First Section - Kitab Sirr al-Asrar wa Mazhar al-Anwar

10 April 2012


The beginning of creation [ibtida' al-khalq]

You should know—may Allah enable you to achieve what is dear and pleasing to Him!-that Allah (Exalted is He) first created the spirit of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) from the light of His Beauty. As Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) has told us:

I created the spirit of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) from the light of My countenance.

As the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) has said:

The first thing that Allah created was my spirit [ruh]. The first thing that Allah created was my light [nur]. The first thing that Allah created was the pen [qalam]. The first thing that Allah created was the intellect ['aql].

This means that they are all one thing, that being the Muhammadan Reality [al-Haqiqat al-Muhammadiyya], but it is called a "light [nur]" because it is pure and unclouded by the darknesses of Majesty. As Allah (Blessed and Exalted is He) has said:

There has now come to you from Allah
qad ja'a-kum mina 'llahi
a Light, and a clear Book.
Nurun wa Kitabun mubin. (5:15)

It is also called an "intellect ['aql]," because it comprehends universal truths [kulliyyat]. It is also called a "pen [qalam]," because it is an instrument for the transmission of knowledge, just as the pen is an instrument in the realm of letters [of the alphabet].

The Muhammadan spirit is thus the quintessence of all entities, the first of all beings and the origin of them all. As he has said (blessing and peace be upon him):

I am from Allah and the believers are from me.

Allah created all the spirits from him in the realm of Divinity [Lahut], and in the finest real formation. "Muhammad" is the name of all human beings in that realm, and he is the original home.

Then, when four thousand years had passed, Allah created the Heavenly Throne ['Arsh] from the light of the eye of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), and from the Heavenly Throne He created the rest of existing entities. Then He reduced the spirits to the lowest level of existence, meaning the physical bodies. As Allah (Exalted is He) has said:

Then We reduced him [the human being]
thumma radadna-hu
to the lowest of the low.
asfala safilin. (95:5)

In other words, the first descent was from the realm of Divinity [Lahut] to the realm of Omnipotence [Jabarut]. Between the two Sanctuaries, Allah (Exalted is He) clothed them with the light of Omnipotence, which is the royal spirit [ruh sultani]. Then he sent them down, in this attire, to the realm of Sovereignty [Malakut], and He clothed them with the light of Sovereignty, which is the immaterial spirit [ruh ruhani]. Then He sent them down to the realm of Dominion [Mulk], and He clothed them with the light of Dominion, which is the physical spirit. Then from it Allah created the bodies. As He has said (Exalted is He):

Out of it [the earth] We created you,
min-ha khalaqna-kum
and into it We shall send you back again,
wa fi-ha nu'idu-kum
and We shall bring you forth from it a second time.
wa min-ha nukhriju-kum taratan ukhra. (20:55)

Then Allah (Exalted is He) commanded the spirits to enter the bodies, so they entered at Allah's command (Exalted is He). As He has said (Almighty and Glorious is He):

And I breathed into him of My Spirit.
wa nafakhtu fi-hi min Ruhi. (38:72)

When the spirits became attached to the physical bodies, they forgot the covenant they had contracted on the day when Allah asked them: "Am I not your Lord?" and they said: "Yes indeed!"3 Because of this, they did not return to the original home, but the All-Merciful Source of Help took pity on them. He sent down Heavenly Books to remind them of that original home. As He has said (Exalted is He):

We sent Moses with Our signs, [saying]:
wa la-qad arsalna Musa bi-ayati-na
"Bring your people forth from darkness into light,
an akhrij qawma-ka mina 'z-zulumati ila 'n-nuri
and remind them of the days of Allah."
wa dhakkir-hum bi-ayyami 'llah. (14:5)

In other words: "Remind them of the former days of communion with Him, in the company of the spirits."

All the Prophets came into this world and went away to the Hereafter because of this admonition, but few human beings took heed, longed for their original home and returned to it, until Prophethood was assigned to the supreme Muhammadan spirit, the seal of the Mission and the guide away from error. Allah sent him to those heedless people, to open their eyes from the sleep of heedlessness, so he summoned them to Allah (Exalted is He), to contact with Him and the meeting with His sempiternal Beauty. As Allah (Exalted is He) said to him:

Say: "This is my way: I call to Allah
qul hadhihi sabili ad'u ila 'llah:
with insightful knowledge, I and whoever follows me."
'ala basiratin ana wa mani 'ttaba'a-ni. (12:108)

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) once said:

My Companions are like the stars. Whomever of them you follow, you will be guided aright.

