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Muraqaba --Science of Sufi Meditation or technique to meditate

by Dr. G. F. Haddad with thanks to Sh. Orfan Rabbat

Q. "I was wondering if you had any material on muraqabah that you may share, Insha'Allah. I have had a few people ask me about it lately, and felt it a sign to learn more about this concept, for my own development, Insha'Allah, as well as sharing it with those who ask. I would appreciate any help you can offer in this matter."

A. Muraqabah means watching over something. In Sufi terminology it means vigilance over one's own actions and thoughts.

Shaykh Muhammad al-Khani said in his book al-Bahja al-Saniyya, which is an abridgment of al-Hadiqa al-Nadiyya authored by Shaykh Dawud al-Baghdadi, the student of Mawlana al-Shaykh Khalid al-Baghdadi:

Do know, O you who are seeking to know Allah the Most High, may Allah guide us all, that the belief of our Naqshbandi masters, may Allah Sanctify their pure sara'ir (innermost souls), is that of the group of Sunna, and that their Way is built upon adhering to the rules of the pure Shari`a (Islamic Law), as thus said our Imam (religious leader), al-Ghawth al-Samadani al-Qutb al-Rabbani, renovator of the second millenium, Shaykh Ahmad al-Faruqi al-Sirhindi quddisa sirruh , concerning adhering to the Shari`a:

"Know that conforming to any one among the manners ( adab ) prescribed by Islam, or refraining from a non-recommended action ( makruh ), even if tanzihi 1 , is countless times better than dhikr (mention of Allah in the heart or with the tongue), fikr (meditating about the greatness of Allah), muraqaba (watchfulness over one's own actions and thoughts) and tawajjuh (turning the heart toward Allah). Yes if he groups these matters together with this adherence, then he has succeeded greatly indeed."


Among the conditions necessary for the murid, according to al-Hadiqa al-Nadiyya 2 :

1. Not to object in the heart against the shaykh's actions, but to find all possible explanations for them. If such is not possible, the murid must blame it on his own lack of understanding, taking as his example the story of Musa and al-Khadir, peace be upon them both. Objection is most repulsive and the one objecting is not excusable: the veil that results from objection has no cure; lifting it is very difficult, and it particularly results in blocking the channels of fayd (spiritual downpour, abundance) upon the murid; so, brother! do avoid this irremediable ailment.

2. To disclose his thoughts, whether good or bad, to his shaykh, so that he can treat him. The shaykh is like a doctor, and if he is informed about the states of his murid, he performs tawajjuh (turns to Allah) for correcting him and curing his ailments. The student should not rely on the kashf (unveiling) faculty of his shaykh because kashf may be "colored" and may be mistaken. For the awliya' 3 , errors in kashf have the same status as errors in Ijtihad , but no one may act according to kashf , even if correct, and for them no judgment may be based on it unless it is supported by external manifestations. So do remember this as it is precious.

3. To be truthful in his seeking, unchanged by afflictions and hardships, and not diminished by reprobations and vexations. Thus he must have truthful and excessive love 4 for his shaykh, more than his own self, possessions and children, believing that he does not get his objective from the worshipped Lord without the intermediary help of his shaykh.

4. Not to emulate any of his teacher's normal actions - unlike his verbal orders (which must be totally obeyed) -, unless so ordered. The shaykh may do some actions according to his own maqam (level) and hal (state), which actions may be a lethal poison for the murid.

5. To perform immediately his orders without ta'wil 5 nor delay, for these are among the most important disruptions (of progress in traversing the Way).

6. To do the dhikr (mentioning Allah in the heart), tawajjuh (turning the heart toward Allah), and muraqaba (watchfulness over one's own thoughts) as instructed (through talqin ) by his shaykh, and to leave out all other awrad (daily routines of dhikr) except the ones related in the Sunna; because the former were prescribed by the shaykh's scrutiny which is from the light of Allah (the Prophet Sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said in an authentic hadith: "Beware the scrutiny of the believer for he looks by the light of Allah").

7. To see himself as the most lowly of all creatures, not to see that he has any right imposed on anybody, and to discharge his responsibilities concerning his obligations to others by fulfilling or paying them and by severing all attachments to anything other than his aim.

8. Not to betray his shaykh in any matter, but to respect and honor him to the utmost, to fill his own heart by dhikr as instructed, and to drive away ghafla (forgetfulness of Allah) and thoughts (involuntary thoughts, other than dhikr).

9. That his objective from this life or the after life be nothing but the Unique Entity (Allah): not even a hal (state), maqam (level), fana' (annihilation) or baqa' 6 ; otherwise, he would be seeking the perfection of his self ( nafs ) and its conditions - so he must be like a corpse in the hands of the washing person. Not to rebut the shaykh's words even if the murid is right, but to believe that the shaykh's error is stronger than his own correctness 7 , and not to advise his shaykh with anything unless he asks him to.

10. To be compliant and submitted to the orders of his shaykh and to whoever he appoints among his other successors or muridin , even if their outward actions are less than his own.

11. Never to disclose his needs to other than his own shaykh. If his shaykh is not present and he is under an afflicting necessity, then he only turns to a righteous, generous and pious man.

12. Not to get angry at anyone because anger kills the light of dhikr, and to _refrain from debating and argumentative discussions with students of ` ilm _ (Islamic knowledge) because debating results in forgetfulness (of dhikr) and impurities (of the heart and soul). If he gets angry or argues with anybody, he asks Allah for forgiveness and asks this person to excuse him even if he is right. Not to despise anybody, but whomever he sees, he assumes he is al-Khadir peace be upon him, or one among the honored awliya' of Allah, so he asks him to pray for him (indeed our Prophet Sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam mentioned in an authentic hadith the poorly dressed man, pushed away from doors, no one giving heed to him, but if he asks Allah by swearing an oath to Him, Allah will answer him).


Muraqaba , derived like mufa`ala (= repetitious efforts), is an independent way for arrival. Thus the seeker must have the knowledge that Allah is overseeing him. Tawajjuh (turning the heart toward Allah) and muraqaba (watchfulness of Allah) are higher and superior than "denial and affirmation", and closer to jadhba (Divine Attraction). By persisting in muraqaba and tawajjuh, the level of Ministry results, administering in the physical and spiritual realms ( mulk and malakut ) becomes possible as well as clairvoyance of others' thoughts, and it will be made possible for him to enlighten the inner being (of those accepting it) with the light of guidance (by the sole Power of Allah). Whoever persists in muraqaba reaches continuous gathering of his thoughts (as opposed to involuntary scattering) and continuous acceptance by the (sincere) hearts, which is called in the convention of Sufis " Jam ` (gathering) and qubul (acceptance)".

It was related that al-Junayd quddisa sirruh said: "My teacher in the Way of muraqaba is the cat: One day, I was passing in the street, I saw a cat sitting and watching the hole of a mouse, so absorbed in its hole that not one of its hairs was moving. I was bemused by its concentration and watchfulness, and I was called in my innermost: "O you with the lowly determination! Do not let me be in your purpose less than the mouse, and you, do not be in the seeking less than the cat." So I awoke, adhered to the Way of muraqaba (watchfulness), and achieved the results that I did."

NB: The following material contains technical terminology and is for those who follow the Sufi Path only.


1 - Makruh tanzihi : In the Hanafi Madhhab, it is an action which one is rewarded for leaving out, but not punished nor even blamed for committing.

2 - Written by Muhammad Ibn Sulayman al-Baghdadi - quoting Mawlana Khalid al-Naqshbandi - as explained at the end of al-Khani's Foreword to al-Bahja al-Saniyya.

3 - Awliya', plural of wali: person beloved by Allah. "Saint."

4 - The Prophet Sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said: "Those who love each other for the sake of Allah, their abodes in Paradise are visible like the rising planet, eastern or western. It will be said "Who are these?" and it will be answered: "These are the ones who love each other for the sake of Allah `Azza wa Jall."" Narrated from Abu Sa`id al-Khudri by Imam Ahmad with a chain of sound narrators as stated by al-Haythami in Majma` al-Zawa'id (10:422).

5 - Ta'wil : Interpretation, presuming other than the outward meaning.

6 - Baqa' : Remaining with the dhikr of Allah, after fana'. I.e. "abiding" after "self-extinction."

7 - Because of the shaykh's deeper and sounder knowledge in Shari`a (Islamic law) and Tariqa (the Way), the murid has no way of knowing with certainty which of his own opinions are correct, and which are lethal. On the other hand, the murid knows with certainty that his shaykh's counsels, as a whole, form a safer and more solid background than his own.

This is the meaning of the saying "the shaykh's error is stronger than the murid's correctness." Of course this in no way implies obeying anybody in what is a definite contradiction to established rules of Islam. In the extremely unlikely event that the shaykh's action

1) does not seem acceptable according the deduction of a single Muslim scholar,
2) does not lend itself to any acceptable interpretation, and
3) the murid is not able any more to discard it from his mind,

Then and only then the murid must inquire politely about his teacher's action, remembering his personal conviction that the teacher's knowledge about such matters is deeper than his own, otherwise he should not have taken him for a teacher to start with.

In such a case, instead of impolitely interrogating the shaykh about the validity of his action, it would be more polite to academically inquire from the shaykh about the different opinions of scholars concerning the topic itself, remembering in any case to report the incident with Islamic faithfulness: as the murid has seen it, not as he has interpreted it. The murid who thus stops at what he has seen (such as his teacher drinking a dark liquid) would usually find the obvious answer (that it was grape juice) and have no need to ask his teacher anyway (about drinking wine)!

Once a student saw his non-married teacher go home at night accompanied by a young woman. It so happened that he soon learned that the shaykh had just gotten married to her. Most muridin do not think twice in such a circumstance, because countless explanations are possible.

So how detrimental would it be if the student allows his thoughts to wander in the wrong interpretations, for he would be but contradicting the Prophet's order Sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam: "seek for your brother seventy excuses", and not heeding Allah's warning: " ... then let those who contradict the Apostle's order beware: lest trial or grievous penalty befall them (24:63)".

Wallahu a`lam - And Allah Knows Best.

Blessings and peace on the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions.