DIVINE AWARDS

All beings other than Allah, glory unto Him, have been created through the manifestation of His attribute al-Latif (the Graceful); in other words, through His grace. No being among entire creation has come into existence through merit, by paying its due price. The mortal and relative existence of beings, as well as their entire characteristics and prospects spawned by the underlying wisdom of their creation, are to be defined entirely as Divine awards.[1] This means that existence of all that which exists, is merely the grace, generosity and favor of the Almighty.

Although the existence of entire creation and the qualities they possess is, in effect, a ‘Divine award’, we will use this term here to refer to the grants received by those progressively travel on the Sufi road, corresponding to the distance they cover. Persons with aptitude begin to receive unique favors and characteristics the more they progress on this path, even before they pass away to ‘the other world’. However much one may think that receiving these Divine awards is a matter of merit –since a person uses his particular willpower to enter the path to begin with-, in the final reckoning, grace overpowers merit, which is the reason why it has become custom to conceive them purely as Divinely given and confine the term ‘award’ to refer to them. The enormous difference between being awarded with something and meriting something has led to suppose merit nonexistent. This approach is not really off the mark, considering that the opportunity a person is given, which makes meriting possible, is essentially also a ‘Divine award’.

Some inherently able persons, who acquire a spiritual level through the training of tasawwuf, attain to many a rank of perfection during this spiritual journey. Such that the wisdoms of many mysteries are bared open for many a saint and many knots are untied. What was previously unknown is discovered anew, enigmas are conquered. Enlightening inspirations that glimmer onto a purified heart steers its possessor to the core of the Real and reality. Truthful dreams, which are generated through the Protected Tablet (Lawh-i Mahfuz) reflecting many of its future insights onto the heart, begin to be seen. Its possessor acquires a profound contemplation and a vision that feels the Divine purpose in everything of which it catches sight.

These states, obtained through Divine Grace complementing genuine effort, come in many more forms of manifestation. Expressed in the form of knowledge, they have been referred to as ladunni. Although they are of a content that transcends human comprehension and grasp, those, who through the grace and benevolence of the Lord have been privileged with a share of ladunni knowledge, at the same time attain to a comprehensive comprehension and understanding, parallel with the distance they have progressed.  We will now try to expand on the nature of this ladunni knowledge, as much as is allowed by human capability and permitted by religion.

Once I love My servant, I (virtually) become his tongue that speaks, heart that comprehends, ears that hear, eyes that see, hands that hold and feet that walk. I give him whatever He wants from Me. If he seeks refuge in Me, I protect him. (Hadith al-Qudsi, Bukhari, Riqaq, 38)

 

1. LADUNNI KNOWLEDGE

This special kind of knowledge is purely God-given, a divine endowment, an award. In reference, the Quran uses the expression “knowledge from Our presence”.[2] The term ladunni, meaning “from Us, form Our presence”, comes from that.

The truths revealed by the Lord to the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- are chiefly comprised of three categories. The first category marks the truths that can only be comprehended with the light of prophethood; they have thus remained a mystery known only to Allah, glory unto Him, and His Messenger. The Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-did not disclose these truths to any one of his Companions.

The existence of these truths, whose disclosure is both impermissible and impossible – even if they were disclosed, it would be impossible to comprehend them-  may be gathered from a number of sayings of the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-.

“If you knew what I knew, you would laugh only little and cry in lots”, the Noble Messenger –upon him blessings and peace- told his Companions. (Bukhari, Kusuf, 2; Muslim, Salat, 112)

And in another hadith, he says, “I have such moments with my Lord that neither a close (muqarrab) angel nor a prophet could ever comprehend.” (Munawi, Fayzu’l-Qadir, IV, 8)

There is a further second set of truths that the Almighty revealed to His Prophet, which may only be truly comprehended by a selected and capable few who have acquired a spiritual and intellectual ability and depth, whom are referred to as khawas and khawasu’l-khawas.[3] The truths of this category is the knowledge the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- is known to have conveyed to a few great Companions of the likes of Abu Bakr and Ali –may Allah be well-pleased with them-. Their passage from one heart to another is a tradition. If written books were to be their mode of passage, it would have been accessible to those incapable, as yet, of understanding it, causing a misunderstanding that would steer them to error as a consequence. Be that as it may, each and every person is responsible with learning it as much as is allowed by his spiritual aptitude and power, which he must develop for the sake of his wellbeing.

The third set of truth the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- was revealed with are the truths of religion or the law (sharia). With respect to this category, entire humankind is obliged to affirm faith in it and put it to practice.  Since it comprehensively binds entire humankind, the Almighty has taken into consideration the weakest, rendering the observing of these truths physically possible. And as they are needed by everybody, they have been announced to the entire world, to determine the obligations of all.

Time and again, the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- would inform his Companions of the events set to take place until the Day of Judgment, yet many of them would not be able to properly understand. There were others who would simply forget.[4]

In contrast, it is a known fact that the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings peace- disclosed many a truth difficult in nature to the certain Companions of aptitude, many of which they have conveyed from their hearts to the hearts of others who were of similar caliber. These truths are not needed by the general public, added by the fact that they are of a nature that exceeds the comprehension of most. Their transfer among the spiritually apt is not by a public address but rather through one heart to another; that is from one able person to another person with spiritual ability. And historically, this is how this tradition has survived.

In addition to Abu Bakr and Ali, Ibn Masud, Abu Hurayrah, Muadh ibn Jabal and Harith ibn Malik –may Allah be well-pleased with them- are other Companions who received certain secrets of this unique knowledge.

To the hearts of His servants who properly obey Him and successfully fasten their natural desires and wants to Divine Will, the Lord offers many treats, never before seen and inconceivable in nature. The Almighty indeed reveals in the Quran that he grants a special knowledge and wisdom to such of His righteous servants:

يَآ اَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ اٰمَنُوا اِنْ تَتَّقُوا اللّٰهَ يَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ فُرْقَانًا

وَ يُكَفِّرْ عَنْكُمْ  سَيّـِأٰتِكُمْ وَ يَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ وَ اللّٰهُ ذُو الْفَضْلِ الْعَظِيمِ

“O you who believe! If you fear Allah, He will grant you a distinction and do away with your evils and forgive you; and Allah is the Lord of mighty grace.” (al-Anfal, 29)

“O you who believe! Fear Allah and believe in His Messenger: He will give you two portions of His mercy, and make for you a light with which you will walk” (al-Hadid, 28)

The hadith says:

“He who puts to practice what he knows will be taught by Allah what he does not know.” (Abu Nuaym, Hilyatu’l-Awliya, X, 15)

And a related hadith al-qudsi states:

“Whosoever nurtures enmity towards one of My righteous servants, I will declare war on him. My servant may not get closer to me, in any way lovelier, than the obligatory deeds I have commanded him with. And through supererogatory deeds, My servant continues to get closer, until I love him. And when I do love him, I become (virtually) his eyes that see, his ears that hear, his hands that hold and his feet that walk. I then give him whatever he wants from Me. Should he seek refuge in me, I shall protect him.” (Bukhari, Riqaq, 38)

As is obvious, offering supererogatory deeds with love and passion, after of course earnestly offering those that are compulsory deeds in their proper manner, provides a means to receiving such magnificent blessings and awards of the Lord. For this, it is necessary to repel the lowly desires of the ego and abstain from the impermissible and doubtful and, at the same time, embrace the Sunnah as a way of life. Pleasures of the flesh must likewise be confined to where they belong, diverting attention instead to developing the inner, spiritual world. After all, what is at stake is so enormous a blessing that once obtained, it lifts the curtains of human shortcomings that veil the understanding to reveal a window that opens to the truth, the real and wisdom. It grants a precision of judgment and foresight. Outward causes and excuses, and external appearance in general, can no longer deceive a person who has melted in the Will of the Divine. Henceforth, he begins to discover the underlying reasons of all happenings, endowed with exceptional forethought.

Along with the ability to pass precise judgment and offer foresight through the inspirations that arise in the heart, there are also pleasantly subtle ideas that emerge in the mind, delicate messages pertaining to the heart-world, which are conveyed not so much through words as through signs. These are called latifah or lataif in its plural. These are guiding signs with which the Lord gifts his servants who strive on the path of spirituality.

The Almighty may also help His righteous servants in desperate situations by warning them with externally inaudible sounds. These have been called khatif, meaning a secret sound that comes from who knows where, whose speaker is unseen.[5] They are sounds that emerge in the heart of an aspirer on the Sufi path, which invite him to the Real.

The below incident attests to the truth of hidden sounds:

Wanting to give the corpse of the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- an ablution, following his bereavement, the Companions were unsure whether to remove his shirt, as had been the case with other corpses, or to leave it on and perform the ablution like that. A voice was then heard from the unseen telling them not to remove his shirt, clearing the minds of the Companions.[6]

Through His messengers, Allah, glory unto Him, has taught human beings the ‘Book’ and ‘Wisdom’. This teaching has, at times, been open and at others as ladunni, in the form of inspirations that shine upon the heart. But as aforementioned, insofar these states generally transpire in a way difficult for human understanding to bear, they have remained a secret to most. Yet, both the Quran and Sunnah testify to the truth and reality of ladunni knowledge. In fact, the below encounter between Musa and Khidr –upon them peace-, recounted both in the Quran[7] and in some sayings of the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-, offers some magnificent glimmers of the nature of ladunni knowledge:

The Pharaoh and his army, in pursuit of Musa –upon him peace- and the believers, had drowned in the billowing waves of the Red Sea, right before the eyes of the Israelites. Following this Divine blessing, Musa –upon him peace- gathered his people, giving them an eloquent and fiery sermon, melting the hearts of the listeners, drawing tears from their eyes. It left them in awe of their prophet’s depth of knowledge and wisdom. Under the inspiring effect of the talk, one of them asked:

“Messenger of Allah…Is there anyone more knowledgeable than you on the face of Earth?”

Taken in by the question, instead of replying “Allah knows”, Musa –upon him peace- instead remarked, “No…I do not know anyone who is”. He thereby committed a slipup.[8] The Almighty did not approve of his response and, at that instant, revealed to his messenger of His “…servant, at where the two seas meet, who is more knowledgeable than you. I have given him knowledge from my presence (ladunni).”

With an avid desire to learn this knowledge, Musa –upon him peace- said, “I will not give up until I reach the junction of the two rivers or I will go on for years.” (al-Kahf, 60)

Accompanied by his nephew Yusha ibn Nun, he then set out. After undergoing many experiences during their journey, they finally found the man they were looking for. The Quran depicts that moment of union as:

“Then they found one from among Our servants whom We had granted mercy from Us and whom We had taught knowledge from Ourselves.” (al-Kahf, 65)

The man, of whom Musa –upon him peace- had been made aware through revelation, was sitting on a rock, shrouded in a green mantle. Musa –upon him peace- approached him. Greeting him, he then said, “I am Musa”.

“So you are Musa, the Prophet of the Children of Israel”, replied Khidr –upon him peace-.[9]  

“Are you the man my Lord has referred to as the most knowledgeable among all men?” asked Musa –upon him peace-.

“Allah has given you a knowledge I do not have”, replied he, “and I have been given a knowledge you do not have, Musa.”

“Shall I follow you on condition that you should teach me right knowledge of what you have been taught?” (al-Kahf, 66) then insisted Musa –upon him peace-.

That was how Musa –upon him peace- expressed his desire to be trained by Khidr –upon him peace-. As can be seen in the Quranic verse, the foremost condition of acquiring this knowledge is to be willing to follow; for this knowledge is transferrable only from one heart to another, which demands an accompaniment, both physical and spiritual. So it continues:

Musa –upon him peace- wanted to acquire the ability to discern the inner wisdoms of seemingly bizarre events impossible to make sense of externally. So Khidr –upon him peace- said to him, “Surely you cannot have patience with me… and how can you have patience in that of which you have not got a comprehensive knowledge?” (al-Kahf, 67-68)

Through these words, Khidr –upon him peace- had effectively made the first discovery concerning Musa’s –upon him peace- psychological condition; he was really explaining to him what he was, words that were to be proven right in the end. After all, this knowledge demanded patience and Musa –upon him peace- was coming from a tumultuous life. The lesson Musa –upon him peace- was to learn was his own helplessness at the face of the science of Divine reality.

Meanwhile, Musa –upon him peace- was adamant to join. “Allah willing, you will find me patient and I shall not disobey you in any matter.” (al-Kahf, 69) he pleaded.

“If you would follow me, then do not question me about anything until I myself speak to you about it.” (al-Kahf, 70) advised Khidr –upon him peace-.

So they walked awhile on the shore, boarding a ship owned by two brothers before too long. The two men were allowed to travel free of charge. In return, Khidr –upon him peace- began puncturing the lower deck of the ship.

“Do you want to drown all these people aboard?” Musa –upon him peace- protested anxiously. “Why did you just do that? The ship’s owners are two poor men and this ship is their only means for a living. You have really done something strange!”

Khidr –upon him peace- said nothing except to remind Musa of his previous warning.

