The First Station

The first level of the 'arif's journey is what they eall 'resolution' (al-'iradah), and this is a fervent desire to catch hold of the Firm Tie (al-'urwat al-wuthqa) that catches hold of one who is perceptive of true proofs, or who has settled his self through the covenant of faith, so that it impels his heart towards the Holy in order to attain the spirit of connection (with Him).

In order to explain the first stage of the spiritual path - which in one respect potentially embraces the whole of 'irfan - we are obliged to be somewhat elaborate. The 'urafa' primarily believe in a principle which they sum up in the following phrase:

The ends are the return to the beginnings.

Clearly, for the end to be the beginning there are two possibilities.

One is that the movement is in a straight line, and that once the object in motion reaches a certain point it changes its direction and retraces exactly the same route that it came. In philosophy it has been proved that such a change of direction would entail an interval of motionlessness, even if imperceptible. Furthermore, these two movements would be opposite to each other. The second possibility is that the movement is on along a curve all of whose points are equidistant from a certain central point, in other words a circle. It is clear that if the movement takes the form of a circle, naturally the path will end at the point of commencement.

An object moving in a circle will continually move farther from the point of beginning until it reaches the point farthest from where it began. This is the point diametrically opposite to the point of commencement. It is also from this point that, with no pause or interval, the return journey (ma'ad) to the point of departure (mabda') commences. The 'urafa' call the first part of the journey, i.e. from the point of departure to the point farthest from it, 'the arc of descent' (qaws al-nazul), and the journey from there back to the point of departure, 'the arc of ascent' (qaws al-su'ud).

There is a philosophical view associated with the movement of things from the point of departure to the farthest point which the philosophers call the 'principle of causality' (asl al-'illiyyah), and which the 'urafa' call the 'principle of emanation' (asl al-tajalli); in either case objects travelling along the arc of descent are as if driven from behind. Similarly, the movement of objects from the farthest point to the point of departure also has its own philosophical theory.

This is the principle of every derivative being's desire and passion to return to its origin. In other words, it is the principle of the flight back of everything estranged and stranded to its origin and homeland. This tendency, so the 'urafa' believe, is inherent in each and every particle of existence, including the human being, though in man it can often be latent and hidden.

Man's preoccupations prevent the activity of this tendency, and a series of stimuli are required before this inner inclination will surface. It is the appearance and surfacing of this inclination that the 'urafa' term as 'resolution' or 'will' (iradah).

Thus in reality this resolution is a type of awakening of a dormant consciousness. 'Abd al-Razzaq Kashani, in his Istilahat, defines iradah as:

A spark in the heart from the fire of love that compels one to answer the summons of the Real (Haqiqah).

Khwajah 'Abd Allah Ansari in his Manazil al-sa'irin defines iradah as follows:

It is the voluntary answer (in actions) to the summons of the Real (Haqiqah).

Here it is necessary to point out that the meaning of iradah being the first stage is that it is the first stage after a chain of other stages has been passed, stages that are called 'preparations' (bidayat), 'doors' (abwab), 'conduct' (mu'amalat). and 'manners' (akhlaq). Thus iradah is the first stage in the terminology of the 'urafa' in the sense that it signifies a genuine gnostic awakening.

Rumi describes the principle that 'the end is the return to the beginning' as follows:

The parts are faced towards the Whole,

Nightingales are in love with the rose's face;

Whatever comes from the sea to the sea returns,

And everything goes back to its source;

Like the streams rushing down from mountain tops,

My soul, burning with love, longs to leave the body.

Rumi opens his Mathnawi by inviting the reader to listen to the plaintive cries of the reed, as it complains of its separation from the reed bed. Thus in the first lines of his Mathnawi Rumi is actually bringing up the first stage of the 'arif, that is iradah, a desire to return to one's origins that is accompanied with the feeling of separation and loneliness. Rumi says:

Listen to the reed as its story it relates

And of its separation it complains.

Since the time that from the reed bed was I taken,

At my strains have lamented man and woman.

O, a heart I seek that is torn with the pain of separation

That it may hear the tale of my longing for return.

Whoever remains distant from his origins,

Seeks again the life of reunion.

To sum up, Ibn Sina, in the above passage, means that iradah is a desire and longing that, after deep feelings of alienation, loneliness and estrangement, makes its appearance in the human being and motivates him to seek reunion with the Real, a union which puts an end to the feelings of alienation, loneliness, and helplessness.