IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE MERCIFUL, THE COMPASSIONATE.
O Lord, bestow on us mercy from Thyself, and provide for us a right course of action!
Praise be to God, who hath revealed the secrets of His kingdom to His Saints, and hath disclosed the mysteries of His power to His intimates, and hath shed the blood of Lovers with the sword of His glory, and hath let the hearts of Gnostics taste the joy of His communion! He it is that bringeth dead hearts to life by the radiance of the perception of His eternity and His majesty, and reanimates them with the comforting spirit of knowledge by divulging His Names.
And peace be upon His Apostle, Muhammad, and his family and his companions and his wives!
'Ali b. 'Uthman b. 'Ali al-Jullabi al-Ghaznawi alHujwiri (may God be well pleased with him!) says as follows:-
I have asked God's blessing, and have cleared my heart of motives related to self, and have set to work in accordance with your invitation - may God make you happy! - and have firmly resolved to fulfil all your wishes by means of this book. I have entitled it "The Revelation of the Mystery". Knowing what you desire, I have arranged the book in divisions suitable to your purpose. Now I pray God to aid and prosper me in its completion, and I divest myself of my own strength and ability in word and deed. It is God that gives success.
Two considerations have impelled me to put my name at the beginning of the book: one particular, the other general.l As regards the latter, when persons ignorant of this science see a new book, in which the author's name is not set down in several places, they attribute his work to themselves, and thus the author's aim is defeated, since books are compiled, composed, and written only to the end that the author's name may be kept alive and that readers and students may pronounce a blessing on him. This misfortune ha~ already befallen me twice. A certain individual borrowed my poetical works, of which there was no other copy, and retained the manuscript in his possession, and circulated it, and struck out my name which stood at its head, and caused all my labour to be lost. May God forgive him! I also composed another book, entitled "The Highway of Religion" (Minhaj a/-Din), on the method of Sufi'ism - may God make it flourish! A shallow pretender, whose words carry no weight, erased my name from the title page and gave out to the public that he was the author, notwithstanding that connoisseurs laughed at his assertion. God, however, brought home to him the unblessedness of this act and erased his name from the register of those who seek to enter the Divine portal.
As regards the particular consideration, when people see a book, and know that its author is skilled in the branch of science of which it treats, and is thoroughly versed therein, they judge its merits more fairly and apply themselves more seriously to read and remember it, so that both author and reader are better satisfied. The truth is best known to God.
In using the words "I have asked God's blessing" (p.3) I wished to observe the respect due to God, who said to His Apostle: "When you read the Quran, take refuge with God from the stoned Devil" (Qur.xvi,100). "To ask blessing" means "to commit all one's affairs to God and to be saved from the various sorts of contamination." The Prophet (May peace be upon him) used to teach his followers to ask a blessing (istikharat) just as he taught them the Quran. When a man recognizes that his welfare does not depend on his own effort and foresight, but that every good and evil that happens to him is decreed by God, who knows best what is salutary for him, he cannot do otherwise than surrender himself to Destiny and implore God to deliver him from the wickedness of his own soul.
As to the words "I have cleared my heart of all motives related to self' (p.3), no blessing arises from anything in which selfish interest has a part. If the selfish man succeeds in his purpose, it brings him to perdition, for "the accomplishment of a selfish purpose is the key of Hell"; and if he fails, he will nevertheless have removed from his heart the means of gaining salvation, for "resistance to selfish promptings is the key of Paradise", as God hath said: "Who so refrains his soul from lust, verily Paradise shall be his abode" (Qur.lxxix, 40-1). People act from selfish motives when they desire aught except to please God and to escape from Divine punishment. In fine, the follies of the soul have no limit and its manoeuvres are hidden from sight. If God will, a chapter on this subject will be found at its proper place in the present book.
Now as to the words "I have set to work in accordance with your invitation, and have firmly resolved to fulfil all your wishes by means of this book" (p.3), since you thought me worthy of being asked to write this book for your instruction, it was incumbent on me to comply with your request. Accordingly it behoved me to make an unconditional resolution that I would carry out my undertaking completely. When anyone begins an enterprise with the intention of finishing it, he may be excused if imperfections appear in his work; and for this reason the Prophet (May peace be upon him) said: "The believer's intention is better than his performance." Great is the power of intention, through which a man advances from one category to another without any external change. For example, if anyone without any external change. For example, if anyone endures hunger for a while without having intended to fast, he gets no recompense (thawab) for it in the next world; but if he forms in his heart the intention of fasting, he becomes one of the favourites of God (muqarraban). Again, a traveller who stays for a time in a city does not become a resident until he has formed the intention to reside there. A good intention, therefore, is preliminary to the due performance of every act.