“Did I not tell you that you would not be able to remain patient with me?”

“Do not interrogate me for something which has slipped my mind” said Musa –upon him peace- apologetically. “Do not be hard on me over this!”

It was right at that moment that a sparrow came and perched on the side of the ship and began dipping its beak into the sea, hoisting a few drops of water. Bringing the sparrow to Musa’s –upon him peace- attention, Khidr –upon him peace- then said, “Next to the knowledge of Allah, the knowledge of you and I and entire creation is merely as much as the water that bird has just beaked out from the sea.”

After some time, they got off from the ship and began walking. They soon encountered a male child. Khidr –upon him peace- killed him at the instant.

“What?” exclaimed Musa –upon him peace-. “Do you now take an innocent child’s life, when he has not killed anyone? You have done something horrible!”

“Did I not tell you that you would not be able to bear patient with me?” responded Khidr –upon him peace-. Embarrassed for failing to keep his word, Musa –upon him peace- said:

“If I ask you for an explanation once more, banish me from your company. I have truly reached the end of excuses with you!”

So they resumed walking until arriving at a village. Hungry by now, they asked the villagers for something to eat. Not only did the villagers refuse to host them, they also treated them unkindly. Just as they were about to leave the village, Khidr –upon him peace- noticed a wall, made of mud-brick, on the verge of collapsing. So he took to the task of rebuilding the wall from scratch. Musa –upon him peace- could not contain himself.

“You are serving people who disdained hosting us and would not give us so much as a few loaves of bread to stem our hunger…You could have at least asked for a wage for your labor!”

“Time has come for us to part ways”, responded Khidr –upon him peace-. “I will now tell you the inside story about the things that made you impatient:

The ship which I put a hole through belonged to the poor men of the sea. I wanted to make it look defective…for they were being pursued by a king who was taking all the fine ships on the sea by force.

As for the child…he was set to become a rebel. His parents, on the other hand, were righteous folks. We feared that their child might lead them to transgression and ingratitude, and cause them distress. So we wished that their Lord give them a purer and more compassionate child in return for him.

And the wall I set right…It belonged to two local orphans. Underneath was a hidden treasure belonging to them. Their father was a good man. So your Lord willed for the orphans to expose their treasure once they come of age. I did nothing of my own doing. There…the insight into the events with which you could not remain patient.”[10]

Many explanations have given and commentaries written concerning the subtle and mysterious wisdoms contained in the above encounter. We may expand upon some of them below:

Ladunni knowledge is to view phenomena and external conditions beyond human criteria, according to the measure of an order unknown to most. When, for instance, asking questions is considered the key to learning in almost all sciences, this knowledge does not tolerate questioning and debate. It instead promotes silence, patience and submission. It looks at the end result of all affairs. Ibrahim Hakki Erzurumi depicts this wonderfully:

The Real renders good all vice
Think not He does otherwise
To look on, is for the wise
Wait, what the Lord does, and see
What He does, He does splendidly

Ask not ‘why is this so unseemly?’
Only proper that it should be
Just wait till the end and see
Wait, what the Lord does, and see
What He does, He does splendidly

The righteous brothers of the sea had allowed Musa and Khidr –upon them peace- to travel on their ship for free. By doing two honorable men a small favor, they in the end received the far greater blessing of the protection of their ship, at the expense of a minor, compensable damage. In other words, the halal asset, which was put to a lofty service, did not go to waste.

In the ishari sense, or in its spiritual interpretation, that the ship was inflicted with a minor damage and consequently protected from being forcefully seized by the king, alludes to the fact that perceiving the ego, the ship that sails on the sea of life, as flawless, will drag it to spiritual ruin amid the whirlpool of conceit and arrogance; and that one must therefore continually confess to his shortcomings and flaws to protect himself from spiritual destruction.

There are likewise numerous wisdoms underlying the killing of the innocent child by Khidr –upon him peace-.

Man must make sure that his natural yet innocent love for his spouse, children, friends and relatives is kept where it belongs and is not allowed to rise above his love of the Lord. They will otherwise hold him back and even stray him from his true purpose.

One of the great names of Allah, glory unto Him, is ar-Raqib, which refers to His discontent at seeing even a shadow of the love of others clouding the love for Him, in the hearts of those whom He loves. Divine Love, in other words, allows of no partners.

There was a time when Yaqub –upon him peace- nurtured an intense love for his son Yusuf –upon him peace-, especially after catching sight of the light of prophethood on his forehead. But his excessive love for his son was defiant of Divine Will. The Lord hence willed that Yaqub –upon him peace- go through an ordeal. The consequence is well-known: long years of separation from his beloved son. An excess love brought a painful separation.[11]

Through social inheritance, some great truths become universal realities common to all and consequently find expression in the cultural artifacts of a society. One such case is the proverb ‘excess love brings swift separation’, which hints at the imminent damages wrought by loving someone immoderately, to the point of idolization.

It is noteworthy that the parents of the child killed at the hands of Khidr –upon him piece- would presumably have been reduced to enormous grief to hear of their son’s death; just as they were once so elated to hear his birth. Yet, had the child lived, he was going to end up ruining their lives both in this world and in the Hereafter. Had the decision been left up to the parents, they surely would have not wanted their son’s death. But as the Compassionate Allah loves His righteous servants infinitely more than any parent could love their own children, by ruling the death of that child only to compensate with another more righteous, the Lord had really done them an enormous favor. Since the deceased child departed the world innocently, unsullied by sin, the Lord compensated his very short life by securing, in return, his eternal happiness in the Hereafter, along with his parents. A blessing in the guise of a wrath meant that a minor damage was preferred over a greater damage.

It turns that, most of the time, humans err when assessing external events, as they have no access to Divine Wisdom. In the Quran it is declared:

وَ عَسىٰ اَنْ تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئاً وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ وَعَسىٰ أَنْ تُحِبُّوا شَيْئاً

وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَكُمْ وَاللّٰهُ يَعْلَمُ وَ اَنْتُمْ لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ

“…and it may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you, and it may be that you love a thing while it is evil for you, and Allah knows, while you do not know.” (al-Baqara, 216)

Murdering an innocent person is certainly a great crime, for which Islamic Law requires retribution. So implementing the example of this Quranic narration solely on the back of esoteric knowledge, an act which the exoteric, the legal side of Islam could in no way tolerate, is impossible for Muslims who are responsible only with acting in line with the external. Hence, even great figures who possess the knowledge of the heart, do not act unless the external causes are fulfilled; in other words, they never digress from the world of causality. The limits set by Islamic jurisprudence are undeniable measures for all.

Musa –upon him peace- was a prophet revealed with a law, which he was ordered to implement. Khidr –upon him peace-, on the other hand, was acting in line with a knowledge divinely taught; that is, he was not acting out of his own desire, but rather according to the desire of the Almighty. Musa’s –upon him peace- objection against him was motivated by his reflexes to observe the limits set by the Lord. It is again the Lord who has revealed, to humankind, the encounter of the two in the Quran. This means that the events recounted in the encounter are different manifestations of the same reality, however they may appear as defying the legal facts of religion. Indeed, the moment Musa –upon him peace- found out the inner secrets of these bizarre manifestations, he abandoned all protest, realizing that shariah was the body to haqiqah, its spirit. As the law extends to everyone and most people cannot penetrate the gist of esoteric realities, their obliged with only so much as the law.

In spite of the malicious treatment of the villagers, that Khidr –upon him peace- proceeded, just the same, to repair an almost derelict wall in the village without expecting any financial return, highlights how important a duty and lofty a virtue it is to protect orphans. It equally voices the fact that a halal earning may never go astray. The earnings the righteous earn through legitimate means are, indeed, always under Divine protection.

Othman –may Allah be well-pleased with him- narrates the following with regard to the treasure that was buried in the wall:  “The treasure was a tablet made from gold, written on which were the following seven lines:

1. Amazing is he who is still able to laugh despite being aware of death.

2. Amazing is he who pursues the world despite knowing it is mortal.

3. Amazing is he who grieves, knowing that everything is predestined.

4. Amazing is he who hoards wealth, knowing he is to be called into account.

5. Amazing is he who sins, knowing of Hellfire.

6. Amazing is he who talks about another, despite being certain about Allah.

7. Amazing is who expects a rest on Earth, despite being certain about Paradise; and so is he who obeys the Devil, despite knowing he is the enemy.” (Ibn Hajar Asqalani, Munabbihat, p. 29)

Again in the light of the ishari meaning of the encounter, ‘the point where two seas meet’, the meeting spot of the two, alludes to Musa –upon him peace-, a profound sea of exoteric knowledge, and Khidr –upon him peace-, a profound sea of the esoteric.

The fact that Musa –upon him peace- abided by Khidr –upon him peace- for the purpose of ladunni knowledge is noteworthy in its resemblance to the murshidmurid or master-disciple relationship, in Sufism. It may therefore be concluded that even if a person may possess a depth of knowledge like Musa –upon him peace-, he should still be willing to humbly and respectfully kneel down before a saint and seek his enlightening.

“What shall we do”, the Companions once asked the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- “if we are faced with a problem for which we cannot find a solution either in the Quran or Sunnah?”

“Consult jurists and the righteous and seek their judgment”, he replied. “Do not refer the matter to your personal views.” (Haythami, Majmau’z-Zawaid, I, 178)

Imam Shafii, the great scholar of Islamic jurisprudence, used to frequently visit Shayban-i Rai -May Allah sanctify his secret-, a man of profound spiritual depth, and kneel before him, like a loyal student, to discuss specific matters, in hope of benefitting spiritually. At times, his students would object, saying:

“Look at you Imam and look at Shayban…Why do you show him so much respect?”

“For he knows things we do not”, the Imam would say.

In like manner, Ahmed ibn Hanbal and Yahya ibn Main would consult Maruf Karhi on many issues.

Spiritual masters are sought, not for studying exoteric sciences, but the sciences of the heart, as they are guides that shed light on the paths leading to the Lord. Many a celebrated exegete, a scholar of hadith and jurisprudence, like Ibn Abidin and Alusi among numerous others, in fact entered the Sufi path, accepting the guidance of saints to lead them out of intricate matters they could not resolve on their own.

Imam Abu Hanifah, one of the greatest jurists the world has ever seen, similarly sought inspiration in the company of Jafar Sadiq -may Allah sanctify his secret-. The following illustrates the enormous respect the Imam had for the men of spirituality:

It is reported that Ibrahim Adham -May Allah sanctify his secret- one day chanced upon Imam Abu Hanifah. The Imam’s students began staring at Ibrahim Adham -may Allah sanctify his secret-, somewhat disdainfully. Sensing this, the Imam called out to Ibrahim Adham, invitingly: “Please master…come closer. You have honored our lesson!”

Ibrahim Adham -may Allah sanctify his secret- timidly greeted him and walked off. Once he disappeared out of sight, his students asked the Imam, “To what does that man of such praises? How can someone like you call him master?”

“For he is constantly occupied with Allah”, humbly replied the Imam. “And we are occupied with Him simply on the level of words.”

As is valid for all other branches of knowledge, it is necessary to comply with the divinely determined manners whilst receiving training in ladunni knowledge. Comprising the most important aspect of these manners is to embody a humbleness that allows one to be constantly aware of his vulnerability and nothingness.

How striking it is that a prophet of the caliber of Musa –upon him peace-, honored as the Kalimullah (the one directly spoken to by the Almighty), never thought to himself, “I need to remain and tackle the problems of my people for which the Torah is sufficient. Besides, I am a recipient of Divine revelation and if I wished, I could just ask the Lord to teach me directly”. Instead, displaying an utmost humbleness, he willingly obeyed the Divine Will, setting a splendid standard for people to come after him. A clear testimony to this state of mind is his resolution to ‘…walk for years on end if that is what it takes to find him (Khidr)’. Musa’s –upon him peace- humility sets an excellent example for all seekers of knowledge.

Had Allah, glory unto Him, wished, He could have made Musa –upon him peace- find Khidr –upon him peace- instantly, without toil. The Almighty instead willed for His prophet a tiring journey, which means that this path demands a tenacious love and determination and, of course, Divine Grace.

The experience of the two also indicates the need to seek esoteric training from a master, compliant with the etiquette and the causal nature of the knowledge involved. More often than not, it is impossible to disregard this nature and obtain this knowledge without a murshid, a guide. Only those of the disposition of Uways al-Qarani are excluded. Triumph on this path requires an immense help as much as it does a strong determination.

On the other hand, that Musa asks Khidr –upon them peace- for training may tempt one to ask how a great prophet could seek the knowledge of a saint, however great the standing of the latter may be. But it must be noted that the desire of Musa –upon him peace- to learn from Khidr –upon him peace- certainly does not mean that he possesses no knowledge and wisdom whatsoever and that he has not been granted any share of spiritual insight (kashf) and inspiration. This is similar to a case where one seeks training from another person, who has greater expertise in the knowledge sought. To give an example, Sinan’s prowess and depth in architecture is undoubtedly greater than all the artists and laborers who took part in the construction of the Suleymaniye Mosque. Nonetheless, Sinan would not know the art of marble engraving as much as an expert-in-the-trade who worked in construction. But this does not imply a deficiency on Sinan’s part, as all the artists and laborers stand under his command.

