Annihilation in Spiritual Guide
(Fana fi Shaikh)
It is impossible to attain Divine gnosis without the guidance and supervision of a perfect spiritual guide.
Wasif Ali Wasif says:
When someone’s (i.e. a Saint) image engrosses in a person’s imagination that is contemplation.
Only an image of that person would occupy one’s thoughts and imagination whom he (she) would love ardently. Man has many relations that are dear to him. However, the best of these is the relation that would connect him to his Lord and enliven his inward with Divine light. Now, the question arises, how can one build such a connection with his Lord and how to strengthen it? To this effect, Allah says in Quran:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اتَّقُواْ اللّهَ وَابْتَغُواْ إِلَيهِ الْوَسِيلَةَ
O believers! Fear Allah persistently and keep looking for means to (approach and get closer to Him). (5: 35)
In terms of Faqr (Sufism), the medium to reaching Allah is a perfect spiritual guide. The path of Faqr is very difficult and full of trials. Therefore, the company of a perfect spiritual guide is must on this path. Sultan ul Arifeen Sultan Bahoo says:
It is impossible to attain union with Divine Essence without the company and supervision of a perfect spiritual guide. (Ain ul Faqr)
How to Identify a Perfect Spiritual Guide?
How can one identify a perfect spiritual guide? In this regard, Sultan Bahoo says:
A perfect spiritual guide is that who grants the invocation of Ism Allah Zaat as well as its contemplation. He further says, the spiritual guide who does not grant the seeker contemplation of Ism Allah Zaat is not worthy of being called a spiritual guide. (Nur ul Huda Kalan)
The 31st and present Shaikh of Sarwari Qadri order, Sultan ul Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib ur Rehman says:
It is crucial that before pledging allegiance to a spiritual master, one should investigate whether he is the Sarwari Qadri man of Divine Essence and grants invocation and contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat as well as practice of inscribing it on the body?
Ism-e-Allah Zaat should be written in golden or gold plated alphabets. If the contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat does not lead to the vision of Sultan of Faqr or spiritual guide then consider the guide to be imperfect. (Sultan ul Ashiqeen)
Shaikh Mohammad Ismael Haqqi writes in Tafsir Ruh al-Bayan:
There is always present in the universe an accomplished and perfect Saint who is the bearer of the Divine Trust. His esoteric and exoteric being is Ism-e-Azam (Ism-e-Allah Zaat). He is the representative of Allah and from him the reality of His greatest name is achieved. (Tafsir Ruh al-Bayan)
Perfect Spiritual Guide is the Manifestation of Divine
A perfect spiritual guide is the manifestation of theophanies of Divine Essence. When a seeker contemplates the sacred countenance of such a spiritual guide, he observes the same theophanies within his own inward. The efficacy of Ism Allah Zaat only takes effect in the inward of a seeker when he (she) invocates and contemplates Ism Allah Zaat with devotion and perseverance whilst keeping a firm belief in the spiritual guide.
The point to ponder is, what is the relationship between a seeker’s belief in a spiritual master and the efficacy of Ism Allah Zaat? On the path of Faqr (Sufism), a seeker cannot make any progress until and unless he (she) has a firm belief that his (her) Murshid (spiritual guide) is fully accomplished. This is because until the seeker’s mind is tangled in doubts and suspicions, he (she) will not be able to contemplate with complete focus in order to absorb the theophanies inwardly. Therefore, it is paramount that the seeker has a firm belief in Murshid to be able to benefit from Ism Allah Zaat.
