Annihilation in the Spiritual Guide
Spiritual guide is a perfect Fakir who grants the true seeker the closeness, union, and gnosis of Allah. Annihilation in the spiritual guide (fana fi Shaikh) is one of the most dignified stations in the path of Faqr. It is inevitable to reach the station of annihilation in spiritual guide before annihilating in the Holy Prophet and Allah by perishing one’s own identity in the Essence and becoming immortal with Him. One achieves this on the truth of certainty.
The stage of annihilating in the spiritual guide has always been desirable yet baffling for Allah’s seekers because they can behold his alive physical being. Therefore, the notion of annihilating in him is outside the realm of their comprehension. However, the passion of love for spiritual guide (Murshid) keeps them restless all the time to perish their being in him.
Fana fi Shaikh is the most difficult task and the gain of all efforts in Faqr. The spiritual guide is already annihilated in Prophet Mohammad and Allah. Therefore, after annihilating in him, reaching the levels of annihilation in Prophet and Allah are barely any tasks. True effort is made to reach the station of annihilation in the spiritual guide.
Fana fi Shaikh in words of Sultan Bahoo
Sultan Bahoo explained annihilation in the spiritual guide as:
Annihilation in the spiritual guide means that seeker’s body, words and states become same as that of the spiritual guide. That is to say, the characteristics, behaviors, appearance and nature rather the entire existence of the seeker and the spiritual guide become one and the same. (Nur-ul-Huda-Kalan)
Seeker attains this level through ardent love and closeness of spiritual guide, and with ultimate submission.
The relation of a true seeker with his spiritual guide is as the saying goes:
لَحْمُکَ لَحْمِیْ وَ دَمُکَ دَمِیْ
Meaning: Your flesh is my flesh; your blood is my blood.
Sultan Bahoo says:
The seeker slayed by love sacrifices his being on the spiritual guide. He keeps sobbing in pangs of love and remains as humble as dust. (Nur-ul-Huda-Kalan)
Fana fi Shaikh is impossible without ardent love
Until the love of spiritual guide gains passion, neither the identity of seeker perishes nor will the essence of Murshid manifest in his being. A seeker who is not an ardent lover of his Murshid will hesitate to sacrifice his being on Murshid and will lack in submission. Thus, reaching the magnificent level of annihilation in spiritual guide will become arduous. And if one fails to reach the level of annihilation in spiritual guide then reaching the levels of annihilation in Prophet Mohammad and Allah will become impossible.
It is also a fact that in the beginning of journey, seeker is not able to love his spiritual guide as much because his inward contains love of worldly relations like parents, siblings, or children. However, as he invokes and contemplate Ism-e-Allah Zaat and adopts the company of spiritual guide, the inward gradually becomes independent of these mortal affections. And he begins to gain the true love of perfect and accomplished spiritual guide, who is the manifestation of Divine Essence. The condition is the spiritual guide must be perfect and accomplished and seeker has complete faith in him. Before gaining the true love of spiritual guide it is utmost important for seeker to reach oneness at the level of spiritual guide (Tawhid-e-Mutlab).
Oneness at the level of spiritual guide (Tawhid-e-Mutlab)
Sayyid Mohammad Zauqi Shah defines Tawhid-e-Mutlab in the following words:
Tawhid-e-Mutlab is to turn one’s attention solely towards the spiritual guide and loving him ardently even more than the wealth and life itself. It is to have faith that even if there are numerous Fakirs in the world, but my desire would only be achieved through my spiritual guide. Only he contains keys to open the door of success for me. Until the seeker achieves this kind of oneness, he will not be able to gain beneficence.
دوئی بمذہب ِ عشاقِ معنوی کفر است
خدا یکے و پیمبر یکے و پیر یکے
Meaning: Duality is infidelity in the religion of true lovers. Allah is one, Prophet is one, and Murshid Kamil is also one. (Sirr-e-Dilbaran)
Fighting innerself to reach the level of Tawhid-e-Mutlab
To attain oneness at the level of spiritual guide, it is essential that seeker fights with inciting innerself (an-nafs/nafs) and Satan. They attack the seeker by creating doubts that his spiritual guide is not perfect. Or that he has adopted a deceptive path and his spiritual guide is misleading him. At times they try to keep him away from his spiritual guide by distracting his attention towards parents, wife or children and often keep him from Truth by indulging him in social and financial troubles.
In this situation it becomes obligatory on the true seeker to fight with the inciting innerself. The Holy Prophet has called this internal fight (jihad) a greater jihad. If seeker fights these doubts with full courage and strength and does not divert his attention from Murshid, neither let evil thoughts against Murshid come his way, then soon he finds success.
Satan’s efforts to distract the seeker
While facing doubts, seeker must invoke Ism-e-Allah Zaat excessively and seek help and refuge in Allah from these doubts by reciting sura Al-Nas. Then whether these doubts are from jinn Satan or human Satan. lt is said that human Satan is more dangerous than jinn Satan because human Satan distance the seeker from Allah by adopting demeanor of his dear relations. Sometimes he comes adopting the form of parents and tells him to leave this path and focus on work and family. Other times he appears as wife or children and try to divert his attention from Allah. He also comes in the form common people who try to ridicule the seeker with disrespectful conversation against perfect Fakirs. In this situation seeker should remain alert and recognize the attack of Satan hidden behind human. Otherwise he will never achieve his destination.
