What will you achieve through perfection?
By: Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn at-Tabataba'i
We say: You now know that the perfection of the human being is in his or her annihilation (fanaa) and is of three kinds, reaching to the levels of Tawhid in Action, Attribute and Essence (tawhid fili/ismi/zaati). You also know that the nearness of any existent to the Truth Almighty is in accord with the extent of the limits of its essence and non-existences. Therefore, the medium that exists between the physical human realm and the Truth Almighty originate according to the limits of its essence.
Hence, in his path towards the Truth Almighty a person must pass through all of the levels of Action, Attributes, and Essences in order to obtain the three forms of monotheism.
It is not possible for him to achieve any of the levels of perfection without him gaining annihilation in that level and for that level of perfection to become subsistent (baqa). He will then oversee all the kinds of emanations (faiz) that manifest on the level he is in and all that is below it, and through this he will constantly strive until he acquires the station of Tawhid of the Essence and nothing will be left of him, either in name or description.
“On that day all sovereignty will belong to Allah.” Quran 22:56
This argument, as short as it might be, includes all the stations of the vicegerents (maqamat al-awliya). It explains their levels and states. And is more than enough for those who comprehend and understand.
As for the particulars of their station, no one can know and apprehend them other than their Lord, may His Name be blessed.
The spiritual stations of the vicegerents and especially their secrets are all with Allah Almighty, as the guardianship of their affairs is with Him. Their names and descriptions have been annihilated into Him the Almighty, and it is therefore not possible to comprehend their stations.
He, the Almighty has said: “But they cannot comprehend Him in their knowledge.” Quran 20:110
It suffices them to have the honor that the guardianship of their affairs is with Allah the Almighty and He is their Teacher and Instructor.
He, the Exalted said: “Be it known, verily, the friends of Allah, no fear shall be on them nor do they grieve.” Quran 11:62
And He described them as follows: “Those who believe and were pious.” Quran 41:18
He described them as having characteristic of belief after they had the characteristic of piety, and it is known that piety (taqwa), which is to be cautious of what displeases Allah, can only be established after one believes in Allah and His Messenger (s.a.w.s.).
Therefore, the belief mentioned in the verse is different to the belief that comes prior to piety, and this is only to emphasize that belief should not be absent or fall behind the other form.
The basis of belief, which is to be submissive in general, can be commonly associated with polytheism and other sins.
He, the Almighty said; “And most of them do not believe in Allah without ascribing partners to Him.” Quran 12:106.
However, complete perfection of belief in Allah necessitates the adherence to what the fundamentals and branches of religion demand, which means to refer back to the concept of submissiveness to whatever the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) brought with him, as Allah the Almighty said: “But no, by your Lord! They will not believe until they make you a judge in their disputes, then do not find within their hearts any dissent to your verdict and submit in full submission.” Quran 4:65
Submitting yourself to someone is to subordinate your will to their will; in that you do not want anything other than what they want and do not request anything other than what they request, and this is complete subordination.
As He, the Almighty said: “Say, ‘If you love Allah, then follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins.” Quran 3:31
And: “O you who have faith! Beware of Allah and have faith in His Apostle. He will grant you a double share of His mercy.” Quran 57:28
Allah Almighty confined the second belief (iman) to the Prophet (s.a.w.s.), and this belief is absolute certainty (yakin) in Allah the Almighty, His Names and Attributes, along with certainty in the truth of what His Prophet (s.a.w.s.) brought and to completely follow and submit to him (s.a.w.s.). Their actions are according to his actions and their goals are his goals. He (s.a.w.s.) is their Leader (imam) and he does not have any goal other than gaining the satisfaction of Allah and completely renouncing the world.
He, the Almighty said: “Content yourself with the company of those who supplicate their Lord morning and evening, desiring His face, and do not lose sight of them, desiring the glitter of the life of this world. And do not obey him whose heart We have made oblivious to Our remembrance, and who follows his own desire, and whose conduct is [mere] profligacy.” Quran 18:28
He, the Almighty then promised them, saying: “And give good news to the faithful that they are in good standing with their Lord.” Quran 10:2
The expression having a good standing or on a true footing is a metaphor for a fixed and true place, which is the level that Allah considers them to be in.
