THE UNCOVERING OF THE FOURTH VEIL: CONCERNING PURIFICATION FROM FOULNESS
After faith, the first thing incumbent on everyone is purification (taharat) and the performance of prayer, i.e. to cleanse the body from filth and pollution, and to wash the three members,1 and to wipe the head with water as the law prescribes, or to use sand in the absence of water or in severe illness. Purification is of two kinds: outward and inward. Thus prayer requires purification of the body, and gnosis requires purification of the heart.As, in the former case, the water must be clean, so in the latter case unification must be pure and belief undefiled. The Sufis are always engaged in purification outwardly and in unification inwardly. The Apostle said to one of his Companions: "Be constant in ablution, that thy two guardian angels may love thee," and God hath said: "God loves those who often repent and those who purify themselves" (Qur.ii,222) And the Apostle used to say in his invocations: "O God, purify my heart from hypocrisy." Even consciousness of the miraculous grace (karamat) vouchsafed to him he regarded as an affirmation of other than God, for in unification it is hypocrisy (nifaq) to affirm other than God. So long as a disciple's eye is obscured by a single atom of the miracles of the Shaykhs, from the standpoint of perfection that atom is a potential veil (between him and God).
Hence Abu Yazid said: "The hypocrisy of gnostics is better than the sincerity of disciples," i.e. that which is a "station" (maqam) to the novice is a veil to the adept. The novice desires to gain miracles, but the adept desires to gain the Giver of miracles. In short, the affirmation of miracles, or of anything that involves the sight of other than,God, appears hypocrisy to the people of the Truth (Sufis). Accordingly, what is noxious to the friends of God is a means of deliverance for all sinners, and what is noxious to sinners is a means of salvation for all infidels, because, if infidels knew, as sinners know, that their sins are displeasing to God, they would all be saved from infidelity; and if sinners knew, as the friends of God know, that all their actions are defective, they would all be saved from sin and purged of contamination.
Therefore, outward and inward purification must go together; e.g., when a man washes his hands he must wash his heart clean of worldliness, and when he puts water in his mouth he must purify his mouth from the mention of other than God, and when he washes his face he must turn away from all familiar objects and turn towards God, and when he wipes his head he must resign his affairs to God, and when he washes his feet he must not form the intention of taking his stand on anything except according to the command of God. Thus he will be doubly purified. In all religious ordinances the external is combined with the internal; e.g. in faith, the tongue's profession with the heart's belief. The method of spiritual purification is to reflect and mediate on the evil of this world and to perceive that it is false and fleeting and to make the heart empty of it. This result can be attained only by much self-mortification (mujahadah), and the most important act of mortification is to observe the external rules of discipline (adab-i zahir) assiduously in all circumstances.
It is related that Ibrahim Khawwas said: "I desire God to give me an everlasting life in this world, in order that, while mankind are engrossed in the pleasures of the world and forget God, I may observe the rules of religion amidst the affliction of the world and remember God." And it is related that Abu Tahir Harami lived forty years at Makkah, and went outside of the sacred territory whenever he purified himself, because he would not pour the water which he had used for that purpose on ground that God head called His. When Ibrahim Khawwas was ill of dysentery in the congregational mosque at Rayy, he performed sixty complete ablutions in the course of a day and night, and he died in the water. Abu Ali Rudbari was for some time afflicted with distracting thoughts (wamm) in purification. "One day," he said, I went into the sea at dawn and stayed there till sunrise. During that interval my mind was troubled. 1 cried out: 'O God, restore me to spiritual health!' A voice answered from the sea: 'Health consists in knowledge.'" It is related that when Sufyan Thawri was dying, he purified himself sixty times for one prayer and said: "I shall at least be clean when I leave this world." They relate of Shibli that one day he purified himself with the intention of entering the mosque. He heard a voice cry: "Thou hast washed thy outward self, but where is thy inward purity?" He turned back and gave away all that he possessd, and during a year he put on no more clothes than were necessary for prayer. Then he came to Junayd, who said to him: "O Abu Bakr, that was a very beneficial purification which you have performed; may God always keep you purified!" After that, Shibli engaged in continual purification.
When he was dying and could no longer purify himself, he
made a sign to one of his disciples that he should purify him. The disciple did
so, but forgot to let the water flow through his beard (takhlil-i mahasin).
Shibli was unable to speak. He seized the disciple's hand and pointed to his
beard, whereupon the rite was duly performed. And it is also related of him that
he said: "Whenever I have neglected any rule of purification, some vain conceit
has always arisen in my heart." And Abu Yazid said: "Whenever a thought of this
world occurs to my mind, I perform a purification (taharati); and whenever a
thought of the next world occurs to me, I perform a complete ablution (ghusli),"
because this world is non- eternal (muhdath), and the result of thinking of it
impurity (hadath), whereas the next world is the place of absence and repose (ghaybat
u aram), and the result of thinking of it is pollution (janabat): hence legal
impurity involves purification and pollution involves total ablution. One day
shibli purified himself. When he came to the door of the mosque a voice
whispered in his heart: "Art thou so pure that thou enterest My house with this
boldness?" He turned back, but the voice asked: "Dost thou turn back from My
door? Whither wilt thou go?" He uttered a loud cry. The voice said: "Dost thou
revile me?" He stood silent. The voice said: "Dost thou pretend to endure My
affliction?" Shibli exclaimed: "O God, I implore Thee to help me against
The Sufi Shaykhs have fully discussed the true meaning of purification, and have commanded their disciples not to cease from purifying themselves both outwardly and inwardly. He who would serve God must purify himself outwardly with water, and he who would come nigh unto God must purify himself inwardly with repentance. Now T will explain the principles of repentance (tawbah) and its corollaries.
Chapter concerning Repentance and its Corollaries.
You must know that repentance ftawbah) is the first station of pilgrims on the way to the Truth, just as purification (taharat) is the first step of those who desire to serve God. Hence God hath said: "O believers, repent unto God with a sincere repentance" (Qur,lxvi,8). And the Apostle said, "There is nothing that God loves more than a youth who repents"; and he also said, "He who repents of sin is even as one who has no sin"; then he added, "When God loves a man, sin shall not hurt him," i.e. he will not become an infidel on account of sin, and his faith will not be impaired. Etymologically tawbah means "return", and tawbah really involves the turning back from what God has forbidden through fear of what He has commanded. The Apostle said: "Penitence is the act of returning" (al-nadam al-tawbah). This saying comprises three things which are involved in tawbah, namely, (1) remorse for disobedience, (2) immediate abandonment of sin, and (3) determination not to sin again. As repentance (tawbah) involves these three conditions, so contrition (nadamat) maybe due to three causes: (1) fear of Divine chastisement and sorrow for evil actions, (2) desire of Divine favour and certainty that it cannot be gained by evil conduct and disobedience, (3) shame before God. In the first case the penitent is ta'ib, in the second case he is munib, in the third case he is awwab. Similarly, tawbah has three stations, viz., tawbah, through fear of Divine punishment; inabat, through desire of Divine reward; and awbat, for the sake Of keeping the Divine command. Tawbah is the station of the mass of believers, and implies repentance from great sins (kabirah); and inabat is the station of the saints and favourites of God (iawliya u muqarraban);3 and awbat is the station of the prophets and apostles.4 Tawbah is to return from great sins to obedience; inabat is to return from minor sins to love; and awbat is to return from one's self to God. Repentance (tawbah) has its origin in the stern prohibitions of God and in the heart's being aroused from the slumber of heedlessness. When a man considers his evil conduct and abominable deeds he seeks deliverance there from, and God makes it easy for him to repent and leads him back to the sweetness of obedience. According to the opinion of orthodox Muslims and all the Sufi Shaykhs, a man who has repented of one sin may continue to commit other sins and nevertheless receive Divine recompense for having abstained from that one sin; and it maybe that through the blessing of that recompense he will abstain from other sins. But the Bahshamf sect of the Mu'tazilites hold that no one can properly be called repentant unless he avoids all great sins, a doctrinc which is absurd, bccause a man is not punished for the sins that he does not commit, but if he renounces a certain kind of sin he has no fear of being punished for sins of that particular kind: consequently, he is repentant. Similarly, if he performs some religious duties and neglects others, he will be rewarded for those which he performed and will be punished for those which he neglected. Moreover, if anyone should have repented of a sin which he has not the means of committing at the moment, he is repentant, because through that past repentance he has gained contrition (nadamat), which is a fundamental part of repentance (tawbah), and at the moment he has turned his back on that kind of sin and is resolved not to commit it again, even though he should have the power and means of doing so at some future time. As regards the nature and property of repentancc, the Sufi Shaykhs hold diverse opinions. Sahl b. 'Abdullah (al- Tustari) and others believe that repcntance consists in not forgetting your sins, but always regretting them, so that, although you have many good works to your credit, you will not be pleased with yourself on that account; since remorse for an evil action is superior to good works, and one who never forgets his sins will never become conceited. Junayd and others take the opposite view, that repentance consists in forgetting the sin. They argue that the penitent is a lover of God, and the lover of God is in contemplation of God, and in contemplation it is wrong to remember sin, for remembrance of sin is a veil between God and those who contemplate Him. This controversy goes back to the difference of opinion concerning mortification (mujahadah) and contemplation (mushahadah), which has been discussed in my account of the doctrine of the Sahlis. Those who hold the penitent to be self-dependent regard his forgetfulness of sin as heedlessness, while those who hold that he is dependent on God deem his remembrance of sin to be polytheism. answered, saying: "Thou didst obey Me and T recompensed thee, then thou didst abandon Me and I showed indulgence towards thee; and if thou wilt return to Me, I will receive thee."
Dhu '1-Nun the Egyptian says: "Ordinary men repent of their sins but the elect repent of their outward behaviour, but the elect shall be questioned concerning the real nature of their conduct. Heedlessness, which to ordinary men is a pleasure, is a veil to the elect. Abu Hafs Haddad says: "Man has no part in repentance, because repentance is from God to Man, not from Man to God." According to this saying, repentance is not acquired by Man, but is one of God's gifts, a doctrine which is closely akin to that of Junayd. Abu 'l-Hasan Bushanji says: "When you feel no delight in remembering a sin, that is repentance," because the recollection of a sin is accompanied either by regret or by desire: one who regrets that he has committed a sin is repentant, whereas one who desires to commit a sin is a sinner. The actual sin is not so evil as the desire of it, for the act is momentary, but the desire is perpetual. Dhu '1- Nun the Egyptian says: "There are two kinds of repentance, the repentance of return (tawbah al-inabat) and the repentance of shame (tawbah al-istihya): the former is repentance through fear of Divine punishment, the latter is repentance through shame of Divine clemency." The repentance of fear is caused by revelation of God's majesty, while the repentance of shame is caused by vision of God's beauty. Those who feel shame are intoxicated, and those who feel fear are sober.
1 The face, hands, and feet.
2 Cf. Qur. lxvi, 8.
3 Cf. Qur. 1, 32.
4 Cf. Qur. xxxviii, 44.
5 Text, See Shahristani, Haarbrucker's translation, I. 80.
6 Nafahat. No.281.