So, just because Khidr –upon him peace- temporarily became a master to Musa –upon him peace- does not mean he was superior to him. In essence, there cannot even be a comparison of superiority-inferiority here, as Musa and Khidr –upon them peace- are wayfarers of two different realms, incomparable and irreducible to one another. The essential wisdom to be taken note of here is that all created beings, including prophets, stand helpless before Divine Knowledge; and it is this that shines through the recounting of their experience.

Together with being human, prophets are selected persons, the privileged recipients of Divine revelation. These unique servants of the Lord do not commit sin. But because they are also human, helpless before the Lord, they do rarely commit blunders or slipups referred to as dhalla. Through these slipups, which serve to throw light on the nature of a given situation and thus sets an example for humankind,  the Almighty gives them a taste of their humanness and thereby trains them, in a nature unknown to us. Here, Musa –upon him peace- is to understand, in due course, the meagerness of human knowledge compared to the Lord’s and realize the existence of many levels of knowledge unrevealed to him. This realization of his is to provide an ideal blueprint for humankind until the Final Hour.

Indeed, in spite of possessing so great a power and authority like prophethood, prophets were only aware of as much knowledge as they were given and were provided insight into the unseen (ghayb) only as much as the Almighty allowed them. Since ladunni knowledge is after all awarded, they may only know that which has been revealed to them and remain unaware of what is kept secret. It is mentioned in the Gulistan of Sheikh Sadi that a person once asked Yaqub –upon him peace-:

“You, the wise prophet with an enlightened heart…How was it that you were able get a whiff of the scent of Yusuf’s –upon him peace- shirt as it was being brought from as far as Egypt, yet were unable to see him being thrown into a well just nearby?’

“The Divine share of knowledge given us in this regard”, replied Yaqub –upon him peace- “are like lightning strikes. Truths appear crystal clear at times, yet they remain concealed at others.”

The expression Musa –upon him peace- used when seeking knowledge from Khidr –upon him peace- was in fact ‘the knowledge that you have been given’. This means that knowledge must be ascribed to the Almighty, not to mortals. Allah, glory unto Him, is the absolute source of all knowledge. He grants a share to whom He wills, as much as He wills. For some of this knowledge, He renders external causes as means, while for some, He directly inspires to the heart of His servant.

On another note, if a person who is fasting consumes something through forgetfulness, his fast remains intact. Similarly, Musa’s –upon him peace- objections to Khidr –upon him peace- did not bring an end to their accompaniment. But it was Musa –upon him peace- who thwarted the probable share he may have reaped from this knowledge by urging, from a mixture of embarrassment and excitement, despite not being compelled to:

“If I ask you about anything after this, keep me not in your company…” (al-Kahf, 76) He laid down a condition and therefore had to make do with only that much a share of knowledge.

The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- has said, “May Allah have mercy on Musa. Had he been able to keep patient, through them, Allah will have informed us about many more (mysterious and bizarre) incidents.” (Muslim, Fadail, 170; Bukhari, Tafsir, 18/2) Patience and poise on this path is therefore a must.

Another explanation provided by Sufis on the encounter is such:  It is reported that the young man who accompanied Musa –upon him peace- in his search for Khidr –upon him peace- was Yusha ibn Nun, his nephew and a prominent figure among his companions. He ended up succeeding Musa –upon him peace- after his passing away. Similarly, the Noble Messenger –upon him blessings and peace- had chosen Abu Bakr –may Allah be well-pleased with him- to accompany him during the Hegira; the most virtuous of his Companions and referred to as “the second of the two whose third was Allah”. (Bukhari, Ashabu’n-Nabi, 2) These examples draw attention to the importance of establishing true friendships, only for the sake of Allah, on the spiritual path.

Just this experience of Musa –upon him peace- alone gives us a fair idea of the profound nature of ladunni knowledge.

The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- has said:

“I undoubtedly see things you do not see and hear things you do not hear. The sky has squeaked and so it should…for there is not a spot as small as four inches in the skies that an angel has not placed its forehead upon to fall prostrate to Allah. I promise by Allah that had you known the truths I knew, you would have laughed only little and cried in lots…You would have left your homes and dashed towards plains to plead to Allah at the top of tour voices.”

On hearing this, its narrator Abu Dharr al-Ghifari –may Allah be well-pleased with him- commented, “How I truly wished I was a tree being cut!” (Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 19)

Other Companions put their feelings of awe and utter helplessness before the ladunni realities into the following words:

“If only I was a piece of date birds beaked away at”, said Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him-. The distraught Omar – Allah be well-pleased with him- wished to be a “piece of grass…or better still, nothing!” Aisha -Allah be well-pleased with her- hankered to be simply “a leaf on any old tree.”

What made them buckle and bend before the Power and Majesty of the Almighty is the spiritual station of helplessness and fear.

Another Companion enchanted by the spirituality of the company of the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- was Harithah ibn Malik al-Ansari -Allah be well-pleased with him-. One morning, the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- asked him:

“In what condition did you wake, Harithah?”

“As a true believer” answered he.

“Every truth, Harithah, comes with a proof. What is the proof of your faith?” the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- then asked.

“After I gave the world up”, he answered, “my days became parched and my nights sleepless. It was as if I could clearly see the Throne of my Lord. It is as if I can see the dwellers of Paradise visiting one another and the folk of Hell cursing at each other.”

The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- thereupon said, “Very well then, Harithah. Maintain your condition…You are person whose heart Allah has illumined.” (Haythami, Majmau’z-Zawaid, I, 57)

Again, in reference to Harithah, the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- said, “Whosoever wishes to see a person whose heart Allah has illumined, let him look at Harithah.” (Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah, I, 289)

This incident is depicted by Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- in the language of love:

“Harithah asks the Messenger –upon him blessings and peace- for permission to ‘…describe what he saw’ and begins:

‘Messenger of Allah…Let me begin to depict, right now, the day of resurrection people believe will take place tomorrow. Let me expose the secrets of resurrection. Command me and I will rip open the veils of these secrets…so that the gem of Divine wisdoms inside me may sparkle like the sun in the skies…

Command me, Messenger of Allah, and I will expose those who were able to remain gold and pearl like amid the dirt and ugliness of the world and who have corroded away in the crimson and black rust of disbelief…

Allow me to make known the seven abysses of hypocrisy in the inextinguishable light of prophethood…

Let me show everyone the clothes the rebellious will wear in the Hereafter. Let me make them hear the sounds of the drum and the kettledrum that will roll for prophets…

Allow me to show them the ebullient and overflowing Pool of Kawthar so that a splash of it may lick at their faces and its sounds echo in their ears.

Please, let me show them the thirsty souls running to and fro around the Pool…Their shoulders are brushing up against mine. Their screams are filling my ears…

The elated dwellers of Paradise are hugging each other and shaking hands right in front of my eyes.

The moaning screams of the dwellers of Hell, their cries of agony, are about to deafen me!

These are signs I express from deep within me. I would say more, if only I was not afraid that the Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- might reprimand me.’

He was saying these as he was engrossed in spiritual intoxication. He had lost himself in incredible ecstasy; he had little control over his consciousness. He was ready to expose all secrets.

To awaken him for this state, the Messenger –upon him blessings and peace- said, ‘Get a grip on yourself and be quiet’. Pulling Harithah by the collar, he then added:

‘Come to your senses! Hold the bridles of your tongue for you are at the verge of saying things you should not. The mirror of your spirit has burst outside of the casing of your skin. But never forget that exposing the secrets you are given is because of your inability to digest them. One of Allah’s names is Sattar, the Concealer. Be aware of this and do not sacrifice the joy of living up to this name to a dry indigestion.’”

Just as each particle in the universe exhibits a Divine balance, in the face of the manifestations of the spiritual realm, one is obliged to maintain a balance and moderation. The quintessential example for his ummah under all circumstances conceivable, the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- never wandered out of the confines of a moderate standard, the upright path, even when at the peak of spirituality.

The Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- would be overcome with so enormous a spiritual inspiration that it would be impossible for him to endure it for too long. In particular, he would suffer great pains during the arrival of Divine revelation, breaking pearl-like drops of sweat. At times, when inspiration and rapture would reach its peak, he would say:

“Spirituality has inundated me, Aisha. Come and talk to me awhile”[12] and return to the human climes.

In contrast, upon feeling overcome with too much worldliness he would say, “Call us to prayer, Bilal, so we may freshen up!” (Abu Dawud, Adab, 78) He would thereby establish a balance between the human and spiritual dimensions.

As well observing a perfect measure in his inner world, the Noble Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- was also moderate towards those around. He took care not to reveal the sublime truths the Almighty granted him, which transcend reason, to anyone apart from those who could grasp it. Owing to the importance of this aspect, Ali –Allah be well-pleased with him- has said: “Speak to people in a way they can understand” (Bukhari, Ilm, 49); that is not according to your level of comprehension but theirs.

In relation to these mysterious truths, Abu Hurayrah –Allah be well-pleased with him- states how he held back from narrating a number of the Prophet’s –upon him blessings and peace- words over a concern that people might not understand:

“I learnt two urns full of knowledge from the Messenger of Allah. The first I spread among public. As for the second, if I were to spread it, my throat would have been cut.” (Bukhari, Ilm, 42)

The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- has stated: “Passing wisdom onto those whom it is not due is tyranny.” (Darimi, Muqaddimah, 34) It may also be gathered that withholding wisdom from the proficient is equally tyranny. The Quran declares:

“He grants wisdom to whom He pleases, and whoever is granted wisdom, he indeed is given a great good and none but men of understanding mind.” (al-Baqara, 269)

Sufi greats of poise have not offered to share this knowledge they received to those of shallow understanding. These intimate secrets, which wit fails to grasp, after all, have to be concealed from the inept. In fact, Hallaj Mansur, who was entrusted with these secrets the Lord privileges some of His servants with, paid the price of revealing just a ray of them with his life. He was executed.

Having plunged into the ocean of Divine Oneness, Hallaj was overcome with an intense state of ecstasy and spiritual intoxication and the tumultuous manifestations taking place in his spirit when he exclaimed ‘Ana’l-Haqq’, ‘I am the Real’. The verbal exposure of an intimate secret, led people to judge his words according to the standard of reason which, by its nature, could not duly weigh their delicate nature.

Many saints have also undergone the spiritual state in which Hallaj had found himself engrossed. But this state is neither fixed (tathbit) nor an utter identification (tashkhis). It is a passing phase that transpires in saints who, during the station of fana’fillah, or annihilation in Allah, fail to retain their poise and lose control over their reason. A person is not liable under the law of religion during this phase when the power of reason runs out, when it departs the world of external standards and analogies, as the first requirement for being obliged by the law of religion is to be ‘rational’. Reason, on the other hand, plays no part in uttering such words. These spiritual states are utterly incomprehensible through reason.

Since these states are a result of coming under an intense Divine charm (jazbah), a person under the effect of such a state is referred to in Sufism as a majzub.[13] Although this spiritual state, which surpasses any external standard, may be condoned by those with insight, the public dislike it causes is nonetheless justified. Not for no reason has it been said regarding the execution of Hallaj that ‘Hallaj was in the right but so were his executioners’. Poise has therefore been overly advised in Sufism, which regards the state of being a charmer (jazib) superior to that of being charmed (majzub).

It is reported that Abu’l-Harith, the hangman, approached Hallaj from the front to execute him and fiercely struck him across the face, leaving his face and nose bloodied and broken. Right at that moment, Sheikh Shibli, who was standing by, let out a scream and fainted, for some reason unknown.

The manifestation witnessed in Hallaj is a state-of-mind (hal). Once this state passes, the Real is the Real and matter is matter. Sheikh Shibli says:

“Hallaj and I went through the same stages. They called me insane and left me on my own. As for Hallaj, they ascribed him with sanity and hanged him.”  He further explains:

“After Hallaj was executed, I went to his grave at night and offered ritual prayer until daybreak. Come dawn, I prayed, ‘My Lord…Hallaj was faithful and wise servant of Yours who believed in your Oneness. Why is it that You inflicted him with such misery?’

Right then, I became drowsy and fell asleep. I saw a dream where the Day of Judgment had broken, where I heard the Real declare:

‘We put him through that tribulation for spreading Our secret among the inept!’”

It is understood, then, that what is undesirable is not attaining to the mysteries of the truth by becoming annihilated in the Real but rather their dissemination among the public, caused by the spiritual intoxication these acquired mysteries may cause. It is therefore extremely wrong to generalize a few exceptional cases of overexcitement, caused by a failure to observe this standard, and speak ill of saints and the devotees of the Sufi path. Speaking ill of the beloved servants of Allah, glory unto Him and failing to appreciate their value stems from ignorance and shortsightedness. It is unthinkable for a believer to disclaim them.