The contemplation of the Shaikh (spiritual guide) that the seeker develops through the invocation and contemplation of Ism Allah Zaat cleanses his (her) inward. And, from there, the inward progression begins. Whilst explaining the importance of Ism Allah Zaat in attaining gnosis of Divine Essence, Sultan ul Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib ur Rehman says:
Without an enlightened inward, a seeker can neither recognise his own self nor the Divine Essence. The key to inward enlightenment is innovation and contemplation of Ism Allah Zaat. (Sultan ul Ashiqeen)
Contemplation of Spiritual Guide Through Ism e Allah
contemplation of spiritual guide that a seeker attains through invocation and
contemplation of Ism Allah Zaat, cleanses and purifies his (her) inward such
that he (she) sees the countenance of their Murshid wherever they look
according to the following verse of the Quran:
تُوَلُّواْ فَثَمَّ وَجْهُ اللّهِ
So whichever direction you turn to,
there is the presence of Allah (i.e., the essence of Allah is radiantly
manifest in all directions). (2: 115)
We explain the
concept of contemplation of spiritual guide through an example of a disciple of
Contemplation of Spiritual Guide is a blessing
A disciple of
Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi wrote him a letter that says: ‘My contemplation of Shaikh
(spiritual guide) has become so firm that I see my Murshid even during prayer.
Even if I try to negate it, it does not go away. Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi replied:
‘My dear, this blessing (the contemplation of Shaikh) is the desire of all the
seekers of Divine path. However, only one in thousands attains this blessing.
Such disciple is courageous and completely conforms to the personality of the
spiritual guide. He (she) has the ability to absorb all the attributes and
characteristics of the spiritual guide within a very short span of time.
There is no need
to negate the contemplation of the spiritual guide. This is because he is Masjud
Ilaih (something towards which one faces during prayer) and not Masjud
Lahu (whom Muslims prostrate i.e. Allah). Why do you not negate the
minarets and domes (in mosques)? Only the sincere disciples are blessed with
this blessing (contemplation of spiritual master). So that they make the
spiritual guide their medium (towards Allah) in every matter and remain focused
towards him. And unlike those unfortunate ones who deem the company of a spiritual
guide unnecessary and think they can reach Allah without any medium. Eventually,
they turn away from him and their spiritual journey remains futile. (Page
101, Part I, Volume II, Letter No. 30)
Contemplation of Spiritual Guide Enlightens the Inward
Khawajah Shams Uddin Azeemi says about contemplation of Spiritual Guide:
When the disciple meditates inwardly and contemplates his (her) spiritual guide with complete focus, this induces the same kind of thinking within him (her) as that of the spiritual guide. This is in fact the source of enlightenment. When we contemplate spiritual master inwardly with devotion and after a while when the contemplation deepens, this will lead to the transfer of Divine Theophanies that the spiritual guide received from Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). (Taujihaat)
Mohammad Syed Amin says:
As long as the disciple maintains the contemplation of (the Murshid), no evil thought enters his (her) inward. (Athbaat e Tasawur e Shaikh)
Someone asked Khawajah Shams Uddin Sialvi, ‘Is it important to contemplate spiritual guide during prayer?’ He replied, ‘Yes, it is important’. The person further said, ‘We negate everything other than Allah during prayer, so how can we then contemplate the spiritual guide?’ The Shaikh replied, ‘You can negate everything but not the Shaikh as he is not separate from Allah’. (Tasawur e Shaikh)
دل کا آئینہ بناتا ہے تصور پیر کا
قلب کی سیاہی مٹاتا ہے تصور پیر کا
ہوتا ہے اس سے میسر دِل کو دیدارِ رسولؐ
حق تعالیٰ سے ملاتا ہے تصور پیر کا
Explanation: The contemplation of the Murshid (spiritual guide) cleanses the inward. It is the medium to reaching the Mohammad Assembly as well as attaining Divine gnosis and vision.
Esoteric Connection with Spiritual Guide
When the seeker attains contemplation of spiritual guide through the invocation and contemplation of Ism Allah Zaat. Then from there begins the next phase of inward journey which is esoteric connection with spiritual guide. The contemplation of the Murshid that the seekers attains through invocation and contemplation of Ism Allah Zaat, he begins to converse and interact with that subtle being of the Murshid. Thus, he enquires and receives answers to many such questions that he would otherwise may have hesitated to ask outwardly. In addition, through this inward connection, the seeker’s inward absorbs Divine theophanies much quicker. And thus, the seeker progresses much faster.
