by Ibn 'Ajiba

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It deals with relinquishment and adornment.

Better to look at the defects hidden within you

        than to look for the unseen worlds that are veiled from you.

Looking at something is being concerned about it and looking for it.

O human being, your looking at the defects hidden in you, like envy, pride, love of rank and leadership, worry about provision, fear of poverty, seeking elitedom and other faults, and investigating them and striving to be free of them is better than your looking for the unseen worlds that are veiled from you, like learning the secrets of people, what destiny has decreed of future events, and like looking at the secrets of the enigmas of tawhid before being worthy of that because looking at hidden faults is someone which results in the life of your heart, and the life of your heart is a reason for eternal life and abiding bliss. Looking for the unseen worlds is excess and it can be a reason for the destruction of the self, as is its clinging to pride and seeking its prerogative over people. What the Shaykh said will come: "When someone perceives the secrets of the slaves and does not take on the character of divine mercy, his perception is a trial and brings him its bad results."

Know that there are three types of defects: defects of the nafs, defects of the heart and defects of the ruh. The defects of the nafs are its attachment to physical appetites, like good food, drink, clothes, mounts, houses, wives, and the life of that. The defects of the heart are its attachment to appetites of the heart, like love of rank, leadership, might, pride, envy, rancour, love of position. elitedom, and the like of that which will come, Allah willing in the attributes of humanity. The defects of the ruh are its attachment to inward portions, like seeking karamat, stations, castles, houris and other things.

So the murid's looking for any of that detracts from his slavedom and prevents him from undertaking the rights of lordship. Therefore his preoccupation with looking at the defects so his nafs, heart and ruh and his striving to purify himself from all that is better than his looking at the knowledge of the unseen worlds which is veiled from him, as was said. Success is by Allah.

When he mentioned relinquishment, he mentioned its fruit, which is adornment with gnosis since he is only denied that by the nafs, heart or ruh looking for their imaginary portions.

The Real is not veiled

      - it is you that are veiled from seeing Him.

If there was anything veiling Him

     what veiled Him would cover Him.

If he was covered,

      His existence would be contained.

If something contains something else,

      it overpowers it.

But He is the Conqueror, overcoming His slaves.

The veil is impossible for the Almighty. Nothing veils Him because He is manifest by everything, before everything and after everything. Nothing is manifest with Him nor does anything exist in reality except Him. So He is not veiled from you. That is which is veiled is you, who are veiled from looking at Him by your reliance on others and the attachment of your heart to physical matters. If your heart had been connected to seeking the Master and had turned away completely from looking at other, it would look at the light of the Real radiant in the places of manifestation of phenomenal being and what was veiled from you by illusion would be ready for witnessing and eye-witnessing. How excellent is what the speaker said:

What was hidden is manifest

     and I contain all phenomenal beings.

My cup goes around from Me to me.

     After my death you will see me alive.

All people witness but do not recognise. All of them are in the sea and are not aware. I heard our Shaykh say, "By Allah, people are not veiled from Allah. Your being veiled from Him is the illusion, and illusion is an non-existential matter without reality. The shaykh says later: "It is not the existence of anything with Him that veils you from Allah – since there is nothing with Him. What veils you is the illusion that something exists with Him."

That is because if anything physical had veiled Allah, that veil would be over him. If He were to have a sensory veil, His existence would be contained. It is impossible that He be covered from all aspects and so He is not contained. Anything that contains something else overpowers it. How could that be when the Almighty says that "He is the Conqueror, overcoming His slaves," i.e. because they are in His grasp and under the control of His power, the singling out of His will and volition?

Aboveness designates the elevation of majesty and position, not place, as one says, "The sultan is above the wazir" and "the master is above his slave," and the king is above the subject, and other things which confirm pride and negate the designate of in-timeness, and Allah knows best.

Then the veil of the spirit to gnosis is non-existent illusory matter with no reality. It is its illness with the qualities of humanity. If it were sound, it would recognised. That is indicated by is words:

Among the qualities of humanness,

            get rid of every quality incompatible with your slavehood

      so you can answer when Allah calls and be near His presence.

