Wednesday, April 1, 2009


The fifteenth way of ma’refat

This is another part translated from ‘Mo’in ul Arwah’, a book in Urdu dealing with the life and teachings of Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti:

“Ahmad al-Ghazzali [he is the brother of the more famous Muhammad al-Ghazzali – d. 1111] has said: “One who has no shaykh, has no faith, who has no faith has no illumination, who has no illumination has no feelings, who has no feelings has no love…” The saints are under my cloak, others cannot recognise them.

When the morid has obtained the nearness of a mushid, but has not received the khirqa, then his [her] intentions are not right…

There are two groups of dervishes. One groups abstains from possessions and positions and also avoids being shaykhs… The second group after renunciation chooses satisfaction and resignation. This group is recognised as being worthy of sitting as spiritual superiors, of giving initiation, of giving training and spiritual education to others. But the first group after abstaining from this idea, adopts retirement in loneliness and contentment, as there is the element of distraction and carelessness in being in the company of the people of the world. When the people of the world come to these people and present something, although it is lawful, even so these people do not accept it and keep away from the world just as people run away from a tiger.

[There are of course more types. Some may retire in lonely places, others however ‘hide’ in the big cities. Some have no direct value for their fellow humans, others who do not wish to be shaykhs can be of service to others in several ways; ]

This is another portion from Mo’in-ul-Arwah (= Helper of the Spirits). It is written by Nawab Khadim Hasan in Urdu and it deals in great detail with the life and the teachings of Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti. The author lived in the previous century and expired in 1970. He was the head of a Sufi order. His khaneqah (Sufi center) still exists at a walking distance of the grave of Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti. Nawab Khadim Hasan lies buried at the hill whereon Mo’inuddin Chishti retired in a cave for meditation and dhikr, the remembrance of God. Now you find several graves of prominent Sufis near the Chilla (the place for 40-days retreat), and the silence thereof is mixed with the voices of schoolchildren. A school has been created on the hill giving education to children of several religions, all belonging to the poorest people of Ajmer. It is an unique school as you do not find many schools in India where Hindu and Muslim children sit together in thew same class.

But now what you have been longing for: Mo’in-ul-Arwah.

[Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti] said: “The angel Gabriel asked the prophet Abraham, the friend of God: “Do you need anything?”

He answered: “Not from you!” – for he was devoid of ego and spiritually he had received the presence of God.

[Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti] said: “I have heard from my brother, shaykh Shahabuddin Umar Suhrawardi that in the world there are two things which are good as a rule of conduct. First being in the company of a faqir, secondly respecting the friends of God (awliya)”.

He said: “The messenger of God has said: ‘He is weakest who does not keep true to his word’.”

He said: “When Adam was expelled from Paradise, everything except gold and silver wept about the condition of Adam.

God asked: ‘Why don’t you weep?’

They answered: ‘We will not weep about the condition of those who are not in obedience to You’.

God said: ‘By My grandeur and power, whatever your price and whatever your inherent value may be, I will make them known to Adam and I will make his descendants your slaves’.”

::: Worship

What is the value of worship (‘ebaadaat). In his Khwaja Gharib Nawaz; published by Sh. Muhammad Ashraf in Lahore Zahurul Hassan Sharib gives this English translation on p. 114 of the teachings of Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti in this respect:

“Gharib Nawaz says that if one wishes to protect oneself from the hell-fire, one should try to discharge one’s duties of worship and prayer to God. It should be remembered that there is no better thing before God than prayer.
Hazrat Qutub Sahab thereupon asked: “What type of prayer was that? Gharib Nawaz replied that that prayer consists in hearing the complaints of the aggrieved and to assist them, to help the needy and the oppressed, to feed the people and to get free the captives from captivity. All these things, Gharib Nawaz emphasised, are of great importance”.

::: Generosity in almsgiving

Such was the condition of his (Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti’s) generosity that whenever there came a beggar or a needy person, the latter did not go from his door without having received some help. Hazrat Qutb Sahab said: ‘I have remained in his company for a long time, but I have never seen any beggar or needy one go from his door unhelped’.

::: Persuasion not to omit the repetition of the names of God and wazifas

He (Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti) said: “If you have voluntarily undertaken to do the repetition of a sacred name of God, you should do it daily. If you cannot do it during the day, do it during the night, but you must definitely fulfil it because in the hadith it is written that the abstainer from repetition is cursed”.

Then in connection with this occasion he narrated as follows: “One day Mawlana Raziuddin fell from his horse and his foot was hurt. When he came home he thought: ‘How did this misfortune befall me?’ He recalled that he used to recite the sura Ya Seen after the morning prayers, but on that day he had not done it”.

