeal increases. At times, in this state of immersion (in love) the ashiq even proclaims, 'Is there more?' (hal min mazid?)

25. Vitality
When Allah bestows His attentive gaze, the world resounds with vitality. When this happens anyone could lose themselves.
Do not raise a finger against those entranced in their captivation.
Look, is there any sense to be found even in a sensible one?

26. Pleasure
An ashiq finds such pleasure in talking about the Beloved that his heart desires to speak of Him all the time. If he finds a friend whose heart is also full of such passion, then what remains? Both spend their time merrily.

27. Yearning
When the ishq of an ashiq is enflamed by the remembrance of the Beloved, his heart yearns to see the Beloved.
Lift the veil and reveal Yourself. I have come to see Your face.

28. Struggle
The ashiq tries to restrain his feelings and emotions. In this struggle, his entire life is spent.
Day and night is a struggle between desire and supressing desire.
My heart agonizes me, and I agonize my heart.

Read the entire book at

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