Whoever prevents from spiritual guide is deprived of righteousness
Sultan Bahoo says in Kaleed-ul-Tauheed Kalan:
All the sacred Companions of the Prophet also had the spiritual guide, so who are others to forbid from a spiritual guide! It is evident that whoever stops from a spiritual guide is deprived of love and desire for closeness and gnosis of Allah. His inward is surely dead and his inciting innerself has prevented him from the gnosis of Allah and gaining presence in Mohammadan Assembly. The truth is that the series of getting spiritual persuasion and education after taking oath of allegiance on the hands of a perfect spiritual guide as well as the guidance and sainthood of Prophet Mohammad is still continued from the four spiritual leaders (Abu Bakr Siddiq, Umar ibn Khattab, Usman ibn Affan and Ali ibn Abi Talib) and fourteen spiritual orders and will never end till the Doomsday.
اگر گیتی سراسر باد گیرد
چراغِ مقبولاں ہرگز نمیرد
چراغی را کہ ایزد بر فروزد
ہر آنکس تف زند ریشش بسوزد
Meaning: If the whole world is blown away with wind, the lamp of favorites of Allah will not be extinguished. One who tries to blow out the lamp lit by Allah, burns his own beard.
One who prevents from the spiritual guide who is man of sharia, is deprived of righteousness. The spiritual guide shows the way of invocation of Allah and a person can never become a true Muslim without the invocation of Allah even if he spends his whole life in reciting the Holy Quran, reading its exegesis, offering prayer or gaining knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence. That is because the foundation of being a Muslim, from beginning till end, is the invocation of Allah.
How to overcome Satanic deceptions?
If a seeker truly yearns to gain Allah’s gnosis, then despite all Satanic whispers he must strengthen his relationship with Murshid. And not become wary of him in any situation. Outwardly he must fulfil duties towards parents, children and work and never let go of the moral behavior. Avoid engaging in argument or dispute and never leave the path of Truth by taking in the words of others. He should silently remain attentive inwardly towards his spiritual guide and invocation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat. And strongly reject satanic whispers occurring inwardly. He should try to strengthen the belief that he is true to his desire and only yearns to seek Allah. Therefore, Allah Himself is his Guide. How can He let him astray? Thus, Allah must have sent him to a perfect Murshid because He promises:
Those who strive hard (and struggle against inciting innerself vehemently) for Our cause, We certainly guide them to our ways. (Al-Ankabut 69)
When he will gain salvation from doubts with strength and absolute trust in Allah and through His favor, he will soon reach oneness at the level of spiritual guide. Then will begin his journey towards annihilation in spiritual guide.
Serving and obeying the spiritual guide is vital
To reach the level of Tawhid-e-Mutlab, it is also extremely important to serve and follow the spiritual guide. Allah says in the Holy Quran:
Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those (men of truth) who hold command amongst you. (Al-Nisa 59)
In this verse ‘who hold command amongst you’ refers to that perfect and accomplished spiritual guide who is stationed at the level of annihilation in Prophet Mohammad and have become immortal with Allah after annihilating in Him. He is the spiritual guide who follows the footsteps of Holy Prophet and is truly the representative of Allah and vicegerent of Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).
Some people also assume that ‘men of command’ refers to worldly leaders. Even though we see that neither their actions nor commands are in alignment with the commands of Allah and His Prophet. One whose command is in contrary to the command of Allah can never be a man of command. Therefore, only a perfect and accomplished spiritual guide is truly a man command who has become immortal with Allah by annihilating in Him. And whose obedience even Allah commands.
Murshid is a spiritual father who gives life to soul
Sultan Bahoo writes:
It is said: The spiritual guide gives life to inward, soul and to sharia. And gives death to inciting innerself, lusts, appetites, covetousness, greed, and heresy.
As soon as the seeker thinks wrong about the spiritual guide, he turns reprobate, so he must repent from it instantly. (Nur-ul-Huda Kalan)
Those who consider physical body more important than soul, obedience of biological parents is more important to them. However, there are others who are aware that this physical body is mortal, and soul is the actual reality. It will face no death and eventually will gain reward or face punishment. For them it is more important to serve and obey their spiritual father i.e., spiritual guide than biological parents.
Allah says in the Holy Quran:
یَوْمَ یَفِرُّ الْمَرْئُ مِنْ اَخْیْہِ۔ وَ اُمِّہٖ وَ اَبِیْہِ۔ وَ صَاحِبَتِہٖ وَ بَنِیْہِ۔ (سورہ عبس۔34-36)
Meaning: On that Day man will flee from his brother, And from his mother and father (too), And (even) from his wife and children. (Abasa 34-36)
This is because their love and obedience kept him from Allah’s love and obedience. While maintaining blood relations, he paid no heed to his spiritual relation. However, who did care and made an effort to uphold the spiritual relation, his soul will have no worry on the Final day. To obey and love Allah, it is essential to obey and love the spiritual guide. Because Allah has commanded his obedience alongside His own obedience and obedience of Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).
Right of spiritual Guide is superior to all other rights
Sultan Bahoo says:
One should be aware that there are five rights upon the seeker of Allah: right of his parents, right of his teachers, right of his mentor, right of his spiritual guide and the right of his wife. Among these, the right of his spiritual guide is the supreme because the spiritual guide grants him the gnosis of Allah and focuses his attention upon the Truth. When attention of the seeker is focused upon the Truth, he becomes enlightened and effective scholar of every knowledge as well as ruler upon both the worlds. (Kaleed-ul-Tauheed Kalan)
Serving Murshid is the first step towards Fana fi Shaikh
Sultan Bahoo says:
Serving the spiritual guide for a moment is better than the excessive worship of whole life. The being of seeker achieves prosperity through the servitude of Murshid. This prosperity is better than such eternal worship which is void of rebuking the inciting innerself. (Mehak-ul-Faqr Kalan)
He further says:
It is mandatory upon the seeker of Allah to never do any worldly or religious deed without the consent of his spiritual guide. He ought to entrust all his powers and authorities to his spiritual guide and become submissive completely. (Nur-ul-Huda Kalan)
When seeker turns towards his Murshid devotedly with zeal and passion, and focuses on serving and following him, then he gains oneness at the level of spiritual guide. After that, his journey towards fana fi Shaikh begins which has three levels:
- Gaining contemplation of spiritual guide
- Connection with the spiritual guide
- Annihilation in the spiritual guide
Contemplation of Spiritual Guide
At the initial level of annihilation in spiritual guide, seeker beholds the sacred countenance of Divine form of perfect spiritual guide everywhere according to the verse:
فَاَیْنَمَا تُوَلُّوْا فَثَمَّ وَجْہُ اللّٰہِ . ( البقرہ۔115)
Meaning: So whichever direction you turn to, there is the presence of Allah (i.e. Divine Essence is radiantly manifested in all directions). (Al-Baqarah 115)
The seeker even observes countenance and existence of perfect spiritual guide manifested esoterically according to the verse:
Meaning: Allah is within yourselves.
The seeker never loses the contemplation of spiritual guide even for a moment. He feels the celestial existence of his spiritual guide in the surroundings. This existence of spiritual guide not only keeps him from Satan every moment but also prevents him from all exoteric and esoteric sins through the feel of his presence.
Spiritual guide protects the seeker
Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani says:
A Mystic (al-Arif) ever remains conscious of the two eyes. (Al-Fath ar-Rabbani)
These two eyes are of perfect spiritual guide which are watching the seeker every moment and prevent him from committing sin through the feel of his presence. Because human by nature avoids committing sin if someone is watching him. The feel of Murshid’s presence esoterically and in the surroundings prohibits him from committing exoteric sins as well as from evil thoughts occurring inwardly. This is because the seeker gradually comes to have faith that Murshid is well aware of his thoughts and intentions. Hence this way the spiritual guide saves him from all intrinsic and extrinsic sins by making him recognize his presence and closeness.
Sultan Bahoo expresses about the initial level of fana fi Shaikh
You must know that at the initial level of annihilation in the spiritual guide, when the seeker contemplates the countenance of his spiritual guide, then, if the spiritual guide is perfect, he gives life to the inward of the seeker and death to inciting innerself. Hence seeker’s existence is purified of all evil attributes. If spiritual guide is imperfect, he gives death to seeker’s inward and life to his inciting innerself which arouses the desires of the carrion world in his existence. The seeker of carrion world is a dog. Thus, it is evident that the disciples of the perfect spiritual guide reach and experience the actual level of annihilation in the spiritual guide. Whomsoever the perfect spiritual guide blesses, elevates his rank equal to his own at once and that fortunate seeker is actually annihilated in the spiritual guide. (Kaleed-ul-Tauheed Kalan)
Contemplation of spiritual guide purifies the inward
Sultan Bahoo further says:
If a seeker, who has reached the level of annihilation in the spiritual guide and has been blessed with the contemplation of the Divine form of spiritual guide, gets inclined towards sin then this form prevents him from sin with spiritual authority and dominates the sensual desires crushing them with power. When such a seeker sleeps, this Divine form becomes his companion by the grace of Allah and drowns him in the gnosis of ‘none but Allah’ and Tawhid (Oneness of Allah). When he enters the state of meditation, that beautiful Divine form holds his hand and takes him to Mohammadan Assembly in its company and lets him be ennobled with high Mystic ranks. This is the actual level of annihilation in the spiritual guide. Only those seekers with pure inward achieve it.
وَ السَّلٰمُ عَلٰی مَنِ اتَّبَعَ الْھُدٰی
Meaning: And peace will be upon him who follows the right guidance. (Taha 47) (Kaleed-ul-Tauheed Kalan)
Sultan Bahoo expresses this state of contemplation of spiritual guide as:
کی ہویا جے بت اوڈھر ہویا، دل ہرگز دور نہ تھیوے ھُو
سَے کوہاں تے میرا مرشد وسدا، مینوں وِچ حضور دِسیوے ھُو
Explanation: So what if my spiritual guide is not physically in front of my eyes. He resides within my inward and I feel his presence all the time. (Abyat-e-Bahoo Kamil)
When a seeker progresses from initial level of fana fi Shaikh, the contemplation of spiritual guide dominates his existence. It is to the extent that seeker feels his presence in salat, bowing and prostration. In this situation some seekers become confounded and try to reject it considering it polytheism.
Letter of Mujaddid Alif Sani to his disciple
Mujaddid Alif Sani sheds light on this matter very beautifully:
A disciple of Mujaddid Alif Sani wrote him a letter that contemplation of spiritual guide had dominated him to the point of experiencing and feeling his presence as a prostrated one in salat. If he assumed to negate it, even then in reality he was failing.
Mujaddid Alif Sani wrote him back:
O the portrayal of love! This wealth is a longing and desire of true seekers. Only one in millions may become fortunate to achieve it. A disciple experiencing such state is man of ability and in full accordance to his Murshid. It is likely to be attributed with all the attributes of spiritual guide through his sacred company.
There is no need to negate the contemplation of spiritual guide. Murshid is not to be prostrated, prostration is done in the direction of Murshid. Why don’t you negate mihrab and mosques (in the state of salat mosque, minaret, mihrab walls etc. are all facing the person, yet salat is not ruined). Only fortunate ones achieve the blessing of such manifestation. This is so that they always make their spiritual guide a medium in all states (to reach Allah and gain His gnosis) and remain engrossed in him. This blessing is not for any unfortunate one who considers himself independent of such medium and turns away from his spiritual guide. (Letter no. 30, Vol. II, part one, p 101)
Contemplation of spiritual guide is more beneficial than invocation
Mujaddid Alif Sani said at another instant:
Contemplation of spiritual guide is more beneficial than the invocation of Allah. That is to say, in terms of beneficence, the company of spiritual guide benefits the seeker more than the invocation of Allah. (Letter no. 187, p 425)
Shams-ud-Din Sialvi says:
The contemplation of spiritual guide grants salvation from dangers and deceptions of inciting innerself. This connection is a shield against sins. The seeker reaches his destination more rapidly through remembrance and contemplation of his spiritual guide.
