We have also promised to add a word of advice to the spiritual travelers on their way to the Lord of the Worlds. This concerns the qualities that they must adopt in order to reach their goal and arrive at their Beloved, to join and: aide with Him after their annihilation.
When your mind is fixed on the angelic realm (malakut), busy in its duty of remembrance, a remembrance which issues from humility and submission, when this reflective awareness is subtle and lets the body consume less food and lets the passions and desires die, when it is prepared to remain awake at night in humility and submission before the majesty of the Lord, with sincere devotion and good intention, then it is not long before the flashes of light and delicious moments of recognition and understanding occur.
Your soul attains perfection when it returns to its original sublime state, according to the individual capacity of each person. Thus the soul divests itself of all illusion and refines itself with the subtlety of its own secret by means of spiritual exercises aimed at a purification of the outer and inner from all obscurity and impurity. In this way your soul must seize authority over the body ‑ and not vice versa. The perfection of the soul lies in its relationship with the body and it is achieved by way of absolute justice, by a combination of wisdom, courage and chastity; and each one of these qualities must lie between the two bounds of excess and negligence.
This middle path is itself a quality of excellence bounded as it must be on either side by two baser qualities: thus the first (wisdom) lies between foolishness and cunning, the second (courage) between cowardliness and impetuousness and the third (chastity) between covetousness and discouragement.
Up to this point we have been considering the principles or root qualities. As for the branches of wisdom, they are astuteness, eloquence, sound opinion, prudence and resolution, truthfulness, trustworthiness, mercy, modesty, earnestness, faithfulness and humility; the branches of chastity are contentment, generosity, patience, forbearance, open‑heartedness, concealment of the secret and trust; the branches of courage are endeavor, power, firmness and constancy, determination, vitality, bravery and ambition. It is thus by adoption of these qualities that one attains to a completion of perfection.
Know too ‑ and may Allah assist you and grant you success ‑ that despite the differences in these terms, they are essentially similar in meaning. As for gnosis, it is preceded by love; wherever gnosis is perfected, then love of necessity is established, and whenever love is perfected, it calls up gnosis. If you possess astuteness and great foresight, then you are able to enquire after the truth of your state in your descent from the disclosure of painful states of separation; you are able too to reach your goal without great difficulty, unlike others who only reach this goal with intense hardship. But you must be ready to serve and eager to find out the truth.
Know that union with the world of sanctity and entry into the Presence of Allah refers to the removal of the veil, that is, union in the realm of the intellect. It must be realized that the sun does not become more in number by the multiplicity of its manifestations; likewise the One, the Real, does not become many by His being reflected in various mirrors. One town may have many roads leading to it, each different in length and difficulty and ease; most of the paths are full of danger, thus strive to prepare yourself by increasing your provision and means of transport.
Above all, you must equip yourself with fear of Allah and sincerity in your intention, while respecting the laws of the shari`ah together with the divine commands and the prohibitions for these things are as a whip whereby Allah reprimands His servants. Restrain yourself from becoming occupied in anything superfluous to the detriment of what is more important and necessary. Seeking perfection in knowledge will bring you many qualities of excellence. Abstain from indulging in your sensual desires and pray in the darkness of the night. You should practice the daily awrad (the program of dhikr or remembrance given by a shaykh) and the praising of Allah. You should cut out base and vile thoughts and increase your purification by way of the purification of the sacred soul. Illuminate your heart by attracting the presence of the illuminated and sacred souls; approach them with your self so that it may acquire similar qualities and so that some of their radiance may be reflected in it; and make your character their character. Cling steadfastly to the light of lights and stand at the gate of the malakut in humility and submission; oppose its perfumed exhalation and increase your supplications and your devotions towards the Presence of Existence, Generosity and Excellence. Ask of Him for He is the Bestower and the Giver of Gifts. Read His Wise and Precious Book with understanding and reflect in order that the self may gain' assistance from the greatest of store‑houses and the most generous of sources of benefit. In this way you will reach your goal.