Insight comes from the eye of the spirit, which opens within the heart of the saints [awliya']. That is why it is not acquired by knowledge of the external world, but only by knowledge of the inner Presence. As Allah (Exalted is He) has said:

And We taught him knowledge from Our Presence.
wa 'allamna-hu min ladun-na 'ilma. (18:65)

It is therefore necessary for the human being to acquire that eye, and so become one of the masters of insight, by taking instruction from a saint, a spiritual guide whose teaching concerns the realm of Divinity [Lahut].

O brethren! Wake up, and hasten to forgiveness from your Lord through repentance! As Allah (Exalted is He) has said:

And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord,
wa sari'u ila maghfiratin min Rabbi-kum
and a Garden as wide as the heavens and the earth,
wa jannatin 'ardu-ha 's-samawatu wa 'l-ardu
which has been made ready for those who are truly devout.
u'iddat li'l-muttaqin. (3:133)

Embark upon the path, and return to your Lord with these spiritual caravans. The path will soon be cut off, and no travelling companion will be found. We have not come to settle in this vile, dilapidated world, nor for the sake of eating, drinking, and satisfying crude natural instincts. Your Prophet is waiting, sorrowful for your sake.
As he said (peace be upon him):

My sorrow is for the members of my Community who will come in later times.

The knowledge that is sent down to us is twofold: exoteric and esoteric, meaning the sacred law [shari'a] and direct understanding [ma'rifa]. Allah (Exalted is He) has commanded us to apply the sacred law to our outer being, and direct understanding to our inner being, so that the combination of the two will result in knowledge of Reality [Haqiqa], just as fruit is produced by the tree and the leaves. As Allah (Exalted is He) has said:

He has partitioned the two seas.
maraja 'l-bahraini
They meet, [but] between them there is a barrier
yaltaqiyan: baina-huma barzakhun
that they do not overpass.
la yabghiyan. (55:19,20)

Reality cannot be attained, and the goal cannot be reached, by exoteric knowledge alone. Perfect worship is accomplished by means of both forms of knowledge, not one without the other. As Allah (Exalted is He) has said:

I did not create the jinn and humankind
wa ma khalaqtu 'l-jinna wa 'l-insa
except to worship Me.
illa li-ya'budun. (51:56)

In other words: "to know and understand Me." If someone does not know and understand Him, how can he worship Him? Direct knowledge is attainable only by removing of the veil of the lower self [nafs] from the mirror of the heart, and cleaning and polishing that mirror. It will then reflect the beauty of the treasure hidden in the secret of the heart's core. Allah (Exalted is He) has said in the Sacred Tradition [Hadith Qudsi]:

I was a hidden treasure and I wished to be known, so I created Creation.

It is clear, therefore, that Allah (Exalted is He) created the human being to know and understand Him.

Direct knowledge is of two kinds: knowledge of the attributes [sifat] of Allah (Exalted is He), and knowledge of His Essence [Dhat]. Knowledge of the attributes is experienced by the physical body in both domains [this world and the Hereafter], while knowledge of the Essence is experienced by the holy spirit in the Hereafter. As Allah (Exalted is He) has said:

And We supported him [Jesus] with the holy spirit.
wa ayyadna-hu bi-Ruhi 'l-Qudus. (2:87)

They [who know the Essence] are likewise supported with the holy spirit.

These two experiences are attainable only by means of two forms of knowledge, the exoteric knowledge and the esoteric knowledge mentioned above. As the Prophet (peace be upon him) once said:

Knowledge ['ilm] is twofold: knowledge conveyed by the tongue, that being Allah's testimony to His servants, and knowledge conveyed by the heart, that being the knowledge that is useful for the attainment of the goal.

First of all, the human being needs knowledge of the sacred law, in order to provide the body with sufficient education in the realm of the attributes, that being the realm of the stages of development. He then needs esoteric knowledge, in order to provide the spirit with education in its own realm of understanding. That can only be achieved by abstaining from all practices that are incompatible with the sacred law and the spiritual path [tariqa]. Its achievement requires the endurance of personal and spiritual hardships, for the sake of pleasing Allah (Exalted is He), without hypocritical display [riya'] and the pursuit of fame [sum'a]. As Allah (Exalted is He) has said:

So whoever hopes for the meeting with his Lord,
fa-man kana yarju liqa'a Rabbi-hi
let him do righteous work,
fa-l'-ya'mal 'amalan salihan
and let him give no one any share at all
wa la yushrik
in the worship due unto his Lord.
bi-'ibadati Rabbi-hi ahada. (18:110)

The realm of direct knowledge is the realm of Divinity [Lahut], and that is the original home, in which the holy spirit was created in the finest formation. What is meant by the holy spirit is the real human spirit, which was installed in the core of the heart, and which becomes manifest through repentance, instruction, and constantly declaring: "There is no god but Allah [la ilaha illa 'llah]." This declaration is first made with the tongue, then with the inner being, when the heart has become alive.

