Sharh (Commentary) of the Song of Abu Madyan al-Ghawth
Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi
The pleasure of life is only in the company of the fuqara. They are the sultans, the masters, the princes.
There is no higher company. As they are the least of men and make no claims, they are the elite and the two worlds are their property. With them is the Maqam al-Mahmud, for the Messenger, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, has said, 'Look for me among the poor, for I was only sent among you because of them,' and 'Poverty is all my glory,' and "Allah loves the poor."
Therefore keep their company and have adab in their assemblies. Leave your portion behind you whenever they send you forward.
Keep their company - in this is half the science of knowledge. Our knowledge is not informational, it is transmitted. The company of the fuqara is like a developing fluid in which the murid is soaked, until by its properties, the self emerges and is recognised. As we see later in the poem, the imprinting of the image is due to being exposed to the light of the Shaykh.
Spiritual courtesy has three levels:
1) adab to Allah
2) adab to the Shaykh
3) adab to creation
Adab to Allah has three parts:
a) Performance of the obligatory
b) Nawafil (extra) acts of 'ubudiyya - night prayers, recitation of Qur'an, wirds, wazifas, diwan, Asma' al-Husna.
c) Muraqaba. The invocation of the Supreme Name with deep contemplation and stillness until the falling away of the attributes and the secret is revealed. The secret of muraqaba is mushahada (That is, the secret of watching is witnessing.)
Adab to the Shaykh has three parts:
a) Action. That is service without judgement.
b) State. Taste the states of the Shaykh in three conditions:
i) dhikr - follow him in concentration on his Lord.
ii) fikr - follow his exposition of the glories of his Lord.
iii) himma - follow him in his yearning for his Lord.
c) Station. Recall that his maqam is the ayat of YaSin:
'And there came a man, running, from the furthest part of the city saying, "Follow the Messengers."'
Love of the Shaykh vanishes in love of the Messenger.
Love of the Messenger vanishes in love of Allah.
Adab to the fuqara has three parts:
a) This is contained in the last phrase of this line: 'Leave your portion behind you whenever they send you forward.'
b) See their faults as your mirror in which you discover what is wrong with you.
c) When you look at the fuqara, see the Shaykh.
Seize the moment and always be present with them. Know that rida is bestowed on those who are present.
Do not think that learning comes only from the discourse. It comes in the 'keeping company'. Keeping company is an intellectual activity. Discourse is an ecstatic activity. Sama'a is a serene activity. All three are the conditions of 'being present', This is the transformative process that we call alchemy.
Cling to silence unless you are questioned. Then say, 'I have no knowledge' and be concealed by ignorance.
Silence must not be to draw attention, but to ward off attention. Do not be afraid among the fuqara. No one should notice your silence. Your reticence is your victory, and by it your ignorance will rapidly be transformed into knowledge.
Do not look at fault unless you see a clear fault appear in you, but it is concealed.
The fuqara are flawless. When you see them as flawless you have become flawless. When you are flawless, you have reached your Shaykh.
'You will not find any flaw in the creation of the Merciful.'
Until you can understand this to be true of the lovers of Allah, how will you grasp it among the people of suffering and the people of wrong action?
Lower your head and ask for forgiveness without cause. Stand apologising in just treatment.
No blame. This is the rule of the zawiyya and the maqam of the awliya. It is the station of the 'the stranger will cast out the weaker' and the defeat of hypocrisy (nifaq).
If a fault appears from you, then apologise and lift the face of your apology for what has flowed in you from you.
Do not cling to wrong action. Do not nurse any bad feeling. Let everything go. The fuqara must have hearts like children of whom the Messenger of Allah, blessings and the peace of Allah be upon him, said, 'Allah loves them for three things.
One, they cry easily, Two, they hold no rancour. Three, if you take away a gold toy and give them a clay one it is the same for them.
Say, 'Your insignificant slave is more entitled to your pardon. Act kindly in forgiveness and adhere to gentleness, O fuqara!'
The progress of the seeker lies in this verse. Here is the quick ascent and the victory over the nafs.
They are not entitled to condescension, and it is their practice. Fear neither overtaking nor harm from them.
Until you taste this ease in the company of the fuqara, you can never taste ease in your own company. Until you taste ease in your own company, you cannot reach the stage of entering the ahwal (states) of the Shaykh. Once you trust the fuqara you can trust yourself. When you trust yourself, you meet the shaykh at last, not as a guide or a teacher, or a leader, but as a light calling to a light.
Always be generous in singing the praises of the brothers in the senses and the meaning. Lower the eye if someone slips.
Praising the fuqara has expansion in it, and release, and freedom from fear, and the end of loneliness. It has compassion for the sick in it, patience with the old, and generosity with the young.
In it faqirat learn to honour their husbands and fuqara to be sweet to their wives. Lower the eye if someone slips. This is a high prophetic sunnah - covering the faults of the brothers. It is the effect of the dhikr of astaghfirullah. It is the cause of the dhikr - tabaraka'llah. From it comes the Shaykh's love of the murid. The Shaykh rejoices in two things - when his murid is spoken against and when his murid refrains from speaking against.
Watch the Shaykh carefully in his states, perhaps a trace of his approval will be seen on you.
The Shaykh has three states in public.
i) Meeting. Like a host with his guests or a father with his children. Here all is hidden under the light of welcome, attention, news, and the exchange of courtesies. This is the most difficult ground for the new murid. Levity is for the nursery and where there is play there is no work.
ii) Guidance. When the Shaykh speaks to one person, take it as meant for you. The Shaykh conceals his serious admonition and hides his target both in reproach and in love. When the Shaykh speaks to you consider it is cross-roads - do not turn back on your path. If he is pleased with you, resolve to strengthen your purpose. If he is displeased, delight in his noticing it. When he speaks of Allah - take it in - all his words will become realities for you.
iii) Absence. When the Shaykh withdraws from the company inwardly during samaÔa or in a meeting, go with him. It was for this that you set out. It was for this that you et out. This draws you into the audience chamber of the heart.
'Perhaps a trace of his approval will be seen on you.'
This is a light from Allah and without intermediary. The Shaykh does not 'do' anything. He recognises those Allah loves. This recognition has wisdom in it for him and for you. Shaykh Ahmad al-Badawi of Fes, may Allah be merciful to him, said, 'One glance from the Shaykh wipes out a thousand wrong actions.' This is very difficult for the people of thought-forms to understand and easy for the people of states. This concerns the inner zone of the lubb, or core of the human self's awareness. Its mithal is the sun's rays. If you sit in the sun you become sunburned. If you sit with the Shaykh you become purified, later intoxicated, and finally annihilated. As the one who is first warmed, then burned, and at the end finally blinded by the rays of the sun. In this zone is the innermost reality and the secrets of 'keeping company'.
Advance with seriousness and leap to serve him. Perhaps he will be pleased, and beware lest you become irritated.
Your service to the shaykh is a tremendous thing. Greater than it is his service to you. Wrong feelings against the Shaykh endanger the murid by confusion and the illusion that the nafs is other, and there is no other... Abu'l-'Abbas al-Mursi, Allah's mercy be upon him, said, "The one who says, 'why?' to his Shaykh will never be happy.' Never forget the contract with the Shaykh is to move you from 'ilmi nafsika to 'ilmi rabbika, from knowledge of yourself to knowledge of your Lord.
The pleasure of the Creator is in his pleasure and his obedience. He will be pleased with you. Beware of the one who leaves it.