When I said that I had called this book "The Revelation of the Mystery" (p.3), my object was that the title of the book should proclaim its contents to persons of insight. You must know that all mankind are veiled from the subtlety of spiritual truth except God's saints and His chosen friends; and inasmuch as this book is an elucidation of the Way of Truth, and an explanation of mystical sayings, and an uplifting of the veil of mortality, no other title is appropriate to it. Essentially, unveiling (kashf) is destruction of the veiled object, just as the veil destroys revelation (mukashafat), and just as, for instance, one who is near cannot bear to be far, and one who is far cannot bear to be near; or as an animal which is generated from vinegar dies when it falls into any other substance, while those animals which are generated from other substances perish if they are put in vinegar. The spiritual path is hard to travel except for those who were created for that purpose. The Prophet (May peace be upon him) said: "Everyone finds easy that for which he was created." There are two veils: one is the "veil of covering" (hijab-i rayni), which can never be removed, and the other is the "veil of clouding" (hijab-i ghayni), which is quickly removed. The explanation is as follows: one man is veiled from the Truth by his essence (dhat), so that in his view truth and falsehood are the same Another man is veiled from the Truth by his attributes (sifat), so that his nature and heart continually seek the Truth and flee from falsehood. Therefore the veil of essence, which is that of "covering" (rayni), is never removed. Rayn is synonymous with khatm (sealing) and tab' (imprinting). Thus God hath said: "By no means: but their deeds have spread a covering (rana) over their hearts" (Qur.1xxxiii,14); then He made the sense of this manifest and said: "Verily it is all one to the unbelievers whether thou wamest them or not; they will not believe" (Qur.ii,5); then he explained the cause thereof, saying: "God hath sealed up their hearts" (Qur.ii,6). But the veil of attributes, which is that of "clouding" (ghayni), may be removed at times, for essence does not admit of alteration, but the alteration of attributes is possible. The Sufi Shaykhs have given many subtle hints on the subject of rayn and ghayn. Junayd said: Al-rayn min jumlat alwatanat wa 'l-ghayn min jumlat al-khatarat, "Rayn belongs to the class of abiding things and ghayn to the class of transient things." Watan is permanent and khatar is adventitious. For example, it is impossible to make a mirror out of a stone, though many polishers assemble to try their skill on it, but a rusty mirror can be made bright by polishing; darkness is innate in the stone, and brightness is innate in the mirror; since the essence is permanent, the temporary attribute does not endure.
Accordingly, I have composed this book for polishers of hearts which are infected by the veil of "clouding" but in which the substance of the light of the Truth is existent, in order that the veil may be lifted from them by the blessing of reading it, and that they may find their way to spiritual reality. Those whose being is compounded of denial of the truth and perpetration of falsehood will never find their way thither, and this book will be of no use to them.
Now with reference to my words "knowing what you desire, I have arranged the book in divisions suitable to your purpose" (p.3), a questioner cannot be satisfied until he makes his want known to the person whom he interrogates. A question presupposes a difficulty, and a difficulty is insoluble until its nature is ascertained. Furthermore, to answer a question in general terms is only possible when he who asks it has full knowledge of its various departments and corollaries, but with a beginner one needs to go into detail, and offer diverse explanations and definitions; and in this case especially, seeing that you - God grant you happiness! -- desired me to answer your questions in detail and write a book on the matter.
I said, "I pray God to aid and prosper me" (p.3), because God alone can help a man to do good deeds. When God assists anyone to perform acts deserving recompense, this is truly "success given by God" (tawfiq). The Quran and the Sunnah attest the genuineness of tawfiq, and the whole Muslim community are unanimous therein, except some Mu'tazilites and Qadarites, who assert that the expression tawfiq is void of meaning. Certain Sufi Shaykhs have said, Al-tawfiq huwa 'i-qudrat 'ala 'l-taat 'inda '1isti'mal, "When a man is obedient to God" he receives from God increased strength." In short, all human action and inaction is the act and creation of God: therefore the strength whereby a man renders obedience to God is called tawfiq. The discussion of this topic, however, would be out of place here. Please God, I will now return to the task which you have proposed, but before entering on it I will set down your question in its exact form.
The questioner, Abu Sa'id al-Hujwiri, said:
"Explain to me the true meaning of the Path of Sufi'ism and the nature of the 'stations' (maqamat) of the Sufis, and explain their doctrines and sayings, and make clear to me their mystical allegories, and the nature of Divine Love and how it is manifested in human hearts, and why the intellect is unable to reach the essence thereof, and why the soul recoils from the reality thereof, and why the spirit is lulled in the purity thereof; and explain the practical aspects of Sufi'ism which are connected with these theories."
