Muslim Perspective #2

Bulleted Points on Mysticism and Spirituality

Sheikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani

Is there an understanding of mysticism and spirituality that grows out of each of the traditions?

Spirituality = path to uplift self and eliminate negative traits
Mysticism = approach to metaphysical knowledge and heavenly connection.
Mysticism cannot be seen, spirituality manifests in physical world.
Mysticism no limits, destination is Divine Presence.
Mysticism begins with spirituality

Spirituality:

  • eliminate 17 primary negative character traits every human being possesses
  • ascends through ten levels of spirituality
  • arrive at the threshold of mystical experience.
  • Differences of creed, physicality and personality disappear in Oneness of Creation.

Hazrat Mujaddid Alf ath-Thani Ahmad Sirhindi (b. 1564 CE/971 Hijri century), ( aka Reviver of the 2nd Millenium) was a great scholar of Islamic doctrine, divine law, and reviver of Sufism, Islam’s spiritual discipline. He founded the Naqshbandi-Mujaddadi Sufi Way.

Similar individuals studied both disciplines; called “possessors of two wings”, ascended with power spirituality and mystic experience; related these two disciplines together.

1. How is the relationship between the two conceived?

Progress in spirituality results in mystical revelations.
Final unveiling tremendous, indescribable, beyond spirituality, like stars compared to sun.
Mystical awareness is unrelated to physicality; related to spiritual heart.
The polished hearts of sincere knowers receive Heavenly lights, blessings. World shines with his/her energy and light.

Connection between spiritual and mystical best illustrated in Islam’s ritual prayer:

  • concentrated upon the direction of prayer, qiblah
  • “The heart of the [true] believer is the House of the Lord.”[1]
  • mystical focus of seeker is own heart. Qiblah = spiritual pole of this world, all creation circumambulate. Imitate heavenly kingdom;
  • all circles have single center regardless of distance. Center is Divine Presence. Remove physical walls and each person faces another.

Self-realization of one’s station on circle of worship, one enters level 1: Circle of Unconditional Lovers (dā’irat al-muhibīn): love. Such love purely Platonic; spiritual love between believer and Lord.

Each believer on circumference has individual connection to center.

Circle’s radii are tunnels from the circumference to center. Each seeker steps into a tunnel; discovers countless negative personal characteristics. All these must be eliminated to progress nearer to center.

Mosques highly ornamented. All mosques connected to the Ka`bah as prayer focus.

Similarly heart must be decorated:

– remove all distractions from worship of God

– replace impurities with Divine love. Heart impurity extinguishes God’s light. Impurity form of tyranny (Ƹulm) = darkness = oppression.

God said:

Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His Light is as if there were a niche and within it a lamp: the lamp enclosed in glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star: Lit from a blessed tree, an olive, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it: Light upon Light! Allah doth guide whom He will to His Light: Allah doth set forth parables for men: and Allah doth know all things.[2]

This means whatever found in the heavens and earth contains Divine light.[3]

Divine light is in each human being because God is Just.

Shaykh Ibrāhīm Hakkī (1703-1780):

Without a doubt the complete potential for perfection is found within every human being, because Allah the Most High has placed His own Divine Secrets within the essence of man, in order to manifest from the Unseen His Beautiful Names and Attributes.[4]

Prophet said, “Human beings are born on a natural disposition,”[5]

Prophets as archetypes of humankind are perfect manifestations of human embodiment of Divine grace; corporeal manifestations of Divine Attributes.

Prophets’ utter submission, state of perfect servanthood, thus perfect receptacles for Divine Appearances.

Realities of the Prophets, al-haqaiq al-nabiyyoon, reflect Heart of Divine Essence, since the Prophets’ hearts move without restriction in orbits of Divine Names and Attributes. These lights shine in hearts of believers as Lights of Prophets are sources of believers’ lights.

Levels of spirituality:

  • the sanctified heart is purified of all wrong thoughts, negativity and dark intent.
  • “heart of the heart” – purification from any worldly desires.

3, 4) further stations of purity, focused on the hereafter.

  • heart turns away from even hereafter; begins to focus solely on the Divine Presence.

To achieve levels requires accompanying enlightened individuals who have successfully traversed Path to God:

O ye who believe! Fear Allah and be with those who are true (in word and deed).[6]

2. What position do they occupy within the overall economy of each of the traditions?

Mysticism is directly related to spirituality = final result of true spiritual attainment.

mystical unveiling requires self-discipline, purification until heart receives Divine light.

3. Is it preferable to focus upon mysticism or spirituality?

Focus on the Divine regardless of levels of achievement. Achieving mysticism depends on progress of seeker in spiritual work.

