[These are the rough notes of a talk delivered by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed (db) in Stanger Masjid, South Africa on Jul 14, 2015]
[Audio is available here]
قَدۡ أَفۡلَحَ مَن زَكَّٮٰهَا
Success is really attained by him who purifies it. [91:9]
The method of tazkiyah of our mashaik e Naqshband begins by making muraqaba of ism e zaat, ism e Aazam Allah, Allah, Allah, on the first five lataif. The establishment of the repetition; the takrar of Allah swt’s name is mentioned in a hadith of Sahih of Muslim. Nabi sws has said that the Day of Judgement will never come as long as there is somebody who is saying Allah, Allah. The ism e Aazam came here twice, muqarar.
Another question is whether one has to say it with their tongue, or with their heart. Normally you will not find people in their normal conversations saying Allah, Allah. Our mashaikh understood that the establishment of dhikr of Allah swt’s name was repetition. Because in Qur’an Allah swt has linked dhikr with the qalb:
أَلَا بِذِڪۡرِ ٱللَّهِ تَطۡمَٮِٕنُّ ٱلۡقُلُوبُ
Listen, the hearts find peace only in the remembrance of Allah. [13:28]
وَلَا تُطِعۡ مَنۡ أَغۡفَلۡنَا قَلۡبَهُ ۥ عَن ذِكۡرِنَا
And do not obey the one whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance [18:28]
So the repetition of Allah swt’s name is from the heart. Then that same method, by analogy of qiyas, is used for other points of the batin that Allah swt has mentioned in Qur’an; ruh, sirr, khafi, akhfa. The way you can understand this is through the difference of Chisti and Naqshbandi silsila.
The Chisti Silsila’s method of strong darb of spoken dhikr is trying to remove the stain. And the Naqshandi Silsila is going from within to take out the stain. Another way to understand is that the Chisti silsila is directly working on the nafs; they are trying to purify the stain.
You can imagine it like a piece of clothing. The Naqshbandi silsila tries to make the cloth white again with the dhikr of Allah swt’s name. The Chisti silsila tries to remove the stain, this way it will also become white. Either way, the person becomes clean and pure again.
Explaining the Reason for Multiplicity in Methods of Tazkiyah
Allah swt has made different ways. This is a blessing of Allah swt and it also shows His mercy. Like Allah swt made mutliple gates to Jannah. If somebody has a house and it has 7 doors, it is understood there are a lot of people coming to their house. Similarly Allah swt made several ways of tazkiyah:
وَٱلَّذِينَ جَـٰهَدُواْ فِينَا لَنَہۡدِيَنَّہُمۡ سُبُلَنَاۚ وَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَمَعَ ٱلۡمُحۡسِنِينَ
As for those who strive in Our way, We will certainly take them onto Our paths, and indeed Allah is with those who are good in deeds. [29:69]
Allah swt Himself has said that the hidayah will never be singular or monotone. Subul is plural of Sabil; Allah swt is saying that we will guide you to paths. So we should never worry why there isn’t only one way of doing dhikr, why isn’t there just one curriculum in darul uloom, why are there more than one styles of teaching Qur’an, why are there more than one commentary and tafsir of Qur’an.
It is because Allah swt’s hidayah is like that. Allah swt’s hidaya, as mentioned in Qur’an, is manifold, multiple, subul. There will be paths to understanding Qur’an; different tafsir. There will be paths to understanding Hadith; different muhaditheen, different commentaries on hadith. There will paths to understanding Shari’ah; the four madahib. There will be paths of making dawah; different ways of doing dawah. There will be paths of doing tasawwuf and tazkiya; different silsila of tasawwuf. There will be paths to reciting Qur’an. There is multiplicity in every branch of our deen.
