Category Archives: Tasawwuf

Islamic Spirituality; Maulana Thanawi’s Words & Other Akabir

Seeing The Souls Of The Prophets & The Awliya’

salamu `alaykum

It is narrated in the Sahih of Imam Muslim that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) met numerous other Prophets such as Musa, `Isa, Ibrahim, and so forth (Allah bless them all) during his lifetime. Rather, it is established that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) witnessed them performing prayers and even led them himself. Abu Hurayra narrates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:

فحانت الصلاة فأممتهم

“When the time of prayer came I led them.”

(Sahih Muslim, Kitab al Iman: Bab dhikr al masih ibn maryam wal masih al dajjal)

Similarly, it is narrated that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:

‏حين ‏ ‏أسري ‏ ‏بي ‏ ‏لقيت ‏ ‏موسى

“When I was taken for the night journey I met Musa (Allah bless him).”

(Ibid, Bab al Isra’ bi rasul Allah)

Maulana Ashraf `Ali Thanawi (May Allah sanctify his secret) states in regards to this:

“Together, these two narrations establish that despite the fact that Musa (Allah bless him) was present in his grave (s: in body) he was able to, along with the other prophets, meet the Messenger of Allah. There is no doubt that all these prophets were truly outside their graves (s: in spirit) and this shows the possibility of seeing the souls of the righteous gathered. However, remember that this is not a ever-continuous occurrence nor within one’s capacity.”

(al Takashaf, Pg: 397)

Mufti Lajpuri states in his Fatawa al Rahimiyya, in regards to the souls visiting the living, that:

“The soul can and does come. Events and observations bear witness to this fact. In the Kitab al Ruh of Ibn Qayyim it states, ‘It is the statement of this speaker that, no doubt, the souls of the believers residing in the barzakh go wherever they like. This has been reported by Salman al Farisi (May Allah be well pleased with him).”

(Vol 2, Pg: 252-253)

This is also confirmed by Ibn Hajar Haytami and Imam Suyuti – among many others. The former states in his Fatawa Hadithiyya (Pg: 393):

“Imam Yafi`i said: ‘… And they [s: the awliya] saw the Prophets (Allah bless them all) … which was like the vision of our Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) towards the congregation of Prophets in the heavens – and he heard and spoke to them. Verily, whatever is permitted for the Prophets as a miracle is permitted for the Saints as a miracle also.’

Ibn Mulaqin said: ‘There have been numerous visions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) , both in a state of wakefulness and sleep.’

The narrations in connection to this regarding [the vision of] the Friends of Allah are extremely plentiful and none denies them except one who is stubborn and dead.”

Ibn Hajar goes on to discuss the modality of such a vision, the permission of the souls of the Prophets to leave their graves, the fact that the vision of numerous people of a given prophet at a given moment is possible (he contrasts it to the sun), and how this does not make one a companion.

This is the position of those spiritually realized… They have removed the veils from their eyes within this world such that their “vision is piercing” (Quran) and therefore witness and see what many of us cannot.

And Allah Knows Best





Filed under Tasawwuf, `Aqida

The Wisdom Behind Being Sent To This World

salamu `alaykum

One of the questions posed to those who were complete and actualized in their knowledge of Allah, and by this I mean the righteous Sufis who understand the deep inner realities of this religion, was the reasoning behind our being sent down to this world from the “world of the souls” (`alam al arwah). Since the latter realm was closer in proximity to Allah Most High – and by proximity I do not mean “distance” since Allah Most High is far above being confined within time and space – how is our being sent down to this lowly and earthly realm understood, especially in light of reattaining this proximity (qurb), and can such proximity ever be achieved in this world at all?

It is established in the Qur’an that before the creation of bodies (ajsam) all of creation existed in the form of spirits. This is where the first covenant took place between Allah and creation. Allah Most High states in the Qur’an:

And when your Lord brought forth from the children of Adam, from their backs, their descendants, and made them bear witness against their own souls: Am I not your Lord? They said: Yes! we bear witness.” (7:172)

Ibn `Ajiba states in his Tafsir al Bahr:

“This points to the fact that Allah Most High’s covenant with the spirits regarding the knowledge of His oneness occurred twice. The first was before the manifestation of the universe. The second was after it.