Sufism requires “time out” for assessment of self, relation with Lord, relationships with others. Self-accounting = balance negative traits with the positive traits.

Mysticism has no limits.

Mysticism: many modes of intersection with all different religions purification, upliftment of soul from materialism to enlightenment ascend from level of perception to level of realities. First seeker must eliminate all 17 primary negative traits and desires. Then engage in ascension through ten different levels of spirituality. Final achievement enlightenment = mystic knowledge.

The Struggle against the Self

Self-purification, Tazkīyyat an-nafs, takes seeker to station of perfect character, Ihsān. return to primordial human disposition (fitrah): purity, innocence.

Perfected Character highest level of faith in Reality Quest, leads to witnessing Signs of Divine Oneness everywhere.

Higher Station is Full Perfection; seeker realizes God is observing him every moment.

God meditation, taffakur, mentioned in Holy Qur’an as means of self-realization:

Those who celebrate the praises of Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth, (With the thought): “Our Lord! not for nothing Have You created (all) this! Glory to You! Give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire.”[7]

God observes seekers with His Gaze, propelling them upward:

Whatever is in the heavens and in the earth will be made subject to you.[8]

Such power enables seeker to leave all actions forbidden by Lord on physical plane and to practice all physical, earthly obligations. This enables seeker to perfect spiritual manners.

Example:

One of the Prophet’s companions, Hāritha, said, “I made my night sleepless and my days thirsty” meaning he fought his ego by waking up at night for prayer and working hard during day while fasting. Hāritha had reached the highest level of Witnessed Faith, Īmān ash-shuhūdī, and the Prophet (pbuh) asked him for proof of his claim, “for every saying there is a proof.” Hāritha replied, “I woke up as if I am looking up high at the Throne of Allah and as if I am looking at the people of Paradise.” Hāritha’s proof was to perceive with his eyes the realities of the hereafter.

The Heart as Key to Spiritual Improvement

Holy Qur’an contains > 130 verses mention the heart (qalb and fūād). Holy Qur’an’s ties everything human beings do to condition and state of heart.

Examples:

Is not the time ripe for the hearts of those who believe to submit to Allah’s reminder and to the truth which is revealed, that they become not as those who received the Scripture of old but the term was prolonged for them and so their hearts were hardened, and many of them are evil-livers. [9]

And there is no sin for you in the mistakes that ye make unintentionally, but what your hearts purpose (that will be a sin for you). Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.[10]

Allah will not call you to account for thoughtlessness in your oath, but for the intention in your hearts; and He is Oft-forgiving, Most Forbearing.[11]

All verses mentioning heart provide understanding to treating spiritual heart diseases. The Prophet (pbuh) emphasized the importance of the heart in many Prophetic narrations (hadith).

“In the body there is a small piece of flesh; if that piece of flesh is rectified then the whole body will be rectified and if it becomes corrupt then the whole body will become corrupt, and truly that is the heart.”[12]

The enlightened heart moves mind and senses towards virtue, away from corruption. Such a heart reaches mystical connection with God.

The Diseases of the Heart

The Qur’an describes spiritual heart diseases: hypocrisy, doubt, suspicion, deviance, heedlessness and oppression.

The Hypocritical Heart

Most dangerous illness. Allah described hypocrites as:

(They) say with their tongues what is not in their hearts.[13]

They conspire in their hearts, outwardly intending good. They are extremely dangerous, feigning obedience to God while belying Him.

Similarly believers backstab brothers and sisters in faith though appearing as friends. Hypocrisy leads to other serious illnesses: lying, cheating, harming, even killing.

God describes hypocrites:

Will they then not meditate on the Qur’an, or are there locks on the hearts?[14]

The key to this lock found in revelations. However, for a heart drowned in ocean of sin, key to salvation is lost. Lock of hypocrisy bars the way to guidance. This is dangerous state from which there is no return to truth. As Qur’an says:

Thus does Allah seal the hearts of those who know not.[15]

This means Allah leaves those who don’t seek guidance to their own devices:

It is true you (O Muhammad) will not be able to guide every one whom you love; but Allah guides those whom He will and He knows best those who receive guidance.[16]

The Doubting Heart

Allah said:

Only those will request exemption from you (O Muhammad) those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day, and whose hearts are in doubt, so that they are tossed in their doubts to and fro.[17]

Those described here have an illness which causes doubts to emerge and when they try to strive sincerely in Allah’s Way they cannot because of faltering hearts. That is the first disease of the heart: doubts which cause hesitation.

The Suspicious Heart

Suspicion about intents and motives of others causes sufferer to imagine others are out to get them. Quran says:

O ye who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin.[18]

Most bad thoughts of others fallacious and leads to error.