More Detail on Lataif e Khamsa
Understand again, when you make dhikr on the qalb of Allah swt’s name, then you are doing tazkiyah of the qalb. When you do tazkiyah of the qalb, the impure lust leaves and the pure lust comes. Allah swt says:
مَا تَشۡتَهِىٓ أَنفُسُكُمۡ
whatever your souls desire [41:31]
That is the pure desire which the people of Jannah will have. When you do tazkiyah of the ruh, then the unlawful anger, irritability, that leaves. What comes is the pure feeling of courage; shuja’a, bravery, ghairah, self-respect and dignity. When you make tazkiyah of the sirr, the greed, hirs; hirs means greed for dunya, greed for materialistic things, that unlawful hirs leaves. And what will instead appear is hirs for Sunnah, hirs for ibadah, hirs for akhirah; the person becomes deeply desirous of these.
When a person does tazkiyah of their khafi, that removes hassad, envy and bukhul; stinginess. Hassad and bukhul both are related to each other. It is because a person is stingy that they don’t like it when others get something, so they feel hassad for that person. What comes in its place is goodwill, well-wishing. Nabi sws has said ad-deenu Naseeha; deen is well-wishing. Generosity comes in its place.
This is also the answer to someone who asked that in our silsila, which lesson helps a person improve his adaab and akhlaq, so it happens in the 4th and the 5th lessons. One by getting purified of hassad and ill will. When one does the 5th lesson, it purifies one from the ujub, kibr, and takabbur. What they get in its place is humility, and akhlaq e azeema of the sunnah of Nabi sws. Sunnah character comes out in a person when they do tazkiyah of the 5th lesson.
This is a complete set; a complete curriculum. But then again, you have to do this for hours and hours, and do them for months and years. It is a process. We should not be afraid. You just have to put yourself through the process.
What to do When you Get the Next Lesson
Now I want to explain that when a person gets their next lesson, the subsequent lesson, they still do their earlier lesson. This should not be a misconception that I got the second lesson so I stop the first one. You still have to do the first lesson.
Second thing is that getting second lesson does not mean that you have completed the mission of the first one. You may think that I still feel some unlawful lust, so why am I getting the second lesson? What happens is that there is a basic core ability to do dhikr on a lesson. Once a person gets that, they maybe given the next lesson because they have to keep doing the earlier one.
You can understand it like this that one door of a treasure trove was opened up for you, and you now get the treasure. When you get a fair amount of it, you have not completely taken all of it, but you have taken some basic amount, then we open up the second door so that you can start getting from the second treasure. But you have to keep getting from the first one as well. That is why you have to continue with your previous lessons even when you get a new lesson.
The only difference is that now you should try to give your new lesson, the current lesson more time. You can imagine like you were a gardener and you were tending your garden. Your garden is your ruh; your batin, your innerself. If you were already doing dhikr on lesson one, you had been watering that seed for sometime.
That seed has some time to sprout into a seedling, a sapling and have some flowers and fruits. Then you get the new lesson, so lesson two is just a seed because you haven’t watered it yet. Which one should the gardener give more time? He has to give more time to the new seed. But he cannot neglect the first one either, otherwise it will wither. If you stop watering the first one, it will wither and fade away.
It depends on the student. Sometimes when we give them the second lesson, we would tell them to split their time equally; half, half. Or sometimes we would tell them that they have to spend more time on the second one. It depends on how well they have done the first. If they have done a very basic amount on the first, then we tell them to do it half, half. If you sit for 1 hour, then 30 minutes each. But if they have done the second lesson well, then we tell them to give the second lesson more time. So they may give 20 minutes to the first one and 40 minutes to the second.
It is important to show you that we give different advice to different people. That is why it is not always a good idea to share notes on this topic. So remember, when the Shaykh individually tells you something, he might tell the other person something different. You may do it out of a good intention like if someone got their second lesson, and I did not yet get the time to tell them how much time they should spend on the new lesson, but you tell him that you should do it equally because that’s what you were told.
Always know that personalized instructions are personalized. And the group instructions are for the group. Their notes can be shared and equally swapped with everyone. Different people will progress at different lessons, at different paces, at different speeds. They might be told different things about which one to focus more on, or which one to do less on. That is part of the personalized instructions. The individualized instructions are given to those who do their individual practice of dhikr. Continual individualized instructions are given to those who do continual individual practice of dhikr.