The Sufis have called the inner being "the child of the spiritual concepts [tifl al-ma'ani]," because it arises from the sacred conceptions. It is called a child for several reasons:

1. It is born from the heart, as the child is born from the mother, then reared by the father as it steadily grows to maturity.

2. Just as worldly knowledge is taught to ordinary children, spiritual knowledge is taught to this special child.

3. The ordinary child is unsoiled by the filth of external sins, and this special child is likewise pure and unstained by the filth of polytheism [shirk], heedlessness and physicality.

4. In the case of this special child, the purity of form is even greater, so it is seen in dreams in a shape like that of the angels.

5. Allah (Exalted is He) has described the attendants of the Garden of Paradise in terms of childhood [tifliyya], in His saying (Almighty and Glorious is He):

There wait on them immortal boys.
yatufu 'ala-him wildanun mukhalladun. (56:17)

And there go round, waiting on them,
wa yatufu 'alai-him
young boys of theirs,
ghilmanun la-hum
as if they were hidden pearls.
ka-anna-hum lu'lu'un maknun. (52:24)

6. The name "child" conveys a sense of its gentleness and its cleanliness.

7. The name "child" is used metaphorically, to indicate its connection with the body and its likeness to the human form, but only for the sake of comparison, not for the purpose of belittlement. It refers to this "child's" initial state.

This "child" is the real human being, because he has a connection with Allah (Exalted is He), so the body and physicality are not unlawful to him. As the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) once said:

I have a time with Allah, when there is no space for any angel brought near [to the Lord], nor for any Prophet sent as a Messenger.

This [Prophet sent as a Messenger] refers to the human nature of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). The angel brought near [to the Lord] refers to his spirituality, which was created from the light of Omnipotence [Jabarut], as was the angel, so it has no entry into the light of Divinity [Lahut]. The Prophet (blessing and peace be upon him) also said:

Allah has a Garden in which there are no houries, no palaces, no honey and no milk, but where one gazes only at Allah's countenance (Exalted is He).

As Allah (Magnificent is His Majesty) has said:

Faces on that day will be resplendent,
wujuhun yawma'idhin nadira:
looking toward their Lord.
ila Rabbi-ha nazira. (75:22,23)

As the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

You will see your Lord as you see the moon on the night when it is full.

If the angel and the physical body entered into these realms, they would be burned to ashes. As Allah (Exalted is He) has said in the Sacred Tradition [Hadith Qudsi]:

If I disclosed the splendors of My Majesty, I would burn up everything as far as My eye can see.

As Gabriel (peace be upon him) said: "If I had drawn nearer by a fingertip, I would have been set on fire."

There are two aspects to the human being: the physical [jusmani] and the spiritual [ruhani]. The physical aspect is common to ordinary human beings, while the spiritual aspect is peculiar to special human beings.

For the ordinary human being, the return to his home proceeds by stages, based on the practical implementation of knowledge of the sacred law [shari'a], the spiritual path [tariqa] and direct experience [ma'rifa]. As the Prophet (peace be upon him) has said:

Comprehensive wisdom is direct experience of the Truth, so long as it is practiced without hypocritical display and the pursuit of fame.

The stages are on three levels:

1. The Garden in the realm of Dominion [Mulk], that being the Garden of Shelter [Ma'wa].
2. The Garden in the realm of Sovereignty [Malakut], that being the Garden of Bliss [Na'im].
3. The Garden in the realm of Omnipotence [Jabarut], that being the Garden of Paradise [Firdaws].

These are the bounties of the physical aspect, so the body can only reach its goal by means of three corresponding forms of knowledge: the sacred law, the spiritual path and direct experience. As the Prophet (peace be upon him) has said:

Comprehensive wisdom is direct experience of the Truth and putting it into practice, and recognizing falsehood and forsaking it.

