THE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF SUFI TRAINING

In tasawwuf, there are certain principles outlined by the Sufi great Abdulkhaliq Gujdawani -may Allah sanctify his secret-. Abidance by these principles followed particularly by the Naqshbandi way and which are motivated with the aim of liberating one from unrefined traits and rendering him a mature human being, is especially important. They may be enumerated as follows:

  1. Hush dar Dam: To be spiritually awake in every breath taken.
  2. Nazar bar Qadam: To watch one’s step.
  3. Safar dar Watan: To approach closer to the Real with every step.
  4. Halwat dar Anjuman: To be with the Real even when in public.
  5. Yad-Kard: For the heart be in constant dhikr of the Lord.
  6. Baz-Gasht:For the pleasure of the Lord alone to become the sole purpose and desire.
  7. Nigah-Dasht: To be protected from devilish and egoistic imaginings.
  8. Yad-Dasht: To always consider oneself in Divine Presence.
  9. Wuquf-i Zamani:To mind oneself and make the most of the present time.
  10. Wuquf-i Adadi: To mind the amount of dhikr.
  11. Wuquf-i Qalbi: For the heart to be relentlessly occupied with dhikr and to turn to the heart whilst in dhikr.

There is benefit in briefly explaining what these principles amount to:

1. Hush dar Dam: This underlines the state of being spiritually awake in each breath taken. This measure is defined by Mawlana Sadaddin Kashgari -may Allah sanctify his secret- as, “Not to fall into heedlessness even between two breaths and to consider oneself in the presence of the Lord at all times.”

Being awake in every breath is for the dhakir, the person offering dhikr, to be consciously aware of Allah, glory unto Him, both during actual dhikr and all times else. Protecting the breath from heedlessness confers peace unto the heart. Having the Lord present in the mind in each inhalation and exhalation depends on reviving the breath through the grace obtained from obeying the Lord.

As a result of the heart reaching the consciousness and peace of being with Allah, glory unto Him, all other connected conduct and behavior begins to gradually improve.

2. Nazar bar Qadam: This means to walk with eyes fixed on the tip of the toes. The aspirant must adopt this manner of walking, in order for his eyes and consequently his heart not to lark about in the surroundings and thus lose sight of their true aim. Unnecessary interest with the masiwa does away with the inner peace of the heart and brings down a curtain between the aspirant and the Real.

This manner is in fact nothing but an imitation of the way the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- walked. When walking, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- never used to look around unless he had to. With his eyes firmly fixed on the tip of his toes, he would walk quickly in a dignified manner, as if pacing down a slope. Thus this principle is directly constituted by a particular aspect of the conduct of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-.

Wherever the gaze is directed at, that is where the heart flows; and that is a fact. The movies recorded by the eyes like a video camera, more often than not, keep the heart unnecessarily occupied. They take up unwanted space in the archives of the heart. Therefore, safeguarding the heart from disarray and confusion depends, in a sense, on the quality of the pictures reflected onto it.

Delusive whispers begin to gust through the mind, once the heart of an aspirant becomes stuck on the masiwa (worldly things). If he mingles with the ignorant, the density of their hearts, their bad habits and corrupt ideas begin to reflect onto his heart, putting him in a compromising and extremely dangerous situation.

Adopting a style and manners befitting a modest human being, the aspirant must therefore not only fix his eyes on the tip of his toes when walking, he must also beware of the objects he stares at other times, too.

Keeping the eyes fixed on the toes when walking is but a manifestation of modesty, knowing one’s place, protecting the eyes from haram and most importantly, loyalty to the Sunnah of the Beloved Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-.

3. Safar dar Watan: Besides the journey embarked upon with the intention of finding a murshid-i kamil (mature master), this also implies the journey undertaken by the aspirant towards casting off bad morals and the stifling density of sins and embodying good morals and sublime feelings, a journey towards his true identity, his homeland. The aspirant must never perceive the spiritual state he reaches as ultimate and must always seek improvement. Simpler put, he must always be on the move, on a journey, from one spiritual state to another higher.

