Lit­er­al­ly mean­ing the state of be­ing a for­eign­er home­lessness lon­el­i­ness sep­a­ra­tion and be­ing a stranger in on­e’s own land. ghur­ba (sep­a­ra­tion) has been de­fined in the Su­fi lan­guage as re­nounc­ing the world with the charms to which one feels at­tach­ment on the way to the True. De­sired One or liv­ing a life ded­i­cat­ed to the oth­er world though sur­round­ed by this world and its charms.

Sep­a­ra­tion can be viewed as the states in which those who im­prove the world spir­it­u­al­ly find them­selves. Some of these states which we can al­so con­sid­er as kinds of sep­a­ra­tion are mov­ing from one state to an­oth­er turn­ing on­e’s face from the cre­at­ed to the Cre­a­tor and de­scend­ing from the lim­it­less heav­en­ly realm to that of the cre­at­ed to guide the cre­at­ed to as­cend to the heav­en­ly one.

The fol­low­ing words were re­port­ed to have been said by the Mes­sen­ger the great­est he­ro in as­cen­sion to God and de­scent amongst the peo­ple in or­der to guide them to God aft­er the com­ple­tion of his ascen­sion: The most lov­a­ble to God Al­mighty among His ser­vants are those who are sep­a­rate. When asked who such peo­ple were he re­plied: Those who are able to keep them­selves sep­a­rate from peo­ple for the sake of their re­li­gion and live a true re­li­gious life. They will be res­ur­rect­ed to­geth­er with Jesus the son of Mary.[1] The idea of tak­ing the first step to­ward the eter­nal life of the here­aft­er along­side our mas­ter Je­sus is a mean­ing­ful way of ex­press­ing and un­der­stand­ing the depth of his feel­ing of separa­tion.

There are Pro­phet­ic re­ports that a per­son who dies away from home dies a mar­tyr.[2] The sep­a­ra­tion men­tioned in these re­ports al­so in­cludes the sep­a­ra­tion in which God’s saint­ly ser­vants find themselves. They have at­tained to cer­tain spir­it­u­al states yet they suf­fer among those un­a­ware of spirit­u­al­i­ty and these spir­it­u­al states. Al­so in­clud­ed in this sep­a­ra­tion is the sep­a­ra­tion that the righteous suf­fer among wick­ed trans­gress­ors the sep­a­ra­tion that peo­ple of be­lief and con­vic­tion suf­fer among the un­be­liev­ers and her­e­tics the sep­a­ra­tion that peo­ple of knowl­edge and dis­cern­ment suf­fer among the rude and ig­no­rant and the sep­a­ra­tion that peo­ple of spir­it­u­al­i­ty and truth suf­fer among the big­ots who restrict them­selves on­ly to the out­ward word­ing of the re­li­gious rules.

In oth­er re­ports con­cern­ing home­less­ness sep­a­ra­tion and be­ing an out­sid­er in on­e’s own land the Mes­sen­ger points to the ho­ly ones of ev­ery age who strive to make God’s Word the most el­e­vat­ed in the world. For ex­am­ple: Is­lam be­gan help­less and with the help­less and out­land­ish and will re­turn to the same con­di­tion of help­less­ness and be­ing rep­re­sent­ed by the out­sid­ers. Glad tid­ing to the out­sid­ers who try to im­prove in a time when all else are en­gaged in de­struc­tion and cor­rup­tion (or ac­cord­ing to an­oth­er nar­ra­tion who in­crease in faith and right­eous­ness when all else weak­en in them).[3] De­spite the fact that the peo­ple of truth feel and know sep­a­ra­tion in their con­scien­ces de­spite the fact that they feel and love this sep­a­ra­tion and that they breathe the breez­es of be­ing in God’s com­pa­ny in one re­spect they see sep­a­ra­tion as liv­ing in the realm of bod­i­ly ex­is­tence the realm be­tween pure ma­te­ri­al­ism and spir­it­u­al­i­ty and a re­quire-ment of be­ing on the way to God. They not on­ly en­dure sep­a­ra­tion no mat­ter how dif­fi­cult it be­comes but they are al­ways ready and de­sir­ous to fly to the realm where the souls fly. They al­ways suf­fer sep­a­ra­tion from the high­er realm of spir­it­u­al be-ings the realm which those who have a true knowl­edge of God ac­cept as their na­tive land and they long for re­un­ion in the in­ter-me­di­ate realm of the world­ly life. The fol­low­ing vers­es in the Math­nawi by Ja­lal al-Din al-Ru­mi ex­press this sep­a­ra­tion:

Lis­ten to the flute how it re­counts;
It com­plains of sep­a­ra­tion.

When the ho­ri­zon of the Realm of Per­ma­nence man­i­fest­ed it­self to him. Bi­lal al-Ha­ba­shi[4] ex­pressed the same feel­ing of sep­a­ra­tion and long­ing for re­un­ion: “I am re­turn­ing to my­na­tive land from the land of sep­a­ra­tion.”

Ev­ery­one comes alone in­to this world which is a car­a­van-se­rai where the car­a­vans come and leave aft­er stay­ing a short while and ev­ery­one is seen off alone with­out find­ing the op-por­tu­ni­ty to be freed from the feel­ing of sep­a­ra­tion. For this rea­son those who suf­fer long­ing for the realms be­yond feel sep­a­ra­tion pe­cu­liar to them­selves while the oth­ers who have set their hearts up­on the world whose prop­er­ties do­min­ion and hap­pi­ness are all tran­si­to­ry suf­fer pangs of an­oth­er kind of sep­a­ra­tion. In this world ev­ery per­son is a Khus­raw Dah­lawi who said: “My heart has be­come tired with sep­a­ra­tion and de­sires the na­tive land.” and ev­ery­one is wea­ry of the nar­row frame­work of this world they are in pur­suit of new ho­ri­zons and they crave their na­tive land.

In the light of what we have so far ex­plained we can deal with sep­a­ra­tion in the fol­low­ing three cat­ego­ri­es¾use­ful harm­ful and neu­tral:

The sep­a­ra­tion that is use­ful and praised by him who brought the Di­vine Law is that felt by God’s saint­ly ser­vants. When we men­tion sep­a­ra­tion what comes to mind is this form of sep­a­ra­tion. This sep­a­ra­tion is that which is crowned with friend­ship with God which has the depth of know­ing Him and the di­men­sions of lov­ing and yearn­ing for Him. Those who feel this sep­a­ra­tion rise to friend­ship with God with­out ev­er feel­ing them­selves com­plete­ly alone. They con­sid­er the tran­si­to­ry mo­ments of lon­el­i­ness as signs that they are as­cend­ing to­ward Him and see them­selves as be­ing sup­port­ed by God’s pro­tec­tion. His Mes­sen­ger’s lead­er­ship and the com­pa­ny of the be­liev­ers. They con­tin­ue their re­la­tion­ship with the world in pro­por­tion to its es­sen­tial val­ue. They are as­cet­ics whose ev­ery mo­ment is spent in de­vo­tion to Him as­cet­ics who are al­ways at war with feel­ings of pride and fame. As stat­ed in a Pro­phet­ic Tra­di­tion they are the roy­al­ty in the Gar­dens of Par­a­dise but they live life in such a way that they at­tach no im­por­tance to oth­er things. With all their man­ners and in their ap­pear­ance and their ac­tu­al­i­ty in their man­ner of dress­ing and act­ing they are nor­mal mor­tal be­ings among oth­er mortals. They re­gard all world­ly and oth­er world­ly fa­vors as a means of men­tion­ing their true Own­er of be­ing in con­stant thank­ful­ness to Him and they are zeal­ous to strive in His way. What­ev­er gift God bestows on them they see it as a gar­ment to be worn tem­po­ra­ri­ly a gar­ment that must not be spoiled by them and one about which they must feel no loss when it is gone.

From an­oth­er per­spec­tive those out­sid­ers who are ad­mired even by the saint­ly per­sons of high­er ranks such as the pure god­ly ones and those made near to God by God Him­self hold tight to the way of the Proph­et as if they were cling­ing to it by their teeth as stat­ed in a Pro­phet­ic Tra­di­tion.[5] When oth­er peo­ple turn away from it they wage war on the in­no­va­tions in re­li­gion fix their thoughts and feel­ings on God’s ab­so­lute One­ness spend their lives in the pleas­ure and en­thu­si­asm that come from ad­her­ence to God re­gard fol­low­ing the mas­ter of the crea­tures up­on him be peace and the bless­ings of God as sub­mis­sion to the cap­tain of a ship that is tak­ing its pas­sen­gers to the Al­mighty and view fol­low­ing a guide in their time as fol­low­ing him in es­sence.

This kind of sep­a­ra­tion which is re­gard­ed as the most im-por­tant and bless­ed source of saint­hood be­long­ing to those who lived in the Age of Hap­pi­ness¾the time of the Mess­enger¾and those who will come to­ward the end of time and fol­low them in ad­her­ence to God’s re­li­gion and serv­ing it is a way to per­fec­tion. It is ex­treme­ly dif­fi­cult to ad­vance on this way and does not seem great­ly at­tract­ive to people but it is very val­u­a­ble and im­mune to claims of self-as­ser­tion and words of pride that are incom­pat­i­ble with the rules of Shar­i‘a and ir­rec­on­cil­a­ble with self-pos­ses­sion. In ev­ery age a hand­ful of pure souls have gath­ered to­geth­er around this source breast­ed the ad­ver­si­ties sur­round­ing their com­mu­ni­ty fought against the dan­gers that lie wait­ing in am­bush for the spir­its em­braced hu­man be­ings with love helped them re­al­ize their world­ly and oth­er world­ly ex­pec­ta­tions and then said fare­well to this world with­out tast­ing its pleas­ures to go to the oth­er. This they had to do as an easy life and bod­i­ly pleas­ures are dead­ly poi­son for them and to im­bibe these would mean that they had con­tradict­ed them­selves. Instead of liv­ing con­tra­dic­tions and con­tro­ver­sies which is the bit­ter­est of separa­tion some­thing that is worse than death for those who or­der their lives not for their own but for oth­ers’ hap­pi­ness they prefer to re­ceive their doc­u­ments of dis­charge from world­ly re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and em­i­grate to the realm where the friends are.

The sec­ond kind of sep­a­ra­tion is that which is of no use and im­press­es the one who suf­fers it as a ca­lam­i­ty. It aris­es from de­ni­al of God from her­e­sies and mis­guid­ance. It con­tin­ues in the in­ter­me­di­ate world of the grave and even in the oth­er world bring­ing no re­ward to those who suf­fer it. This kind of sep­a­ra-tion is the most pit­i­a­ble.

The third sep­a­ra­tion is nei­ther use­ful nor use­less it is a sep­a­ra­tion that be­gins in the womb of the moth­er and con­tin­ues un­til the grave. This is a sep­a­ra­tion which ev­ery mor­tal hu­man be­ing is des­tined to suf­fer. Al­though it some­times brings re­ward to those who suf­fer it be­cause of the pu­ri­ty of in­ten­tion in their acts it usu­al­ly caus­es pangs for souls that have fall­en away from the Al­mighty and that have not been able to main­tain right­eous-ness in their in­ner worlds. The mean­ing of the fol­low­ing couplets of a po­et are tru­ly help­ful when try­ing to un­der­stand the states of those who suf­fer such sep­a­ra­tion:

If a per­son stays in sep­a­ra­tion from his home even for a mo­ment.
He is not as pow­er­ful as even a piece of straw be he as firm as a moun­tain.
That help­less poor one may seem still to be where he is.
But he al­ways sighs when he rec­ol­lects his home.
I have many com­plaints of sep­a­ra­tion from friends;
Nev­er­the­less this is nei­ther the time nor the place to tell of it.

O God! Make me one who of­ten men­tions You of­ten thanks You one often turn­ing to You in re­pent­ance sub­mit­ting to You deep­ly and of­ten ap­peal­ing to You in con­tri­tion!

May Your bless­ings and peace be up­on our mas­ter Mu­ham­mad the mas­ter of those who of­ten turn to You in contri­tion and on his fam­i­ly and Com­pan­ions who wept much in Your way and of­ten ap­pealed to You.

[1] Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziya. Madaric as-Salikin. 3: 195.

[2] Abu Ya'la. Musnad. 4:269; Ibn Maja. “Jana’iz.” 61.

[3] Al-Muslim. “Iman.” 232; Al-Tirmidhi. “Iman.” 13.

[4] Bilal al-Habashi: The first muazzin of the Holy Prophet. He was a slave from Ethiopia and was one of the earliest believers in Islam. During his slavery he was tortured inhumanely because of his faith. The Prophet liked Bilal very much and in the 2nd year AH when Prayer and Adhan (the call to the prayers) was prescribed. Bilal was given the honor to call the Adhan. (Trans.)

[5] Abu Dawud. “Sunna.” 5; Al-Tirmidhi. “‘Ilm.” 5.