If you just do dhikr in i’tikaf and then leave it, we also leave our individualized instruction for you. Then it would go back to just listening to the bayan. Step one is bayan. Then the bayan encourages you to make dhikr. Step two is to make dhikr, for sometime. And step three is to correspond.
How and When to Correspond with the Shaykh
In our method of rabita; rabita means correspondence with the Shaykh, for us the way it works is that first you listen to the bayan, then live your life according to the bayan, do muraqaba and then correspondence is for the last touch. When you are writing to your Shaykh, the second thing to write is that I have been doing muraqaba for sometime. Not that I did it for 2 days.
Can you imagine a child who goes to a Hafiz and says I memorized Qur’an for 10 minutes and can you give me some tips? They will just say go and practice. But if a student says that for a month I have been practising for 2 hours, but there are two ayahs that I keep mixing up. So now the instructor will give guidance to that student regarding the problem.
The reason we do so many bayan is because unfortunately many people do not do individual practice. In khanqas where students are doing practice, they will only have one bayan and then they will do muraqaba for 6-7 hours. Having more bayan and majlis intensive initially is okay because you need the information, but you have to take it to the next level with your practice. Nothing will happen just by writing a piece of paper.
What to do when Shaykh leaves
You do what the Shaykh tells you to do. You do the homework. Our mashaikh explain it beautifully. Allah swt does not always send the rain, because too much of rain will damage the crop. After rain, the crop will need work and then the crop will harvest. The rain of Shaykh has to stop. Now that you have soaked it in, it is up to you how much output of dhikr and amaal you produce.
Sometimes a person goes in a panic mode, it can happen that afterwards the nafs strikes back. It happens to some people after Umrah and Hajj also. Nafs strikes back with vengeance. The result is that the person falls into some sin and then they panic. They start having these thoughts that I did the same sin again even after making so much tawbah, I committed the sin when I did not even want to do it again.
When the person panics, Shaytan takes a mirror to a person and magnifies this problem so then this is the only thing they notice. They start thinking that what is the point of all the muraqaba I did and all the time I spent time with Shaykh if I still fell into this sin. So do not panic.
The answer is yes nafs can strike, but then you have to strike back harder. If the nafs ever strikes back, you never kick it lying down, you get right back up and fight back. The coach is not upset if the person falls down. He is only upset when the fighter does not try.
Nafs is not defeated illa mashaAllah. When you leave, you will enter the ring again and the nafs will be waiting for you. The difference is that now you have the training to fight back, dhikr, tawbah, dua are all means of fighting back. So much so that even if you get up only to get knocked down again, even then you should get up. And even if this keeps happening to a person their entire life, that they keep falling back down but never stop trying, even that person will go to Jannah inshaAllah.
When we are not here, you will still have opportunity of suhbah, because 90% of the time I am giving bayan. Mostly where I give bayans, they are being broadcast, if there is no broadcast then go to the website and search for the topic you need, and listen to the recordings there. Many people do write to us that they benefit from those recordings.
Listening to live bayan is more beneficial because you would be in the same time zone as the Shaykh – it’tehad e zaman. You especially should listen to the bayan we gave in your area because Allah swt inspires us to give bayan according to the people of that area. Keep listening to bayans. When we come here again, then you should come for the bayan. There you will get more opportunity to get the personalized instruction through meeting.
That is enough. Because we have already trained people with similar frequency and we have seen them progress. Specific advice for you is that you have to do your practice. Imagine what will happen if a person did the practice and actually got rid of greed, envy, lust, arrogance etc? What would it be like to have a softness of the heart?