The first was regarding the knowledge of His Lordship. The second was a reminder of this coupled with the proprieties of slavehood.”

[s: Ibn `Ajiba actually goes on to establish three occurrences of such a covenant, the details of which can be found in his commentary and others. The commentaries on this verse are highly interesting and anyone who has a chance to read them should.]

This shows that:

[1] That in the realm of the spirits creation was not in bodily form and the universe was still in a non-manifest state,

[2] The covenant made with the spirits was regarding Allah’s Lordship and Oneness,

[3] The covenant of slavehood – which relates to practice and deeds – was a covenant made after the manifestation of the universe and the creation of bodily forms. It can be said that this covenant is what comes with the prophets.

From the above it can be seen that the level of proximity we had attained within the realm of the spirits was akin to an initial stage. Although at first sight one may perceive that our presence in such a realm was closer in proximity to Allah, this is not the case at all. Understanding this subtle reality clarifies the immense blessing and wisdom behind our being sent down to the earthly plain.

Such an understanding is only achievable by the muhaqiq – the verifier – and not necessarily by the overwhelmed lover. The overwhelmed lover will, of course, wish that he had remained in the realm of the spirits due to the calmness and proximity experienced therein. This is why he says:

“What calmness I was in without any care,

The rumbling of manifestation has woken me up and trapped me in affliction!”


Yet, he does not understand that the proximity he had achieved was only the first level of the endless levels of qurb that awaits him. It is an established fact that the levels of proximity are endless, with no boundaries. This is why even the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), whose proximity to Allah is unimaginable and unattainable by creation, was commanded to supplicate with “Oh Allah, increase my knowledge”. The connection between knowledge and proximity to the one being known is clear in that the former increases the latter. Yet, since knowledge is infinite, so is proximity and thus reaching a “finish line” is impossible.

Thus, it s not denied that the realm of the spirits consisted of a level of proximity and closeness. However, it as undeniable reality that this level was stagnant – neither increasing nor decreasing. The underlying reason behind this relates to the issue of “relationship” – between creation and creator. It is mentioned in an authentic hadith al qudsi that Allah Most High said:

إذا تقرب إلي العبد شبرا تقربت إليه ذراعا وإذا تقرب إلي ذراعا تقربت منه باعا وإذا أتى إلي مشيا أتيته هرولة

When the servant drawns close to Me a hand’s span, I will draw close to him an arm’s length. And when he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I will draw near to him a fathom’s length. And when he comes to Me walking, I will go to him running.”

(Bukhari from Abu Hurayra and Anas. Also narrated by Muslim, Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)

This shows that the basis of attaining closeness and proximity to Allah is through seeking (talab) Him, and this seeking is manifested in the form of practice and actions that allows one’s level of closeness and nisba to increase, which was something absent in the realm of the spirits. By sending us down to this worldly realm and making us in our bodily forms, Allah placed within us a capacity to perform actions through which the doors of the levels of proximity were fully opened.

To detail this further, actions can be divided into two types:

[1] Those related to the heart, and

[2] Those related to the limbs.

The former can be further divided into (a) those that are earned and (b) those that arise without any effort. The latter is merely figuratively considered as “action” and relates to our natural emotive feelings and intrinsic being. The former relates to the actions linked to the sciences of the heart, which help to increase and build on these emotive feelings, such as dhikr, muraqaba, and so forth.

Actions related to type [2] were completely absent from the the realm of the spirits mainly because the instruments for carrying them out i.e the bodily organs, were not available to us. As for type [1], then those acts related to the heart that are earned were also absent. Only those granted without effort were present and actualized within creation.

Rather, the highest level of knowledge attained in the realm of the spirits regarding Allah’s Lordship and Oneness is the simplest and most basic level of knowledge that all human being are born with, namely the fitra or the natural disposition. This is the “unearned” action that is being spoken about and is common to all.

