The Hikam of ibn ‘Ata’ullah al-Iskandari – Line 1 and 2, Commentary by Shaykh ibn ‘Ajiba.

A feeling of discouragement when you slip up

is a sure sign that you put your faith in deeds.

Reliance on a thing means to lean on it and to put one’s trust in it. Deeds are the actions of either the heart or the body. If an action is in harmony with the Shari’a, it is called obedience. If it is contrary to the Shari’a, it is called disobedience.

The people of this science divide actions into three categories: actions of the Shari’a, actions of the Tariqa, and actions of Reality. This can be re-phrased as actions of Islam, actions of faith and actions of ihsan, or actions of worship, actions of slavedom and actions of pure slavedom, which is freedom. Or it can be referred to as the actions of the people of the beginning, the actions of the people in the middle and the actions of the people of the end. The Shari’a is that you worship Him; the Tariqa is that You aim for Him, and the reality is that you witness Him. You could also say that the Shari’a is putting the outward right, Tariqa is putting the conscience right, and the reality is putting the secret right.

Putting the limbs right is achieved by three matters: tawba, taqwa and rectitude. Putting hearts right is achieved by three matters: sincerity (ikhlas), truthfulness and being at peace. Putting the secrets right is achieved by three matters: watchful fear (muraqaba), witnessing and gnosis. You could also say that putting the outward right is by avoiding prohibitions and obeying commands; putting the secrets right is by freeing oneself of vices and taking on virtues; and putting the secrets, which are the arwah (spirits), right is achieved by making them give out, breaking them until they are disciplined and training them into having adab, humility and good character.

Know that we are speaking about the actions necessary for purifying the limbs, hearts or arwah. They have already been specified for each category. As for knowledge and gnosis, they are the fruits of purification and refinement. When the secret is pure, it is filled with knowledge, gnosis and lights.

Moving to a station is not valid until one has mastered what is before it. Whoever has a radiant beginning, has a radiant end. So a person does not move to the actions of the Tariqa until he has performed the actions of the Shari’a and trained his limbs to perform them so that he meets the preconditions for repentance, possesses the pillars of taqwa and puts in action the various types of rectitude.

That consists of following the Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, in his words, deeds, and states.

Once the outward is pure and illuminated by the Shari’a, then he moves from the outward actions of Shari’a to the inward actions of the Tariqa, which is purifying oneself from the attributes of humanity as will be discussed. When he is free of the attributes of humanity, he is adorned with the attributes of spirituality, which is proper adab with Allah in His prescencings (tajalliyat), which are His manifestations. Then the limbs have rest from toil and all that remains is good adab. One of those who are recognised said, “Whoever reaches the reality of Islam does not flag in action. Whoever reaches the reality of faith, cannot turn to acting by other than Allah. Whoever reaches the reality of ihsan cannot turn to anyone except Allah.”

In travelling through these stations, the murid should not put his faith in himself nor on his actions, state, and strength. He must put his trust in the bounty of his Lord, His granting him success and His guidance. Allah says, “Your Lord creates and chooses whatever He wishes. The choice is not theirs.” (28:68) Allah says, “If your Lord had wanted to, He would have made mankind into one community but they persist in their differences, except for those your Lord has mercy on.” (11:118) The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “None of you will enter the Garden by virtue of his actions.” They asked, “Not even you, Messenger of Allah?” He said, “Not even me, unless Allah envelops me in his mercy.”

Reliance on the lower selves is a sign of wretchedness and despair. Reliance on action comes from lack of being certain about things coming to an end. Reliance on generosity and states comes from lack of the company of the Men [of Sufism]. Reliance on Allah comes from realisation of gnosis of Allah. The sign of reliance on Allah is that your hopes are not lessened when you slip into disobedience nor are they increased when you do good. You can say that his fear is not great when needlessness issues from him, just as his hope is not removed when he is aware of it.

