The Science of States

Before we can approach the matter of the ahwal, the States, it is vital that we have some idea of this illusory experiencing centre that is the nafs, an idea that is, which is not based on claiming for it a kind of crystalline reality, but rather on seeing it as a moving and dynamic, fluctuating energy source – we have used the image of a radio station giving out varying waves from a focal, identifiable point. The locus is identifiable but only as long as signals go out from it. When death comes the station goes 'off the air' yet the waveband remains, the life situation. If the States are imagined to be something happening to someone then the true perspective is lost. That, from the experiential point of view, there is a radio station and there is a programme, signals are coming and going, is never the question, otherwise it would not matter what happened to us. What is important is that we begin to think about these matters with a more fluid and less definitive imagery, the 'fuzzy mathematics' of the biologist trying to describe dynamic organisms rather than the fixed and rigid arithmetic that measures solid forms.

The key to an understanding of our movement-reality and the dismantling of the solid-state 'I' rests in the next obligatory practices of Islam. They go together both in the structure of the year and in their meaning. They are the sawm, the fast of Ramadan: and zakat, the obligatory taxing of that part of one's wealth which has been saved for one year. The first is an act of separation from the world-reality, for one's immediate environment is the extension of one's body experience. People become 'attached' to their possessions, and this experience is nothing less than an extension of their attachment to the world-as-food. The Maulana Rumi, may Allah be pleased with him, said, 'The whole world is the breast.' This is the meaning of Ramadan and Zakat. It is the inner experience of the fast that awakens the Salik, the Wayfarer, to this moving, fluid nature of the self. Let us first get a picture of what the Sunna of food is, and how the Messenger saw it as experience and Wisdom-source.

Abu Huraira told that when they were struck by hunger Allah's Messenger, peace be upon him, gave them each a date. Tirmidhi transmitted it.

Abu Darda' reports the Messenger, peace be upon him as saying: 'Provision searches for a man in the same way as his appointed period.' Abu Nu'aim transmitted it.

Abu Huraira also reported the Messenger, on whom be peace, as saying: 'Two people's food is enough for three and three people's food is enough for four.' This is transmitted both by Bukhari and Muslim.

A'isha said that the Messenger, peace be upon him, fasted on Mondays and Thursdays. Tirmidhi and Nasa'i have transmitted this.

Abu Dharr, may Allah be pleased with him, said that the Messenger said to him: 'When you fast three days in the month, Abu Dharr, fast on the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteen.' Tirmidhi and Nasa'i have transmitted this.

Abdallah bin 'Amr bin al-As told of the Messenger, peace be upon him, saying to him: 'Have I not been informed, Abdallah, that you fast during the day and get up at night for prayer?' When he replied that was so, he said: 'Do not do it. Fast and break your fast. Get up for prayer and sleep, for you have a duty to your body, your eye, your wife, and your guests. He who observes a perpetual fast never fasts. Fasting three days every month is equivalent to a perpetual fast. Fast three days every month and recite the Qur'an every month.' When he replied that he was able to do more than that, he told Abdallah, 'Observe the most excellent fast, the fast of David, fasting every second day, and recite the Qur'an once every seven nights, but do not do more than that.' Bukhari and Muslim both transmitted it.

Abu Huraira said that the Messenger of Allah told him, 'Many a one who fasts gets nothing from his fasting but thirst and many a one who prays during the night gets nothing from his night prayers but sleeplessness.' Tirmidhi transmitted it.

Al-Miqdam bin Ma'Dikarab recounted hearing the Messenger say: 'A human being has not filled any vessel which is worse than a belly. Enough for the son of Adam are some mouthfuls which keep his back straight, but if there is no escape he should fill it a third with food, a third with drink, and leave a third empty.' Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah transmitted it.

'If you were to trust in Allah genuinely, He would give you provision as He does for the birds which go out hungry in the morning and come back full in the evening.' 'Umar ibn Al'Khattab reported the Messenger as saying this and it is transmitted by Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah.

A'isha told that Allah's Messenger, peace be upon him, wanted to buy a young slave, so he threw some dates in front of him, but when the youth ate greedily he said: 'Voracious eating is ominous!' and ordered him to be sent back. Baihaqi transmitted it.

Abdallah bin 'Amr reported Allah's Messenger as saying: 'Fasting and the Qur'an intercede for a man. Fasting says, Oh my Lord, I have kept him away from his food and his passions by day, so accept my intercession for him. The Qur'an says, I have kept him away from sleep by night, so accept my intercession for him. Then their intercession is accepted.' Baihaqi transmitted it.

Ibn 'Abbas said that when the month of Ramadan began Allah's Messenger set every prisoner free and gave to every beggar.

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger as saying: 'Ramadan, a blessed month, has come to you during which Allah has made it obligatory for you to fast. In it the gates of the Garden are opened, the gates of the Fire are locked, and the rebellious shaytans are chained. In it Allah has a night which is better than a thousand months. He who is deprived of its good has indeed suffered deprivation.' Ahmad and Nasa'i transmitted it.

It is clear that fasting plays an important part in the human science. Also it has a structure. There is the obligatory Ramadan fast which is annual and dated by a lunar calendar so that it swings through the years with a lunar orbit. The opening of the fast is dependent on sighting the new moon of the holy month just as the dawn prostrations must co-incide with the white thread of light on the horizon. The fasting month itself has an inner structure. The Messenger said that it was a month whose beginning was mercy, whose middle was forgiveness, and whose end was freedom from the Fire. Its climax comes with the Night of Power – Laylat al-Qadr, during which the Messenger received the Qur'anic revelation. That night is hidden, and the seeker must watch for it, knowing that it is one of the last uneven-dated nights of the fast. There is never any doubt when it comes which night it has been. There is no more open night in the year for direct experience, or rather, for awakening.

