2.M.1 On “State” and “Time” – (Hâl and Waqt), presented by Muzaffar Iqbal

— Christian Response by Piotr Sikora


Hâl and Waqt

Waqt (time) is a term with which Sufis are familiar, and concerning which much has been said by the Shaykhs, but my object is to establish the truth, not to give long explanations. Waqt is that whereby one becomes independent of the past and the future, as, for example, when an influence from God descends into his heart and produces such a concentration that one has no memory of the past and no thought of the future.

…A possessor of waqt says: “Our knowledge cannot apprehend the future and the past, and we are happy with God in the present. If we occupy ourselves with tomorrow, or let any thought of it enter our minds, we shall be veiled (from God), and a veil is a great loss…”

Thus Abu Said Kharraz said:

Do not occupy your precious time except with the most precious of things, and the most precious of human things is the state of being occupied with God between the past and the future.” And the Messenger of God said: “I have a time (waqt) with God, in which none of the angels and prophets has entry.” This is to say, “in which the eighteen thousand worlds do not occur to my mind and have no worth in my eyes.” Therefore, on the night of the Ascension, when the kingdom of the heaven and the earth was arrayed before him in all its splendor, he did not look at anything (Q 53:17)…

Time is two times: one in the state of gain, the other in the state of loss; the one in the state of gain is in the place of union and the other in the place of separation. At both these times the mystic is overpowered, because both his union and his separation are effected by God without any volition or acquisition on his part as would make it possible to invest him with any attribute. When a man’s power of volition is cut off from him, whatever he does or experiences is the result of “time”…

It is related that Junayd said:

“I saw a dervish in the desert, sitting under a mimosa tree in a hard and uncomfortable spot, and asked him what made him sit there so still.

He answered: ‘I had a “time” and I lost it here; now I am sitting and mourning.’

I inquired how long he had been sitting there.

“Twelve years,” he said, “will not the Shaykh offer up a prayer on my behalf, that perchance I may find my time again?”

I left him, performed the pilgrimage and prayed for him. My prayer was granted. On my return I found him seated in the same place. “Why,” I said to him, “do you not go from here, since your wish has been granted?”

He replied: “O Shaykh, I sat here at this place of desolation where I lost all I had: is it right that I should abandon it now that I have found my lost treasure once more and where I enjoy the company of God? Let the Shaykh go in peace, for I will mix my dust with the dust of this spot, that I may rise at the Resurrection from this dust which is the abode of my delight.”

Kashf al-Mahjub (Unveiling the Veiled)
“Unveiling of the Tenth Veil”


I have chosen this short passage from Kashf al-Mahjub (Unveiling the Veiled), one of the earliest Persian language treatises on mysticism, for two reasons: almost 1000 years after its composition, it remains a much consulted work those interested in the mystic life; and it has a high personal value: Ali Uthman, who was born in Ghazni, Afghanistan, around 990 CE, spent the last few years of his life in Lahore at a place which is only ten minutes away from my family home, and his shrine was a much frequented place throughout my life in Pakistan.

Apart from these reasons, it is also its relevance to the theme of the Elijah Hermes Forum “Entering the Spiritual Life” which makes it a good starting point. In Islamic mysticism, “Time” is a technical term. One’s conscious entry into the spiritual path is marked by a conscious awakening to “Time”. Spiritual life is a full-time affair, meaning, one is either in it or not in it. There are degrees, stations, and stateswhich one achieves and enters, but all of this happens after one has completelyembarked on the Path. In other words, there is no half-way entrance here.

This is best understood not as living for the moment but in the moment, to such an extent that nothing else remains—neither past nor future, two mental constructs which correspond to nothing in reality for the mystic, whose only focus is the Ultimate, the Real, the Truth, that is, God Himself.

The treatise is rich with anecdotes from other masters of Islamic mysticism, as the two quotations from Abu Said Kharraz (d. 899) and Junayd (d. 910) show. “Time” is permanent, “States” come and go, and “Stations” are more durable than “States”. One travels from station to station; the ultimate goal of the mystic is total annihilation in God, that is, a station in which nothing else exists.