Thursday, July 20, 2006

External & Internal Purification

After a disciple has attained the reality of faith and the soundness of repentance, he should be perpetually occupied with ablutions. Really and truly there should be no time when he is not occupied with ablutions, even though it be dark and cold, and the water itself is cold. After his ablutions let him perform two inclinations as a prayer of salutation. He should never seek to escape from any prayer. Let him perform the five prayers along with the congregation. When one prayer is over let him prepare for the next since "anyone who is waiting to pray is really already engaged in prayer." [1]

When anyone wants to attain ... purity he should attend first to his clothes. Merely reading and learning about these visible things does not cause them to be realized: It is necessary to bestir oneself as much as possible and show oneself assiduous in renewing ablutions. ... At the end of the night, toward dawn, let him take a bath. Let him consider this a good work. Almighty God will adorn him with a special kind of purity and will remove all external and internal pollution. [2]

It is related that Khwaja Bayazid said: "Whenever any thought of the world enters my heart, I cleanse myself, and whenever any thought about the world to come enters my heart, I take a bath." The reason is that the world is polluted and any thought about it is polluting. Hence cleansing or purification becomes necessary. In the life to come there is carnal desire, and one must obtain relief from that ceremonial pollution. While it is necessary to be cleansed from what pollutes, a bath is needed once ceremonial pollution has occurred.

The sheikhs have insisted on the necessity of both external and internal purification and have laid great stress on it. The starting point for those desiring to follow the Way is that their hearts become mirrorlike, so clean and shining that one can see reflected in them an image of the world of creatures and of the divine order. Thus they progress from the ranks of commoners to the rank of the elect. [3]

[The traveller on the way] should purify himself, as if he were performing the ablutions from major ritual impurity (al-janaaba), for man, so long as he remains pre-occupied with the world and those matters which distract from God Most High, will be ruled over by impurities (al-junub). But if he desires to stand before God Most High, he must of neccessity cleanse himself of ritual impurity with water as does the one about to pray. He should recite before beginning the ritual ablution,

O God, Cleanse me of every impurity, every error (hadath), every malady ('illa), every sickness (marad), every sin (dhanb), every act of disobedience (ma'siya), every negligence (ghafla), every transgression (zulma), every veil (hijaab), every estrangement (qati'a); indeed everything of which Thou cleansed Thy Prophet, Muhammad, May God bless and grant peace to his family, outwardly and inwardly, O Lord of the Worlds.



1. Maneri, Sharafuddin. The Hundred Letters. Pg 111
2. Pg 115-116
3. Pg 118

4. Enigmatic Saint: Ahmad ibn Idris and the Idrisi Tradition. Pg 204-205.

Those Who Could, But Do Not

One day while browsing among the bookshops opposite the great mosque and university, I discovered a copy of the seven-volume work, Futuhat al-Mekkiyah, the greatest and most elaborate of the writings of Sheikh al-akbar. While paging through, my eyes fell on a list of titles promising a description of all the spiritual stages leading to the highest union. I bought the work and, carrying my heavy load, found my way back through the narrow streets of the ancient city. On the way I chanced to meet my friend Mohammed ben Makhluf, a dervish with the profile of a hawk and a searching glance. He immediately guessed what I was carrying.

"What are you going to do with that?" he asked me. "It is much too advanced for you. What you need is a primer [of the spiritual life]."

"In that case, the book shall remain on my shelf until I am wise enough to study it."

"When you are wise, you will no longer need the book."

"Whom was it written for then?"

"For men who can see through walls but do not do so, nor even wish to."

- Titus Burckhardt, Preface to The Bezels of Wisdom

Chao Hsiang-tzu went hunting in the Central Mountains with a party of a hundred thousand. He set fire to the forests by lighting the tall grass, and fanned the flames for a hundred miles. A man came out from within a stone cliff, rising and falling with the smoke and ashes; the crowd thought he was a demon. When the fire passed, he came out walking casually, as though the fire he had passed through did not exist. Chao Hsian-tzu marvelled and detained the man. He scrutinised him at leisure; in his shape, his colour, and the seven holes in his head, he was human; in his breathing, in his voice, he was human. He asked the man by what Way he lived in stone and went through fire.
"What are these things you call stone and fire?" said the man.
"The thing you have just come out from was stone. The thing you have just been walking through is fire."
"I didn't know."

Marquis Wen of Wei heard of it, and questioned Tzu-hsia, the disciple of Confucius.
"What sort of man was that?"
"According to what I have heard the Master say, the man who is in harmony is absolutely the same as other things, and no thing succeeds in wounding or obstructing him. To pass through metal and stone and tread through water and fire are all possible."
"Why don't you do it yourself?"
"I am not yet capable of cutting open my heart and throwing away the knowledge in it. However, I can tell you all you want to know about it."
"Why doesn't your Master do it?"
"My Master is one who, though able to do it, is able not to do it."
Marquis Wen was delighted with the answer.

- The book of Lieh-tzu, pg 46-47.