Label Cloud



"The fourth degree leads him even to God. He becomes united with the Deity and sees Him in all things." {J. P. Brown, The Dervishes, or Oriental Spiritualism (1868)}

An excellent concrete illustration of the process here described will be found in the well-known case of Tawakkul Beg, who passed through all these experiences under the control of Molla-Shah. His account is too long to quote in full; moreover, it has recently been translated by Professor D. B. Macdonald in his Religious Life and Attitude in Islam (pp. 197 ff.). I copy from this version one paragraph describing the first of the four stages mentioned above.

"Thereupon he made me sit before him, my senses being as though intoxicated, and ordered me to reproduce my own image within myself; and, after having bandaged my eyes, he asked me to concentrate all my mental faculties on my heart. I obeyed, and in an instant, by the divine favour and by the spiritual assistance of the Sheykh, my heart opened. I saw, then, that there was something like an overturned cup within me. This having been set upright, a sensation of unbounded happiness filled my being. I said to the master, 'This cell where I am seated before you--I see a faithful reproduction of it within me, and it appears to me as though another Tawakkul Beg were seated before another Molla-Shah.' He replied, 'Very good! the first apparition which appears to thee is the image of the master.' He then ordered me to uncover my eyes; and I saw him, with the physical organ of vision, seated before me. He then made me bind my eyes again, and I perceived him with my spiritual sight, seated similarly before me. Full of astonishment, I cried out, 'O Master! whether I look with my physical organs or with my spiritual sight, always it is you that I see!'"

Here is a case of autohypnotism, witnessed and recorded by the poet Jami:

"Mawlana Sa‘duddin of Kashghar, after a little concentration of thought (tawajjuh), used to exhibit signs of unconsciousness. Anyone ignorant of this circumstance would have fancied that he was falling asleep. When I first entered into companionship with him,

I happened one day to be seated before him in the congregational mosque. According to his custom, he fell into a trance. I supposed that he was going to sleep, and I said to him, 'If you desire to rest for a short time, you will not seem to me to be far off.' He smiled and said, 'Apparently you do not believe that this is something different from sleep.'"

The following anecdote presents greater difficulties:

"Mawlana Nizamuddin Khamush relates that one day his master, ‘Ala’uddin ‘Attar, started to visit the tomb of the celebrated saint Mohammed ibn ‘Ali Hakim, at Tirmidh. 'I did not accompany him,' said Nizamuddin, 'but stayed at home, and by concentrating my mind (tawajjuh) I succeeded in bringing the spirituality of the saint before me, so that when the master arrived at the tomb he found it empty. He must have known the cause, for on his return he set to work in order to bring me under his control. I, too, concentrated my mind, but I found myself like a dove and the master like a hawk flying in chase of me. Wherever I turned, he was always close behind. At last, despairing of escape, I took refuge with the spirituality of the

Prophet (on whom be peace) and became effaced in its infinite radiance. The master could not exercise any further control. He fell ill in consequence of his chagrin, and no one except myself knew the reason.'"

Ala’uddin's son, Khwaja Hasan ‘Attar, possessed such powers of 'control' that he could at will throw any one into the state of trance and cause them to experience the 'passing-away' (fana) to which some mystics attain only on rare occasions and after prolonged self-mortification. It is related that the disciples and visitors who were admitted to the honour of kissing his hand always fell unconscious to the ground.

Certain saints are believed to have the power of assuming whatever shape they please. One of the most famous was Abd ‘Abdallah of Mosul, better known by the name of Qadib al-Ban. One day the Cadi of Mosul, who regarded him as a detestable heretic, saw him in a street of the town, approaching from the opposite direction. He resolved to seize him and lay a charge against him before the governor, in order that he might be punished. All at once he perceived that Qadib al-Ban had taken the form of a Kurd; and as the saint advanced towards him, his appearance changed again, this time into an Arab of the desert. Finally, on coming still nearer, he assumed the guise and dress of a doctor of theology, and cried, "O Cadi! which Qadib al-Ban will you hale before the governor and punish?" The Cadi repented of his hostility and became one of the saint's disciples.

In conclusion, let me give two alleged instances of 'the obedience of inanimate objects,' i.e. telekinesis:

"Whilst Dhu ’l-Nun was conversing on this topic with some friends, he said, 'Here is a sofa. It will move round the room, if I tell it to do so.' No sooner had he uttered the word 'move' than the sofa made a circuit of the room and returned to its place. One of the spectators, a young man, burst into tears and gave up the ghost. They laid him on that sofa and washed him for burial."

"Avicenna paid a visit to Abu ’l-Hasan Khurqani and immediately plunged into a long and abstruse discussion. After a time the saint, who was an illiterate person, felt tired, so he got up and said, 'Excuse me; I must go and mend the garden wall'; and off he went, taking a hatchet with him. As soon as he had climbed on to the top of the wall, the hatchet dropped from his hand. Avicenna ran to pick it up, but before he reached it the hatchet rose of itself and came back into the saint's hand. Avicenna lost all his self-command, and the enthusiastic belief in Sufism which then took possession of him continued until, at a later period of his life, he abandoned mysticism for philosophy."

I am well aware that in this chapter scanty justice has been done to a great subject. The historian of Sufism must acknowledge, however deeply he may deplore, the fundamental position occupied by the doctrine of saintship and the tremendous influence which it has exerted in its practical results--grovelling submission to the authority of an ecstatic class of men, dependence on their favour, pilgrimage to their shrines, adoration of their relics, devotion of every mental and spiritual faculty to their service. It may be dangerous to worship God by one's own inner light, but it is far more deadly to seek Him by the inner light of another. Vicarious holiness has no compensations. This truth is expressed by the mystical writers in many an eloquent passage, but I will content myself with quoting a few lines from the life of ‘Ala’uddin ‘Attar, the same saint who, as we have seen, vainly tried to hypnotise his pupil in revenge for a disrespectful trick which the latter had played on him. His biographer relates that he said, "It is more right and worthy to dwell beside God than to dwell beside God's creatures," and that the following verse was often on his blessed tongue:

"How long will you worship at the tombs of holy men?

Busy yourself with the works of holy men, and you are saved!"

("tu ta kay gur-i mardan-ra parasti
bi-gird-i kar-i mardan gard u rasti.")

Blog Widget by LinkWithin