His fear and hope are always in equal balance because his fear is the result of witnessing majesty and his hope is the result of witnessing beauty. The majesty and beauty of the Real are not affected by increase or decrease. So what issues from them is not the same as what issues from someone who puts his trust in deeds since, when the deeds of such a person are few, his hope is little, and when his needs are numerous, he has great hope because of his shirk with his Lord and his realisation of his ignorance. If he were to be annihilated to himself and go on by his Lord, then he would have rest from his toil and achieve gnosis of his Lord.

He must have a perfect shaykh who will bring him out of the trouble of his self to his rest by witnessing his Lord. The perfect shaykh is the one who gives you rest from trouble, not the one who directs you to trouble. Whoever directs you to action, tires you. Whoever directs you to this world, cheats you. Whoever directs you to Allah has been faithful to you, as Shaykh Ibn Mashish, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “Direction to Allah is direction to forgetting the self. When you forget yourself, you remember your Lord. Allah Almighty says, ‘Remember your Lord when you forget.’ (18:24)” The reason for toil is remembering the self and being concerned with its affairs and portions. As for the one who is absent from them, he only has rest.

As for the words of Allah, “We created man in trouble” (90:4), they are specific to the people of the veil, Or you could say specific to the living selves. As for those who have died, the Almighty says, “If he is one of Those Brought Near, there is solace and sweetness and a Garden of Delight” (56:88), meaning he will have the solace of arrival and the sweetness of beauty and the garden of perfection. The Almighty says, “They will not be affected by any tiredness there” (15:48). Rest, however, is only obtained after toil, and victory is only obtained after seeking. “The Garden is surrounded by disliked things.”

O you passionately in love with the meaning of Our beauty,

Our dowry is expensive for the one who proposes to Us:

An emaciated body and spirit full of care

and eyes which do not taste sleep,

And a heart which does not contain other than Us.

If you want to pay the price,

Then be annihilated if you wish for eternal annihilation.

Annihilation brings one near to that annihilation.

Remove the sandals when you come

to that quarter. He was radiant in it.

Cast off both beings and remove

what is between us from between Us.

When you are asked, “Who do you love?”

Say, “I am the One I love and the One I love is me.”

We read in Solving the Riddles, “Know that you will not attain to the stages of nearness until you ascend six steep slopes. The first is the limbs abstaining from legal disobedience; the second is the self abstaining from normal familiar customs; the third is the heart abstaining from human flippancy; the fourth is the self abstaining from natural impurities; the fifth is the spirit abstaining from sensory favours; the sixth is the intellect abstaining from illusory imaginations. After the first slope you look down at the founts of wisdom. After the second you look at the secrets of divinely granted knowledge. After the third there appears to you the signs of the intimate conversations of the malakut. After the fourth, the lights of the stages of proximity shine to you. After the fifth, the lights of the manifestation of love appear to you. After the sixth slope, you descend to the meadows of the Holiest Presence and there you withdraw from what you witnessed of the human subtle meanings of dense sensory things. When He desires to single you out and select you, He will give you a draught from the cup of His love. That drink will increase your thirst, as taste will increase your yearning, nearness will intensify your quest, and intoxication will increase your restlessness.”

One of the excellent men was confused by the words of the Almighty, “Enter the Garden for what you did” (16:32) since the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “None of you will enter the Garden by his actions.” The answer to that is that the Book and the Sunna go alternate between the Shari’a and the reality, or you could say prescription and realisation. They prescribe in some places and speak of the reality in others regarding the same thing. The Qur’an may legislate in one place while the Sunna gives the reality, and the reverse also occurs. The Messenger, peace be upon him, explained what Allah revealed. Allah says, “We have sent down to the Reminder to you so that you can make clear to mankind what has been sent down to them..” (16:44) His words, “Enter the Garden for what you did” is legislation for the people of wisdom, who are the people of the Shari’a, and the words of the Prophet are realisation for the people of power, who are the people of the reality. The words of the Almighty, “But you will not will unless Allah wills.” (81:29) is reality, while the words of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, “When one of you has a good action, a good action is written for him” is Shari’a.

