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Shaykh al-Alawî - Intimate Supplication - The Shaykh Ahmad Ben Mustafa al-Alawî by Abdul-Majid Bhurgri
English - Articles written
Écrit par Ahmad al-Alawî   
Samedi, 29 Décembre 2012 14:28
Index de l'article
Shaykh al-Alawî - Intimate Supplication
Foreword by Muhammad Suheyl Umar
A word from the translator Abdul-Majid Bhurgri
The Shaykh Ahmad Ben Mustafa al-Alawî by Abdul-Majid Bhurgri
Blessing of Crown
Intimate Supplication
Toutes les pages

 

 

The Shaykh Ahmad Ben Mustafa al-Alawî

 

About the Author and the Way In this brief introduction I only wish to add a short biographical note about the life of the author and say a few words about the Way or Tasawwuf. For those who wish to learn more about the life and teachings of the author I suggest reading “A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century” by Martin Lings. It is not only an authoritative biography of the Shaykh, but a work of immense value so far in as it discusses the spiritual heritage and legacy of the Shaykh.

 

The Shaykh was born in the year 1869 at Mostaganem, a small town in Algeria. His name, as it appears on the title pages of most of his books is Abu al-Abbâs Ahmad Ben Mustafa al-Alawî. He was only son of his father who had two daughters before him. His father had importuned God not to leave him without a male heir. Some time before he was born, his mother Fatimah saw in her sleep the Prophet with a jonquil in his blessed hand. He looked at her full in the face, smiled at her and threw the flower to her, whereupon she took it up with humble modesty. On waking up, she related the blessed dream to her husband who knew that his prayers for a son had been answered. He rightly interpreted it as meaning that they would be blessed with a pious son.

 

The Shaykh belonged to a very pious and noble family. He did not attend any formal school and his only education came from Qur’an lessons that his father used to give him. The family lived in poor financial conditions. He learnt the craft of cobbling and took it up to support his family. When he was 16, his father passed away. His mother lived till the Shaykh was 46.

 

He was attracted to Tasawwuf, the Islamic Esoteric path, since his early years. After his father’s passing away, he became head of the household, and despite his mother’s initial protests and those of his wife, he attended nightly classes of religious science and gathering for Dhikr. As he studied the doctrine of Tasawwuf and came to know Sufi Masters, his mind opened up and he began to have breadth of knowledge and understanding. In his initial years he was attracted towards practicing wonders and marvels and even attained some proficiency in that. Later, by the grace of God, a saying of the Prophet caused him to draw away from these practices till he completely gave these up and broke away from the company of friends who believed that these wonders were a means of drawing near to God. And then he met his Shaykh, Sîdî Muhammad al-Buzîdî, and was attached to his Sufi order. He was transmitted the litanies to practice and the Dhikr.

 

The Shaykh used to attend lessons of theology but his Master told him to stop attending these lessons, saying: “You had better busy yourself now with purifying your innermost soul until the Lights of your Lord dawn in it and you come to know the real meaning of Unity. But as for scholastic theology, it will only serve to increase your doubts and pile up illusion upon illusion. Give up the rest of lessons until you are through with your present task, for it is an obligation to put what is more important before what is of lesser importance.” It was very hard for him to accept this order of his spiritual Master, but having made the covenant with the master, he did obey it. Then he started spending the hours, which he previously devoted to reading, to solitary sessions of Dhikr till he realized the station that God had reserved for him.

 

Following excerpt from the Shaykh’s autobiographical notes very succinctly describes his spiritual journey:
“As to the Shaykh al-Buzîdî’s way of guiding his disciple stage wise, it varied. He would talk to some about the form in which Adam was created and to others about the cardinal virtues and others about the Divine Actions, each instruction being especially suited to the disciple. But the course which he most often followed, and which I also followed after him, was to enjoin upon the disciple the invocation of the single Name with distinct visualization of its letters until they were written in his imagination. Then he would tell him to spread them out and enlarge them until they filled the entire horizon. The Dhikr would continue in this form until the letters became like light. Then the Shaykh would show the way out of this standpoint—it is impossible to express in words how he did so—and by means of this indication the Spirit of the disciple would quickly reach beyond the created universe provided that he had sufficient preparation and aptitude—otherwise there would be need for further purification and other spiritual training. At the above mentioned indication the disciple would find himself able to distinguish between the Absolute and the relative, and he would see the Universe as a ball or lamp suspended in a beginning less, endless void. Then it would grow dimmer in his sight as he persevered in the invocation to the accompaniment of meditation, until it seemed no longer a definite object but a mere trace. Then it would become not even a trace, until at length the disciple was submerged in the World of the Absolute and his certainty was strengthened by Its Pure Light. In all this the Shaykh would watch over him and ask him about his states and strengthen him in the Dhikr degree by degree until he finally reached a point of being conscious of what he perceived through his own power. The Shaykh would not be satisfied until this point was reached, and he used to quote the words of God which refer to: One whom his Lord has made certain, and whose certainty He has then followed up with direct evidence. [11:17]

 

“When the disciple had reached this degree of independent perception, which was strong or weak according to his capability, the Shaykh would bring him back again to the world of outward forms after he had left it, and it would seem to him the inverse of what it had been before, simply because the light of his inward eye had dawned. He would see it as Light upon Light, and so it had been before in reality. “In this degree the disciple may mistake the bowstring for the arrow as has happened to many of those who are journeying to God, and he may say as many have said: ‘I am He whom I love, and He whom I love is I’, and the like—enough to make anyone who has no knowledge of the attainments of the mystics and is unfamiliar with their ejaculations throw at him the first thing that he can lay his hands on. But the master of this degree comes before long to distinguish between the spiritual points of view and to give to each of the different degrees of existence its due and to each of the spiritual stations what rightly belongs to it. This station took hold of me, and it has been my home for many years, and I have become as it were an expert in it, and make known its obligations, and my followers have had what I wrote about it when I was first in its grip, and some of them now have knowledge of its obligations, and some of them fall short of this knowledge. The acuteness of this state still comes back to me sometimes, but it does not compel me to write about it. True, it prompts me to speak about it, but it is easier to live with than it was, something that I feel rather than something that I am submerged in. “This path which I have just described as being that of my Master is the one that I have followed in my own spiritual guidance, leading my own followers along it, for I have found it the nearest of the paths which lead to God.”

 

After passing away of his spiritual master, he was prevailed upon by the disciples of the master to take Shaykh’s place and continue guiding them on the spiritual path. He did some traveling to Istanbul, which was capital of the Ottoman Caliphate, at its last legs then. He also traveled to the holy lands of Mecca and Medina to perform pilgrimage.

 

The Shaykh continued guiding seekers of Truth on this path till he passed away in the year 1934 at the age of 65. By that time he had thousands of disciples all around the world. This lofty Shaykh belonged to the Darqawiya branch of the Shadhiliya order founded by great Sufi Saint of Egypt Abul Hassan ash-Shadhili.

 

The question, “What is Sufism or Tasawwuf?” has been frequently asked and as frequently answered by minds far loftier and profounder than mine. I do not expect to come up with a better answer, still I would attempt one.

 

A sage who lived in the last century wrote: “... in fact everything has been said already, though it is far from being the case that everyone has always understood it. There can therefore be no question of presenting ‘new truths’; what is needed in our time, and indeed in every age remote from the origins of Revelation, is to provide some people with keys fashioned afresh—keys no better than the old ones but merely more elaborated—in order to help them to rediscover the truths written in an eternal script in the very substance of man’s spirit.” (Understanding Islam: Frithjof Schuon) My attempt should also be judged in the same vein as I hope that what I write may help some people understand the subject better.

 

Before asking the question “What is Sufism?” one needs to pose a more basic question: “What is purpose of creation of man?”, and then attempt to find the answer in the light of Qur’an and Prophetic tradition.

 

In Qur’an, God says: “And I have not created jinn and man except that they know Me.” 51:55. The Arabic word translated as “know Me” can also be taken to mean “worship Me”, but according to Hazrat Ibn Abbas the word is used here in the sense “know Me”. Hazrat Ben Abbâs was the one who had been granted profound knowledge of interpretation of Qur’an by God as a result of a prayer by the Prophet himself.

 

Then there is this well known Hadith Qudsi: “I was a hidden treasure and I wished to be known hence I created the creation.”

 

It is not difficult anymore to reach the obvious conclusion that God created man so that he may know Him. How to know God and where to find Him? God says: “Nothing in the vast and wide Universe can contain Me but the heart of My servant.” (Hadith Qudsi)

 

In the passage quoted earlier, when the sage talks about rediscovering “the truths written in an eternal script in the very substance of man’s spirit”, he is evidently referring to the heart, for in Islamic tradition it is the heart that is ‘the very substance of man’s spirit’.

 

Venerable saint, Shaykh Sharafuddin Ahmad Yehya Maneri writes, “Your worth is that which you desire for. If you desire for a dog, your worth is not more than a dog. Likewise are the other objects of desire. The dog of the People of Cave is an example in question.

 

This dog desired for Truth and the Truth became its worth! We all are nothing but children of our own desires.” (Hundred Letters: Letter 80) Just as our objects of desire determine our worth, so do the objectives of our activities determine the worth of these activities. Having said this, let us now reflect if there can be any object of desire greater than the Truth or God? If not, then epitome of human perfection verily lies in desiring God and directing all one’s activities towards this sole object.

 

Human heart, being the very substance of man’s spirit, is the organ of intellect which alone can reflect this Truth. But, to use the Sufi terminology, we have piled upon it the rust of desires for other than God.

 

This rust or dirt needs to be removed if we wish to behold the Divine Truth, Beauty and Bliss within ourselves.

 

Thus the highest goal in life, and indeed the sole purpose of creation of man, is to attain the greatest state of bliss and happiness by desiring that which is the Best and striving with one’s whole being to witness the Divine Truth and Beauty within. The messengers were sent and the religions were established only so that each and every individual could realize the Truth according to one’s capacity and desire Sufism is nothing but the esoteric path within the framework of Islamic tradition, so that we can rediscover the Truth indelibly scribed in our very substance. Sufism is living the religion not by the letter alone but by the spirit as well. It requires that we perform all rituals and acts with excellence that is with full awareness and mindfulness of being in the Divine Presence for if we do not see God, God nevertheless sees us. Accordingly our behavior and demeanor must, under all circumstances and conditions, reflect this awareness and conform to it. Pursued under vigilant guidance of a teacher who has witnessed the Truth, and has been duly authorized to transmit the guidance, Sufism can help sincere seekers attain the ultimate certainty.

 

Sufism, like all esoteric paths, does demand the commitment of one’s whole being, and it can never be learnt without guidance of a teacher who has himself traversed the path and received guidance from a genuine link of orthodox teachers going all the way back to the source of this teaching: which in Islamic tradition is none other than the Prophet himself.

 

Transmitting guidance is what the author of this munajat did: having realized the Truth and having been divinely entrusted with the task of guiding others on the path that he himself had already traversed, he guided the aspirants of Truth so that they too could fulfill the purpose of their creation by attaining and knowing the Truth.

 

One of the first steps on the path of realization of Truth is to produce this state of Ihsân or excellence where one is constantly aware of being in the Divine Presence, so that all his activities reflect this awareness.

 

Among the Sufi literature, munajat, being an intimate supplication addressed directly to God, has this unique quality of mellowing the heart and immersing the supplicator in deep and fully realized awareness of conversing with the Creator and being in the Divine Presence. Its greatest value therefore lies in producing this state of awareness which, if God so wills, can extend and prolong into the moments beyond those actually spent in reciting the munajat.

 

Need it be said that the sincerity of purpose and an open mind are prerequisites for drawing most benefit from such works of piety! I conclude this introduction with the words of the venerable author regarding this munajat:

“I will be pleased if my disciples recite it in solitude every day with full attentiveness and sincerity and reflect deeply on its meanings. If a one cannot recite it every day, let him recite it once a week and Friday night is superior choice for this. May God give us the strength to act by it so that we do not remain deprived of the blessing of this Divine favor.”

 

May God grant that we benefit from the spiritual radiance of the Prophet, to whose spiritual progeny the lovers and friends of God belong, and whose message and spiritual light they transmit to the seekers and lovers of Truth. Amen.

 

Abdul-Majid Bhurgri

 

 



 
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