Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Truth about the Khalwa

"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." - Qushayri [1]

"[Seclusion] is to go among the crowd, while your secret prevents them from crowding you and to withdraw your ego from sins while your inner awareness is bound by the Real." -al-Jurayri [1]

It has been said, "Whoever prefers seclusion has attained seclusion." - Qushayri [1]

"Someone who is concealed from the people by retreat is not like someone who is concealed from them by God." - Dhul-Nun [1]



"There was an ascetic in the mountains. He was of the mountain- he was not of Adam. If he had been of Adam, he would have been among the people. Such people have understanding, they have imagination, they have the capacity to know God. What was he doing in the mountain? He was mud, so he inclined toward stones. What does man have to do with stones?

Be among the people, but be alone. Don't go into seclusion, but be solitary.

Muhammad (pbuh) said, "There is no monasticism in Islam." According to one interpretation, this is prohibition of cutting oneself off, of coming out from among the people, and of making oneself notable among the creatures because of knowledge. Another meaning is that it is prohibition of refusing to take a wife. Take a wife, but be disengaged. In other words, be separate from all and be rid of all in your heart." - Shams Tabrizi [2]


"When you serve the shaykh and are in the presence of the most outstanding of the shaykhs, you will have a permanent seclusion without sitting in seclusion. A state will come over you such that you will always be in seclusion. God has servants such that, when someone joins their service, he has a constant and continuous seclusion." - Shams Tabrizi [7]


"[The forty-day seclusion] is an innovation in the religion of Muhammad (pbuh). Muhammad never sat in a forty-day seclusion. That's in the story of Moses. Read, "And when We appointed with Moses forty nights" (Qu'ran 2:5).

Don't these blind people see that Moses, with all that grandeur, used to say, "My Lord, make me one of the community of Muhammad!"? In other words, "Make me one of the folk of vision!" This is the secret of those words. Otherwise, why would Moses want to be with me and you with our stinking armpits? " - Shams Tabrizi [3]

"These people who do the forty-day seclusion are followers of Moses- they have not tasted the following of Muhammad. Far from it! Rather, they do not have the following of Muhammad according to its stipulations. They have a bit of the flavor of following Moses, and they've taken that." - Shams Tabrizi [8]


"In short, in those outward seclusions, the more they go forward, the more imagination increases and stands in front of them. But in the path of following [Muhammad], the more they go forward- reality upon reality, and self-disclosure upon self-disclosure!" - Shams Tabrizi [4]

"So if I had the power, when he began telling the story of Abu Yazid and the seclusions yesterday, I would have said, 'This is innovation in Muhammad's religion. Don't talk about innovators.'...I would have said: 'Get up, go, and don't do anything like this again- listening to other people's words, and quoting the sayings of faulty transmitters about God's servants" -Shams Tabrizi [5]

"God's speaking-companion (Moses) said Show me (Qur'an 7:143). Since he knew that this belongs to the Muhammadans, he asked, "O God, make me one of the community of Muhammad!" This is what he meant by Show me: Make me one of the community of Muhammad. When he saw that the radiance of manliness fell on that mountain, and the mountain was smashed, he said, "That's not my work, but Make me one of the community of Muhammad."

It was said, "Now go for a few days in the service of Khizr." Khizr also says "Make me of the community of Muhammad." There is another light that plunders Moses and Khizr. If you look at Jesus, you'll see him perplexed in that light. If you look at Moses, you'll see him transfixed by that light. Muhammad has a light that overcomes all lights.

After all, those forty-day seclusions and those invocations- are they really the following of Muhammad? Yes, Moses received the instruction forty nights (Qur'an 2:51). What then is the following of Muhammad that Moses did not dare to ask for it? Rather, he said, "Make me one of his fellow riders." - Shams Tabrizi [6]


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1. Qushayri's Risala. On Solitude and Seclusion
2. Me & Rumi pg 203-204
3. Ibid, pg 147
4. Ibid, pg 88
5. Ibid, pg 190
6. Ibid, pg 113
7. Ibid, pg 210
8. Ibid, pg 255

2 comments:

HijabiApprentice said...

salaams. i really enjoyed this post.

my tariqah does practice khalwa (typically no longer than 3 days) and insha ALLAH i can look forward to my first khalwa this year. however, i can really appreciate the sincerity and practicality of this article. masha ALLAH!

Silencer said...

thanks. i hope the khalwa will bring you many benefits, inshalla.

btw shams tabrizi was not completely against the khalwa, he tells us about many sufis of his time that he knew, how they were sitting in 40-day khalwas when they saw certain visions and stuff.

but he was a very strong proponent of strict following of the Prophet Muhammad, which he called "following", and he divided sufis into "Mohammedan" and non-Mohammedan sufis. But he didnt say non-mohammedan sufis weren't Muslim. Some of them were amongst the greatest sufis. they just weren't like the Prophet in some practices or in qualities, for example the Prophet was very sober, while there are many "intoxicated" sufis, etc.