The fast is from dawn to sunset and is broken immediately the sun has gone down. The fast is total and is also an abstention during the same hours from sexual intercourse. It is also understood that fasting implies a control of one's temper and one's tongue. The eye should fast with the other members, and the ear should refrain from listening to what is not pleasing. The total impact of the month's fast is quite shattering and its effects on the solidity fantasy of the nafs is extreme. What it does, of course, is affect the whole basis of the separate-self illusion by breaking the established adult feeding pattern which in turn opens up the memory of the infantile feed. The resonance of any imbalance and fear that was contained in that held basic memory structure is released and sounded as it were like a gong whose reverberation had been smothered and is now allowed to shudder to silence. It is an opening therefore to the whole substructure of the nafs, whose otherness has emerged in the infantile phase where feeding both implies a unity of self and environment on the one hand, and, when the feed is removed, delayed, or given with anxiety, on the other implies separateness, isolation and fear. To the person setting out on the Path, Ramadan inevitably proves the most difficult time of their new life, and if they see it through, for the same reasons, the most rewarding. The voluntary fasts which are mentioned in the Hadiths above follow the same pattern, certain days and dates of the months being the most in harmony cosmically with the act of fasting. The highest fast is the one which most drastically breaks the feed-order, the fast of David, which both liberates the self from the dependency picture of imagining that the food comes from 'outside' and opens the awakening mind to the reality of the Unity through the Qur'an. The fast opens one to the Divine Compassion and the Attributes – Ar-Razzaq, the Provider, and Al-Wahhab, the Generous.

We should not avoid seeing into what the nature of the fasting experience is. There is no use expecting it to be the basis of some 'higher' experience, when the wisdom of the fast lies in the very act of separation which is simply not eating. The human being experiences an inner emptiness which first expresses itself as hunger or thirst: when it is satisfied, the experiencing self in its dynamic form-making energy goes on to place this emptiness out into the emotional sphere. The person then becomes greedy for the 'other'. The other is eaten up. First the milk, then the mother. Once the nafs moves out into the whole world picture, the appetite moves outwards from food and emotional encounter to every stratum of experience. Conquest and war are nothing but the continued devouring of the unsatisfied child. The Messenger, peace be upon him, has said that the mother gives the child milk, and something along with the milk which is Wisdom. There should be no symbolising, or abstracting of this crucial statement. It is the heart of the wisdom picture. Milk/Wisdom. Compassion is the nature of the life-experience. The reality is that we are fed – but the true feed contains 'something along with it' – an energy that, if it is healthy, gives the child a sense of its safety in the Divine process, and if it is poisoned, will transmit the mother's fears and anger into the child. So that the woman is the first teacher of the child, and it is the child who has been well nourished – in that complete sense – who more readily feels 'full': while the child who has not received that sense of well-being will panic and seek in the food itself for the compassion that 'goes along with' the food, but in its case was missing. So a person's expectation of the world – of dunya – of those grapes hanging so near and yet always out of reach – no matter how the form may change in the appetite-picture – it could be for reputation, popularity, punishment, power, land, wealth, anything – would never be anything else than a futile expectation of the missed infantile wisdom-transaction. This is a pattern with no blame – for this is nothing else than the Seal of the destiny. Nor can we ever know what we imbibed in the first child-feast until the whole picture of the life is complete. There may be a memory of great love in that first transmission and it may be covered over and its uncovering is the Path, or one of the vital dimensions of the Path, for the wisdom-transaction is one that involves the whole transmutation of the nafs which exists by virtue of our experience of the body as a separate phenomenal form. We cannot pretend to a mental unity when we are entrenched in the solid body.

Here the whole pattern of Halal food, permitted food, takes on a profound meaning. The cells themselves must be pure as the outline-form must be made pure by the wudu. Shaykh al-Akbar, quoting the Qur'anic ayat: 'And amongst them is one who walks on his belly,' (24.45), says: 'He refers to those Saliheen who scrupulously examine their food, for by means of pure food which produces strength for the practice of dhikr, the heart is illuminated and becomes the abode of these forms of Divine Wisdom.' It must not be forgotten that every vessel has a capacity and that capacity is determined cellularly by the destiny of parentage and time and place of birth both from a planetary and cosmic point of view. That event which conditions these factors is no different and is part of the same Divine process which is the life, of which the first part is the feeding-wisdom experience, and of which the last is the fasting-wisdom experience. Just as we once came out from the womb, so we must now come out from the world-breast and experience the Unseen, in order that, by the grace of Allah, we will then come out from the company of the Messengers and awliya in the Gardens of the Unseen worlds, until we are finally desirous of Unity itself, then we are complete and the great feast of forms is over. There is a Hadith-qudsi – where Allah-ta-ala speaks through the Messenger in the first person – in which He says: 'Fasting is mine.' Fasting is the opening onto the Reality, it is the melting away of the solid, the dispersal of the cloud-body and the appearance of the sun-spirit. You diminish – He magnifies. It is a process that reduces one, in a quite real way, cellularly and experientially until the fasting person becomes conscious of their existence as fluid and wavelike rather than fixed and delineated. Whatever the illusory self has defined itself as and crystallised itself as, the fast of Islam immediately shatters that form and opening up begins.

The obligatory fast, lasting as it does for a whole month, and that month being the month cosmically intended for fasting, resonates deeply into the pseudo-solidity of the nafs and awakens the basic response that the nafs has to the feed-experience, and with that the whole self-pattern is opened up for the faster to see. 'Every day we are on a new creation – take provision from it,' said the Messenger in a well-known Hadith, and this is the experience of the person on a fast. He is aware that any constancy of self he imagined he had was merely a surface illusion buoyed up by habit pattern and behaviour structure designed to give an illusion of solidity. He begins to know himself as a shuddering, evanescent, melting, moving reality, layers fall from him, and he is aware therefore that what remains of him, while already more fragile, still has no absolute reality. As the veils lift the Light becomes clearer. The seeker begins to awaken. It is in this condition that the murid recognises that he is constantly passing from one State to another. It is then that the practice begins to reveal its effect with startling results.