So, the wisdom behind humans being sent down to this earthly realm is clear, and the level of proximity attainable here is infinite and much higher – if one strives to achieve it. This realm is not devoid of Allah, of His manifestation and Being. It is the loci of manifestation of His attributes and the intermediary realm designated to allow us to reach the highest of stations imaginable by normal man. This is why Ibn Ata’illah said in his Hikam:

الكون كله ظلمة وإنما أناره ظهور الحق فيه

“The universe, all of it, was darkness and it was lit up only due to the manifestation of the Truth [s: Allah] in it.”

And this is how our master Maulana Ashraf `Ali Thanawi (Allah be well pleased with him) answered the question posed… and all of it can return to the point made by Ibn `Ajiba that the realm of the spirits only granted us knowledge of Lordship, whereas the earthly realm granted us both knowledge of Allah and knowledge of how to serve Him properly. Both coupled together formulate the lit path leading to Allah. Walk on it while you still can, and remember that death is ever ready to snatch you.






Filed under Tasawwuf

What Is Beneficial Knowledge?

salamu `alaykum

Ibn Ata’illah, the knower of Allah, stated in his Hikam:

“Beneifical knowledge is that which expands the breast with its rays, and by it the veils of the heart are lifted.”

Ibn `Abbad states in his commentary on the Hikam, entitled Ghayth al Mawahib al `Aliyyati:

“Beneficial knowledge is the knowledge of Allah, His attributes, His names, and the knowledge by which one knows how to submit to Him and act properly in regards to His favors. This is the knowledge whose rays pervade the breast… lifting from the heart its veils and dispelling all doubts and misgivings.

From the wisdom of Dawud (Allah’s blessing upon him and all our prophets) is his saying, ‘The knowledge in the breast is like the lantern in the house.’

Abu Muhammad `Abd al `Aziz al Mahdawi (Allah be well-pleased with him) said, ‘Beneficial knowledge is knowledge of the moment (`ilm al waqt), the clarity of the heart, ascetism (zuhd) from the world, (the knowledge) of what brings one closer to paradise and further from the fire, fear of Allah and returning (raja’) to Him due to such fear, and the pestilence (aafaat) of the heart and its purification. It is a specifically designated light (nur) that Allah places in the heart of whomever He pleases, not knowledge of the tongue that is transmitted and apprehensible by the mind.’

Malik ibn Anas said (Allah be well-pleased with him) said, ‘Knowledge is not the abundance of narrations. It is only a light that Allah Most High places in the hearts.’

Imam Junayd (Allah be well-pleased with him) said, ‘Knowledge is that by which you know your Lord…’

This statement (of Ibn Ata’illah) is a clear summarization that gathers within it the objectives of the knowledge of the Sufis, which is knowing (ma`arifa) Allah and acting in the best of ways with regards to His favors. This is the knowledge which is recommended for a person to submerge himself in – without one masking himself from it, slightly or abundantly.”

(Ghayth al Mawahib, Pg: 211 Ed: Dar al Khayr, 2003)

With prayers




Filed under Tasawwuf

On Patience

salamu `alaykum

Interesting fact: One of the definitions given for “patience” by Abu `Ali al Daqqaq was that “it is like its name.” We all know the general definition of sabr to mean restraint (which in turn indicates patience), such as one saying “sabartu nafsi” or “I restrained my self”. Yet, sabr also means “aloe”, which is a bitter type of medicine derived from a tree. I just thought this was an interesting definition provided by Shaykh Abu `Ali, especially when the meaning of “aloe” is applied to it.

In addition, as Sidi Yaser – someone known for his linguistic and medical knowledge – pointed out in the comments section, “aloe” is used for treating burns, which is a highly insightful indication – since salvation from the fire is one of the goals of the believer. Imam Ghazali, not surprisingly, includes the chapter on patience under the section of “The Ways to Salvation” in his magnamous Ihya `Ulum al Din, which is a must for every seeker to acquire and read.

Imam Qushayri also states in his risala:

Dhul Nun said, “Patience is to keep away from acts of disobedience to God, to be calm while swallowing pangs of distress, and to show independence even when poverty afflicts you in your daily life.”

Ibn `Ata said, “Patience is to dwell in tribulation with the best of conduct.”

Yahya ibn Mu`adh said, “The patience of lovers is harder than that of ascetics. I am amazed at how they keep patient!”

Ruwaym said, “Patience is to cease complaning.”