Brief Explanation of Asbaq (Lessons) after Lataif e Khamsa
The tazkiyah of these lataif have stages. One is to purity your nafs so much so that you do not commit a sin of that kind. Then next stage is to never look at a sin of that kind. Level three is to never think about a sin of that kind. That also takes a long time. That is why you should keep making the dhikr. Intention of doing tazkiyah is for life, there is no graduation. The grave is the graduation and day of Judgement is Convocation.
It takes about 1 to 2 years for the first phase; that a person gets freedom from sin. It takes decades for other diseases of the heart to be cured. This is because we are continually being around ghayr mahram in our co-ed environment, we are surrounded by all of this.
Lesson 6 is latifah e nafs. The person makes intention that my nafs is doing Allah, Allah. It is a cure for the treacherous nature of the nafs – rebellion – the ability of nafs to surge all of a sudden; to feel surge of anger, lust all of a sudden etc. It is not the norm. One is having an angry personality and one is a having surges of anger in panic or in an extreme situation. This dhikr cures that overpowering ability of the nafs.
Lesson 7 is qalib; referring to dhikr of Allah’s name from your whole physical self: blood, flesh, skin; the physical aspect. Lesson 8 and 9 are dhikr of la ilaha illallah. It is placed in a particular place in this sequence of tazkiyah. Why is this dhikr done later in Naqshbandi Silsila while other silsilas like the Chisti silsila usually do la illaha first and they do dhikr of ism e Aazam second.
One reason is the cumulative effect; you can call it the cumulative combined effect that the dhikr is supposed to have. What I am about to say, 99 percent of people will not experience this combined effect to the level I am about to describe it, because it is at a level of fanaa; the absolute cumulative combined effect.
What happens if someone does the dhikr of la ilaha first and Allah ism e Aazam second, and they do that dhikr so well, so deep, so intensely and they do it for years that they get the complete combined cumulative effect. So what happens in this case? When they did the dhikr of la ilaha first, then la is negation. They are negating. Literally it means you are negating that there is no god except Allah. But when you reach to the level of fanaa in this, you reach what is called kamil nafi; you end up negating everything, all ghairullah.
Like they say in Arabic: la maujood illallah, la marghoob illallah, la mahboob illallah, la matloob illallah, la ma’bood illallah, la ilaha illallah. Nothing exists except for Allah, nothing can be perceived except for Allah, there is nothing that I love except for Allah, there is nothing that I yearn for except for Allah, there is nothing that I seek except for Allah, there is nothing that I worship except for Allah, there is no god except for Allah – it is all there when a person reaches kamil nafi.
After nafi then there is illallah which is the affirmation of Allah swt. It is called isbaat; affirming Allah; that there is Allah, there is Allah. After that, when they do of dhikr of Allah, Allah then that is a second isbaat. So first nafi, then isbaat of illallah and after that another isbaat of Allah, Allah.
What happens when a person reaches fanaa in this, and this is where a few of you must have heard these type of things, this is where the concept of wahdatul wujud came from. What happened was that when a person would come out of such a dhikr, they come out of an experience that they had forgotten the whole world, they had forgotten themselves. They had done the kamil nafi, then the kamil isbaat and then again the kamil isbaat.
When they first came out of it, they had negated everything other than Allah swt from their consciousness. When they would come out they would feel that is Allah, this is Allah, you are Allah, I am Allah. Na’auzubillah as an aqeedah that is completely haram. But experientially, that was their feeling. They could perceive nothing except for Allah swt. They had erased everything. They had erased all creation, even themselves.
You can imagine it like a person has a very vivid and intense dream, and they dream that they are in front of the ka’aba. The instant they come out of the dream they will think this is Makkah, that is Makkah; their experience will feel like that. Their perception will be like that because of the intensity of the experience.
That’s why the mashaikh of Naqshband Mujaddadi Silsila realized that when a person has that experience, that is not the proper aqeedah, it is not a proper belief. So then they have a way of reconciling the experience with the belief. That is a very complicated area in tasawwuf. You don’t have to worry about it, because in the Naqshbandi Mujaddadi Silsila, there is no concept of wahdatul wujud at all, we don’t even try to reconcile it. We don’t accept it at all.
We understand that for others, it was not their aqeedah. It was just their perception. So we don’t critic them. But for us, we have nothing to do with it. We don’t get involved in it at all. Because of that we put the dhikr of la ilaha illallah second. Again, I am telling this only for those people who go so deep into it. I don’t think anyone here will ever be able to go so deep that they reach kamil fanaa.
What happens when we put dhikr of la ilaha illallah second? When you do dhikr of ism e Aazam, you are affirming, you are putting love for Allah swt back in your heart and removing ghaflah. It keeps going on like this. If a person does it at the level of perfect fanaa, now their whole batin is filled with dhikr, awarness and love for Allah swt. But along with that they might still have some connection with creation, they may still remember the creation, they may still remember her a little bit. Because they have not done nafi yet.
The purpose of la ilaha is mostly negation. Because they have already done isbaat of ism e Aazam, so now when this person comes out after nafi, they say this is ghair, that is ghair, you are ghair, I am ghair. And that is the truth, and that is aqeedah.
When they realize this, now they do the second affirmation of illallah so they affirm Allah swt. This affirmation after negation is so that they get closeness to Allah swt. This closeness is no longer tinged by the memory of the creation. In Arabic they call it negation between two affirmations. I know some of you did not understand most of what I said, but this much you understand that better to do la ilaha illallah later. This is a behind-the-scenes peek so trust your Shaykh in whatever lesson they are giving you.
First 5 lessons were the lataif e khamsa, that we have already covered, then 6th is latifah e nafs; curbing nafs, 7th is qalib; dhikr from physical self. Lesson 8 and 9 are two different ways of doing la ilaha illallah. One is doing silently and 9 is doing it with tongue. The preferred way of making dhikr is with stillness and composure. So the way to make dhikr of la illaha illallah is stillness, not trying to put down the Chishti silsila. if I were to teach Hanafi fiqh, it does not mean that Shafi’i Fiqh is being put down. They are just two different methods.
From lesson 10 all the way to 35, there is no dhikr of Allah, Allah, or of la ilaha illallah. It is just contemplation and reflection. You may have to contemplate on different verses like a person may contemplate on the verse:
وَهُوَ مَعَكُمۡ أَيۡنَ مَا كُنتُمۡۚ
He is with you wherever you are [57:4]
You should practice feeling it. May Allah swt accept all of you to reach till lesson 16, that is a great milestone in tazkiyah. You can’t do this alone. Can you read all the books of ilm of darul uloom alone? Knowledge gotten from the depth of teachers who are alim is not the same that is gotten from mere book readings. We should want to dive. We showed you all of this so you can dive.
I think all mashaikh should openly teach tasawwuf, if you don’t know how will you put in the effort? I view it as a duty as a Muslim that if I have learnt something, I should share it, I should share how I learnt it. Do not mistake my passion for anything else. How do people get the feelings of love for Allah swt at that level? It is only when they empty their batin of all the sins. All these things are hampering our feelings of Allah swt.
This is called tasawwuf, tareeqah, it is a path; a way and that way has been paved by the mashaikh. This should motivate you to do more muraqaba. This type of gathering is called a majlis. Some people ask what is the different bayan and majlis. I don’t need to explain it, you have already seen it. Majlalis are more specific. There are certain adaab of the path, certain things a person can do to help them go faster and deeper on the path. We will do those later inshaAllah.
Muraqaba has nothing to do with beating of your heart or breathing. So don’t set the Allah, Allah with the beating of the heart because the pulse and heartbeat and breathing everything is ghairullah. Be aware of only one thing i.e. the name of Allah swt.
A person may have a question that what am I doing exactly. You are imagining that your heart is saying Allah, Allah as if there is a speaker and you are listening to Allah, Allah from there. It is more of a listening exercise rather than a thinking exercise. The natural, essential and original condition of a heart with iman is to do dhikr. It comes naturally to us so we don’t have to do anything. We just have to listen to it.