"The Three Stations of the Deen" by Shaykh al-Islam Ibrahim Niasse

969517_10151504780037881_933174023_n

“The Three Stations of the Deen” by Shaykh al-Islam Ibrahim Niasse (ra) {Interpreted from the Arabic 

LETTER #57 FROM THE DISCOURSES: “CONCERNING THE THREE (3) STATIONS OF THE DEEN (ISLAM, IMAN, IHSAN) AND ITS NINE (9) CORRESPONDING DEGREES”:

In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful

May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon His Noble Prophet Muhammad (SAWS), the Best of Creation and also upon his Companions–the Stars of Guidance. All praise and thanks belongs to Allah–The Source of Peace (As-Salaam), The Granter of Security (Al-Mu’min), The Bountiful Doer of Good (Al-Muhsin). Glorified and Exalted is He–The King (Al-Malik), The Acceptor of Repentance (At-Tawaab), The Most Merciful (Ar-Rahim), The Watcher (Ar-Raqib), The Protector (Al-Muhaiman).

May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon the Straight Path (Sirat al-Mustaqim), the Consciously Aware (At-Taqi), the Pure (An-Naqi), the Truthful (As-Saadiq), the Sincere (Al-Mukhlis), the One Attributed with Perfect Character (Al-Mutakhaliq bi’l Khuluq al-Azim), the Observer (Al-Muraqib), the Witness (Al-Mushahid), the Source of the Most Perfect Gnosis (‘Ain al-Ma’arif al-Aqwam), the Slave and the Master (Al-‘Abd As-Sayyid), the One Attributed with the Quality of the Greatest Mastery (Al-Mutasafa bi Sifat as-Sayyid al-A’zam).

May the complete and perfect satisfaction of Allah be upon the Helper of Truth with Truth (Nasir al-Haqq bi’l Haqq), the Guide to the Straight Path (Al-Hadat ila Sirat al-Mustaqim), and also upon his Family. May it be according to his true reality and indeed, his degree is extremely great (Haqq Qadrihi wa Miqdarihi‘l Azim).

To my beloved Habib, Umar ibn Malik, I have received your cordial letter and your flawless speech which contains your question concerning the three (3) stations of the Deen and the reality of its corresponding degrees. Although the knower of Allah, Sidi Ubaida ibn Anbuja has spoken at length on the subject in his book “Al-Mizab”, I was unable to find convincing proofs in that, so I am going to respond with what has come to my mind:

There is no god but Allah! The stations of the Deen are three(3): Al-Islam, Al-Iman & Al-Ihsan. Al-Islam is to bear witness by saying “La ilaha il Allah”, Al-Iman is to know “La ilaha il Allah”, and Al-Ihsan is to act in conformity to “La ilaha il Allah”. So it is to speak, to know and to act in accordance with the Noble Word (Kalima Sharifa). The first station is Al-Islam and that is for one to speak in “Hadrat an-Nasut” accordingly. The second station is Al-Iman and that is to possess the knowledge of the oral statement. The third station is Al-Ihsan and that is for ones behavior to be (totally consumed in its meaning). These are the different stations of the Deen and they all revolve around “La ilaha il Allah”.

As for the three (3) corresponding degrees to each station, they are:

THE FIRST STATION OF THE DEEN IS AL-ISLAM:

The first degree of Al-Islam is Repentance (Tawba).

That is to (firstly) abandon ingratitude for the blessings of Allah (Kufr an-Ni’mat), for every blessing is due gratitude and thanksgiving to the Bestower. The opposite of gratitude is unbelief (Didu Shukr Kufr). The Ulama among the Sufi’s have said it is to abandon every base characteristic for every sublime attribute. However, I say the reality of base characteristics for the common person (Al-‘Amm) is to leave off the religious obligations (Al-Fara’id) and to commit acts which are prohibited (Al-Muharamat), but for the spiritually elite (Al-Khass) it is to leave the praiseworthy deeds (Al-Fada’il) and to do what is disliked (Al-Makruhat). For the elite of the elite (Khass al-Khass), it is to turn away from the Divine Presence and that is heedlessness or forgetfulness (Al-Ghafla), and this repentance is the reality of Tawba–which is to kill one’s ego–as Allah Ta’ala says, “So repent to your Creator and kill yourselves, that is better for you with your Creator.” (2:54). The reality of killing one’s ego is to not see any action or spiritual state or station as belonging to the “self”–and that is repentance from repentance! “Verily, Allah loves those who turn to Him in repentance.”(2:222), meaning to repent from repentance!

The second degree of Al-Islam is Righteousness (Al-Istiqama).