In short, the Sunna qualifies the Qur’an and the Qur’an qualifies the Sunna. So a person is obliged to have two eyes: one looks at the reality while the other looks at the Shari’a. If he finds that the Qur’an legislates in one place, there must be the reality in another, and the reverse is true. There is no contradiction between the ayat and the hadith nor any confusion.

There is another answer, which is that when Allah Almighty called people to tawhid and obedience, they would not enter it without desire and so He promised them a reward for actions. When their feet were firm in Islam, the Prophet, peace be upon them, brought them out from that and made them rise to sincere slavedom and realisation of the station of sincerity. So he told them, “None of you will enter the Garden by his actions.” Allah knows best. Here the answers of the people of the outward are of no use at all. When someone moves from outward actions to inward actions, the effect of that must appear on the limbs. The Almighty says, “When kings enter a city, they lay waste to it.” (27:34) The appearance of its effects is divestment or withdrawal (tajrid).

Your desire to withdraw from everything

when Allah has involved you in the world of means

is a hidden appetite.

Your desire for involvement with the world of means

when Allah has withdrawn you from it

is a fall from high aspiration.

Tajrid linguistically means “taking off and removing”. One uses the term for things like removing a garment and shedding a skin. The Sufis fall into three categories: those who strip away only the outward, those who strip away only the inward, or those who strip away both. Outward divestment is to abandon worldly causes and break physical habits. Inward divestment is to abandon psychological and illusory attachments. To withdraw from both of them is to abandon both inward attachments and physical habits. You could say that outward tajrid is abandoning all that distracts the limbs from obeying Allah; inward tajrid is abandoning all that distracts the heart from presence with Allah, and doing both is the isolation of the heart and the vessel for Allah. Perfect tajrid outwardly to abandon causes and divest the body of normal clothes, and inwardly it is to divest the heart of every blameworthy quality and adorn it with every noble quality. That is the perfect tajrid.

When someone divests his outward and not his inward, he is a liar, like someone who calls copper silver. His inward is ugly and his outward pleasing. If someone divests his inward and not his outward, he is like someone who calls silver copper. That is rare since usually when someone is involved with his outward, he is also involved with his inward. If someone’s outward is occupied with the physical, his inward is occupied with it, and strength cannot go in two directions. The one who divests both his inward his outward is the perfect truthful one. He is the pure gold which is proper for the treasuries of kings.

Shaykh Abu’l-Hasan ash-Shadhili said, “The adab of the divested faqir consists of four: respect for the old, mercy for the young, justice for yourself and not helping your self. The adab of the faqir using causes consists of four: befriending the pious, avoiding the impious, attending prayers in the group, and comforting the poor and wretched by what he one possesses. The faqir must also take on the adab of the divested since it is perfection for him. Part of the adab of someone employing causes is that he is established in what Allah establishes him of the use of causes until Allah Almighty is the One who moves him from that by the tongue of his shaykh or by a clear indication, like its impossibility in every aspect. Then he moves to tajrid.”

His desire to withdraw when Allah has established means for him is a hidden appetite because the self desires rest by that and does not have enough certainty to endure the hardships of poverty. When poverty descends on him, he is shaken and upset and resorts to means, and so that is uglier than remaining with them. This is an aspect which is appetite, and it is hidden because inwardly he displays cutting off and asceticism, which is a noble state and sublime state, while inwardly he conceals his portion of rest, honour, wilaya or whatever. He did not intend to achieve slavedom and certainty. He also lacks adab with Allah when he wants to leave without remaining patient until he is given permission. The sign of him remaining constantly in causes is that he has results, lack of attachments which cut him off from the deen and obtains sufficiency, but if he were to abandon that, he would look to people and be worried about provision. When these conditions cease to exist, then he moves to tajrid.

We read in at-Tanwir, “That which Allah demands of you is that you remain where He establishes you until Allah is the One to remove you as He brought you in. It is not your concern to abandon means. Your concern is that the means abandon you.”