Thus the fundamental principle on the spiritual path is a strict abidance by the sacred standards without, however, rejecting the truth of the eternal secret. It is also necessary not to let words in on the intimate secrets between the Lord and His servant.  All these are experiences undergone amid a spiritual ecstasy, beyond the access of reason. Once they subside and the sense of mind returns, this spiritual frenzy makes way for calm.

Under the influence of exceptional manifestations that have called on their spirits, some saints were steered to display certain unusual behavior. But once awoken from that realm, in which reason and will are momentarily relinquished, they continued on their essential direction.

Junayd -may Allah sanctify his secret- was once asked, “Some saints enter a state of spiritual ecstasy and display unusual behavior. What do you have to say about that?”

“Let them be”, answered Junayd -may Allah sanctify his secret- “so that they find their peace with Allah. Except over things the law of religion explicitly prohibits, do not condemn them. Bear in mind that this path has burnt their lungs, their efforts have left them exhausted and parched, and they have endured many tribulations. They behave like that for no other reason than to overcome the spiritual state overwhelming them. And there is no harm in that.”

The prayer Hallaj reportedly made moments before he was executed gives us an idea of his sincerity and soaring spiritual level:

“My Allah…Your servants have gathered to kill me for no other reason than their devotion to You and Your religion. Forgive them…for had You let them in on the secrets You blessed me with, they would not have thought ill of me. And had You withheld from me the secrets You withhold from them, I would not have exposed them. Forgive them, o Lord…for they are only allowing me to reunite with You!”

It is narrated from those who observed Hallaj’s state from the vantage of the spiritual realm that the moment Hallaj was hung upon the gallows, Iblis came to him and said:

“You said Ana[14] and I said Ana. How is it that you receive mercy for pronouncing the same word while I am pelted with curse?”

“By saying Ana, you saw yourself superior to Adam and in so doing, spilled your conceit”, replied Hallaj. “But I, on the other hand, said Ana’l-Haqq, and in so doing, annihilated myself in the Real. Conceit, which is nothing but a claim to selfhood, is the sign of Hell. But getting rid of it and becoming annihilated in the Real is the expression of ‘nothingness’. That is why my share is mercy, while yours is a debasing curse.”

Ibrahim ibn Fatiq recounts how Hallaj advised him with the following when at the verge of being executed:

“‘Some people have declared me to be an infidel, son, while others are convinced of my sainthood. But those who accuse me of disbelief are dearer to both Allah and me than those who call me a saint.’

‘Why do you say that?’ I asked him.

‘Those who look upon me as a saint only do so because of their benefit of the doubt (husn-u zan). But the others are calling me an infidel purely from their loyalty to the religion. A person who is loyal to the religion is dearer to Allah than he who only gives a benefit of the doubt.”

Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret-, who went further beyond the manifestations experienced by Hallaj, has said, “Had Hallaj knew about the manifestations between my Lord and I, he himself would have turned around and stoned me.”

These and spiritual states alike are simply expressions annihilation in the Real or fana fillah spilled out to words. Fana fillah is depicted by Mawlana Rumi as:

“Upon seeing the infinite river of life, empty out the water inside your cup of life into it. Can water ever flee the river?

Once the water in your cup mixes into the river, it is saved from its existence and becomes the water of the river. The water in the cup, then, loses its quality and attributes and is left only with its essence. Henceforth, it shall neither decrease, nor become dirty nor stink.”

Since all their emotions and ideas are directed to Divine Wisdom, for Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- and alike persons who have kneaded into their hearts the ideal spiritual blend, the Lord virtually becomes the eyes that see and hands that hold.

A Rumi enthusiast thinker elaborates how his profound state of mind eludes the understanding of most:

“We have listened to the screams of Mawlana Jalaladdin’s ecstasy. But we have no way of seeing the depths of the ocean of peace into which he had dove. We only see what has been washed upon the shore from the deepest end of that ocean. We have acquired not the love of Mawlana but the screams voiced from his love. What we try to convey with our lisped tongues is merely that. It was only he who delved into the ocean of peace. We are left only with the sounds released by the storm of his ecstasy…and alas, we identify that with Mawlana.”[15]

The state of spiritual love, rapture and ecstasy is such a mysterious ocean that what lies below the surface is known only to those who have dived into it.

Similarly, Muhyiddin ibn Arabi who put into words a mere portion of this mysterious science, albeit in the form of signs, has been cherished by saints and wayfarers of the Sufi path, looking on at the realities underlying in the bosom of his timeless expressions, reminiscing him as the Shaikhu’l-Akbar, the Greatest Master. Those aloof from the esoteric world, on the other hand, have imputed him infidelity, as they have been unable to untie the knot of his mysteries.

Given there is no confidant around to confide in, who can endure the secrets, it is better to keep silent. It is necessary to speak to each according to their intellectual capacities. Otherwise, to speak about wisdom and marifah to someone who can never appreciate the spiritual mindset involved, is to do injustice to the truth.

Muhyiddin ibn Arabi has thus said, “Those unacquainted with our mindset should not read our books.”

Similar are the words of Mawlana Rumi -May Allah sanctify his secret-. “I have voiced this mystery”, he says, “in a manner obscure and succinct…for he who tries to elaborate will end up with a burnt tongue and its listener with a burnt comprehension.”

To prevent readers of shallow understanding from being steered into false paths, in his Mathnawi, a book offered to the understanding of people possessing varying degrees of intellectual aptitude, Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- has either used simple and concrete parables to express the otherwise complex and abstract Divine mysteries and truths, or has concealed them under the rubric of signs accessible only to their spiritual experts. He has thereby covered the subtle meanings of the Mathnawi from those lacking a depth of heart. He states:

“My rhymes are not rhymes; they are an ocean of meaning. Neither is my satire mere satire; it is educational. My parables are not simple, run of the mill words; they are instructive. They are there to explain the mysteries and allow for their comprehension.”

Omar –Allah be well-pleased with him- recounts an incident he witnessed:

“I one day entered the presence of the Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- and found him conversing with Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- on the Oneness of the Divine. I sat with them. But I felt like a man who knew no Arabic; I could barely understand what they were talking about.

‘What was that all about?’ I later asked Abu Bakr. ‘Do you always converse with the Messenger of Allah in that manner?’

‘Yes, sometimes’ he replied. ‘When we are alone…’”[16] 

If a person of the ilk of Omar –Allah be well-pleased with him-, whose genius is incontestable, can barely understand a conversation taking place in his native tongue, one may have a proper idea the difficulty hearing something of the kind would pose an ordinary human being.

Putting onto paper the realities spoken of during such spiritual conversations and their public dissemination in that manner has therefore been regarded undesirable; seen as something adverse. Only in that manner has it been possible to enable the passage of these truths to proper persons, ensuring it was kept secret from the general public. Therefore, a mention of the name of a person thought of as having attained spiritual perfection is always coupled with the expression qaddas’Allahu sirrah, that is ‘May Allah sanctify his secret, or inner world, from all kinds of spiritual dirt.’

Occupied with heart-world of people in terms of its purpose, tasawwuf is thus naturally obliged to use love, the reason of the universe’s existence. It has therefore also been dubbed the path of love and affection. But since love is an exuberant emotion, it may reduce power over the will and bring about an ecstatic and unrestrained excitement.

One such example from the deep love between the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- and Jafar Tayyar –Allah be well-pleased with him- is as follows:

Jafar Tayyar –Allah be well-pleased with him- had returned from Abyssinia to Medina, accompanied by a group of Companions On finding out that the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- was actually at Khaybar, he proceeded there, without taking any timeout to rest. His arrival at Khaybar gave the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- enormous joy, as he said:

“Should I feel happy over the fall of Khaybar or the arrival of Jafar?” (Ibn Hisham, as-Sirah, IV, 3)

On his return from the umratu’l-qada,[17] the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- discussed, with his relatives, who would be the most suitable person to take care of Fatimah, the orphan of Hamza –Allah be well-pleased with him-. He ultimately decided on Jafar; and kissing him on the forehead, he complimented:

“You are so much like me both in appearance and disposition!” (Bukhari, Maghazi, 43)

So elated was Jafar –Allah be well-pleased with him- to hear this compliment that he virtually lost consciousness. He began hopping like an innocent child, spinning around himself like a moth around a flame. (Ahmed ibn Hanbal, Musnad, I, 108; Ibn Saad, IV, 35; Waqidi, II, 739)

Hence, just as one may very well become ecstatic at hearing such an enormous compliment and become beside himself, he may also shed the external world and become immersed in rapture upon receiving the graceful blessings of divinely manifestations. This is only natural. The important thing is to maintain the balance and to keep sight of the main direction and not spill over outside the standards being a human being demands, even amid that torrential flood of excitement.

Maintaining this balance necessitates guidance by those who, on the Sufi path, have combined exoteric sciences with the spiritual life.

Unless persons entrusted with the duty of enlightening attain to a required level and prowess in exoteric sciences, the danger on the path of spiritual love and affection remains ever alive. To avoid this danger, in some orders like the Naqshibandiyya, it has been custom for masters to be designated among those with equal depth in exoteric sciences, so that they may protect themselves and others from the ominous dangers spoken of.

The methods of spiritual training espoused by saints are various. Naqshibandiyya, one of the most prominent of the all the orders of the Sufi path, trains the disciple without ever letting him fall into spiritual enchantment (jazbah). This is alluded to by the words of Abdulkhaliq Gujdawani -may Allah sanctify his secret-:

“Had Hallaj lived in our times and come under our training, Allah willing, we would have protected him from spiritual intoxication (sakr).”

Insofar as the law of religion is concerned, emotions of overexcitement time and again observed in some Sufi orders, which are nothing but the spilling over of an intensity of spiritual enchantment, are merely slips of the tongue. What they essentially indicate is that although favorable and even recommended in their moderate dosage, excessive spiritual excitement and exuberance may come with some consequences.

Besides the attributes common to all prophets, it is evident that each prophet possesses a quality exclusive to himself. The same goes for saints, in comparison to each other. For instance, a saint may be of jalali or jamali temperament. But in their hearts, they nonetheless all know the Almighty in a way different to the comprehension and grasp of an ordinary person and strive to gain closer to Him, by abandoning all things mortal. They are constantly aware of their helplessness upon the boundless plane of Divine Knowledge. Be that as it may, not only are all saints not on the same spiritual level, they are also not obliged with carrying out the same duties. Some return to the public once they reach the final destination of their sayr-u suluk, their spiritual journey. They are obliged with enlightening the public. As has been mentioned before, similar to a teacher who teaches a child in a gradual manner, in their social interactions, they act as if they are unaware of most of the truths they in fact know. Feigning ignorance in this manner is referred to as a tajahul-i arifana; literally ‘a wisely feigned ignorance’.

Since they are not obliged with enlightening the public, other saints remain on the station of awe (khayrah) and remain in continual silence. It is like they are mute before the flows of Divine Power impressed throughout the universe. There are yet other saints, entrusted with the duty of guiding the public, who are like waterfalls in their speech. Divine secrets and wisdoms begin to overflow ceaselessly from the tips of their tongues.

In some, on the other hand, these states are variable. Their lives exhibit various stages. One such example, as it manifested itself in the life of Muhammad Parisa -may Allah sanctify his secret-, is below:

After the ritual prayer of isha, Muhammad Parisa -May Allah sanctify his secret- would stand at the courtyard of the mosque for a while and return home after a short conversation. Yet sometimes such a mood would come over him that he would come to a standstill, virtually frozen, in the courtyard until the adhan of fajr, immersed in a profound state of awe. On hearing the adhan, he would enter the mosque once again.

Similar to the difference visible in their lives and emotions, each saint has also adopted a different stance towards death. While Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- looked upon death as a reunion and a wedding night due to his burning with the love of the Divine, Hasan Basri -may Allah sanctify his secret- carried the persistent anxiety of not knowing what was to become of him during his final breath, beset by the manifestation of Divine fear.

All we may know of ladunni knowledge are mere crumb-like reflections onto words, as much as words themselves allow, from its manifestations observed first and foremost in the lives of prophets and their sprinkling in the lives of saints. Since the absolute truth of this knowledge lies with the Almighty, grasping it in its real meaning transcends the bounds of our comprehension.

Spiritual foresight is the ability to observe what lies behind the veils, the secrets of beyond. Only those who are able to look inside the nacre may become aware of the pearl.

2. SPIRITUAL FORESIGHT (FIRASAH)

Firasah is a light with which the Lord awards the hearts of His beloved servants. In other words, it is the transpiring of an incisive intelligence, genius, sensitivity, a depth of knowledge and understanding in the heart, in the form of spiritual comprehension. Through the genuine feelings and inspirations that emerge in the heart, it is the ability to discern the hidden truth of things that take place and accurately foresee and determines the thoughts passing through hearts and minds.