Before a man had taken the Path he would take every experience as it came: he might occasionally discern a 'pattern', but depending on how things were, the kind of close-up impact of event, of which violence as we have seen is the most extreme – demanding a close-up reaction which forbids detachment or makes it well-nigh impossible – would stop him seeing life as anything but a myriad of different possibilities and actualities chaotically following one on another. Once that man takes the Path he begins the practice of unifying existence. He affirms the One. He bows before the One. He praises the One. He addresses the One. He sees One. He hears One. He eventually knows One. He learns not to fear now this and now that. He looks for his provision, for his needs to come from One source, and whatever the agent, he cuts through the deception of forms and recognises always in every case One Reality at work. So, with his nafs, he learns not to say I am this and I am that, but rather, I am neither this nor that, but what comes over me is the nafs' rejection of what comes from the Compassionate Lord. Contentment with one's lot becomes not a painful business but a sweet business, and the ability to see the Unity at work eases the pains that were once intolerable. In this view there is nothing to hold onto, no illusory safety – the safety lies in the recognition that the need is not for safety from the world, but from Him, and only He can save you from Him. If you flee from the One you can only flee to the One. This is the basis of fear and hope. Imam al-Ghazzali, commenting on the revelation of Allah-ta-ala to the Messenger Dawud, peace be upon him, 'Fear Me as you fear the harmful lion,' says:

And there is no device for inducing fear of the harmful lion except knowledge of the lion and knowledge of falling into its claws, and there is no need of any device beside that. So whoever knows Allah knows that He does what He will and He does not care and rules as He desires and is not afraid. As His saying has explained it: 'These are in the Garden and I do not care – and these are in the Fire and I do not care.'

After a profound exposition of this theme, he sums up in one of the most powerful passages in his great work:

As for the person who falls into the claws of the lion, if his knowledge were perfect, he would not be afraid of the lion, since the lion is coerced. If hunger dominates it, it will maul, and if heedlessness dominates it, it will ignore and leave alone. So he would be afraid only of the Creator of the lion and His Attributes. Am I not going to say that fear of the lion is a parable of fear of Allah? No. When the veil is lifted, it will be known that fear of the lion is the very fear of Allah, because the One who kills by means of the lion is Allah.

Now the way to opening the self to this inescapable and terrifying fact, the oneness of existence, is the simplest thing in the world. What makes it seem difficult is not that the act itself is difficult, but that we run in fear from the very nature of a situation which by its nature forbids our escape. Madness is the radical ruse of the ordinary person on the run from how things are. Madness – all its brilliantly constructed escape routes – leads to a hopeless act of impasse. Man cannot separate himself from reality, his own reality lies deep within him, therefore he cannot separate from his own being any more than he can jump out of his skin, yet this is precisely what the madman tries to do – get out of the body to somewhere safe like the moon, abandon the central nervous system, refuse to react as if there was anyone 'at home' inside the body. Courteously the slave addresses the Lord. You, the 'I' – open yourself to the totality of the One – to the Universal. The 'I' speaks – the little Universe speaks to the Big Universal. 'I' speak to 'Him'. 'I' am present, 'He' is absent – the third person singular is, as the Shaykh al-Akbar points out, the pronoun of absence, and a formal dialogue begins. I – He. This is the beginning of the real journey, whose phases are: I – He: I – You: I. There are three stages of knowledge in the Qur'anic language.

'Ilm al-yakin.' 'Ayn al-yakin.' 'Haqq al-yakin.'

Knowledge of certainty. Source of certainty. Truth of certainty. Or as the Rajah of Mahmudabad, may Allah have mercy on him, said: 'First – you are told there is a fire in the forest. Second – you see with your own eyes there is a fire in the forest. Third – you become the fire in the forest.'

Thus, in the end, 'I' have become an absent he, and only the 'I' remains of Allah-ta-ala. This is the meaning of the great saying of the Sufis – the Sufi is uncreated. From the depths of the awesome forests of the Tawhid, the reality is that there never was any 'other' to become absorbed or annihilated or unified. The Reality is One. Mansur Al-Hallaj ends his great song of Unity, the 'Tawasin' saying:

Allah is Allah. Creation is creation.

And it does not matter.

This is not an affirmation of duality or some kind of total separation of the Divinity from His realm, rather it is the essential starting point, and therefore also the end point, of the man of knowledge. As Shaykh Moulay al-Arabi ad-Darqawi, a Shaykh of our Shaykh, said: 'The slave is the slave and the Lord is the Lord.' As we will later see, this is the only thing we are able to say while affirming the two great statements of the Messenger – 'Allah was and there was nothing with Him,' – i.e. before the Universe: and, 'He is now as He was before.' Thus the goal of the seeker of Reality is nothing less than his own undoing, the wiping out of this illusory central experiencing self, for in order that 'He' the absent One should remain as the only Presence, the 'I' must be annihilated.

We now come to the Way in all its fullness, for we have glimpsed for the first time what the goal might be. We have seen that the true nature of the nafs as it is experienced is not that of a solid object accreting qualities and faults in a more and more solid lump, but rather we have seen that the non-existent nafs is experienced by us as being solid-state, and that the acts of salat and fasting and zakat shudder and move this seeming solidity until we recognise that the nafs is in constant movement, constant flux, it is cloud-form and not mountain. The goal is that the mountain should be blown away with all the ease with which the wind disperses the cloud, as in the superb Form from Qur'an which describes the Last Day of the world – macrocosm and microcosm being utterly identical in our picture of oneness –

They will ask you of the mountains – say: 'My Lord will break them into scattered dust, and leave it as an empty plain.'

The means by which we set in motion the mountain solidity of forms in experience in order to open ourselves to the transparent cloud-nature of stuff is the great science that the Prophets transmit to their people. It is called in the language of the desert Messenger, dhikr'Allah.

