This is a routine fact which we observe in our daily lives that two types of people live in this world, the first are those who follow others in their lifestyle, that is as the saying goes ‘follow the wind whichever way it blows.’ These people have a very narrow outlook towards life, but they constitute the majority. The reason for this complacency is that such people do not have to make any effort. They just follow the ways of others. The other types are those who do not follow the ways of others but lead their lives according to what they think is right, no matter which way the world is going. This is a bit difficult, especially when there is a lot of opposition to face. These people are certainly very brave and have much courage and strength.
In a society which is drowned in the darkness of ignorance, if a person starts remembering ALLAH by acting according to His commands and ignoring all the worldly traditions, which is nothing but a display of one’s wealth or vain desires, then he is either called stupid or crazy. It may be possible that your relatives may ask you why you go to Munara, and what is the reason of going every year? The main motive behind the question is not because they want to find out the reason but in fact, they want to stop you from the path you are following or they want to create a feeling of indecision in your heart. It is also possible that a question may arise within you, but if you are aware of your goal then you will satisfy yourself, but it will not be easy to satisfy your friends. It is necessary to know all the answers to the questions that arise. It is a simple fact that to acquaint yourself with your Creator you have started using the method prescribed by ALLAH Himself, and that is the Zikr of ALLAH. Every year in Munara a refresher course is organised to renew our zeal and enthusiasm, acquire further knowledge, examine our past efforts, and learn the way to work together in the future with love and understanding for each other. But it looks strange in a society obsessed by the secular trends and one has to really prepare oneself to face the mental pressures generated by it.
Zikr ALLAH by itself is the goal, because ALLAH has not only commanded a believer to practise Zikr, but has at many places in the Holy Book used the word kathira which denotes abundance. It is mandatory for the human beings to always obey ALLAH, their Creator, Who commands ‘Obey Me.’ This is what is meant by His declaration I have not created jinns and humans except that they should worship Me. (51:56)
Zikr ALLAH is the means to achieve the goal, which is the nearness of ALLAH. This goal can be achieved by practicing Zikr ALLAH with sincerity. The nearness of ALLAH is indeed the very purpose of our creation. The highest degree of this nearness is called Ihsan and the terms Tasawwuf and Sulook are also used for it.
Some people think that Tasawwuf is an innovation. Of course, it is correct to be careful before adopting anything, but to ignore the Quran, Hadith of the Holy Prophet and practices of the great saints of yore is foolhardiness. The Holy Quran commands: waqtarib, which means come closer. In another place the Quran praises those people who have acquired the nearness of ALLAH in these words:
And those foremost (in Faith) will be the foremost (in the Hereafter). These will be those nearest (to ALLAH). (56:1011)
According to a Hadith, ALLAH declares: “When a person moves towards Me by a handlength, I move towards him by a fore arm length, and when a person moves towards Me by a fore arm length, then I get closer to him twice as much, and when a person walks towards Me, I run towards him.”
By this we understand that the effort to acquire the nearness of ALLAH is greatly approved by ALLAH and His beloved Prophet . This is the same of human excellence. Let’s see what we benefit by practicing Zikr ALLAH. It has been stated in another Hadith “My servant keeps acquiring My nearness by voluntary prayers. So much so that I start loving him and he becomes My special slave. When I start loving him, I become his ears and he hears by Me, I become his eyes and he sees by Me, and I become his feet so that he walks by Me.” This is a typical way of describing the nearness of ALLAH and it means that a person will not do anything against ALLAH’s Will. This signifies that when a person acquires the nearness of ALLAH, he feels a deep sense of attachment to Him and he starts leading his life according to ALLAH’s pleasure and consent. As a result, his life becomes balanced, controlled and ideal because everything he does is according to the Divine Will. Obviously he is living a normal life in the world, behind every action, his main aim is to please ALLAH and by doing so he is actually planning and building up a successful life in the Hereafter. This fact is enough to reject the view of some who think that if a person enters the field of Tasawwuf he does not remain fit to lead a normal life. This is absolutely wrong. As the above Hadith proves that a person learns the art of living an ideal life, according to the wishes of ALLAH, through Tasawwuf. Therefore, Tasawwuf in the language of the Holy Quran, is the nearness of ALLAH. In the said Hadith it is stated that voluntary worship is the means to achieve the nearness of ALLAH. As there is no limit for voluntary prayers, there is also no limit of ALLAH’s nearness. But we also have to keep in view that a man can only worship ALLAH to the limit that his strength allows.
Once a Companion requested the Holy Prophet : “The mandatory Divine duties which we have to perform are limited, but the voluntary worships are so many that I do not have the strength for all of them, and the desire to perform all the worships does not let me rest. Therefore, show me a way by which I can fulfil my desire of performing all the worships.” The Holy Prophet answered, “The best way to achieve this purpose is to keep doing Zikr all the time so that your tongue is always saturated with the Zikr of ALLAH.” This shows that the best way to achieve the nearness of ALLAH, as prescribed by the Holy Prophet is the continuous Zikr ALLAH till the end of worldly life.
When we think of ‘nearness’, it automatically occurs to us that the Being Who’s nearness we want to achieve is away from us. There is a distance between us. To travel this distance is called Sulook and the traveller is called a salik. The words ‘nearness’ or ‘distance’ should not give rise to the feeling that the Entity Who’s nearness is sought has some physical location and is at a particular place, and only on getting there shall we achieve nearness. ALLAH is free from such limits. We cannot define any form for Him, nor is He at a particular place. He is Omnipresent, so the meaning of nearness would be that a special relationship should develop between us and our Creator. The veils that are the barriers should be lifted. There is a popular saying in Urdu: ‘Though you are far away from me yet I feel you close by’. This denotes a heart to heart relationship. Such nearness is indicated in the Hadith quoted earlier that a person develops such a strong relationship with ALLAH that he dares not do anything against His wishes. All the organs of his body obey ALLAH in toto as if He operates through them.