The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- has stated:

اِتَّقُوا فِرَاسَةَ الْمُؤْمِنِ فَإِنَّهُ يَنْظُرُ بِنُورِ اللّٰهِ

“Beware of the foresight of a believer…for he gazes with the light of Allah” (Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 15). Undoubtedly, attaining this prudential foresight, which enables one to look with the penetrating light of the Lord, is reserved only for those who are triumphant in shedding the conceit of their egos. The history of Islam presents many such cases in regard:

On the report of Anas –Allah be well-pleased with him-, while going to visit Othman –Allah be well-pleased with him- one day, he happened to notice a woman on the street. He was taken in by her beauty. With that thought in his mind, he entered Othman’s presence, who, the moment he saw Anas, said:

“You are coming here, Anas, with traces of fornication on your eyes.” The astounded Anas –Allah be well-pleased with him- exclaimed:

“Is Divine revelation still continuing to arrive after the Messenger of Allah?” To that Othman –Allah be well-pleased with him- replied:

“No…this is simply prudence and an accurate foresight.”[18]

It is also renowned that the foresight of Omar –Allah be well-pleased with him- on many issues fell in harmony with Divine commandments revealed afterwards. The Noble Messenger –upon him blessings and peace- indeed attests to this when he says:

“Among the people who lived before you, there were those who received inspiration. If there is any such figure person among my nation, it is surely Omar.” (Bukhari, Ashabu’n-Nabi, 6)

Abu Abbas ibn Mahdi explains:

“As I was journeying through the desert once, I came within an arm’s length of another man ahead of me, barefoot and bareheaded, who was not carrying a water-bottle. ‘How is he supposed to offer ritual prayer without any water?’ I thought to myself; he must have no notion of ablution or prayer, I supposed. Then the man suddenly turned around and recited the Quranic verse, ‘…know that Allah knows what is in your hearts’ (al-Baqara, 235). I simply lost consciousness and fell to the ground. When I regained my senses, I sought repentance from Allah and continued on my way. Not long after, I caught up with the same man once more. Seeing him, this time, impressed me with an enormous feeling of awe. I came to a standstill. He turned around, as he had done before and recited, ‘And it is He Who accepts repentance from His servants and pardons the evil deeds and He knows what you do’ (as-Shura, 25) after which he disappeared from sight. I never saw him again.”

Dhunnun-i Misri -may Allah sanctify his secret- recounts a similar experience:

“At one time, I saw a young man in worn out clothes with patches all over it. Though my ego wanted to despise him, it was as if my heart was testifying to his sainthood. Caught between my ego and my heart, I had begun thinking, when the young man became aware of my secret. Giving me a look, he said:

‘Do not throw your gaze at me, Dhunnun, to catch sight of how worn out my clothes are. The pearl always lies hidden in the nacre!’ He then slipped away out of sight.”

A young man who had come to the sohbah of saint Abdulkhaliq Gujdawani for the first time and who was concealing his Christian faith, had asked him of the inner meaning of the Prophet’s words, “Beware of the foresight of a believer…for he gazes with the light of Allah.” The reply was: “Remove the zone around your waist and become a Muslim!”

Stunned by his crystal clear foresight, the young man uttered the Word of Tawhid in the presence of the great sheikh and became Muslim on the spot.

It has been similarly reported that Junayd Baghdadi -may Allah sanctify his secret- foresaw, at first sight, that a young man, disguised as a Muslim, was in fact a Jew and that he would end up a Muslim in a very short time.

Foresight is hence a Divine award that may increase or decrease depending on the intensity of faith and piety in the heart.

Uprightness and toil is superior to countless feats of spiritual insight and karamah. It should also be known that a spiritual insight and karamah that does not bring about a greater loyalty to the commands of religion is nothing but a disaster and tribulation. (Mawlana Khalid Baghdadi)

3. SPIRITUAL DISPOSAL (TASARRUF) AND KARAMAH

Being Omnipotent, when the Lord wills for something to be, He simply says ‘Be’ (Kun) and it becomes. Together with this, in accordance with His Divine Will, the Almighty has at the same time entrusted some of His servants with disposal over certain events. Essentially, however, these disposals can never take place without the intervention of the Lord as the ‘Creator’. So with regard to these disposals, these certain human beings act only as means, as is the case with the four archangels.

Among these archangels, for instance, Jibril –upon him peace- is entrusted with the duty of conveying revelation to prophets, Mikail –upon him peace- with directing and managing natural phenomena, Azrail –upon him peace- with taking the lives of the living and Israfil –upon him peace- with blowing the horn to signal the beginning of the Hereafter.

The Almighty could most certainly have executed all of these directly without there being a need for angels. Still, through His Divine Will, the Almighty has invested them with such duties and authority. The power of angels stems essentially from the power of the Lord. It is He who gives them the power they have. The same goes for entire creation.

Allah, glory unto Him, has similarly handed His prophets with distinct authorities of disposal. Famous among all these, is Sulayman’s –upon him peace- knowledge of the language of animals and his command over the winds and jinn.

The Noble Messenger –upon him blessings and peace-, the imam of all prophets, was also endowed with many unique powers, from which the elite among his ummah have also reaped a share, as much as was allowed by the Almighty. The disposals of some prominent saints like Abdulqadir Jilani and Ahmed ar-Rufai, both in their lifetimes and after their death, has frequently been reported.

A spiritual disposal is not brought about by the control and willpower of any given person. Much rather, it occurs through the Almighty manifesting His attribute ‘Creator’ in that disposal and intervening in the action. A disposal is thus no different than any other happening. The only difference lies in its unusual nature, in that not everyone is privileged with it.

Karamah, a type of spiritual disposal, is a supernatural occurrence unexplainable through the laws of nature, awarded by the Almighty to saints as a result of the perfected quality of their faith, piety and spiritual knowledge. This constitutes the formal aspect of karamah. As for the real karamah as acknowledged by saints, it is to live unswervingly upon uprightness (istiqamah). In terms of the spiritual disposal they have attained to, the righteous saints are different to other human beings in perceiving, thinking and even conduct.

As can be understood from the above definition, karamah as it transpires in saints are of two kinds:

1. Spiritual Karamah: This is to cover distance on the way of acquiring of knowledge, both exoteric and spiritual, moral behavior and a quality of worshipping, so as to attain to a spiritual level that ensures a share is received of the inner sense of the verse, “Continue then in the right way as you are commanded.” (Hud, 112) Simpler put, it is istiqamah; to stand firm on the upright path. The words of enlightening wisdom that spill from the mouth of a saint, for instance, are uttered in a style that does not hurt the feelings of anyone, even when they are voiced to caution the listener.

It is impossible to obtain this state through reason and rational contemplation. Allah, glory unto Him, graces this only to who He selects.

2. Existential (Kawni) and Formal Karamah: These signify the extraordinary occurrences that takes place in the physical world, like relocating from one place to another (tayy-i makan), having wild animals see to personal duties and so forth.

The true experts of Sufism do not pay much attention to this type of karamah.  Besides, displaying a karamah of the kind is not a prerequisite of sainthood. The Lord, again, bestows this type of karamah to servants whom He chooses. In any case, displaying a formal karamah has not been looked kindly upon by Sufis, unless it be necessary; and exhibiting a karamah of the sort is the last thing a saint wishes to do, as it comes with public admiration and applause. Ignorant people then begin to expect everything from the saint.

However much the public may esteem the karamah of the second kind, it is the first that is more desirable. It is consensus among Sufis that ‘The greatest karamah is uprightness.’ The toil of an aspirant, who is not upright, is only in vain.

Mawlana Khalid-i Baghdadi -may Allah sanctify his secret- states:

“Uprightness and toil is superior to countless feats of spiritual insight and karamah. It should also be known that a spiritual insight and karamah that does not bring about a greater loyalty to the commands of religion is nothing but a disaster and tribulation.”

Karamah have a sublime purpose; to ‘shock’ the onlookers, so to speak, and steer them to uprightness. But Islam consists of a Divine Offer, to persuade human beings to come under obligations. This will continue to be its prevailing quality until the Final Hour. Extraordinary feats, on the other hand, which are somewhat compelling, are detrimental to this aspect. It is owing to this reason that neither prophets have ever resorted to miracles nor saints to karamah unless it was deemed necessary.

A true karamah generally brings about the following effects:

1) It trains the ego.

2) It rids the heart of ugly habits and inclinations, adorning it with divinely inspiration.

3) It lets the heart in on secrets and wisdoms.

Alternately, one of the most important means in manifesting a karamah is the Ism-i Azam, the greatest name of Allah, glory unto Him, which He reveals to His servants as secret. We would like to briefly touch upon the theme of Ism-i Azam, to the degree it holds a significant place in the discussion of Divine awards.

Ism-i azam is one of the names of the Lord that renders a prayer, made by mentioning it, accepted. Yet, it remains a secret as to which name of the Lord it specifically is and many narrations have come in regard. The strongest of these reports is the one that suggests that the Ism-i Azam is ‘Allah’, the Name of the Almighty’s Essence, which unites all His other names in its scope.

One relevant conception in Sufism is as follows:

Having given human beings a share of His Power by breathing into them His Spirit, the Almighty has made ‘man’ the most comprehensive manifestation of His Divine Names. The perfected human being is thus he who is able actualize the potential of these Divine Names embedded in his natural disposition and thereby attain to the honor of embodying the morals of the Lord Himself. It has therefore been suggested that whichever Divine Name reigns supreme in a person that is his ism-i azam. A person, for instance, in whom feelings of mercy and compassion are full-fledged, is dominated by the manifestations of the Divine Names Rahman (the Merciful) and Rahim (the Compassionate). For such persons, those names are the ism-i azam. But true merit lies in embodying what is demanded by the beautiful names of the Lord and turning them into a lively moral existence. Otherwise, many can straightforwardly read the Ism-i Azam from books or from memory and carry on like normal. Hence, if the heart has absolutely no share of mercy and compassion while the tongue is busy uttering them, it is futile to expect the realization of the prayer made.

On this subject, an incident that took place between Ali –Allah be well-pleased with him- and a bedouin is momentous:

A poor bedouin one day asked for some charity from Ali –Allah be well-pleased with him-. Without the means to provide him anything else at the time, Ali –Allah be well-pleased with him- picked up a handful of sand from the ground and reading a certain prayer and breathing into the sand, poured it out to the open hands of the bedouin as gold. The bedouin was stunned. He began begging Ali –Allah be well-pleased with him- to let him in on how he was able to do what he did and what the prayer was he read into the sand. Full of composure, Ali –Allah be well-pleased with him- told him it was al-Fatiha. The bedouin, brimming over with joy, then picked up a handful of sand from the ground, read al-Fatiha and breathed into it. But to his dismay, the sand remained sand. So, he once again asked for the underlying wisdom behind all this, in response to which –Allah be well-pleased with him- said:

“This is a difference of heart.”

Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- recounts a similar incident:

“A man once accompanied Jesus –upon him peace- on a journey. On the way, he noticed a pile of bones heaped on the side of the road and begged the Prophet to teach him “…the Ism-i Azam you know so that I may bring the bones to life!”

“You are out of your depth”, replied Jesus –upon him peace-. “To pronounce the Ism-i Azam and bring the dead back to life, you need a breath purer than rain and a servant-hood more sensitive than that of angels. The Ism-i Azam demands a clean tongue and a pure heart…a person with a soul untainted by the haram and free of rebellion and sin, just like the angels. Only if a person has a pure soul may his prayer be accepted. The Lord makes him an overseer of His treasures. You may very well hold Musa’s staff in your hands. But do you possess the power he has that you may turn it into a dragon and have the force to control it? Even Musa had felt a fear upon seeing his staff turn into a dragon and had the Lord reassure him ‘Do not fear, Musa’ (an-Naml, 10) So no benefit lies in you learning the Ism-i Azam Jesus knows, without having the breath he has!”

But the ignorant man remained adamant. “Since, I am without the power as you say, can’t you at least read it onto the bones lying over there and bring them to life?”

Amazed to hear the ignorant man still insisting, Jesus –upon him peace- said, “What is the wisdom underlying this insistence, my Lord? Why is this fool so inclined to debate? He wants to revive bones, when he really should try to revive his heart which is lying dead, skin-and-bones. Instead of praying for his own revival, he wants to bring bones back to life. What ignorance!”

Thus, the true righteous servants of the Lord are those who have attained to this maturity. Whenever a karamah transpires through a saint, his feelings of gratitude for the blessings of the Lord, therefore, increase all the more. It provides for them a source of inspiration in the struggle they have undertaken. True saints are never led by their karamah to suppose that their eternal lives are secured. On the contrary, they become filled with feelings of helplessness and humility before the Lord, despising their egos even more than before. Because they can never be sure of the danger of falling into conceit and tribulation, they carry a relentless fear.