There is no shirk here. It is the secret of the people of the path. Without a Shaykh a man cannot defeat his nafs. The more he fights himself the more powerful the elf becomes. Attention confirms the nafs. The activator of the nafs will be either outside or inside the nafs. If it is activated from inside, this is the work of Shaytan, the whisperer, who instigates wrong action. That is why, following the word of Moulay 'Abdalqadir al-Jilani, the murid must make himself like the dead body in the hands of the washer in relations with the Shaykh. Abu Yazid, Allah's mercy on these great awliya, said, 'He who does not have a Shaykh as a master will have Shaytan as a master.' This is why keeping company is a necessary condition of the path. How can the doctor heal the patient unless the patient is brought before him? At the heart of the matter, however, there is no rule over the murid. The murid must want what the Shaykh wants, in that is his cure. The murid is the one who has handed over his irada - his will - to the Shaykh in order to come quickly out of the fantasies of the khayal, (the faculty investing solid objects with their reality) and the kufr, the covering that is the self.
'Fear Allah and He will give you discrimination.'
That means not by you but by Him. Then separation does not veil you from gatheredness and gatheredness does not veil you from separation.
Know that the path of the People is study, and the state of the one who claims it today is as you see.
The homeland of the People is ma'nawiyya. In this realm the bird of the secret flies freely into the open space of open space. The intellect must be trained to move in the realm of ishara, indication, that is the subtle zone of meanings arrived at by hints and coded signs, inaccessible by the lower faculty of reason. The faculty of ishara only emerges by the practice of dhikr, not by the practice of fikr. It in return is dependent on himma - constant yearning that increases and becomes more intense. There is no end to this except in the Beloved.
When will I see them, where will I see them? When will my ear hear some news of them?
Shaykh Ahmad al-Badawi of Fes, may Allah be merciful to him, said, 'If you have seen the fuqara, then you have seen Allah.' Once some ignorant scholars denounced the fuqara for performing the hadra. They asked what happened when the fuqara danced. The reply was, 'We see Allah.' The scholars exclaimed that this was just as they had thought. It was shirk. 'Why?' asked the fuqara, 'Do you see other-than-Allah?'
Who is mine and where will my like compete with them in wells about which I do not recognise impurity?
Once love of Allah becomes established in the heart, the faqir becomes a means of contemplation, and a place of meeting, and a cause of delight in the heart.
I love them and I treat them gently and I offer them my heart's blood - especially a party of them.
Among the elite are the elect. Some are drunk, wandering, helpless, in love with the Majesty. Some are sober, still, powerful, in contemplation of the Beauty. Some are sober/drunk, still/moving - majesty does not veil them from beauty and beauty does not veil them from majesty. They are the people of perfection.
A people with noble qualities - Wherever they sit, a fragrance remains in the place after them.
This is baraka. Baraka is from the hadrat ar-Rabbani, the presence of Lordship. Whoever denies baraka, denies that Allah is the Living who does not die. To the muslim, baraka is at the Black Stone, in the Rawdah, on the Laylat al-Qadr. To the mumin, baraka is in the mosque, at the tombs of the awliya - without shirk or bidÔa for there is no need to do anything to experience it - and in the presence of the salihun. To the muhsin, baraka is in every tree and every stone and every flower and every face and every star. Tabaraka'llah.
Tasawwuf is guided by their character in the Paths. Excellent harmony is theirs, that delights my eye.
Sufism is not a coded doctrine. It is the acts and states of the men of Allah, the rijala'llah. It is dhawq. Taste for the people of state. Witnessing for the people of witnessings. Annihilation for the people of annihilation.
They are the people of my love and my lovers who are among those who trail the coat-tails of might in magnificence.
Love of the lovers is a tremendous thing. If you are present when they meet and express their love, Allah has given you a great overflowing (fadl). Their meeting takes place but is not witnessed. Their parting is witnessed but does not place. Their sole concern is the contemplation of the Beloved. This is the maqam of Ihsan.
May I be united with them in Allah, And my wrong action forgiven and pardoned in Him.
What a du'a and what a goal! This is the maqam of Ibrahim.
Then blessings be upon the Chosen, Sayyiduna Muhammad, the best of those who fulfilled and who vowed.
What a prayer and what a reward! This is the maqam of Islam. We thank Allah for the gift of Islam and it is enough for us. Ameen.
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