The ways leading to Almighty God are truly numerous. While all true ways are taken from the Qur’an some are shorter safer and more general than others. Of these ways taken from the Qur’an is that of impotence poverty compassion and reflection from which with my defective understanding. I have benefited.
Indeed like ecstatic love impotence is a path which by way of worship leads to winning God’s love; but it is safer. Poverty too leads to the Divine Name of All-Merciful. And like ecstatic love compassion leads to the Name of All-Compassionate but it is a swifter and broader path. Also like ecstatic love reflection leads to the Name of All-Wise but it is richer broader and more brilliant path. This path consists not of ten steps like the ‘ten subtle faculties’ of some of the Sufi paths employing silent recollection nor of seven stages like the ‘seven souls’ of those practising public recitation but of Four Steps. It is reality (haqiqat) rather than a Sufi way (tariqat). It is Shari‘a. However let it not be misunderstood. It means to see one’s impotence poverty and faults before Almighty God not to fabricate them or display them to people. The method of this short path is to follow the Practices of the Prophet (PBUH) perform the religious obligations and give up serious sins. And it is especially to perform the prescribed prayers correctly and with attention and following them to say the tesbihat. The verse. Therefore do not justify yourselves.1 points to the First Step. The verse. And be not like those who forget God and He therefore makes them forget their own selves.2 points to the Second Step. The verse. Whatever good happens to you is from God but whatever evil befalls you is from yourself.3 points to the Third Step. The verse. Everything will perish save His countenance.4 points to the Fourth Step. A brief explanation of these Four Steps is as follows:
THE FIRST STEP
As the verse. Therefore do not justify yourselves suggests it is to not purify the soul. For on account of his nature and innate disposition man loves himself. Indeed he loves himself before anything else and only himself. He sacrifices everything other than himself to his own soul. He praises himself in a manner befitting some object worthy of worship. He absolves and exonerates himself from faults in the same way. As far as he possibly can he does not see faults as being appropriate for him and does not accept them. He defends himself passionately as though worshipping himself. Even using on himself the members and faculties given him as part of his nature in order to praise and glorify the True Object of Worship he displays the meaning of the verse. Who takes as his god his own desires.5 He considers himself he relies on himself he fancies himself. Thus his purification and cleansing at this stage in this step is to not purify himself; it is not to absolve himself.
THE SECOND STEP
As the verse. And be not like those who forget God and He therefore makes them forget their own selves teaches man is oblivious of himself and is not aware of himself. If he thinks of death it is in relation to others. If he sees transience and decline he does not attribute them to himself. His evil-commanding soul demands that when it comes to inconvenience and service of others he forgets himself but when it comes to receiving his recompense and to benefits and enjoyment he thinks of himself and takes his own part fervently. His purification cleansing and training at this stage is the reverse of this state. That is to say when oblivious of himself it is not to be oblivious. That is to forget himself when it comes to pleasure and ambition and greed and to think of himself when it comes to death and service of others.
THE THIRD STEP
As the verse. Whatever good happens to you is from God but whatever evil befalls you is from yourself teaches the nature of the evil-commanding soul demands that it always considers goodness to be from itself and it becomes vain and conceited. Thus in this Step a person sees only faults defects impotence and poverty in himself and understands that all his good qualities and perfections are bounties bestowed on him by the All-Glorious Creator. He gives thanks instead of being conceited and offers praise instead of boasting. According to the meaning of the verse. Truly he succeeds who purifies it.6 his purification at this stage is to know his perfection to lie in imperfection his power in impotence and his wealth in poverty.
THE FOURTH STEP
As the verse. Everything will perish save His countenance teaches the evil-commanding soul considers itself to be free and independent and to exist of itself. Because of this man claims to possess a sort of dominicality. He harbours a hostile rebelliousness towards his True Object of Worship. Thus through understanding the following fact he is saved from this. The fact is this: According to the apparent meaning of things which looks to each thing itself everything is transitory wanting accidental non-existent. But according to the meaning that signifies something other than itself and in respect of each thing being a mirror to the All-Glorious Maker’s Names and charged with various duties each is a witness it is witnessed it gives existence and it is existent. The purification and cleansing of a person at this stage is as follows: In his existence he is non-existent and in his non-existence he has existence. That is to say if he values himself and attributes existence to himself he is in a darkness of non-existence as great as the universe. That is if he relies on his individual existence and is unmindful of the True Giver of Existence he has an individual light of existence like that of a fire-fly and is submerged in an endless darkness of non-existence and separation. But if he gives up egotism and sees that he is a mirror of the manifestations of the True Giver of Existence he gains all beings and an infinite existence. For he who finds the Necessary Existent One the manifestation of Whose Names all beings manifest finds everything.
The Four Steps in this way of impotence poverty compassion and reflection have been explained in the twenty-six Words so far written.7 which are concerned with knowledge of reality the reality of the Shari‘a and the wisdom of the Qur’an. So here we shall allude briefly to only one or two points as follows: Indeed this path is shorter because it consists of four steps. When impotence removes the hand from the soul it gives it directly to the All-Powerful One of Glory. Whereas when the way of ecstatic love the swiftest way takes the hand away from the soul it attaches it to the metaphorical beloved. Only after the beloved is found to be impermanent does it go to the True Beloved. Also this path is much safer because the ravings and high-flown claims of the soul are not present on it. For apart from impotence poverty and defect the soul possesses nothing so that it oversteps its mark. Also this path is much broader and more universal. For in order to attain to a constant awareness of God’s presence a person is not compelled to imagine the universe to be condemned to non-existence and to declare: “There is no existent but He.” like those who believe in ‘the Unity of Existence.’ nor to suppose the universe to be condemned to imprisonment in absolute oblivion and to say. “There is nothing witnessed but He.” like those who believe in ‘the Unity of Witnessing.’ Rather since the Qur’an has most explicitly pardoned the universe and released it from execution and imprisonment one on this path disregards the above and dismissing beings from working on their own account and employing them on account of the All-Glorious Creator and in the duty of manifesting the Most Beautiful Names and being mirrors to them he considers them from the point of view of signifying something other than themselves; and being saved from absolute heedlessness he enters the Divine presence permanently; he finds a way leading to the Almighty God in everything.
I n S h o r t : Dismissing beings from working on account of other beings this way is to not look at them as signifying themselves.
1. Qur’an. 53:32.
2. Qur’an. 59:19.
3. Qur’an. 4:79.
4. Qur’an. 28:88.
5. Qur’an. 25:43; 45:23.
6. Qur’an. 91:9.
7. This Addendum is also the Addendum to the Twenty-Sixth Word. (Tr.)