The Deviated Heart

Deviated heart causes constriction, rudeness. Allah said:

But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah.[19]

The Heedless Heart

Heedless heart is asleep, unable to perceive spiritual realities, devoid of true belief. Quran says:

Nor obey any whose heart We have permitted to neglect the remembrance of Us, one who follows his own desires, whose case has gone beyond all bounds.[20]

And:

Their hearts set on passing ­delights; yet they who are [thus] bent on wrongdoing conceal their innermost thoughts.[21]

The Oppressive Heart

The Prophet said, “The bankrupt one from among my followers is he who will come on the Day of Judgment with a good record of prayer, fasting, and charity and yet he had abused someone and slandered another. He had usurped the goods of another person, he killed someone and beat yet another person…”

One would think it impossible that someone with a good record of prayer, fasting and charity be spiritually bankrupt because most know Islam is based on the five pillars. This demonstrates that there is no benefit of the prayer and fasting for someone who conspired against his brother, spread harmful rumors, cheated, stole, lied or abused others.

The Prophet (pbuh) said:

The thing I fear most for my community is a scholar with an eloquent tongue but whose heart is ignorant.

The Prophet (pbuh) feared people would follow religious scholars well-versed in the religious teachings and presenting them, whose hearts do not reflect what they teach. Quran says:

O ye who believe! Why say ye that which ye do not? Most grevious is it in the sight of God that ye say that which ye do not.[22]

The Purified Heart

Those on the path of self-purification, gradually eliminate spiritual heart illnesses. Instead adorn hearts with various valued qualities including: guidance, compassion and enlightenment.

The Guided Heart

Purified heart is purified, is a site of revelation receiver for message of truth.

‏The Prophet (pbuh) said “When Allah wants good for His servant, He will give him an advisor in his heart, urging him to good and prohibiting him from wrongdoing.”[23]

Holy Qur’an says:

God did not give two hearts to anyone.[24]

This means we cannot divide our heart between Allah and this world. Heart must be with God. We must eradicate ruinous traits that fill the heart while growing from infant to child, to youth, to adult. Once eliminated the heart becomes a spring from which everyone can quench thirst for knowledge.

It is related from the Prophet, “Whoever devotes himself sincerely to Allah for forty days, springs of wisdom will emerge from his heart upon his tongue.”[25]

The Compassionate Heart

Allah created human beings with hearts filled with social compassion. Holy Qur’an says:

Then We caused Our messengers to follow in their footsteps; and We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow, and gave him the Gospel, and placed compassion and mercy in the hearts of those who followed him.[26]

God put into believers’ hearts love and mercy.

The Enlightened Heart

A Prophetic narration (hadith) states:

My earth and My heaven encompass Me not, but the heart of My believing servant encompasses Me.[27]

Heart has different levels and states. masters of the sciences of self-purification say the heart will go through multiple ascensions that raise it ever higher.

The Prophet said: Verily from my Community are men, in whose hearts the faith is like huge mountains.[28]

The Seventeen Ruinous Traits

Shaykh Abū ’l-Hasan al-Kharqānī ق stated the major ruinous traits in human character number 17. Each trait resembles a great tree, with deeply rooted trunk, primary limbs, smaller branches, leaves etc. Each tree is laden with an array of bad manners. The 17 negative characteristics are known as al-Akhlāqu ’dh-Dhamīmah, the Ruinous Traits, also known as the Tree of Bad Manners:

  1. Anger (al-Ghaļab)
  2. Love of This World (Hubbu ’d-Dunyā)
  3. Malice (al-Hiqd)
  4. Jealousy (al-Hasad)
  5. Vanity (al-`Ujb)
  6. Stinginess (al-Bukhl)
  7. Avarice (al-Ţama`)
  8. Cowardice (al-Jubn)
  9. Indolence (al-Baţalah) _Toc125016030
  10. Arrogance (al-Kibr)
  11. Ostentation (al-Riyā’)
  12. Attachment (al-Hirs)
  13. Superiority (al-`AƸamah)
  14. Heedlessness and Laziness (al-Ghabāwah wa ’l-Kasālah)
  15. Anxiety (al-Hamm)
  16. Depression (al-Ghamm)
  17. The Eight Hundred Forbidden Acts (al-Manhīyāt)

Anger is the worst of the ruinous traits and the source from which the others flow. Quran says:

Those who control their wrath and are forgiving toward mankind; God loves the good.[29]

Purification from these negative traits and the underlying heart ailments is the true cause for spiritual progress towards final goal: mystic achievement. Outward adherence to practices is not enough; we must perfect behavior.

