An-Nafs al-Mulhama: The Station of the Inspired Nafs
The Third Station
“By the soul that which shaped it and inspired it with its dissolution and its piety.” (91: 7-8)
The inspired nafs: its walking, world, place, condition, source (warid), and qualities as well as the remedy to walk through it and be elevated to the fourth station.
Its walking is helped by Allah. This means that the traveler in this station sees only Allah, the Exalted, and this is because the reality of his faith has permeated his inward, and in the outward he annihilates everything other than Allah in his witnessing.
Its world is the world spirits; its place is the spirit; its state is deep love; its source (warid) is gnosis (ma'rifa); its attributes are generosity, acceptance of what is, knowledge, modesty, patience, gentleness, and the capacity to withstand pain, to forgive people, to encourage people into concordance, and to witness that Allah has everything in His grasp. So an-nafs al-mulhama has no objection to any of Allah's creation. Also among the qualities in this station are yearning, weeping, restlessness, withdrawing from creation, being busy with the Haqq, constantly under the turning of contraction and expansion, the absence of fear and hope, the love of beautiful sounds, the love of dhikr, joy with Allah, and speaking with wisdom, gnosis, and witnessing. These are the descriptions of the nafs al-mulhama. It is called this because Allah inspired it to know its weak and strong sides, to know what is good for it and what is harmful to it. It hears the whisperings of the angels and the devil.
This maqam is very dangerous and very difficult. The seeker or the traveler requires someone to help him leave the darkness of ambivalence and enter into the light of the tajalli. He needs this help because in this station he is weak, he does not distinguish between jamal and jalal, and he does not distinguish between what comes through the angel and what comes through the shaitan, as he is not totally free of his humanity. It is feared for him in this station that if he forgets himself he will descend to the lowest of the low, by which I mean the first station, which is the station called the one inciting to evil. If this happens, he returns to his old habits regarding eating, drinking, sleeping and mixing a lot with creation. His beliefs may be corrupted by leaving his obligations, taking on prohibitions, claiming that he is in the state of unity, and claiming that he has revelation (al-kashf) from Allah. He may look at the people of obedience and say, “They are simply veiled from this witnessing.” If his belief system is corrupted, he will be destroyed along with the others, and he will become one of the unbelievers (al-kufr), or the mushrikin, those who associate with Allah. The fire of the physical aspect will ignite one more time and burn up any traces of faith. He will lose all his efforts. He will gain nothing. On the contrary, he becomes a shaitan who is lost and who makes others lose their way. He will have imaginings of the shaitan which he will think are tajalli from the Rahman. This can all happen after he has succeeded in pulverizing much of his humanity, strengthening his spirituality, clearing many of the veils in his heart, being close to success, with little left to continue his walk to enter into the presence of the king. He may have drawn very close to the unity and become strong in his struggling against his nafs. This calamity may ensure when he is very close to the station of the maqam of perfection, because here loses all sense of fear, which in the earlier stations kept him from acts of disobedience and encouraged him to take on acts of obedience. When they lose their fear there are very few who still hold on to the shari'a. So, O seeker, follow your shaykh even if your nafs start telling you that you are more advanced that your shaykh and that you are in the state of unity, while your shaykh is still veiled. You need to follow the shari'a and you need to hold onto al-adab.
So, O seeker of completion, let go of any traces of the nafs. Do not let what appear to you to be states of unity cause you to turn back and be cut off. Continue to tear the veils of light and ask for the presence of the unity. Do not pay attention to the manifestation of celestial lights because this is a veil that stops you form reaching the essence. If you do this will cause to you go to return to the station of the animals. So keep the practices that allowed you to reach the state of unveiling, and this will help you to remove more veils. Continue staying up at night, continue with hunger, continue with seclusion, continue to speak little, and hold onto the coattails of your shaykh, if you shaykh is one of the complete ones. Keep telling him what comes into your mind whether it is beautiful or ugly. To the extent that you continue your trust in your shaykh, this will increase your attraction to the holy world (‘alam al-quds) and this will weaken your humanity. It is very possible in this station that you start to believe that you are more knowledgeable than your shaykh. This will only cut you off from his spiritual help. So let go of this thought and know that your shaykh is complete and is a Muhammad Inheritor. Enter under his protection and be convinced that your freedom is in his hands. Be in his hands like the dead with the washer. Do not object to any of his states. If you find yourself objecting, then let him know and make your repentance to him.
If it has not been given to you to keep the company of the complete one, then treat yourself by following the shari'a and the practice of reading the invocations (wirds) that were given to us by the prophets, peace and blessings be upon them. Increase your salaams on the Prophet, increase your asking for forgiveness, and generally increase your dhikr. Keep the company of holy people and keep the company of those who are seeking what you seek. Keep the company of those who have made their migration to Allah.
In summary, this third station combines both good and evil. If you find that the good in your soul overcomes the evil, then you are able to walk through the higher stations, but if the evil overcomes the good, then you will descend to the lowest of the low. If you find this then you need to put your self down and not give your self any credence. You know that your goodness is overcoming your evil if you find in your inward a lot of evidence of the faith that emanates from the reality, if you see that your outward is in accordance with the Islamic shari'a, if your inward carries the certainty that everything that is in existence is under the will of Allah and held by His power, and if your outward is busy fulfilling the orders of Allah avoiding the grave sins and most of the smaller ones.
The sign of more evil than good is that while there is a strong witness of the reality in the inward, his outward is not in accordance with the shari'a. He leaves his obligations, and it would not be surprising if he committed sins. This is because of the effect of witnessing the reality which makes him believe that all his actions are in accordance with what Allah wills. The light the haqiqa veil him from the secrets of the shari'a. The effect of this is that he is discharged from the presence (al-hadra). The end result is that he will lose his dunya and his religion (ad-din). The evil overcomes the good, he becomes an unbeliever (zindiq), and he does not adhere to any religion. At this point it is hard to distinguish between him and an animal.
If you leave everything that is not pleasing to Allah, you will be given insight and every good, because then you will see with the eye of Allah, you will hear with the ear of Allah, you will become a gnostic by Allah, walking in Allah or by Allah. In this spiritual station you will have the subtleties, you will be close to completion, you will be close to arrival, most veils will be removed from you, especially the darker or coarser ones, and you will have let go of most of the appetites of the nafs because this maqam is for the spirit. Even though there is still some veiling, the veils here are from the light, and its appetite is acceptable, because the appetite here is to see the Haqq, to seek witnessing, and to seek arrival, and this is because love has overtaken it.
In this station you are one of the people passionately in love, overtaken by love, who have no patience with being separated from their Beloved. In this station, let go of the mixing with creation. So that you may not be concerned with them, you have to stay away form them by Allah.
Know that many claim this love but few are truthful. The truthful ones are the ones who have nothing in their hearts except their Beloved. They forget all of creation. What people do never comes to their minds. They do not mention the dunya. They are not concerned with dunya. People may see such a person and say that he is mad, but they are not aware of his elevated and strong state. Know my beloved, that the condition for any lover is to be totally in obedience to his Beloved. Do not think that throwing off restraint mean abandoning the Shari'a.
You disobey your God and you claim his love;
This is indeed very strange!
If your love were true, you would have obeyed Him;
Surely the lover is totally obedient to his Beloved.
Beware of slipping. Do not understand by the expression “to remove all restraint” that it means to leave the orders of the shari'a. This is what those who are misguided think. These are the people who have not left the world of the humanity. They have no knowledge of the haqiqa or of the following of the shari'a. They abandon ritual prayers and fasts, pursue their appetites, and commit sins while they claim that they are in the unity and lovers of the Haqq. They say what they what they are doing is simply an example of having no restraints, and that they are not obligated by the shari'a. Beware, O murid, O seeker, that you are not overtaken by the shaitan in this witnessing. Know that the restraints that you need to remove are of the nafs and evil passion. What is meant is that you should be in concordance with the shari'a, which discourages your having a high station in the world of creation. You should do everything to belittle yourself with creation. You may do things like carrying your shopping on your back or carrying the bread on your head. The reactions to these things vary. For some these actions may look abased; to others they may look more esteemed. So you need to take on the actions that make you look small. You do them, trusting your affairs to Allah. If you do good, you do good to yourself, and if you do evil, you do it against yourself.
