05 October 2011

Muraqabah is knowing that Allah is watching over us. Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says,

    "And know that Allah knows what is in your minds, so fear Him." [2:235]
    "And Allah is Ever a Watcher over all things." [33:52]
    "And He is with you wherever you may be." [57:4]

There are many other similar verses stating the same concept.

In the hadith of Jibreel alayhis salam when he asked the Beloved Prophet Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa Sallam about ihsan (goodness and excellence), the Beloved Prophet Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa Sallam replied, "Ihsan is to worship Allah as if you see Him, but since we do not see Him we should know that He sees us at all times."[Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim]

The meaning of this hadith is the definition of muraqabah. Namely, the endurance of the servant's knowledge and his conviction and certainty that Allah is watching over his internal and external affairs. To have this knowledge and certainty at all times is called muraqabah. It is the fruit of the servant's knowledge that Allah is his Watcher, Over-seeing him, Hearing his utterances, and Observing all of his deeds at all times.

Imam al-Junaid Radi Allahu anhu said, "The one firm in muraqabah fears the waste of even a moment for other than his Lord."

Hadrat Dhun-Nun Radi Allahu anhu said: "The sign of muraqabah is to favour what Allah has sent down (of the revelation), to glorify what Allah has glorified, and to despise what Allah has despised."

Ibrahim Al-Khawass Radi Allahu anhu said: "Muraqabah is the sincerity of both the internal and external to Allah." It has been said that "The best that man may cling to on this road to Allah is muhasabah (reckoning of the self), muraqabah, and governing his conduct with knowledge."

The people of true knowledge have unanimously agreed that having muraqabah for Allah in one's hidden thoughts is a means for it to manifest in the deeds and the behaviour externally. So, whoever has muraqabah for Allah in secret and internally, Allah will preserve him in his actions and behaviour, both internally and externally.

One of the finest definitions for muraqabah is the following: muraqabah of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala  is being on the way to Him at all times with over-whelming glorification, inciting nearness and urging joy. The overwhelming glorification is to have the heart filled with glorification of Allah. Such a state makes the servant unconcerned with glorifying others or paying attention to others beside Allah. A servant should always have this state, especially when he is remembering Allah. To be with Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala provides one with intimacy and love. If these are not associated with glorification, they may take one outside of the limits of servitude. Any love that is not associated with glorification of the Beloved One is a reason to distance him away from the Beloved and lose His respect.

The overwhelming glorification includes five components: walking towards Allah, constantly walking towards Him, presence within the heart for Him, glorification of Him, and being overwhelmed by His glorification to be concerned with others. The inciting nearness is the closeness to Allah that incites the servant to have these five components. This closeness makes him glorify Allah in a manner that he pays no attention to himself or others. The closer the servant becomes to Allah, the more he glorifies Him and the less mindful he will be for others. The urging joy is happiness and glorification. It is the delight one finds in this nearness. There is nothing in this world comparable in any way to the joy and happiness of the heart and the delight of the eye with Allah and His closeness. This is one of the states in Paradise.

A knowledgeable person said, "There are times when I would say that if the people of Paradise can be in a state like this, they are indeed living a good life." This joy, no doubt, urges him to be constant in walking to Allah and oing his best to seek Allah's Pleasure. If one didn't achieve this joy or even a portion of it, then one should doubt their faith and deeds. Faith has grace and sweetness. If one has not tasted it, then one should go back and achieve the true faith and its sweetness.

The Most Beloved Messenger of Allah Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa 'aalihi wa Sallam mentioned the sweetness of faith in many ahadith, including: "...tasted the taste of faith, those who take Allah as their Lord, Islam as their religion and Muhammad as a Messenger." [Muslim and Ahmad]

He also said: "Whoever possesses the following three qualities attains the sweetness of faith: To have Allah and His Messenger dearer to him than anything else, to love a person only for the sake of Allah, and to hate to return to kufr after Allah has rescued him from it like he hates to be thrown into fire." [Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Muraqaba is the Sufi word for meditation. Literally it means "to watch over", "to take care of", or "to keep an eye". Metaphorically, it implies that with meditation, a person watches over or takes care of his spiritual heart (or soul), and acquires knowledge about it, its surroundings, and its creator.