Repeat the words of one of the masters of the spiritual path: `O Maintainer (of the cosmos), darkness has surrounded me, serpent passions have bitten me, crocodile desires are preying on me and the scorpions of the world have stung me. You have become a stranger to me in the midst of my enemies, so free me O Lord. I call on You, O Lord, drowning as I am in the sea of natural sensations, perishing by the voracity of the passion. I have been turned away from the door of Your might. Would You regard with favour a poor man rejected from the gate of Your grace? I am your slave who seeks refuge in the domain of Your Power; release him by a momentary flash of Your radiance. May the Lord of power be exalted, the Sacred, the Holy, the Lord of the angels and the soul. My God, I am the slave who has run away from You, cure me of the sickness of disobedience; I have collapsed at your door weak with thirst. Why do You not pour a clear drink of Your forgiveness for one thirsty for Your Grace? You have cast Your light into the inner depths of My forerunners and You have manifested Your majesty to the souls of the spiritual wayfarers, annihilating those who gaze at the grandeur of the doorway. O make me of those who long passionately for You, of those who are aware of Your grace and kindness, O Lord of what is wondrous, Master of all that is vast and tremendous, the Originator of all substance and Creator of the smallest seeds of life, the Bestower of blessings and the One who manifests all that is good. Make me of those who are sincere in their devotion, who are grateful, who remember You, who are content with Your decree and who are patient in the face of Your trials. Truly You are the Sustainer of life, the Maintainer (of the cosmos), Possessor of great generosity and power; You are the One Who forgives, the Merciful. O Lord of all lords, Who sustains the spiritual realm by the light of Your majesty; O You Who, if You manifest Your radiance to something, then that thing submits to You; O You Whose grace is concealed; O You Who have spread Your light over all dark things and have illuminated them thereby; O You Who have sent the torch of Your divine passion to the planetary spheres and have made them spin in their orbits. Your servants have felt humbled by Your greatness and their hard‑heartedness has been softened in awe of You; the hearts have trembled in their pleasure at the remembrance of the Your spirit; the confused senses have been stilled by the radiance of Your glory, O You Whose most illustrious radiance fills the secret hearts of those who turn to Him and Who causes the deafening thunder claps of His awe to strike in the hearts of the fearful. O You Possessor of Sublime Speech and Lord of the greater tranquility; grant us mercy from Yourself and pour the lights of your blessings on our selves and the radiance of Your goodness on our souls. Make us of the felicitous and of those who experience Your majesty and witness Your beauty and are fearful of You. Surely You are capable of all things.'
We shall conclude this exhortation and instruction by mentioning what has been reported of the spiritual experience by one of the gnostics and seekers of the truth, recorded on the tablet of remembrance in the intellects of the men of knowledge and in the persons of spiritual grandeur. The spiritual travelers move towards the light of the lights of Allah ‑ may He be exalted ‑ and they knock at the gates of light and request of Him with sincerity and patience the knowledge of reality and pleasing conduct and so He bestows upon them precious gifts from the angelic realm and radiant illumination. The water of the spring of majestic splendour and the sources of perfection and beauty are poured over them such that they are purified by the purification of light. Surely the Generous Benefactor loves purity in those who enter into His Presence ‑ a purity obtained by means of knowledge from the realm of reality and pleasing behaviour.
The brothers of inward sight concur that Allah is independent of and above creation ‑ both in the realm of inner meaning and speech. These brothers keep to the way of humility and silent `supplication. They invoke the One Who orders the world of the elements, the world of the planetary spheres, the world of ideal form in the realm of dependence and the world of pure Lights. They avoid the realm of darkness and the sons of darkness. They plead with the keepers of the dungeons, seeking freedom for their prisoners bound in chains. They seize hold of brands of fire from His elements, taking as examples the pure of heart and the most intimate of the angels. They say, `Glory be to the One Who has made the sun, His first light, a means of pouring out His generosity and glory be to Him Who has caused the sun and moons to continue such that the blessing of their radiant emanation may be enjoyed by His slaves.'
They exclaim, `O Lord remove the darkness of negligence and ignorance, for surely it is the cloak of the unjust. We have come to You in obedience. Our spirits extol You, seeking to ascend to the seat of Your majesty and the station of Your light. Therefore purify us by Your powerful hand and open our hands to Your provision of unveilings. Open our sight by Your light for surely we have found Your Majesty above the pillars of the realm of Absolute Dominion (jabarut).'
