Someone said to al Hasan ibn Ali, “Abu Dharr says, ‘Poverty is more beloved to me than wealth, and illness more beloved to me than health.’” He said, “May Allah (ﷻ) show mercy to Abu Dharr. As for me, I say, Whosoever is absolutely dependant on the goodness of Allah’s (ﷻ) choosing for him, does not wish to be in any state other than the one which Allah (ﷻ) has chosen for him”.
Abu Dharr (r.a.) was considered one of the most ascetic of the Companions (r.a.). Sayyiduna Hasan (r.a.) was the son of Sayyiduna Ali (r.a.) and Sayyidatuna Fatimah (r.a.), and the grandson of Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ). These two very pious people commented on the same matter in different ways, because each one was speaking from a different spiritual station. Each one’s understanding flows from the nature of his station. And so, what appears to be differences are in fact only interpretations of the same matter. Both interpretations are therefore good. Abu Dharr (r.a.), from his station, loved poverty more than wealth and illness more than health and in that he was contented. His preference does not indicate discontent but indicates greater spiritual contentment in the one rather than the other.
Sayyiduna Hasan (r.a.) saw the matter differently and he considered whatever state that Allah (ﷻ) placed him in as being the best for him, whether it is illness and health, or poverty and wealth. His explanation indicates total acceptance of his Lord’s Decree and he did not see that he could have any preferences in that. His dependence was too intense and too overbearing. His understanding of his station was also correct.
We learn from this a very important rule in spirituality and that is that the spiritual masters speak from different spiritual dimensions. It is this dimension that determines their words. And so, although their words or the understandings may differ, what they are saying is the most excellent at the station at which each one of them is. One of the big mistakes that many of us make, when we try to understand the statement of the Awliya’, is that we measure their words and understanding according to our very limited understanding of the spiritual status and station at which they are. That is why Mawlana Shaykh Nazim once said that when the Awliya’ speak, they take us into another world. Those of us who are trained outside spirituality, in one of the many disciplines in Islam, would not understand their words, because such people are functioning outside the realms at which the Awliya’ are functioning. The latter draw their understanding from the Presence of Allah (ﷻ) and/or the presence of Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ). Those who have been schooled outside spirituality draw what they know from books. The difference between drawing from the Presences and drawing from books is like chalk and cheese. This is one of the reasons why those whose knowledge come from books do not have the faintest idea of what the Awliya’ are speaking about. They have no understanding of spiritual matters.
There are some good examples of how people, depending on the sources of their knowledge, differ in the interpretation of what the Qur’an and the Sunnah says. In one of the many Traditions, Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ) states that cleanliness or purification is half of one’s faith. Those who draw their knowledge from books, and this is also correct from their point of view, consider this purification to be confined to the well known acts of purification, such as wudu, tayammum and ghusl. Those who draw the understanding from the Presences, see this purification as a purification of the self. Both views are correct, but each view comes from a different understanding. Our problem is that we tend to accept the one understanding and not the other.
Another example of this is with regard to the verse:
أَللَّهُمُّ آتِنَا فِى الدَّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَّ فِى الآخِرِةِ حَسَنَةً
O Allah, grant us goodness on earth and in the Hereafter
There is a view that the goodness on the Dunya that Allah (ﷻ) refers to is to have a pious wife. This is one acceptable view. Another view states: No, when Allah (ﷻ) refers to goodness in the Dunya, Allah (ﷻ) means all those beliefs and practices in this world, which would enable one to enjoy special goodness in the Hereafter. Again, although the understandings are different, they are both acceptable.
This understanding that certain selected individuals obtain from the Presence of Allah (ﷻ) is also best illustrated by the way Nabi Esa (a.s.) spoke. Intensely pious; to such a degree that he is referred to in the Qur’an as the Spirit of Allah (ﷻ) and so deeply conscious of his Lord that he saw his relationship with Allah (ﷻ) as being as a father and son relationship. He was unable to express this relationship in a better way, and those who listened to him, when he had said these words, interpreted what he said as meaning that he was the son of God. He was only giving expression to a very intimate relationship that he had with his Lord, and speaking from perhaps one of the highest stations that a Messenger (a.s.) can enjoy. But the meanings of his words were distorted by those who listened to him.
I am saying all this to you to make you understand that over the centuries, many of the great spiritual luminaries in Islam such as Imam Ghazali and Imam Ibn Arabi, and many others, were declared kafir because of their views. They spoke from a dimension that we do not understand and on this basis of the lack of understanding, they were declared outside the pale of Islam. Today many of the things that Mawlana Shaykh Nazim says, are beyond our understanding, and so people condemn him, because as they say, he makes a statement or claims spiritual powers that go contrary to the teachings of Islam. Because of my intimate relationship with him, I know his intense love for Allah (ﷻ) and His Messenger (ﷺ) and I know that he, as we say, is a man of God. When some of these claims are mentioned to me, I just consider that he knows best and I do not understand. Part of the rules in spirituality is that you must accept what your shaykh says and leave the matter at that. I hope that this letter will give us some understanding of why we cannot comprehend many of the statements of the Awliya’. They come to us from a dimension beyond our knowledge. May Allah (ﷻ) also grant us that station, amin.