Pir Abdul Latif says:
‘Spiritual connection with Murshid means that the seeker should keep the image of the Murshid in his thoughts and inward like something remains in one’s sight perpetually’. (Raabta e Shaikh)
Sultan ul Arifeen Sultan Bahoo says about spiritual connection with the spiritual guide:
Remember! With continuous practice of contemplating the spiritual guide, it leads to a subtle being within the inward. That spiritual being is at times busy invocating Islamic creed (
لَآ اِلٰہَ اِلَّا اللّٰہُ مُحَمَّدٌ رَّسُوْلُ اللّٰہِ
), or recitation of Quran. Sometimes gives scholarly lecture, discussion of Hadith, Islamic jurisprudence etc. and at other times teaches the importance of following sharia or the etiquettes of being in Divine court.
Spiritual Attention of Murshid is better than Invocation
At times, it would be busy remembering Allah or will be invocating
سِرِّ ھُوْ، سِرِّ ھُوْ، ھُوَالْحَقُّ، لَیْسَ فِی الدَّارَیْنِ اَلَّا ھُوْ
loudly that the seeker can clearly hear. Sometimes that subtle being informs about future events.
That sacred being is mostly occupied in prayers and devotions and always follows sharia. If the seeker commits a sin then this subtle being laments the self (innerself) and commands it to recite the Islamic creed (لَآ اِلٰہَ اِلَّا اللّٰہُ مُحَمَّدٌ رَّسُوْلُ اللّٰہِ). (Kaleed ul Tauheed)
Khawaja Ubaid Ullah Ahrar says:
‘The spiritual attention of (a perfect) spiritual guide is better than (the seeker) invoking the name of Allah.’ This means maintaining contact with him is far more beneficial than the invocation. This is because, during the early stages of inward journey, the seeker is not capable of directly establishing connection with Allah Almighty. (Raabta e Shaikh)
The connection with a spiritual guide is stepping towards attaining closeness and union with Divine Essence. Therefore, it is important for the seeker to remember that in the beginning, when the seeker asks his (her) spiritual guide for guidance in some matter inwardly and if he feels some doubts over it then the Murshid sometimes explains that matter to the seeker outwardly as well. In such cases, the seeker must act upon it wholeheartedly. When the seeker starts obeying the spiritual orders of the Murshid then gradually the Murshid blesses him with perseverance. On the contrary, if the seeker starts judging the esoteric and exoteric orders of the spiritual guide, does not have faith in Murshid and does not obey his commands then he only jeopardises his own destiny.
Importance of Obeying the Commands of Spiritual Guide
Sultan Bahoo says:
The seeker who learns the esoteric hints, he starts conversing with Divine Essence. However, if he does not believe in Ism Allah Zaat nor the commands of the Murshid then that kind of seeker is self-centric (one who acts according to his desire and will rather than following the commands of the Murshid) and constrained within his self and hence not making any progress inwardly. Such seeker is very unfortunate and one who remains deprived of Divine gnosis and Oneness. In such case, if the Murshid does not bless the seeker with his attention, both outwardly as well as inwardly, the seeker can never reach any station. No matter, how long the seeker spends in the company of the Murshid and how many mystic struggles he endures. (Ameer ul Kaunain)
Shaikh Mohammad Amin says:
It is paramount for the seekers of the Divine path to always have the image of their Murshid in their thoughts. All the books of Sufism describe the connection with a spiritual master as the ‘basic pillar’. (Athbaat e Tasawur e Shaikh)
Maulana Abdul Samad writes in ‘Tuhfa tul Ashiqeen’:
رابطہ کیا ہے؟ یہ عینک ہے پَسر
نورِ وحدت صاف آتا ہے نظر
Explanation: The spiritual connection with the Murshid is the medium through which the seeker observes theophanies of Divine Essence.
Maulana Shah Abu Farooqi says: The path of esoteric connection with the Murshid is the safest and most reliable in reaching the destination. (Hidayat tu Talibeen)
Thus, it is a must for the seeker to act upon and obey every esoteric command of the Murshid and leave no stone unturned in winning over the Murshid.
Annihilation in Spiritual Guide
جتھے جتھے فقیر دی نظر پے گئی ، سونھ ربّ دی کلہاں سنوار گئی اے
چنگا ہویا محبوب دی پاک ہستی، میری ہستی دی مستی نوں مار گئی اے
لا کے پیار دی یار دے نال بازی، جتی اوہ سمجھو جیہڑی ہار گئی اے
سچ دساں دیوانیا! ربّ دی سونھ، مینوں نظر فقیر دی تار گئی اے
(گنجینۂ معرفت از غلام مصطفی)
Explanation: Whilst expressing his gratitude for his Murshid, the poet says that where my spiritual master cast his gaze, it turned the unfortunate into fortunate. He says, it is the company and spiritual attention of my spiritual guide that changed my (inner) self for good. And because of his benevolence I have succeeded in achieving the purpose of my life.
The Holy Prophet said:
Whoever recognised his self undoubtedly recognised his Lord. One who recognised his self by annihilating it, recognised his Lord through gaining immortality with Him.
When the disciple establishes and strengthens spiritual connection with the Murshid through his sincerity, loyalty, love, faith and perseverance, then the Murshid starts shaping and enhancing his personality. The next step after establishing an esoteric connection with the spiritual guide is the station of annihilation in the spiritual guide. The seekers attain that through piety of the inward. In the early stages of this station, the seeker feels a positive change in his outward being too along with inward cleansing. The seeker feels, his eyes have becomes the eyes of the Murshid, his face feels like the face of the Murshid, eventually a time comes when the seekers feels that his whole being has been transformed into the being of the Murshid.
Sultan Bahoo says about this state:
The station of annihilation in spiritual guide is that the being of the seeker and the Murshid become one. (Nur ul Huda Kalan)
Contemplation of Ism Allah Zaat grants Annihilation in
Maulana Shah Abu Saeed Farooqi says: When the seeker’s esoteric connection with the spiritual guide matures, then everywhere the seeker sees the countenance of his spiritual guide. This state is called annihilation in the spiritual guide. (Hidayat tu Talibeen)
کثرتِ شوق سے دیوار و در آئینہ ہوئے
ہر جگہ تیری ہی صورت نظر آتی ہے مجھے
Explanation: Due to intense love of the Murshid I have annihilated in my spiritual guide. Now I see him everywhere.
The Universal Divine Man of present era and the 31st Shaikh of Sarwari Qadri order Sultan ul Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib ur Rehman says:
In the Sarwari Qadri order the stage of annihilation in the spiritual guide is attained through Ism-e-Allah Zaat. Then the perfect spiritual guide spiritually presents the seeker in the Mohammadan Assembly. It must be clarified that a seeker can never reach the Mohammadan Assembly through physical prayers, daily recitals or other outward deeds even if he spends his whole life in hard mystic exercises. Its true esoteric way can be learned and acquired only from the perfect spiritual guide who possesses authority over the esoteric world. (Sufism – The Soul of Islam)
Mujjadad Alf Sani Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi was so accomplished in annihilation in spiritual guide that he said, ‘If I were to see Allah but He was not in the form of my spiritual guide Khawajah Baqi Billah, I would not see Him’. (Tasawur e Shaikh)
Annihilation in Spiritual Guides leads to Annihilation in
Syed Abu Alhaqaaiq Says:
‘There is no doubt that contemplation of spiritual guide is the only way for a seeker to attain the stations of annihilation and immortality with Allah. This is because a perfect spiritual guide is the spiritual vicegerent of Prophet Mohammad. The Holy Prophet is the complete embodiment of Divine Essence and Divine attributes. So, whoever attains the station of fana fi Shaikh (annihilation in spiritual guide), attains the level of fana fi Rasool (annihilation in Prophet Mohammad) and whoever attained the level of fana fi Rasool can progress to the level of fana fi Allah (annihilation in Divine Essence) and only that seeker can attain the final level of baqa billah (immortality with Divine Essence) who attained all the aforementioned levels.
