The essence of Sufism consists of uplifting our spiritual dimension to a certain degree of maturity and making it receptive to the knowledge and love of the Lord, and thereby imparting onto it that certain blend required for reuniting with the Real. Such a perfect blend is the spirit that will save us; a blend which, at once, is a sacred inheritance bequeathed to us from the caves of Hira and Thawr.
It was during specific times and at specific places, not only reserved to Hira and Thawr, that the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- went through an intense spiritual training, essential in preparing him for the weight of Quranic revelation; and it was this training constituted that the fruitful basis for purifying his heart and cleansing his soul.
Before receiving the Quranic revelation, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) had already reached a certain degree of spiritual maturity and moral perfection. However, after his return from the cave of Hira where he openly received the Divine Instruction for the first time, the Prophet (pbuh) attained a much higher perfection, incomparable even to the exceptional characteristics he already possessed prior to his prophethood.
There, the Prophet (pbuh) had entered an intense and profound spiritual connection with the Almighty; he was given an enchanting taste of the light of Divine oneness and knowledge, elevating him to the peak of the spiritual state of being conscious of the Lord, imbibing a deep sense of piety in his every particle. Set in motion thereby, he would offer deeds of worship at night until daybreak until his legs would get swollen. Even when he is eyes were shut to asleep, his heart was always alert and awake in a deep, rousing contemplation of the Lord Almighty.
In fact, through the content of the revelation of the Holy Quran, replete with knowledge and wisdom, the Blessed Muhammad (pbuh) left even the most elite of his contemporaries helpless and in awe; and through his personal lifestyle and actions, he virtually became a miraculous ocean of virtue, unrivalled in both past and future.
No invention until the Last Day will be able to falsify the Prophet (pbuh), nor will any educator be able to reach his standard of conduct.
This spiritual maturity of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) underwent a gradual increase until ultimately reaching its peak; and by means of the Ascension (Miraj), a unique gift from the Beloved (Mahbub) to another (Habib), he became a “traveler of eternity”. On that night, as the special guest of his Lord, the Prophet (pbuh) went beyond all the spatio-temporal limitations of the world by which human beings are bound, and attained the reality of the secret mentioned in the Holy Quran as “two bows’-length away, or nearer”. (an-Najm, 9)
This immense Divine gift, called Isra and Miraj, was a present to the Prophet (pbuh) and took place in accordance with a Divine regulation that decreed the temporary removal, for him, of all kinds of limitations set for human beings. On this occasion, the worldly conceptions of space and time disappeared, and a journey and visions that would normally take the lifespans of billions of human beings, took place within a very short period of time. The Prophet (pbuh) travelled beyond the frontiers of the “Worlds”, “Throne”, and “Lote-Tree” and received the unprecedented privilege of being disclosed with the vision of the Lord and with talking to Him directly without any intermediary.
It was such spiritual maturity and perfection that the Almighty bestowed on the Blessed Prophet (pbuh). These Almighty-given characteristics continually accompanied him throughout his communicating of the Divine message to human beings and in his avid yearning to guide humankind entire onto the straight path. The Prophet’s (pbuh) genuine desire and consciousness for fulfilling the heavenly duty he was entrusted with, delivered him to the zenith of human perfection. On the way, he categorically rejected all kinds worldly offers proposed to steer him away from delivering this message.
In his eyes, worshipping The Almighty in the most proper sense of the term was preferable to everything else. An event which took place in the early days of his prophethood perfectly explains the Blessed Prophet’s (pbuh) priorities.
The idolaters of Mecca sent a proposal to him through his paternal uncle Abu Talib, in order to dissuade him from, and put a stop to, his prophetic activities. In response to this proposal, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) said to his uncle, in a resolute tone,
“I swear in the name of the Lord, my dear uncle, that even if they were would place the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left, I would never give up delivering this message. Either the Almighty makes this message spread all over the world and thus I complete my duty, or I breathe my last on this path.”1
Following their unsuccessful attempt, the idolaters, still ill-at-ease with the birth of Islam and its impending growth, took their proposal a step further. This time they came to the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) and declared,
“If you want to be rich, we can give you all the wealth in the world and you will be the richest man among the entire tribes in Arabia. If you have a desire for political leadership, we can make you our leader and you can be the ruler of Mecca. Should you wish to marry to a noble woman, we can wed you to the noblest and most beautiful woman in Quraysh…allowing you to pick and choose. We are ready to do everything you want…so long as you simply put an end to this all.”
