Secret of Tariqah and Unveiling


As-Salāmu `Alaykum,

We would like to have some lights on a matter.

What is the difference and how to explain the difference between the SECRET of a Tariqa and the tarbiyyah of a Shaykh on his Mureeds. I meant by that a Shaykh can make the tarbiyya of his mureeds and unveil them and guided them but it doesn’t mean he has the secret of the Tariqa.

Like in our country, for example the turuq where mureeds have the different veils on the heart removed and they start to see things. A Shaykh can be able to do that without having the secret of the Tariqa.

So how to explain the difference between these two. Thank your for enlightening this ignorant one. We believe there is a difference but we don’t know about it.


salam `alaykum,

When the awlīyā come to the presence of the Prophet (s), he removes veil after veil. Then he takes them to the Presence of Allāh swt. Thus, the realities are uncovered for them. It is as though they were covered with a blanket and someone pulled it away. The lid of the pot is removed, so they can see inside. That is why they are people of ru’yā, because they can see. Next comes the knowledge of what is seen (dirāyā) [and before these two comes kashf].

The people of these three levels have doven into the Ocean of Divine Knowledge. They have become hidden, just as one disappears from sight when they dive beneath the waves. Yet, they are still there and they may emerge at any time. The awlīyā dive into these Oceans, take what they want and return with it. You may see them, but they are not here—they are there, exploring the depths of that Sacred Knowledge like divers on a coral reef.

Just as divers need oxygen, the saints need these three levels in order to dive into the Oceans of Divine Knowledge. For this reason, the followers of the awlīyā cannot accompany them on these dives unless the saints assist them. They must teach them to dive slowly. First, they must teach them to swim. Then they teach them how to make quick dives without oxygen. They may go under for a few seconds. Only when they have become strong do they give them these three levels: kashf, ru’yā, dirāyā.

However, not every diver in this world can go deep into the depths of the ocean. Most cannot. To do so requires special equipment and training. Moreover, such deep dives require a slow ascent and a long decompression. For the same reason, if someone is in hālat al-jazbah, the State of Attraction, and comes out quickly, his tongue will be completely frozen or he may begin to say things that people cannot accept. That is what happened in the case of Muhyīddīn Ibn `Arabī. Spiritual decompression means keeping these secrets in the heart and releasing them slowly.

The Divine Essence is Utterly Unknowable

It is important to understand that these Heavenly Secrets are not revealed directly to the saints from the Divine Essence. Rather, these awlīyā are in the Oceans of the Treasures of Bismillahi ‘r-Rahmani ‘r-Rahīm. Everything comes with the Name of Allāh swt, thus everything comes from the Name “Allāh .” Only Sayyīdinā Muhammad (s) gets this Divine Knowledge directly, and even he cannot take from that Essence that is Utterly Hidden, (al-ghaybu ’l-muţlaq). That is because Allāh swt has no partner.  Allāh swt sends from the alif to the lām, lām, hā.

The walīullāh have been hidden and locked in the treasure houses of Bismillāhi, and the key to the locks of these vast storehouses that are likes oceans unto themselves are the trusts that Allāh swt is keeping:

إِنَّا عَرَضْنَا الْأَمَانَةَ عَلَى السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالْجِبَالِ فَأَبَيْنَ أَن يَحْمِلْنَهَا وَأَشْفَقْنَ مِنْهَا وَحَمَلَهَا الْإِنسَانُ إِنَّهُ كَانَ ظَلُومًا جَهُولًا

{We did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the Mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but man undertook it;- He was indeed unjust and foolish.} (Sūratu ’l-Ahzāb, 33:72)

When Allāh swt asked the the earth and the mountains to carry that trust, they refused. Human beings said, “Yes, we will take it.” They did not know no what was behind those locks. They accepted it and defiled it with their sins. But the saints protected their trust. They kept it clean, and they were able to see by means of spiritual unveiling (kashf) and knew what they were seeing. Allāh swt gave them the key to these locks, and that key is “There is no strength except through Allāh ” (lā quwatta illa billāh).

That is why the awlīyāullāh say, “We are weak, we are helpless.” They have confirmed that to their egoes. Everything is in Allāh’s Hands.

The Prophet Muhammad (s) said:

انا عبد عاجز

anā `abdun `ajiz.
I am a helpless slave.

If Muhammad (s) is saying this, what about the rest of us?

These saints receive such Heavenly Knowledge in their seclusions and from their training. They become teachers and give initiation (baya`) to their students. This is how it has worked from the time of the Prophet (s) up to the time of our own master, Mawlana Shaykh Nāzim, who is the perfect guide and the guide of this age. All of these teachers know that there is no power except with Allāh swt, which is power that comes from Divine Energy (qudrah).

When one can tap into that Heavenly Power and focus it with intention, then that energy can become manifest in a zeal that can move mountains. For it is said:

همة الرجال تقلع الجبال

Himmat ar-rijāl taqla`u al-jibāl
The zeal of men takes mountains from their roots.

And also:

علو الهمة من الإيمان

`Ulūw al-himmat min al-īmān
The highest of zeal is from faith.

The awlīyāullāh have the `ulūw al-himmah, intense zeal. They are not lazy like us. Their enthusiasm is like a laser that can cut through mountains. They are like these giant cranes that are used to erect skyscrapers. They are the heavy lifters of the Ummah, its power. Yet, they know that there is no power except that which comes from Allāh swt.

With the power that Allāh swt gives them, these saints are able to rise through the different levels of Divine Knowledge, penetrating deeper and deeper into its secrets. However, each one can only advance to a certain limit, beyond which they do not have the necessary clearance to enter. They clean themselves, and through this purification of the heart, they are able to raise the level of their clearance until they are able to enter into areas that were never opened to those teachers that came before them. Thus, the awlīyā of today are getting the accumulated knowledge of those who came before them in addition to what they are receiving from the intercession of the Prophet (s).

Without that intercession, they would get nothing. But with it, they are given what no eyes have seen and what no ears have heard. This means they are given what has never even been imagined, what has never even entered into the heart of another human being. With these understandings, they are able to dive deep into the oceans of the Beautiful Names and Attributes of Allāh swt.

As we have said, these Oceans of Divine Knowledge are hidden, and they are only revealed through Allāh’s Ancient Generosity, which is related to His Greatness. There are levels upon levels of Allāh’s Greatness, and the awlīyā are able to advance through them according to their own level of purification. Through them, Allāh swt reveals the Hidden of Hiddens . Then they become knowers of Allāh’s Knowledge, true gnostics. They are able to perceive Allāh’s Light engraved upon all species of creation and read what He has written on each one. They are able to see these designs (nuqūsh) that are the mark of Allāh’s Power which designed all things. You are a design, trees are a design—everything is a design of Allāh swt.

These designs are engraved with Allāh’s Light (nūr):

اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ

Allāhu nūru’s-samawatī wa ’l-ard.
{Allāh is the light of the heavens and the earth.} (Sūratu ‘n-Nūr, 24:35.)

[excerpted from the book: Fifty Days: The Divine Disclosures During a Holy Sufi Seclusion]

Additionally, to answer your question, Sultan al-Awliya Mawlana Shaykh Nazim Adil wrote, in the introduction to the The Naqshbandi Sufi PrTradition: Guidebook of Daily Practices and Devotions:

You may be wondering what difference there is between the Naqshbandi and the other Sufi ways. It is axiomatic that all Sufi paths lead to the Divine Presence. The Prophet (s) said, “The ways to God are as numerous as the breaths of human beings.” The differences lie mostly in the realm of style and taste, and reflect the need to accommodate the variety of types among the aspirants. Differences also stem from the unique individualities of the great luminaries who imprinted each of the Sufi orders—may God be pleased with all of them!

There are also some differences of approach. Most Sufi paths offer aspirants a gradual unveiling of the heart’s eye, accomplished through the practice of dhikr, the remembrance of God. This spiritual exercise may contain repetition of various of God’s Holy Names. Some forms of dhikr involve practices designed to break the spell of mundane consciousness and propel the practitioner into a state of altered awareness. Such practices may include repetition of many thousands of holy phrases, sometimes connecting with breathing exercises and often with physical movements. Without a doubt, through the steadfast and dedicated practice of these methods, the aspirant may experience spiritual states and attain stations unimaginable in a normal state of consciousness. The aspirant may feel himself to be flying towards the heavenly goals, beholding the wonders of the mysterious and hidden aspects of creation.

If your eyes have been thus opened, and if you are greatly enamored of the wide vistas you have beheld, then be warned. Should you embark upon the Naqshbandi Path, your colorful plumage will be clipped and replaced with the humble cloak of obscurity. For the main difference between the Naqshbandi Way and others is that, while they are giving, we are taking away. Everything must go, even your separate existence. First you will be without anything, then you will be nothing. Only those who are prepared to take such a step can be real Naqshbandi disciples. As long as a drop is falling from the heavens, it may be called a drop. When it falls into the ocean, it is no longer a drop; it is the ocean.

If anyone is interested in spiritual stations and powers, he may attain them through following any of the forty Sufi paths, as these ways are quite efficacious. Through the recitation of the most beautiful Names of God everyone receives bountifully in accordance with his intention. In the end, however, the sincere seeker will be struck with remorse if he becomes fixated at the stage of stations and states. One day, he will perceive how he has fallen victim to distraction and say: “O my Lord, I have been wasting myself and my efforts on something other than You.” Should a seeker’s life end while he is in those states, he will regret that they distracted him from seeking the Divine Countenance of his Lord. Therefore, grandshaykhs have been ordered to strip their followers of their spiritual adornments, so that they may be presented to their Lord in perfect lowliness: “This is your servant, oh our Lord; accept him. He is lost to himself and exists only for You.” This is their top priority, and helping their followers attain such a reality is their duty. It is understood by all orders that strange and enchanting experiences are the scenery of the journey, not the goal.

The goal is to reach the Divine Presence by the attraction of the Beloved Himself. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (s) is the guide and example. On His miraculous Night Journey, in which he was conducted by the angel Gabriel (as) first from Makkah to Jerusalem and then up to the seven heavens and into the Divine Presence, he passed through the whole universe. God Almighty informs us in the Holy Quran that the Prophet’s (s) vision {neither swerved nor wavered} (53:2). In other words, he looked and beheld but never let those sights distract him from ascending towards his most exalted destination. The Holy Prophet (s) was able to behold those sights without being distracted because his heart was only for his Lord. He is the Beloved of God. As for ourselves, we are vulnerable and weak-willed. Those experiences and attainments may accord with our ego’s desires, whereas annihilation is never an attractive proposition for the ego. Therefore, in order to provide maximum protection, the Naqshbandi masters take a different approach to the unveiling of the heart’s eye.

There are 70,000 veils between us and the station of the Prophet (s). A Naqshbandi master rends these veils in descending order, starting with those closest to the Divine Presence and then successively downwards towards the level of the disciple. This process continues throughout the training of the disciple until there is but one veil, the veil of humanity, restraining the disciple’s vision from contemplation of the Divine Reality. In order to protect the disciple from attraction to something other than his Lord, however, the shaykh does not rend that last veil until the disciple reaches the highest state of perfection or until his final seven breaths on his deathbed.

If the veils are removed from the bottom up by means of mystical practices, the disciple beholds a succession of new panoramas. That very vision may keep him from progressing. Those who attain such stations during this life may discover that they have become powerful and famous among people. This is also a danger. Power and recognition are conditions conducive to worldliness. The ego will never neglect such an opportunity to demand its share of the excitement and admiration, and by doing so taint the whole process of spiritual endeavor. The Sufi aspirant must seek his Lord, not fame. Look at history’s most renowned holy woman, the Virgin Mary (s), who once prayed, {Would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!} (Surat Maryam, 19:23). She has taught all humanity to seek only obscurity in the sight of the world and not to look for recognition.

The striving for power and fame is a heavy burden. The Sufi seeks rather to be forgotten in the ocean of Unity of God Almighty. The Naqshbandi Sufi shaykhs say that whoever works according to the following series of recommendations, and acts on it, will attain the exalted stations, especially the station of nearness to God, Who is Powerful and Sublime, on the Day of Resurrection. The faithful and diligent application of these practices is certain to temper the influence of the lower elements which exist in every human being: the ego, worldliness, vain desires, and Satan. A person who manages to keep these principles of the Naqshbandi Order will achieve the light of his shaykh, who will lift him to the Presence of the supreme teacher, the Prophet (s), who in his turn, will lift him up to the station of annihilation in God.

God, Almighty and Exalted, taught Prophet Muhammad (s) good manners, for which reason the Holy Prophet (s) said, “My Lord taught me good manners and perfected His teaching.” The best of manners is to keep the orders of God, and the seeker must follow the example of the Prophet (s) in keeping the obligations of His Lord and in following the spiritual path. He must be persistent in keeping to the conduct of the Order, until he attains the knowledge of the Divine Law and the Way. The beginner must always begin at the beginning. He should recognize the difference between the Divine Law and the Way. The Divine Law is a reality that is obligatory for every believing man and woman. Concretely speaking, the Divine Law consists of practicing that which God has ordered and avoiding that which He has forbidden. The believer relies on guides to indicate clearly to him what to discard and what to follow. The Quran and Sunnah are the foundation of all guidance. The schools of the Divine Law, the writing of the scholars, and their living inheritors relay and explain the guidance. Whoever keeps to this guidance will be on the Straight Path.

The Way is the firm intention of the Divine Law. It does not exist outside the Divine Law. It is the resolution to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (s) as completely as possible in every aspect, both external and internal, exposed and hidden, exoteric and esoteric, physical and spiritual. To follow the Way, the disciple puts his trust in the judgment of the shaykh for the correct understanding and application of the guidance of the Quran and the Sunnah. The disciple places his hand in the hand of an authorized, living shaykh and must proceed as indicated by him. He must be ready at all times to receive the orders of his shaykh, just as the Prophet (s) awaited the coming of Gabriel  with revelation from God, Almighty and Exalted. In the same way, he must follow the shaykh’s orders, carrying them out to the letter. He must have the “conduct of anticipation,” which means that he must constantly await the orders of his guide. He must adopt the attitude of a hunter to its prey, being oblivious to all other directions. His sight, hearing, existence, and thoughts should be ready to receive orders, and he should always be ready to carry out some new order. Such a person will be a master of the proper conduct of the Exalted Naqshbandi Order, and this manifestation will become apparent in him.

The disciple should keep to his daily dhikr and should obey the order of his shaykh without veering to the right or to the left. Grandshaykh, Shaykh Abd Allah ad-Daghestani, said, “My tongue is the tongue of the secret of the Divine Law and of the secret of the Quran.” Then he asked a question saying, “Who are the bearers and protectors of the Quran?” and answered himself: “The bearers and protectors of the Quran are the ones who set foot in all the exalted stations and know them with true understanding. And is it not right, my children, that I should indicate to you that you should follow this path so that you may reach and discover these stations?” Shaykh Abd Allah ad-Daghestani continued saying, “Whoever receives the keys to the five stations: heart, secret, secret of the secret, hidden, and most hidden is the one who takes care to conduct himself properly and perform the spiritual practices in their correct manner. This enables him to reach the station of Bayazid al-Bistami, in which he said, “I am also the Real (al-Haqq).” Whoever wishes to enter the station of the two Attributes of the Real, Almighty and Exalted, the Attribute of Beauty and that of Majesty, must follow this Way.

Mawlana Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani

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