Shaykh Abdul Aziz during his monthly lecture series at KL Ba'Alawi last weekend expounded on the seven mountains (aqabah) that a salik must conquer. This teaching on aqabah is from Imam al-Ghazali's Minhajul Abidin.
The first mountain is Aqabah al-ilm (knowledge).
"One must put effort and be willing to go through difficulties in seeking beneficial knowledge," said Baba Aziz. But having knowledge alone is not good enough if one does not continually repent from one's sins. Everyone is constantly committing sins. If you think you have got no sins, that in fact is a sin because it shows that you have pride." So the second mountain you must overcome is Aqabah al-tawbah (repentance). Therefore, keep reciting istighfar. Of the many versions of istighfar, Baba Aziz practise one which is practised by the venerated Habib Ali bin Ja'afar al-Idrus.
Allazi la ila ha illa huwal hayyul qayyum wa atu bu ilaih
min kulli zanbin 'azim
zahiran wa batinan
sirran wa jahran
(to be recited 10 times in the morning and evening)
The third mountain that a salik must go through is Aqabah al-awa'iq (attachments of the heart). "Without realizing it, we've got many things in our hearts that are hindering us from spending time for ibadah. It could be your grandchildren, you occupy yourself attending to them; you are also busy attending functions and busy making dresses to wear at functions etc. So you ended up spending your spare time on unimportant things."
The fourth mountain is Aqabah al-'awarid (obstacles) in the form of makhluk (people), shayatin (satan), nafs (lustful desires) and rizq (provision). What we should do according to Baba Aziz is "uzlah from people (minimize socializing), mufrad (breakaway) from shayatin and balance work with tawakkal." Everyone has some sort of hindrance in life. A wife may be a hinder to her husband while some woman may have problems with their husbands. Others may be affected by the works of jinn and some may be negatively influenced by 'friends' who are actually munafiq and fasik. There are also people who are obsessed with earning more than what they need so they are forever pre-occupied with their businesses.
"In life we are always faced with all sorts of challenges. Every situation has a solution but the sufis do not attempt to answer or solve problems by themselves. They wait for answers from Allah. Only He has the answer to life's questions. Sometimes the answer is delayed but that is only for your own good because Allah wants to raise your level (maqam)."
The fifth mountain is Aqabah al-bawa'ith. By definition, this is a positive 'mountain' as it refers to factors that drive you to perform acts of obedience but, should you feel lazy said Baba Aziz, "fight the feeling with taqwa or fear of His punishments."
The sixth mountain is Aqabah al-qawadih. This aqabah is tricky as it may eat up all your efforts. So avoid having sifat mazmumah such as takabbur, ria', ujub and sum'ah. "Never tell people about your acts of devotions as this would nullify your good deeds. And do not aim for fame or high positions. "I myself was once misled by a hidden desire for fame," Baba Aziz admitted, "the test at this aqabah is very subtle. If not for a frank advice from a guru, I could have failed here."
"When you have succeded at attempting these six aqabahs, you will come to the seventh and final stage which is Aqabah al-hamd wal shukr. Hamdi is ibadah of the zahir and shukr is ibadah of the batin. When you successfully attain this aqabah, your outward, your eyes, tongue, hands and legs will all be occupied with worship for Allah and your inner i.e. your heart will also be in submission to Him."
May I be forgiven for my notes were choppy and incomplete.