Abu Othman al-Maghribi -may Allah sanctify his secret- has said:

“The aspirant must abandon his ambitions and desires and turn to obeying and worshipping the Lord. Meant by the expression safar dar watan is not so much a journey from one town to another as an inner journey towards reunion with Allah, glory unto Him. The moment an aspirant finds a murshid-i kamil, he abandons the outward journey and begins one that is inward.”

During the sayr-u suluk (spiritual training), the aspirant thus becomes pervaded by the consciousness of approaching closer to his Lord with every step, akin to Ibrahim (a.s), who said “I will go to my Lord.” (as-Saffat, 99)

1. Halwat dar Anjuman: To maintain the consciousness of being with the Creator, even when among the created and leading a public existence. The aspirant must acquire an inward sense of being with Allah, glory unto Him, even whilst accompanied by other people or laboring away in his  daily work.

This will enable him to continue his intimacy with the Lord without making it obvious to anybody else and at once, allow him to see to the needs necessitated by the demands of human life. Concisely yet wonderfully depicting this state of mind is the proverb, “The hands are toiling for income but the heart is with the beloved”.

In the Quran, the Almighty acclaims those who are able to maintain this delicate inner sense:

“Men whom neither merchandise nor selling diverts from the remembrance of Allah and the keeping up of prayer and the giving of poor-rate; they fear a day in which the hearts and eyes shall turn about.” (an-Nur, 37)

Sohbah (spiritual lesson) and socialization are essential in the Naqshbandi path. Therefore, maintaining the heart’s intimacy and seclusion with the Lord even whilst amid public has been given preference over solitary, private seclusion.

5. Yad-Kard:This is for the heart to acquire a nature of dhikr, to become enmeshed with it; that is for it to reach a level where it is in continuous remembrance of the Lord. By virtue of the method of nafy-u isbat (by negating and affirming through repeating the dhikr of La ilaha ill-Allah), all the grimy residues of masiwa (worldly things) that act as virtual idols in the heart are cleansed, subsequent to which the idea that Allah, glory unto Him, is alone to be desired, becomes fixed in the heart.

Once the subtle heat of dhikr emanating from the heart takes hold of the entire body, the sublime feelings hidden in man’s subconscious come alive and transform into an active conscience that reflects onto behavior. It is indeed inconceivable that a person, whose entire thought is of the Lord, to be outright deprived of divine morals like mercy, patience, generosity and forgiveness. All these are imperative conditions for becoming a matured human being. Reviving the heart through dhikr is therefore one of the most important principles of tasawwuf.

6. Baz-Gasht: This is for the pleasure of Allah, glory unto Him, to become the exclusive object of desire and purpose.

At the end of the dhikr of nafy-u isbat, the aspirant pronounces

“Lord…You alone are my purpose and Your pleasure alone is my desire” and seeks to gain depth in the contemplation of the dhikr. This carries the aim of having the aspirant affirm the inner meaning of the dhikr of nafy-u isbat and thereby endure the mystery of tawhid (oneness of Allah) set a firm foot inside the heart.

By negating all other desires and ambitions that act as curtains separating one from the Lord, the satisfaction of the heart is thereby ensured.

Similarly, misgivings that may arise, now and then, to delude the heart by falsely representing the purpose of the spiritual exercise of dhikr as receiving karamah (miracles) or progressing through spiritual ranks are completely set aside and the true purpose, which is to obtain the pleasure of the Lord, is indelibly embroidered once again onto the heart.

Once the inner meaning of this dhikr becomes embedded in conscience and manifests itself in behavior, passing obsessions instantly lose their former value, as the eyes begin to behold Divine manifestations in everything they see.

7. Nigah-Dasht:This is to protect the mind from devilish and egoistic imaginings, to protect the sight from staring at improper things, to prevent the imagination from visualizing things that are immoral and to keep constant surveillance over the heart, the manifestation of the Real, defending it against the invasion of the masiwa.

One of the purposes of tasawwuf is to safeguard the heart from negative thoughts and wicked imaginings. Keeping these away from the heart is very difficult undertaking, to say the least. But one who is triumphant in doing so will have reaped the true benefits of tasawwuf.

8. Yad-Dasht: This is for one to gain an awareness of being in the constant presence of the Almighty and act with this consciousness. This is also called muraqabah.

