[These are the rough notes of a talk delivered by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed (db) in Stanger Masjid, South Africa on Jul 15, 2015]
[Audio is available here]
يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ ٱذۡكُرُواْ ٱللَّهَ ذِكۡرً۬ا كَثِيرً۬ا
O you who believe, remember Allah abundantly [33:41]
There are three things to progress on this path: it’tiba e Sunnah, kathrat e dhikr and suhbat e shaykh. You have already gotten a second round on it’tiba e Sunnah, today we will give you the second round of kathrat e dhikr, and tomorrow, if Allah swt blesses us with another night of Ramadan, we will give you a second round of suhbat e Shaykh.
Kathrat e dhikr means muraqaba and wuquf e qalbi. We will give a few more points for you on these two. Another way to understand wuquf e qalbi, like I have already explained this to you, it means to have feelings for Allah swt in your heart. That might be remembering Allah swt’s name even; that can be a way to do wuquf e qalbi.
It can be one of the ways, but it is not the only way. Like you do in muraqaba if you can manage to have that same thing in the background. Can you do that? Yes, if you can manage that. Or it can also be to generally have feelings for Allah swt; generally remembering Him, even having thoughts about Allah swt.
Any way in which you make sure that you do not forget Allah swt, that is called wuquf e qalbi. Not forgetting Allah swt; that’s the dhikr. In Arabic they call it adhm e ghaflat; absence of forgetfulness is the presence of dhikr. Just like the absence of dhikr is the presence of ghaflat.
Stages of Wuquf e Qalbi
1. Turning the Switch On: Then when you do wuquf e qalbi, there will be three stages through your skill in doing this. The most basic level is at least to remember Allah swt at the start of every activity. Normally we explain it like this that whenever you start something, make the intention that Ya Rabb, my heart is remembering You.
If you are going to drive to somewhere for two hours, make niyyah that all the time your heart will be remembering Allah swt. Then you just drive. You enter a class for three hours, make niyyah that your heart will be remembering Allah swt. If you are entering the clinic and you will be there for six hours, make niyyah that all this time your heart will be remembering Allah swt.
You make niyyah at the outset. Let me add a bit; you make niyyah at the outset only. Basically you will forget this during the day, but at least you made the intention at the beginning that my heart will be remembering Allah swt.
Understand this from the example of a light switch. So to turn the light switch on, that takes an initial act. And then you can let go, you do not have to keep your thumb pressed to the switch. Just like that, wuquf e qalbi is like turning the light switch of dhikr of Allah swt on. Then the nur starts coming, and you just continue with what you are doing. This is the basic level. First level: at least make niyyah/intention to remember Allah swt at the start of every activity. And your intention is that you are remembering Allah swt during the whole activity.
2. Filling in the Gaps: Second stage is to remember Allah swt within the gaps you get during your intense work. When people are at work, normally when they get these gaps they stare out of the window, they check their messages, they go and check CNN. After every 30-40 minutes people do these things for a few minutes.
These are the gaps. They are called lulls; lapse; down-time. Whatever activity you are engaged in is not so intense now. There is a gap in it. Second stage of wuquf e qalbi is to fill in these gaps with the dhikr of Allah swt. First stage was just to remember Allah swt at the outset, at the beginning. Second stage is to remember Allah swt at the beginning, and also during any free gaps, moments that you get. You can call it filling in the gaps.
Instead of staring out of the window, turn to your heart and remind it of Allah swt; introspection. Once you reach this stage, you will realize how many small gaps you have. By small I mean two minutes or less. Why did I say that? Because in two minutes, you cannot really do anything significant worldly; there is nothing significant that you can accomplish of the dunya. But the dhikr of Allah swt is significant even if you do it for a second.
Look at twitter; the micro-ghaflah. Shaytan realized that there will be mashaikh teaching people that if you have two minutes or less then remember Allah, so he came up with a way so they could be ghafil in two minutes. He came up with twitter. It is an insignificant thing; to twit or to tweet, or whatever. It also has a whole girdan.
However you do wuquf e qalbi, it ends up covering your whole day. Because your intention was, even at the first level, that I will remember Allah swt all the time. In order to fill in the gaps, you must be aware of the gaps. To be aware of the gaps you must always be watchful. Your watchfulness will also be beloved to Allah swt.
What is the niyyah? The intention is that the second I get a 5 minutes gap I will remember Allah swt. Look at the shopkeeper who has a line of customers, he will be waiting when the line will end so he could do dhikr. Finding these gaps is also dhikr, finding and filling the gaps is also dhikr.
3. Remembering Allah swt all the time: Then when you practice this second stage for a couple of years, you might be on your way to the third stage; you always remember Allah swt. It is not only during the gaps. The activity itself can also not distract you from Allah swt.
Dhikr is like sprinkles. If you have a vanilla ice-cream and you keep adding chocolate sprinkles to it then my son Wajih will tell you that it has become a chocolate ice ice-cream. Once we ordered chocolate flavoured ice-cream, but instead we got vanilla. Allah swt put it in my heart so I put sprinkles of chocolate on vanilla and my son he accepted it – maqbool. I thought Ya Allah this is wuquf e qalbi! But the third stage is like remembering Allah swt all the time.
This will take time. Even getting to the first stage; to remember at the beginning, at the outset, even that will take sometime. This is what it means to become a salik that you want to practice. Some people say I know I am not good enough to play but can I practice with you? We can also think that I know I am not good enough to be a wali or dhakir, but can I practice with you? Maybe Allah swt will one day make you dhakir and spiritual athletes. These were the three levels of wuquf e qalbi.
Depending on your activity, you may be able to do a bit stronger wuquf e qalbi. You just want to fill up any awareness and consciousness. Only use as much awareness for the world as much as you need to use. Here we have observed that the engine of a car automatically turns off when it is idle, we should do the same.
Stages of Muraqaba
1. Attuning. There are stages in muraqaba as well. First is simply attuning yourself to your heart. This takes time and practice. If a person never uses their hands for years, it will get paralysed. Now if all of a sudden they realize that they have a hand and they want to use it, then they will have to do physical therapy everyday.
Same is the case with our qalb, it is spiritually paralysed. In the beginning we are doing spiritual therapy. The physical therapist will tell you that you have to come for 12 weeks everyday. You have to practice, everyday it will keep getting better. Your heart may have been idle, or full of sinful feelings for a long time. Do not get worried if you do not feel anything yet. You are initially just trying to be aware that you have a heart.
2. Struggling. Once you are tuned in, you can feel the qalb and you can sit for 20-30 minutes. But as long as you sit, you get all sorts of thoughts. Now this is a new problem. Second stage is struggling against the thoughts – mujahida. This does not mean you have to actively repel it.
If you get a thought do not repel it. The mujahida is to tune the thoughts out. Like a person who is working at the desk and outside of the window there are cars coming and going. He will tune it all out. He will not try to stop the traffic, he will be so focused on the work that he tunes it out.
This is the stage to focus on Allah swt’s name. Keep focusing on it more and more. The more you focus on the name, the more the thoughts will be ignored. This depends not just on taqwah and sunnah but also on how much time you give to it.
You may find a person who has full taqwah and sunnah and is pious, but just gives 15 minutes a day. For him it will not be enough. These things take time. A lot of people fail here because they cannot tune in. If they do not have taqwah, for that do tawbah. They fail in second stage because they do not give enough time. Make it atleast 1 hour every day.
3. Enjoying. Sometimes you see that a person is so focused on what he is working on, he will say I enjoy it. At this stage I will not have to ask you to increase the time, you will yourself increase the time. You want to reach the third stage. Our mashaikh say that initially dhikr is like medicine; it is bitter, and one has to force themselves to do it. Then it becomes like food and nourishment, and then it becomes the dessert and delight.
Feelings during Muraqaba
What should one feel during muraqaba: When a person can start focusing, they experience different things.
1. Taharruk: This is some kind of a vibration, movement, or fluttering of the heart. Allah swt says:
إِذَا ذُكِرَ ٱللَّهُ وَجِلَتۡ قُلُوبُہُمۡ
whose hearts feel fear when Allah is mentioned [8:2]
When Allah swt is mentioned, their hearts start fluttering. The spiritual heart is fluttering, the physical heart is the cage of the spiritual heart, so you might feel it physically as well. Sometimes people feel it as a pressure. This is usually a first sense in their latifah.
2. Hararat.: A sensation of warmth from that latifah. But these are the symptoms.
3. Tadakkur: This is your first real aim, other prior things are not goals. Here you feel that you are listening to Allah, Allah. Your awareness is Allah, Allah. You do not hear it with your actual ears. You become completely aware of this Allah, Allah.
4. Tabattul. You are lost in the dhikr of Him, you are unaware of even the name of Allah swt. The dhikr of name gives dhikr of the Being named with that name. This is pure and core dhikr. You feel like you are just remembering Allah swt. You are still oblivious of Allah, Allah although you are doing it. Just like a person who recites durud and gets drowned so much in feelings that they become unaware of what they are saying.
One reason people may not experience these feelings is that to be aware of your batin requires an ability of you to be aware of your innerself. Sometimes the history of sins can numb this experience. You have these things but you cannot feel it. So keep practising and it will take longer. Some people have to do more just to get the awareness of it happening.
So then there should be some other mark in this situation to know you are progressing. You will get feelings outside of muraqaba, and that is the real goal. Haya, taqwah, sabr, less distraction in salah, more longing to make dua, these are all signs of progress. And everyone is aware of these things.
You can check what was your stamina and feelings for du’a before? If these things are getting better then be 100% content that these things are working out for you. Doctors suggests the best medicine, you take it, you do not feel anything and you get better. You say that is a wonderful medicine.
Your following of Shari’ah, level of akhlaq, it goes up, interpersonal relations go up. As your spiritual health gets better you will eventually be aware of it. But in this route, the salik usually by passes the first two feelings and feels tadakkur. Do not worry that I could not feel vibration. If that is what you want, then we can get you a vibrating chair, massage chair or a heat pad. Tadakkur also has pleasure, and so does tabattul. The remembrance of zaat of Allah swt through his name. Do not worry so much about the harkat and the hararat.
5. Deriving Pleasure from Shari’ah and Sunnah: Imam Rabbani Shaykh Ahmed Sirhindi Mujadah Alif Thani rah has said that there is another stage after tabattul. He meant this in terms of pleasure. A person does get a bit of pleasure from taharuq – it is a pleasurable vibration. A person gets some pleasure from the hararat; it is a pleasurable sensation. A person gets a pleasure from tadakkut; pleasure from the Allah, Allah. And a person gets pleasure from tabattul; from purely remembering the zaat of Allah swt through His name.
He says that there is a fifth pleasure which is even greater than these four, and he says that the sign of that is that a person derives pleasure from following Shari’ah and Sunnah. This is the most pleasurable thing, more pleasurable than any ecstasy and delight, and kefiyat or haal, is the pleasure of following Shari’ah and Sunnah. We were also numb to that pleasure before. When you do the ibadah with the dhikr of Allah swt; when you are able to focus in ibadah then you get lutf and pleasure in Shari’ah.
Everything in Shari’ah will give you a delight. You will step out of the masjid with your left foot, even that will give you a delight. Even any minute thing, so to speak, of Shari’ah will give you joy and ecstasy.
That is why these kamil awliya, everything they do is according to Shari’ah and Sunnah, because their delight lies in that. Because of that pleasure, they get istaqamah. This is why our mashaikh have said al istaqamatu fauqul karamah – having istaqamah is better than karamah – it means that some extraordinary thing happens; a miracle. Our mashaikh used to say that there is no need for miracles, the greatest miracle is istaqamah on Shari’ah and Sunnah. So go for the gold. You don’t have to do anything else or look for anything else.
It is such a shame that there is this other concept of sufi’ism; that they say it is all about miracles. And they are just looking for miracles. It is written in the books of tasawwuf that once a student told his Shaykh, that Shaykh can I have permission to leave you? I am telling you in slang. Shaykh said, sure but just let me know why. The student replied that I have been in your close company for two years, and I have never seen any miracle – no karamat.
Shaykh asked, in these two years did you ever see me do anything contrary to the Sunnah of Nabi sws? He said no. The Shaykh said that there is no greater miracle than that. This is the fifth and the final stage of pleasure that a person gets delight, joy and ecstasy on following the Sunnah and Shari’ah.
Importance of other Mamulaat
Last thing I am going to tell you for tonight is that this muraqaba and wuquf e qalbi needs its context and backdrop of other mamulaat. Although I have been stressing so much to you about muraqaba and wuquf e qalbi, but it needs the setting, the canvas of tilawat of Qur’an, istighfar and durud sharif.
Someone asked us what is minimum we can do of other mamulaat so they can give more time to muraqaba. Minimum then is recitation of 1/4th Juz of Qur’an, which should gradually be made into 1/2 Juz, 100 times istighfar, and 100 times durud sharif. This is the bare minimum. This is the backdrop with which your muraqaba and wuquf e qalbi will take place. These things are related to each other.
Sometimes people say I do not have time for Qur’an. How long does it take to recite a quarter juz? Maybe 10 to 15 minutes. How can you say you do not have 10 to 15 minutes to recite Qur’an when everyday in your book of deeds you are showing that you have 10 to 15 minutes or more for WhatsApp, 10 to 15 minutes or more for phone, 10 to 15 minutes or more for news? How many things are there which you do for more than 10 to 15 minutes or more, is it only Qur’an that you don’t have time for?
If someone calls you and you don’t even know who it is, you pick it up because you are curious that who is calling me and what do they have to say to me? You are so curious about what the unknown creation wants to say to you, when will you be curious of what that Known Creator Allah swt wants to say to you? How can you say you do not have time for Qur’an? There is no way anyone can say this.
If technically you are living such a life and let’s say you can proof you are too busy to recite Qur’an, then you should make tawbah from such a busy life. What business and what type of a life is that? Is it the kind of business that you would want to present to Allah swt on the Day of Judgement? Make tawbah from that.
Istighfar means to say sorry to Allah swt. If you cannot do istighfar then it means you do not have time to say sorry to Allah swt. Once I saw on a plane that an aunty accidentally spill some Pepsi on a fellow passenger. She said sorry to that person so many times. When we had landed then again at the end she came specially to say sorry to that person. We spill our sins on the nur of imaan that Allah swt gave us, and we say we don’t have time to say sorry.
We put in so much effort to please the creation, then how many times should we say sorry to Allah swt. If you think that I cannot say sorry to Allah swt but I want to do muraqaba and have feelings, it will not work like that. This is another beautiful thing, that whenever you say sorry to Allah swt, you say sorry for everything. How can you say I’m too busy to recite durud? How can you forget that Nabi sws who never forgot you? If you will not do these mamulaat, it will not work then, this muraqaba will not open up like that.
You must also leave sin. If you keep sinning, even if you do muraqaba, it is like pouring zamzam on a diamond that is lying in the gutter. The diamond will only be clean till you are pouring zamzam on it. But the minute you stop, it will get dirty again. If you are standing in the middle of the garbage dump, you can use the whole bottle of itr (perfume) but you will not become fragrant.