The Stages of the Journey of the Servant of Allah
1. Al-'Adam: Non-existence
The possible which accepts possible existence. It is that to whose existence the knowledge of Allah is connected. Thus it exists in knowledge, but its source is non-existent because it is achieved by the Maker and is one of the effects of His power. Its existence and non-existence are the same because it is one of possibilities which will accept existence. This existence can move from non-existence to possible existence. That is subject to the power of Allah by which He makes it emerge into existence by bringing it out from possible non-existence to possible existence because Power and Will are only connected to possibles.
As for essential necessary non-existence of what is other than Allah logically and by transmission, it is not possible for the person to emerge from it because it is the opposite of necessary essential existence which belongs to Allah Almighty logically and by transmission. Only Allah is described by this existence, and it is not possible for any other to share in it or even catch a whiff of it. This moves him to the second stage through which the servant of Allah passes in the journey to Allah by way of Divine Power which is:
2. Wilada al-Wujud: the Birth of Existence
Either by pure Divine Power, like our father Adam and the spirits and the angels or by wisdom through parents as is the norm. This moves him to the third stage on the Path to Allah by His Power. It is:
3. Bab ar-Rida: The Gate of Assent and Contentment
In this world. So the person is predisposed to satisfaction. This is why all that he sees pleases him and he loves it. It is his first connection to this existence and then this propels him to the fourth stage:
4. Shahwa: Appetite
Animal appetite which pushes the person towards the fifth stage:
5. Madhalla: Abasement
He subjugates his desires to the aim of obtaining and gratifying his appetites. He continues to abase himself until he reaches the sixth stage:
6. Under the Earth (Taht ath-Thara)
This alludes to reaching the utter limit of abasement. When he can go no further, that moves him to the next stage:
7. Jahala: Ignorance
Then ignorance and causing harm to people appears in him. He treats people by returning like for like, as a young man becomes involved with tit for tat retaliation. Then he is forced to conceal this tendency and to wait for an opportunity to retaliate. That moves him to the eighth stage:
8. Hiqd: Malice
He feels malice and resentment towards all who harm him because of his ignorance. When he has sufficient power to do so, that moves him to the ninth stage:
9. Bad Actions
Bad actions emerge from him like abusing and harming people. This is because when someone conceals a secret inside him, Allah garbs him in it outwardly. The appearance of these bad actions moves him to the tenth stage:
10. Mihna: Trial
He falls into trials like prison, beatings, exile, poverty, and demeanment in people's estimation of him. Falling into this trial moves him to the next stage:
11. Lack of Adab (Qillat al-Adab)
So he has little adab or proper courtesy and modesty and shame before creatures. He behaves badly towards Allah and with all of Allah's creation. He is completely unaware of the consequences of his actions and so the hooks of bad actions catch him and pull him down from the stage of lack of adab and he falls two stages down to bad actions from which he looks at trial yet again.
If he takes note of what happened to him he will race through the trial without stopping for a second and he will also race through lack of adab out of the fear of the hooks it contains. "The believer is not bitten from the same hole twice." Fortunate is the one who is warned by someone else and takes note, and wretched is one who must be admonished through what happens to himself.
That moves him to the next stage.
12. Khiyana: Treachery
He betrays Allah and the Messenger and betrays the trust. Allah Almighty says, "O you who believe! Do not betray Allah and His Messenger, and do not knowingly betray your trusts," (8:27) and Allah says, "Allah most surely does not guide the deviousness of the dishonourable." (12:52) That moves him to to next stage.
13. Blameworthy Actions
Those actions which the Shari'a considers blameworthy and which are neither manly nor chivalrous. He makes a public display of actions which involve disobeying Allah, but which do not harm people, like drinking wine when its bad effect is confined to himself. That moves him to Hellfire.
