There are some particular spiritual problems which most seekers of the path of truth are confronted with. A brief explanation of these is given below. This is specially relevant in the case of those who engage themselves in Dhikr on a regular basis, and for that matter, it also applies to practising Muslims at large whose hearts experience the emotional states known as Qabd (seizure, depression, compression) and Bast (release, elation, expansion) quite commonly, without any volition of theirs. Although, these states are transitory, yet they play a vital role in spiritual training and moral grooming. Because of these, man’s spiritual potential rises to new heights and his relationship with Allah gets stronger.
1. The State of Qabd
This is a state in which the heart is seized (not in the medical sense) by a feeling of acute depression (again, not in the medical sense) and dispiritedness. Not only does one feel dejected with whatever he is doing by way of spiritual deeds, but that he also starts seeing everything else pertaining to his personal and professional life as useless. So acute becomes his state of dullness and despair that life itself appears to be a heavy burden. There are occasions when one starts nursing doubts and hesitations in crucial matters of Faith and Salvation – despite the fact that one keeps fulfilling mandatory religious obligations. When overtaken by such a state, one should keep engaged in abundant prayers seeking Allah’s forgiveness and protection along with repeated recitals of the noble Darud (sending blessings upon the Prophet) supplicating fervently for well-being from Allah. As said earlier, this state of Qabd is simply transitory, a passing phase, but there are many spiritual gains made through it. One realizes his weakness and humility, his helplessness, his servility and virtual nihility. This is the station of Sabr – of patience, endurance and forbearance – for a seeker. It is here that man is blessed with the wealth of Divine company and it is here that the root of man’s pride over his supposed excellencies in knowing and doing things is cut asunder.
2. The State of Bast
Contrary to the state of depression, there are other times when a sense of relief, delight and openness overtakes the heart of the seeker who engages in Dhikr regularly. In a state like this, one becomes enthusiastically absorbed in prayers and other forms of worship and is able to witness the rewards and favours of Allah around him. With a disposition all-elated, the heart turns aglow with spiritual lights of many shades and hues. Although, this state too is transitory, yet, the seeker in the way of Allah occupies the station of Gratitude in that state of being where he is all possessed by Divine love.
But , one should not lose sight of the fact that these states of Qabd and Bast are simply transitory and non-voluntary. Therefore, one should not bother about them rationally. Instead of that, one should, under all conditions, stay devoted to the performance of obligatory duties (Fara’id and Wajibaat) because that is the very objective of life.
So, the essence of what is being said here is that one should forget about the states of depression or elation (Qabd or Bast) and stayed glued to one’s job on hand because inward conditions are naturally prone to changes, something no human can be exempt from. Rather, the fact is that these very changes are the building blocks of moral training and grooming and of spiritual ranks that follow in their wake. Therefore, no matter what the condition, one must meet the challenge posed at that time and deliver what is due – sometimes with patience (sabr) and at others with gratitude (shukr). But one should plan nothing of his own to remove or achieve one or the other condition. The best course is to entrust one’s case with Allah. This is the way of ideal peace and security. Let this be understood clearly that feeling proud over commendable deeds, and their surrounding effects, is neither befitting nor called for, nor is there any need to be disappointed over deficient deeds and their circumstantial effects, if any. Mind you that both these attitudes are highway-robbers of the spiritual quest. The real touchstone of acceptance with Allah is the fulfilment of the injunctions of the Shari`ah and the abstinence from sins. When the profusion of Dhikr and persistence in righteous deeds start producing stability and fortitude in deeds and their surrounding conditions, one is blessed with an inward connection proportionate to one’s capability, knowledge and comprehension. This tunes one to obey Allah and to worship Him in a natural way the result of which is that he finds himself doing so out of love, while at the same time, there emerges a parallel hatred for disbelief and sin in his heart. On occasions, one starts experiencing the unravelling of some spiritual insights and realities. All these are favours and rewards from Allah without any right , claim or deservedness. When this happens, it is obligatory that we should always be grateful for them.
There is yet another important thing which we must understand in this connection. This is about those ugly, disturbing and absurd thoughts which frequently overwhelm us mentally and emotionally during the state of Salah and Dhikr and, for that matter, under other conditions as well. There is a mob of alarming temptations and threatening fears. At times, one reaches the dangerous limits of disbelief and heresy which generate doubts in faith, Islam and in matters relating to the Hereafter, resulting in their outright rejection. Sometimes, the demands of the desiring self get uncontrollably activated. There are other times when one’s own imperfect condition combined with failure in worldly affairs starts subjecting him to extreme despair.
Let us be very clear in out minds that all these distractions are involuntary and should be taken as nothing but Satanic instigations. So far one does not submit and act as they demand, one is never going to be answerable for them, and they are definitely no sign of having been rejected in one’s search for the truth. In fact, they do not cause any decrease in one’s faith, nor do they make any dent in one’s relationship with Allah. Rather, one is rewarded for bearing by the pain caused by the nature of these thoughts which are ugly and unpleasant. On such occasions, thoughts should be diverted to something else. Read a religious book. Take to sitting with men of Allah. Seek Allah’s forgiveness and His protection a few times. Insha’Allah, one will get rid of these doubts gradually. If, just in case, one does not get rid of them even through a whole lifetime, one hardly loses anything in the present world, or the Hereafter – because they, being non-voluntary, carry no answerability.
In what I have said above, I have laid out before you the essence of what is known as Tasawwuf and Suluk. This is the capital on which builds the edifice of certitude in faith, piety of the heart and the knowledge of the self. As for now, please do not aspire for more Waza’if and Awrad (things to recite regularly). In methods suggested above, there is just no chance of remaining deprived. Insha’Allah, everything will be achieved through these brief yet concise deeds [mentioned in another place]. Nevertheless, the condition is that one should be sincere in intention and consistent in practice because fortitude is superior to working miracles in our time. Wa ma tawfiqi illa billah, I am unable to do say anything except by the will of Allah.
(Ma`mulaat Yawmiyyah, Dr. Muhammad `Abd al-Hayy `Arifi)