The qualities of humanness are the qualities which are incompatible with sincere slavedom. They derive from two matters. The first is the attachment of the heart to animal qualities, which are the appetites of the belly and the genitals, and what follows them of love of this world and its ephemeral appetites. The Almighty says, "To mankind the love of worldly appetites is painted in glowing colours: women and children, and heaped-up mounds of gold and silver, and horses with fine markings and livestock and fertile farmyard." (3:14)

The second is taking on the qualities of shaytans, like pride, envy, rancour, anger, anxiety, light intellect, arrogance, love of rank, leadership, and praise, hardness, giving, coarseness, crudeness, respecting the wealthy and debasing the poor, and like fear of poverty, worry about provision, avarice, showing-off, haughtiness and innumerable others so that one of them said, "The nafs has imperfections as Allah has perfections."

Shaykh Abu 'Abdu'r-Rahman as-Sulami wrote a book on The Defects of Self and Its Cures. Shaykh Zarruq wrote about 800 verses. If Allah gives someone a shaykh of instruction, does not need anything except listening and following.

When the murid leaves the qualities of animals, he takes on the qualities of the spirituals, like asceticism, scrupulousness, contentment, chastity, independence in Allah, and intimacy with Him. When he leaves the qualities of shaytans, he takes on the qualities of the believers or the qualities of the angles, like humility, sound heart, forbearance, tranquillity, gravity, being at peace, easiness, gentleness, obscurity, being content with the knowledge of Allah, compassion, mercy, esteem for the poor and paupers, the people of lineage and all the Community, generosity, open-handedness, magnanimity, sincerity, truthfulness, watchfulness, witnessing and gnosis.

When the person takes on these qualities and realises them by taste after freeing himself of its opposites, then he is a sincere slave of his Master, free from what is other than Him. He answers His call and is near to His presence, When his Lord says to him, "My slave," and he says to him, "O Lord!" He was truthful in his answer by his sincere slavedom as opposed to when he is engrossed in his outward and inward appetites, then he is a slave to himself and his appetites. When he says, "O Lord," he lies since whoever loves a thing is its slave, and He does not want you to be a slave to other than Him. When he is freed of the bondage of appetites and portions, then he is also near to the presence of Allah. Rather he is devoted to it since nothing brings us out of the presence except love for these imaginary illusions. When we are freed of it and achieve slavedom, we find ourselves in the Presence.

Know that Allah made these human qualities by which the Presence is veiled a handkerchief with which to wipe away the impurities of power, like the nafs, shaytan and this world. Allah made the nafs and shaytan a handkerchief for blameworthy actions and made humanity a handkerchief for wiping away base qualities. There are only the loci of the manifestation of the Real and the tajalliyat of the Real. There is only Him, and there is no strength nor power except by Allah.

Then the reason that these defects remain in man in respect of wisdom is neglecting to look into them. The reason for neglecting to look into them is being satisfied with the self. If he had had a bad opinion of it, he would have investigated its evil qualities, extracted them and been purified of them. That is why he said:

The root of every act of rebellion, every appetite

       and every moment of heedlessness

           is satisfaction with one's self.

This is because everyone who is satisfied with his self likes its states and covers up its evils as the poet said, "The eye of pleasure is blind to every defect."

The root of every act of obedience, every restraint

      and every moment of wakefulness

           is lack of satisfaction with one's self.

That is because whoever suspects his nafs and has a bad opinion of it and looks at it with the eye of anger investigates its defects and extracts its evils as the poet said, "But the eye of anger shows evils."

Therefore, murid, search out your evils and suspect your nafs and do not approve of any of its states. When you are pleased with it and admire its states, it will sting you while you are unaware. It has veiled you from the Presence while you are looking.

Abu Hafs al-Haddad said, "Anyone who does not suspect himself at all times and does not oppose it in all states and does not drag it to what it dislikes in all his days, is deluded. Anyone who looks at himself and approves of any of it has destroyed it. How is it sound for an intelligent person to be satisfied with his nafs? The noble son of the noble son of the noble son of the noble [the Prophet Yusuf] said, "I do not say that my self was free from blame. The self indeed commands to evil acts – except for those my Lord has mercy on." (12:53) It is said about that:

Be cautious of your self and do not trust its tricks.