Abu `Ali al Daqqaq said, “The definition of patience is that one not resist what destiny has ordained.”

Our Master, the Qutb, Ashraf `Ali Thanawi (Allah be well-pleased with him) stated regarding the people of tasawwuf:

“The people of tasawwuf are defamed in every age due to the fact that they remain silent and are patient. Yet, the reason for their patience is known in that through it they seek Allah’s assistance and support. It is stated in the prophetic narrations that he who takes the matter of retaliation and reprisal into his own hands, Allah hands over the matter to him. However, Allah Himself repays and reprises the one who remains patient…”

(Malfuzat, Vol: 23 #28)

In the science of tasawwuf, patience is actually a “station” (maqam) – station being defined as “every attribute that becomes deeply rooted and cannot be left behind.” When one acquires the station of patience he never ceases to abide by it at the appropriate times and circumstances. This acquisition of the station of patience is from Allah, and is a manifestation of His name “The Patient” (al sabur), since creation is the loci of manifestation of the Divine Attributes.




Filed under Tasawwuf

Following A Guide

salamu `alaykum

Shaykh Farid (Allah have mercy on him) said:

گر ہواے ایں سفر داری ولا ** دامن رہبر بگیر وپس برآ

بار باید راہ را تنہا مرد ** بے قلاؤز اندریں صحر امرو

The above basically states that if one wishes and yearns to walk this path of love (to Allah) then grab onto a guide and follow him. If you walk this path without a guide then you will fall into confusion and bewilderment, and you will never be able to complete the journey.

After this Hakimul Ummah mentions Shaykh Farid writing about those who completed the journey without a guide. However, this to was only achievable due to the influence of guides, those one is not aware of. (Islaah A`amal Pg: 236)

I will detail this aspect later someday.




Filed under Poetry, Tasawwuf

“A Prayer For All Needs”

salamu `alaykum

Hakimul Ummah Maulana Ashraf `Ali Thanawi (May Allah sanctify his secret) said:

“For the fulfillment of all your needs and goals one should read the following verse of poetry after prayer 7 times:


فسہل یا الہی صعب ** بحرمة سید الابرار سہل

(Anfaase `Isa, Pg: 80)




Filed under Tasawwuf

“The Perfection of Knowledge Leads to the Realization of Being Ignorant”

salamu `alaykum

Hakimul Ummah stated:

“When one attains the perfection of knowledge then at this juncture does one realize that he is ignorant. Maulana Mahmud Hasan (Allah have mercy on him) would say that studying our whole lives resulted in going from a state of compound ignorance (jahl murakkab) to that of simple ignorance (jahl basit).”

(Anfaase `Isa, Pg: 278)

“Compound Ignorance” (jahl murakkab) is mainly characterised by the refusal of the claimant to admit to his own ignorance, his own lack of insight regarding specifics, and his constant pummeling of “I know! I know! I know!” when in reality such a person does not know anything. This is opposed to jahl basit (simple ignorance). The latter is characterised by a sense of not knowing i.e. the person knows that he does not know. It is “basic unawareness”. Rather, we learn from the narrations of the companions that saying “I dont know” is in actuality a type of “knowing” as the person knows that he does not know and can thus easily be remedied and taught.

It is narrated by Ibn `Abd al Barr in his Jami` Bayan al `Ilm:

قال عبد الملك بن أبي سليمان :[ سئل سعيد بن جبير عن شيء فقال : لا أعلم ثم قال : ويل للذي يقول لما لا يعلم : إني أعلم

“`Abd al Malik ibn Abi Sufyan said: Sa`id ibn Jubayr was asked about something and he said, ‘I do not know’. He then said, ‘Woe to the one who says about what he does not know ‘I know’.'”

Similarly, it is stated that `Abdullah ibn `Umar would consider it a blessing to be asked of something he did not know and state “I have no knowledge of it” as Ibn `Abd al Barr also relates:

فلما ولى الرجل قال : نعما قال عبد الله بن عمر سئل عما لا يعلم فقال : لا علم لي به

As John Templeton said: “If we become increasingly humble about how little we know, we may be more eager to search.” Search, ofcourse, for true and beneficial knowledge…




Filed under General, Tasawwuf