Connection with the Spiritual Guide
After achieving the contemplation of spiritual guide, if seeker pays no heed to the doubts and remains steadfast and occupied in contemplation with ultimate love and passion, then soon his connection to his spiritual guide develops esoterically. That is, a chain of magical and extremely joyful inward conversation begins between the lover and the beloved, disciple and the Murshid. Here the soul of seeker begins its journey to perish in the soul of his spiritual guide. That is, the process of becoming one with spiritual guide esoterically begins. Light meets the light and spiritual and enlightened conversation begins without voices. Such a process is associated with waham (spiritual conversation). And the Holy Quran verifies the fact:
وَ مَا کَانَ لِبَشَرٍ أَنْ یُّکَلِّمَہُ اللّٰہُ اِلَّا وَحْیًا اَوْ مِنْ وَّرَایِٔ حِجَابٍ أَوْ یُرْسِلَ رَسُوْلًا فَیُوْحِیَ بِاِذْنِہٖ مَا یَشَآئُ ط اِنَّہٗ عَلِیٌّ حَکِیْمٌ (الشوریٰ۔51)
Meaning: And every man does not have the faculty that Allah should speak to him (directly) except by revelation (He bestows upon some the holy status of Prophethood), or (should speak) from behind a veil (as He spoke to Moses on Mount Tur of Sinai) or by sending some angel as a messenger to reveal with His permission what Allah may will. Surely, He is most High, most Wise. [42: 51]
The revelation and revealing a message through an angel ended with the end of Prophethood of Holy Prophet (pbuh). However, conversing from behind the veil is still continued. Here veil means the veil of physical body which has concealed the soul. The conversation with spiritual guide, who is the manifestation of Divine Essence, is spiritual about which no other human is aware exoterically. The physical body serves as a veil to keep this spiritual conversation a secret. Hence is the meaning of ‘conversing from behind the veil’.
Beneficence upon seeker through spiritual conversation
Through the spiritual connection, seeker achieves the esoteric company of spiritual guide. Murshid grants him the knowledge of inspiration. Knowledge, which is not mentioned in any book of sharia or jurisprudence. All levels of gnosis are travelled through the spiritual conversation. Because here the secret of Allah’s gnosis is revealed upon the true seeker about which neither an ordinary human nor an angel is aware. Seeker is also passed through spiritual trials. His love and sincerity are tested through esoteric actions and through questions and answers. The true training in the path of Faqr is done during this esoteric connection. At times, the blessings of love and gnosis of Allah are showered upon the seeker indefinitely which nurtures his soul. Other times theophanies of Divine majesty and wrath are descended through which his inciting innerself covers the final stages of annihilation.
The esoteric connection enlightens the soul of seeker
Sultan Bahoo says:
مرشد ہادی سبق پڑھایا، بن پڑھیوں پیا پڑھیوے ھُو
انگلیاں وچ کنّاں دے دتیاں، بن سُنیوں پیا سنیوے ھُو
نین نیناں ولوں تُرتُر تکدے، بن ڈِٹھیوں پیا دِسیوے ھُو
باھُوؒ ہر خانے وچ جانی وسدا، کَن سر اوہ رکھیوے ھُو
Explanation: The perfect spiritual guide teaches me such a lesson of Ism-e-Allah Zaat that my soul invokes it all the time. If I cover my ears, I can still hear my soul invoking the name of Allah. My condition is such that my eyes keep beholding beloved spiritual guide’s vision constantly. Even if I close my eyes, I can still see my beloved is manifesting through my entire existence. (Abyat-e-Bahoo Kamil)
Divine light of spiritual guide blesses the seeker with knowledge
About spiritual connection, Sultan Bahoo said:
By excessive contemplation of spiritual guide (gained from the contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat), a beautiful face of Divine light appears in the being of seeker from hidden. That beautiful face remains engrossed in the invocation of Allah reciting ‘there is none worthy of worship but Allah and Mohammad is Allah’s Messenger’ (لَآ اِلٰہَ اِلَّا اللّٰہُ مُحَمَّدٌ رَّسُوْلُ اللّٰہِ ). Or it keeps reciting verses of the Holy Quran day and night and lets the seeker memorize them. At times, that face teaches the seeker knowledge of excellence which includes the knowledge of Quranic verses, Hadiths, exegesis of Quran, jurisprudence, obligatory and desirable prayers, Sunnas of the Holy Prophet, the desirable way of practicing them and the etiquettes of presence before Allah. Sometimes that face engrosses in the invocation of Allah and loudly invokes Allah’s name such that the seeker hears the voice of
سِرِّھُوْ، سِرِّ ھُوْ، ھُوَ الْحَقُّ، لَیْسَ فِی الدَّارَیْنِ اِلَّا ھُوْ
Meaning: Secret of Hoo, secret of Hoo, Hoo is the Reality, nothing is present in the universe but Hoo.
Spiritual connection sanctifies the soul
Often that face immediately informs the seeker about the hidden facts of past, present and future. It also often remains engaged in offering prayers and in the servitude of Allah. That face makes the seeker follow the sharia and never lets him go against it. If seeker does anything against sharia by mistake or any word that is related to infidelity, misbelief or is heretical and sinful is uttered by him, then that Divine face immediately reproaches the seeker and asks him to check the innerself. It forbids the inciting innerself from all wrong deeds and commands it to recite
لَآ اِلٰہَ اِلَّا اللّٰہُ مُحَمَّدٌ رَّسُوْلُ اللّٰہِ
Meaning: There is no one to be worshipped except Allah and Mohammad is His Prophet.It is a Hadith of Holy Prophet (peace be upon him):
مَنْ عَرَفَ نَفْسَہٗ فَقَدْ عَرَفَ رَبَّہٗ مَنْ عَرَفَ نَفْسَہٗ بِالْفَنَآئِ فَقَدْ عَرَفَ رَبَّہٗ بِالْبَقَآئِ
Meaning: Whoever recognizes his innerself, recognizes his Lord. One who recognized his innerself by perishing it, thus, recognized his Lord by gaining immortality with Him.
Spiritual connection is the initial level of fana fi Shaikh
The innerself recognizes Allah only on approaching the level of annihilation in the spiritual guide. When that Divine face vanishes in the being of the seeker, his existence perfectly repents from sins. This face appears in the being of the seeker only after the innerself is sanctified with the contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat. Allah manifested Himself for the first time in the form of this Divine face in eternity when He addressed the souls:
Meaning: Am I not your Creator and Provident?
And the souls replied:
Meaning: They said “Yes! You are.
This face reprimands the inciting innerself so that it leaves sins and waywardness and becomes righteous.
However, recognizing the innerself and acquiring trust upon the inspirations and inward messages conveyed esoterically by the perfect spiritual guide are just the initial levels. The seeker should not become proud on achieving this level as it does not grant the complete gnosis of Allah and Faqr. The way to Allah’s closeness and light of Divine presence which makes the seeker replete with Allah’s love and grants him eternal bliss by making him desirable in His court, is far away from it.
The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
اَوَّلَہٗ فَنَائٌ فِی الشَّیْخِ بَعْدَہٗ فَنَائٌ فِی اللّٰہِ
Meaning: First is the level of annihilation spiritual guide then comes annihilation in Allah. (Kaleed-ul-Tauheed Kalan)
Following spiritual commands is necessary for spiritual elevation
Murshid perfects the seeker in the obedience of Allah during this spiritual connection. It is important to follow the commands given to the seeker esoterically even if they cause loss outwardly. A seeker who firmly believes that only Allah is present in his inward and following His commands is obligatory, then this spiritual connection becomes blessing and a source of spiritual elevation for him.
However, a seeker who indulges in following the innerself while ignoring the commands of Allah will face Divine wrath and entangle inwardly. Until the command of innerself conflicts with Allah’s command, his soul will remain anxious. The innerself will remain as a veil between him and Allah. This veil will make the soul restless. Therefore, to gain salvation from this veil, it is necessary to strengthen the spiritual connection with spiritual guide.
To achieve this, he must seek guidance from his spiritual guide on all esoteric and exoteric matters and then act upon it without hesitation. The more he perfects his belief on this spiritual connection and leaves no stone unturned in obedience, the stronger this connection becomes. On contrary if he doubts and hesitates to follow the commands, this connection will become weaker. Resultantly the inciting innerself will dominate. Eventually his doubts and disobedience will lead to the end of spiritual connection. He will become slave of innerself instead of being the seeker of Truth.
Sultan Bahoo warns such a seeker
Sultan Bahoo ra says:
If the seeker becomes blessed with Divine inspirations through Allah’s proximity and gains acquaintance with the spiritual voice, then if he does not believe in these messages, or keeps faith upon Ism-e-Allah Zaat or doesn’t believe the words of his Murshid, then it is evident that he is self-conceited, trapped in desires of his innerself and is not finding the way to spiritual sanctity. Such a seeker is disobedient and immodest rather he is unfortunate and deprived of Allah’s gnosis. He is far away from the Divine Oneness and that is because he follows his own will (instead of following his Murshid).
If the spiritual guide does not bless a seeker inwardly and outwardly with his spiritual attention and does not accompany him in the form of Divine favour, then the seeker cannot reach anywhere. Then even if he physically remains in the company of the Murshid for lifetime, serves him sincerely for years and bears all the hardships while experiencing his states of fear and hope, courage and discourage. Seeker achieves these levels of fear and hope, courage and discourage through wisdom and vigilance. (Ameer-ul-Kaunain)
A wise seeker never takes spiritual connection for granted
Thus, a vigilant, wise, and sincere seeker never doubts on this spiritual connection. Rather considering it a blessing, he asks and says everything esoterically that otherwise he would hesitate to ask or say exoterically. The stronger this spiritual connection is, the better he would recognize the will of Allah. He would understand what his Murshid wants from him and which way his actions can lead him to gain Allah’s consent. Thus, this spiritual connection and waham are the greatest blessings of spiritual guide upon seeker. Through them he understands the unsaid and unheard things, recognize the will of Allah, gains knowledge of gnosis and perfects his beliefs and actions exactly according to Allah’s will.
In the beginning, when seeker does not understand this spiritual connection clearly, the Murshid helps him understand it even exoterically. For example, if something is being said inwardly, Murshid would also say that outwardly to make him believe. At times if the seeker is not following a command esoterically, spiritual guide through his body language will make him understand that he should follow spiritual commands. Then there comes a time when he begins to understand the will of his Murshid even if the Murshid does not say it.
Strengthening spiritual connection with Murshid during his lifetime is important
It is in the betterment of seeker to strengthen this esoteric connection with spiritual guide during his lifetime through perfect obedience. It is so that he remains connected to his Murshid after his physical life, just as he was during his life. This way, a true seeker can gain guidance from his Murshid for all intrinsic and extrinsic matters. Because his guidance and command are the guidance and command of Allah. Through this strong connection he will always remain associated with his spiritual guide exoterically and esoterically as well as in this life and the life hereafter.
