Maktubat of Ma’sum Sirhindi on Tasawwuf

By Muhammad Ma’sum al-Sirhindi

Muhammad Ma’sum al-Sirhindi states in the 182nd letter of the first volume of his Maktubat writes:

“[You ask,] ‘Is there such a high status in our religion so that one who attains to it will have forgotten about himself and about everything?’ In response to your question, we say that there is the status called fana’ in tasawwuf. One who endeavors on the way of tasawwuf forgets about himself and about everything when he attains to that status. Nevertheless, his batin (heart, soul) is the one who reaches the status of fana’ or baqa’. This hal (state) occurs in one’s heart and soul. The zahir (body, intellect) of a human being has to supply his own needs. Even if he has advanced much further, he cannot rescue himself from this duty.

“You ask whether discovering others’ thoughts, getting information about lost things and the acceptance of the prayers said are the signs of advancing on the way of tasawwuf, of attaining to Allahu ta’ala’s love. Dear brother! These are the extraordinary things Allahu ta’ala creates outside His usual custom (‘adat). Their occurrence to somebody does not show his advancement and acceptance. They may occur also to the people of istidraj who are devoid of felicity. They may also be observed in disbelievers who polishes their nafses through undergoing riyada. In some, they happen without riyada, too. Since undergoing riyada is not a condition for becoming a wali, that is, for attaining to the degrees of wilaya, so it is not a condition for the people of istidraj to display khariqas and for awliya’ (rahimahum-Allahu ta’ala) to display karamas. Undertaking riyada facilitates their frequent occurrence.

“Most awliya’ are protected from the sin called ‘ujb (self-admiration). ‘Ujb and riya’ (hypocrisy) are not left in the one who has reached the status of fana’. It is true that he may be mistaken out of being human, because awliya’ are not protected against erring. However, they immediately awaken from ghafla (unawareness) and get rid of its harm by asking for Allahu ta’ala’s Forgiveness (istighfar) and by doing charitable deeds.

“Eating little and sleeping little are beneficial for advancing on the way of tasawwuf, but one should not be as excessive as to harm the body and intellect. These and riyadat should be done in consistency with the Sunnat. If they are done excessively, it will be ruhbaniyya (monastic life), which does not exist in Islam. The kashfs of awliya’ are not imaginative things; they are the things inspired (ilham) to the heart. Imaginative kashfs should not be trusted in. Wahm and imagination (hayal) help in understanding the information coming to the heart. Fifty thousand years’ distance between the Creator and the created is passed in a short time with the help of wahm. And the imagination is beneficial to understand ladunni knowledge easily. Both help much on the way of tasawwuf. It has been reported that some prayers are helpful in worldly affairs. Saying Allahu ta’ala’s names are much more helpful…

“The teachings about souls and the life in the grave are very subtle. We should not speak on them out of supposition or surmise. We should believe briefly what has been reported openly in the nasses (ayats and hadiths) and should not speak more. It should be believed that there are blessings and tortures in the grave. It has also been reported that the dead talk with one another and because of the tortures, they cry and lament. Except human beings and genies, all creatures hear their cries. Souls cry not only alone but also through their bodies.

“However much a person advances in tasawwuf, reaches perfection or attains to qurb al-ilahi, neither his body nor his soul can escape being creatures. Everything other than Allahu ta’ala is hadith (created), and all creatures had been non-existent before becoming existent. They will become non-existent again. For being a Muslim, believing as such is a must. It is the same for the souls of prophets (‘alaihimu ‘s-salawatu wa ‘t-taslimat) and awliya’. To escape the tortures of the next world, we have to follow what the ‘ulama’ of Ahl as-Sunnat have reported. Those kashfs and karamat that do not conform to their books are worthless. The aim on the way of tasawwuf consists of seeing the faults and defects of one’s own nafs, making the adaptation to the rules of Islam easy and tasteful and escaping from secret polytheism and disbelief…

I express my salaam and say my prayers for you and for those who follow the true path, the footsteps of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)! Since much time has passed since the time of Rasulullah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and Doomsday is nearing, Bid’ah are widespread everywhere now. Darkness and the harms of Bid’ah have disseminated throughout the world; the Sunnah have been forgotten. Their lights have been covered. Now the most valuable deed that will make one attain to Allah Almighty’s Consent is the endeavour to uncover the forgotten Sunnahs, that is, to disseminate Islamic Sciences. Those who want to be near Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) on the Day of Judgement should work for this purpose. A hadith as-sharif says, “There is the Thawab of a hundred martyrs for the one who uncovers a forsaken Sunnah of mine.” The first thing to do for uncovering a Sunnah is one’s performance of that Sunnah personally. Next comes the endeavour to make others perform it.”

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