Who accomplishes in the final level of baqa billah attains the status of سبحانی مااعظم شانی (I am pure and my grandeur is exalted),انا الحق
(I am the Truth), لیس فی جبتی الا اللّٰہ (There is none other than Allah in my robe). The aforementioned are the sayings of various Saints that they uttered when they reached the ultimate level of union with Divine Essence. They are only suited to Allah almighty but when a man gets to extreme proximity to Divine Essence and becomes complete manifestation of Divine Essence after passing through the stations of annihilation and immortality, there remains nothing in his being other than Divine Essence. Then whatever he says or does is from Allah.
Contemplation of spiritual guide is a sign of complete following of the spiritual guide which leads to complete following of the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet which is as Allah says in Quran فاتبعونی یحببکم اللّٰہ (Follow me. Allah will then take you as (His) beloved [3:31]). (Tasawur e Shaikh)
Annihilation and Immortality with Divine Essence is the
A perfect spiritual guide is the manifestation of Divine Essence. He is stationed at the levels of annihilation in Prophet Mohammad and annihilation in Divine Essence. Therefore, for a seeker to attain these levels, it is must that he first attains the level of fana fi Shaikh (annihilation in spiritual guide). On the path of Faqr (Sufism) until the seeker crosses the station of annihilation in the spiritual guide, his every observation, endeavour and effort is futile.
Sultan Bahoo says in his Punjabi poetry:
باجھ وصال اللہ دےھوُ باَھوؒ، سبھ کہانیاں قصے
Explanation: All the achievements and waystations on the spiritual path are worthless other than union with Divine Essence.
The perfect spiritual guide is fully acquainted in all Divine attributes. When a seeker follows the commands of the spiritual guide with perseverance, respect and loyalty, he acquaints in one of his spiritual guide’s attributes.
Sultan Bahoo says in his Punjabi poetry:
جے توں چاہیں وحدت ربّ دی، مل مرشد دیاں تلیاں ھوُ
مرشد لطفوں کرے نظارہ، گل تھیون سبھ کلیاں ھوُ
Explanation: In this couplet Sultan Bahoo advises the seekers of Divine path that if they want to attain the level of union with Divine Essence then they must follow their spiritual guide wholeheartedly both outwardly as well as inwardly. This is because you will only achieve your goal when the spiritual guide will cast his spiritual attention upon you. (Abyat e Bahoo Kamil)
It is the grandeur of a perfect spiritual guide that he does not let his sincere and loyal disciples go astray. He takes them to the station of annihilation and then finally to the level of immortality with Divine Essence.
1. Shams ul Fuqara – Sultan ul Ashiqeen Hazrat Sakhi Sultan Mohammad Najib ur Rehman
2. Amir ul Kaunain – Sultan ul Arifeen Sultan Bahoo
3. Kaleed tu Tauheed – Sultan ul Arifeen Sultan Bahoo
4. Nur ul Huda Kalan – Sultan ul Arifeen Sultan Bahoo
5. Sultan ul Ashiqeen – Published by Sultan ul Faqr Publications
6. Abyat e Bahoo Kamil – Translation and exegesis by Sultan ul Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib ur Rehman
7. Letters of Shaikh Ahmed Sirhindi
8. Athbat Tasawur e Shaikh – Syed Mohammad Amin
9. Taujihaat – Khawaja Shams Uddin Azeemi
10. Tasawur e Shaikh – Syed Abu Alhaqaiq Nizami
11. Hidayat tu Talibeen – Maulana Shah Abu Saeed Farooqi
12. Raabta e Shaikh – Pir Abdul Latif Khan
This is an English translation of Urdu Blog. تصورِ شیخ سے فنا فی الشیخ کا سفر that appeared in the July 2022 issue of monthly Sultan ul Faqr Magazine. Mrs Anila Yaseen Sarwari Qadri authored the original article. Waheed Hassan Sarwari Qadri has translated it in English.