He, the Almighty has said: “That which is with you will be spent but what is with Allah shall last.” Quran 16:96
He said whatever is with Him will permanently stay and will not perish or ruin.
He also said: “Everything is to perish except His Face.” Quran 28:88
He has informed of the perishing of everything other than His Face.
It becomes clear that what He, the Almighty has is His Face, and the face of something cannot be detached from it, because it is the thing that is in front and what one faces you with. These kinds of believers are conversant with their firm footing in the Glory of His Face, consumed in the Lights of Divinity and are outside the vicinity of performers who do not belong to any particular place.
“Whichever way you turn, there is the Face of Allah.” Quran 2:115
He, the Almighty has also said: “Everyone is ephemeral; yet lasting is the Face of your Lord, Majestic and Munificent.” Quran 55:26, 27
The reciters of Quran have all agreed that the word (Ðæ) should be read as nominative (raf’) and it is not a divided adjective, meaning that it is connected to the Face as an adjective, as these two verses demonstrate: “Blessed is the Name of your Lord.” Quran 55:78
“Celebrate the Name of your Lord.” Quran 87:1
The Majestic (jalal) and the Munificent (ikram) encompass all the attributes of Beauty and Majesty, and none of His Elevated Attributes and Beautiful Names are excluded from these two.
These saints of Allah are annihilated into Him and turn to manifest between these Names, there is no name or attributes left in them other than His Attributes and Names, Glory be to Him. Their veil has been lifted and nothing has remained within them other than His Face, the Majestic Munificent. Try to understand this point.
From this we can understand the meaning of the tradition of the Angels bringing an inscription from Allah to his vicegerents in Heaven, and in this inscription it is written: “From the Living and Ever-lasting King to the living and ever-lasting king.”
Allah the Almighty has promised them to bring them near to Him, and He has called them the ones brought near (al-muqarribin), introducing them as the foremost ones. He said: “And the Foremost Ones are the foremost ones; they are the ones brought near [to Allah].”Quran 56:10-11
He has defined the foremost ones as those who have restricted themselves in only doing good deeds, He the Almighty said: “Then we made the inheritors of the Book (Quran) those whom we chose from among Our servants; and of them is he who causes himself to suffer a loss, and of them is he who follows the middle course, and of them is he who is the foremost in goodness...”Quran 32:31-32
And: “And Verily they who are thrilled for fear of their Lord, and those who believe in the signs of their Lord, and those who associate not (anything) with their Lord.”
He negated from them any kind of polytheism, in knowledge or in action, until He said: “It is they who are zealous in [performing] good works, and take the lead in them.”
They are the real believers, who have complete knowledge in Allah and do everything for Him; they are the foremost, the ones brought near and they have certainty.
Allah has promised that He will uncover the veil from their hearts; He said: “No indeed! The record of the pious is indeed in ‘Illiyun. And what will show you what is ‘Illiyun? It is a written record, witnessed by those brought near [to Allah].”
‘Illiyun is the celestial heavenly world. He, the Almighty said: “Thus did we show Ibrahim the dominion of the heavens and the earth, that he might be of those who possess certitude.” Quran 6: 75
This ultimate goal is the same as that also mentioned in another verse: “Thus we established Joseph in the land and that We might teach him the interpretation of dreams.” Quran 12:21
And, “And that God may know those who have sincerely believed, and that He may take witness from among you.”
But this goal is not similar to that of this verse: “So that mankind may not have any argument against Allah, after the [sending of the] apostles.”
The verse establishes that Allah, the Almighty will show His worshippers who have certitude the dominion of the heavens and the earth. Moreover, He, the Almighty also further explains this in His saying: “All His command, when He will something, is to say to it ‘Be’ and it is. So immaculate is He in whose hand is the dominion of all things and to whom you shall be brought.”