The tragic fate of Balam ibn Baura, to whom the Almighty had revealed the Ism-i Azam, in fact presents many lessons. This man was acknowledged among the Israelites as a scholar and saint. But in time, he fell into conceit and became deceived by the dazzle of the world, as a result of which he lost his respected status; he even died a nonbeliever. His circumstances are depicted by the Quran as:

“And recite to them the narrative of him to whom We give Our communications, but he withdraws himself from them, so the Shaitan overtakes him, so he is of those who go astray. And if We had pleased, We would certainly have exalted him thereby; but he clung to the earth and followed his low desire, so his parable is as the parable of the dog; if you attack him he lolls out his tongue; and if you leave him alone he lolls out his tongue; this is the parable of the people who reject Our communications; therefore relate the narrative that they may reflect.” (al-Araf, 175-176)

Excess admiration for a saint, who has command over karamah, has therefore been considered extremely dangerous. It is mostly this danger that underlies the saints’ dislike for exposing karamah. In any case, karamah is not the ultimate spiritual level and does not, by any means, demonstrate the spiritual depth of a saint. Those righteous souls know very well that nobody, except for prophets, have their eternal happiness guaranteed. Many a person enters Paradise when having come within an inch of Hell; and many another is toppled down to the pits of Hell after having come within a step of entering of Paradise. As a way of life, a believer must therefore firmly adopt the standard:

“And serve your Lord till the Inevitable (death) comes to you.” (al-Hijr, 99)

As is the case with every other issue, our sole measure with regard to these Divine blessings which manifest in the form of karamah is the Quran and Sunnah. The truth of karamah stands, nonetheless, as an incontestable, authentic fact.

A few proofs from the Quran attesting to the factuality of karamah are below:

Asaf, the vizier of Sulayman –upon him peace- had assured him that he would be able to bring the throne of Bilqis “in the blink of an eye” (an-Naml, 40) and was true to his word.

Zakariyya –upon him peace- had been entrusted to take care of Maryam –upon her peace-, who had devoted herself to the Temple to worship. Each time he would enter the Temple, however, he would find various food items by her side. On asking her where they were coming from, he received the answer:

“From Allah…” (Al-i Imran, 37) Again, the 24th and 25th verses of Al-i Imran, which reveal how Maryam –upon her peace- was nourished directly by Allah, glory unto Him, testify further to karamah.

Evidences presented by the Sunnah are even more:  “Three people have spoken whilst still in the cradle”, says the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-. “Jesus son of Maryam, the baby ascribed to Jurayj and another baby.” He then goes onto give further detail.[19]

Explained in another authentic hadith is the ordeal of three journeymen, trapped in a cave into which they had retreated at night; a massive rock had rolled down, blocking the entrance. As a means for their way out, each journeyman prayed with a mention of a past deed they had offered exclusively for the sake of the Lord, and as a result, the rock gradually made way to the point of fully opening the passage.[20]

Anas –Allah be well-pleased with him- explains:

“Usayd ibn Khudayr and Abbad ibn Bishr were by the side of the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- during a dark night. When they left his presence, they saw two sets of light in front of them, lighting their way. And when they parted ways with each other, one set of light followed one, and the other followed the other.” (Bukhari, Salat, 79; Masajid, 78, Manaqib, 28, Manaqibu’l-Ansar, 13)

Another incident confirming a karamah of a Companion is the fact that while detained as a captive by the Meccan idolaters and during a season when no fresh fruits were available, Hubayb –Allah be well-pleased him- was seen helping himself to a bunch of fresh grapes. (Bukhari, Jihad, 170; Maghazi, 10, 28)

It has again been reported that while addressing the public on the minbar, Omar –Allah be well-pleased with him- out of nowhere called out, “To the mountain, Sariya, to the mountain!” As he was saying these words, which had nothing to do with what he had been saying until that point, Sariya was in the heat of battle, commanding an army of Muslims at a month’s distance away from Medina. But Allah, glory unto Him, made these words audible to him. (Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah, II, 3)

The Companions’ lives abound in such examples.

As the stark opposite of karamah, there may transpire from the hands of certain persons, who are either nonbelievers, perverse or carry a pretention for sainthood, certain extraordinary feats similar in appearance to authentic karamah. These feats of extraordinary nature, which transpire in line with their pretensions, are referred to as istidraj.

These are brought about through certain spiritual exercises. In other words, it is possible to actualize the potential for certain capabilities inherent in the spirit through certain nonreligious influences. Hindu fakirs, for example, are known to acquire a spiritual force mostly through abstinence. At times, this is made possible through magic or mobilizing a khuddam[21] from among the jinn. Distinguishing feats of this kind from real karamah is a matter of knowledge. But this much can be said that the lives persons who exhibit istidraj never measure up to the standard of taqwa or piety. They lack in abiding by the Sunnah of the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-. This is the first dividing line to watch out for. Junayd Baghdadi -May Allah sanctify his secret- has fittingly said:

“If you see a person flying in the air and know that his condition does not measure up to the Quran and Sunnah, do not be fooled for it is istidraj.”

Besides, a person privileged by the Divine with command over karamah would never flaunt it with an air of showing off. Since true saints are unblemished by the defective urge to show off, they never exhibit a karamah unless it is necessary. They instead persistently conduct themselves with a perfection of moral behavior, which other people can emulate. This is comparable to the fact that Blessed Prophet –upon whom blessings and peace- acted within human conditions in order to set a quintessential example for his ummah and only rarely displayed miracles –with the permission of Allah, glory unto Him- when the need for it arose. The righteous servants of the Lord do not stray a whisker’s length from the path of the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-. Paying attention only to this much is more than sufficient in order to distinguish karamah from istidraj.

The Pharaoh was one who had command over istidraj. Throughout his four-hundred year life (according to some accountings), he did not suffer even from a headache. His teeth were all intact at the time of his sudden death. It is even said that when striding downhill on horseback, the front legs of his horse would grow lengthier.

An istidraj only aggravates the conceit and self-importance of a nonbeliever and a perverse, worsening his inevitable end. Seeing Musa –upon him peace- strike his staff across the Red Sea and open, with the permission of the Lord, a dry path through it, the Pharaoh turned to his soldiers and yelled:

“Look! The sea has parted before my majesty!” Little was he aware that once he would charge his horse onto that path, the Red Sea would swallow both him and his men in its depths.

The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- has also informed that Dajjal will also put many an istidraj on show, in an attempt to deceive people.

There are further circumstances where the outcome of an attempted istidraj turns out to be the total opposite of what the person had intended. These are called ikhanah, a humiliating betrayal. Musaylamah the Liar, who had falsely staked a claim to prophethood, for instance, had once spat in a well with the intention of increasing its water. But to his dismay, the well dried up altogether.

Just as it was possible for karamah and istidraj to transpire during the time of the Noble Messenger –upon him blessings and peace- and the Companions their manifestation during later periods remains equally possible. The spiritual disposals and karamah which some saints manifest with the purpose of guiding the willpowers of those who witness it take place only through the blessings of the prophet they follow; thus, in a sense, they are at the same time a continuation of his miracles.

It is an incontestable historical fact that spiritual disposals and karamah, manifested both during the time of the Companions and later periods, have led to the guidance of many. Many an onlooker has even felt compelled to confess, ‘If this religion boasts saints like this, there is no guessing how great its prophet must be’, by which they, at once, confirm the true center of each karamah: the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-.

Some Specific Cases of Disposal and Karamah

To worship Him alone and to work on Earth, Allah, glory unto Him, the Creator and the Ruler of the Universe, designated human beings as His vicegerent (khalifah). This fact is recounted by the Quran as:

وَ اِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَل_ئِكَةِ اِنِّى جَاعِلٌ فِى اْلاَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً

“And when your Lord said unto the angels: I am about to place a vicegerent on Earth” (al-Baqara, 30)

The ‘vicegerency’ of man carries the following meanings:

‘I shall give Him some authority from My Power and Attributes; and he, as My representative, will possess a command of disposal over My creation, implementing My law on My behalf. But he shall not be the main actor; he will not implement the law on his own behalf and for his own sake. He shall be only My agent and regent. Through his will, he shall be responsible with implementing My Will, My command and My law. And those who come after him will be obliged to continue the same duty as their successors, which will expose the secret of, ‘It is He Who has placed you as vicegerents on Earth…’ (al-Anam, 165)” (Elmalılı, Hak Dini, I, 299-300)

Both the miracles that transpire in prophets and the disposals and karamah observed in saints, offer insights into the mystery of man being the vicegerent of the Lord. Among a countless cases of their manifestation, some are given below:

Mansur ibn Abdullah recalls the following about Abu Abdullah ibn Jalla:  “Ibn Jalla had once recounted to me an experience of his:

‘I had come to Medina, destitute and penniless. I went to the sacred grave of the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-. After saluting him, I said, ‘I am in poverty, Messenger of Allah, and I have come as your guest.’

Moments later, I became drowsy and fell asleep. In my dream, the Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- offered me a muffin. I ate half of it. And when I woke up, I found the other half by my side.’”[22]

Another noteworthy incident to take place after the passing away of the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- is retold by al-Utbi:

“I was sitting by the Prophet’s –upon him blessings and peace- sacred grave, when a bedouin arrived and said, in a tone I could hear:

‘Peace and blessings to you, Messenger of Allah! I heard Allah the Almighty say, ‘…and had they, when they were unjust to themselves, come to you and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Messenger had also asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Oft-returning, Merciful.’ (an-Nisa 64). So I have repented for my sins and asked forgiveness and have come to ask you to intercede on my behalf to my Lord.’

He then recited a moving poem and left. Soon after, I was overcome with sleep. In my dream, I saw the Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- who told me to, ‘Catch hold of the bedouin and give him the good news that Allah has forgiven him.’” (Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, I, 532)

As the war raged high during the Battle of Gallipoli, army major Lutfi Bey shouted, “Come o Muhammad! Your Book is all but lost!”[23], desperately seeking the aid of the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-. Just how that genuine plea for help was to materialize is made evident in the below incident:

The year is 1928…Exactly thirteen years had passed since the victory at Gallipoli.

Cemal Öğüt Effendi of Alasonya, an erudite man of wisdom, was at hajj, in Medina, where he had the good fortune to meet many important people. Among those was the caretaker of the Blessed Prophet’s –upon him blessings and peace- sacred gravesite. The man was at the same time a loyal admirer of the Ottomans, an admiration he would express at every given opportunity. After some conversation, Cemal Öğüt Effendi could not help but ask the reason for his love for the Ottomans.

The elderly caretaker, behind a radiant face, said to him the following, without a moment’s hesitation:

“Only one memory of mine, of which I will tell you know, is enough incentive for me to love the Ottomans for the sake of Islam. It would have been the year 1915 when a scholar from India arrived for hajj. The richness of the man’s inner world needed no further evidence; he was a saint in all likelihood. It was by the grave of the Grand Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- that I first saw him; he had arrived here after completing his pilgrimage. He looked very sad. The tears rolling freely from his eyes would never stop, I thought. I had to ask him what the reason of his grief was. So I did. He began crying even more and said:

‘Only after so many years have I found the opportunity to visit the Noblest Man of all worlds. But my insight tells me that he is not in his usual position. Is it that the eye of my heart has gone blind? Why can I not feel the presence of the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-? I have been devastated by these thoughts since the day I stepped foot inside Medina!’

The same night I had the greatest fortune of seeing the Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- in my dream. I remembered the words of the Indian scholar. The Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- did not leave me much in suspense. ‘What he feels is right’, he said. ‘Right now, I am not in Medina. My heart could not bear the thought of leaving my children, in a desperate situation, alone on the battlefield. I am currently aiding them.’”[24]

The confession British General Ian Hamilton after the defeat at Gallipoli stands as a virtual testimony to the above account:  “We were not defeated by the physical strength of the Turks; it was their spiritual strength that defeated us. They did not even have any ammunition left to fire at us. But we indeed saw without very own eyes, the forces that arrived from the skies.”

These types of occurrences are disposals the Almighty gives His prophets after their passing away from Earth. Prophets continue to live, in their graves, in a nature we cannot comprehend through the spectacles of our sensory impressions. The below hadith in fact bears this out in no uncertain manner:

The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- has said, on the report of Aws ibn Aws –Allah be well-pleased with him-:

“The most virtuous of days is Friday. Therefore, make sure to send me lots of salutations on that day, as your salutations are brought directly to me.” On hearing this, the Companions asked:

“How will our salutations be brought to you after you have passed away and nothing physical shall remain of you?”

“Allah the Almighty” he replied “has made the bodies of prophets invulnerable to decay below earth.” (Abu Dawud, Salat, 201; See, Nasai, Juma, 5)

This state of aliveness is valid equally for martyrs, as is stated in the Quran:

“And reckon not those who are killed in Allah’s way as dead; nay, they are alive (and) are provided sustenance from their Lord.” (Al-i Imran, 169)

With that said, the prophets’ state of aliveness is far more intense to that of martyrs.

The manifesting of disposal and karamah by saints, the inheritors of prophets, has continued to this day. Just some of the countless cases in point are as follows:

Ubaydullah Ahrar -may Allah sanctify his secret- relocated from Central Asia (tayy-i makan) to take active part in the conquest of Istanbul. This is recounted by his grandson Khawaja Muhammad Qasim:

“It was on a Thursday afternoon, when out of the blue Ubaydullah Ahrar ordered for his horse to be prepared. Mounting his horse, he then galloped out of Samarkand. Mawlana Sheikh, a renowned student of his, pursued him awhile. It was not long before he returned, telling the others that Ubaydullah Ahrar’s horse steered left and then right and disappeared from sight. Some time later, he returned to Samarkand, greeted by his students who were anxious to know the reason behind his sudden journey.