The unconditional and final response of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) to the ludicrous offers of the flesh made by the idolaters, was his declaration, “I do not expect anything from you; wealth, property, authority, leadership, nor women. The only thing I want is for you to stop worshipping those powerless idols and to start worshipping the Almighty alone.”2
There is no doubt that these statements and actions present the most consummate examples for all human beings, especially in being firmly stable on faith and consciousness of duty, as well as an ideal and pure state of servitude. The improper proposals in question were about attaining some worldly pleasures in return for those of the eternal world.
The history of humankind is full of examples of those who sold their ideals out in return for meager expectations and prosperities of the world. The Holy Quran and its exemplary practice by the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) constitute the essential principles of Islam.
The former, being a theoretical source of guidance until the Last Day, begins by praising the Lord of all Worlds and ends by purifying the heart from all sorts of negative attributes and enjoining man to take refuge in the Lord, submissively and unconditionally.
The latter represents the practical source of guidance for mankind; for following the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) is the only means to acquire true happiness both Here and in the Hereafter. Nothing belonging to this world, however precious it may seem, can ever compare to this salvation; eternal and thus irreplaceable in nature.
The Holy Quran was delivered first to the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), and then through him, to entire humankind.
The Quran is a Divine Word that calls mankind to acquire knowledge of the Lord and reach Him by following a natural reasoning on the basis of arriving at the Producer through the product, the Cause through the effect, the Artist through the art, and the Creator through creation.
Consequently, the Holy Quran teaches the precise and proper way to frequently remember the Lord and to lead an observant and pious life, in which one minds the Divine commands as if he sees the Lord in front of him, and thereby acquire the love and approval of the Divine.
One should keep in mind that the single source of Divine love is the Blessed Prophet (pbuh); since to love the Prophet (pbuh) is tantamount to loving the Lord, and likewise, obeying or disobeying the Prophet (pbuh) is equal to obeying or disobeying the Almighty.
As mentioned above, the reason of the creation of existence was the Creators’ love for the Muhammadan Light, the first entity ever to be created.
All of creation, therefore, was created for the sake of and as a cover for the Muhammadan Light. Mankind represents the most elite part of all creation in terms of receiving Divine gifts. The zenith of all mankind, in the same respect, it is the Muhammadan existence, in other words, the tangible existence of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) on Earth.
Man includes the characteristics of all beings, for which reason he has also been referred to as “the little world” or “the micro cosmos”. The human being is therefore comprehensive creation in terms of containing the qualities, both good and evil, of all beings. At the same time, the human being represents the choicest portion and cream of all creation, because it is like a seed that includes a huge plane-tree inside, or in equal measure, like an individual that potentially includes a society within himself.
On the basis of such unique characteristics, mankind holds the title of “the pearl of creation” (ashraf-i makhluqat); yet the Muhammadan existence goes far beyond this advanced point. Those who met the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) in person were able to either distinguish his inner reality or act blind towards it, depending on the acuteness or the bankruptcy of their physical and moral abilities. Looking at him, some were able to discern and appreciate the goodness of him; while there were others, who would dismally fail and only see something bad. Abu Bakr and Ali ibn Abi Talib –Allah be well-pleased with them- had really met the same person as Abu Jahl did, but the former two saw completely different things in comparison to Abu Jahl.
So deep was the love through which Abu Bakr and Ali –Allah be well-pleased with them- beheld the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- that the two became the first link of the golden chain of the Sufi way.
1 Ibnu’l-Athir, al-Kamil fi’t-Tarikh, II, 64.
2 Ibn Hisham, as-Sirah, I, 236.