Now when we examine the root of the word, we as usual uncover its true existential impact. The meaning of this word – which is the science of tasawwuf – is in its root: DhKR – 'to be kicked in the groin'. There it is. It is as everything in Qur'anic language – self-explanatory. The Divine Reality is Presence. You are not far from Him, He is not hiding from you, and there is no complex secret esoteric tantra that has to be practised. If you want to know, if you really want Oneness, if you really want to be taken out of your neurotic mind-games and made aware of the immediate and vibrant Presence of the Lord of the Universe – what you need is a kick in the balls. It is offensive? Then what offends you is your sickness, the marad that separates you from the tremendous and overwhelming immediacy of reality in all its present-tense awareness. It is that shock – that instant focussing of the nafs on the actuality of existence, that halts the form-making mind and therefore opens in one instant the whole being to the total-mind, to the non-mind, to the Presence itself. From this root the formal meanings follow in obvious succession, but all deeply connected in meaning to their root:

Dhikr – 'to remember', 'to make mention of', 'to fill the mind with', 'a making plain', 'a shock-warning', 'a plain statement' (of how things are), 'to be called to attention', 'the means of knowing', 'to remind one's self' – therefore, 'to be reminded'.

Now, the affirmation – la ilaha ila'llah Muhammadun rasulallah – is dhikr. Salat is dhikr. Fasting and zakat are dhikr. However, we are being forced by our pursuit of the meaning of existence to go beyond these time-points, to join them up, to string the pearls, to open our experience to a continuity that takes us from one prostration-time to another, from one Ramadan to the next.

The repository of dhikr is, of course, the Qur'an, and it is the mine of all the dhikr we practise. We also find that in the science of dhikr different situations have different dhikr. Qur'an says of itself:

And we sent down of the Qur'an that which is a healing and a mercy to the Trusting-Ones. (Qur'an 17.82)

In the language of the Shaykh al-Akbar:

'The Qur'an is laden with quality. Qualities are states its quality is the source-form of its essence, and the essence does not require other-than-it because it is it, by itself. So its quality is like that because of its source-form, neither other than it nor extra to it, so understand! Allah speaks the Truth and guides to the Path.'

It is clear that a deep understanding of what Qur'an is as a phenomenon is essential to a knowledge of the Way and indeed, of knowledge itself. The Qur'an must be examined and seen not just as some odd text that somehow came to be recited and eventually written down. It is only with the advent of this Book that we are able to examine the nature of revelation as a historic event, since it occurred only fifteen hundred years ago and the whole matter was closely recorded and is also explained within the text itself. What the Master is here saying is that – whatever the Qur'an may be – it isn't just a Book, but a dynamic thing 'laden with quality'. The Book is a collection of these life-textured realities and these energy patterns are equivalents, that is to say not indicators, but the same as States. Thus the Qur'an is a source-book of all the 'States' that the human being may experience. So the dhikr is a key which opens the patterning of the nafs, uncovering layer upon layer of experiential solidification and allowing the Light of the self to come through in its original source-form condition.

Let us now explore this quite simple but tremendous picture that is the basis of Ibn 'Arabi's picture of the self. First we must see what dhikr is, then move on to a clearer idea of what hal is and finally return to our starting point, moving from the nafs to the Qur'an as the key to the creation situation.

The electrifying, mind-stopping reality that is put forward as the nature of existence by the Shaykh al-Akbar, is one in which every form is consciously participating in the glory and beauty of the Divine Reality at every instant and/or non-instant, and these forms are only variegated versions of their source-forms in the Unseen, and these source-forms are only Light from aspects of the Essence coming out from the original Reality which is itself beyond all ascription, grasp, or definition.

In the 'Makkan Revelations' he says:

He said, may He be exalted: 'There is nothing but that it proclaims His praise.' (17.44). 'Thing' is indefinite, and only the living intellect, knowing of His praise, gives praise. It is related of the Mu'adhdhin that, of wet and dry, to the extent that his voice carries, everything testifies for him. Thus we have heard the rocks doing dhikr'Allah with the sight of the eye and our ears heard from them with the tongue of articulation. They spoke to us with the speech of the gnostics of the glory of Allah which not every man perceives. So each sort from the creation of Allah is one of the communities which Allah formed on a worship particular to them. So He inspired them with it from within themselves. So their 'messenger' is from their essences. There are outstanding ones from Allah where a particular inner awareness on which they have been formed gives certain creatures a knowledge which the adept technician cannot grasp. They even know what is of use to them in what they receive of insects and edibles and how to avoid what is harmful to them. All that is from their natural disposition. It is the same with inanimates and plants. Allah has taken our eyes and ears from what they have of articulation.

The hour will not come until man speaks and his people take it for his deed, making wise men seem ignorant He, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, had complete unveiling, so he saw what we do not see. He spoke, peace be upon him, of the command upon which the People of Allah act, so they found his word to be true: 'Had it not been for increase in your speech and disorder in your hearts, you would have seen what I see and you would have heard what I hear.' So he was given the rank of perfection of slavedom, so he was a pure slave. He did not stand by his sovereign essence over anyone. That is what mastery necessitated and it is a constant proof of his honour.

A'isha said: 'The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, used to do dhikr constantly, at all times.' We have an ample legacy from him, and it is a matter particular to the inward part of man.

Here, the communication and awareness of the lower organisms is connected to the act of speech and the nature of Wisdom. The Wisdom-transmission is 'particular to the inward part of man' and its means is dhikr. Speech in its pure and original state is nothing but dhikr, and the accretions of speech that come with abandoning the Wisdom-practice are means of tyranny and domination and chaos, social and private. The babble of the ignorant man and the insane man are of the same nature. For speech to be basically sane, it must stem from the 'speech' of the revelation, which in its turn is the fruit of silence. Quintessential speech is not pure dhikr but rather the state from which wisdom-speech comes and all these patternings are the ayats of the Qur'an. From this viewpoint, 'there is nothing but that it proclaims His praise.'

Elsewhere the Shaykh Ibn 'Ata-illah said about dhikr:

Dhikr is a fire which does not stay or remain – so if it enters a house saying: 'Me and nothing other than me' – which is from the meanings of la ilaha illa'llah, and there is firewood in the house, it burns it up and it becomes fire. If there is darkness in the house, it becomes Light, its Light. If there is Light in the house, it becomes Light upon Light.

