Many persons have been on the path of spiritual purification of their souls for a very long time. In most cases, if not in all, they have had no indication as to their spiritual progress or, to put it in another way, at what station their Lord has placed them. Of course, one of the first lessons that they have learnt is that their Lord grants and their Lord places. They have no say in all of this, because it has to do with the Divine Workings. All of them understand this but there is always the curiosity of wanting to know. However, they have no access to what is only in their Lord’s knowledge. Under certain very special circumstances, a very small section of the knowledge concerning spiritual stations is granted to certain people. And so, they come to know about it. Sometimes others become aware of this knowledge either during their lives, or just before their deaths or in the Hereafter. In fact, whether they know or whether they don’t know, has no impact on their spiritual situation.
It is very interesting that while on this road, they pass through certain phases with regard to their desires and their thinking. At the initial stage on this road, they are extremely curious about their spiritual development. They have just started on a very long road, have only taken the first few steps, but they want to know about their spiritual development. Within my own experience with Mawlana Shaykh Nazim, he just brushed the curiosity aside. It is like a student who has just entered preschool but he wants to know how far his progress is in his post-graduate degree. It is quite humorous.
Later on, as they settle down, and come to realize the extent of the task that they have accepted on their shoulders and also the length of the road, then this curiosity about their spiritual development disappears out of their thought processes. They don’t think about it anymore, neither do they worry about it. The task is too immense and the road too long. And so, their primary concentration is on the moment. In a sense, they have become people of the moment, as people in Tasawwuf are referred to. They are now concerned with the amount of work they do at any given moment, of the work that has to be done at that moment. The child-like curiosity of the spiritual station at which they are, is now replaced by a spiritual maturity which is expressed by their primary concentration on what they do or have to do. The curiosity disappears and the maturity takes over. In the Naqshbandi Tariqah also, their original considerable states of dreaming come to an end as the maturity takes over. They might dream occasionally, or not at all. This is a very good sign. I always smile silently to myself when murids describe all their dreams and later complain that they are not dreaming so much anymore or not dreaming at all. I smile because it is in fact good news. They are moving forward.
Maturity does not mean that one has reached the end of the road. It means that one has stopped being concerned or less concerned with the flowers in the garden of the King and more concerned with reaching the Presence of the King. Maturity means that, in a certain sense, there is an intense privatization of one’s religious activities. The lady who used to go to the mosque, for example, now spends her time in the privacy of her bedroom. Public display is replaced by private concentration; another good sign. Maturity also means that one’s concern with the religious development (and the business) of others now either ceases or is considerably reduced. In a sense the stage of maturity is a stage at which one has “grown up” and adopts a grown-up attitude towards one’s religious life. The searching for rewards now ends, and it is replaced by the search for the signs of one’s Lord. The mature persons very seldom speak about what they do and seldom mention what their Lord has granted them. Their adulthood in spirituality gives them an understanding of what they are busy with at another kind of level. The spiritual teenager has died and the grown-up walks strictly on a spiritual path under the guidance of an intensely pious person. They now have the potential to become a brother/sister of their shaykh and part of the common brotherhood of the pious.
I want to speak to you about this; the common brotherhood of the pious. As one’s spirituality grows, and one passes through the different stations of the Naqshbandi way, one eventually reaches a station at which Allah (ﷻ) declares His Love for one and places in one’s heart, the love for Him. You see, all this Love is purely Divine, and there is nothing in it of this world. It is through this Love that Allah (ﷻ) declares to Jibril (a.s.) His Love for that individual. And it is through this Love that Jibril (a.s.) accepts loving that individual and that he calls on the spiritual beings of the Heavens to also open their hearts for that individual. Those individuals have reached a level at which they have become special to their Lord; so special, that their Lord mentions them by name and declares them Friends and all the inhabitants of the Heavens come to know about them. I do not know whether at the moment of this happening, there is anything greater that those individuals have ever experienced but it is an experience in and through their heart. They might not even be aware of it. In fact, it appears that they are seldom aware of it. The purification of the hearts, the passing through different stations, the acceptance by their Lord of them and the joy of the Heavenly inhabitants of their status, go unnoticed, generally by them. They continue to sit on their cold prayer mats; their foreheads on the ground or with their fingers moving the beads of their rosaries. While these major spiritual events are taking place about them, they quietly continue their religious striving. Perhaps some might know. I do not know if they know. Sometimes others see the change in the individuals’ “appearance”, or dream of their spiritual station or sometimes they dream of it themselves. The one in whose hand they have placed their hand, declares all of this to them. In many cases these individuals just collapse in humility and gratitude. It is at this stage that the shaykh is murshid but also brother. Of course the brotherhood is a very unequalled arrangement. They are lesser or smaller brothers, but still brothers. And through this brotherhood they are allowed, at the spiritual level, to enter circles at which they had never been before. They have become part of the circle of the brotherhood of the pious. When others look at them or when they look at themselves, they just see the “ordinary” citizens. When the intensely holy, like their shaykh looks at them, they see those whom Allah (ﷻ) has accepted as Friends. Sometimes, although they have reached, things still appear very far away from them; their striving and struggling does not cease, and their calls continue. The tears continue to roll down their cheeks and they become more meek and more humble, far less self-centred, and primarily concerned with their Lord. Is this the whole picture? We ask Allah (ﷻ) to let all of us experience similar pictures in our lives, similar portrayals of spirituality, so that we can also become of those who sit in the company of the cream of the pious, amin.