Commentary on "Purification"

This is part of a commentary by Sidi Fudul ibn Muhammad al-Hawari of Fes on an ode by Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib called 'Purification':

This ode from the Diwan of Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib consists of seven verses. The first verse announces what is desired and the rest describe the means to achieve it. So the Shaykh said:

If you truly want purification
From all shirk and self-regard,

And to drink from the spring of Tasnimi

Till your thirst is satisfied,

This verse arrays the Travellers in three categories: two are blameworthy and one is praiseworthy. The first blameworthy category consists of those who make false claims. What they say about themselves is not the same as what they actually do and their true state. They seek union without its cause and they desire Nearness in their heads while they are lazy. They are engrossed in the sea of their desires, blind in their absence from reality. Ibn 'Ata'llah said: "Hope is yoked to action. Otherwise it is merely wishful thinking." Allah Almighty says: "So worship Him and put your trust in Him." (11:123)

So if someone wishes to attain his goal, achieve his desire for gnosis of his Lord, and obtain Allah's pleasure and His Nearness while he evades action and starts off with false claims and laziness, then he is merely one of the people of false claims lost in the ocean of the desires of the self and passion. Do you not see that when someone makes a god of his own whim Allah leads him away from knowledge?

The second category consists of those who possess action who rely on their own actions to achieve their hope. They act for Allah with a view of gain for themselves and out of love of position in the hearts of others. Thus they associate other-than-Allah with Him. They are both the slaves of Allah and the slaves of passion. This comes from hidden shirk. Thus the action of these people is defective and comes to nothing. Whoever hopes to encounter his Lord should act with sincerity and not associate anything with the worship of his Lord. In a hadith qudsi, Allah Almighty says, "I have no need of those who associate, so if someone performs an action and connects other than Me to it, I abandon him and consider him an idolater."

If someone does an action, even if it is for Allah, and then sees his own interest in it and regards the action itself, that arises from hidden shirk which is blameworthy among the gnostics. My shaykh said, "When your heart is free from the illness of hidden shirk, then it becomes pleased with tasting, drinking, and intoxication."

As for the third and praiseworthy category, its people are those who strive to make use of means and action while having total reliance on Allah in achieving the goal and hope for success based on the words of Allah, "So worship Him and put your trust in Him." They are those who enjoy the worth of their action and their sincerity in the pleasure of drinking the nectar of union and the wine of love and unification. Allah has purified their hearts from hidden shirk and false claims. They look at their deeds in respect to the Reality rather than to creation and passion, and so they are the slaves of Allah in all states. Whoever wishes to reach their station and to travel in their Path will find it necessary to follow what the Shaykh has guided him to in the second verse:

You must wrap yourself up in endurance,

Wind repentance around your head,

Wear the tunic of firm self-denial,

And in it exhaust your strength.

The shaykh addresses the murid who wishes to embark on the spiritual journey from the presence of creation and beings to the presence of the Reality, direct seeing and vision as a recompense for his preparation, service, longing and love. The end is to your Lord and there is no end. Union to Allah is union to His gnosis and only those who are steadfast obtain it, and it is the one who is immensely fortunate who obtains it. Anyone who wishes to reach this station should tighten his belt in order to get to that yearning. Before everything else he should him wrap himself in steadfastness and endurance.

Steadfastness if the key to every good. It confines the self to what it dislikes to enable it reach what it loves and desires, and this is obtained by seeking help from Allah to end difficulty and cast away screens and obstacles. Steadfastness in obeying Allah is like iron in construction. If it were not for steadfastness, there would be no repentance, self-renewal, self-denial, trust, fear or hope.

So after preparation by binding on steadfastness, let him wind on the turban of repentance and self-renewal, that is, a general shedding of wrong actions, great and small, old and new, dropping all that cuts him off from Allah in his Path so that he ceases to see his own action or power or force. The murid therefore begins with repentance and self-renewal because relinquishment (takhalli) precedes adornment (tahalli). Repentance is both remorse for past mistakes and becoming lost, and also the act of devoting oneself to Allah through all acts of obedience to Allah, drawing near to Him, and foregoing prohibited and doubtful things. Thus the Station of Hope grows from doing acts of obedience and the Station of Fear from avoiding prohibited things. Indicating this the shaykh says:

And you need a good pair of strong sandals,

One of hope and one of fear,

With a staff made of certainty by you,

And a store of pure taqwa.