It is a regular feature of our day to day life that, to fulfil worldly needs, a person tries to get closer to the high ranking officials or people of influence. To achieve this aim, he has to first find out their likes and dislikes. Then he tries to acquire their pleasure by various means to achieve his goal. Whatever be the need, a person makes much effort. He sacrifices his own rest, his likes and dislikes and much more to get in the good hooks of the one who can benefit him. In today’s world, this is the most successful way to achieve something and is a very good example for us to follow. We know that all our needs here and in the Hereafter, both physical and spiritual, can only be fulfilled by the Benefactor Who runs this universe. And we have already found out that His pleasure lies in practising His Zikr at every moment of our lives. But before taking the decision to start ALLAH’s Zikr, we must first determine our motive that is to achieve His pleasure. When He is happy with us, He will certainly bless us with His nearness.
We must also remember that this aim cannot be achieved by our mere effort. It can only, be achieved by His consent and blessings. As stated earlier in the Hadith, if a person makes a little effort to acquire the closeness of ALLAH, he will find His reward and blessings much greater than his effort. This journey of nearness requires much sincerity and resolve, and the reward is bestowed in the form of Divine blessings.
Look at these youngsters who are sifting over here. They have left behind them, those pastimes wherein they were usually involved, like visiting cinema houses, clubs or just hanging around places. But have these youngsters come here by themselves? No they have been brought here by our ever loving Creator, they have been pulled out of the darkness they were in and their attentions have been now diverted towards ALLAH and the remembrance of His Name, and this is a big favour granted by ALLAH to a human being. You are very fortunate that ALLAH has picked you among so many people to practice the Zikr of His Holy Name. Your head should be bowed in gratitude and never for a moment should you feel proud of yourself that you have done something great. You have not done anything yourself, as everything you achieve is by ALLAH’s blessings and pleasure.
All Praise be to ALLAH Who has guided us to this (felicity). And we could not have guided ourselves, had ALLAH not guided us. (7:43)
Think of the different steps of a simple task. For example you first made a decision to come here. If you had not made the decision then you would most probably have stayed at home. This decision was created in your mind by ALLAH Who directed you towards this place and created an enthusiasm and desire in your heart. The course has been planned by ALLAH for you, so do not let this impression come in your mind that you have done all this according to your own wishes.
The next topic to discuss is that sometimes the new students are confused during the Zikr session. When the Shaikh announces the first latifa saying “lets go to the first latifah’ or when he says during meditation, “lets go to Ahadiyyat,” or other stations, the new students do not understand. They know that everybody is still sitting there so what does this phrase ‘lets go’ really mean? This needs a little explanation. We practice Zikr to achieve the nearness of ALLAH and ALLAH is everywhere. There is no special place assigned for Him.
The human body is solid and made of clay, how can a person take this body to those high stations? Actually, this journey is not undertaken by this body, but by the Ruh which is the real person inside this physical body. The Ruh travels towards its goal of ALLAH’s nearness and these lataif, these meditations and these stations are different stages of that journey. When the Ruh acquires familiarity with its Creator, it finds strength to move forward with renewed eagerness and love.
At this point another doubt arises. We have found proof, from the Quran and Sunnah, of the fact that every person should acquire the nearness of ALLAH, but where is the proof of the different stations a Ruh travels to, and what actually are these stations? If these questions are asked just to satisfy the inner curiosity, then it is all right. But usually the case is that these questions are asked with a motive that others should be misled. However, we will explain this for the curious beginner, who wants to move forward with all sincerity. First of all, we must understand that the solution to such doubts can be worked out as follows: First there is a goal, secondly there are ways and means to achieve this goal. Then there are forms of support for the means and ways used. For example, you are travelling from Lahore to Karachi by a train or bus, whichever means you choose, the journey is long and tiresome and you most probably want to find out how much of the journey you have covered and how much is left. Automatically your eyes turn to the road side signs which give you these details. And you come to know the distance which has been travelled and the distance still to cover and you feel relaxed and excited as you come closer and closer to your destination. Suppose these road side signs are not posted on the way as you travel to your destination, does that mean that you cannot travel? Of course, you will still travel and reach your destination, but the difference is that these signs will make your journey more interesting and exciting as you near your destination. If, on the other hand, these are posted in the middle of the road, instead of being helpful they will become a hindrance to you. Taking this example in view, let us consider our spiritual journey, by Sulook we mean to move forward, but which way? To move forward to the nearness of ALLAH, to His pleasure and consent, the journey takes a lifetime and if there are no side signs on the way and we do not know how much of the journey we have crossed, then we may start feeling discouraged, and it may be possible that we may decide not to continue any further. Therefore, the masters of this art, who have travelled on this path, are well aware of all the problems and obstacles. For this reason they have established the signs on the way so that a salik (the person travelling on this path) feels encouraged and continues with excitement and happiness. However, if the salik stops at any of these stations, it will serve as an obstacle instead of a help. That is why a sense of proportion is required, so that the real destination should not be lost sight of and these side signs should act as encouragement. These stations are not an absolute requirement. They are used to indicate to a salik that he is getting closer to his destination, so that his enthusiasm increases with time. From here onwards we will refer to these side signs as stations. The stations which we come across while travelling from one place to another in the world are different from the stations we are going to explain now. As these spiritual stations have particular influences associated with them which affect a person in his practical life. The great Sufis of the past have given an indication of these stations. And every station has its own effect, and a person who reaches a particular station should feel this effect on his worldly life. We will, therefore, discuss these stations and their positive effects briefly.