Three Conditions For Spiritual Advancement


Allah, glorified and exalted be He, declares:

wamā ūtītum mina l- ‘il’mi illā qalīlan

“…and of knowledge, you have been granted only a little.” (17:85) Such great blessings and such Divine favours with such little knowledge…

Are we at all aware of our own creation? It was as though a whistle was blown and the heart cells went to the heart, the brain cells went to the brain, the eye cells went to the eyes and the intestinal cells went to the intestines. The manifestations of Divine majesty [that are] beyond our control [and comprehension].

So, a little knowledge was given to us. The purpose here is not to memorise the laws of physics, chemistry, biology, etc. and the many other sciences, but for these knowledges to engender a depth of emotion and sense of awe in the human being. [It is that these knowledges] take a person from the product to the maker, from the cause to the Creator of causes, from the art to the Artist.

Such a state of manifestation of Divine majesty that Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi experienced, that he remarked:

Even one who is blind can perceive the perfect rising of the sun from the heat that it emits.

And so, the human being should not be uncomprehending and unheeding. Their heart needs to waken.

Allah Almighty declares in the Qur’anic chapter al-Anfal:

“Indeed the worst kind of all living creatures in Allah’s sight are the deaf and dumb, who do not reason and understand.” (8:22) In other words, a heedless person.

After this, after engaging in deep contemplation of the creation of the heavens and the earth, Allah Almighty [reveals], what the servant is to do. They will be in a constant state of supplication in that contemplation and they will say:

“…Our Lord, You have not created this (the universe) without meaning and purpose. All-Glorified You are, so save us from the punishment of the Fire!” (3:191) They will feel a constant sense of weakness and helplessness, before such Divine favouring.

Allah, All-Glorified is He, [informs us] who those are who know and who those are who don’t know. Who knows and who doesn’t know. Those who could read and write among the Companions were very few in number. But the Companions became of those who know. Allah Almighty granted great profundity and wisdom to their hearts.

So, Allah makes three conditions known here:

sājidan waqāiman

“…prostrating and standing (during the hours of the night)…” (39:9) They are awake in the watches of the night, in devout worship, remembrance of Allah, reciting the Qur’an and turning to Him in entreaty in the darkness of the night. sājidan waqāiman He says. They are in a state of seeking refuge in Allah, that succour might come to them from Him.

Likewise, Allah declares in the Qur’anic chapter al-Furqan: sujjadan waqiyāman. “…prostrating before their Lord and standing” (25:64).

The second [condition]:

They are constantly yaḥdharu l-ākhirata, “fearing the Hereafter”. (See 39:9)

What is the purpose of your coming to the world? In other words, why did the human being come to this world? To Whose dominion did they come? Why this coming and going? Where are they headed?

Allah Almighty declares:

lā uq’simu biyawmi l-qiyāmati: “I swear by the Day of Resurrection.” (75:1) He wants us to focus, to concentrate.

walā uq’simu bil-nafsi l-lawāmati

“And I swear by the self-accusing human soul” (75:2). The inconsistent soul. It does one thing and does not to another thing. It turns a blind eye to one thing. It views something that is religiously prohibited as small. “Woe to you, you will here be called to account!” He says. lawāmah (self-accusing)…

Islam needs to be present in every aspect of our lives. At no point should Allah and the Divine Law ever be forgotten. The Divine commandments and prohibitions should never be forgotten. No concessions should ever be made.

“Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah; and those who are in his company [in the Qur’anic chapter al-Fath] are firm and unyielding against the unbelievers…” (48:29). There are to be no concessions. If concessions are made, the constitution of the religion is lost. Sensitivity will be lost, spirituality will be lost.

And the third:

wayarjū raḥmata rabbihi

“…and hoping for the mercy of his Lord…” (39:9)

So, Allah Almighty places three conditions for spiritual advancement. “Those who hope for the mercy of their Lord.”

This means, brothers and sisters, that the hours in the middle of the night are very important. During such hours, the bed draws a person like a magnet. But Allah Almighty wants us to be in a state of prostration and standing in His presence during this time.

As a result of this, constantly fearing the Hereafter during the day.  Would the Messenger of Allah have been pleased with this deed of mine were he next to me? Is Allah, glorified and exalted be He, pleased with my deed?

A person needs to weigh their own actions. How far or near is this deed of mine to the Messenger of Allah?

They are to seek refuge in Allah constantly. What does Allah Almighty declare?

wal-mus’taghfirīna bil-asḥār “…and those who implore Allah’s forgiveness before daybreak.” (3:17) Allah Almighty opens the doors. The servant should never rely on their deeds. They must always turn to their Lord. This is very important.

The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, loved (his daughter) Fatima very much. He would visit her before setting off on military expedition and would call in on her upon his return. If something came, if some food came, he would ask that it be taken to her, as she would be hungry. Despite this, he would say:

“O Fatima, daughter of Muhammad! Undertake lots of deeds of righteousness, (do not count on the Prophethood of your father on the Day of Judgement).” (See Ibn Sa’d, II, 256; Bukhari, Manaqib, 13-14; Muslim, Iman, 348-353)

He did not say, I will hold you by the hand and lead you into Paradise. He said, do not count on the Prophethood of your father on the Day of Judgement.

He said: “O Safiyya, O Safiya, daughter of ‘Abd al-Muttalib (and aunt of the Messenger of Allah!)! [Perform deeds of righteousness, for] I have nothing which can avail you against Allah.” (See Ibn Sa’d, II, 256; Bukhari, Manaqib, 13-14; Muslim, Iman, 348-353)

This here is the advancement of the heart.

Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi, a representative of the friends of Allah, with spiritual manifestations to match [such a position], says that he was ‘raw’ at the time when he dealt primarily with external matters. When doors opened in his heart to realms beyond, he says that he then became ‘cooked’. And when he progressed further, he says he was ‘burned’.

[What is] the reason for our creation? Why did we come to the world? Allah Almighty declares:

“I have not created the jinn and humankind but to (know and) worship Me (exclusively).” (51:56)  liya’ budūni: Being servants to Allah.

So, what is the aim here? Why have you become a servant? ya’rifun: To know Allah with the heart. To attain experiential knowledge of Allah. [The aim is] for the Divine attributes of beauty to become manifested in the heart. When these become manifested, Allah says:

“…Of all His servants, only those possessed of true knowledge stand in awe of Allah…” (35:28)

This means that knowledge, the information we learn is to cause us to ask ourselves, what kind of believer am I? To what extent am I between [the states of] fear (khawf) and hope (raja’)? Is Allah pleased with me? Will the Messenger of Allah reproach me on the Day of Judgement? He says: “Do not make my face overcast (cause me to be ashamed).” (See Ibn Maja, Manasik, 76)

“I leave behind me two things,” he says, “the Qur’an and my example, the Sunna.”   (See Muslim, Hajj, 147; Abu Dawud, Manasik, 56)

An empty knowledge is useless. The point is, the heart needs to be in harmony with knowledge. Allah, glorified and exalted be He, likens the state of the scholars of the Children of Israel to donkeys carrying a load of books on their backs. See (62:5). They carry it, but have no idea what they carry. This knowledge has not turned into action.

Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi says:

“May reason be sacrificed before Mustafa (Muhammad).”

It is the heart which loves, he says. Not reason. If a person yields to the Messenger of Allah, upon him be peace and blessings, in love, they will begin to receive from that great, extraordinary heart. There will be reflections from that heart proportionate to their love. They will begin to take on the state of the Messenger of Allah. So, [what is important is] to be able to become acquainted with Allah’s Messenger through our heart. Reason can only get a person so far.

This is why Es’ad Erbili comes to such a point that he says:

From the manifestations of your beauty, my Beloved, is springtime fire,

Rose is fire, nightingale fire, hyacinth fire, earth and thorn, fire.

That is to say, he gets so close to the Messenger of Allah that he proclaims his great love – as a result of the manifestations of his inner and outer beauty – saying that even the spring had turned fire, the rose, the hyacinth, the earth and thorn had all become fire.

The Azeri poet Fuzuli says:

Tears of blood flow forth from my eyes before your rose cheek,

Beloved, ’tis season of spring, is there not running water?

Just as water streams forth in spring, he says, even appearing cloudy, blood-filled tears flow from my eyes like those streams that flow forth in spring.

What is all this (about)? It shows what it means to draw near to the Messenger of Allah. The state of those who draw near.

Bayazid al-Bistami, a friend of Allah, describes the stages of his spiritual development in the following way:

First, he says, he went to the Pilgrimage and saw the Ka’ba. The second time he went, he says, he saw both the Ka’ba and the Lord of the Ka’ba. In other words, he saw the Ka’ba, as well as the manifestations of Divine majesty. The third time he went, however, he says that he saw only the Lord of the Ka’ba. That is, he saw only the manifestations of his Lord’s majesty and power.

This goes to show that as one progresses in their heart, a deepening begins and different horizons begin to open up. [Consider] the example of a diver. Those on the beach see the sea’s surface. A diver, however, beholds different scenes the deeper they delve and in accordance with their capacity.

Allah Almighty invites us to the truth through three miracles:

The first is the Qur’an. A miracle of speech. Its imitation is not possible. The greatest miracle for the past 1400 years, to continue until the Last Day.

“Gather together, humankind and jinn,” (Allah says) “if you are so able. If you have any doubt as to its truthfulness…” (See 2:23)

He describes the Qur’an:

hudan lil’muttaqīn

“…a guidance for the God-revering, pious who keep their duty to Allah” (2:2)

The Qur’an is a Guidance for the God-conscious. Every matter, everything can be found in the Qur’an. How can you find it? In the practice of the Messenger of Allah, in his twenty-three-year practice.

The Qur’an is the last call to humanity. Allah Almighty declares:

al-raḥmānu ‘allama l-qur’āna khalaqa l-insāna ‘allamahul-bayān

“The All-Merciful. He has taught the Qur’ān (to humankind and, through them, the jinn); He has created human; He has taught him speech.” (55:1-4) Wisdom, mysteries, everything… Allah Almighty confers this upon His servant.

Once again, Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi says:

“The outer meaning of the Qur’an can be written using a single okka of ink. As for expression of all the mysteries it contains, were the boundless oceans ink and all trees pens, this would still not suffice.”

Allah, glorified and exalted be He, declares in the Qur’anic chapter al-Kahf: “Say: “If all the sea were ink to write my Lord’s words (the acts, decrees, and manifestations of all His Names and Attributes), the sea would indeed be exhausted before my Lord’s words are exhausted, even if We were to bring the like of it in addition to it.” (See 18:109)

In short, as a result of this God-consciousness, the human being will deepen by means of the Qur’an. Some of the Qur’an’s mysteries will become apparent to them. Piety and God-consciousness is to overcome all carnal desires: “Lā ilāha…”

[This means] to [be able to] develop the spiritual faculties and for Divine manifestations to appear in the heart. In this way, the human being will come to the realisation and consciousness that they are under the Divine Gaze, under Divine watch. To be able to deepen through such feeling and awareness in the heart.