Dhikr drives away from the body extra elements produced by excess in eating and from the consumption of Haram food: as for what is derived from Halal food, it does not touch it, so the harmful elements are burned up and the good elements remain. Dhikr is heard by every part as if it were blowing on a trumpet, and when dhikr first falls into the head, the sound of the trumpet and glasses are found there. Dhikr is a sultan – when it descends into a place it descends with its trumpets and glasses because dhikr is opposed to all that is other-than-the-Reality, so when it does descend it occupies itself with negating what is contrary, as we found with the union of water and fire. After these sounds, different sounds are heard: like the murmur of water, the sound of the wind, the sound of fire when it is kindled, the sound of riding beasts, the thunder of horses, and the sound of the leaves of the trees when the wind blows on them. This is because man is a combination of every noble and low substance of dust, water, fire, air, and earth and heaven and what is between them. These sounds are from every source and element of these substances. Whoever has heard these sounds in dhikr has praised Allah and glorified Him with every tongue. This is the result of the dhikr of the tongue with the force of absorption. Perhaps the slave will reach the state where, when he is silent from the dhikr, the heart will move in his breast like the movement of the child in the womb, demanding dhikr.

They said: 'Indeed, the heart is like 'Isa the son of Maryam, peace be upon them, and dhikr is its milk. When it grows and becomes strong, a yearning for the Truth arises from it with a voice, and inevitable swooning then blows on it a craving for dhikr and the One invoked. The dhikr of the heart is like the sound of the bee, neither a confused high sound, nor a very low hidden sound. Then the One invoked takes possession of the heart and the dhikr is obliterated and vanishes, and the one who invokes turns neither to the heart nor to the dhikr. If during this, a glance at the dhikr or the heart appears to him, that is a distracting veil. This state is fana – which is that man is annihilated in respect to his nafs and that he feels nothing from his outward limbs, nor things outside of him, nor spells inside of him. If, during that, it occurs to him that he is annihilated in respect to himself altogether, then that is a blemish and troubledness. Perfection is that he be annihilated to himself and to annihilation, and the annihilation of annihilation is the goal of annihilation, and annihilation is the foremost part of the Path, since it is going towards Allah, may He be exalted, and then guidance follows. By guidance, I mean the guidance of Allah, as he said, blessings and peace be upon him: 'I am going to my Lord and He will guide me.' This absorption is rarely established and rarely continues. If it does continue it becomes a fixed habit and a lasting condition by which he ascends to the celestial world. Then the purest real existence emerges and the inscription of the invisible world (malakut) is stamped on him, and the purity of the Divinity (lahut) appears to him. The first of what is represented to him from that world is the angels' essences and the spirits of the prophets and awliya in a beautiful form which flows on him through some of the realities. That is the beginning until his degree is elevated from forms and he encounters the Truth in everything with clarity.

This is the fruit of the core of dhikr, and its beginning is the dhikr of the tongue, then the dhikr of the heart is stimulated, then the dhikr becomes nature, and then the One invoked takes possession and the dhikr is obliterated, and this is the secret of his word, peace be upon him: 'Whoever wishes to graze in the Gardens of Paradise, let him invoke Allah much,' and the secret of his word: 'Hidden dhikr is seventy times preferable to dhikr which is heard by listeners.'

The signs of dhikr moving to the Secret is the absence of the one who invokes both from the dhikr and the One invoked, and the dhikr of the Secret is being madly thirsty and drowning in it. Among its signs is that when you leave off the dhikr it does not leave you, and the flight of dhikr in you is to awaken you from absence to presence.

Among its signs is that dhikr tightens your head and limbs, as if they were bound with bonds and chains. Among its signs is that its fires do not abate, and its Lights do not depart, rather its Lights are always seen rising and descending, and the fires around you are untroubled, being aflame and brightly burning. When dhikr reaches the Secret, the dhikr is the silence of the one who invokes, as if needles had been thrust through his tongue invoking with Light flowing from it.

The Shaykh al-Kamil in one of the most renowned songs in his Diwan, 'Fana-Fi'llah', says:

Oh seeker of annihilation in Allah –

     say all the time: Allah! Allah!

And withdraw into Him from other-than-Him

    and with your heart – see Allah!

In his song, 'The Commentary on the Wird' he says:

If you wish to hasten to an understanding of the Reality then with himma persevere in repeating the Mighty Name.

Always mirror the letters of the Name in your heart and repeat it unconsciously at every moment.

Do not turn to otherness – for it is indeed a barrier. Even when it is praiseworthy it is still more suitable to darkness.

To the People, His dhikr does in place of what is other-than-Him. If you possess himma there is no opposite to Allah.

Fear Him in dhikr and be annihilated to other-than-Him: and there is no other except for the illusion of multiplicity.

Multiplicity is only Oneness multiplied in accordance with the Names and the traces of Divine Power.

In 'The Greater Song', the Shaykh al-Kamil says of the one starting out on the journey:

He should busy himself with dhikr of Allah, may His Majesty be glorified, for in that lies the remedy for every fault and ill.

In 'The Minor Song' he says:

To anyone who withdraws into the Lights of the dhikr of the Truth, Creation is nothing but particles of dust in space.

Here is 'The Virtues of the Mighty Name':

Free yourself from others and you will attain His proximity and you will ascend to the ranks of the People of every assembly.

Fill your every breath with dhikr'Allah for each breath has to be accounted for on the Day of Gathering and Promise.

Exalt all phenomena because it is formed from the Light of the Prophet Muhammad.

Regard it as Lights from the Names of our Lord and withdraw from being unresponsive and speaking from opinion.

Love with the love of Allah and hate with His hate. This is the Road, so be aware of it, my friend!

Be an isthmus between the two oceans – the Reality and the Road – and you will attain the rank of Recognition in every assembly.

In every mosque, guide the slaves of Allah by Allah openly, by showing the beauty of the Paths of Allah.

And if you wish to go swiftly into the Presence of our Lord, then have a good opinion of Allah's creation and speak well of Him.

Persevere in the Sublime and Mighty Name with a good heart, sincerity and concentration.

Recognise the beauty of the Essence in every Manifestation. Were it not for it the existence of the Existent would not have been established.

All the attributes of the nafs are annihilated by His Invocation, and all that remains is tranquillity of heart, sweeter than honey.

Every inner state along with the Stations arises from invocation of the Mighty Name with gravity.