The men of resolve and perfection are cleansed so that they may be worthy of a place next to Allah. They hate wrong actions and disobedience, and if it were not for them, then the heavens would have been thrown down upon the earth as a punishment for mankind and grievous destruction would be fall the unjust. When Allah sent His prophets to mankind in order that they might worship Him, one group of men established the rites and one group strayed from the right path. The former are raised to a witnessing of the Intellect; they enter into the ranks of the angels; they are purified by Allah and are granted constant blessings.
As for the latter, they are removed from His side and they are covered in disgrace and ignominy; they have their heads lowered, existing in veils of darkness and the gloom of corporeal things. The purified souls emerge from the obscurity of physical forms and move towards the sublime stations of the lights. They are given wide expanses and space and return therein ennobled. Their recompense from Allah is to be taken to the proximity of the Real and the world of the intellect, at the very source of life in the sea of lights beside the well‑springs of life itself. Thus those who are obedient to the Merciful are bathed in the flashing radiance of His light; His meeting with them causes them to be victorious; surely the mercy of Allah is granted to the doers of good actions. We ask Allah to make us and you of those who are prepared for this meeting. We ask Him to inspire within us and within you the best possible degree of certainty and to grant us and you victory with the victorious, with those of union, with the annihilated and with those who abide with Him, for surely He is the most Beneficent, the Merciful, and He does not withhold the outpourings of His blessings from those who are ready and have the capacity to receive.
In these words of remembrance there is instruction enough ‑ sufficient to lead one to a station of proximity with the Truth, enough to free man from the ties and chains which might bind the seeker of salvation. It is for this reason that Allah has instructed His slaves to seek the capacity to persevere on the straight path ‑ that is the path of those He has blessed with His special blessings, free from the confusion of anger and misguided love.
The tongue of their station says: `O our Lord, Your first divine all‑encompassing beneficence was that You created us and this first favour conferred special status on each one of us.' The second kind of divine beneficence is that, by virtue of the all‑encompassing nature of Your name, the One Who guides, You have encompassed the generality of the believers. You have expressed this in Your words: `He has ordained mercy on Himself.' You have included us in this by the blessing of faith, obedience to Your command, submission to Your rule and affirmation of Your oneness. Therefore each one of us is ready to make remembrance of You, to praise You, to glorify You, to hand over affairs to You and to devote ourselves solely to Your worship after recognition of Your sovereignty. Each one of us must openly request help from You because of his incapacity and the deficiency inherent in created beings. Moreover, you have singled us out by Your second kind of mercy which holds sway by the special authority of Your name, the One Who guides. It is to this name that we directed our demands for the noblest kind of guidance and spiritual wayfaring. It is we who demand this from You since it brings with it victory and the ample blessings which are bestowed upon the perfected of Your beloved. It is these whom You cause to travel along the straightest and surest path until they throw down their staffs because, they are ready for annihilation in You. Having attained the station of the truth, they obtain gnosis of You, a witnessing of You in Your profuse kindness and noblest of blessings. It is they who purify Your sacred presence from any notion of adulteration. `Our Lord!' they pray, `Grant us what You have promised us by Your apostles and disgrace us not on the day of resurrection; surely You would not fail to fulfill the promise.' So their Lord accepted their prayer. `We ask you, O Allah, to make us of those who respond to You, who believe in Your promise and Your threat of punishment, and who fulfill their contract with You, and who establish Your caliphate which You have delegated to us O Lord of the Worlds.'
Know that in the world of the intellect and the divine creation of Allah there are many wondrous things which may not be encompassed by the intellect of men engulfed in darkness; whatever wonders may be seen in the world of physical bodies, others still more wondrous and surprising may be seen in the other world. Thus our thoughts cannot contain Allah's exquisite organization of the beginning of existence nor His intricate management thereof our darkness obscures and prevents us from witnessing these wonders. Whoever desires to perceive this world of the intellect when bound by the senses is as the diver submerged in the depths of the ocean: it is evident that he cannot see the sky in the same way as someone who is standing above in the open air. Therefore measure what you cannot see by what you can and the matter will become clear to you.
