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Wednesday, July 09, 2003  

On Retreat and Seclusion (Khalwah and Uzlah) Part 1 of 2 Abu-l-Hasan Ali bin Ahmad bin Abd Allah told us ... from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of God said, "The best of all human modes of life is that of a person who takes hold of the reins of his horse in the way of God. If he hears an alarm or an uproar, he is on his horse's back looking for death or battle wherever it is to be found. Or it is that of a person living on what he has won by warfare on the top of some mountain or at the bottom of some valley, who stands in prayer, gives charity, and serves his Lord until the certainty of death overtakes him. He comes not among people except for good." Khalwah, retreat, belongs to the purified, while uzlah, withdrawal from the world, marks the people of union. The seeker needs to withdraw from his own kind in the beginning stages. Then, in the last stages, he needs to retreat in order to confirm himself in intimacy with God. If the servant chooses to withdraw, his intention must be to separate himself from people so that they will be safe from his evil - he must not be looking to protect himself from their evil. For the first of these attitudes comes from thinking little of one's ego, while the second comes from making oneself out to be better than other people. A person who thinks little of himself is humble, while a person who sees himself as better than anybody else is arrogant. A Christian monastic was asked, "Are you a monk?" He replied, "No, I am the guardian of a dog. My ego is a dog that injures people, so I have taken it out from among them so that they may be safe from it." A man passed by one of the righteous and that shaykh gathered his garment away from him. The man said to him, "Why are you pulling your clothes away from me? My clothes are not defiled!" The shaykh answered, "I thought that you would think that my clothes were defiled so I pulled them away from you - in order not to defile your clothes, not so that you would defile mine!" One of the rules of withdrawal is that whoever goes into seclusion must acquire the knowledge that makes his commitment to unity (tawhid) firm, so that satan cannot seduce him through the imagination. Then he should acquire enough knowledge of the divine law that he is able to fulfill his religious duties so that his undertaking may be built on definite and sure foundations. Withdrawal from the world does not mean going away from inhabited places. The essence of seclusion is to isolate blameworthy traits in order to substitute the divine names for them. Thus it was asked, "Who is the gnostic (arif)?" and they replied, "A creature distinguished," that is, someone who appears to be together with people, but is inwardly separated from them. I heard Abu Ali al-Daqqaq say, "When you are with people, wear what they wear, eat what they eat and be separated from them by what is within you." I heard him say, "A man came to me and said, 'I have come to you from far away.' I said, 'That is not the way it is done. To really cross distances and endure the difficulties of travel, leave yourself. If you are successful, you will attain your object.'" It is related that Abu Yazid al-Bistami said, "I saw my Lord Almighty and Glorious in a dream and asked, 'How shall I find You?' He said, 'Leave yourself and come!'" I heard Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami say that he heard Abu Uthman al-Maghribi say, "Whoever chooses retreat over companionship must be free of every recollection but the remembrance of his Lord, free of every wish but the pleasure of his Lord, and free of every variety of the ego's demands. If he does not have these qualities, his retreat will plunge him into inner conflict or disaster." It is said, "Solitude in retreat contains all one could ask of comfort." Yahya bin Muadh said, "Look and seek whether your intimacy with God is through retreat or whether your intimacy is through Him, but in retreat. If your intimacy is through retreat, it will vanish when you leave the retreat. But if it is through Him, in retreat, then any place you may be, in the desert or on the plains will be the same to you." -Imam Abu-l-Qasim al-Qushayri, Principles of Sufism (Risalah Qushayriyyah)



posted by SuFiSTiC | 7/09/2003 12:14:00 AM |
As for him who fears to stand before his Lord and restrains the ego its desires, the Garden is shelter.
(The Snatchers:40)
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "The Fire is surrounded by all kinds of desires and passions, while Paradise is surrounded by all kinds of disliked, undesirable things."
(Bukhari)
Whoever does good at night is rewarded during the day and whoever does good during the day is rewarded at night. Whoever is sincere in abandoning a desire is saved from catering to it. God is too noble to punish a heart that has abandoned a desire for His sake.
(Abu Sulayman ad-Darani)
Beware of your ego, and trust not its mischief;
The ego is worse than seventy devils.
(Arabic Poem)
Abu Bakar Balkhi
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I seek God's forgiveness, and do not claim that my intention in producing this Blog is confined to good religious purposes; how may I do so when I am aware of the hidden desires, egotistic passions, and worldly wishes that I harbour? I do not claim innocence for myself; the ego is indeed an inciter to evil, save when my Lord shows mercy; my Lord is indeed Forgiving, Merciful. O God! I seek Your protection against my committing idolatry [shirk] knowingly, and Your forgiveness for that of which I am not aware! I ask God to make me and all other believers benefit from this Blog and to render my production of it purely for the sake of His Noble Countenance.

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