      The self is fouler than seventy shaytans.

As-Sari as-Saqati said, "Whoever recognises Allah lives. Whoever inclines to this world is fickle. The fool goes to and fro, morning and evening in nothing. The intelligent person examines his defects."

So, my brother, be concerned with your defects if you want to be faithful to yourself. When you search out its defects and expose its imperfections, you will be purified, liberated, achieve realisation, and enter the Presence. Sight and reflection will be expanded for you. The view is wide enough for you and reflection complain to you. The shaykh of our shaykh said, "The curse of Allah is on the one to whom the defect of himself is shown and then does not shame him." He often used to advise lack of wariness of people and lack of concern for them since one can only be purified of the small points of eye-service by falling them fall from one's eye and his falling from their eyes. Anyone who wants to purify himself should accompany the one who is purified. That is why he said:

Better to keep the company of an ignorant man

           who is not satisfied with himself

     than a man of knowledge who is satisfied with himself.

That is because the company of the one who is not satisfied with himself is pure good since he has achieved has achieved sincerity and so it flows in that person until he is adorned with sincerity and becomes part of the elite. The company of the one who is satisfied with himself is pure evil, even if he is the most knowledgeable of the people of the earth because nature steal nature. That is because ignorance which is near the Presence is better than knowledge which is far from the Presence. That is why one of the gnostics said, "Those with the greatest veils to Allah are the scholars, then the worshippers, then the ascetics since they stop with their knowledge, worship and asceticism. Ignorance which leads to Allah is knowledge in reality and the knowledge which veils one from Allah is in reality ignorance. That is why he said:

What knowledge does the self-satisfied scholar have?

That is because he is veiled from his Lord.

What ignorance does the ignorant man who is not self-satisfied have?

Since the lack of satisfaction about himself makes him investigate it and purify himself from its bondage and he becomes a true slave of Allah. Then his Master loves him, chooses him for His presence, selects him for His love and informs him of His hidden knowledge. So He is the most knowing of His creation. Allah Almighty knows best.

When the slave is purified of his portions and qualities of his humanity, he is near Presence of his Lord by the soundness of his heart and its illumination by the light of his Lord. Then his existence is effaced in the existence of his beloved and his witnessing in witnessing the One he worships. He indicates that when he says:

The light of the inner eye lets you see His nearness to you.

The source of the inner eye lets you see your non-existence by your existence.

The truth of the inner eye lets you see His existence,

        not your own non-existence or existence.

"Allah was and there was nothing with Him.

        He is now as He was."

The inner eye is the eye of the heart as the sight is the sight of the vessel. So the inner eye sees the subtle meanings of light while normal sight sees dark dense physical things. The inner eye which perceives the light of the subtle meaning is of five types. One type is corrupt sight which is blind and so it denies the light of the Real its basis. Sidi al-Busiri said:

The eye denied the light of the sun by ophthalmia,

     and the mouth denied the taste of water from illness.

This is the inner eye of the unbelievers. Allah Almighty says, "It is not their eyes were are blind, but the hearts in their breasts which are blind." (22:46)

Another category has sound sight but they are blocked by the weakness of their sight due to an illness which they have. So they confirm the light, but they are not strong enough for witnessing it nor to witness its nearness or distance of them. These are the hearts of the common Muslims.

Another category consists of those whose sight is sound and somewhat strong so that they are close to having their eyes open, but due to the intensity of the rays they are unable to open their eyes and so they perceive the rays of light near to him. That is the common people who direct themselves. This station is called "the station of the rays of the inner eye".

Yet another category have strong sight and open their eyes and perceive the light encompassing them so that they vanish from themselves by witnessing the light. This is for the elite of those who direct themselves and this station is called "the station of the eye/source of the inner eye."

The last category has sound insight and strong light and its light reaches the light of its source and it only sees the basic light and denies that there is anything besides that fundamental light. "Allah was and there was nothing with Him. He is now as He was." This is called "the truth of the inner eye".

