close_menu
close-popup
image-popup

Available languages:
close-popup
Paypal
Credit card

Privacy policy

subscribe
Classics

Amidst the Fire of Divine Love

Muhammad's Ascent to Heaven

A Muslim poetess and mystic describes the journey that leads to complete annihilation in God. This is not the result of a technique or some personal effort, but a grace that the Most High pours out on those He chooses, eliminating any distance between the lover and the Beloved.

This article was published in Oasis 30. Read the table of contents

Last update: 2021-02-02 09:49:09

Read the introdution to this classic The Mystical Itinerary of a Friend of God

 

On a friend’s request, a Muslim poetess and mystic describes the path leading to complete extinction in God. This is not the fruit of a technique or some personal effort. Rather, it is a grace which the Most High pours out on the people he chooses, a predilection by virtue of which every distance is abolished between lover and Beloved. He can thus be contemplated “in the epiphany of True Oneness.”

 

In the Name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate, Who suffices me.

 

Praise God, who pours His aid upon His beloved ones as a special allotment and reward, quenching their hearts from the drink of oneness with love and purity, revealing Himself to their inner hearts in glory and beauty, and gracing them with gift of proximity in contemplation and union. I praise Him with the praise of one to whom He made Himself known. Then she knew and was blessed with His grace, and confessed and acknowledged that this was beyond all thanks. I bear witness that there is no deity but God, alone without peer. This is the witness of one who roamed in the deserts of singularity and drowned in the ocean of oneness. Then she turned her gaze from creation and witnessed the True Reality by means of the True Reality. I bear witness that the most special of the special ones, the master of messengers, the chosen of the chosen ones, the most eminent of creation is His most praiseworthy Muhammad,[i] His most glorious emissary, His dearest beloved, and His noblest friend. May God bless and cherish him with prayers for all eternity, abiding in perpetuity, with prayers that will continue to bring us aid and instruction from him. May God also bless his brethren among the prophets and emissaries, all of his family and companions, all progeny, and all the righteous. May He give them eternal peace and exalt them!

 

When the sincerity to seek grew strong in one of the dear friends, and he stood waiting at the door with his head on the doorsteps, God revealed to us the purity of his heart and the sincerity of his intention, and we observed that, thanks to the grace of God, he was one of those filled with the gifts of divine providence and marked by mercy for the realization of Lordly love. We saw him looking longingly for instruction in the way of realization and for guidance to the right path. So we sought God’s guidance, may He be glorified, for explaining things to him in the language of speech that he might, if the exalted God so wills, attain the language of the mystical state. Then we answered his request and fulfilled his hopes solely for the grace of God and His satisfaction, for all aid and right guidance are from Him. He is my sufficiency and “the best trustee!” (Qur. 3:173)

 

Know, may God show you mercy, that the stations of the Sufi folk, God’s people, are innumerable, but their branches have four roots from which each station spreads, namely: repentance (tawba), sincerity (ikhlās), remembrance (dhikr), and love (mahabba). We will discuss each of these four principles based on what we have found in the Qur’an and in the prophetic traditions,[ii] as well as the knowledge we have acquired about the true state of affairs among the Sufi folk replete with subtle allusions. I have named this The Principles of Sufism. Assistance comes from God, and protection is with God. With His aid and care, may He keep this work free of errors, and may it be a benefit to others. […]

 

Conclusion About Love

 

At the conclusion of this book, God the Exalted inspired us with mystical truths, in both poetry and prose, regarding this very special love. They are appropriately placed here as an epilogue to this work. We ask God’s help, and He “suffices us and is the best trustee”! (3:173)

 

Know, may God show you mercy, that love is God’s most wondrous secret. It is the result of being chosen, the effect of designation, the means to proximity, and the ascension to union. Love is pure grace, pure generosity, and true munificence. It is the secret of the inner heart and the subtlety of the divine command. It is an ocean without a shore, a jewel without a price, and a light without darkness. Love is a secret whose essence cannot be fathomed and a subtle meaning whose description cannot be grasped. “That is the grace of God, which He gives to whom He wills, and God possesses wondrous grace!” (57:21; 62:4)

 

The quality of love is a fire that does not go out, a blaze that never dies. It is never-ending tears, an untreatable illness, an incurable disease. It is constant wasting away and incessant grief, a desire without solace, a never-ending passion, a persistent longing. As a result, restlessness builds up, breathing grows faster, confusion multiplies, and burning love increases.

 

The end result of love is total absorption,[iii] effacing the lover as his shadowy existence passes away with promised grace. Divine providence sends him forth to those worthy of saintly sovereignty, with the realities of the attractions of oneness and the subtleties of eternity’s breath. No trace or word remains of anything else, indicating that the shadow of existence has disappeared in the rising sun of the witness to oneness. Then the tongue of glory recites in the presence of perfection, “Such is God, your true Lord, and after the True Reality, there is only being lost!” (Qur. 10:32)

 

The following was composed by the very tongue of this mystical state:[iv]

 

The worshipper vanished in true love,

Gone from himself and all the worlds.

So there wasn’t a jot of difference

To mark one off from another.[v]

Then with an epiphany, He revived one

He had effaced in Him, as difference disappeared,

And so with this promised gift,

He pleased the eyes and heart.

 

When God the Exalted wants to befriend one of His worshippers, He sends him the royal decree: “He loves them, so they love Him,” (5:54) together with the robe of honor: “God is pleased with them, and they are pleased with Him.” (5:119; 58:22; 98:8) Then the herald of protection will announce the bestowal of benefits: “Truly, they are the friends of God; they have no fear, nor will they grieve” (10:62); and the sergeant-at-arms will sound off their honored designation: “They are the party of God! Will not the party of God be successful ones?” (58:22) We have referred to this in verse, as follows:

 

They are the folk, God’s people.

He bestowed loyalty upon them

As a robe of honor among His servants.

In His creation, He granted them His mercy

That they might help those they choose

With His overflowing love.

 

Love leads the lover to sacrifice all gain and confirms the gift of divine favor. Love is a seizure in many hearts, carrying away the lover’s existence into the beloved. Love is not satisfied with the lover without his total sacrifice. Love’s reality is a secret that attracts the inner heart and rules it; it captivates reason and seizes existence. It effaces being and annihilates everything. To define it is impossible, and allusion misses the mark; words fail and thought is frail; reason errs, and understanding is perplexed. It has been said that anyone who tries again and again to describe love will only end in failure. […]

 

Love is God’s grace. The worshipper cannot attain it by means of great effort, nor by a clever stratagem that he took great pains to devise, nor by means of a good deed that he has perfected, nor by weighty knowledge[vi] that he has mastered, nor due to some power on which he relies, nor any exalted lineage that he may have. How could this be? Love is, after all, pure grace, pure generosity. God chooses whichever worshipper He pleases for it. This love forgives sins, covers faults, exalts the humble, raises the fallen, returns one from exile, and reunites one who was cut off. Such is God’s love for his worshipper. As for the worshipper’s love for God, it is a secret that seizes him completely and draws all of him, until it rejoins him to his Lord and seats him in His presence; it causes him to pass away from his ephemeral self,[vii] and this passing leads him to abide in His essence.

 

The subtle meaning of God’s love for the worshipper is the selection of the worshipper for this secret—which we have noted and to which we have referred—by seizing him with the Beloved’s attractions and effacing annihilations until the worshipper is without a sense of self in the light of the sun of true oneness. This is the true realization of true love. Anything less than this love is a love dependent on causes and contingencies derived from attention to the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain.

 

How lovely is the statement by the illustrious spiritual axis, the master, Muhammad ibn Abī l-Wafā’,[viii] may God sanctify his heart:

 

I had reckoned that union with you

Could be bought

With expensive goods and slaves.

Yet foolishly I thought

Your love was not worth

The waste of precious souls.

But then I saw you choose

and bestow wondrous gifts

on the one you loved,

And then I knew you could not be had

By any clever deal,

So I hung my head in shame.

 

The close presence to God is the lovers’ paradise; union’s wine is their nectar, and the perpetual beatific vision is their bliss. They are delighted in the garden of the beatific vision, enjoying the fruits of the divine address. They renounced this world and turned away from the world to come; they had no place of refuge save the exalted nearness of perfect proximity to God. “They are those whom God has guided, and they are those with insight.” (39:18) God established a relationship with them[ix] with “He loves them, and they love Him,” (5:54) at the place of “God is pleased with them, and they are pleased with Him,” (5:119; 58:22; 98:8) on the carpet of “Truly, they are the friends of God; they have no fear nor will they grieve.” (10:62) God greeted them with the greeting: “‘Peace’, a word from a merciful Lord,” (36:58) and He gave them “what souls desire and eyes find sweet.” (43:71) He chose them for nearness “in truth to a mighty King,” (54:55) and granted them bliss as “their Lord quenched them with pure drink.” (76:21) He made them immortal in the garden of the beatific vision “where they will have what they desire, and We have still more!” (50:35) This, by God, is the honor attained by the highest aims and the gift received by the greatest aspirations. “That is the grace of God, which He gives to whom He will, and God possesses wondrous grace!” (57:21; 62:4)

 

Regarding this topic, it is appropriate that we cite our verse inspired by God, as follows:

 

God looked with favor on a folk,

so they stayed away

from worldly fortunes.

In love and devotion, they worshipped Him;

they surrendered themselves

with the best intention.

They gave themselves up to Him in love

and passed away from existence

with nothing left behind.

Then with kindness and compassion,

He turned to them

and revealed to them His essence,

And they lived again

gazing at that living face

as His eternal life appeared.

They grazed near Him[x]

in the garden of union,

and drank from contemplation’s cups

Filled as promised

with a pure wine

from the vision of true oneness.

Oh how they drank it,

cups of pure wine

bringing good cheer.

It gave them

never-ending happiness

in a tranquil life of pleasant union

Where fears and doubts fled away

as protection arrived

against the veil of difference.

So here’s to good health,

glad tidings, and blessings

for reaching the wish and the goal:

A union without separation,

and a vision

never to be concealed!

After this, by God, there is no desire,

no, nor aim

for a pure spirit.

So they were pleased with their good fortune:

union with the Lover

who chose them above all others,

As He gave them His love

and fulfilled His promise

in the holy presence.

They were chosen by Him

as His vice-regents[xi]

and raised in rank to help others.

So under their banner stands

all existence where their command

is carried out at once.

They are His people

due to His grace upon them,

while all others are but strangers.

They appeared in existence

bearing largesse

to all the worthy ones.

So among humanity,

they are chosen suns,

whom only the blind deny.

They are the masters!

I was joined to them

and we stood alone in oneness,

And drank the wine, not from cups,

but from jars, in the tavern

where the oath was sworn.[xii]

We drank it until we were drunk

in pre-eternity where drunkenness

lasts forever.

So you see us drunk on wine,

though appearing sober

to disguise the affair.

And gracing us by passing round wine

is the most praised noble one,

Muhammad, chosen from the best,

The grace of God, His mercy for us,

the noblest of creation,

the best of humanity’s best,

The best of servants,

to whom He revealed the Book

and gave the special gift of prophecy.

He is the light of our eyes,

who grants our desires,

the secret of secrets of those who give aid.

May the Beloved’s blessings,

ample peace, and cheer

flow over him

And his progeny, companions, and family

for they are a folk to whom

we have a sublime connection,

As long as the cups

come around to us

and quench our thirsty hearts,

As long as our Beloved reveals Himself,

and we behold in this epiphany

true oneness!

 

The end of this poem marks the end of this book, all with the support of the Giver of Gifts, the Sovereign. Praise God as He deserves, and may His prayers and peace be upon the perfect and glorious master, the noblest in all the worlds, Muhammad, and upon his family and companions. May He grant them salvation, honor, and glory! I entrust to God the Exalted my faith, my self, my children, my husband, those dear to me in God, and all that He has bestowed on me and them, in religion and in this world and the next. I ask Him to pardon me, my parents, and all Muslim men and women, with His grace and generosity, for He is the most merciful! I turn my face toward God seeking the intercession of the most noble of His nobles, our most wondrous means to God, Muhammad, the chosen one, may God bless and cherish him, that He might always grant me, my children, and the ones I hold dear in Him, the favor of sealing His aid and succor, and the beatific vision of Him in intimacy with Him in His presence, in total union with Him, without any affliction accompanying it whatsoever. He is always magnanimous and generous, kind and merciful!

 

‘Ā’isha al-Bā‘ūniyya, The Principles of Sufism (al-Muntakhab fī usūl al-rutab fī ‘ilm al-tasawwuf), Arabic Edition and English Translation by Th. Emil Homerin. New York: New York University Press, 2014, pp. 3–4; 85–87; 93–98.

 
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Oasis International Foundation

 

To cite this article


Printed version:
Text by ‘Ā’isha Al-Bā‘ūniyya, “Amidst the Fire of Divine Love”, Oasis, year XV, n. 30, December 2019, pp. 105-112.


Online version:
Text by ‘Ā’isha Al-Bā‘ūniyya, “Amidst the Fire of Divine Love”, Oasis [online], published on 30th November 2020, URL: https://www.oasiscenter.eu/en/amidst-the-fire-of-divine-love


[i] There is here a pun with the etymological meanings of Muhammad (“the praised one”) and Ahmad (“the most praiseworthy”).
[ii] I.e. the tradition (Sunna) going back to Muhammad and laid down in the hadith corpus.
[iii] Literally, “shadowy existence.” This is the fundamental doctrine of Sufism: God alone truly exists, while creation would only be shadows devoid of any autonomous reality.
[iv] That is, ‘Ā’isha al-Bā‘ūniyya claims to have composed these verses while in a mystical state or hāl. (Th. Homerin)
[v] Literally, “There was no mark to denote difference; so the letter ‘ayn could not be distinguished from the letter ghayn.” The difference between the two letters is a single dot. (Th. Homerin)
[vi] As opposed to immediate certainty which consists, for the Sufis, of the knowledge of God.
[vii] The Arabic word anāniyya (‘ipseity’) designates the principle of individuality, which Sufism considers illusory. Because of the sentiment of self-sufficiency permeating it, the human self would be the major obstacle to the union with God.
[viii] A Sufi contemporary of ‘Ā’isha al-Bā‘ūniyya, died in 1486. The term ‘Axis’ or ‘Pole’ designates in the mystical parlance the apex of initiatic saintliness in a given epoch.
[ix] The Arabic expression wasala-hum-u ’llāhu bi-sila also means ‘God granted them a gift”: both concepts are implied in the verb.
[x] Cf. the prophetic tradition, which ‘Ā’isha al-Bā‘ūniyya cited earlier in section 3.22 of Principles: “If you pass by the meadows of the Garden, grave there.” (Th. Homerin)
[xi] According to one possible interpretation of verse 2:30, man is the vice-regent (literally ‘the caliph’) of God on earth. Sufis have applied this qualification to themselves in a special way, understanding divine vice-regency as a power, bestowed by pure grace, to assist fellow humans and the whole of creation.
[xii] ‘Ā’isha al-Bā‘ūniyya is alluding here to the pre-eternal oath that humans would have sworn to God according to the most widespread exegesis of Qur. 7:172.