Sirr al-Asrar

First Section
The return of the human being to his original home, by three stages.

There are two aspects to the human being: the physical [jusmani] and the spiritual [ruhani]. The physical aspect is common to ordinary human beings, while the spiritual aspect is peculiar to special human beings.

For the ordinary human being, the return to his home proceeds by stages, based on the practical implementation of knowledge of the sacred law [shari'a], the spiritual path [tariqa] and direct experience [ma'rifa]. As the Prophet (peace be upon him) has said:

Comprehensive wisdom is direct experience of the Truth, so long as it is practiced without hypocritical display and the pursuit of fame.

The stages are on three levels:

1. The Garden in the realm of Dominion [Mulk], that being the Garden of Shelter [Ma'wa].
2. The Garden in the realm of Sovereignty [Malakut], that being the Garden of Bliss [Na'im].
3. The Garden in the realm of Omnipotence [Jabarut], that being the Garden of Paradise [Firdaws].

These are the bounties of the physical aspect, so the body can only reach its goal by means of three corresponding forms of knowledge: the sacred law, the spiritual path and direct experience. As the Prophet (peace be upon him) has said:

Comprehensive wisdom is direct experience of the Truth and putting it into practice, and recognizing falsehood and forsaking it.

He also said (peace be upon him):

O Allah, let us see the Truth as true, and enable us to follow it. Let us see falsehood as false, and enable us to avoid it.


If someone knows himself, he knows his Lord and his Creator and complies with His command.

In the case of the special human being, his destination is nearness [to Allah], and his return is by means of knowledge of Reality [Haqiqa], that being the affirmation of Oneness [Tawhid] in the realm of Divinity [Lahut]. By means of his regular practice, he can experience this nearness during his life in this world, whether he be asleep or awake. When the body is asleep, the heart finds an opportunity to escape to its original home, either wholly or in part. As Allah (Exalted is He) has said:

Allah receives souls at the time of their death,
Allahu yatawaffa 'l-anfusa hina mawti-ha
and that which has not yet died in its sleep.
wa 'llati lam tamut fi manami-ha:
He keeps that for which He has ordained death,
fa-yumsiku'llati qada 'alai-ha 'l-mawta
and dismisses the rest till an appointed term.
wa yursilu 'l-ukhra ila ajalin musamma. (39:42)

That is why the Prophet (blessing and peace be upon him) once said:

The sleep of the scholar is better than the worship of the ignoramus.

This state is experienced after the heart has been enlivened by the light of the affirmation of Oneness, and after constant repetition of the Names of Unity by the tongue of the secret being, without letters and without sound. As Allah (Exalted is He) has said in the Sacred Tradition [Hadith Qudsi]:

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

He has also said (Almighty and Glorious is He):

Knowledge of the inner being is one of My secrets. I have installed it in the heart of My servants, and no one is aware of it, apart from Me.

-and He has said (Exalted is He):

I am as My servant thinks of Me, and I am with him when he remembers Me. If he remembers Me in private, I remember him within Myself. If he remembers me in company, I remember him in better company.

The practice of reflection [tafakkur] is essential in this context. As the Prophet said (blessing and peace be upon him):

A moment of reflection is worth more than a year of worship.

A moment of reflection is worth more than a seventy years of worship.

A moment of reflection is worth more than a a thousand years of worship.

These sayings convey the implicit meaning:

If someone reflects on the details of the branches [of knowledge], a moment of reflection is worth more than a year of worship.

If someone reflects for a moment on the true significance of the worship incumbent upon him, that is worth more than seventy years of worship.

If someone reflects for a moment on intimate knowledge of Allah (Exalted is He), that is worth more than a thousand years of worship.

Through intimate knowledge ['irfan], meaning the realization of Oneness, the 'arif [intimate knower] attains to his Ma'ruf [the One he knows intimately] and his Beloved, so he flies with spiritual wings to the realm of Nearness.

The worshipful servant walks on foot to the Garden of Paradise, while the intimate knower flies on wings to the Nearness [of the Lord]. In the words of a poet:

The hearts of lovers have eyes.
They see what other watchers fail to see.
With featherless wings they fly
to the Realm of the Lord of the Worlds.

This soaring flight takes place in the inner core of the intimate knower, who is the real human being, the dear friend of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), as sacred to Him as a bride. According to Abu Yazid al-Bistami: "Allah's people are the brides of Allah." Allah's saints [awliya'] have also been described as the brides of Allah. The point is that these "brides" are secluded by the veil of intimacy, visible to no one but Allah (Exalted is He). In the Sacred Tradition [Hadith Qudsi], He has said (Almighty and Glorious is He):

My saints are underneath My gown. No one is aware of them apart from Me.

All that people notice about the bride is the beauty of her outward appearance.

According to Yahya ibn Mu'adh ar-Razi: "The saint [wali] is the perfume of Allah upon the earth. The champions of the Truth detect its fragrance." Its scent reaches their hearts, so it makes them yearn for their Master. Their devotion to worship increases in proportion to the annihilation of their ordinary natures, because nearness increases as extinction increases. The saint becomes extinct to his worldly condition, and survives in witnessing the Truth. He retains no personal volition, and has no residence with anyone other than Allah. He has charismatic powers at his disposal, but he stays aloof from them, because he sees what others do not see, and regards divulging the secret of Lordship as an act of infidelity [kufr].

As we read in the book called al-Mirsad: "All those endowed with charismatic powers are veiled from sight. For such men, the charismatic marvel is a form of menstruation. The saint has a thousand stages to traverse, the first of them being the gate of charismatic marvels. If he passes beyond it safely, he can reach the other stages, but if not, he can make no further progress."

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