One of them said, “Once I abandoned a certain means and then I returned to it and then the means left me and I did not return to it. I went to Shaykh Abu’l-‘Abbas al-Mursi when I had resolved to take on tajrid. I told myself, ‘It is unlikely that I will reach Allah Almighty if the state I have which is occupation with outward knowledge and socialising with people.’ Before I even spoke to him, he told me, ‘A man who was occupied with outward knowledges and advanced in them kept my company and tasted something of this Path. He came to me and told me, “Sidi, I will leave what I am doing and devote myself to your company.” I told him, “The business is not that. Rather remain in what you are in and what Allah has allotted you from us will reach you.”‘ Then the shaykh looked at me and said, ‘That is how the true men (siddiqun) are. They do not leave anything until Allah is the One to remove them.’ So I left him and Allah washed away those thoughts from my heart and I found rest in submission to Allah Almighty. Nonetheless they, as the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, stated, ‘are people whose companion is not wretched.'”

He said, “He forbade him tajrid because the greed of his nafs for it. When the self is greedy for something, it is easy for it, and that which is easy for it is not good. What is easy for it is only because it has a share in it.”

And he also said, “The murid does not divest himself in a state of strength until it passes. If you want your self to benefit, if it is divested in a state of strength, then weakness will comes to it which is followed by opponents who will unsettle it and tempt in a way which a master would not perceive because of his kindness and generosity in his company. Then he will revert to what he left and harbour a bad opinion of the people of divestment and say, ‘They are based on nothing! We entered the land and did not see anything.’

The one who is for whom tajrid is heavy at first is the one who must divest himself because it is only heavy for him since he has realised that his neck is under the sword and if he moves his head at all, his vein will be severed.

As for the one who is divested, when he wants to return to using means without clear permission, that is a fall from high aspiration to low aspiration or a fall from great wilaya to lesser wilaya. The shaykh of our shaykh, Sidi ‘Ali, said that his shaykh Sidi al-‘Arabi said to him, “If I had seen anything higher, nearer and more beneficial than tajrid, I would have chosen it, but with the people of this Path it has in the position of the elixir: a qirat of it would fill what is between the east and west with gold. That is how tajrid is in this Path.”

I heard the shaykh of our shaykh say, “The gnosis of the one divested is better and his thought clearer because purity comes from purity and turbidity comes from turbidity. The purity of the inward comes from the purity of the outward and the turbidity of the inward comes from the turbidity of the outward. Whenever you increase in the sensory, you decrease in the meaning.”

In one report, “When a scholar takes something of this world, his rank is decreased with Allah, even if He is noble with Allah. As for the one who is permitted means, he is like the one who is divested since then his cause is actually slavedom. So tajrid without permission is a means, and means with permission is tajrid. Success is by Allah.”

NOTE: All this is about those who are travelling on the Path. As for those who have arrived and are firm, there is nothing to be said about them since they, may Allah be pleased with them, have been taken from themselves, seized by Allah and defended by Allah. Allah has taken charge of their affairs, preserved their secrets and guarded their hearts with armies of lights. The darkness of dust has no effect on them.

That was the state of the Companions in means, may Allah be pleased with them and give us the benefit of their blessings! Amen.

Know that the one with the one involved with means and the one who is divested both work for Allah. Each of them obtains true turning to Allah. One of them said, “The example of the one who is divested and the one involved in causes resemble two slaves of a king. He tells one of them, “Work,” and tells the other, “Stay in my presence. I will support you by my allotment.” But the true turning in the divested person is stronger because of his lack of attachments and severing attachments, as it known.

The himma of the divested faqir is usually as the Prophet said, “Allah has men such that if they were to take an oath by Allah, Allah would fulfil their oath.” Our shaykh said, “There are men such that they were when they aspire for a thing, it is by the permission of Allah.” The Prophet also said, “Beware the insight of the believer. He sees by the light of Allah.”

Translated by Ayesha Bewely


2 thoughts on “The Hikam of ibn ‘Ata’ullah al-Iskandari – Line 1 and 2, Commentary by Shaykh ibn ‘Ajiba.


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