So from it comes the Opening for every Wayfarer and from it comes the Overflowing for every Murshid.

From it is the state of intoxication and fana, and from it, too, the states of sobriety and ecstasy.

Power is only given to the one who has isolated himself with Him, and who, through much praise, is adorned with what pleases Him.

Thus he will continue to ascend in the deserts of His Essence until he is utterly annihilated in an annihilation that has nothing in it but loss.

If he returns to the traces of existence, He brings a Robe of Honour which proclaims His Wilaya (being a Wali) and glory.

So be a slave and servant to the One whose description this is, and fulfil the contract of Allah, and He will give you what He has promised.

The greatest of Allah's creation in this matter are His Messengers and the most perfect of them in it is the Prophet Muhammad.

So his outward form is a Light and his inner form is a Secret. His perfections are beyond numbering.

May the blessings of Allah be upon him and his family and Companions, and give us limitless Lutf (Divine Favour).

In this qasida the Shaykh describes the whole transformation process that is set in motion by the act of dhikr. This shimmering form-making machine, this kaleidoscope that makes endless patterns from a few varied set experience-pieces, the nafs – once it is submitted to the fire and lights of dhikr – is fragment by fragment annihilated, until all that remains is tranquillity of heart sweeter than honey. The nafs-states having been annihilated by the fire of dhikr leave the seeker opened up to his qualities, his higher nafs-states – in that middle condition of conflict and development that Al-Ghazzali defined – then that is illuminated until the climax of Light comes which annihilates the whole nafs as an experiencing locus both mentally and biologically.

So what are these states – what is the dhikr activity working upon, what is it that goes through this tremendous upheaval of energy caused by the invocation? Let us go directly to the Shaykh al-Akbar for a definition. In a poem on the knowledge of phenomenal being he declares:

The knowledges of phenomenal being move a great deal, knowledge of the Face does not move.

We affirm and negate all of them, we separate and find them state by state.

My God! How can other-than-You know You when Your like is from tabarak and ta'ala?

My God! How can other-than-You know You? Can other be a mithal to You?

Whoever seeks the Path without a guide, my God! He seeks the impossible.

My God! How can hearts desire You and they do not hope for intimacy and union?

My God! How can other-than-You have gnosis of You? No, and again, no.

My God! How can eyes see you when You are neither lights nor darknesses?

My God! I do not see myself as other-than-You! How can I see the impossible or be astray?

My God! You are You! And I let the gift be sought from Your I-ness.

By a poverty established with me from my existence, which was produced from Your richness, so it is a state.

He informed me that He might manifest me to Him, and He did not see me as other-than-Him, so I was a mirage.

Whoever seeks the mirage, wants water.

He sees the source of life for him as cold water.

I am phenomenal being, and there is nothing like me!

Who am I, like Him, before mithal (likeness)?

That is one of the most wondrous things, so look!

Perhaps you will see its like changing state.

There is not in phenomenal being other than individual existence which is above being equalled or obtained.

He adds in prose:

Know, may Allah support you, that all that is in the earth moves from state to state. So the world of time moves in every thing, and the world of breaths moves in every breath, and the world of tajalli moves in every tajalli. The reason for that is His word, may He be exalted, 'Every day He is upon some labour', (55.29) and He supports it by His word: 'We shall surely attend to you at leisure, you weight and you weight.' (55.31) Every man finds in himself types of passing thoughts in his heart, in his movements, and stillnesses. So no-one moves who is in the celestial and terrestial worlds but that it is from a Divine turning by a particular tajalli to that source-form. So his foundation is from that tajalli according to what his reality accords him.

Here, the Shaykh indicates three degrees of existence. The forms that are devoid of organic life, the organic forms which have the 'breath' of life, and the human creatures who have unveiling of forms from the Unseen. The Shaykh says that these self-experiences that pass over the experiencing centre of the nafs are not outward intrusions, are not random, are not unpredictably chaotic, but all inevitable in their patterning from the basic source-form of the self in the Unseen, of which the life-story is merely the phenomenal chapter – there having preceded it a chapter in the world of Spirits before birth and coming-into-solidity, and a chapter after it, the after-death state in the grave, and then another, the rising and the meaning-form of the life manifesting in the non-solid World of the Unseen, and so on as the journey to Allah continues. Thus the self as a solid reality is an untenable idea, a mirage, and its restless movement is caused by the thirst and longing that the true self experiences in its illusory trapped situation of having a 'history'. It is this thirst that in the crucible of dhikr as described above becomes a sublime drowning as the illusion falls away. In this important passage the Shaykh goes on to talk about those who 'do not know what they are moved from nor moved to,' which is the case of the majority of human beings, and he presents this as a basically ignorant situation. He is not suggesting that one knows the future in any occultistic manner, but something much subtler and more profound – he is suggesting that real knowledge begins by a recognition of this moving time-flux creature as being an utterly structured and inevitable series of life-patternings all stemming from its original self-form dynamic in the Unseen before it is manifested. He sees knowledge as beginning when we grasp that this time-setting is not separable from the time-set individual, the event and the person and the zone of the experience all being one reality with all the intricate intertwining of individual forms into a pattern such as that revealed in a Persian carpet, but with all the ravishing, sweeping movement and apparent freedom that is in the miracle of organic nature at the microscopic level.

He goes on to speak of one of the people of the Path who erred in saying: 'When you see a man staying in one state for forty days, know that he is a strange man.' He is here indicating that the man had abandoned the true perspective of 'state' and mistaken it for an inner condition like 'depression' or confusion or excitement or anger. He goes on:

Do realities allow that someone could remain in one state for two breaths or two 'times'? He is moving with breaths from the thing to its like It is like saying, 'So and so is still walking today, and did not sit.' There is no doubt that walking is many different movements. Each movement is not the same as the other, rather it is its like. Your knowledge moves by its moving and it is said: 'His state has not changed!' How many states have changed on him!