‘Mehmed Khan, the Sultan of the Turks, asked for my help’ he explained. ‘So I went to help him. And with the permission of Allah the Almighty, victory was granted.’”

Khawaja Abdulhadi, Ubaydullah Ahrar’s grandson, who years later came to Istanbul from Samarkand, recounts the following:

“When I went to Istanbul, I visited Sultan Bayezid II, who after describing to me my grandfather’s physical appearance, explained:

‘This, my father told me once: Amid the most violent phase of the Siege of Istanbul, I prayed to the Lord to send me the qutb of the time for help. He soon appeared in such and such stature on a white horse and assured me that I need not fear for the victory would be ours.

‘They have lots of soldiers repelling us’, I said to him. He then opened his caftan and told me to look inside. Inside the sleeves of his caftan, I saw a massive army, streaming like a great flood.

‘This army has come to aid you’, he said, after which he added, ‘Now go to the top of that hill, strike the kettle three times with the drumstick and command your army to attack’.

I did exactly as he told me. And he, too, took part in the offensive along with his army. The fath of Istanbul was soon realized…”[25]

It is thus a historical matter of fact that Sultan Mehmed received the spiritual aid of saints in their entirety. Especially renowned is the vital physical and spiritual assistance provided by Akşemseddin -may Allah sanctify his secret-.

One specific incident indicating the spiritual disposal of Aziz Mahmud Hudayi -May Allah sanctify his secret- is retold below:[26]

It is the year 1975. The time for zuhr prayer was near, when a stout and swarthy young man with an amicable appearance arrived at the tomb of the Great Saint. By accident, he came across Muharrem Effendi, the imam of the Aziz Mahmud Hudayi Mosque, in whom he confided his request.

“Excuse me sir”, he said. “I have come to see Aziz Mahmud Hudayi. Is it possible for me to see him now? Is he here at the moment?” 

Astounded to be posed with a question of the kind, Muharrem Effendi simply paused and said, “Yes, son. Aziz Mahmud Hudayi is here.”

The young man, noticeably delighted to hear these words, begged the imam to “Allow me to see him…please!”

Still unable to make sense of the situation, the imam repeated his previous words, hoping that the young man would realize that they were standing right beside the tomb of the man he wanted to see.

“Aziz Mahmud Hudayi is indeed here”, he said. But the young man simply repeated his request.

“In that case, let me see him. I want to see him”.

Hoping to get to the bottom of the matter, the confused Muharrem Effendi then asked, “Do you actually know, son, who Aziz Mahmud Hudayi is?”

Annoyed by these seemingly meaningless questions and the imam’s inexplicable stubbornness to prevent him from seeing the Sheikh, the young man, whose purity of heart matched the genuineness of his appearance, exclaimed:

“I know Aziz Mahmud Hudayi in person. He personally invited me here. I had promised him I would come and he knows about this all too well.”

At last, Muharrem Effendi realized that the matter had a delicate and mysterious twist.

“How did you promise him that you would come?” he asked curiously, upon which the young man began to explain:

“I was among the team of commandos who were airdropped into battle during the Cyprus Peace Operation of 1974. Amid the frenzied warfare between our troops harbored at the sea and the Cypriot Greeks trying to repel us from their bases in the Beşparmak Mountains, we jumped off with parachutes. But the strong wind meant that each of us was dragged here and there, far from where we had intended to land. I landed right in the heart of the enemy line. I was caught in the middle of a hellish crossfire from both sides. As I stood petrified not knowing what to do, there appeared a tall, imposing man with a comforting expression. He looked at me with a delightful smile and said:

‘What on earth are you doing here, son? This is the enemy line. Why did you come here all by yourself?’

‘Baba’, I said, ‘it was not me who landed here…I was dropped here by the wind.’

Shaking his head a little, the bright-faced old man said, ‘I have come to fight, too. I was sent here long before you. I know this area like the back of my hand. Which platoon are you from? Come…Let me take you to your platoon!’    

So I followed him into a trail, with balls of fire flying over our heads. But that great man was strolling along, as if walking on a quiet road. I was taken aback by his overall attitude. He asked me a great number of questions on the way; my name, where I was from, and so forth. I answered them all. Afterwards, I asked him a question myself.

‘And who might you be, Baba?’

‘They call me Aziz Mahmud Hudayi’, he replied.

‘Baba’, I added, ‘you have done me an enormous favor. Should I end up returning home safe and sound, I would love to visit you as a show of appreciation. Can I have your address?’

‘Come to Uskudar and ask for me’, he said. ‘Anyone will tell you where I am!’ That was all the address he gave me.

Meanwhile, we had made it to our platoon. I kissed the great man’s hands with love and respect. We bade farewell to each other, after which I checked in with my commander.

Suddenly seeing me in front of him unharmed and supposing it would have been impossible for anyone to make it alive from that scorching line of fire, my commander exclaimed,:

‘How were you able to come here?’

‘An old, beautiful Baba brought me here’, I responded.

After ceasefire, I returned home. But I could not help thinking about the enormous favor of Aziz Mahmud Hudayi; so I came to Uskudar to visit him in appreciation. The people who I asked directed me here, telling me he is a holy man’”.

The young man paused awhile. Taking a deep breath, he then repeated his previous request:

“That was how we met each other, sir. Now, please…Allow me to see him!”

Deeply moved by now, Muharrem Effendi could not say anything to the young man staring at him behind pleading eyes. Then doing the best to regain his composure, he could only give him a short explanation and that by stuttering:

“Son…Aziz Mahmud Hudayi is not someone who is physically alive. He is a great saint who lived between 1543 and 1628. He must have called you here so you could recite Fatiha. His grave is over there…”

Hearing this reply, the loyal and faithful young man became extremely saddened by the news he had found about only then. There was only the tomb of the great man, whom he had longingly come to visit and to whom he owed his life. It was only then that he came to terms with the incredible spiritual disposal he had experienced in the raging heat of battle. He began to sob. Covering his face with his hands, he cried for many minutes.

He was not alone in his tears. The imam was also crying…

A memory of the great saint Mahmud Sami Ramazanoğlu, which we had the fortune to hear personally during one of his sohbahs, runs as follows:

Mahmud Sami’s -May Allah sanctify his secret- sister, two years his junior, was crippled in both feet. Close to where they were was the tomb of a famous saint known as Kaplanci Baba, frequently visited by the public. Accompanied by his mother and younger sister, he too one day went to visit the tomb, spending the night there. As they were fast asleep at night, they woke up to the scream of her crippled sister. His mother rushed to ask her what was wrong. The young girl explained, excitedly, that an old man had risen from the tomb and pressed and applied pressure on both her feet. Sami Effendi, recounting this memory, said that from that day onwards until her death, her sister was able to walk without ever feeling the least ache in her feet.

The incidents explained thus far and those alike are the Divine blessings of the authority of spiritual disposal the Almighty has graced some of His servants with. Yet it must not be forgotten that the absolute doer is invariably the Almighty Himself. The aid He has given His servants, both through the medium of angels and saints, have continued to this very day.

The truthful dream seen by a believer is one-forty-sixth of prophethood.
(Bukhari, Tabir, 26; Muslim, Ruya, 6)

4. TRUTHFUL DREAMS

Among the Divine awards are truthful dreams, considered as a way of comprehending the realities of the unseen. During sleep, connection with the material world is reduced to a bare minimum and spiritual emotions, trapped inside the body, are strengthened. The clouds of the ego, which veil the panorama of the sublime, disperse and allow for clearer vision. Gazing at the realm of the unseen in this manner is made possible for certain righteous persons. Verification of what the insights seen during these dreams comes later on, after awaking.

The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- has said:

“Only glad tidings (mubashshirat) are left behind from prophethood”, on which the Companions present asked what exactly was meant by these glad tidings.

“A truthful dream”, responded the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-. (Bukhari, Tabir, 5; Muslim, Salat, 207-208)

Mubashshirat are seen when the hearts of genuine believers become receptive to Divine inspirations and glad tidings during the dream.

In clarifying the meaning of the expression ‘glad tidings in the life of the world’ as it comes to pass in the verse “For them are glad tidings, in the life of the world and in the Hereafter…” (Yunus, 64), the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- has said:

“They are the truthful dreams a Muslim sees or is made to see.” (Tirmidhi, Ruya, 3)

Dreams are of three types:

1. Devilish Dreams: These are dreams inspired by the devil with the purpose of casting fear, distress and sorrow; like a dream where one falls of a cliff or sees scenes of disaster and chaos that sends him into despair. These dreams are baseless. Should one see a hazy, complicated dream the details of which he can barely remember, he should not tell anyone about it and seek refuge in the Almighty from the lure of the Shaytan.

On the report of Abu Said al-Khudri –Allah be well-pleased with him- the Noble Messenger –upon him blessings and peace- has stated:  “If anyone of you sees a dream he enjoys, let him know that it is from Allah the Almighty. Therefore, he should thank Allah and recount this dream.”

According to another narration:

“He should tell this dream only to who he loves. If he sees a dream he dislikes, that is from Shaytan. He should therefore seek refuge in Allah from his evil and not tell the dream to anyone. That way, the dream shall not harm him.” (Bukhari, Tabir, 3, 46; Muslim, Ruya, 3)

It is further said in yet another hadith:

“Should anyone of you see a dream he dislikes, let him spit three times to his left, seek refuge in Allah from the evil of the devil three times and change his position from one side to the other.” (Muslim, Ruya, 5)

2. Dreams Caused by an External Influence: These are scenes reflected onto a dream from one’s imaginings or daily circumstances; like drinking lots of water in a dream after having eaten a salty dish before falling asleep or the reflection onto a dream of a problem that has kept the mind busy during the day. These have no interpretation. They are baseless.

3. Truthful Dreams: These dreams are remembered clearly. Inspired by the Lord, their nature is either that of glad tidings or warning. Certain designated angels receive these images from the Protected Tablet (lawh-i mahfuz) and instill them in the spirit of the sleeper with the command and permission of the Lord.

Truthful dreams are glimmers from the Protected Tablet that throw light on the future. The first stages of the prophethood of the Noble Messenger –upon him blessings and peace- consisted of truthful dreams, lasting for about six months.

The Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- says:

“As the Time[27] draws near, the dreams of a believer are almost never belied (they occur as they are seen). The truthful dream seen by a believer is one-forty-sixth of prophethood…and that which is from prophethood can never be a lie.”[28]

“Dreams are of three kinds: The first are the truthful dreams, glad tidings from Allah. The second are the fear and sorrow whispered by the devil. And the third are things a person communicates to himself. Whosoever sees something in a dream he dislikes, should not tell his dream to others…he should immediately get up an offer ritual prayer.” (Bukhari, Tabir, 26; Muslim, Ruya, 6)

“The truest dreams are seen by those who speak the truth most.” (Muslim, Ruya, 6)

“The most truthful dream is seen during the approaching dawn.” (Tirmidhi, Ruya, 3/2274)

Truthful dreams need to be interpreted by their experts; their signs need to be deciphered. Interpreting dreams is likewise a God-given expertise. There were times after ritual prayer when the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- would listen to and interpret the dreams of some of his Companions and provide insight into the forthcoming events signaled by their dreams.

Interpreting dreams is without a doubt a special science founded upon certain principles. Those with insight into this science are known as a muabbir; that is, an interpreter. Many books have been written on interpreting dreams for the benefit of the general public. The most famous of these are the works of Ibn Sirin and Muhyiddin Arabi -may Allah sanctify his secret-, often quoted by many other books of dream interpretation compiled up to this day. Be that as it may, interpreting dreams by simply drawing from the information provided in such works is not entirely a correct line of approach; as the gist of interpreting dreams is spiritual insight (kashf). The interpreter must therefore possess a spiritual command. One would otherwise face the dangers of a wrong interpretation, as pronounced by the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-:

“A dream comes true as said by its first interpreter.” (Ibn Majah, Tabir, 7) Dreams must therefore not be told to those who lack expertise. And the experts of this science have stated that ‘the first interpretation is valid and it cancels out the rest’.

According to what is explained in the epistle Mizanu’n-Nufus,[29] the science of dream interpretation is comprised of two parts: subjective (anfusi) and objective (afaqi). Anyone, elite or not, may acquire knowledge of objective interpretation; that is, it is possible to be trained in it by virtue of collecting interpretations made previously by spiritual experts from books or word of mouth. This way, many similar dreams may be decoded in light of previous interpretations.

Each entity seen in a dream is like a word in a language. In other words, each is virtually a language of its own. The meaning ascribed, by the dream language, to an entity seen during a dream is based on a distant relation. That is to say, this relation is not without a ground, a foundation. A snake, for instance, is taken to signify an enemy; and this meaning has its source in the narrative of Adam –upon him peace-. Each mode of behavior and movement the snake exhibits is thereby taken as signifying a specific attitude of the enemy. If the snake appears dead straight or motionless, for instance, it is then interpreted as a road.