This is the last of the instructions which are addressed to you and which will permit you to arrive at your goal. As for the particular instructions of this book, you should take great care to observe them, for they are bestowed upon those who keep safely what is entrusted to them. Indeed you should always rely on these words and endeavor to extract the meanings therefrom with great precision; in this way they will remain present with you in the storehouse of your heart. Under no circumstances should you allow anyone to prevent you from seeking help in understanding the meanings of our words. Seek out the rare and subtle perceptions contained therein, for surely it is a book whose subject is of great import and which deals with sciences known only to a few. This book is like a tree containing much fruit and strong branches: in it I have placed wisdom and certainty from revealed sources and wondrously beneficial knowledge.
Your path will be made easy if you commit it perfectly to memory and if you seek to understand the sources of its lights behind the veils ‑ such that the suns of these lights shine as bright as day in your presence, as you stand in humility and submission illumined by the realities of truth from the realm of light, the sublime and subtle gnoses of the heart and the knowledge of Lordship from the realm of emanation. In this way the slave of Allah moves on upwards from the secrets of the shari`ah and meanings of the tariqah: these are the paths of our predecessors and our successors. Therefore rise up and strive in this way and preserve its secrets from betrayal on the part of those who censure; oppose such persons by your service of the King of creational phenomena.
By serving Him, you will become one of the spiritual poles. I do not say this in excessive praise of myself, so that I be reckoned amongst the people of reknown and wonder: this would only result in my entering into darkness, veiled from the truth and without any desire for enlightenment. Besides, I am not saying that only I have attained to this degree of excellence; rather Allah's generosity extends to all and His bestowal of gifts is tremendous. Knowledge does not stagnate with a people such that it no longer flows to others; rather the One who pours His divine emanations into the source of certainty and into the drink of the pure springs of gnosis does not deny anyone knowledge of the unseen.
When I consider how the gentlemen of the age have made public the method of disputing employed by the Mu'tazilites and the Ash'arites, how they have thereby ascended the path of vainglory and repute, how discord and mutual rejection reign, how they have made their words a commerce for the sake of immediate worldly gain; when I consider that the only thing I found amongst them was excessive loquacity and questioning and answering without any achievement or result ‑ for they are incapable of understanding what is hidden and subtle and it is as if their ideas rush headlong past without perceiving the reality of the subject ‑ all this caused nee to bring these secrets out into the open, extracting them from/the rich lodes of gnosis beneath the surface of things; this I achieved by a process of rigorous reflection.
In this way the spiritual wayfarer may journey to the path of the next world, leaving behind the above‑mentioned commerce which leads only to ruin. I have traveled this path in the manner of all the spiritual wayfarers, in order that all ambiguity and obscurity may be removed from the true science of unity. I have published and described in clear terms what has been proven and confirmed. It is for this reason that I urge you to heed this book and shower it with praise. In it I have prepared for you a wealth of secrets; I have explained to you the way of the chosen few and the stations of the righteous; it is the way of the spiritual poles, the great saints, the prophets and those men who are a living example on earth of good conduct and spirituality and who determine and order the affairs of the world both now and in past ages.
Thus if you wish to gaze on these jewels and to dive for these pearls, then reflect well upon the contents of this book; consider the latter portion of the work and compare it with the beginning; gather together the different points and subjects which are dispersed throughout ‑ for in each corner there is something hidden. Do not restrict your attention to the truths expounded in one specific place, but rather see them in the light of all the various subjects. If you treat the work as a whole and ponder on its contents you will find guidance. The aim of dispersing these hidden subtleties of knowledge is to arouse the reader's curiosity. Whoever imagines that this method is repetitious ‑ and indeed this is the case ‑ then it should be pointed out that these delicate matters of gnosis cannot be explained at once. Therefore a subject is repeatedly mentioned or is incorporated into another subject under a different title and in different terms. In this way the various facets of its amazing meanings are revealed in a satisfactory way; since it is only by means of the tongue of repetition that the blossoms of the tree of wonder may unfold. To this end I have followed the instructions of the Lord and the example of perfection set by the people of Allah and their elite. Thus gather this knowledge, commit it to memory and reflect upon its meanings: Allah will guide you to the right path; He is sufficient for us and the best of guardians.