He also said (peace be upon him):

O Allah, let us see the Truth as true, and enable us to follow it. Let us see falsehood as false, and enable us to avoid it.


If someone knows himself, he knows his Lord and his Creator and complies with His command.

In the case of the special human being, his destination is nearness [to Allah], and his return is by means of knowledge of Reality [Haqiqa], that being the affirmation of Oneness [Tawhid] in the realm of Divinity [Lahut]. By means of his regular practice, he can experience this nearness during his life in this world, whether he be asleep or awake. When the body is asleep, the heart finds an opportunity to escape to its original home, either wholly or in part. As Allah (Exalted is He) has said:

Allah receives souls at the time of their death,
Allahu yatawaffa 'l-anfusa hina mawti-ha
and that which has not yet died in its sleep.
wa 'llati lam tamut fi manami-ha:
He keeps that for which He has ordained death,
fa-yumsiku'llati qada 'alai-ha 'l-mawta
and dismisses the rest till an appointed term.
wa yursilu 'l-ukhra ila ajalin musamma. (39:42)

That is why the Prophet (blessing and peace be upon him) once said:

The sleep of the scholar is better than the worship of the ignoramus.

This state is experienced after the heart has been enlivened by the light of the affirmation of Oneness, and after constant repetition of the Names of Unity by the tongue of the secret being, without letters and without sound. As Allah (Exalted is He) has said in the Sacred Tradition [Hadith Qudsi]:

The human being is My secret, and I am his secret.

He has also said (Almighty and Glorious is He):

Knowledge of the inner being is one of My secrets. I have installed it in the heart of My servants, and no one is aware of it, apart from Me.

-and He has said (Exalted is He):

I am as My servant thinks of Me, and I am with him when he remembers Me. If he remembers Me in private, I remember him within Myself. If he remembers me in company, I remember him in better company.

The practice of reflection [tafakkur] is essential in this context. As the Prophet said (blessing and peace be upon him):

A moment of reflection is worth more than a year of worship.

A moment of reflection is worth more than a seventy years of worship.

A moment of reflection is worth more than a a thousand years of worship.

These sayings convey the implicit meaning:

If someone reflects on the details of the branches [of knowledge], a moment of reflection is worth more than a year of worship.

If someone reflects for a moment on the true significance of the worship incumbent upon him, that is worth more than seventy years of worship.

If someone reflects for a moment on intimate knowledge of Allah (Exalted is He), that is worth more than a thousand years of worship.

Through intimate knowledge ['irfan], meaning the realization of Oneness, the 'arif [intimate knower] attains to his Ma'ruf [the One he knows intimately] and his Beloved, so he flies with spiritual wings to the realm of Nearness.

The worshipful servant walks on foot to the Garden of Paradise, while the intimate knower flies on wings to the Nearness [of the Lord]. In the words of a poet:

The hearts of lovers have eyes.
They see what other watchers fail to see.
With featherless wings they fly
to the Realm of the Lord of the Worlds.

This soaring flight takes place in the inner core of the intimate knower, who is the real human being, the dear friend of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), as sacred to Him as a bride. According to Abu Yazid al-Bistami: "Allah's people are the brides of Allah." Allah's saints [awliya'] have also been described as the brides of Allah. The point is that these "brides" are secluded by the veil of intimacy, visible to no one but Allah (Exalted is He). In the Sacred Tradition [Hadith Qudsi], He has said (Almighty and Glorious is He):

My saints are underneath My gown. No one is aware of them apart from Me.

All that people notice about the bride is the beauty of her outward appearance.

According to Yahya ibn Mu'adh ar-Razi: "The saint [wali] is the perfume of Allah upon the earth. The champions of the Truth detect its fragrance." Its scent reaches their hearts, so it makes them yearn for their Master. Their devotion to worship increases in proportion to the annihilation of their ordinary natures, because nearness increases as extinction increases. The saint becomes extinct to his worldly condition, and survives in witnessing the Truth. He retains no personal volition, and has no residence with anyone other than Allah. He has charismatic powers at his disposal, but he stays aloof from them, because he sees what others do not see, and regards divulging the secret of Lordship as an act of infidelity [kufr].

As we read in the book called al-Mirsad: "All those endowed with charismatic powers are veiled from sight. For such men, the charismatic marvel is a form of menstruation. The saint has a thousand stages to traverse, the first of them being the gate of charismatic marvels. If he passes beyond it safely, he can reach the other stages, but if not, he can make no further progress."