by Ibn 'Ajiba

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This chapter discusses company and the preconditions of it and its adab. He said:

If someone's state does not lift you up,

and his words do not lead you to Allah

   - then do not keep his company!

The one whose state lifts you up is someone who is such that, when you see him, you remember Allah. If you see him when you are in a state of heedlessness, he lifts you to a state of wakefulness. If you see him when you are in a state of desire, he raises you to a state of asceticism. If you see him when you are in a state of occupation with disobedience, he raises you to a state of repentance. If you are in a state of ignorance of your Lord, he raises you to recognition of your Lord, and so forth.

The one whose words guide you to Allah is the one who speaks by Allah. He directs you to Allah and withdraws from other than Him. When he speaks, he takes all the hearts, and when he is silent, his state raises you to the Knower of the Unseen worlds. So his state confirms his words and his words are in harmony with his knowledge. The company of someone like this is an elixir which transforms the sources. This is understood from the words of the shaykh, "If someone's state does not life you up, then do not keep his company." Keep the company of the one whose state will lift you up and whose words will lead you to Allah.

Company in the Path of tasawwuf is a great matter in the journey to Allah Almighty according to the custom of Allah Almighty and his wisdom so that one of them said, "The one who has no shaykh has shaytan for his shaykh." Another said, "A man is like a tree growing in the wilderness. If it is not cut and pollinated, it is barren." Shaykh Abu'l-ÔAbbas al-Mursi said, "Whoever has no shaykh in this business has no joy."

There are four preconditions which the shaykh must have: sound knowledge, clear tasting, high himma and a pleasing state. Sound knowledge is that by which he is certain of his obligation. He must also know the stations and stages through which the murid passes as well as the delusion and tricks of the nafs. The murid travels through that at the hand of a perfect shaykh and experiences direct taste of that, not imitation, which is what is meant by clear tasting. A high himma is one which is connected to Allah and not to others. A pleasing state is going straight to the best of one's ability.

He must combine the Reality and the Shari'a, attraction (jadhb) and wayfaring (suluk). He attracted him by the attraction of the hearts and, through his suluk, brings him out of his state of attraction to going-on. The one who is only wayfaring is outward and is not attracted and does not achieve realisation. The one who is only majdhub does not travel nor arrive. The corruption of his company is greater than its benefit.

He said in Usul at-Tariqa, "Anyone who has one of five qualities is not valid to be a shaykh: ignorance of the deen, failing to respect the Muslims, being involved in what does not concern him, following passion in every thing and bad character without concern." So the company of someone like this is pure harm. He indicates this:

It may well be that you are in a bad state -

     but to keep company with someone worse than you

         would allow you to see good in yourself.

If you have a bad state and fall short in your actions and then you keep the company of someone with a worse state than you, your company with someone with a worse state than yours lets you see good in yourself since you see the good in yourself in relation of your companion's shortcoming and perfection. You therefore believe that you are superior to him because the self is naturally disposed to see its own excellence and witness the shortcomings of others in knowledge, action, or state. This is not the case when you keep the company of someone with a better state than you. Then you only see shortcoming in yourself, and there is much good in that.

Shaykh ash-Shadhili said, "My Beloved commanded me, 'Do not move your feet except where you hope for the reward of Allah and do not sit except where you are generally safe from disobeying Allah and do not choose for yourself other than the one who provides you with certainty. And they are very few indeed.'" He also said, "Do not accompany the one who prefers his nafs to you. He is blameworthy. Do not accompany the one who prefers you to himself. He is rarely constant. Rather keep the company of the one who, when he remembers, remembers Allah. Allah enriches by him when he is present and represents him when he is absent. His dhikr illuminates the hearts and his witnessing is the keys of the unseen worlds."

In short, do not keep the company of the for whom you take on a burden beyond your efforts nor the one who burdens you in the same way. The best of matters is the middlemost one. This, and Allah knows best, concerns the company of brothers. As for the company of shaykhs, you must hasten, according to your ability, to do all that the shaykh commands, or indicates, or you understand that he wants. Even if it is normally impossible, you begin to prepare for the action. The shaykh of our shaykhs, Sidi al-'Arabi ibn Ahmad ibn ÔAbdullah, said, "The true faqir is the one who, when his shaykh tells him to enter the eye of the needle, does not hesitate and sets out to obey the command, even if he cannot achieve that."

Sidi 'Ali said in his book: "Know that the seeker of Allah does not draw near to Allah by anything like his sitting with a gnostic of Allah if he finds him. If he does not find him, he must remember Allah night and day, standing and sitting, while in retreat from the people of this world by not sitting with them, speaking to them, or looking at them because they are an encroaching poison. Nothing puts someone far from Allah like sitting with an ignorant faqir. The ignorant faqir is a thousand times worse than the heedless common person. Sitting with a gnostic is better than retreat, and retreat is better than sitting with the heedless common people. Sitting with a heedless common person is better than sitting with the ignorant faqir. There is nothing in existence which blackens the heart of the murid like sitting with the ignorant faqir. Just as the gnostic of Allah can join the slave to his Master with a glance or a word, so the faqir who is ignorant of Allah can ruin the relationship of a murid with his Master by a glance, a word or more. May Allah have mercy on al-Majdhub who said, "Sitting with other than the good is base, even if you are pure."

Sahl ibn 'Abdullah said, "Beware of the company of three sorts of people: heedless tyrants, reciters who flatter, and ignorant false Sufis." Shaykh Zarruq added, "Scholars of the outward meaning." He said, "Because they are dominated by their nafs."

Sitting with them today is worse than seventy heedless common people and ignorant faqirs because they only know the literal outward meaning of the Shari'a and think that anyone who opposes this outward is in error or misguided, and they strive to refute those who oppose them, believing that they are giving them good counsel while they are misleading them. The murid should be cautious about their company and avoiding being near them as much as possible. If he hesitates about a problem and cannot find any of the people of the inward to ask, he should ask him with caution and be with him like someone sitting with a scorpion or snake. By Allah, I have not seen any of the fuqara' who stayed near them and kept their company who ever had success in the Path of the Elite.

May Allah have mercy on Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, may Allah be pleased with him, when he said, "By Allah, I do not ask them for their world nor ask their opinion about the deen." He said, "This is about the scholars among the excellent Companions, may Allah be pleased with them. So what do you think about those today who are busy with the amassing this world and adorning themselves in clothes and large turbans and having good food, houses and mounts? And they think that is the Sunna of the Prophet. There is no strength nor power except by Allah!"

Yahya ibn Mu'adh ar-Razi used to say to the scholars of his time, "Company of scholar! Your houses are like those of Haman, your mounts are like those of Qarun, your food is Pharaonic, your wedding feasts are those of Jalut (Goliath), your festivals are of the Jahiliyya, and your schools have become shaytanic, so where is the Muhammadan religion?"

Part of what confirms looking for asceticism in this world and high himma in companions, even if actions are outwardly few is what is indicated when he said:

No action from a heart without attachment is insignificant.

No action from a heart full of desires is great.

Zuhd in something means to remove love of it from the heart and to be cool towards it. With some people it is to hate everything that distracts one from Allah and prevents the Presence of Allah.

It is used first in property. Its sign is that gold and dust, silver and stone, wealth and poverty, giving and denying are all the same to him.

The second is in rank and positions. Its sign is that might and abasement, public display and obscurity, praise and blame, rising and falling are the same to him.

The third is in stations, karamat, and elitedom. Its sign is that hope and fear, strength and weakness, expansion and contraction are the same to him. He deals with this in the same way he deals with that and he recognises this in the same way he recognises that.

Then asceticism in all phenomenal being is by witnessing the Maker of Being and His command. When the murid achieves these stations in asceticism, or most of them, then all his actions are immense in meaning in the sight of Allah, even if they are few in the physical in people's eyes. This is the meaning the words of the Prophet, peace be upon him, "A little action in the sunna is better than a lot of action in innovation." Which innovation is greater and viler than love of this world and devotion to it with the heart and body which did not exist in the time of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, nor in the time of the Companions. Then the Pharaohs appeared and built, reinforced and adorned. This is the real innovation. The actions of these are few in meaning, even if it is a lot in the physical since there is no consideration for the movement of forms. What is important is the humility of the arwah.

The worship of the ascetic is by Allah and for Allah and the worship of the one with desires is by the self for the self. The worship of the ascetic is alive and abiding and the worship of the one with desires is dead and ephemeral. The worship of the ascetic is always connected and the worship of the one with desires is always severed and incomplete. The worship of the ascetic is in the mosques of the presence "which Allah has permitted to be raised" and the worship of the one with desires is in the dunghills of filth which Allah has permitted to be lowered. This is why one of them said one of them said, "The worship of the wealthy is like someone praying on a dunghill."

The worship of the ascetic, even if it is little in the sensory, is a lot in the meaning, and the worship of the one with desires, in spite of its abundance in the sensory, is little in meaning. It is like two men who give presents to a king. One of them gives a small pure ruby whose value is 60 qintars while the other gives 60 empty boxes. There is no doubt that the king will accept the ruby and honour the one who gave it and reject the boxes and demean the one who gave them and will be angry at him since he has mocked the king by giving him empty wood whose fame is greater than their use.

I heard our shaykh say, "The one who desires this world is heedless, even if he says, 'Allah, Allah' with his tongue constantly since there is no consideration given to the tongue. The ascetic in this world is always in dhikr, even he is has little dhikr on his tongue."

This is how one of them explained the words of Allah Almighty, "They only remember Allah a very little," (4:142) i.e. with heedlessness and desires, even if it is a lot in the senses.

Sayyiduna 'Ali said, "Have greater concern for the acceptance of the action than for the action. An action is not small when there is taqwa. How can an action which is accepted be small?" Ibn Mas'ud said, "Two rak'ats from a zahid with knowledge is better and more beloved to Allah than the worship of those who strive and worship until the end of time for ever and ever." One of the Salaf said, "You did not miss the Companions of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, by prayer or fasting, but they had greater asceticism in this world."

One of the reports states that Sayyiduna 'Isa, peace be upon him, passed by a sleeping man while the people were worshipping. 'Isa said to him, "Rise and worship with the people." He said, "I have worshipped, Spirit of Allah." He asked him, "And what was your worship?" He replied, "I left this world to its people." He told him, "Sleep. This is an excellent worship!"

A man asked Shaykh Abu'l-Hasan, "Why do I see that people esteem you when I do not see that you perform a lot of action?" He replied, "For one year, Allah obliged it on His Messenger and I clung to it." "What is it?" he asked. He replied, "Turning from you and from your worldly things."

Shaykh Zarruq said, "The ascetic has three reasons for this virtue. One is what it contains of the freedom of the heart from occupations and distractions. The second is because it attests to the existence of truthfulness in love since this world is beloved and is not abandoned except for what one loves more. The Prophet said, 'Sadaqa is a proof.' It was said, Of the love of a slave for his Lord.' The third is because it is an indication of gnosis of Allah and reliance on Him because he spends what exists with trust in the One he worships and the one who refuses does so because of a bad opinion of the One he worships."

Since outward good actions and their completion by which they are perfect or imperfect derives from the fact that they are the results of the excellence of the inward and its states, the author indicated that:

Good actions are the results of good states.

Good states come from grasping the reality

       of the stations where you alight.

Actions are movements of the body through striving while states are the movement of the heart through constancy and the heart has tranquillity through stations. An example of that is, for instance, the station of asceticism. Its beginning is action: striving through abandoning this world and its secondary causes and then being constant in steadfastness with poverty until it becomes a state and then the heart is still and tastes its sweetness and it becomes a station. It is like that with reliance. It is striving by abandoning secondary causes and then being constant in steadfastness in the bitterness of the blows of degrees and then it becomes a state and then the heart is still in it and tastes it and so it becomes a station. It is the same with gnosis. It is striving by outward action through breaking normal patterns in the self and then constancy in gnosis and recognition with knowledges which then becomes a state. When the spirit is settled and firm in witnessing, it becomes a station.

So the states are gifts and stations are acquisitions, i.e. stations are gifts from Allah as the reward for actions. When the actions continue and the state continues, it becomes a station. So the states change and come and go. When the heart dwells in that meaning, it becomes a station and it is acquired by the constancy of the action.

Know that each station and state has a knowledge and action. So the station is first connected to knowledge and then he strives in his actions until it becomes a state and then it becomes a station. The same is true of the state which is first connected to knowledge, then action, and then it becomes a station-state, and Allah knows best.

The sign of realisation of the stations of alighting is the good state and the sign of the good state is good action, and so the perfection and excellence of actions is the fruit and result of states and the perfection of states is the result of realisation of the stations of descent in the stations. You could say that the good states are evidence of realisation of the stations in which Allah puts His slave and good actions are evidence of good states, and realisation of the state and stillness in the station is an internal matter which effect appears on the limbs.

In short, the movement of the vessel indicates the soundness or corruption of the heart by the words of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, "There is lump of flesh in the body, the nature of which is that when it is sound, the entire body is sound, and when it is corrupt, the entire body is corrupt - it is the heart." When the heart realises zuhd, for instance, and it becomes a state or station for it, that appears on the limbs in reliance on Allah, trust in Him, and lack of movements on account of secondary causes which provoke movement by the words of the Prophet, "Zuhd is not by making the lawful unlawful nor by wasting wealth. Zuhd is in trusting more in what is in the hand of Allah more than what is in his hand.

Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, may Allah be pleased with him, said to Abu'l-Hasan ash-Shadhili in a dream: "The sign of love of this world leaving the heart is spending it when it exists and rest from it when it does not exist. The sign of realisation of descent into the station of trust is stillness and tranquillity at the changes of means. The sign of realisation of descent into the station of gnosis is adab outwardly and inwardly, and good character with every creature."

That is why Abu Hafs al-Haddad said, "Good adab outwardly is the sign of good adab of the inward." The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "If the heart is humble, the limbs will be humble." Refer to earlier commentary on actions and states.

The best of actions through which a murid can pass are stations, and the closest of them is the dhikr of Allah. That is why he then said:

Do not give up invocation of Allah

       because you are not present with Allah in it.

It is worse to forget to invoke Him

     than to be inattentive while invoking Him.

He might raise you up from invocation with heedlessness

       to invocation with wakeful attention,

and from invocation with wakeful attention

     to invocation with presence,

and from invocation with presence

       to invocation with withdrawal from all that is other than the Invoked.

That is not difficult for Allah.

Dhikr is a strong pillar in the Path of the People. It is the best of actions. Allah Almighty says, "Remember Me and I will remember you." (2:151) He also said, "O you who believe, remember Allah much." (33:41) Frequent dhikr is that you never forget Him.

Ibn 'Abbas said, "In every act of worship which Allah obliged has a specific time and there are excuses for those who perform outside its time – except for dhikr. Allah did not appoint it any particular time. He says, 'Remember Allah much' (33:41), and He says, 'When you have finished the prayer, then remember Allah, standing, sitting and lying on your sides.' (4:103)"

A man said, "Messenger of Allah, I find the practices of Islam to be too many, so tell me something I can do by which I can catch what I miss, and be brief." He replied, "Let your tongue be moist with dhikru'llah." The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "If a man in has some dirhams which he distributes and another man remembers Allah, the one who remembers Allah is better." The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Shall I tell you of the best and purest of your actions in the sight of your King, the highest of your degrees and what is better for you than spending gold and silver than meeting your enemy and you striking their necks and them striking your necks." They asked, "What is that, Messenger of Allah?" He said, "Dhikr of Allah."

'Ali said, "I asked, 'Messenger of Allah, which path is the nearest one to Allah, the easiest for the slaves of Allah and the best in the sight of Allah Almighty." He replied, ''Ali, you must have constant dhikr of Allah.'" 'Ali said, "All people remember Allah." The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The Final Hour will not come until there does not remain of the face of the earth anyone who says, 'Allah'." 'Ali said to him, "How shall I remember, Messenger of Allah?" He, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said to him, "Close your eyes and listen to me three times and then say the same thing while I am listening." The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "There is no god but Allah" three times with his eyes closed, and then he said it in the same way. He taught to al-Hasan al-Basri and then al-Hasan to al-Habib al-'Ajami and Habib to Da'ud at-Ta'i and Da'ud to Mar'uf al-Karkhi and then Mar'uf to as-Sari and as-Sari to al-Junayd, and then it moved through the masters of teaching.

So no one reaches Allah except by way of dhikr. So the slave's obligation is to occupy his moments with it and to expend his effort in it. Dhikr makes wilaya public, and it must be present in both the beginning and the end. Whoever is given dhikr, is given the decree. Whoever abandons it, has retired. They wrote:

Dhikr is the greatest door. You enter it for Allah

     and He makes the breaths a guardian for you.

So insofar as he is annihilated in the Name, he is annihilated in the Essence, and insofar as he flags in annihilation in the Name, he flags in annihilation in the Essence. So the murid should cling to dhikr in every state and not abandon dhikr on the tongue because the heart is not present in it. He should remember Him with his tongue, even if he is heedless with his heart. Your neglect of the existence of His remembrance is worse than your neglect while mentioning Him because your neglect of His remembrance is turning away from Him completely, and your mention of Him is turning towards Him by a certain aspect.