The Dominion is the realm of command (alam al-amr), which is the celestial heavenly world. As the tradition says: “If the devils did not hover around the hearts of the children of Adam, they would see the dominion of the heavens and earth.”
Another proof that Allah will give the witnessing of the heavens and earth as a gift to those who have attained certitude is Allah’s saying: “Were you to know with certain knowledge, you would surely see hell. Again, you will surely see it with the eye of certainty.”
And: “No indeed! Rather their hearts have been sullied by what they have been earning.”
Allah, the Almighty also points to such an implication in that committing sins removes the precept of certainty, as He says: “They impugned them –though they were convinced in their hearts.”
And: “Have you seen him who has taken his desires to be his god and whom Allah has led astray knowingly, and set a seal upon his hearing and his heart, and drawn a blind on his sight?”
In conclusion, it is important that good deeds be accompanied with certainty so that it results in an outcome which is fruitful. He said: “To Him ascend the good word, and He elevates righteous conduct.”
Returning to our discussion, Allah has promised these vicegerents that He will change their lives, that is, their existence. He said: “Is he who was lifeless, then We gave him life and provided him with a light by which he walks among the people, like one who dwells in a manifold darkness which he cannot leave?”
He says that they have a light and walk with it among people, living with them, and living is with the body and the senses. So, they have an illuminated life, and divine senses and bodies.
He, the Almighty said: “Thus have we revealed to you the spirit of Our dispensation. You did not know what the Book is, nor what is faith; but We made it a light that we may guide by its means whomever We wish of our servants.”
He Almighty explains that this light is an intellectual spirit, so it is more important that it be within the Realm of Command, as He says: “[For] such, He has written faith into their hearts and strengthened them with a spirit from Him.” Quran 58:22
He then informed them that He, the Glorified, will guide them to His Light, and He is the Light over all lights, and by Him all the heavens and earth are illuminated. He said: “Allah is the Light of the heavens and earth.” Quran 24:35
Then He gave the example of this light in which He illuminates the heaven and earth, saying: “The parable of His Light is a niche wherein is a lamp –the lamp is in a glass, the glass as it were a glittering star –lit from a blessed olive tree, neither eastern nor western, whose oil almost lights up, though fire should not touch it. Light upon Light. Allah guides to His Light whomsoever He wishes.” Quran 24:35
His Light has two veils of light in which by them the heavens and earth are illuminated. One of them is the niche, which is the less illuminative and a lamp gives light to it, and the latter is, in turn, illuminated by the glass.
So, the lamp oversees with the light of the glass and the niche, and the glass oversees with the light of the niche, and it is the niche that lights up and gives light to others.
It might be that the light of the earth is from the niche, and above it is the glass, and maybe the light of the heavens is from the glass, as He the Almighty has said: “He directs the command from the heaven to the earth.” Quran 32:5
In this verse there is no mention of anything above and beyond the heavens or the earth, or any explanation of the lamp mentioned in the verse, other than what is understood from His saying: “Lit from a blessed olive tree, neither eastern nor western, the oil whereof almost glows forth (of itself), and (even) though fire touch it not.” Quran 24:35
He, the Almighty then mentioned the examples of the niche He gave, explaining it more: “(That lamp is lit) in houses which Allah has permitted to be exalted and His name be mentioned therein, therein declare glory unto Him in the mornings and the evenings. Men whom neither merchandize nor any sale diverts them from the remembrance of Allah, and they are constancy in prayer and paying the poor rate.” Quran 24:36-37
He describes them as those who do not forget the remembrance and good deeds. They are not veiled from His remembrance, and do not pay attention to anything else other than Him the Almighty. They are devoted to Him, and we have already stated some of the characteristics of the sincere in the last chapter when the verses about them were mentioned.
He, the Almighty said: “Hallowed is Allah far above from what they ascribe unto Him. But not so are the sincere chosen servants.” Quran 37:15-16
“So it was, that We might turn away from him all evil and indecency. He was indeed one of our dedicated servants.”
“By your might, I will surely pervert them, except Your exclusive servants among them.”
“So they will indeed be arraigned before Him – all except Allah’s exclusive servants.”
“And you shall be recompensed not but what you were doing, Save the servants of Allah, the sincere.”
He, the Almighty explains that He is exalted from any praise other than their praise. He will dissuade them from all evil and corruption, and satanic insinuations will strike all except for them.
The frightening horror of Judgment Day, like the thunder strike, the dreadful scream, the gathering of everyone, the giving of the book of deeds, the judgment and the weighing, will not apply to those sincere ones.
They are excluded from all these levels, and the reward they receive is not for the actions they have done, because they did not have actions.
This is a friction of the Gifts of Allah the Almighty regarding His Vicegerents.
It can be understood from all that was explained that the endowed Gifts of Allah are their rights because of their annihilation in their actions, characteristics, and essences.
The first thing that is annihilated is their actions, and the least of that, as mentioned by some scholars are six things: death, life, sickness, health, poverty and wealth.
They witness these six things from the Truth Almighty, like when one sees a movement but doesn’t see the mover, but he knows there is a mover. Allah Almighty takes the position of their actions, so their actions become His actions, as the traditions in al-Kafi and al-Tawhid refer, narrating from Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) regarding His saying: “So when they roused Our wrath, We took vengeance on them.” Quran 43:55
“Verily Allah Almighty does not anger or regret the way we do, however He created vicegerents for Himself, and they regret and accept, and they are created and have a Lord. He Almighty has made their acceptance His acceptance and their anger His anger.”
This is because He has made them callers unto Him and the guides towards Him, and hence they became so. Of course, these features are not attributed to Allah the same way as they are attributed to His creation, but this meaning is what He Himself has stated.
Allah Almighty has also said: “Whosoever insults one of my vicegerents has challenged Me to a combat, and has called Me to it.”
He also said: “Whoever obeys the Apostle certainly obeys Allah.” Quran 4:80
And: “Indeed those who swear allegiance to you, swear allegiance only to Allah.” Quran 48:10
These meanings all go back to the explanation we have already given, and similar to this is contentment, anger, and other attributes of Allah the Almighty that are similar to it.
The meaning for the word ‘similar’ in the words of Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) is meant to show the numerous verses and traditions that have spoken of this matter, again like: “And you did not throw when you threw, rather it was Allah who threw.” Quran 8:17
And: “Nor does he speak out of his own desire: it is just a revelation that is revealed to him.” Quran 53:3-4
The pronoun in the second verse [‘it’/æ ﻫ] relates to speaking (nutq).
And: “You have no hand in the matter.” Quran 3:128
Our Beloved Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.s.) has also said: “Fatima (s.a.) is a part of me! Whoever hurts her has hurt me, and whoever hurts me has hurt Allah.”
Furthermore, the tradition narrated by al-Daylami will be mentioned soon, by the will of Allah.
Then, Allah will annihilate the actions and characteristics of the vicegerents, and the principle actions, that can be deduced from the traditions of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) are five: life, knowledge, power, hearing and listening. Allah Almighty has substituted and taken the place of these vicegerents in these five actions.
It is narrated in al-Kafi, narrating a tradition from Imam al-Baqir (a.s.) who had said: “Verily Allah, may He be Glorified, said: “There is no servant of my servants who can come near to Me by something more loved by Me than what I have made obligatory on them. And, surely, a servant will come close to Me with supererogatory prayers until I love him, and if I love him I will become his hearing that he hears with, his sight that he sees with, his tongues that he speaks with, his hand that he strikes with. If he was to supplicate to Me I will answer him and if he were to ask Me I would give him.”
This popular tradition is narrated in both the Sunni and Shia schools and the Blessed Book of Allah gives evidence to this meaning when He says: “Say, ‘If you love Allah, then follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins.” Quran 3:31
And: “O you who have faith! Be wary of Allah and believe in His apostle. He will grant you a double share of His mercy and give you a light to walk by, and forgive you.” Quran 57:28
In applying these two verses together, both ordering the following of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and belief in Him, which are one thing, we can conclude that Allah’s love of His servants is mercy over mercy, and it bequeaths to such a person a Light he walks with among the people, living and socializing with them.
This person used to live and socialize with his physical self and its parts, like hearing , seeing, touching and tasting, but then it changed into a Light from his Lord.
This Light is a living soul through which human beings are revived, as was already mentioned in the verse: “Is he who was lifeless, then We gave him life and provided him a light by which he walks among the people...” Quran 6:122
The outer context of ‘We made for him’ till the end of the verse is an explanation for the raising and giving of life.
It is stated in Ithbat al-Wasiyah by al-Masudi, narrating from the Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (a.s.) who had said in a sermon: “Glory be to You, which eye has the ability to witness the Radiance of your Light, and elevate to the gleaming Light of Your Power? Which perception can perceive anything below that, other than the eyes whose veils You have uncovered and ripped away the blinding veils? You dispersed their spirits to the sides of the wings of the Spirits, and they called for You between your Pillars. They entered between the Lights of Your Radiance, and oversaw from the level of the soil to the level of Your Grandeur. The People of the Kingdom (malakut) called them ‘Visitors’ (zawwar), and the People of the All-Powerful (jabarut) named them the ‘Builders’.
The tradition of Hisham, which refers to the same thing, has already been mentioned in Chapter Three.
This meaning is very commonly elaborated and mentioned in the supplications. In Imam Ali’s (a.s.) intimate supplication in Shabaan, he says: “O Allah, and inspire unto me the enthrallment of remembering You in Your remembrance, and make my vitality towards the Spirit of Your Names and Place of Sanctity”... “O Allah grant me total dedication towards You, and illuminate the eyes of our hearts by brightening its sight in seeing You, so the eyes of the hearts will tear pass through the veils of light, and will reach the core of Greatness, and our souls will become attached to the Glory of Your Sanctity.”
This intimate discourse (munajat) of Shabaan holds the introduction and preliminary steps to wayfaring and witnessing.
It is narrated in Ibn Fahd’s ‘Uddah a-Dai’ that Wahab ibn Munabbih said: “A part of what Allah revealed to Prophet David (a.s.) was: “O David My remembrance is for those who remember, Me heaven is for those who obey, My love is for those who yearn, and I Myself am only for the Lovers.”
After the annihilation of characteristics and actions, their essence is annihilated, and their names and descriptions vanish. The Truth Almighty will take their place. It is stated at the end of ‘Risalah al-Tawhid’ that this station is so exalted that it is beyond words and terms or for a sign to touch it. It is being called a station (maqam) is a figure of speech. It is this that Allah gave to His Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.), and the Pure Progeny (a.s.) that followed after Him.
I say: Now He the Almighty has made the vicegerents of their nation succeed them (a.s.), as abundant traditions prove that Allah Almighty joins them (a.s.) with their followers in the levels of the Hereafter. In the following tradition of al-Daylami, it says: “They will transfer from the abode of annihilation to the abode of subsistence, and the abode of satan to the abode of the Compassionate.”
From this it can be understood that the stations and miracles that Allah Almighty has promised creation in the Hereafter are given with blessedness to the saints in this world, and in it they are connected to their Imam (a.s.).
This station as you now know is more glorified than a station itself, and it has been expressed as such by the Imams (a.s.) in traditions that are extensive and abundant in regards to the negation of Attributes. Therefore, this station of the vicegerents of our nation is subjoined by the inheritance of the stations of the Imams (a.s.). Understand this point.
Moreover, one of the Divine Gifts that these vicegerents are endowed with is their traversing the intermediate realms between them and their Lord, and this point has already been explained.
It is stated in Bihar al-Anwar, narrating from al-Irshad by al-Daylami, and two chains of narrations have been mentioned for this tradition, part of which is in what follows: “Allah Almighty said: “O Ahmad, do you know what kind of life is most pleasant and what life subsists more?”
He said: “O Allah, no.”
Allah said: “For the pleasant life, it is that such a person does not break away from My remembrance, does not forget My blessings, does not neglect My rights, and night and day is after acquiring of My satisfaction.
As for the subsisting life, it is for them to work on their selves so that they no longer have any concern about the world and it becomes belittled in their eyes. The Hereafter becomes greater for them, and they prefer My desire over their desire. They seek My satisfaction, and amplify My blessings.
They mention what I have done to them, and they confess to Me day and night whenever they commit bad deed or a sin. They purify their hearts from whatever I dislike. They hate the Satan and his temptations, and they do not allow him to overcome their hearts. If they do so I will grant their hearts love so that I make their hearts for Me, and their leisure, concern, work, conversation will all be from the blessings I bestow unto them with those who are of the people of My creation who love Me.
I will open the eyes of their hearts and ears, so that they will hear with their hearts, and see with their hearts My Glory and Magnitude. I will narrow the world for them, and make them hate the delights which are in it. I will warn them of the world and what is in it, the same way a shepherd warns his sheep of the pastures that are dangerous.
If they become such, they would flee from the people, and they would transfer from the abode of subsistence to the abode of remaining, and from the abode of the satan to the abode of the Compassionate.
O Ahmad I will adorn them with awe and greatness, and this is the pleasant life, and the life of subsistence. This is the station of contentment.
So, whoever does according to My Pleasure I will grant them three features: I will make them know gratitude that will not be mixed with ignorance, remembrance that will not be mixed with forgetfulness, and a love of Me that will not be preferred by the love of any creation.
If he loves Me I will love him, and will open the eye of his heart onto My glory, and will not hide from him the elite of My creation. I will converse with them in the dark of the night and the light of the day so that he will sever his conversation with creation and gatherings with them, and I will make him hear My speech and the sound of My Angels.
I will make him know the secrets I have hidden from My creation. I will dress him with a dress of shyness so that all creation will be shy in front of him. He will walk on the earth, all forgiven, and I will make his heart aware and shrewd, and will not hide from him anything from heaven and hell.
I will make him know what people will go through in the horror of Judgment Day, and how I judge the poor and the rich, the knowledgeable and the ignorant. I will make him sleep in his grave and bring down Munkar and Nakir to ask him, and he will not see the distress of death, the darkness of the grave and burial, and the dismay of Judgment Day.
I will elect for him a scale, and open his Book of Deeds and put it in his right hand. He will read it, and I will not put between Me and him an explainer. These are the features of the Lovers.
O Ahmad, make your concern one concern, and make your tongue one tongue, and make your body alive, and do not ever be inattentive, for whoever is inattentive in remembering Me, I do not worry in which valley they perish.”
In Bihar al-Anwar again, narrating from al-Kafi, al-Ma’ani, and al-Rawandi’ Nawadir in different chains of narrators from Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) and Imam Musa Kazim (a.s.), narrating from the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and what is mentioned here is the same as that stated in al-Kafi –where he said: “The Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.s.) met with Haritha ibn Malik al-Numani al-Ansari and said to him: “How are you O Haritha ibn Malik al-Numani?”
Haritha said: “O Messenger of Allah, I’m a true believer.”
The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said to him: “For everything there is a reality, so what is the reality of what you said?”
He said: “O Messenger of Allah, I have turned away from the world. I have stayed up late at nights [in worship]. I have made thirsty my days [in fasting]. Now, I see the Throne of My Lord, and He has brought forward Judgment Day. It is like as if I see the people of heaven visiting each other in heaven, and I hear the howling of the people of hell in hellfire.”
The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said: “A servant whom Allah has lightened [his heart] with insight (basirah) and steadfastness.”
If you were to contemplate properly on the verses and traditions that we have transcribed here, and that which we have not mentioned is far more than the brevity of what we have, and if you were to ponder over the remarks and phrases, you would see in the traits of the awliya’ such mysteries that it will be impossible for any kind of expression to express.
Allah is the guide and the Helper. We now come to the end. Praise be to Allah for us being able to finish, and praise and peace be to our Master Muhammad and His Pure Progeny.