Stages of Muraqaba

Following are the maqamat (stages) in which sufis have broadly categorised their journey of ascension. This categorization is an arbitrary one, and each level is generally further divided into several sub-levels. During the process of enlightenment, some stages can merge or overlap each other.


Ghanood (Somnolence)

This is the starting level of meditation. When a person starts meditation, he enters into a somnolent or sleep state often. With the passage of time, the person goes into a state between sleep and wakefulness. So the person can remember that he saw something, but not specifically what it is.

Adraak (experience)

With continuous practice of meditation, the sleepiness from meditation decreases. When the conscious mind is not suppressed by sleep and is able to focus, the person can receive the spiritual knowledge from his subconscious mind. At this stage, the person is unable to see or hear anything, but he is able to experience or perceive it.

Warood (coming, beginning)

When adraak (experience) becomes deep, it is exhibited as sight. The stage of warood starts when mental concentration is sustained and somnolence is at its minimum. As soon as the mind is focused, the spiritual eye is activated. The conscious mind is not used to see through the spiritual eye, so concentration comes and goes. Gradually, the mind gets used to this kind of visions and the mental focus is sustained. With practice, the visions/experience becomes so deep that the person starts considering himself a part of the experience rather than considering himself an observer.


Kashaf/Ilhaam (unveiling of arcane knowledge)

Kashaf, or Ilhaam is the stage where man starts getting information that most people are unable to observe. In the beginning, this condition occurs suddenly without personal control. With practice, the mind gets so energized that it can get this knowledge by will.

Shahood (evidence)

When a person can get any information about any event/person with his will, this condition is called Shahood. This stage is broadly categorized according to activation of the senses:

    1. The person can see things anywhere in the universe

    2. The person can hear things anywhere in the universe

    3. The person can smell things anywhere in the universe

    4. The person can touch things anywhere in the universe (hadith)

Fatah (opening, victory)

The peak of Shahood is called Fatah. At this stage, the person doesn't need to close his eyes for meditation. Here the person is freed from both space and time. He can see/hear/taste/touch anything that are present anywhere in time and space.


Fanaa (extinction, annihilation)

    Main article: Fanaa

Through a series of stages (maqamat) and subjective experiences (ahwal), this process of absorbation develops until complete annihilation of the self (fana) takes place and the person becomes al-insanul-kamil, the "perfect man". It is the disintegration of a person's narrow self-concept, social self- and limited intellect (feeling like a drop of water aware of being part of the ocean). The stage is also called Fana fit tawheed ("extinction with the unity"), and Fana fil Haq (Extinction in the reality).

Sair illallah (journey towards the God)

Here the person starts his spiritual journey towards the ultimate reality of the universe, i.e. God. Also called Safr-e-Urooji

Fana fillah (Extinction of the self in God)

One of the important phases of mystical experience which is attained by the grace of God by a traveller on the mystical path is the state of fana fi Allah, "extinction of the self in God". This is the state where the person becomes extinct in the will of God. It is important to mention that this is not incarnation or union. Most Sufis, while passing through this experience, have preferred to live in the greatest depth of silence which transcends all forms and sounds, and enjoy their union with the beloved.

    The highest stage of fana is reached when even the consciousness of having attained fana disappears. This is what the Sufis call "the passing-away of passing-away" (fana al-fana). The mystic is now wrapped in contemplation of the divine essence. (Nicholson, The Mystics of Islam, p.60).

    Since it is a state of complete annihilation of carnal self, absorbation or intoxication in God, the pilgrim is unable to participate in worldly affairs, he is made to pass into another state known as Fana-al-Fana (forgetfulness of annihilation). It is a sort of oblivion of unconsciousness. Since two negatives make one positive, the pilgrim at this stage regains his individuality as he was when he started the journey. The only difference is that in the beginning he was self-conscious, but after having reposed in the Divine Being, he regains that sort of individuality which is God-consciousness or absorbation in God. This state is known as Baqa-bi-Allah — living or subsisting with God. (Alhaj W.B.S. Rabbani, Gems of Sufi Gnosticism)[1]

Sair min allah (journey from the God)

Here the person comes back to his existence. Also called Safr-e-Nuzooli.

Baqaa billah (eternal life in union with God)

This is the state where man comes back to his existence and God appoints him to guide the humans. This is a state in which the individual is part of the world, but unconcerned about his or her rewards or position in it. This doctrine is further explained in an authentic tradition of the prophet which states that God said:

    And the most beloved things with which My slave comes nearer to Me, is what I have enjoined upon him; and My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing Nawafil (praying or doing extra deeds besides what is obligatory) till I love him, so I become his sense of hearing with which he hears, and his sense of sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he grips, and his leg with which he walks[2]

There is another verse from Qur'an , that is used to explain this concept.

    We (Allah) are nearer to him (man) than his jugular vein (50:6)

When Sufis have come out of the Fana fillah state and enter Baqa billah, many of them have produced works of unsurpassed glory, especially in the fields of philosophy, literature, and music. These works have crowned the culture of the entire Islamic world and inspired Sufis and non-Sufis for generations. As the great Persian Sufi poet, Hafiz of Shiraz, who is fondly remembered as the "tongue of the unseen", said centuries ago: "He whose heart is alive with love, never dies.". Allah says about these people in the Qur'an:

    "Lo, indeed, the friends of God have no fear, nor are they grieved."


1- Makruh tanzihi: In the Hanafi Madhhab, it is an action which one is rewarded for leaving out, but not punished nor even blamed for committing.

2- Written by Muhammad Ibn Sulayman al-Baghdadi - quoting Mawlana Khalid al-Naqshbandi - as explained at the end of al-Khani's Foreword to al-Bahja al-Saniyya.

3- Awliya', plural of wali: person beloved by Allah. "Saint."

4- The Prophet Sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said: "Those who love each other for the sake of Allah, their abodes in Paradise are visible like the rising planet, eastern or western. It will be said "Who are these?" and it will be answered: "These are the ones who love each other for the sake of Allah `Azza wa Jall."" Narrated from Abu Sa`id al-Khudri by Imam Ahmad with a chain of sound narrators as stated by al-Haythami in Majma` al-Zawa'id (10:422).

5- Ta'wil: Interpretation, presuming other than the outward meaning.

6- Baqa': Remaining with the dhikr of Allah, after fana'. I.e. "abiding" after "self-extinction."

7- Because of the shaykh's deeper and sounder knowledge in Shari`a (Islamic law) and Tariqa (the Way), the murid has no way of knowing with certainty which of his own opinions are correct, and which are lethal. On the other hand, the murid knows with certainty that his shaykh's counsels, as a whole, form a safer and more solid background than his own.

This is the meaning of the saying "the shaykh's error is stronger than the murid's correctness." Of course this in no way implies obeying anybody in what is a definite contradiction to established rules of Islam. In the extremely unlikely event that the shaykh's action

1) does not seem acceptable according the deduction of a single Muslim scholar,
2) does not lend itself to any acceptable interpretation, and
3) the murid is not able any more to discard it from his mind,

Then and only then the murid must inquire politely about his teacher's action, remembering his personal conviction that the teacher's knowledge about such matters is deeper than his own, otherwise he should not have taken him for a teacher to start with.

In such a case, instead of impolitely interrogating the shaykh about the validity of his action, it would be more polite to academically inquire from the shaykh about the different opinions of scholars concerning the topic itself, remembering in any case to report the incident with Islamic faithfulness: as the murid has seen it, not as he has interpreted it. The murid who thus stops at what he has seen (such as his teacher drinking a dark liquid) would usually find the obvious answer (that it was grape juice) and have no need to ask his teacher anyway (about drinking wine)!

Once a student saw his non-married teacher go home at night accompanied by a young woman. It so happened that he soon learned that the shaykh had just gotten married to her. Most muridin do not think twice in such a circumstance, because countless explanations are possible.

So how detrimental would it be if the student allows his thoughts to wander in the wrong interpretations, for he would be but contradicting the Prophet's order Sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam: "seek for your brother seventy excuses", and not heeding Allah's warning: " ... then let those who contradict the Apostle's order beware: lest trial or grievous penalty befall them (24:63)".

Wallahu a`lam - And Allah Knows Best.

Blessings and peace on the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions.