Dust Under Your Feet

5 September 1988

Q:  Can you explain the Quranic verse which says, “We are Nearer to Him than His Jugular Vein.”

A:  As I said in a previous letter the state of His nearness to man is extremely subtle. The Arifin (Auliya) confess that this sort of nearness cannot be properly understood by mankind even by the high and nearest Auliya Allah. This is because when Allah’s Being itself is not fully understood by any man even if he is a prophet, how can His state of nearness to man be comprehended? We can only experience it partially, but cannot explain it fully. In fact man is so small in the whole creation that he cannot understand even a little blade of grass, a drop of water, a particle of sand or a little stone, not to speak of God and His powers. You have asked, “Does nearness of God mean nearness after Lataif are activated?” The answer is no. God is near to everyone even if his Lataif (spiritual senses) are not activated. When Lataif are activated, we come to realize experience or feel His Nearness, but the mashaikh are silent on the nature of nearness or the nature of spiritual relationship of God with man as it is extremely subtle and beyond comprehension. I hope you understand what I mean. God is too high to be fully comprehended.   

Q:  This is another verse of the Holy Quran which says, “He is with you wherever you are.” Can you enlighten me on this?

A: Similarly in the verse, “He is with you wherever you be”, the nature of the word “with” is incomprehensible by human intellect. TSe Muslim saints also cannot fully comprehend it. The only difference between philosophers and saints is that while the philosophers cannot experience the presence of God, the saints can. But both are unable to understand the nature of God’s presence with man. It is neither like two persons sitting together, nor like water in the jug, nor fire in the charcoal, nor heat in the iron. Allah says,  “Nothing is like unto Him.” Therefore no example or similie can befit Him. Another Nearest but not exact example is that of Light. Light of a lamp merged in day light. But this example is faulty because it presupposes two beings, while there exists only God’s Being. The best example has been given by Shah Wali Allah (r) who says human spirits are like the rays emanating from the sun (Divine Being). 

Q:  What is the difference between Silsala Chistiya Sabiriya and Nizamiya.

A:  You know Hazrat Baba Farid (r) had two prominent Khalifas:


            (i)Hazrat Ali Ahmad Sabir (r) and,


           (ii)Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya (r)

         The spiritual decendants and murid of the former are known as “Chisti Sabiris” and of the latter as “Chisti Nizamis.” We are basically Chishti Sabiris, but have affiliation of Faizan (spiritual blessings) from Nizami branch also.

          In short, Sabiris and Nizamis are two branches of Silsala Chsitiya named after the head of each branch.

Q:  Can you explain briefly about the four Imams (Shafii, Hanafi, Hambali and Maliki).
A:  All Imams are right in their finding. They are unanimous on principles of Islam and differ only on minor, unimportant details. Our Shaikh have been mostly Hanafis, some were Hambali also. Syed Hazrat Abdul Qadir Jilani was Hambali. You are free to choose whatever way you like best. I think when all are on the right path and good saints also; you should follow the Imam who is being followed by the majority of the Muslims in your country to avoid unnecessary friction. 

Q:  You have said that Islam encourages its followers to go for higher spiritual values and higher aspects of Islam as mentioned in the Holy Quran and Hadis. Can you throw some light on this?

A:  The trouble is that the mediocre externalists (Wahabis, etc) who neither aspire for, nor reach, the higher aspects of Islam, that is, Allah’s Nearness. They try to pull us also down to their own low position which is unfair. Why should the commoners oppose the specialists and the elite? This is the whole trouble. As a matter of fact, all these higher spiritual values and higher aspects of Islam have been mentioned in the Holy Quran and Hadis, but these are wrongly interpreted by the exoterics. For instance, when Allah says, “We are nearer unto you than the jugular vein”, the exoterics do not bother to know what it means. They do not try to understand what nearness is, what the degrees of nearness are, and what you feel in Nearness. When Allah says, “Allah is with you, wherever you be”, these people do not try to know how He is with us. We know it is the consciousness of Fana, but they do not know what Fana is. When the Prophet (s.a.w) says, “The Qalb of the Momin is the Throne (Arsh) of Allah”, these externalists do not bother to know how the Qalb of the Momin is Allah’s Throne. When Allah says in that famous Hadis al Qudsi (Bukhari) that, “The seeker sees by Allah’s sight and hears by His hearing ......................,” these people do not bother to know how the Wali see by God’s eyes and hears by His ears. They just do not try to reach the status of a Wali of Allah. When the Prophet (s.a.w) said, “Allah says I can neither be contained by my earth nor my skies, but I can be contained by the Qalb of the Abd-al-Momin.” The externalists do not care to understand how Allah s.w.t can be contained by the Qalb of Abd-al-Momin.  They are mediocres, they are contented with only the outer meanings of the Quran while the prophet said, “There are outer meanings of the Quran as well inner meanings and inner meanings of those inner meanings till nine meanings.” The Prophet (s.a.w), his companions and their companions and many Auliya Allah know those inner meanings. That is why Hadrat Ali said, “If I write the inner meanings of Sura Fateha, it will make a burden of seventy camels. When Ibn Abbas went to Hadrat Ali after Ishak prayer and asked him to explain the inner meanings of Fateha, he started explaining till Azan of the next morning prayer went in the air and Hadrat Ali was still explaining the meaning of the letter “B” of Bismillah.

Q:  This is about patience. To what extent one has to be patient. What is patience? Please explain.

A:  A seeker has to be patient when he himself is a victim, but when others (near and dear ones) are the victim, it is his duty to protect them by all the means at his disposal.

      When he himself is a victim, it is open to him to move the higher authorities to protect him or to suffer patiently. It depends on his spiritual condition. If he is in the advance stages, he keeps quiet and exercises patience. But if he is in a lower position and feels grieved, he can knock the door of the Government to protect him. But seeking protection from the Divine Lord is the best. Nay, God will automatically protect him. At the highest stage, the seeker does not feel grieved and hurt at all. He is happy over whatever takes place.

        Once Rabia Basri was sitting in the company of some Auliya Allah who were discussing what is sabr (patience). One of them said, “Patience means to remain contented with what one gets and not complain when he does not get.”

        Rabia Basri said, “This is what the dogs in our country do.”

        When asked what sabr in her opinion is. She said, “Real patience is to feel happy over what befalls him because it comes from the Dear Beloved.”

        Once she saw a young man with a bandage round his head. She asked him the reason. He said, “It is due to headache.” She said, “How old are you?” He said, “Thirty years.” She said, “Did you ever display your gratitude to the Lord for the benefits of life during these thirty years, so that now you are displaying your complaint against the Lord through this bandage.”   

         She was so great that when she did not fall ill for a couple of weeks nor had no trouble, she would say, “O, my Lord, have you forgotten this old woman.” To her the absence of trouble was a bad thing tantamount to Allah’s neglecting her.

Q:  This is about Hadrat Ibrahim Bin Adham and his devotion. Can you quote an incident of how he takes grief and troubles as God’s blessings?

A:  Once Hadrat Ibrahim bin Adham (r) saw an old man sitting dejected and grieved by the roadside. He asked him the reason. The old man said, “I earn a few coins as wages daily and buy flour to make bread for my hungry children. But today I did not earn anything. I am sitting here because I cannot go home and face my hungry children.” The shaikh said, “I am prepared to part with or forgo the sawab (blessings) of my genuine Ibadah of seventy years in your favour if you agree to give me the sawab of this your grief.”

       What my Shaikh (Hadrat Syed Muhammad Zauqi Shah (r) ) mean to say is that there are degrees of Saints (Auliya) and every saint behaves in accordance with his status. Their definition of patience also varies in accordance with the degree of their state of nearness to God. There is no fixed standard.

Q:  Can you quote more incidents of how Hadrat Ibrahim Bin Adham crushed his Nafs.
 A: Incident one:  The door of Divine Audience opened for Hadrat Khawaja Ibrahim Bin Adham (r) when a soldier pissed ( made water) on his head in a boat. Did he give a punch in the face of the man?  If he did, the door would not have opened to him.
       Another incident where the caretaker of a masjid pulled him by the leg and flung him over the stairs, when the gates of heavens started opening for him one by one as he rolled over from one step to another.
        One must attain mastery over one’s Nafs. So long as Nafs remains alive the Sufi remains Mahjoob (veiled).
        One must also remember that whatever comes in the way of a Sufi is to test him. If a person beats you physically, best thing is to keep quite and bear it patiently. A Sufi should be like dust to be trampled over by the people. He should not consider himself better than dog, pig, kafir, mushrik etc.

