In Your Beautiful Names all journeys commence
My dearest—May Allah brim-fill your eyes with light—this Voyage is not just for anyone. Unnumbered brave travelers traversed the earth and heavens, yet their endeavor failed them, some failed even to start this Voyage and most did not reach the destination.
The first step of this Voyage is the most difficult. A Sālek (Traveler) must start the Voyage from where he or she is at, not from where he or she wishes to be, not from where other people started theirs. Avoiding wishful starts and yearning for starting-point of others, are the hardest.
Your body’s voyage is the traversal through points of the space-time; this spiritual Voyage is the traversal from “who you are” to “who Allah is”, from “your temporal existence” to “Allah’s eternal existence”. Therefore if you do not take ample care to know who you are, then you would start this voyage from the wrong point and you shall fail beyond all doubts to reach the destination: Who Allah is.
I have sculpted the marble of who I am not, artfully
By my Self
Chips of lies strewn upon the earth of loss all over
By my Self
I have chiseled the marvel of who I am not thoughtfully
Whilst the pearls of sobs strung along the chain of sighs
By my Self
You may start this voyage by the ever so slight first-step of “who you really are”—Ethereal yet a monumental achievement indeed. If you embark upon the Voyage without the actual first-step of “who you are” you shall reach some destination, for certain farthest away from Allah.
As in the case of traversing any path, the act of voyage manifests itself vis-à-vis the changes of the surrounding landscape i.e. moving away from one tree approaching the next, leaving one exit behind reaching another.
Similarly on this peculiar Path, the essence of your voyage manifests itself vis-à-vis the changes in your persona’s landscape i.e. silencing bad words for uttering good words, halting evil deeds by motioning righteous deeds, forsaking foul behavior favoring refined behavior. And the latter is the hardest for all Murids: The value of forsaking one unnoticeable or habitual foul behavior may surpass that of many years of worship!
A burning candle braving the odious gusts of destiny
Weeping I am
A mother giving birth to her own miserable life
Laboring I am
Ashes of my Self’s calf dusted upon the insidious Nile
A Moses running from his own Self’s Pharaoh
Escaping I am
As on any path if you do not see any changes in the scenery around you, the logical conclusion would be: I did not move at all. Likewise on this Path, if you did not observe any changes in your personality, for sure, you can confidently conclude: I did do many things but I did not endeavor any spiritual voyage!
The unshakable reality of your space-time traversal is that you voyage from biological life towards biological death. Correspondingly on this Path, you voyage from biological life towards non-biological death, where your existence is no longer and yet your nascent spiritual life subsists everlastingly upon the absolute existence of Allah—voyaging from “your existence” towards “Allah’s existence”.
My love, the voyage of a tree is through its growth and everything a tree is all about, found exclusively within its single and tiny seed! In the same way, your voyage is through your spiritual growth and all that you need to grow, to bloom with effulgent blossoms, found entirely within you! As there is nothing outside the seed that is a part of the tree’s essence, there is nothing outside you that is a part of your essence.
“If everything needed for growth is within” you might ask, “Then what is the purpose of worship, knowledge, Dhikr (Remembrance), fasting and so on”, Nasafi has elegantly answered this question:
“Human being has level/stages as does a tree (for growth). It is most patent what growth stage a tree is at, at any given moment. So it is the job of the gardener to prepare the soil, schedule for watering, pruning and cleaning in order for a tree to reach the completion of its growth, one stage after the other. Similarly Sālek (Traveler) is a gardener growing, stage by stage, his or her Humanity towards Ādamiyat (Human-ness, most innate perfection of being a man) by exerting efforts and taming the Nafs (Psyche, Self).
All stages of a tree’s growth are encapsulated within the seed. A competent gardener exerts effort in order to provide the environment for emergence of each stage of the growth. The same is true for Sālek (Traveler) bringing forth the stages of humanity that are all incubated within.
Moreover this spiritual gardener requires the companionship of the learned man to see to all stages of the growth to appear.”
Here the gardener could be your parents, you or your sheikh and the acts of gardening are worship, acquisition of knowledge, Dhikr (Remembrance), fasting and so on (Don’t forget loving). Some acts you may do privately by yourself, some in a group and some may be done to you, but at each moment of time focus your eyes on the prize: Growth, just as a gardener does with a tree. Someone may draw a tree or may sing a song about a tree or may dream of a tree, however none does make him a gardener and suchlike efforts and aspirations will not help the growth of any tree. So be a gardener not a painter or a singer or a dreamer.
As with someone walking a tight rope, losing the balance and falling is inevitable. Deviating from the Path and interrupting the Voyage is inevitable. But my dear there is a sure way to avoid or correct any deviation, small or large:
Don’t be all into performing too many prayers, fasting too many days or performing too many Hajj pilgrimages, do the required and the obligatory. Don’t be all into learning too many fancy words or strange spiritual tales in order to gain much wisdom, obtain the average amount necessary.
Push hard to be straight and purify your Nafs (Psyche, Self).
You must reach a stage wherein, each moment, pours out of you goodness and ease (for others), even without you being conscious. Don’t be like those nations from who effuses evil and suffering each day.
Evil and crookedness is their essence, let the straightness and goodness be your essence.
Once you are adorned with the Divine Akhlāq (Behaviors & Attributes), be good and generous, don’t make others feel indebted to you rather always feel indebted to others.
The meaning of ‘Bad Nafs (Psyche, Self)’ is to harm people or cause them suffering, now that you know this meaning please avoid it by all means.
The meaning of ‘Good Nafs (Psyche, Self)’ is to actively seek goodness and comfort for others and each moment try to comfort them by means of your words, your hands or your wealth.”
So you do not wish to be off the Path? You wish to continue with the Voyage?
Then be a comfort, a solace:
“Every morning the scholar wakes up and seeks more knowledge, every morning the Zāhid (Ascetic) wakes up and seeks more Zuhd (Asceticism), yet Abul-Hassan wakes up seeking more joy for some brother’s heart.”
(Source: Abul-Hassan Kharqāni’s quotes from Tadh-keratul Auliā by Faridud-din Attār)
Every morning wake up and seek a broken leg to be its cane or seek a blind eye to be its guide or seek a broken heart to be its solace. Know that the Beautiful One is amongst the broken hearts, not amongst the beautiful faces.
Be a cane or be a guide or be a solace and yet be assured that you shall never deviate from The Voyage, and that as with all things is by Allah’s permission.