Thus any picture of the self-form as being of a kind of 'nature' or pattern that can be defined as having some kind of durability or permanence in time is utterly illusory. And just as the walking-image indicates that there is obviously something constant over a brief period that suggests such a solid specificity of self-form, it is in itself illusory, in flux, made up of tiny separate dynamic utterly open moments that each has in it the possibility of alteration, recreation, and end. Again he re-iterates the basic proposition:

Things with Allah are witnessed and known source-forms, states are based on these forms which they have.

The picture then is of one person having different states, and a form is made for him in each state he has. A certain experience habit suggests to us a certain illusory continuity on which we erect the myth of historicity of self, but this is not the case, merely the mistaken viewpoint. So the creature is veiled in the condition of an 'existence' which is nothing but a clothing of state upon state, as the moving film is built up of individual-frame shots run together to create an imaginary 'situation'. So states vary in the imagination on which ordinary human experience is based, despite the inescapable fact that this so-called reality is utterly fictional. They vary in the imagination, but they do not vary in knowledge – and knowledge is achieved by the act of dhikr unveiling the states and opening up the whole experience-illusion. Then the human being 'sees with His eye and hears with His ear. His becomes the hand with which he grasps and the foot with which he walks,' as in the famous Hadith that indicates the true state of knowledge that comes upon the Mumin after advancing through the practices of dhikr. The Shaykh al-Akbar's final clue to this matter is succinct:

As for the secret of state, it is duration, and it does not have first or last. It is the source-form of the existence of every existent. So I have informed you of some of what the rijal of enigmas know of secrets. I have been silent on much. Its door is wide. The knowledge of dreams, the Interspace and Divine Ascriptions relate to this.

Thus the fluctuating endless states express themselves throughout the whole organism, cellularly, electro-magnetically, in synaptic brain-signalling, in energy-flow, in endocrinal release, digestive function, blood rhythm, and all these various patternings are but the flowering of one original self-form or rather source-form of which this solid-body human creature is the time-bound manifestation outwardly and whose reality is with Allah from before-endless-time. Thus my 'movement' is all movement, and my space-occupying is all space-occupying, and the Universe and I are not two but container-contained, and this itself is nothing for He is as He was before the creation of the Universe. 'Everything perishes except the Face of Allah!' – as He Himself triumphantly declares in the Qur'an. (55.26-27).

When the Shaykh al-Akbar declares that only the Sufis under-stand the true nature of the nafs, he means by this that no-one else possesses a total picture of the life-situation except the people of unveiling, for this whole dimension of self-experience is hidden from any but them. Some people are only able to perceive the crudest machine-structure in man, and can only recognise the mind as some odd ghost inhabiting a delicate house of tissue and nerve-endings. It is an odd ghost, for, according to their picture, it is enough that the delicate fibre-furniture be damaged for the occupant somehow, mysteriously, to be affected. This dualistic frame on which the pathetic crumbling structure of our hastily put-together modern psychology is erected, leaves us with a picture of something called 'behaviour' which ends up being classified into 'types' and the crude mechanistic picture soon bogs down in a welter of sub-types. It is inevitable that in our time the accepted cure for mal-function of this non-existent ghost in its bizarre house (electrocute the house and thus wipe out the house-keeper) should be an equally crude and massively administered chemical drug treatment. Although some modern therapists have recognised a quite profound and clinically identifiable picture of much greater subtlety which opens to the streaming, sub-electric energy-fields of the body, they in turn become so hypnotised by their own discovery that they again try to contain man within a bio-energy definition reducing the human being by that token simply to the sum of his energies. Utterly closed to the nature of an Unseen reality, because still essentially trapped in this basic duality which they quite rightly observe to exist in the world of forms, they relentlessly avoid the metaphysical question which in other sciences insists on attention. Now that we have uncovered the chromosomic level of patterning, and glimpsed the beauty of form-manifestation and recognised also our profound ignorance of these processes at the very point that certain key designs open themselves to us, we are forced to a threshold of activity which is, if you like, the 'edge of the Unseen', or more correctly, in the language of the Master Jalalud'din Rumi, the Non-spatial, the realm of mind itself, which so delicately and purely refrains from 'being' the brain, and yet so lovingly and seductively is its shadow-reality. I now do not refer to 'your' mind or 'my' mind, for in this picture I would have to italicise out of existence thus – 'your mind' and 'my mind'.

Before proceeding further, it must be made clear that this has nothing to do with any Jungian or gestalt picture of archetypes. Two pieces of labelling have managed to keep the Orientalists away from any serious coming to grips with the metaphysics of Islam – the use of the term 'archetypes' and 'neo-platonic'. That these men were, one and all (if there had been an exception he would have had to be a Sufi himself), unequipped to examine these issues, can be easily verified by an examination of their unscholarly refusal to accept the Sufis on their own terms – as if one were to approach quantum physics with a basic refusal to abandon the Newtonian classical picture of how things were. This approach, as we have insisted from the beginning, is not just a matter of epistemology, but of self-transformation, and without submitting to the transformation-practice of Islam there is no valid knowledge available in any way that allows one to penetrate these matters apart from the sporadic and separate possible insights of the individual as he experiences reality. The Wisdom-view is dependent on recognising that there is no out-there to examine and understand. Reality is One. The so-called knowledge of the technological society is informational and split from the knower. Despite all the ludicrous attempts at gluing together the separate and isolated 'disciplines' of psychology and biology and linguistics and physics and chemistry, the sciences continue to split into micro, and bio, intra, and supra, and what emerges becomes more and more a knowledge which for the needs of the life-process is recognisably useless. Bernard Shaw used to lament the millions of mice and monkeys slaughtered in the name of that pursuit of useless knowledge – had he lived today he would have further been able to lament the destruction of the bio-sphere in which whole vanishing species lived, rivers and oceans and lands and skies all gorged of their energies in an age that is unable to grasp the underlying Unity that links all these, because basically unable to grasp the Unity of each person's self-experience, which remains the essential clue to grasping the Unity which is the very nature of existence itself.

Here is a paraphrasing of the position of a modern geneticist, Richard Goldschmidt:

The time has come to reshape all genetic theory anyhow. The classical theory of the gene as an actually existing unit, lying on the chromosome like a bead in a string of beads, is no longer tenable. We cannot focus on genes and loci, or even chromosomes, as we always have. Something bigger controls the whole system. That is why I speak of systemic mutations.

