Sufi Meditation: Muraqabah
Meditation is concentration and focus. Meditation is to ask and to find a way to reach for what you are seeking. It is the last level, the last point, that our spirituality reaches. Meditation is not sitting on your legs, crossing your legs, closing your eyes and thinking that you are reaching what you are seeking. This is only imitation, not meditation.
Meditation is not for beginners. It is the last level for the travelers of this Way, the highest level of Sufi practice. Meditation is not for everyone. The beginner must first be prepared and trained through other spiritual practices that lead to the development of the characteristics necessary to reach the level of meditation. He must learn the rules and master the methodology of Sufism to reach that point. He must be trained.
This training is essential, because meditation requires you to stop some of your feelings and desires. You must eliminate them to prepare for even the first step of meditation. You are filled with useless things and must purify yourself and learn to control these thoughts and feelings before your practice of Sufi meditation can be successful. Sufi meditation is a connection, and your physical being must be able to carry that connection. If you meditate and yet remain under the control of your physical desires, then your meditation will be false. You may believe that you are meditating, but you will only be deluding yourself You cannot succeed in this discipline without first purifying yourself and learning how to block such distractions. In Sufi meditation, you must drop everything from your desires except for the love of that one upon whom you are meditating. You must break every desire except the love of that one. If other desires remain, then your meditation will be fruitless. You may claim that you are practicing meditation, but there will be no basis for that claim.
Just as a river that runs to the ocean upon reaching it becomes one with it, so does the path of Sufi meditation lead the seeker to annihilation in that which he is seeking.
However, this requires the seeker to maintain a single-minded focus upon his goal. Only if he is willing and able to leave everything and turn inward with undivided attention can he travel this path to its end. If he does, then he will find what he is seeking. You may make Sufi meditation to the spiritual master (Shaykh). Consider the Prophetic tradition that states:
Without a doubt, knowledge is acquired by learning, and forbearance is acquired by demonstrating forbearance.
We are not putting the guide in the heavens nor putting him beside the Holy Throne. We are not making meditation to the shaykh, imagining he is sitting on the Throne. We are not saying this at all. We are speaking of the material world. To make meditation to the guide, the spiritual master, is to listen, to hear, and to accept clearly what the shaykh is teaching you. Meditation to the master is to be in the Presence of the Shaykh (huduru 'sh-shaykh) That is Sufi meditation. If he is not there, there is no Sufi meditation. Real Sufi meditation is for God, but the master is preparing you to reach the Divine Presence and to make true Sufi meditation.
It is like the construction of a rocket. The scientists, engineers and technicians prepare everything. They put the crew on board and launch the spacecraft. However, those scientists, engineers and technicians who are on Earth must first prepare the atmosphere on the spacecraft for those who want to reach the moon, or Mars, or Venus, or Pluro, or Neptune, or Jupiter or wherever. They do this while they are still on Earth. In the same way, the Sufi guide is preparing his followers and sending them on to the Divine Presence. The shaykh is not saying, "Connect to me instead ofyour Lord, and be with me." No! He is only preparing you.
As we mentioned, the Prophet said:
Without a doubt, knowledge is [acquired] by learning.
A person who is asking to reach the station of meditation with their Lord must first be prepared. The master teaches his students how they must be in order to be ready to reach their Lord's meditation. He does this through Sufi meditation. Whether his disciples are near or far, the master prepares them through Sufi meditation, just as engineers prepare a rocket for its ascent. Through Sufi meditation, the shaykh is teaching a way of making meditation to God. Before you can reach the Divine Presence, your heart must be with the shaykh and your mind must be with the shaykh's mind, so that you will be prepared. You cannot prepare yourself, by yourself, for such a journey.
Consider the Prophet's Night Journey. Even he first had to prepare. He did not go directly up to the heavens. First, the archangels Israfil, Michael and Gabriel came to him in the Sacred Mosque.
They were preparing the Prophet for meditation with his Lord Almighty, and they did not leave hirn until he was ready. Archangel Gabriel brought hirn to the Station of the Highest Lote Tree. Up to that point, he was in meditation with Archangel Gabriel. When they reached that station, then Archangel Gabriel, left, saying, "My meditation is finished. Muraqabah with me is finished. Now you have reached what you were asking for." Archangel Gabriel could not pass that point because that is the boundary beyond which the mind can no longer function, beyond which there can be no understanding.
Those who have the requisite spiritual abilities can bring to mind the inheritors of the Prophet, in order that they may prepare them for the journey to the Divine Presence. They may use their imagination to bring the spiritual master to mind, but it requires special power. Sometimes, the shaykh will appear to them through dreams. Sometimes, if the seeker is more advanced, they may look for the shaykh while they are awake and find him. The spiritual guide is a means. He is not the target. The guide is serving, helping and directing his disciple. Therefore, the disciple must be with the guide. He must make meditation with his master.
The shaykh is looking after his disciple, and through Sufi meditation, he may correct any wrong actions of his disciple. Just as a driving school instructor teaches new drivers to prepare them for their licenses, the shaykh instructs his students to prepare them for the journey to the Divine Presence. In driver's training, the instructor sits next to the student and looks after hirn, seeing how he is doing. If he is not looking, the student may have an accident. Therefore, the teacher is sitting next to hirn and teaching hirn. When he learns, then he receives his license and there is no longer a need for the instructor to be always with him.
Oh who believe! Persevere in patience and constancy; vie in such perseverance; strengthen each other (rabitu); and fear God that ye may prosper. (3:200)
This means, you must tie yourself to your spiritual master. This is what you do when you are initiated into this Order, when you take initiation (baya) with your guide. Rabitah means "to be bound." If you are not bound, you will be lost. Initiation is establishing the bond. Everyone who is initiated is bound to the guide. Thus, he may be representing thousands or millions of disciples, just as the Prophet Muhammad is representing his entire Nation in the Divine Presence.
When you establish the bond, you reaffirm this connection. You say, "I am under my guide's control. I am under his dominion." Everyone that has a guide is under his dominion. You must feel that you are under his dominion. Dominion means accepting one's spiritual master will never leave hirn to succumb to any evil or devils. Dominion is the power of spiritual masters. You must know that you are in his dominion, in his authorized area. You must say, "I am swimming, trying to reach the beach of his dominion, to find the way towards my Lord."
The best time for Sufi meditation is during the last half of the night. The seeker must sit down and must try to forget everything in existence except their guides, asking to reach the Divine Presence.
When you make Sufi meditation, you must close your eyes, so as not to be distracted by things that are around you. It is best to perform Sufi meditation in the dark, because this helps the seeker blot everything else out of existence, leaving hirn alone with his Lord, Almighty God, alone with the Prophet and alone with his spiritual guide. The Lord Almighty, Exalted and Glorified, said to the Prophet Adam:
I am going to send to you My Guidance. (2:38)
The word used here for "guidance" is huda, an adjective. In this sense, guidance must be dressed on a person so that they can follow it and benefit from it. Therefore, when God is saying, "I am sending to you My Guidance," it means He is sending some specially prepared and trained minds who know, so that the children of Adam, might be led to the Truth.
God is saying to us, "You cannot reach Me except through following My Guidance." Initially, that guidance came from the prophets, may God's blessing be upon them all. After the prophets, their inheritors have continued to provide this guidance to humanity. If you want to be a guide, then you must be dressed with guidance. Those who seek this must follow the inheritors of the Prophet. They must live with them. They must sacrifice themselves to be with them in their ocean of understanding. This, then, is Sufi meditation-to throw your self through that one's real being to reach the guide's reality. Where your guide is going, you must follow. You must be with hirn. That is Sufi meditation.
And if as is sure, there comes to you Guidance /rom me, whosoever flllows My guidance, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. (2:38)
You must follow YOUR guide step-by-step, so that no devil can come between you and your guide. In this way, you accompany your guide (murafaqah), just as the Companions (Sahaba) did with the Prophet. The Companions made meditation with the Prophet. The Prophet's whole will was with meditation. Without meditation, you cannot follow guidance. Those who say otherwise are wrong; this is clear proof.
Everyone has a spirituality in which they have been dressed, and Our spirituality is according to our belief power. The Prophet's spirituality must cover his Nation, reaching everybody who believes in hirn. Sufi guides also have a very powerful attraction, in order to make it desirable for people to follow them. This attraction is a form of spiritual gravity, majesty. The spiritual guide must have some special characteristics, because their spirituality may affect the personalities of their followers.
Today, there are some who say that making meditation to the Sufi guide is a form of polytheism. Are they saying that a servant must relate direcdy to the Divine Presence by hirnself? Ifthey are saying this, that means they are denying the use of a means or vehicle's which has always been a central element of Islamic spirituality. In this sense, it is certainly permitted.
When a traveler needs to reach his homeland, he needs a vehicle. Without a vehicle, he cannot reach his destination. The same is true for the spiritual traveler. He, too, needs a vehicle -in this case, a spiritual one. God referred to this in the Holy Qur'an, when He said:
Oh who believe! Do your duty to God, seek the means of approach unto Him (5: 35)
Thus, God orders the seeker to find a means to Hirn. In the same way, those who wish to speak to the Prophet (sal) -to reach the Prophetie Presence-must likewise use a vehicle.
The permitted is clear and the forbidden is clear,6 according to the Tradition (hadith) of the Prophet it.. People cannot declare something forbidden just because they do not understand it. However, some people are always declaring things to be polytheism. In doing so, they are giving themselves the value of polytheism, because they are giving themselves the authority to make something permissible or forbidden.
What, then, is their proof that meditation is forbidden? You cannot find any verse in the Holy Qur'an or the Traditions of the Prophet that says meditation is forbidden. It is only for God to make something permissible or forbidden.
The Prophet said, "What is forbidden is clear and what is permitted is clear."
Those who declare the practice of making meditation to the Sufi guide forbidden have no authority to do so. They are stating their opinions, and their opinions do not carry the weight of scholarship or law.
They are foolish people, indeed, who believe that one can reach the Divine Presence without a vehicle, without relying on a means. Ir is as though they are saying, "We may reach the moon without using anything. We may jump from here to there!" What is the purpose of knowledge if one does not use it?
Such people tell those who listen to them that all the knowledge they need, can be found in the Holy Qur'an. They say, "Read the Qur'an and you will understand." That is destroying Islam. It is God's Ancient Holy Words. How then, can they say that everyone can recite and understand such a sublime text? On the contrary, God said:
If they had only referred it to the Messenger, and to those in authority among them, those among them who can search out the knowledge of it would have known it. (4:83)
You must listen to those servants who have been granted authority. Only they can discern the real meanings from what is necessary to be known. Only they may comb the oceans of Divine Knowledge and bring back pearls. Not everyone may comb through the oceans and bring back pearls. That means, if you are unsure about something, you must find such a person-one who is bringing pearls of meaning.
God has given that understanding only to those special people whom He has authorized to receive it. Not everyone understands. Those who believe otherwise are falling into unbelief (kufr). So, too, are those who-acting upon this misguided belief that the full knowledge of the Holy Qur'an is available to all-declare that the practice of making meditation to a Sufi guide is unbelief fall into unbelief themselves. The irony of their claim is that, through meditation with the Sufi guide, one may co me to a real understanding of the Qur'an.
May God forgive me and bless you. Al-Fatiha.