In the name of Allāh, The Most Compassionate, The Most Merciful
All praise be to Allāh who is exalted in the majesty of His Sovereignty, alone in the grandeur of His Might, dignified in the supremacy of His Oneness, sanctified in the loftiness of His Eternality, He whose Entity is far magnified from an equal in any capacity, whose Attributes are transcendent from any limitation or deficiency. To Him belong the attributes that belong to none other and the signs that show He is far beyond any similarity to His Creation.
Glorified is He, The One with Dignity. He whom no definition can reach, nor can anything contain nor can time confine Him. No one can ever help him nor does He have any offspring to support him. There is no number that can enumerate Him; no place that can contain Him; no time that can reach him; no intellect that can comprehend Him and no thought that can picture Him.
Far exalted is He from statements such as “How is He?”, “Where is He?”, “He acquired beauty only through His Creation” and “He warded off imperfections and deficiencies from His Actions.” For indeed ‘There is nothing like unto Him and He is The All-Hearing, The All-Seeing.’ No living thing can overcome Him for He is the All-Knowing, the All-Powerful.
I praise Him for what He protects and for what He creates. I thank him for what He withholds and what He bestows. I place my trust in Him and I am content with him. I am pleased with that which He gives and what He takes.
I testify that there is no God but Allāh alone, He who has no partner, a testification of absolute trust in His Oneness, seeking to obtain the Perfections of His Bestowals. And I testify that our Leader, Muḥammad ﷺ is His Servant, the Chosen One; His elected confidant and His Messenger who was sent to the entirety of creation. May Allāh send countless salutations upon him and his Noble Family — the lanterns who illuminate darkness and upon his Companions–the keys to Absolute Guidance
This epistle was authored by the destitute man in need of Allāh, the Exalted – ‘Abd al-Karīm ibn Hawāzin al-Qushayri, addressing the masses of the Sufīs who are situated in the lands of Islām, in the year 437 A.H.
O Sufis! May Allāh be pleased with you all; for Allāh has made this group His chosen friends and has elevated them over the rest of His servants after the Prophets and Messengers – may the salutations of Allāh be upon them all. And He has made their hearts the abode of His Mysteries and distinguished them from rest of the Nation with His glorious light. They are the protectors of all creation, who remain with Allāh in all of their states, upholding only the truth.
He has purified them from the murkiness of mankind’s nature and elevated them to the stations of witnessing, due to what He revealed to them from the realities of Divine Oneness. He enabled their success by granting them excellence etiquette in servitude and has given them insight into the Divine Machinations behind the decree of His rulings. Therefore, they have become capable of upholding the obligations of legal responsibility, and they carry them out in the most perfect of manners.
They returned to Allāh with the sincerity of their reliance upon Him and their utter brokenness. They refused to rely on what they garnered in good deeds or their spiritual states. For they know that Allāh does what He wishes, and He chooses whoever he wills from His servants, while creation cannot pass judgment over him, nor do they hold any right against Him. His reward is the beginning of all beneficence. His punishment is a judgment, full of justice and His Command is the unquestionable judgement.
So know – may Allāh have mercy on you all – that the true practitioners of the spiritual nation have, for the most part, become extinct and nothing remains of them in our era except their traces, like it has been said:
As for the tents, then they resemble their tents
But I see that the women of the settlement are not the women of the past.
The Spiritual Path has been overcome by weakness; no, in fact, the path (ṭarīqah) has entirely disappeared. Gone are the shuyūkh who would serve as guides and rare are those young men whose deeds and behaviour deserve to be emulated. Scrupulosity has gone and rolled up its prayer mats. Greed has become more severe and tightened its grip.
Reverence for the Sacred Law has left the hearts, choosing neglect of religion as their support and the rejecting the scales of the permissible (ḥalāl) and the forbidden (ḥarām). Their religion is forsaking reverence and shamelessness. They have no share in acts of worship and have become neglectful of fasting and prayer. They have run amok in the fields of heedlessness and incline towards those who blindly follow their lust and desires. They think little of their sinful deeds though at the same time consider themselves noble folk so that they may enjoy the innocent charity of the markets, the women and the rulers.
Yet, they are still not satisfied with these despicable actions of theirs! To the extent that they have allude to the highest of Divine Realities and States claiming that they have freed themselves from the bondages of servitude, having attained the realities of Divine Union. They claim that they exist through God, who controls their actions with His Command and they are completely annihilated.
They claim that Allāh cannot hold them accountable nor blame them in what they prefer or dislike. And that they have been illuminated with the Divine Secrets of Oneness, and their souls have been completely taken [into the Company of Allāh] such that their humanistic natures have been taken away from them. They say that it is no longer them who speak from their mouths nor are they ones who commit actions, but in reality it is none but them.
The Reason for Penning This Epistle
Although we have been afflicted with this burden for some time in our era, I have restrained myself from lengthy refutations of some of their aforementioned statements. I only withheld myself out of concern for the Spiritual Path, for one should not speak bad of its folk. We should not give the enemies a reason to criticise the true spiritual masters since our land is severely afflicted with those who oppose this path and deny the veracity of its nature.
I hope that the cause of this lengthy weakness will be eradicated and that God, by His Generosity, will warn and discourage those who oppose the exemplary sunnah by neglecting of the etiquette of this path.
But since this problem only continues to persist in our era and many folk here are stubborn in their adherence to corruption, blindly persisting in their delusions, I have started to fear that the people will start to believe that the current state of affairs represents the foundations of the Sufis, and that the earlier representatives of this path were similar to these misguided people.
And so I composed this epistle for you – may Allāh bestow His Blessings and ennoble you all – and I mentioned within it some of the biographies of the true mastersof this path, their etiquettes, their character, their doctrine and beliefs they held in their hearts. I have also mentioned the ecstatic states they alluded to, the progression of their spiritual ascent from the beginning to the peaks of their spirituality so that it may serve as something that strengthens the adherents of this path, and that you all may be testifiers to its authenticity.
As for me, then by spreading this complaint, I shall gain some solace and some grace and reward from the Most Generous. And so I seek Allāh’s assistance in that which I have written. And I ask Him to protect and defend me from errors in it. I seek His forgiveness and I seek His help.
And He alone is the One who is deserving of praise and He has power over what He wills.
al-Qushayrī, Abu al-QāsimʿAbd al-Karīm ibn Hawāzin ; al-Risālah al-Qushayriyyah
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