During this spiritual connection, Murshid also attributes the seeker with his own attributes. He manifests Allah’s characteristics and attributes in him according to Hadith:
تَخَلَّقُوْا بِاَخْلَاقِ اللّٰہِ
Meaning: Become attributed with Allah’s attributes.
The stronger the connection is between spiritual guide and disciple; the more the disciple is attributed with the attributes of Murshid. Ultimately the disciple becomes reflection of attributes and essence of Murshid.
Fana fi Shaikh
When the inward of seeker becomes in accordance to the will of Allah, then he is refined outwardly. Along with becoming a manifestation of spiritual guide esoterically, the seeker’s exoteric self also becomes a reflection of spiritual guide. This stage of annihilation in spiritual guide is worth feeling it. The seeker clearly feels that his face has become the face of Murshid. His eyes are in fact the eyes of his Murshid. His hands and even the whole body has become same as that of his spiritual guide.
A Qudsi Hadith points out towards the exact same stage of fana fi Shaikh.
When My slave gains My closeness through excessive prayers, I become his hands with which he holds, his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, and his feet with which he walks. (Bukhari)
Thus, along with his soul, seeker’s physical being also annihilates in the physical being of spiritual guide. And hence he accomplishes the level of annihilation in the spiritual guide.
The stage of ‘I am you and you are Me’
Sultan Bahoo writes about this station of fana fi Shaikh:
The level of fana fi Shaikh is that the physical being of the seeker and spiritual guide becomes one. (Nur-ul-Huda Kalan)
He says at another place:
All the ventures of that seeker are accomplished successfully by the Divine favor who becomes one with his Murshid physically, spiritually, inwardly, and outwardly by his body, heart, soul, innerself and the seven inward and outward parts. This is called the ultimate level of fana fi Shaikh. At this level, the Murshid bestows his attributes and ranks upon that pure hearted seeker. This way is the way of affirmation of the eternal Essence and is travelled only with perseverance. Allah says:
فَاسْتَقِمْ کَمَآ اُمِرْتَ ( ھود۔112)
Meaning: So, remain steadfast on the right course as you have been commanded. (Hood-112)
وَاعْبُدْ رَبَّکَ حَتّٰی یَاْتِیَکَ الْیَقِیْنُ (الحجر۔99)
Meaning: And worship your Lord until you achieve certainty (the final level of faith). (Al-Hijr-99) (Ameer-ul-Kaunain)
Seeker adopts all attributes of spiritual guide
Sultan Bahoo expresses in Ameer-ul-Kaunain:
Meaning of four letters of مرشد (Murshid)
The word Murshid مرشد has four letters i.e. م (M), ر (R), ش (Sh) and د (D). Letter م (M) refers to the fact that he grants mushahida-e-Hazoore. observation of Divine presence, marifa (gnosis of Allah) and Miraj. The letter ر (R) refers to the fact that he reveals the raz (secret) of Divinity upon the seeker and immerses him in the Divine light of Oneness. Letter ش (Sh) refers to the fact that Murshid is the shahsawar (great rider i.e. the leader) Mystic who views the spiritual world and knows the state of dead in the graves. The letter د (D) refers to the fact that he grants daimi (eternal) state of getting inspirations to the seeker.
Meaning of four letters of طالب (seeker)
Talib طالب (seeker of Allah) also has four letters; ط (T), ا (A), ل (L), ب (B). The letter ط (T) means that the true seeker puts the tauq-e-bandagi (collar of slavery) around his neck, ever remains obedient and humbly follows all orders of Murshid. The letter ا (A) means that his aim is true, and he always remains respectful. Whatever befalls him, he never complains. The letter ل (L) means that he is laiq (capable) to have the vision and closeness of Allah, he is la-yahtaj (independent of desires) and never tells a lie. Letter ب (B) means that he is behramand (fortunate), bawafa (loyal), ba-haya (modest). His heart is purged, and he is fully submissive towards destiny.
Seeker and Murshid become one
Four letters of the word Murshid exchange with the four letters of the word talib in such a way that talib (seeker) adopts all attributes of Murshid and the physical and spiritual existence of Murshid and seeker become one. Hence, the tongue of seeker utters the words of Murshid, the eyes of seeker become eyes of Murshid, ears of seeker become ears of Murshid, heart of seeker becomes heart of Murshid, soul of seeker becomes the soul of Murshid, hands of seeker become hands of Murshid and feet of seeker become feet of Murshid. This is called the level of fana fi Shaikh (annihilation in the Murshid).
Such a seeker is chosen for the level of Murshid (in future). The inciting innerself of the seeker dies completely like the inciting innerself of Murshid. His inward gains eternal life from the inward of Murshid and his soul finds peace and bliss. The name, ways and style of Murshid and seeker become the same and the existence of seeker reflects existence of Murshid. The eternal physical and spiritual company of Murshid verily becomes a source of Divine favor for the seeker. (Ameer-ul-Kaunain)
Love, lover, and beloved all become one at the level of fana fi Shaikh
معشوق عشق عاشق ہر سہ یکی است اینجا
چوں وصل در نہ گنجد ہجراں چہ کار آید
Meaning: At this level (of fana fi Shaikh), love, lover and beloved are all one. How could there be separation when there is no union? (Aqal-e-Baydar)
When seeker reaches at this level, his actions, states, and words become as that of Murshid.