I would also inform you, O you who pause to attend to its meanings, that I have chosen fine fruit for you, delicious and ready for eating; I have picked it from various gardens, watered by the water of divine blessings, `well pleasing (Him) and well pleased (with Him)'. I hereby present you with the quintessence of what I myself have tasted from distant and diverse sources; I have lain patiently in wait for it for your benefit; I have contained it in a certain order and framework, and I have presented it to you. So take care to take good counsel from it and establish what it demands. Recognize too its true worth with profound discrimination ‑ for it is a splendid example of a work on this science, a wonder of its kind and a rarity with regard to its subject. Allah has made this easy for me by His beneficence and generosity, something which others in a similar position have not found easy; this is by His bestowal of grace and favour on me; to Him is due much gratitude and to Him belongs overflowing praise.
Therefore, O you who would gain spiritual victory, preserve this work from those who do not have the requisite understanding. Do not be miserly with it with respect to those who recognize its worth and are of the station of those of this science. Do not bestow wisdom on those who cannot appreciate it ‑ and in so doing do it an injustice; nor should you prevent it from reaching those who do understand ‑ and in doing so commit an injustice. Think well of all that is contained therein and do not rush to reject or negate: it may be that this knowledge is difficult for you to understand because of its outwardly concealed nature; indeed there are many expressions of great delicacy which, to be understood, require a corresponding subtlety of heart and refinement of temperament. Moreover, this work contains matters of such complexity that they may hardly be perceived without unveilings and spiritual assistance. This book and others of a similar nature are not open to discourse and are beyond the level of the people of opinion and speculation. I am not saying this to boast. The truth of our claim will be recognized by anyone who investigates the work in its various dimensions and puts the book to the test; its high standing will be evident to such a person.
Therefore do not allow doubt to enter your heart with respect to any of the points which are obscure or contradict appearances and what has become customary. If you abandon the path of appearances and customs and concentrate your attention on what is beyond it, then you will understand the purpose of the book and you will become aware of the knowledge of divine truths and unveilings contained therein. Therefore scrutinize the work, strive carefully to understand it and act accordingly; in this way will reach your goal. Pause and reflect on what it contains and seek to be sincere in your devotions ‑ observing carefully the conditions of worship described in the work. In this way you will be victorious in attaining in full to the stations of the righteous; in this way you will travel far along the path of the prophets, Imams and saints of Allah on the Day of Gathering. I give praise to Allah and I give thanks to Him for that which He makes easy for you at my hand. If you arrive and join with Him, then you will have gained a great victory; you will have come to an abode where you will be treated with honour by its inhabitants. I ask of you that you do not forget to make good mention of me in your prayers as a recompense for my attentiveness towards you ‑ by seeking forgiveness and salvation from the terror of the Plain of Gathering after death and by asking for a place of refuge in the abode of honour, far from the fearful events of the Day of Resurrection.
It may be that I shall benefit from your prayer and that I shall share your reward, without any loss on your part, for surely the Generous Bestower grants His gifts to me and you alike. Although I praise the book, I do not laud myself nor do I feel conceited ‑ both my methods of thinking and temperament are defective. How can this be otherwise when the anguish and the impurity of the ages continue uninterrupted, the lovers and companions are constantly being overwhelmed by trial and tribulation, and the splintering of communities becomes more and more widespread. What we hope for from the generosity of the reader is that he forgives our shortcomings from the good nature of his heart, that he overlooks our deficiencies and avoids divulging our secrets. We hope too that he will put right what he considers to be wrong and make good any lack or defect and with these words we conclude this work.
This arduous task was completed on a Saturday evening, 12th Ramadan 950 AH.1 All praise belongs to Allah, the Possessor of Praise and we ask for blessings on Muhammad, the crown of splendour and glory, and on his family.2