Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education

The Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education (NFIE) is a non-profit, tax exempt, religious and educational organization dedicated to serve Islam with a special focus on Tasawwuf(Sufism),

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Utmost State of Devotion for Prophet(saws) Fana Fi al-Rasul- Part 2 of 4,Dr.Marcia Hermansen

Utmost State of Devotion for Prophet Muhammad (saws). Fana Fi al-Rasul.A lecture by Dr.Marcia K.Hermansen,Professor of Theology,Director World Islamic Studies ,Loyola University,delivered at International Mawlid un Nabi Conference,1996,UIC,Chicago.Sponsored by Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education (



Another allusion to the role of the Prophet as a bridge or station on the way to the realization of God is the expression (qab qausayn)--“the distance of the two bow spans”, mentioned in al-Najm. (53:9). “He descended and drew near until he was two bow spans away or nearer”. The Sufi, ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Jili, has written a treatise on this topic entitled, Qab-i Qausayn wa multaqa al-namusayn (“A distance of two-bow spans and the meeting of the two realms).[1] Note that al-Jili’s more famous work, al-Insan al-Kamil fi ma’rifat al-awakhir wa’l awa’il,[2] is considered an important development in the concept of fana’ fir-rasul since in it he elaborates the concept of the “Perfected Human Being” indicated more briefly in Ibn ‘Arabi. It was also al-Jili who explained how the most highly developed Sufis could begin to merge aspects of their individual consciousness with the consciousness of the Prophet.[3]
Further elaboration of the concept of fana’ fir-rasul may be found Muhammad Lahiji’s (d. 1516) commentary on the Gulshan-i Raz of Mahmud Shabistari (d. 1320). According to Annemarie Schimmel, “This poem (the Gulshan-i Raz) is the handiest introduction to the thought of post-Ibn ‘Arabi Sufism; it deals with the Perfect Man, the stages of development, and mystical terminology, among other things.”[4] The selection quoted below is cited from the chapter, “The Station of Muhammad is the Pinnacle of Perfection of the Realized Ones (wasilan)” [5]
Since the furthest limit of the perfection of the perfect ones and those who have achieved union ends at the station of the praised one, Muhammad—he (Shabistari) said, “Follow the footsteps of Muhammad in the Mi’raj (the Night Journey in which the Prophet ascended to meet with Allah” First comes the perfection of existent things and the Seal of the Prophets, due to the ascension (mi’raj) of baqa’ after fana’, and sobriety after intoxication. Then comes (the stage of) traveling in God (sair b-illah), which is the station of his (the Prophet’s) constancy and the transcending of otherness and duality as indicated in the hadith—“whoever sees me sees (the truth) God”.[6]
This is the station of confirmation (tahaqquq) in true existence without non-existence, knowledge without ignorance, power without weakness, and will without compulsion, and this is the level of “so that through me he hears and through me he sees and through me he speaks”.[7]
We can thus observe how the Sufi, Lahiji, in his commentary explaining Shabistari’s poem is using concepts drawn from the Qur’an and hadith. For example, he cites both the hadith, “Whoever sees me” (man ra’ni),[8] and the hadith of supererogatory practices (nawafil)[9] which states that a worshipper approaches God through extra acts of worship and devotion until God become the source of all his actions. Each hadith can be related to how the stage of fana’ fir-rasul leads to the further station of annihilation in the Divine consciousness (fana’ fi-Allah).
Continuing with Lahiji’s text:
Since the Muhammadan station which is the oneness of union (ahadiyyat al-jam’) is an expression of the union of the end point with the beginning he (Shabistari) says:
“Once the end point reaches the beginning
There you find no place for either angel or messenger.”[10]
This, then, also refers to the transition from annihilation in the Messenger (fana’ fir-rasul) to annihilation in the divine (fana’ fi-Allah) through mentioning a hadith describing the station attained at the height of the Mi’raj.
A further relevant selection drawn from the commentary on the Gulshan-i Raz is the chapter entitled, “The Spiritual Path of the Saint (Wali) in Attaining the Rank of Mahbubiyyat (Belovedness) and Wilayat (Friendship/Saintship)”
Lahiji writes:
Since without perfect love which is a connection between God and the creation, reaching the station of perfection cannot be attained, Shabistari says that:
You must go from the level of “in kuntum tuhibbuni” (if you love me) to the place of seclusion of “yuhbibkum Allah” (God will love you).
This is a reference to the Qur’anic verse (3:31), “Say if you love Allah, then follow me (the Prophet) and God will love you.”
This citation evokes the Sufi terminology of the “muhibb” and the “mahbub”. A Sufi once explained to me the relationship of the muhibb and the mahbub on the spiritual path. The muhibb is the one who is aspiring to fulfill love and who is making efforts toward perfection and the love of Allah and his Prophet—but the muhibb, like the lovers of this world, must be vigilant and aware of his faults, he will be held to account for his smallest imperfections and errors. The mahbub on the other hand is that enviable state of what we might call in today’s language being “the recipient of unconditional love”, the mahbub basks in the delight and ecstasy of knowing and receiving this divine love, seemingly without any effort.[11]
In Sufism progress is conceived of as occuring from “fana’ fi-s-shaykh” to “fana’ fir-rasul” and then on to “fana fi Allah”. The secret of this is that often it takes the attention of the spiritual teacher, the shaykh or pir, to awaken the aspirant to these other levels. The love of the Shaykh allows the Sufi to experience the quality of belovedness (mahbubiyyat), so that she or he can develop this relation to the Prophet. In turn, the overwhelming effect of becoming conscious of the spiritual reality of the Messenger transforms the love of the individual to a cosmic love which prepares for the experience of the constant love of Allah which sustains all beings.
[1]This treatise of al-Jˆlˆ may be found in al-Nabhanˆ, Y¨suf ibn Isma…ˆl. Jawahir al-bihar fˆ fa∂a'il al-nabˆ al-mukhtar (Cairo; al-Babˆ al-Óalabˆ, 1960), pp. 214-239, which is a collection of texts on the virtues of the Prophet by various great thinkers in Islam. A further work of Nabhanˆ on the meaning of the Prophet's life is al-Anwar al-mu˙ammadiyya min al-mawahib al-laduniyya (Beirut: Matba…a al-adabiyya, 1310).
[2]Cairo: al-Babˆ al-Óalbˆ, 1981. This work was studied by Reynold A. Nicholson in Chapter Two of Studies in Islamic Mysticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1927), pp. 77-142. A study of al-Jˆlˆ and one of his texts is Naja˙ Ma˙m¨d al-Ghunaymˆ, al-ManaΩir al-Ilahiyya (Cairo: Dar al-Manar, 1987).
[3]Vincent Cornell, Mirrors of Prophethood The Evolving Image of the Spiritual Master in the Western Maghrib from the Origins of Sufism to the end of the 16th Century (Ph. D. dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 1989), p. 579. For a relevant discussion of al-Jˆlˆ's Insan al-Kamil and the symbolism of the relationship of the Sufi Shaykh to the Holy Prophet see Cornell's thesis, pp. 551-612 and his article, "The Logic of Analogy and the Role of the Sufi Shaykh in Post-Maranid Morocco" International Journal of Middle East Studies 15 (1983): 67-93.
[4]Annemarie Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1975), p. 280.
[5]Mu˙ammad Lahˆjˆ, Mafati˙ al-i…jaz fˆ shar˙ gulshan-i raz, ed. Kaiwan Sami…ˆ (Tehran, 1958), p. 229.
[6]Ibid. See footnote #8.
[7]An allusion to the hadith of nawafil. "Wa ma yuzalu …abdˆ yataqarrabu …alaiya bi-l-nawafil". Bukharˆ Riqaq and Ibn Óanbal.
[8]See note #9.
[9]See above note #23.
[10]Gulshan-i raz, 229. See note #28 on the hadith which is alluded to here.
[11]This is also described in the Gulshan-i raz, pp. 240-243.


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