As Sultan Bahoo said:
When seeker’s existence enlightens with the light of Murshid, his tongue utters all words with the light of Murshid. (Aqal-e-Baydar)
Beautiful couplet of Sultan Bahoo
الف اللہ چنبے دی بوٹی، میرے من وچ مرشد لاندا ھُو
جس گت اُتے سوہنا راضی ہوندا، اوہو گت سکھاندا ھُو
ہر دم یاد رکھے، ہر ویلے آپ اُٹھاندا بہاندا ھُو
آپ سمجھ سمجھیندا باھُوؒ، آپے آپ بن جاندا ھُو
Explanation: In this couplet Sultan Bahoo has likened Ism-e-Allah Zaat with jasmine. Sultan Bahoo is the pioneer Arif (knower of Allah) who has used the metaphor of jasmine for Ism-e-Allah Zaat. This is because we sow the seedling of jasmine into the earth. Then it grows slowly into a plant and gets laden with flowers. The fragrance of these flowers envelops the surroundings. Similarly, spiritual guide bestows the seeker with contemplation and invocation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat. He then sows a seedling into the seeker’s inward. After that in the care of the spiritual guide, the light of Ism-e-Allah Zaat gradually envelops the whole being of the true seeker thus illuminating it.
Sultan Bahoo says, I want to share the secrets that Allah revealed on me with the whole world. However, these secrets are for the specially chosen seekers of Allah, I cannot reveal them on common people. I am subsided by the weight of carrying these secrets for so long. Now, wherever I gaze, I only see Ism-e-Allah Zaat. (Abyat-e-Bahoo Kamil)
Seeker becomes exactly alike to his Murshid at the level of fana fi Shaikh
Shams-ud-Din Sialvi says:
When seeker develops a relationship with his spiritual guide then he must drown in the essence of Murshid in such a way that he recognizes all his actions as that of his spiritual guide. It should be to the point that countenance of disciple and Murshid becomes one.
When Shaikh Bahauddin Zakariya and Shaikh Shahabuddin used to sit together, people failed to distinguish between them. Their level of unity was to the point that even their appearance and countenance became alike.
The purpose of all efforts in Faqr is to attain the level of fana fi Shaikh
After achieving perfection at the level of fana fi Shaikh, when seeker finds Holy Prophet in the essence of Murshid with truth of certainty, he reaches the level of annihilation in Holy Prophet. Then he finds Allah and annihilates in Him. Hence the purpose of all efforts is to annihilate in spiritual guide. The level of fana fi Shaikh is in realm of Divinity (alam al-LaHoot). The level of annihilation in Prophet Mohammad is in the realm of First Manifestation (alam al-YaHoot) and the level of annihilation in Allah is in the realm of Incomparable and Unknowable (alam al-HaHooiyat). After reaching the level of annihilation in Allah, the journey of becoming immortal with Allah (baqa billah) begins, which is eternal and continues forever even after death.
Fana fi Shaitan (Annihilation in Satan)
It is to clarify that only those seekers attain such levels of fana fi Shaikh whose Murshid is perfect and accomplished and is stationed at the supreme level of baqa billah (immortal with Allah) after annihilating in Holy Prophet and Allah. There also exists spiritual guide who is imperfect, slave of inciting innerself, and far from the level of annihilation in Prophet and Allah. Such spiritual guide is stuck in the realm of physical bodies (alam an-nasut). The disciples of such spiritual guide are at the level of fana fi Shaitan instead of fana fi Shaikh. Even if they consider themselves at the level of fana fi Shaikh.
Sultan Bahoo warns from imperfect spiritual guides
Sultan Bahoo warns disciples of imperfect spiritual guide:
When the disciple of the imperfect spiritual guide contemplates his face, Satan appears in the form of spiritual guide and the disciple annihilates in Satan instead of his guide dropping to the level of annihilation in Satan.
Beware and be wise! When a beginner seeker does the contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat, the Divine name اللہ is engraved on his subtle heart. When he gets attentive towards his heart, a flame resembling to the Divine light is lit around it. In fact, that is the satanic fire, which is misunderstood by the seeker as the theophany of Divine presence. From that fire, the Satan calls the seeker and says to him:
We are friends now; you should now repent from further physical and spiritual servitude and just observe me in this light.
Then, the Satan appears in the form of a child, grows into a young man and then to an old man and deceptively tells the seeker that this (growing up) depicts the secret of elevation of the levels of a Fakir. Then the satanic form informs him intrinsically about everything and shows him the hidden past, present and future. People think that he possesses the power of miracles and unveiling. But in fact, this is just a deception created by the inner satanic voice.
O seeker! Be aware!
When the satanic form talks to you acquiring the form of a Saint, you should recite with inward attention, the Islamic creed:
لَآ اِلٰہَ اِلَّا اللّٰہُ مُحَمَّدٌ رَّسُوْلُ اللّٰہِ
Meaning: There is none worthy of worship but Allah and Mohammad (peace be upon him) is Allah’s Messenger.
and the Lahawl:
لَاحَوْلَ وَلَا قُوَّۃَ اِلَّا بِاللّٰہِ الْعَلِیِّ الْعَظِیْمِ
Meaning: There is no might or power except with Allah, the most High, the Supreme (in Glory).
By reciting it, the satanic form will run away.
Afterwards, Divine light and theophanies will emit from the letters of Ism-e-Allah Zaat. Whatever theophanies of Divine light will show you, will be right and true according to Quran and Hadith. You should accept it saying:
‘We believe and verify it.’
Any inward or spiritual act which does not correlate outwardly with sharia and Quran and is not gained from Ism-e-Allah Zaat is verily false. As Hadith of Holy Prophet states:
کُلُّ بَاطِنٍ مُخَالِفٌ لِظَّاہِرِ فَھُوَ بَاطِلٌ
Meaning: Every inward which is opposite to the outward is false.
Seekers who truly yearn Allah’s closeness are very few
The spiritual level of annihilation in the spiritual guide is achieved by Ism-e-Allah Zaat. It grants the observation of the Divine light and theophanies of the Divine Essence as well as the presence of Mohammadan Assembly. Whereas the level of annihilation in Satan surrounds the seeker with misapprehensions, delusions, and satanic thoughts. It is the level of the disciples of imperfect spiritual guide who are arrogant, egoistic and worshippers of their innerself. One can find many such imperfect disciples who are the seekers of the world. However, the true and enlightened seekers of Allah who vigilantly follow sharia and reach the level of annihilation in the spiritual guide are a few. They are the ones who truly deserve the gnosis of ‘none but Allah’ and presence of the Mohammadan Assembly. (Kaleed-ul-Tauheed Kalan)
How to know if spiritual guide is perfect or imperfect?
While mentioning the sign of perfect spiritual guide, Sultan Bahoo says that perfect Murshid is the one who grants invocation and contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat on the very first day. He does not trouble the disciple with excessive worships or prayers. In Sarwari Qadri order one achieves all levels of fana fi Shaikh, fana fi Rasool and fana fillah through the invocation and contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat. There is no room for deception in this. Because contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat grants nothing but truth.
Journey from metaphorical love to Divine love
The perfect spiritual guide of the present era Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman writes:
There are three levels of annihilation:
Fana fi Shaikh, fana fi Rasool and fana fillah.
To reach these levels, an ardent love of Murshid is necessary. In Faqr this love is called ishq-e-majazi (metaphorical Love). This metaphorical love then leads to the Divine love.
According to the perfect Fakirs and Mystics, one can gain ardent love of Allah by means of metaphorical Love i.e. love of Murshid. Usually, the metaphorical love is thought to be for a man by a woman and for a woman by a man. This is lust and a devilish game. Sharia does not allow it. In the path of Faqr, ‘metaphorical love’ means love for the spiritual guide.
How to achieve metaphorical love (ishq-e-majazi)?
Often the method adopted in all spiritual chains and paths is that the seeker is advised to contemplate the image of his spiritual guide. In fact, nowadays, some spiritual chains have started to provide pictures of spiritual guide for this purpose. The disciple remains absorbed in contemplating the countenance of his spiritual guide all the time. This method is fully deceptive, and today’s age is full of deception. This method is a form of idol worship and a form of polytheism. This is human nature that if one remains absorbed in thoughts of someone, he eventually develops love for that person.
The spiritual guide of Sarwari Qadri way never adopts this method. This order is not related to levels (e.g. realm of angels, realm of power etc.). The beginning and extreme level of Sarwari Qadri way is ishq (ardent love). Here the seeker gains Divine vision which is impossible without ishq. So, whoever loses himself in the realms of angels or power, his journey of Divine vision comes to an end. The true men of love never long for anything except Allah. Neither they pay heed to anything other than Allah.
Contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat grants nothing but truth
In Sarwari Qadri order, metaphorical love or ishq-e-majazi grows through the contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat. Provided that Sahib–e–Musamma Murshid Kamil Akmal (the perfect spiritual guide who is the possessor of all attributes and powers of the Divine Essence) grants it. When the seeker begins contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat, he first achieves the contemplation of his Murshid. This way his passion of love for Murshid begins.
This method has two advantages, first there is no deception in it because it has been gained through Ism-e-Allah Zaat and whatever is gained through Ism-e-Allah Zaat can never be deceptive. Also, since the contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat grants the contemplation of Murshid, therefore it confirms to the disciple that his Murshid is perfect and is on Sirat-e-Mustqeem (straight path). Then his journey towards the love of Murshid begins. Which turns into the love of Holy Prophet and then it transforms to the love of Allah. The Seeker then drowns in the sea of Divine Oneness.
Fana fi Rasool and fana filla are barely any tasks after achieving the level of fana fi Shaikh
Spiritual guide himself is a form of Ism-e-Allah Zaat. When seeker annihilates in him, he automatically attains the level of Divine Oneness without any struggle or effort. In the path of Faqr, seeker makes all efforts to reach the level of fana fi Shaikh. Reaching the level of Divine union or Oneness is then an automatic process. Saints name this process a state of fana fi Shaikh. Firstly, the seeker attains oneness at the level of spiritual guide. Here, he becomes one with Murshid by annihilating in him perishing his own identity. He becomes attributed with esoteric and exoteric attributes of Murshid. Since Murshid is already at the level of Divine Oneness, hence seeker reaches the level of Divine Oneness. (Shams-ul-Fuqara)
- Al-Fath ar-Rabbani – al-Ghawth al-Azam Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani
- Nur-ul-Huda Kalan – Sultan Bahoo
- Kaleed-ul-Tauheed Kalan – Sultan Bahoo
- Mehak-ul-Faqr Kalan – Sultan Bahoo
- Ameer-ul-Kaunain – Sultan Bahoo
- Aqal-e-Baydar – Sultan Bahoo
- Shams-ul-Fuqara – Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman
- Abyat-e-Bahoo Kamil – Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman
- Maktubat Mujaddid Alif Sani
- Sirr-e-Dilbaran – Sayyid Mohammad Zauqi Shah
This article was originally published in the September issue of Mahnama Sultan-ul-Faqr Lahore (the monthly Urdu magazine of Tehreek Dawat-e-Faqr) as
مرتبہ ٔ فنا فی الشیخ
It is written by Ambreen Moghees Sarwari Qadri and is now translated in English by Sofia Sultan Sarwari Qadri. Translator has used American English vocabulary in the translation of this article. If you wish to read the original article, please: