Sirr al-Asrar

Third Section
The shops of the spirit in the body.

The shop [hanut] of the physical spirit consists of the breast, together with the external limbs and organs of the body. Its merchandise is the Sacred Law, and its business is performance of the duties Allah has commanded, by observing the external rules and without attributing partners to Him. As Allah (Exalted is He) has said:

And let him give no one any share at all
wa la yushrik
in the worship due unto his Lord.
bi-'ibadati Rabbi-hi ahada. (18:110)

Allah is Single, and He loves that which is single. That is to say, He loves work that is sincerely devoted to Him, without hypocritical display and the pursuit of fame.

The profit [from this business] in this world consists of sainthood, mystic disclosure and direct vision in the realm of Dominion [Mulk], from the ground underfoot to heaven above. It may take the form of charismatic marvels, like walking on water, flying through the air, covering great distance with a single stride, hearing from afar, seeing
what is hidden inside the body, and so on.

As for its profit in the Hereafter, it consists of the gardens, the houries, the palaces, the manservants, the drinks, and all the bounties in the first Garden, which is the Garden of Shelter [Jannat al-Ma'wa].

The shop of the freely moving spirit is the heart. Its merchandise is knowledge of the Spiritual Path, and its business is its preoccupation with the first four Names [of Allah]. These are among the twelve roots of the Names, which have no pronunciation and no alphabetic spelling. As Allah (Exalted is He) has said:

Say: "Cry to Allah, or cry to the All-Merciful.
quli 'd'u 'llaha awi 'd'u 'r-Rahman:
To whichever you cry,
ayyam-ma tad'u
His are the Most Beautiful Names."
fa-la-hu 'l-Asma'u 'l-Husna. (17:110)

To Allah belong the Most Beautiful Names,
wa li'llahi 'l-Asma'u 'l-Husna
so invoke Him by them.
fa-'d'u-hu bi-ha. (7:180)

These are indications that the Names are central to the main preoccupation, which is knowledge of the inner being. Direct knowledge is the product of the Names of Oneness. The Prophet (peace be upon him)
said:

Allah (Exalted is He) has ninety-nine Names. Anyone who counts them will enter the Garden of Paradise.

He also said (peace be upon him):

The lesson is one, and the repetition is a thousand.

What is meant by "counting" the Names is that one should come to be characterized by them, and molded by their qualities.

These twelve Names are the roots of the Names of Allah (Exalted is He), based on the number of the Arabic letters in la ilaha illa 'llah [There is no god but Allah]. The letters of this sentence are twelve [in the Arabic script].4 For each letter, Allah has thus established one Name in the layers of the heart, three Names in each realm. Allah has thereby confirmed the hearts of the lovers. As Allah (Exalted is
He) has said:

Allah confirms those who believe,
yuthabbitu 'llahu 'lladhina amanu
with the Word that stands firm,
bi'l-qawli 'th-thabiti
in the life of this world and in the Hereafter.
fi 'l-hayati 'd-dunya wa fi 'l-akhira. (14:27)

Allah has sent down upon them the tranquillity of intimate friendship, and Allah has firmly established the tree of the affirmation of Oneness. The root of that tree is firmly planted in the seventh [level of the] earth, in the very ground beneath us, and its branches spread in the heaven above, extending beyond the Throne. Allah (Exalted is He) has said:

Do you not see how Allah coins a similitude:
a-lam tara kaifa daraba 'llahu mathalan
A good saying, like a good tree,
kalimatan tayyibatan ka-shajaratin tayyibatin
its roots set firm,
aslu-ha thabitun
and its branches reaching into heaven?
wa far'u-ha fi 's-sama'. (14:24)

The profit of this shop is the life of the heart. The freely moving spirit enjoys direct vision in the realm of Sovereignty [Malakut], where it witnesses the Gardens, their radiant lights and their angels. Its speech is the speech of the inner being, and it considers the inner Names without sound or spelling. Its abode in the Hereafter is in the second Garden, which is the Garden of Bliss.

The shop of the royal spirit is the heart's core. Its merchandise is direct knowledge, and its business is constant attention to the four Names, expressed in the language of the heart. As the Prophet (peace be upon him) once said:

Knowledge ['ilm] is twofold: knowledge conveyed by the tongue, that being Allah's testimony to His servants, and knowledge conveyed by the heart, that being the knowledge that is useful, because knowledge provides benefits in this sphere.

He also said (peace be upon him):

The Qur'an has an outer meaning and an inner meaning.

-and he said (peace be upon him):

Allah sent down the Qur'an in ten successive layers of inner meaning. Each inner meaning is more useful and more profitable than the one before, because it is a marrow [mukhkh].

These Names are comparable to the twelve springs that gushed forth when Moses (peace be upon him) struck the rock with his staff. Allah (Exalted is He) has said:

And when Moses asked for water for his people,
wa idhi 'stasqa Musa li-qawmi-hi
We said: "Smite the rock with your staff."
fa-qulna 'drib bi-'asa-ka 'l-hajar:
And there gushed out from it twelve springs.
fa-'nfajarat min-hu 'thnata 'ashrata 'aina:
Each tribe knew their drinking-place.
qad 'alima kullu unasin mashraba-hum. (2:60)

Exoteric knowledge is like spasmodic rain, while esoteric knowledge is more useful, since it is like an inexhaustible fountain. Allah (Exalted is He) has said:

And a sign to them is the dead earth.
wa ayatun la-humu 'l-ardu 'l-maita:
We revive it, and We bring forth from it grain
ahyaina-ha wa akhrajna min-ha habban
so that they eat thereof.
fa-min-hu ya'kulun. (36:33)

Allah (Exalted is He) brought forth the horizons from the earth, as a grain that is the strength of the animal natures. He also brought forth from the earth the personal identities [of human beings], as a grain that is the strength of the spiritual spirits [arwah ruhaniyya]. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

If someone is sincerely devoted to Allah (Exalted is He) for forty mornings, the fountains of wisdom will flow from his heart to his tongue.

As for the profit of this shop, it is the vision of the reflection of Allah's Beauty (Exalted is He). Allah (Exalted is He) has said:

One of mighty power has taught him,
'allama-hu Shadidu 'l-quwwa:
One of great vigor; and he grew clear to view,
Dhu mirra: fa-'stawa
when he was on the highest horizon.
wa huwa bi'l-ufuqi 'l-a'la
Then he drew near and came down,
thumma dana fa-tadalla
till he was two bows' length or nearer,
fa-kana qaba qawsaini aw adna
and He revealed to His servant that which He revealed.
fa-awha ila 'abdi-hi ma awha.
The heart in no way falsified what he saw.
ma kadhaba 'l-fu'adu ma ra'a. (53:5-11)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

The faithful is the mirror of the Faithful [al-mu'minu mir'atu 'l-Mu'min].

The first "faithful" is the heart of the faithful servant, while the second is Allah (Exalted is He). Allah has described Himself (Exalted is He) as:

The Faithful, the Guardian....
[u] 'l-Mu'minu 'l-Muhaiminu.... (59:23)

The final abode of this group is in the third Garden, which is Paradise [Firdaws].

The shop of the holy spirit is inside the secret being. As Allah (Exalted is He) has said:

The human being is My secret and I am his secret.

Its merchandise is the knowledge of Reality [Haqiqa], that being the knowledge of Oneness. Its business is the constant repetition of the Names of Oneness, they being the last four, with a speechless tongue. Allah (Exalted is He) has said:

And if you speak aloud,
wa in tajhar bi'l-qawli
He surely knows the secret
fa-inna-hu ya'lamu 's-sirra
and that which is yet more deeply hidden.
wa akhfa. (20:7)

-so no one is aware of it, other than Allah (Exalted is He).

As for the profit of this shop, it is the emergence of the child of inner meanings, its direct witnessing and vision, and its lawful contemplation of Allah's countenance (Exalted is He) with the eye of the secret being:

That day will faces be resplendent,
wujuhun yawma'idhin nadira:
looking toward their Lord.
ila Rabbi-ha nazira. (75:22,23)

-without "how?", without qualification and without comparison. As Allah (Exalted is He) has said:

There is nothing like unto Him,
laisa ka-mithli-hi shai':
and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing.
wa Huwa 's-Sami'u 'l-Basir. (42:11)

When the human being reaches his goal, minds become constricted, hearts become perplexed and tongues become exhausted. He cannot give any account of that experience, because Allah (Exalted is He) is exempt from all likenesses. When such accounts do reach the scholars, they must therefore base their understanding on the various levels of knowledge, seek to grasp their real meanings, and turn their attention toward the highest heights. They must strive to attain to knowledge of the Divine Presence and understanding of the Singular Essence, without rejecting and denying the explanation we have given.

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