The collapse of the post-Darwinian picture of evolution revealed not only the incredible double-think that many biologists were indulging in, and the extraordinary degree of subjectivity involved in their so-called scientific or verifiable picture of whatever the process they seemed to imagine they were describing, it also revealed that underlying their biological trees and simple-to-complex unfoldings, and gradual-change mutations, there was an assumed Power at work which they, at the same time as assuming it, denied. There could be no Power outside the 'things' which they saw as closed systems which complexified themselves according to vastly sophisticated and complex laws and patterns which they could neither codify nor decode. They slithered from the use of a term 'Nature' which they invested with Divine Intellect and Plan only to disrobe it on their next calculation in place of the plan-itself, in their case, natural selection, which in turn was deified after being reified. An absorbing sleight of hand, but hardly effective as serious epistemology. It was enough that bit by bit the actual field work of biology and the neighbouring sub-science of palaeontology and micro-biology revealed a picture that left

Let us go back to our superficial Orientalists desperately doing their labelling of Islamic Masters with the tags of the collapsing dualistic Christian world-view. If the sufic description of reality was neo-platonic then that meant it had been borrowed from a previous culture and stuck on in a syncretist move to provide Islam with something it did not in the first place possess, thus demonstrating that Islam was a pseudo-religion and not to be taken with any intellectual seriousness. Unfortunately their confusion is double. Islam does not claim to be a religion, rather it claims religion to be the decadence of a previously existing and now degraded form of Islam. Secondly, they refuse to grasp that what Islam describes in its totality from within the structure of the Qur'anic revelation is something that the earlier 'Islams' of the Messengers before the Seal of the Messengers, Muhammad, peace be upon him, already knew about. It is assumed by Muslim scholars that the platonic knowledge was an inherited reality-picture from the remnant of their unitary science which survived as a thread among the broken threads of pantheonic theism. If you are dependent on labels, certainly from a sufic point of view, it would be more useful to label Plato neo-Islamic than to label the Sufis as neo-platonic.

The matter of archetypes is even more dangerous for a person desirous of grasping the Wisdom-picture. The accepted post-Jungian picture of archetypes reduces these to a subjective, yet mysteriously shared set of symbol pictures that exist on a mental 'plane' which reveal apparently incomprehensible conflicts and crises in the actual history of the subject. Thus a real and solid world is loaded with a set of coded meanings which take on their reality when applied to the historic present and used to illuminate it. Always in this picture our phenomenal and solid existence is given primacy over the explanatory code systems. It is very far from the original Goethean picture of Ur-forms from which it was borrowed, only to be inverted with this primacy of situational existence over and against a floating repository of basic forms. We remain in a dual system of mind pictures displaying themselves in a solid reality. It is a concept that offers no proof of its validity and certainly the Jungian clinical record convinced one of nothing but the fact that the people who unleashed that empire of archetypal forms during analysis had undoubtedly been analysed by Jung. The sufic picture of existence is sustained, and has been systematically over a period of fourteen hundred years, by direct experience, by dhawq, tasting, which illuminates the seeker with his or her own knowledge of how-it-is. This awesome knowledge of how-it-is cannot be reduced to a therapeutic technique or submitted to crude mechanistic tests to ascertain its validity. It is outside the realm of science, or if you like, it is its own science. Certainly it is systematised, verifiable, and not a faith-system. Doubt and certainty are the two energies whose polar forces drive the seeker on to his discoveries.

The sufic term that has been so mistranslated is 'ayn ath-thabita, which we may call the source-forms, the word 'ayn meaning not just 'source' in the sense of 'origin', but with the physicality and actuality of a spring of water. We will return to it when we come to the point that is being forced upon us where we ask about the nature of this 'stuff' of the Universe, the 'how', 'what', and 'why' of forms.

What we have so far established is a picture of reality as being utterly alive, in flux, with particular forms subtly shedding pulse after pulse through this unceasing movement of states in a locus which is nothing other than the states, and yet these states when unveiled open up to a hidden source-form in the world of non-space-time, inseparable from this.

The key term: HAL, which we call 'state' derives from a root meaning 'to be changed' and 'to pass by' or 'go between'. By extension it relates to the adverb meaning 'round about' and to the nouns 'a power', 'a plan', 'a year'. Also 'a turning off'.

Thus state/situation is the basic condition of all forms, according to the sufic science, and it is the action-process which the nafs experiences on the Path, whose culminating and ultimate condition is to be 'turned off', obliterated in the face of the Essence of the multitudinous forms. The sufic science further claims that the Qur'an is a revelation from the source of Reality, indicating not only the science of how to live among the multiple forms but also how to surrender (Islam) to the One, which in its fullness means the giving up of the nafs which is the intolerable 'other' that prevents unitary experience. It is not a matter of little mind (myself) being swallowed up in the Big Mind after all, as some of the inadequate systems formed on the archeology of previous Islams suggest (like Zen), but rather of the total being emerging from separate pulsing and form-dynamic into a complete obliteration. The cells have to 'stop', for they are not separable from the 'mind'. That we continue to 'see' the form is based on our illusory sense-veiling on which the world and 'history' is based. To the people of fana 'everything perishes except His Face.' (55.26).

The Shaykh al-Akbar says:

When Allah, glory be to Him, closed the door of prophecy, and the message to creation, he left to them the door of understanding from Allah in what He revealed to His Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, in His mighty Book. 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said: 'Revelation was cut off after the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. What remains is in our hands. Allah provisions the slave with understanding in this Qur'an.' Our companions, the people of unveiling, agreed on the soundness of a transmission from the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, that he said of the ayats of the Qur'an: 'There is no ayat but that it has a manifest part, a hidden part, a limit, and an ascent.'

Before we can proceed further on our journey, we must examine what the Qur'an is, and what is the meaning of 'revelation'. It is the Book of Changes, abrogating all those Books which went before, keeping some 'forms' from the ancient books and changing others and replacing those abrogated with better, in accordance with the overflowing generosity of the Form-giver, may He be exalted.

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