On the other hand, many factors play a vital role in interpreting dreams; like the specific day, night or the season of the year in which the dream is seen. For example, whereas the realization in life of a dream seen during winter is delayed, a dream seen towards daybreak is generally quick to come true. Yet, more often than not, such interpretations are deficient as they do not take into regard the different temperaments of the dream seer.

The science of objective dream interpretation is, in contrast, exclusive to the elite (khawass) and always needs the assistance of spiritual insight (kashf), as distinguishing a divinely (rahmani) dream from a devilish (shaytani) requires Divine inspiration. Moreover, since human beings drastically differ from one another in temperament, even the same dream seen by two different people may carry different meanings. Appreciating this subtlety demands a spiritual command.

This calls to mind how two people had once come to Ibn Sirin, telling him that they had both dreamt that they were offering a sermon on the pulpit. Ibn Sirin told one of them that he would be undertaking pilgrimage and the other that he would be hanged. Both interpretations were soon realized.

Aisha –Allah be well-pleased with her- explains:

“I had once dreamt of three moons falling into my room. I recounted it to my father Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him-. He kept silent and did not give me an answer. Only when the Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- passed away and was buried in my room, did he say, ‘There…the first and the best of the three moons you had dreamt about!’” (Muwatta, Janaiz, 30)

When the Muhajirun arrived in Medina, lots were drawn to nominate their brothers from among the Ansar. Othman ibn Mazun –Allah be well-pleased with him- fell to the family of Ummu’l-Ala al-Ansariyya –Allah be well-pleased with her-. They immediately took him and lodged him at their home. A short time later, however, he was struck down by an illness. The family saw to his treatment but to no avail, as he passed away not long after. Ummu’l-Ala then saw Othman –Allah be well-pleased with him- in her dream where he had a flowing tap. She immediately explained her dream to the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-, who said:

“That is his deeds, flowing for him.” (Bukhari, Tabir, 13, Janaiz, 3, Shahadat, 30, Manaqibu’l-Ansar, 46)

Another woman had come to the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- for him to interpret her dream in which the central pillar of her home broke and fell in front of her. The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- asked the lady whether or not she was married, and if she was married, where her husband was. The lady told him that her husband had gone out on a journey but still had not returned. The Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- thereupon informed her that her husband would soon return safe and sound and they would rejoice over it. The dream was realized exactly as it was interpreted.

The woman saw the same dream again, while her husband happened to be on journey, during the caliphate of Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him-. This time, she went to the Caliph to have her dream interpreted. Like the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- before him, the Siddiq –Allah be well-pleased with him- inquired the lady for some information about her husband. He afterwards told her that her husband had died on the road.

Confused and in panic, the woman said, “The Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- had interpreted the same dream as referring to my husband’s safe return!”

“True”, replied he. “That was the insight he was given and this is what I am inspired with.” It was not long before the news of her husband’s death reached Medina.

Correctly interpreting dreams is an extremely difficult and even impossible undertaking without a spiritual command, in that the dream-world presents things and states of extraordinary nature, illusory, obscure and almost illegible.

The Almighty declares in the Quran how He had endowed Yusuf –upon him peace- with expertise in this science.[30]  While in prison, Yusuf –upon him peace- had listened to a baker and a former cupbearer of the palace tell him their dreams. The baker explained to him how he had dreamt of carrying a tray full of bread on his head when a flock of flying birds closed in and ate all the bread. Yusuf –upon him peace- informed the baker that he would end up being hanged and that a flock birds would pick away at his head. The cupbearer, on the other hand, told Yusuf –upon him peace- that in his dream he was serving the king as cupbearer, like before, which the Prophet interpreted as signaling his “return to the palace as cupbearer.” These insights were soon realized in the exact manner foretold.

As has been mentioned above, the science of dream interpretation is based chiefly on spiritual insight (kashf). For this reason, the interpreter must possess a spiritual ranking.  It was said that the late Celaleddin Ökten, who I had the good fortune to study under during my years at Istanbul Imam Hatip Lise (High School), used to exert great expertise in interpreting dreams. He would mention that dreams could only be interpreted with a lucid and spiritual heart and that the accuracy of an interpretation always depended upon the piety of the interpreter.

During his youth, Celaleddin Ökten –may Allah have mercy on him- used to teach courses on religion at high schools; leading a pious life with a spirited heart. It was during those years he became famous with his accurate dream interpreting. After giving some examples of his experiences in interpreting dreams, he would go on to lament:

“Then came a time when the curtains came down…as courses on religion were abolished by the state and I was appointed a teacher of philosophy. And once I began swimming in the murky sea of reason-engendered philosophical theories, the springs of my heart all dried up.”

Another renowned case of a truthful dream is as follows:

Imam Busiri, the poet behind the famous Qasidah-i Burda, one day came across a spiritually enlightened old man while on his way home.

“Busiri!” the old man called out to him. “Did you see the Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- in your dream last night?”

“No, I did not”, replied Busiri. The old man parted ways without saying another word. But his question had ignited the fiery love and affection the Imam had in his heart for the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-.

That night, however, the Imam did see the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- in his dream. When he woke up, he felt an inexpressible joy and peace take over his heart. Thereafter, he began writing many poems paying homage to the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-, a read of which would throw many devotees of the Prophet into the ocean of his love.

But a short time later, he became hemiplegic; he lost sensation in one half of his body. No longer able to walk, he could not even move a finger without a struggle. It was then that he wrote the celebrated Qasidah-i Burda, through which he sought a healing from the Lord. The night he completed the qasidah, he saw a dream, where he read to the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- what he had written; and happy to hear the poem, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- stroked the part of his body that was paralyzed. It must have been some love, as upon waking up, Imam Busiri saw that he was fully cured, on which he offered his deep thanks to Allah, glory unto Him.

While walking to the mosque for the fajr prayer that morning, elated to be cured, he came across Sheikh Abu’r-Raja -may Allah sanctify his secret- who asked to him to recite the qasidah in which he praises the Best of Creation -upon him blessings and peace-.

“I have many poems like that. Which one are you asking for?” inquired Imam Busiri.

“The one you read to in the presence of the Messenger of Allah”, said Sheikh Abu’r-Raja. “I noticed he was greatly delighted to hear it.”

Knowing very well that nobody had yet heard the qasidah, Imam Busiri was stunned.[31]

There are many cases in the Islamic world where many secrets pertaining to the realm of the unseen (ghayb) are exposed to the righteous, be it through spiritual insight, foresight, inspiration or truthful dreams. But then again, there stands the immutable Divine declaration that:

“Say: No one in the heavens and the earth knows the unseen but Allah” (an-Naml, 65). This, then, calls for a few explanatory words.

In actual fact, the core of this explanation is comprised in the hadith al-qudsi, “…and when I love him, I (virtually) become his tongue that speaks, heart that comprehends, ears that hear, eyes that see, hands that hold and feet that walk…” (Bukhari, Riqaq, 38) The center of spiritual insight and inspiration is the spirit the Lord has breathed into man. The eyes placed on the head may seem to be the medium only of external vision; but facing the ‘divine light’ placed in those eyes, the curtains of the unseen may become dysfunctional, to the degree the Almighty allows. In such a case, it is again the Almighty who is exposing the unseen; man has otherwise no power to see, hear or know what remains behind the curtain. Only through the grace of Allah, glory unto Him, and His informing does man know end up knowing what was previously hidden.

The Almighty indeed reveals in the Quran that He does reveal certain information concerning the unseen: “This is of the declaration relating to the unseen which We reveal to you…” (Al-i Imran, 44)

With that said, the unseen is of two kinds: the absolutely unseen and the relatively unseen.

The unseen, which can be known to no other than the Lord, is referred to as the absolutely unseen. Knowing something of it has nothing to do with one’s personal aptitude. What can ever be known of it may only be through the informing of the Lord. So an insight into the absolutely unseen is only as much as the Lord allows.

The relatively unseen, on the other hand, are things known by some and unknown by others. For example, only a person himself, and nobody else, may know how much money he has in his pocket. Certain facts which may be unseen and therefore unknown to some may be simple knowledge for others.

The unseen spoken of here in relation to the saintly servants of the Lord is the unseen in the absolute sense. And anything known thereof is known only to the degree the Almighty allows.

No matter how accurately they may foresee and pass judgment on certain events before they happen, true saints never make a public claim to possessing a command of spiritual insight and foresight. There are such men, staring at whose faces remind one instantly of the Lord. Pearls of wisdom spill forth from their tongues. They do not speak, as it were, but are rather made to speak. Still, they are humble in the face of the blessings of the Lord, certain that man is a weak and may easily give in to conceit and transgress his limits. The feeling of self-importance is, without a doubt, the greatest danger. When this danger becomes a lively threat, the Almighty may give one the taste of helplessness in order to warn him.

Spiritual foresight, insight and truthful dreams are really nothing but Lord gracing His righteous servants by virtue of inspiring them with unseen realities.

[1]        Divine Awards (mawhibatu’l-ilahiyyah): Divine favors and grace.

[2]        See, al-Kahf, 65.

[3]        Khawas: The selected, righteous servants. Khawasu’l-Khawas: The selected among the selected; figuratively, the cream of the crop.

[4]        See, Bukhari, Qadar, 4.

[5]        It is for this reason that the telephone, in modern Arabic, is called khatif.

[6]        See, Abu Dawud, Janaiz, 27-28; Ahmed ibn Hanbal, VI, 267; Ibn Majah, Janaiz, 10.

[7]        See, al-Kahf, 60-82.

[8]        A slipup or a dhallah as it is called signifies unintentional words and behavior seldom expressed by prophets which do not accord with Divine Pleasure.

[9]        Khidr, in Arabic, means green or something that has to do with the color green. The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- has said, “The reason as to why he was called Khidr was that whenever he would sit on yellow grass, it would turn to green.” (Bukhari, Anbiya, 27; Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 18; Daylami, Musnad, I, 345) Mujahid, a prominent Tabiun scholar, has narrated, “Whenever he stood to offer ritual prayer, his surroundings used to turn green.” It is thus understood that the name Khidr was not his real name but rather a nickname given to him later on.

[10]      For the ahadith which dwell on this encounter, see Bukhari, Tafsir, 18/4; Muslim, Fadail, 170.

[11]      See, Ruhu’l-Bayan, v. IV, p. 218.

[12]      See, Munawi, Fayzu’l-Qadir, V, 228.

[13]      A majzub is a person who, allured by the Divine charm, has lost control of his reason, but whose heart nonetheless remains firmly attached to Allah, glory unto Him. Even though a majzub may have been dragged into a state that could be considered strange when measured against the standard of human life, he has surpassed many an ordinary man in his depth of comprehension. It is like his will, comprehension and discernment have come under the force of an intense voltage otherwise unbearable. Persons of the kind are walking examples of human helplessness at the face of Essential Manifestations.

[14]      Ana, in Arabic, is the subjective pronoun I.

[15]      Nurettin Topçu, Mevlana ve Tasavvuf, p. 139.

[16]      For information, refer to Ahmed ibn Abdullah at-Tabari, ar-Riyadu’n-Nadrah, II, 52.

[17]      The umratu’l-qada, or the compensatory umrah is the supererogatory pilgrimage the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- had originally intended for in the year of the Peace of Hudaybiyah but which he could only perform in the year after.

[18]      Qushayri, ar-Risala, p. 238.

[19]      See, Muslim, Birr, 8.

[20]      See, Bukhari, Adab, 5; Anbiya, 53; Dhikr, 100.

[21]      Through certain recitations, it is possible to subject a jinn to personal command and use him like a servant. A jinn of the kind is called a khuddam, a servant. A khuddam executes the command of the person, by whom he has become bounded, as much as his powers allow.

[22]      See, Kalabazi, Taarruf, translated by S. Uludağ, p. 214

[23]      See, Mehmed Niyazi, Çanakkale Mahşeri, p. 352-355.

[24]      From the Zaman newspaper of 18 March 2001.

[25]      See, Mawlana Sheikh, Manaqib Khawaja Ubaydullah-i Ahrar, 4b-5a; Majdi Mehmed, Khadaiqu’s-Shaqaiq, p. 272-273; Molla Jami, Nafakhatu’l-Uns, p. 764-765.

[26]      I heard this incident personally from Muharrem Kır Effendi, my former classmate at the Imam Hatip Lise (High School).

[27]      According to scholars of hadith, the expression ‘as the time draws near’ may refer to the equinox or the closing in of time either with the approaching Day of Judgment or at dawn towards sunrise.

[28]      Regarding the fact that truthful dreams are one-forty-sixth of prophethood, it has been said that the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- saw truthful dreams during the first six months of his twenty-three years of prophethood; and a period of six months is equal to one-forty-sixth of twenty three years.

[29]      Written by Hafiz Hulusi Effendi, the chief mudarris of Bayezid Mosque, the epistle was printed in 1305 (AH) in Istanbul.

[30]      See al-Yusuf, 6-111.

[31]      See, Ilhan Armutçuoğlu, Kaside- Bürde Manzum Tercümesi, p. 7-10.