Do not do what is contrary to the shari'a as a means of belittling yourself in the eyes of people, such as drinking wine or doing anything else that is haram. This is a ploy of the shaitan that will cut you off from higher aspirations. Everything that is haram causes blackness in the heart. Whenever the heart is darkened, the way things are seen is contrary to the reality. If you are sincere in seeking what demeans you and belittles you in the eyes of people, then do those things that are allowed by the shari'a. There are many things that are useful in this way, yet are still halal. If you take on the haram, this will only harm all the good work you have done so far. What I mean is that you should take on things that do not undermine all your good work. Do things that benefit you and help you on your way to arrival. The means of removing restraint that is acceptable by the shari'a and helps you on your way to meet your Beloved are many. For example: Wearing fancy clothes may be a reason impeding your walking because you need to expend much energy to be able to afford them. This takes up time that you could be using in your walking to your walking to your Beloved.
Know, my beloved, that in this station it is not so difficult for you to remove all restraints because this maqam is the maqam of the deep love. Know that when you are done with removing restraints, your nafs that follow ash-shaitan and prevent you from reaching the Haqq are dead, and you are capable of receiving messages from the spiritual world. It says in a verse in al-Qur'an, “Say Allah and let them plunge in their playing.” They all mean to distract you, so do not be engaged in anything but your Beloved. And if you do not lend your ear to what they say, this is better for you. The seeker may stop walking because of his listening to something. When the seeker hears something, he is disheartened and reverts to the world of humanity. This is one of the dangers of this maqam. Be careful of it. Do not allow anything to distract you from the light. Remember that the end is to your Lord. Do not stop with anything except Allah. Ask Allah's help to discard everything that stops you on your way. There is on arrival to Him except by Him. Do not be deceived by anything revealed to you that makes you stop striving once you have become at ease with striving. Remember that your aspiration is to something very dear and very high. Remember that your way is full of dangers. No one does all the walking except those who have great himma. No one reaches Him except those who have a strong will. So always be aware.
In this station you are given the state of extinction (fana') which will help you in your ascension to the next station, in which the nafs become serene (al-mutma'inna). The fana' in this maqam is a state (al-hal) that is experienced by the traveler (as-salik), which makes him absent from all sensory perception. This is not an absence like sleep or unconsciousness. This is like a person in shock who goes past someone who he sees but does not really see, or like hearing things but not really hearing them, and this is true with all the senses including the mind. No one knows this state except the one who experiences it. From this station, the gnostic of Allah said, “A man stopped me and said, ‘Show me this knowledge that is not opposed by loss, because any knowledge that is opposed by loss is loss.'” [This is extinction.]
This fana' is the first fana'. The second fana' is given in the sixth maqam which is called the maqam of an-nafs al-mardiyya. As for the third fana', it involves the destruction or oblivion of human attributes in the rank of Oneness, and this is through certainty, and this is the third fana' and it is also the baqa'. As it is said, “He annihilates, then he annihilates, and then he annihilates,” and this annihilation is the baqa' itself.
Know that in the first fana', you hear the discourse of the spirituals (rohanis) not through the hearing sense, but through the mirror of your heart. You do not understand what they say, but when the state of extinction subsides and you regain consciousness you begin to understand what they said to you in your secret, and you begin to see what they engraved in the mirror of your heart. Then if you speak, you speak with wisdom.
The messenger of Allah, may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, referred to his secret by saying, “Whoever is sincere with Allah for forty days, springs of wisdom will gush forth from his heart and upon his tongue.”
The talk of the spirituals in this manner is called the “ringing of bells.” “O Allah, You Who give when asked, do not deprive me and the lovers of this fana'. And do not make our lot to be in toil and to satisfy our nafs. Do not make the dunya our main concern nor the limit of our knowledge. And remove everything that impedes us from reaching you.”
You may ask, “Is there a cause of this fana'?” The answer is that it is caused by six matters which make the travelers into gnostics. They are remembrance (adh-dhikr), reflection (al-fikr), hunger (al-jua'), night vigils (az-zahar), silence (as-sond) and seclusion from creation. The most powerful of these things is hunger, O you who seek this fana'. Do not leave your spiritual exercises and your struggling in this station. If they (the exercises) become hard for you, remind yourself of their benefits. Do not be satisfied with illuminations. In this station you do not know whether they are shaitanic or spiritual. Now you understand why the third station is a place of confusion. The salik does not know if what he receives is from the angel or the accursed Iblis.
So, O seeker, do not be deceived by what appears to you and thereby leave the practices that took you so far. Know that your nafs is your enemy. Do not be trusting of it, despite the high stations you think you have reached. Continue in your spiritual exercises and in your struggling, and increase your love and increase your himma, and take pleasure in the states of yearning and intoxication.
Know that this station of the passionate love is a station of delight. It is so delightful that the salik is reluctant to continue his ascension of the stations. Know that love is a veil between you and the Beloved. This state of love is acceptable to the lovers, yet when you compare it to what is above it, it is inferior. When the complete one remembers the state of love and his times in it, he regrets what he experienced in it of removing all restraints and lack of concern. Yet the state of passionate love, if it is accompanied by spiritual exercises of self discipline and effort, is a true state. It is from this state that the lovers compose their poems. They express themselves with anguish and pining. But if this poetry is not accompanied by struggle with the nafs, then know that all these words are lies, because they have not had the true tasting of the heart.
In this station which belongs the spirit, the traveler in the place of passionate love is in a state of being oblivious to himself and even to his Beloved. This explains why the salik continues in this station for a long time, because he is absent from himself. He is busy with uttering the name of his Beloved; singing His praises and delighting in describing His beauty in poetry. This all happens when the state is one of expansion (bast). But if he is in the state of contraction after expansion and he awkens from the sleep of passionate love, his chest becomes constricted, his heart severely aggrieved and he becomes humble, and surrenders in the true surrender. These two states of expansion and contraction keep alternating in this maqam until the seeker is taken to the fourth maqam, where his love is completed and the qualities of expansion and contraction are replaced by awe (hayba) and intimacy (al-‘ans) [pronounced unce; this is like the sense of belonging, being comfortable and living in a beautiful time.]
These are two states that arise upon the complete ones and they are only known by direct tasting. The difference between expansion and contraction is that through contraction the nafs is squeezed [a person becomes impatient in constriction], whereas through attraction this is not so. The difference between intimacy (al-‘ans) and expansion is that expansion is an overpowering state which may cause the seeker to have bad adab with the Haqq, but with ‘ans it is not like that.
In summary, fear and hope, contraction and expansion, awe and intimacy, and majesty and beauty are really two states only. The difference in names comes because of the difference in the people and the difference in the stations. If these two descriptions are given to the nafs that commands to evil and to the al-lawamma, they are called fear and hope. If these two states come upon the nafs al-mulhama, the inspired nafs, they are called contraction and expansion. If they relate to the nafs al-mutma'inna, radiyya, and mardiyya they are called awe and intimacy. And if they are established by the nafs that are complete, they are called jamal and jalal.
So fear (al-khawf) and hope (al-raj') are for the beginner, expansion (al-qabd) and contraction (al-bast) are for those in the middle station, reverence (al-hayba) and cordiality (al-‘ans) are for the complete one, and beauty (al-jamal) and majesty (al-jalal) are for the Khalifa.
So keep striving, O seeker, to ascend from where you are in fear and hope, to arrive at expansion and contraction, and from these states you will ascend to beauty and majesty which are both comfortable states to you. Both are beautiful to you. Both are useful to you. Whenever you turn to something in a state of majesty, it happens by the permission of Allah, because then you are the khalifa of Allah on His earth as His true slave, and Allah is angry at your anger; Allah is revengeful at your feelings of revenge. So when you see the order of Allah, see things in existence running through your hands, and have no doubt. This increases you in adab with your Creator, increases you in at-tawba from your sins, and increases you in making astafir for the forgetfulness of your heart which takes you away from the station of slavehood (al-‘ubudiyyah).
When you see yourself in this third station on the straight path doing al-jahad with you nafs, be happy with that and be straight as you have been ordered, and worship your Lord until you arrive at certainty. When you follow in this way, you open yourself to completion and to divine attraction. Do not allow your chest to be constricted, because you are doing well and you are opening yourself to happiness. If you do experience constriction and tightness in this station, know that this is because in this station you are in the station of the ruh. The ruh has ascendancy. In the hours of constriction the spirit wishes to break through the cage of the body in order to connect to its world, the world of al-jabarut, and you are not yet capable of this. So have patience in these hours of constriction and difficulty, because in this constriction there are innumerable benefits. Had it not been for the fire of constriction, the nafs would not be cleaned of what is ugly in it, for surely the separation of good and bad is only through fire.
If you see that you are not being straight in your struggle with yourself, and if you see that your appetite is strong and that you are keeping too much company with creation and are attracted to people, weep for yourself. Weep for what has happened to you. Weep about your descent from the highest station to the lowest of the low, and ask Allah to take you back where you were, and ask for increase to arrive at the station of completion. Many seekers are not straight, and they slip. They do not have patience, and regret does not avail them of anything. So oppose your nafs in this station. Do not slip. Whenever you see yourself leaning toward something in this station, struggle with it. Do not agree with it. Whenever you nafs asks you for something that is agreeable to the way, then give it to you nafs. Even if your nafs asks for extreme hunger, extreme sleeplessness, extreme separation from creation, and extreme lack of talk, give this. Even though the intention in these things may not be totally pure and seek only a good opinion, give, because this is your mount toward sincerity. The seeker will always have a portion of spiritual pride until he arrives at total sincerity with the help of Allah.
Some of the knowers say that there is no harm in deceiving the nafs by promising it minor miracles and promising it that it will become beloved to all people. So it is encouraged in the acts of mujahada to break norms, even through these things are disliked. So the seeker may say to himself, “If you turn to Allah in your struggle with your nafs, you will be able to perform miracles.” Yet he needs to be wanting the pleasure of Allah in all of this, and he must be wanting to purify himself from his deficiencies. And he needs to want to truly beautify his self with perfection and good qualities.
As for you, O seeker, beware of stopping with any of this because all of these things prevent you from arrival with your Beloved. Know that whenever your himma stops with any created thing, the realities of these things will tell you, “We are a trial. So do not stop with us.”
Some of the seekers do not experience any of this because of the true sincerity of their attention to their Lord. Their hearts are not troubled by these trials and tribulations, nor do they stop with any created thing. Those who receive revelations (al-kashf) early on in their walking are prone to stop in their walking, unless Allah covers them with His greatness. The greatest thing that can happen to the salik is that his inferior qualities are substituted by good qualities that save him from what can cut him off from the way. The whole point of this traveling or walking is to reach the King of Kings. You cannot reach Him except with the lifting of the veils.
Another way of describing veils is to say that they are not what is suitable, or one can say that they are an obstruction between the seeker and the sought. So the changing of these qualities is what makes for a better relationship. Understand this because this is one of the secrets. So work hard to change your qualities. Replace satiety with hunger, sleep with staying up at night, talk with silence, majesty and grandeur with humility, and so on. Be a real human being, not a human animal. If you keep to your ascension, you will reach what even the angels have not reached, and you will come face to face with the mirror of your slavehood to reach the mirror of His Lordship, may He be Exalted. The highest perfection in all of perfection is to be the ultimate in slavehood. This is why it is said that the farthest station in slavehood is a station that is particular to our Master Muhammad, may Allah's blessings and peace be upon him, but you will not attain this, so do not be greedy for it. What you need to ask for is that which draws you near to that station. If you know this, then you know that being humble for Allah is the source of greatest happiness. You will also know that the secrets of Lordship are placed in the station of slavehood. So understand and reflect upon this, and walk the way of humbleness, poverty, and need of Allah. You will become one of those pure free slaves who is free from the slavery to others. You will not arrive at anything except through slavehood (al-‘ubudiyya) to Allah.
In relation to this, Ibn ‘Ata'illah says in his Hikam, “Bury you existence in the earth of obscurity (al-khumul). Nothing grows unless it has been buried. So bury your existence and hide your identity so that the saying of the Prophet, may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, becomes true for you, “Die before you Die.” This is the fana'. When the salik has these attributes, he has no attraction to money, to children, nor to anything, nor does he fear anything. This is undoubtedly the state of the dead, which prepares the wayfarer for the world of the barzakh. [Both are part of the malakut] So if the salik enters into the world of similitudes (alam al-mithal) he will witness what is in accordance with his perception.
So, O seeker, if you are not ready for this, then at least thirst for it and be a seeker of it. Whoever has a desire for something and strives for it with sincerity and determination will reach it by the permission of Allah and by the power of Allah. So keep doing adh-dhikr. Through this, Allah will light a candle in His malakut world which will help you to see the darkness of your nafs that incites to evil. And this will help you to see all of the deficiencies of the nafs, and it will help you to deal with them. Know that the benefits of adh-dhikr only happen through much dhikr, strong dhikr, and hidden dhikr with adab. This means that the person doing dhikr should be facing the Qibla if he can, sitting on his knees or standing, and he must not be distracted but must listen to the words his pronounces, in order to be clean outwardly and inwardly and to maintain his ritual purity. If you have this adab holding onto the shari'a, then you are doing well. Do not be impatient and do not be restless if the opening is not forthcoming. Know that the opening has to come, no matter how long it takes, as long as you are straight, as long as you hold onto the shari'a and the tariqa, and as long as you make your dhikr with this name at all times and it is the dhikr of Allah. Use the invocation La Hu illa Hu some of the time.
This is the majestic name. So when you are doing dhikr, behave as if you are addressing all the limbs of your body, and know that there is nothing in existence except Allah, al-Haqq. Know that other than Allah is not to be found. If you hold yourself to his witnessing and you continue in it, you will be given a higher state which will never leave you, and this is the highest aim. The person in this state is not veiled from creation and he is not veiled from Allah by creation, nor does the Haqq veil him from creation, nor is he veiled by multiplicity from unity, nor is he veiled by unity from multiplicity. He witnesses the Haqq, Glory be to Him, outwardly in every manifestation. He does not witness His name, the Outward, without the places of manifestation, as some of the unifiers do.
There are three types of witnessing: complete, deficient, and more deficient. The complete is as I have just mentioned. The witnessing is deficient with those who, in witnessing the Outward and witnessing the place of manifestation, do not witness many, nor do they witness creation, nor do they witness his secrets, because this witnessing negates the specific qualities of the attributes of Allah. But the one who holds to this is forgiven because he is in the third station and he is overcome by this. As for the more deficient, it is the witnessing of the beginners who are veiled by creation from the seeing of the Haqq, so they see only creation and they see only multiplicity. Perfection is to see multiplicity in the Oneness and to witness the Oneness as it manifests in multiplicity, without either veiling each other. So the complete one is not veiled form the haqq by creation, nor does creation veil him from the haqq. And the first stage of the complete one is the fourth station, the maqam of the nafs al-mutma'inna.
LA HU ILLA HU