By remembering Allah the limb is adorned by obedience of Allah. When it is absent in he turns to his preoccupation with disobedience. One of them was asked, "Why do we do dhikr with the tongue when the heart is heedless?" He replied, "Thank Allah for the success of the dhikr of the tongue. If it had been busy with absence, what would you do?" So a person should cling to the dhikr of the tongue until Allah opens the dhikr of the inner heart. Perhaps Allah Almighty will move you from dhikr with heedlessness to dhikr with wakeful attention, i.e. being awake to the meanings of dhikr when one is busy with it, and from dhikr with wakeful attention to dhikr with presence of the One Invoked and visualising Him in the imagination until the heart is still by dhikru'llah and he is present with his heart and remembrance of Him is constant. This is the dhikr of the elite. The first is the dhikr of the common people.

If you are constant in dhikr of presence, that will raise you to dhikr with withdrawal from all that is other than the One Invoked which your heart is immersed in light. Perhaps the nearness of the light of the One Invoked will become immense and the one doing the dhikr will be drowned in the light until you withdraw from all that is other than the One Invoked until the one doing the dhikr becomes remembered and the seeker becomes the sought and the seeking arrival the one made to arrive. That is not difficult for Allah, i.e. not forbidden. So the one who was in the lowest degrees may rise to the highest ranks where the tongue is still and the dhikr moves to the inner heart. Then the dhikr of the tongue becomes heedlessness in respect of the people of this station, as the poet said:

As soon as I remember You, my secret,

    my heart and my ruh curse me when I remember You

Until a watcher from You addresses me in a voice without form:

    "Beware and woe to you! Beware of remembrance!

Do you not see that the witnessings of Allah have appeared

    and all arrives of your meaning from His meaning?"

Al-Wasiti said, indicating this station, "Those who remember are more heedless in His dhikr than those who forget His dhikr because His dhikr is other than Him," meaning that those who remember Allah with their hearts are more heedless in the state of their dhikr of Allah by their tongues than people who fail to invoke Him, because his dhikr by the tongue and its burden demands the existence of the nafs, and that is shirk, and shirk is uglier than heedlessness. This is the meaning of his words "because His dhikr is other than Him,", i.e. because the dhikr of the tongue demands the independence of those who remember, while the obligation is that the one who remembers should be effaced in the station of eye-witnessing.

Shaykh ash-Shadhili said, "The reality of dhikr is being cut off from the dhikr with the One Invoked and from everything except Him by His words, 'Remember the Name of your Lord and devote yourself to Him completely.' (73:7)" Al-Qushayri said, "Dhikr is the gradual entry of the one doing the dhikr into the One Invoked. They said in that meaning:

I remembered You, not because I forgot You for an instant.

    The least part of dhikr is the dhikr of the tongue.

Without ecstasy, I would have become frantic with passion,

    my heart wildly beating in passion.

When ecstasy showed me that You are present with me,

    I witnessed You as existing everywhere.

I addressed one who is present without speaking,

    and I witnessed one who is present without seeing.

In this station the murid realises the worship of reflection or investigation: "Reflection for an hour is better than worship for seventy years. That is why Shaykh Abu'l-'Abbas said, "All its moments are the Night of Power," i.e. all our worship is multiplied, in spite of its lightness, by the realisation of sincerity in it since no angel sees and records it nor does any shaytan see and corrupt it. One of them, said to be al-Hallaj said on that:

The hearts of the gnostics have eyes which see

     what is not seen by those who look.

The Sunna is intimate conversation of secrets

     unseen by the noble scribes.

Wings fly without feathers

     to the Malakut of the Lord of the Worlds.

I added two verses to it:

Hearts are frantic with the passion of ecstasy, yearning

     for the Jabarut of the One with certain truth.

If you want to set out early for the one with meanings,

     then expend your spirit and have little of us.

Dhikr is the reason for the life of the heart and leaving it is the reason for its death. The like of this is found in the hadith, "The metaphor of the one who remembers his Lord and the one who does not remember his Lord is like the living and the dead."

Then he mentions the sign of its life and death at the beginning of the next chapter.

Chapter Six

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