The reason it is called "the rays of the inner eye" is that when the person in that station sees the existence of phenomenal beings, they are stamped in the mirror of his inner eye and so it veils him from witnessing the light from its source, but when its density becomes less and its proofs are luminous, he sees the rays of light near from beyond it, and so he perceives the rays but does not perceive the light. This is the light of faith, and it is "the station of the knowledge of certainty".

The reason it is called "the eye of the inner eye" is that when he is sound and strong, his eye is opened and he sees light as encompassing and connected to him and so it is called the eye of the inner eye since it is opened and perceives what is hidden to others. This is the "station of the eye/source of certainty".

The reason it is called "the truth of the inner eye" is that when the inner eye perceives the Real from his source and withdraws from the light of secondary things by the light of the roots, it is called "the truth of inner eye" since it perceives that it is from the Real and is absent to the witnessing of creation. This is the "station of the truth of certainty".

So the rays of insight are the light of faith for the people of watchfulness; the source of the inner eye is the light of ihsan for the people of witnessing; and the truth of the inner eye is the light of firmness and fixity for the people of direct speech. Or you could day that the rays of the inner eye refers to the light of the knowledge of certainty, the light of the inner eye to the light of the source of certainty, and the truth of the inner eye is the light of the truth of certainty.

So the knowledge of certainty is for the people of proof and evidence; the eye/source of certainty is for the people of unveiling and clarification; and the truth of certainty is for the people of witnessing and direct vision. An example of that is like someone who hears of Makka but has not seen it. This is the knowledge of certainty for him. When he is looking down on it and sees it but has not entered it, it is the source of certainty. When he enters it and remains in it, that is the truth of certainty. It is the same for the seeker of the truth. As long as he remains beyond the veil, annihilated in actions, he is in the knowledge of certainty. When he looks at the annihilation of the Essence and is not firm in annihilation, that is the eye of certainty. When he is firm and fixed, it is the truth of certainty. Or you could say that the rays of the inner eye belong to the people of the world of the Mulk. The eye of the inner eye is for the people of the world of the Malakut and the truth of the inner eye belongs to the people of the world of the Jabarut. Or you could say that the rays of the inner eye belong to the people of annihilation in actions; the eye of the inner eye to the people of annihilation in the Essence, and the truth of the inner eye to the people of annihilation in annihilation.

The rays of the inner eye make you witness the nearness of the Real to you, i.e. it obliges that you witness the light of the Real to you. The Almighty says, "We created man and We know what his own self whispers to him. We are nearer to Him than his jugular vein." (50:16) The Almighty says, "He is with you wherever you are." (57:4)

The eye of the inner eye makes you witness your non-existence, i.e. you disappear with the disappearance of your illusion by His existence, i.e. the existence of the Real since it is impossible that you witness Him and witness other than Him with you. When illusion leaves you and you are annihilated to your existence, you will witness your Lord by your Lord. It is the sign of the opening of the inner eye and the treatment of the secret as Shaykh 'Abdu'r-Rahman al-Majdhub says:

If someone sees the Maker through phenomenal being,

      his might is in the blindness of the inner eye

If someone sees phenomenal being by the Maker

      finds the cure for the inner secret.

So its literal sense is that the common Muslims have blind inner eyes in spite of the preference which was already mentioned. They are only blocked while their sight is sound, which is not the case with the inner eyes of the unbelievers. They are totally blind.

The truth of the eye inner makes you witness the existence of Allah alone, not your existence because your source is absent, not your existence, because non-existence is only that which has a confirmed existence, and there is no existent with Allah. "Allah was and there was nothing with Him. He is now as He was." This addition, even if it is not in the hadith, has a sound meaning since change is impossible for Him. Muhammad ibn 'Ali ibn al-'Arabi al-Hatimi said, "Whoever witnesses that creatures have no action has won. Whoever witnesses them has having no life has won. Whoever witnesses them as non-existence itself has arrived." Whoever witnesses them with the eye of non-existence, has a firm connection. They wrote:

Whoever sees creation as a mirage

     has risen above the veil

To existence which you see stitched up

     without distance or nearness.

There is no address by it to it

      nor indication of the address.

Allah knows best. Then when the fact is that Allah alone has existence, do not let your himma extend to other than Him since it is lacking.

He indicates that in the next chapter.

Chapter Four

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