As the ordinary traveller on his journey needs a pair of sandals - fear of exposure to plagues and harmful situations, in the same way the traveller on the Path to union as a Wayfarer to the Presence of the King of Kings must have a fear which makes him give up conflicts and a hope which gives him courage to perform actions agreeable to Allah. So he should have both fear and hope. Whether he is one of the people of justice and balance or one of the people of overflowing and gifts, he must still rely only upon Allah, and when he sees his own well-being and good fortune he must have certainty that it is Allah Almighty who brings his desire to him. Then his certainty will enrich his good opinion of his Lord in being united with His gnosis and nearness. This certainty and reliance is designated by the statement of the shaykh, "a staff made of certainty." As for his words, "a store of taqwa (fear of Allah)", that is the obedience and the avoidance which grow from the fear and hope mentioned above.

Knowledge is the key to action and the precondition for obtaining every wish. Allah is only worshipped by knowledge and is only known by knowledge. He said:

You need also the bridle of knowledge

For the steed of high desire,

With protection of trusty companions

Which will keep your limbs from harm.

There are two types of knowledge: knowledge of the rules of the ShariÔa and knowledge of the adab (spiritual courtesy) of the Reality and the Path, and the possessors of the second knowledge are the gnostics and the teaching shaykhs. They are the ones who inform the murid of the faults of his self, its illnesses, its treatment and its cures. "Whoever knows himself, knows his Lord" and whoever knows his Lord has been given His gnosis and nearness.

There are also two sorts of wayfarers, according to their goal, intention and aspiration. Among them are those who want the Garden and its degrees through actions, and among them are those who desire the Presence of Reality and its manifestations. They are the people of high aspiration and glorious Stations. He refers to that with his words, "The steed of high desire", meaning a desire and aspiration which goes beyond forms and is only content with the Fashioner-of Forms, the Giver-of-Forms. Thus through his knowledge and action, the murid aims for the approval and pleasure of Allah by elevating his aspiration beyond the world and its energies, and beyond the Garden and its degrees, so that he worships Him by Him and to Him, and has love for Him and hope of His pleasure and nearness. So there are some people who worship for the reward and some who worship for the hope of drawing near. He called it a 'steed' because the rider of the steed is in a high place, and the one with aspiration has a high place. Then he said:

Press on quickly to your destination,

Being careful not to stop

To reflect on material existence -

That will veil you from your home.

The shaykh means that the Wayfarer must guard his limbs on the journey and in his wayfaring. He must guard and preserve them from falling into grave wrong actions and conflicts. Whenever they are inclined to go off the Path he must restrain them and hold them back because he knows that Allah Almighty watches him and knows his Secret and what he conceals. "And He is nearer to him than his jugular vein". (50:16) Then, O murid, if you are successful in your journey, turning to your Lord with your heart and spirit, be careful. Do not pay attention to what appears to you of flashes and miracles and miraculous occurrences, for that will cut you off from your journey and will hinder you from obtaining your goal and desire. The shaykh indicates that by this statement, 'press on quickly'.

So, O murid, if you wish for the means to be easy for you and the gates to be opened to you, then be annihilated to your action, your power, and your force, and see directly the action of Allah on you, His granting success to you, and being generous to you. Give thanks with a powerless gratitude and give praise with an inadequate praise. As the shaykh says in another ode: "Be a pure slave to Him and you will be free from other-than-Allah." When what pleases Him issues from you, and you remember His blessing on you and what He opens to you, then say, "Praise be to Allah who has guided us to this! We would not have been guided, had Allah not guided us." (7:43) This is the meaning of the words of the shaykh:

But reflect on God's kindness towards you,

Be sincere in thanking Him.

And get up before dawn and be humble

And to Him address your plea.

Here he mentioned practical gratitude with his statement: "get up before dawn" .The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, stood in prayer until his feet were swollen. When he was asked, "Do you bother yourself with this while Allah has forgiven your wrong errors, past and recent?" He replied, "Am I not a thankful slave?"

Lastly, the shaykh tells of the mighty intermediary and most glorious refuge, saying:

Blessings be on the Pole of existence

And on those who follow him,

In a way that will broadcast our secret

And make it known to all.

So the Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, is the intemediary in every blessing and cause and in every good thing.

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