Requires program of self-evaluation, purification, seclusion, establishing practice of remembrance and contemplation under guidance of authorized Master of Spiritual Discipline (shaykh at-tarbīyyah). Thus the seeker achieves state in which heart receives Divine Inspiration and observes Divine Realities.

4. What possibilities do we have to appeal to them as ways of advancing relations?

mysticism and spirituality surpass the common boundaries separating different religious traditions. Believers of different faiths may share common themes, techniques and achievements. However in mysticism, divisions blur and ultimately disappear in the Divine Presence, much as individual drops merge when they enter the sea.

5. Do they make sharing and borrowing between the traditions possible, and are these legitimate, in the eyes of the traditions themselves?

Spirituality is a legitimate means, providing many ways of intersection with all religions and philosophies. Through spirituality, it becomes easy to share experiences and to bond with others, despite differences in creed.

6. What practices may be shared, how can these be shared within this group and possibly beyond it?

Recitation, chanting, meditation easy practices to share in multi-faith venues as long as the focus is on the Divine Presence.

Meditation is worship based on contemplation of God’s creation involving observation of heavenly bodies; observing earth and its living and inanimate aspects, trees, plants, animals; seasons and their transitions. The Quran says:

Have they not traveled in the land, and have they hearts wherewith to feel and ears wherewith to hear? For indeed it is not the eyes that grow blind, but it is the hearts, which are within the bosoms, that grow blind.[30]

Meditation is a tool for deep relaxation and quiet the mind, relieving stress, and enabling internal systems to regain equilibrium.

7. Are mysticism and spirituality significant common ground, between different religions?

Mysticism and spirituality are both common grounds between different religions and significant in their ability to overcome differences and divisions.

8. What questions should be tackled as part of a responsible exposition of these issues within an interreligious context, particularly one associated with leadership?

How can we overcome fear of “other” when meeting together? Where does an egotistical sense of superiority come into play in defining “other”? Are there any common goals at the personal, family, communal and societal level that all religious leaders can agree to? Is there a mystical vision of mankind that can transcend self-imposed boundaries of race, culture and sectarianism?


 

[2] Sūratu ‘n-Nūr [The Light], 24:35.

[3] Ka¿b al-Ahbār makes the entire verse refer to Muhammad, it is a metaphor of the Light of Muhammad. The Messenger of Allah is the niche, the lamp is prophethood, the glass is his heart, the blessed tree is the revelation and the angels who bought it, the oil are the proofs and evidence which contain the revelation.

[4] Ibrāhīm Hakki Erzurumi, Marifetname, Cairo, Bulak (Printing House), 1835.

[5] Bukhārī.

[6] Sūratu ’t-Tawbah [Repentance], 9:119.

[7] Sūrat Āli-¿Imrān, 3:191.

[8] Sūratu ’l-Jāthīya, 45:13.

[9] Sūratu ’l-Ħadīd,57:16.

[10] Sūratu ’l-Aħzāb, 33:5.

[11] Sūratu ’l-Baqara, 2:225. Laghaw is to swear to something loosely, such as, “I swear I did not do that.” It is not a genuine oath, but rather a habit of the tongue to use Allah’s Name in affirmation or negation. The Prophet ÿ excused the Sahaba for such things. Allah ¹ will not accept such oaths if one swears in His Name by tongue, but rejects it in one’s heart. Rather, this incurs His punishment.

[12] Bukhārī and Muslim.

[13] Sūratu ’l-Fatħ, 48:11.

[14] Sūrah Muħammad, 47:24.

[15] Sūrah Rūm, 30:59.

[16] Sūratu ’l-Qašaš, 28:56.

[17] Sūratu ’t-Tawbah 9:45.

[18] Sūratu ’l-Ħujurāt, 49:12.

[19] Sūrat Āli-¿Imran, 3:7.

[20] Sūratu ’l-Kahf, 18:28.

[21] Sūratu ’l-Anbīyā, 21:3.

[22] Sūratu ’š-Šaff, 61:2

[23] ad-Daylamī in al-Musnad al-Firdaws, 30762 from Umm Salamah.

[24] Sūratu ’l-Aħzāb, 33:4.

[25] Abū Na¿īm.

[26] Sūratu ’l-Ħadīd 57:27.

[27] Ghazālī, Iħyā’. There are disputes over the authenticity or source of this tradition and some say it is an Isrā’īlī tradition. But there is an overwhelming truth to it according to the tradition narrated by aţ-Ţabarānī: “The receptacles of your Lord are the hearts of His righteous servants, the most cherished, gentle and refined to Him.”

[28] Ibn Jarīr. Kanzu ’l-¿Amāl 4573.

[29] Sūrat Āli ¿Imrān, 3:134.

[30] Sūratu ’l-Ħajj [The Pilgrimage], 22:46.