Q:  Can you tell briefly the story of Sheikh Abu Bakar Shibly and how he crushed his Nafs.
A:  Sheikh Abu Bakar Shibly was the Governor of Baghdad. When he went to Hadhrat Junaid to become murid, he ordered him to resign. Not only had that he told him to go from door to door and beg for alms. And he did it. That is how his Nafs gets crushed.

Q:  Is there another incident how a murid gets his Nafs crushed as ordered by his Shaikh.
A: There was another Shaikh who told his rich murid to get a bag full of almonds, sit on the roadside and tell every passerby that he who gives a slap on his cheek will get a handful of almonds. He obeyed the Shaikh and came back in the evening with a face red and beaten by slaps.


Note:  Allah s.w.t is the greatest prize in the world and comes only when you pay the highest price for Him, that is, self-effacement, self-abasement, self-abnegation, self-mortification, self-surrender and self-sacrifice and what not.  

Q:  What is the danger of being a leader of a group? What is Malamatiya / Malamat? 

A:  The dangers of being at the head of a group of people are obvious. The Satan finds it easy to pump arrogance in his brain. One has to be very, very careful and cautious. This is the greatest pitfall for the Sufis which is why the Sufis always live in rags, poverty and solitude. Some of them invite insults and disgrace to punish their nafs. Some deliberately act in such way which appears un-Islamic, but acctually it is not simply to incur blame and complaints. That is to say they deliberately try to defame themselves. They are known as Malamatiya. Malamat means defamation, or selfdefamation here.

Q:  Can you explain what hal is. What should be our approach towards it? Can we go into hal in halqa-i-zikr or during qawwali session?

A: Hal is a regular state in Islam and it is not forbidden by any stretch of opinion. History of Islam shows that the Muslims right from the time of the Ashab-i-Rasool (s.a.w) and later periods were overwhelmed by spiritual ecstasies. Even the Prophet (s.a.w) went into hal two or three times:
i)               When the Ayah (don’t you know that Allah sees you) was revealed, the Prophet (s.a.w) was overwhelmed and came into his house in a strange condition. When his wife, Khadija (rz) asked the reason, he said this Ayah has been revealed to me. Hearing this she also went into hal.
ii)             On another occasion, the Prophet (s.a.w) was sitting in his room in a state of hal. When his wife Aisha (rz) entered the room, he said, “Who are you?” She said, “I am Aisha.” He said, “Who is Aisha?” She said, “The daughter of Abu Bakr.” He said, “Who is Abu Bakr?” Hearing this she slipped out thinking that he was in hal.


iii)            The Prophet’s (s.a.w) third hal occurred during the night of Miaaraj (Ascension). The details are too long to be described here.


            But you and others must know that the Prophet (s.a.w) did not go into hal frequently because the prophet and Auliya of high status are seldom overwhelmed. They have the capacity to swallow and digest all kinds of ecstasies whereas as those who have small capacities (spiritual vessels) they cannot digest strong faizan (spiritual blessings) and their vessels get overflowed. This overflowing is hal. It is depricated by the great Mashaikh of Tariqat as a sign of weakness. That is why Hallaj was condemned even by his Sheikh because he could not digest what he got. For this reason the Prophet (s.a.w) did not go into hal much. The three occassions mentioned above are only to show to the Ummah that such things can be possible. During Qawaali sessions many people go into hal. But our Sheikh did not do it even once. Sometimes he shivered imperceptibly, but did not allow it to be seen. This is greatness. You should also know that when a person goes into hal, all faizan coming to him stops. He ceases to get it any more, because if you get overpowered by a single cup of wine who is going to give you more. Ecastasies do come in the way of everybody who has reached Allah’s nearness (Qurb), but the best thing is to control them and not go into hal, because the moment he goes into hal, the faizan comes into an end.