Then in connection with that occasion he narrated as follows: “Khwaja Abdullah Mubarak on a certain occasion failed to perform his wazifa. At that moment there came a voice from the unseen saying: ‘O, Abdullah! Perhaps you are oblivious of the promise you have given as you have not performed the wazifa to-day”.”

Then he said: “Whatever has been mentioned by our spiritual leaders in the way of repetition of sacred names of God, that I do, you too should perform the same”.

::: A letter from Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti

Khwaja Mo’inoddin Chishti (1135-1229) has written 5 letters to his successor Qotb Sahab (1173-1235). In the fifth letter he writes what his morshed Khwaja ‘Othman Haruni has told him about a dialogue between a morshed and his morid.

The morshed in the forthcoming letter is Khwaja Shaqiq of Balkh (d. 810). Khwaja Abu ‘Ali Shaqiq bin Ibrahim al-Azdi is the spiritual disciple of Shaykh Ibrahim bin Adham (this Sufi you may all know as he is the prince of Balkh leaving his worldly position behind him to pursue the path of Sufism). Khwaja Shaqiq is the spiritual guide of Hatim Asamm (d. 852).

The morid in the forthcoming letter is Khwaja Abu ‘Abd ar-Rahman bin Ulwan al-Asamm. You probably all know why he was called al-Asamm (the deaf)…? He was also known among the Sufis because of his great sincerity.

The letter makes it clear that the morid has learnt eight useful things. One by one he mentions them and shortly describes them.

I hope to present this letter as translated from the Persian by Dr. Zahurul Hassan Sharib and now to be found in his The Beloved of Allah, a manuscript of which only a Dutch translation has come out.

::: LETTER 5

In a letter to Hazrat Qotb Sahab, Khwaja Mo’inoddin Chishti writes that his morshed ‘Othman Haruni once was pleased to narrate the following dialogue between a morshed and a morid:

“Hatim Asamm was a morid of Khwaja Shaqiq of Balkh. One day it so happened, that the morshed inquired from his morid: ‘Tell me, since how long have you been engrossed in my love and engaged in my service and have been hearing my talk and discourses?’
He replied: ‘For the last thirty years, morshed’.

Khwaja Shaqiq then asked: ‘Now, tell me, during this long period, what have you gained and what benefits and blessings have you derived?’
Thereupon Hatim Asamm submitted: ‘I have acquired eight useful and beneficial things, morshed'’

The morshed inquired: ‘What are they? Did you not enjoy and posses them before?’

He replied: It is true to say, that I did not enjoy them before. I am happy and satisfied, morshed. I do not require anything more’.

Khwaja Shaqiq exclaimed: ‘Hatim! I have spent all my life in your work and in your training. I myself do not want, that you should acquire more than what you have already acquired’.

Hatim, as a mark of expression of his satisfaction and gratitude, humbly submitted: ‘This much knowledge is sufficient unto me, for the salvation of both the worlds is circumscribed within the eight beneficial accomplishments, which fortunately I have acquired in your blessed company.

“Thereupon shaykh Shaqiq asked Hatim Asamm to describe them and he answered thus:

‘Morshed, the first thing is this, that when I saw the people of the world minutely, I found then that everybody has foolishly made someone his beloved. These so-called beloveds are of such a type and trait, that some are with you during your illness, some are with you till your death and some accompany your funeral to the grave. There is none, who may go with you inside the grave and partake of your sorrow and affliction therein and there is none, who may serve as a lamp in your grave.

Seeing this I thought to myself, that (s)he is indeed a good beloved, who may be prepared to go with you inside the grave and be sympathetic to you and be a bright lamp there in the grave and enable you to overcome hardship and cross the hurdles. Then I understood, that the beloveds capable of helping thus are no other than good actions! So I made them the focus of my attention and treated them as my beloved and took them as my pleader, so that they may stand by me in the grave and serve as a bright lamp therein, be with me at every stage, intercede for me and may never desert me’.

“Hearing this Khwaja Shaqiq of Balkh said: ‘Hatim, you have done very well indeed. Now describe the second thing’.

Hatim then began to describe the second thing thus: ‘The second thing is this, that when I saw the people of the world minutely, I found them to be the followers of lust and the devotees of greed and obeying their own self. I pondered over the verse of the Qur’an 79:40-41, which says:

But he who feared standing before his Lord
And restrained his self from vain desires,
His place is in heaven.

By thus meditating over the aforesaid verse, I realised that what the Qur’an said, was true. Consequently I equipped myself to oppose the self and placed it in the fireplace of asceticism. I refused to fulfil any of its desires. This unflinching obedience to God conferred upon me peace, confort and tranquility’.

Khwaja Shaqiq of Balkh thereupon expressed his joy and said: ‘May God, the Almighty, give you blessedness in your pursuit. You have done well and very well. Now proceed with the third’.”