The person questioned, 'Ali b. 'Uthman al-lullabi al- Hujwiri - may God have mercy on him! -- says:-
Know that in this our time the science of Sufi'ism is obsolete, especially in this country. The whole people is occupied with following its lusts and has turned its back on the path of quietism (rida), while the 'ulama and those who pretend to learning have formed a conception of Sufi'ism which is quite contrary to its fundamental principles.
High and low alike are content with empty professions: blind conformity has taken the place of spiritual enthusiasm. The vulgar say, "We know God," and the elect, satisfied if they feel in their hearts a longing for the next world, say, "This desire is vision and ardent love." Everyone makes pretensions, none attains to reality. The disciples, neglecting their ascetic practices, indulge in idle thoughts, which they call "contemplation".
I myself (the author proceeds) have already written several books on Sufi'ism. but all to no purpose. Some false pretenders picked out passages here and there in order to deceive the public, while they erased and destroyed the rest; others did not mutilate the books, but left them unread; others read them, bit did not comprehend their meaning, so they copied the text and committed it to memory and said:
"We can discourse on mystical science." Nowadays true spiritualism is as rare as the Philosopher's Stone (kibrit-i ahmar); for it is natural to seek the medicine that fits the disease, and nobody wants to mix pearls and coral with common remedies like shalitha2 and dawa al-misk. 3 In time past the works of eminent Sufis, falling into the hands of those who could not appreciate them, have been used to make lining for caps or binding for the poems of Abu Nuwas and the pleasantries of Jahiz. The royal falcon is sure to get its wings clipped when it perches on the wall of ,an old woman's cottage. Our contemporaries give the name of "law" to their lusts, pride and ambition they call "honour and learning", hypocrisy towards men "fear of God", concealment of anger "clemency", disputation "discussion", wrangling and foolishness "dignity", insincerity "renunciation", cupidity "devotion to God", their own senseless fancies "Divine knowledge", the motions of the heart and affections of the animal soul "Divine love", heresy "poverty", scepticism "purity", disbelief in positive religion (zandaqa) "self-annihilation", neglect of the Law of the Prophet (May peace be upon him) "the mystic Path", evil communication with time servers "exercise of piety". As Abu Bakr al-Wasiti said: "We are afflicted with a time in which there are neither the religious duties of Islam nor the morals of Paganism nor the virtues of Chivalry" (ahlam-i dhawi 'l-muruwwa). And Mutanabbi says to the same effect:- 4
"God curse this world! What a vile place for any camel-rider to alight in!
For here the man oflofty spirit is always tormented".
Know that I have found this universe an abode of Divine mysteries, which are deposited in created things. Substances accidents, elements, bodies, forms, and properties - all these are veils of Divine mysteries. From the standpoint of Unification (tawhid) it is polytheism to assert that any such veils exist, but in this world everything is veiled, by its being, from Unification, and the spirit is held captive by admixture and association with phenomenal being. Hence the intellect can hardly comprehend those Divine mysteries, and the spirit can but dimly perceive the marvels of nearness to God. Man, enamoured of his gross environment, remains sunk in ignorance and apathy, making no attempt to cast off the veil that has fallen upon him. Blind to the beauty of Oneness, he turns away from God to seek the vanities of this world and allows his appetites to domineer over his reason, notwithstanding that the animal soul, which the Quran (xii, 53) describes as "commanding to evil" (ammarat bi 'l-su), is the greatest of all veils between God and Man.
Now I will begin and explain to you, fully and lucidly, what you wish to know concerning the "stations" and the "veils", and I will interpret the expressions of the technicologists (ahl-i sana'i'), and add thereto some sayings of the Shaykhs and anecdotes about them, in order that your object may be accomplished and that any learned doctors of law or others who look into this work may recognize that the Path of Sufi'ism has a firm root and a fruitful branch, since all the Sufi Shaykhs have been possessed of knowledge and have encouraged their disciples to acquire knowledge and to persevere in doing so. They have never been addicted to frivolity and levity. Many of them have composed treatises on the method of Sufi'ism which clearly prove that their minds were filled with divine thoughts.
I The author's meaning appears to be that one consideration has a special reference to connoisseurs and competent persons, while the other has a general reference to the public at large.
2 An electuary used as a remedy for paralysis of the tongue or mouth.
3 See Dozy, supplement, under dawa.
4 Mutanabbi, ed. By Dieterici, p.662, 1. 4 from foot.