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Journeying and Initiation - 3

Sayr u Suluk
The ultimate, indescribable point of the soul at rest is the soul perfected. Travelers at this point feel that Divine manifestations have pervaded all the created worlds to give them their color, and all other colors, forms and qualities have been wiped out, and they experience transformation after transformation in their inner world of pleasures and visions.
| M. Fethullah Gulen | Issue 152 (Mar - Apr 2023)

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Journeying and Initiation - 3

In This Article

  • The travelers who go on further and further become intoxicated with new signs of meeting with Him at every step, and feel that everything belongs to Him alone due to a certainty based on observation.
  • When the horizon or destination is within sight, travelers should supervise themselves more strictly, they should be more aware of their nothingness before God, and be conscious that whatever favor and blessing they enjoy is from Him and that they are only mirrors that reflect the same.
  • Heroes of truth—those servants of the Ultimate Truth— advance through the manifestations of the Divine Names and Attributes toward the final point of certainty based on knowledge.

In the eyes of those who have reached the stage of the soul at rest, all things, all colors and forms disappear with their peculiar features. They continuously think of and utter the truth of “There is no deity save God,” and while doing so, they feel only Him as the true Self-Existence, they live surrounded by the light of this Existence, and experience with delight all creation as the manifestation of His Knowledge and Existence. In this state of pleasurable experience, they pronounce “There is no truly existent being save God,” in the sense that every other existent being comes into existence by His giving it existence. This implies neither the Unity of Being nor the Unity of the Witnessed. It is a state of pleasure which those who do not experience it cannot perceive, and those who experience it cannot describe fully. In the hearts of the travelers who have risen to this point, all else save Him disappears under the light of His Existence, and the Holy Acts, Names and Attributes begin to appear wherever they look. The travelers who go on further and further become intoxicated with new signs of meeting with Him at every step, and feel that everything belongs to Him alone due to a certainty based on observation. These travelers attempt to make presents out of their existence which they see as a borrowed garment they have been made to wear, pronouncing: “I have found the most genuine, sweetest honey, so let my existence be plundered!”

These travelers are such that if they are asked to offer their souls, they stretch out their necks like a sheep in order to be sacrificed. They follow in the footsteps of Prophet Ishmael, who is mentioned in the Qur’an, (Ishmael) said: “Father, fulfill that which you are commanded, and you will find me patient, by God’s will. So when they both (Abraham and his son Ishmael) wholly submitted (to God’s will), and Abraham laid him prostrate on the side of his face (for sacrifice) (37:102–03). They are extremely tender-hearted and unburden themselves with tears. They love everything, smell and caress everything, and feel a heart-felt interest in human beings, as they are polished mirrors that reflect the Creator. They exchange greetings with His manifestations in every color, taste, scent, and sound, and every exchange of greetings causes them to think and feel new things. They put the brake of self-possession and wakefulness on their pleasures and zeal. Fearing that they may fall into the error of thinking that all the spiritual pleasures, joy and delight that seethe in their spirit and pervade their whole being in waves originate in themselves and therefore belong to themselves, they pay no attention to these feelings, although many tend to sacrifice their souls for the same, but rather pursue only God’s good pleasure and approval in every word and act of theirs. Like Yunus Emre, they always say: “I need and want You, only You.”

At this point of the soul at rest, God’s gifts begin to pour abundantly on those with special capacities. In addition to several other characteristics, this rank is also the stage where those who have reached it are tested with spiritual discoveries and wonderworking. Sincerity requires that all spiritual discoveries and wonders which the travelers encounter should have no worth in their sight. They should even fear that these discoveries and wonders may cause their gradual perdition if they attribute them to them- selves. At exactly this juncture, where a second nature begins to grow in them, the travelers’ hearts expand and discover newer and newer truths and many secrets are revealed to them. At this stage, the veil is removed from their eyes with the result that the truths beyond things and events begin to appear in their own colors and dimensions, and where some become dazzled and feel dizzy, travelers with insight hasten to take refuge with the Sunna of the master of creation, and think and talk according to the fundamental principles of religion. They continue their journey, guided by the reflectors of the way which the Messenger and his Companions followed. Formerly, in the times after the Universal Teacher and Perfect Guide, upon him be peace and blessings, perfected guides who represented the way established by the Book and Sunna brilliantly and fully used to show the way to travelers. However, during times that have been deprived of such guides, many have deviated and many others have been left stranded halfway.

The rank of the soul at rest is also the station where an initiate journeys with or in the company of God, and the station which attracts particular Divine gifts. Some express these gifts with words that suggest incarnation and union; this is only because of a lack of suitable words or expressions. But it may cause a loss that leads the travelers to fall. Even though they may be at a summit, they can still fall into the abyss. Summits and abysses exist side by side. The higher one’s rank, the deeper the abyss into which one can fall. One who falls from the apex of the tower of sincerity will fall into an extremely deep abyss. For this reason, as one covers distances along the way, reaching higher and higher points, one should become more and more self-possessed and wakeful. When the horizon or destination is within sight, travelers should supervise themselves more strictly, they should be more aware of their nothingness before God, and be conscious that whatever favor and blessing they enjoy is from Him and that they are only mirrors that reflect the same. They should turn more sincerely and deeply to the Source of those favors and blessings; they should affirm that the greatest favor and blessing is servanthood, and do so with a deep feeling and perception of their poverty, neediness, and helplessness; and they should pray in the manner of Uwaysu’l-Qarani:

You are the Creator, and I am the one created.
You are the All-Providing, and I am the one provided.
You are the Master and All-Owning, and I am the one owned. You are the All-Mighty, and I am the one humble and abased. You are the All-Wealthy, and I am the one impoverished.

According to some verifying scholars of Sufism, the final rank in the spiritual journey is the soul at rest. Other ranks, such as being pleased with God, God’s being pleased with the traveler, and perfection or purity, are different manifestations or evolved forms or dimensions of being at rest. It is better to view these as the manifestations of feeling attracted toward God rather than different ranks or degrees.

However, it is viewed or whatever it is called, travelers who have reached the final point of being at rest receive fully—fully according to the capacity of each traveler—the manifestation of the Divine Name the All-Living and become a polished mirror of It, only pursuing God’s good pleasure as a requirement of the second nature that they have acquired. This summit is that of being pleased with God. Having attained this spiritual profundity, where they welcome with the same contentment whatever comes from Him—whether it be favor or retribution—the travelers are freed from the influence of all the features of their corporeality, and gain a new existence in all its fresh aspects. This is the existence that comes with sobriety after self-annihilation, subsistence after annihilation, and certainty based on observation after certainty based on knowledge. In the sight of such a traveler, every particle becomes a voice which mentions Him in all the circumstances in which it exists. Every voice or sound is a tune that echoes from Him in a different way that is peculiar to it. Every color pours into the eyes and hearts, as if they were smiles from a clime of holiness. The traveler breathes with the truths of There is none to be desired save Him and There is none to be worshipped save Him. In proportion to their position, they take in these blessed words as if they were oxygen for their spiritual life, and send out, as if carbon dioxide, everything else that arises in their bodily existence that occasionally makes itself felt because of human nature. The travelers calm their nerves and irritations, things regarded as the remnants of the carnal soul. When they feel stressed under the pressure of struggling with those remnants, they turn to their eternal Goal with supplicating tears, and experience their accomplishments as favors of God, saying as Muhammad Lutfi Efendi said:

That which I have—I am not worthy of it;
This favor and grace—why are they bestowed on me?

Their every word, act, and manner reveal the sincerity and depth of their being pleased with God the Almighty. Every day they refresh the thought of resignation to God’s will, without even being aware of the beauties that flow into the eyes of their hearts from the heaven of the feelings of attraction and being attracted toward Him. They whisper:

Whatever comes from You—
be it suffering from Your Majesty or a favor from Your Grace; Both are a pleasure for my soul; both are pleasant—
whether this or that is from You.

Having set up their thrones in such a world of approach and feeling, heroes of truth—those servants of the Ultimate Truth— advance through the manifestations of the Divine Names and Attributes toward the final point of certainty based on knowledge. Beyond this lies the peak of God’s being pleased with them. Here they feel His pleasure and approval with the signs peculiar to this state, and which they know as witnessed by their sound, pure consciousness. This summit has been called by different names, such as “certainty based on knowledge” which has the color of certainty based on experience, the rank of ahadiya (of God’s special manifestation of His particular Names) or “absorption within absorption.” Those who have reached it continue their journey on the summit of journeying from God in deep wonder and self-possession. With the Almighty acting as their eyes with which they see and their ears with which they hear, they can always see and hear correctly and they act endowed with most praiseworthy qualities. They overlook the evils done to them, ignore the imperfections they see in others, never cherish an ill-opinion of believers, embrace everyone with affection, and live in peace with all people because they know that they are all creatures of God. They always feel happy in their inner world (even though suffering with the afflictions of others) because they are pleased with God, Who is also pleased with them, and they convert everything into a confection in the workshop of their hearts, offering it to others in abundance. With their hearts always indicating God’s good pleasure, they act in all places as those who direct people’s hearts to the One Who is pleased with them. They love for God’s sake, embrace for God’s sake, smell for God’s sake, and try to fulfill what is required by such a great favor, which is regarded as the beginning of the rank of the Truth of Muhammad (or Muhammadan Truth), and to deepen their relation with this rank.

The ultimate, indescribable point of the soul at rest is the soul perfected. Travelers at this point feel that Divine manifestations have pervaded all the created worlds to give them their color, and all other colors, forms and qualities have been wiped out, and they experience transformation after transformation in their inner world of pleasures and visions.

This highest summit, where travelers continue their journey in journeying with God and experience unity in multiplicity and multiplicity in unity, belongs, first of all, to the Prophets. The pure scholars succeeding the Prophets in their duties can feel in their hearts only a reflection of this in loyalty to the Prophets. The most important characteristic of these scholars is wakefulness. They are aware of their place—where they are and why and with what mission. They distinguish between the whole and the parts, the universal and the particular, the origin and the shadow, and the ones who are leading and the ones who are led. They never fall into confusion. They are seen to neither make utterances of self-pride that are incompatible with the rules of Shari‘a, nor do they display affectations such that God’s attention may be drawn to themselves. Neither do they see them- selves as superior to others nor do they expect privilege. They attribute to Him whatever they have that is worthy of appreciation, and regard every effort to preserve the same as thankfulness to God for those things. They are exceptionally humble and modest. Without expecting anything in return, they are ready to shoulder further tasks and responsibilities.

The souls with such a degree of purity fulfill all their responsibilities in the manner and solemnity of performing their duties of worship and they cause every moment to overflow with a new delight in meeting with Him in the depth of their being. Their breaths, which reflect the breezes of His nearness and friendship, cause peace and serenity wherever they blow. Their silence is a deep reflection that uncovers the meanings of things and events, and their words are sparks of wisdom from Prophetic psalms. Numerous eyes search for them. Their manners remind people of the Creator, and wherever He is remembered and mentioned, hearts are aroused to self-supervision, and boil like magma, burn like a furnace, and cry aflame:

O nightingale crazy with love, do you cry again in pain?
Do you head for a rose once more shedding such profuse tears?
You hasten into fire like moths throwing themselves to light to burn; or have you constantly been burning in the fire of love?

Besides the stages of the carnal self or soul, the Sufi scholars have also mentioned some degrees or ranks of depth and purity for the spirit. The inward dimension of the spirit is “secret (sir),” and the inward dimension of “secret” is “secret within secret.” The most important dimension of “secret within secret” is “private (khafi),” and its deepest aspect is “the more private (akhfa’).”

What is meant by “inward” is the essence or substance of a thing. Only one of these faculties is from the realm of creation, while the others are from the pure realm of Divine commands. The deepest, most abstruse and impenetrable of these faculties is the “more private.” It is in the center of the spiritual realm of human existence. The “private” envelops the “more private” with its aspects belonging to the realm of Divine commands. “Secret within secret” surrounds them like a wall, and the spirit embraces all these faculties like an atmosphere and connects them to the heart. The development of these faculties depends on possessing a deep spiritual life to govern the human daily life. For this reason, it is not possible for unfortunate ones who have not been able to save themselves from their corporeality and to discover their real human faculties to feel the gifts that flow into those who have risen to high levels of spirituality. The minimum conditions of feeling such are to have the necessary capacity and to make the required efforts to develop it, and then to be able to be saved from the domination of corporeality through periods of suffering.

May God guide us and you to the right, sound path. And let God’s blessings be on our master Muhammad, who was tender-hearted and compassionate, and on his Family and Companions, the noble, honorable and godly ones.


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