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Nuh Ha Mim Keller - Book of Wisdoms of Al-Hikam Al-'Ata'Iyyah

Nuh Ha Mim Keller - Book of Wisdoms of Al-Hikam Al-'Ata'Iyyah

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Published by: MTYKK on Apr 09, 2008
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Book of Wisdoms - al-Hikam al-‘Ata'iyyaNuh Ha Mim Keller
Infinitude is the native land from whence Allah has created the soul, thensummoned it again upon the tongue of His messengers (Allah bless them andgive them peace) from its exile. This is the first of a series of articles theinterpreter has been asked to write on "traditional Islamic spirituality," a sciencethat deals with answering this summons, lifting the heart from the narrowness of the self to the limitlessness of the knowledge and love of the Divine.People have spoken and written much about Sufism, as the discipline is known, but these articles shall endeavor to understand it in its own context by translating, Allah willing, Ibn ‘Ata' Illah’s famous Book of Wisdoms (al-Hikamal-‘Ata'iyya), a classical manual of spiritual development, together with somecommentary on it. One either has a tariqa and a sheikh or one does not, and Ibn‘Ata' Illah is writing without apology for those who do, although the insights heraises may interest many others.The interpreter conveys this knowledge by the authorization of Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Shaghouri, from Muhammad Sa‘id al-Kurdi, from Muhammad al-Hashimi, from Ahmad al-‘Alawi, from Muhammad al-Buzidi, from MuhammadQaddur al-Wakili, from Abu Ya‘za al-Mahaji and Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Qadir,from al-Arabi al-Darqawi, from ‘Ali al-Jamal, from al-‘Arabi ibn ‘Abdullah, from Ahmad ibn ‘Abdullah, from Qasim al-Khassasi, from Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah,from ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Fasi, from Yusuf al-Fasi, from ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Majdhub, from ‘Ali al-Sanhaji al-Dawwar, from Ibrahim al-Fahham, from AhmadZarruq, from Ahmad al-Hadrami, from Yahya al-Qadiri, from ‘Ali ibn Wafa, fromMuhammad Wafa Bahr al-Safa, from Dawud al-Bakhili, from Ibn ‘Ata' Illah al-Iskandari the author of the work (Allah be well pleased with them all of them), who says:1. One of the signs of relying on deeds is loss of hope when a misstep occurs.The sheikh begins his book with this key aphorism because it is of the adab or"proper way" of travelling the spiritual path to focus upon tawhid or the "DivineOneness," in this context meaning to rely upon Allah, not on works, since"Allah created you and that which you do" (Qur’an 37:96).The method of the spiritual ascent is threefold, consisting of knowledge (‘ilm),practice (‘amal), and the resultant state (hal) bestowed by Allah. Knowledge heremeans everything conveyed to us by the Holy Prophet (Allah bless him and givehim peace), which is the content of the Sacred Law or shari‘a. The practice of thisknowledge, inwardly and outwardly, with heart and limbs, is the spiritual path ortariqa. The resultant state, Allah’s drawing near to the heart that thus draws nearto Him, is the dawning of the Divine Presence upon the soul, termed by Sufis"ultimate reality" or haqiqa.
 
Ibn ‘Ata' Illah, as a spiritual guide, is concerned in this work with the secondmoment of this ascent, that of way and works, so begins his book by letting thetraveller know that the matter of his spiritual progress is in Allah’s hands alone.Discouragement at the inevitable mistakes one makes in the path is a sign of relying on one’s deeds rather than on Allah. Works, whether prayer, or the dhikr or "remembrance" of Allah, or fasting, or jihad, do not cause one to reach the end of the path, but are merely propermanners before the majesty of the Divine while on it. Just as putting one’s net inthe sea does not produce fish, though one must keep it there so that if Allah sendsfish they can be caught—so too works are a net, and their spiritual outcomes arefrom Allah. Abu Hurayra (Allah be well pleased with him) heard the Holy Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) say:"None of you shall be saved by his works." A man said, "Not even you yourself, OMessenger of Allah?" He said, "Not even me myself, unless Allah envelopes me inmercy from Him. But aim to do right" (Muslim, 4.2169: 2816).Imam Nawawi comments:The outward purport of these hadiths [n: of which Muslim relates several] bearsout the position of those who are in the right, that no one deserves reward andparadise for his acts of obedience. As for the words of Allah Most High"Enter paradise for that which you have done" (Qur’an 16:32),and"That is paradise, which you have been bequeathed for what you used to do"(Qur’an 7:43),and similar verses that indicate that paradise is entered by virtue of works, they do not contradict these hadiths. Rather, the meaning of the verses is that enteringparadise is because of works, although divinely given success (tawfiq) to do the works, and being guided to have sincerity in them, and their acceptability are themercy of Allah Most High and His favor (Sharh Sahih Muslim, 17.160–61).The true spiritual path is one of gratitude. Abu Sulayman al-Darani used to say,"How can a sane man be conceited about his spiritual works, when his works are but a gift from Allah and a blessing from Him that he should thank Him for"(Nata’ij al-afkar, 1.114). And Abu Madyan has said, "The heartbrokenness of thesinner is better than the forcefulness of the obedient" (Diwan, 50).Ibn ‘Ata' Illah in this aphorism is apprising the traveller not to be veiled from thetrue path by his own high resolve. While irada or "will" is presupposed by the way, indeed the word murid or "disciple" is derived from it, the path ultimately sublimates it into its opposite through tawhid, disclosing it to be a mere cause,conjoined with the soul’s ascent not out of logical necessity but out of Allah’s purelargesse. For this reason some sheikhs term a traveller of the former spiritual

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