Allah, glory unto Him, declares in the ayah: “And certainly We created man, and We know what his mind suggests to him, and We are nearer to him than his life-vein.” (Qaf, 16)

It is therefore vital never to lose the feeling of ihsan, the internalization of iman and the consciousness of the fact that the Lord sees one each moment and knows his each state of mind. This feeling acts like an invincible shield against sins; for how can a person sin, while his heart is constantly with the Lord, knowing he is irremovably in Divine presence?

9. Wuquf-i Zamani: This is to examine each bygone moment and see whether it was spent in spiritual presence (hudur) or heedlessness (ghaflah), and to put time to good use. The aspirant must be aware of the precious value of the moment he is in and reserve it for the most valuable deed of all by renouncing vain activities. On a frequent basis, he must interrogate himself to see whether he has made the most of his time.

In another sense of the meaning, wuquf-i zamani is for the aspirant to have a constant awareness of the state of mind that comes over him at each moment and see whether it is a state of thankfulness or a state that calls for repentance. In effect, the aspirant must every day and night reflect on his actions, one by one, and thank the Lord for allowing him to perform righteous deeds, striving at the same time to go a step further, and repent for his shortcomings, seeking remorseful refuge in the Lord. He must look upon each priceless moment of life, and especially those moments ordained by Allah, glory unto Him, as unique, as an in-compensable opportunity. And in spiritual wakefulness, he must channel his entire energy towards satisfying the demands of the given moment and bringing it to life.

In short, he must call each bygone moment to account, thanking the Almighty for each spent in spiritual presence and repenting for each wasted in heedlessness. To say the same thing differently, one must hold fast to repentance whilst undergoing spiritual constriction (qabd) and persist in showing thanks upon receiving spiritual revitalization (bast). One who refrains from heedlessness in all circumstances thus finds himself unshackled from the fetters that are the troubles of the past and anxieties of the future, and occupied with trying to revive the given moment, which the attitude expressed in the Sufi maxim, “A Sufi is the child of the present time.”

  1. Wuquf-i Adadi: This is to be conscious of the precise amount of dhikr. A murshid gives a disciple a certain amount of dhikr, depending on his spiritual condition. To make sure it yields the desired result, each dhikr comes with a specific amount, a dosage if one may call it. In order for the disciple not to lose concentration during dhikr and to keep clear of giving in to delusive whispers, he must observe the specific measure and amount recommended by the murshid.

Most certainly, the quality of a dhikr is of greater importance. Still, unless the dhikr comes with a specific measure and quantity, there always looms the danger of being overcome with mental and spiritual unrest. As is the case with every other activity, this state of unrest is caused by errors attributable to excess and immoderation.

A dhikr must therefore be implemented in the best possible manner, by observing both its quality and quantity. With that said, observing a specific amount of dhikr is not an abstract activity of counting numbers.

Much rather, it is to deepen the dhikr of the heart within the numerical framework. Hence, it is clear that observing a specific amount of dhikr not only does not stand in the way of achieving a quality dhikr, it moreover acts as necessary support in accomplishing it.

Interestingly enough, when the mind is engaged in various thoughts and the heart is perplexed by a variety of concerns, observing an exact amount of dhikr is well nigh impossible. Protecting the mind from disarray, focusing on the meaning of the dhikr and, at the same time, observing its specific quantity are therefore really expressions of earnestness.

11. Wuquf-i Qalbi: This is for the heart to be continually occupied with Divine remembrance. This marks the true internalization of ihsan, its becoming a constant consciousness. A disciple must inspect his heart at every given opportunity and check on its condition, as the true objective of dhikr is for the heart to be aware of what is uttered by the tongue. Essential during dhikr is therefore a constant state of muraqabah, an unreserved focus on the words being uttered. Sufi greats refer to wuquf-i qalbi, to focus all attention of the heart, as a necessary prerequisite of dhikr. To arrive at a taste of the true content or the zest of dhikr, it is a must to direct every inch of one’s existence and no less his heart to Allah, glory unto Him.The Almighty pronounces:

“And remember the name of your Lord and devote yourself to Him with (exclusive) devotion.” (al-Muzzammil, 8)