14. Jahannam: Hellfire
It is the Fire of Anger. Al-Hakim transmitted that the Prophet said, "Anger is a brand from the Fire of Jahannam which Allah places in the heart of one of you. Do you not see that when someone is angry, his eye becomes red, his face darkens and his veins puff out?" At-Tirmidhi reported, "The Fire has a gate which is only entered by the one who who will only be healed of his anger by the wrath of Allah." Ahmad and Abu Dawud transmitted: "Anger is from Shaytan and shaytan was created from Fire. Water puts out fire. When one of you is angry, he should perform wudu'." At-Tabarani reported, "If one of you were to say when he is angry, 'We seek refuge with Allah from the Accursed Shaytan, his anger would leave him." Abu Hurayra said, "A man said to the Prophet, 'Advise me.' He said, 'Do not get angry.' He repeated the question several times and the Prophet said, 'Do not get angry.'" (al-Bukhari)
The prohibition against it is the prohibition against acting according to it. It is reported, "Shaytan says, 'When a man is sharp-tongued, we toss him between us like children play with a ball. Even if the dead were to be brought back to life by his prayer, we still would not despair of him. He builds and we destroy in a single word."
That leads him to despair of the mercy of Allah and that pushes him to the Prohibitions.
15. Prohibitions: al-Mahani
He commits all prohibited things without exception and persists in doing that, thinking that Allah will not accept his repentance nor grant it. This continues until the appetite of his lower self is broken and crushed. At that point he becomes bewildered and that moves him to:
16. The Great Sea (al-Bahr al-'Adhim)
One text calls it "Anger", which means the same. He is both angry and confused, and becomes like someone who is drowning in an immense ocean, uncertain and confused as to how he can deliver himself from his plight. He reflects on what he did in the past and that moves him to:
17. Hasra: Regret
He is sorrowful and full of regret for what has been denied him in his moments. If his sorrow and regret for what he has been denied causes him to undertake the means to achieve that, that is the sorrow of the truthful about which Abu 'Ali ad-Daqqaq said, "The one with sorrow achieves in a month what someone else cannot achieve in years." If he does not undertake the means to achieve it, that is the sorrow of the liars.
If his regret and sorrow for what he missed makes him set out to obtain what he can of it, that is the sorrow of the truthful. If he does not set out to obtain it, that is the sorrow of the liars. Rabi'a al-'Adawiyya heard a man exclaim. "My sorrow!" She said to him, "Say: 'How little is sorrow!' If your sorrow were real, you would not be able to breathe."
Sorrow over for lost opportunities to obey Allah while you do not undertake those actions to it is a sign of self-delusion. When his sorrow is the sorrow of the liar, that does not help him. Instead it moves him to bad character.
18. Bad character
One text calls this stage "Attack" (ta'n). They mean the same. His breast is constricted and his character bad. Some of his friends censure him by saying things like, "Why do we see you behaving badly with everyone?" He needs to conceal that from them, cover up his condition, and avert their criticism. That moves him to hypocrisy.
19. Nifaq: Hypocrisy
Linguistic hypocrisy it is when a person's outward differs from his inward. It is more general that hypocrisy in the Shari'a. This is why Shaytan confuses him by saying, "This is hypocrisy in the Shari'a, in either action or belief. That moves him to Whispering.
20. Waswas: Whispering
One text calls this stage "Taqwa" (Fearful Awareness of Allah), and they go together because whispering only comes from being deep in taqwa so that he sees his incapacity and his shortcoming in it. So he is overpowered inwardly by majesty and force whose effect appears as contraction, and contraction moves a person towards expansion because they are opposites which follow one another in man, like night and day. Whispering occurs about worship, and the One worshipped and worshippers. That can lead to madness and complete loss of sanity.
When Divine Concern touches him when things are hard for him and he is constricted, Allah inspires him to return to Allah and to flee from everything as He says, "Flee to Allah" (51:50) or distraction inspires him and he is diverted from the whispering by sitting with cheerful brothers and by joy and expansion. This moves him to love of expansion and to incline to it since he experiences rest in it from the attack of the Manifest Enemy (Shaytan).
Thus the result of contraction is that he looks at other and neglects the Master. The people of joy only witness joy. That is why the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "If anyone is afflicted by a worry or sorrow, he should say, 'Allah! Allah!,' and not associate anything with Him, and Allah will remove his worry and sorrow." That moves him to expansion.