Every spiritual path and religion will lead you somewhere, if you are able to master its practices and fully embody its teachings. But where do they take you? That is the question every seeker needs to ask themselves when selecting a spiritual path–where do I want to go? Who or what am I journeying toward?
The Sufi Path is the Path of the Prophets, ‘alayhim as-salam
The Sufi path will lead you to a different Reality than most other paths, because this is a path of embodied prophetic knowledge. God gave the prophets (Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, to name a few) a greater capacity to contain and transmit the fullness of the Divine message, the Divine Qualities, and to fully transform and reach their highest potential as humans.
All of the prophets except for Jesus, ‘alayhi-s-salam, began life ignorant or their true status–they believed they were ordinary people living ordinary lives. After they had reached a certain threshold of maturity, God revealed to them and to the world that they were special. He gave them challenges to overcome, tasks to complete, and people to guide to God’s Truth and Reality. He gave them a mandate to teach everyone about God, His Reality, and His Truth as He described it in His holy books.
The Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam
In the Sufi path, we love all 124,000 prophets, especially the 25 mentioned in the Qur’an, and even more particularly Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), ‘Isa (Jesus), and Muhammad, may God send peace and blessings upon them all. In a most dedicated way, aspiring Sufis follow the life, teachings, and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad. He is our prophet, our guide, and the one whose spirit we turn to for intercession with our Lord during this life and on the Day of Judgment.
Each prophet experienced significant events that were transformative in their relationship with Allah. Moses saw the burning bush and became able to perform small miracles. Ibrahim tried to sacrifice his son for Allah and his knife became unusable. Muhammad sa angels filling the horizon and received Divine revelations that ultimately became the compiled Qur’an. You, too, may have experienced powerful moments full of signs that there is more to this life than what is perceived by the five senses. If you’re a seeker, chances are you have had an experience like that, and you want more. You want to discover the transformative secrets that the prophets knew and embodied.
The Saints and Guides, radiyallahu anhum
The saints and the guides who light the way for us are people who have reached their highest potential and embody Allah’s Reality to their fullest ability, without the mantle of prophethood. Saints have embodied God’s Reality to such a degree that they radiate it from their very beings. When you are near a saint you can sometimes feel Divine healing and Light pouring off of them.
A saint has reached the station of fana fi-llah (see below) and may have also reached baqa bi-llah (see below). A guide has usually reached baqa’ bi-llah, because a guide’s specific function is to guide students along the path. In order to do so, the guide needs some objectivity and the ability to see the multiplicity of creation, not just its unity. Like prophets, saints and guides have so much to teach us and thankfully, there are some who reside on the planet today.
When you are trying to choose a guide, it is extremely important for you to evaluate them using certain criteria. Sidi wrote an entire book about this: The Guide. Before taking someone as your guide, we recommend you consult this book and carefully consider Sidi’s words.
Sidi gave us the blueprint for spiritual transformation in Music of the Soul, The Path to Allah, Most High, and He Who Knows Himself Knows His Lord. In the sections on the stations, Sidi describes each waystation the traveler passes through on their way to fully embodying the Divine Qualities.
One of the most significant waystations is that of fana’ (annihilation). Fana’ means to die into something, to lose yourself (your “self”, your ego, your nafs) into something completely. And when you come out you are changed. When you fana’ fi-llah (die into God), you release and shun everything you thought you were, all of your perceptions, wounds, beliefs, etc., As this occurs, you turn towards Allah’s Reality and have the space within to receive it deeply into your being. Allah’s Reality then fills you with its Unity. At this point, you no longer want to follow the voice of your nafs. You listen only to the Voice of Allah. And it is pure pleasure. Everything you see, everything you hear, everything you touch–all of it is singing God’s Unity. All you can see whereever you look or listen or perceive is Allah. And it is pure ecstasy.
It is important for the traveler to remember that Allah is the One who put the longing in your heart for more than the material world. Allah is the One who is guiding you on your journey toward healing and completion. Allah is the One, if you are blessed to receive the gift of fana’, Who gives it to you. Amin.
There are levels of transformation available to the traveler once they have completed their fana’ fi-llah. If Allah guides them further, they can reach to the station of baqa’, the return.
Once the traveler has gone through fana’, they can’t really go back to who they were before unless Allah discharges them. As the traveler becomes accustomed to their new Reality, the joy and ecstasy of the initial transformation subside. Allah gives the traveler challenges and as the traveler overcomes them, they become more firmly rooted in Allah’s Reality. At a certain point, they are so firmly rooted that become fully established and reach the station of baqa’. Once the traveler is in the station of baqa’, they can live, teach, and engage with the world fully while still retaining their establishment in Allah’s Reality. They can perceive the multiplicity of creation, the places their students need help, while still retaining the Unity.
Masha’allah! Alhamdulillah! What an amazing gift! May Allah give this station to all of His sincere seekers and travelers. Amin.