The morid answered: ‘The third benefit is this, that when I studied carefully the condition of the people of the world, I realised that everybody runs after the world. After undergoing sorrow, trials and tribulations one is able to derive some benefit from the officials of the world. One feels happy therefrom.

Subsequently I pondered over the verse 16:96 of the Qur’an which runs thus:

Whatever you have is transient and not lasting
And whatever is with God is everlasting.

The effect of the aforesaid verse was, that whatever I had hoarded, I voluntarily spent it in the way of God and surrendered myself to God, so that it may last there in the presence of God and may thus become a means of sustenance for me in the world hereafter’.

Khwaja Shaqiq of Balkh, on hearing this, said: ‘May God bless you! You have done very well indeed. Now tell me the fourth’.

‘The fourth thing is this, that when I looked minutely into the condition of the people of the world, then I reached the conclusion that some people take a large family as the standard of honour, prestige and greatness and they feel proud of it. There are others who are of the opinion that honour depends upon wealth and children and this constitutes to them the hallmark of glory. Subsequently I thought over this verse 49:13 of the Qur’an:

Surely the noblest of you
In the sight of God
Is the most pious.

I was led to believe that the verse contained the truth and what the people thought was false and frivolous. Consequently I took to piety, so that I might become the one accepted by God.

Khwaja Shaqiq of Balkh thereupon said: ‘You have done very well. I’d like to hear about the fifth benefit’.

Hatim Asamm then narrated thus: ‘Fifthly, when I scrutinised the people, I came to know that due to jealousy they bear enmity with each other and talk ill of each other. And… they are jealous of wealth, prestige, honour and knowledge. Then I pondered over the verse of Qur’an 29:62 that follows:

God expands the sustenance
For whomsoever He wishes of His servants
Or restricts it.

I was led to believe that since the day of eternity they have received their share and none can interfere in it, then of what use it is to be jealous. Consequently I avoided jealousy and became at peace with all’.

Khwaja Shaqiq of Balkh again remarked: ‘You have done very well. Now describe the sixth’.
And his morid thus proceeded: ‘Sixthly, when I saw the world closely, I found that some bear enmity with each other and are at loggerhead with each other to achieve a certain object. Then I studied the verse of Qur’an 35:6 minutely which gives this warning:

Satan is an enemy of yours.

This verse dispelled all doubts and led me to believe, that the word of God was true and that there could be no doubt that Satan was our enemy. I made up my mind neither to follow nor to obey Satan. I wanted to obey and worship God and God alone. And this is as it should be, for God has said in Qur’an 36:60-61:

Did I not exhort you,
O Children of Adam,
Not to worship Satan!
For he is a manifest enemy of yours.
And worship Me,
For this is a straight path.

Khwaja Shaqiq, on hearing it, said: ‘You have done well. And what is the seventh?’

Hatim Asamm answered: ‘And seventhly, when I saw the people of the world minutely, then I came to know that everybody tries his utmost for his sustenance. For this reason he becomes diffident and doubtful. He brings upon himself humiliation. I then contemplated on Qur’an 11:6 which tells:

On the face of the earth there is no creature,
Whose sustenance is not the responsibility of Allah.

I realised that the word of God was true. I am myself a creature. Since then I took to the service of God and I felt sure, that my sustenance will come from Him, because He Himself has taken the responsibility for it’.

Khwaja Shaqiq of Balkh then said: ‘You have done very well. Now narrate the eighth and last thing by which you are benefited’.

Hatim Asamm finished his story by telling this: ‘When I saw the people of the world minutely, I found them reposing their trust in gold, silver, wealth and in material acquisitions. Then I pondered over Qur’an 65:3 which says:

Whosoever reposes his trust in God,
God will be sufficient for him.

Since then I reposed my trust in God. He is sufficient unto me and He is a very good Pleader.

Khwaja Shaqiq of Balkh was delighted to hear the aforesaid things and he said thus: ‘May God in His infinite grace and mercy enable you to pursue assiduously the things aforesaid. I have studied carefully the Old Testament, the Bible, the Psalms of David and the Qur’an and I have acquired from these four books the very things that you have mentioned. Whosoever acts upon these eight things, described by you, follows and acts upon the aforesaid four books in fact!’

Khwaja Mo’inoddin Chishti concludes his letter to Hazrat Qotb Sahab thus: ‘By this narration you have come to know that much knowledge is not needed or required. What in fact is called for is purposeful practice’.”

You may remember how the letter of Khwaja Mo’inoddin Chishti to Qotb Sahab ended. He wrote: ‘By this narration you have come to know that much knowledge is not needed or required. What in fact is called for is purposeful practice’.

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