That is to travel upon the Straight Path without any crookedness or swerving in your Suluk. Allah has described the Straight Path in Surah Al-An’am by enumerating ten(10) qualities: “Say: ‘Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited you from: Join not anything in worship with Him; be good and dutiful to your parents; kill not your children because of poverty – We provide sustenance for you and for them; come not near to Al-Fawahish (shameful sins, illegal sexual intercourse, etc.) whether committed openly or secretly, and kill not anyone whom Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause (according to Islamic law). This He has commanded you that you may understand. And come not near to the orphan’s property, except to improve it, until he (or she) attains the age of full strength; and give full measure and full weight with justice. We burden not any person, but that which he can bear. And whenever you give your word (i.e. judge between men or give evidence, etc.), say the truth even if a near relative is concerned, and fulfill the Covenant of Allah, This He commands you, that you may remember. And verily, this is my Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not (other) paths, for they will separate you away from His Path. This He has ordained for you that you may become Al-Muttaqun.”(6:151-153).

So, the Straight Path is to act in accordance with these ten (10) things and most important among them is: to avoid ascribing any partners to Allah; to avoid killing anyone without just cause; to avoid abortion of ones child due to fear of poverty; to abandon Al-Fawahish–inwardly and outwardly; and so on. The righteousness (Al-Istiqama) of the common person is to stand upright upon this Straight Path. For the spiritually elite (Al-Khass), the Straight Path is the Messenger of Allah himself(SAWS) and annihilation in him and love for him and his character. It is to emulate his beautiful characteristics–outwardly and inwardly–and busy oneself with his remembrance and sending prayers and salutations upon him with every breath. That is the righteousness described by Allah in His saying, “Lo! Those who say, ‘Our Lord is Allah’, and afterward are upright, the angels descend upon them, saying: ‘Fear not nor grieve, but hear good tidings of the paradise which you are promised.”(41:30).

The righteousness (Al-Istiqama) of the elite of the elite (Khass al-Khass) is

The third degree of Al-Islam is Conscious Awareness of Allah (Taqwa).

The (basic meaning of Taqwa for the common person) is to obey the commands and avoid the prohibitions of Allah–outwardly and inwardly–in public and in secret. The conscious awareness of the elite (Al-Khass) is to remember Him and to never forget Him, to obey Him and to never disobey Him. Allah Ta’ala says, “O you who believe! Fear Allah as He should be feared.”(3:102), and this is the degree for the spiritually elite (Al-Khass). To the common believers He says, “Fear Allah as much as you can.”(64:16). The conscious awareness of the elite of the elite (Khass al-Khass) is to think of Allah in every moment. This spiritual state is the station of an Arif and the Unique Cardinal Pole (Qutb al-Fard al-Jami’). This is the state which Allah alludes to in His saying, “Verily, Allah loves the Muttaqun.”(3:76).

THE SECOND STATION OF THE DEEN IS AL-IMAN:

The first degree of Faith is Truthfulness (As-Sidq).

Truthfulness is to act with piety in seeking the Countenance of Allah, as He says, “True piety does not consist in turning your faces towards the East or the West, but truly pious is he who believes in Allah and the Last Day; and the Angels, and Revelation, and the Prophets; and spends his substance–however much he himself may cherish it–upon his near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; and is constant in prayer, and pays the Zakat; and [truly pious are] they who keep their promises whenever they promise, and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in time of peril: it is they that have proved themselves true, and it is they who are conscious of Allah.”(2:177). This is the Sidq of the common person (Al-‘Amm).

The truthfulness of the spiritually elite (Al-Khass) is to have Sidq in loving the Exalted Divine Essence (Ad-Dhat al-‘Aliyya), meaning that nothing in existence is more important than being connected (Wusul) with this Exalted Divine Essence. It means that His Name is more beloved than any other name, His Word is more beloved than any other word, His satisfaction and pleasure is more beloved than anyone else, and His Beloved is more dear than any other loved one. This is the Sidq of the spiritually elite (Al-Khass), as Allah says, “Fear Allah and be with the Saadiqin.”(9:11 9). The person who has achieved this station will never allow his/her thoughts to be with anything other than what is the Will of Allah. “This is the bounty of Allah which He gives to whom He wills, and Allah is the possessor of great bounty.”(57:21).

The truthfulness of the elite of the elite (Khass al-Khass) is to affirm everything which has been conveyed to the Presence of Prophethood (Hadrat an-Nubuwa) from the Divine Presence (Hadrat al-Ilahiyya)–e ither from knowledge, spiritual states, secrets, good conduct, or spiritual realities. Whosoever attains this station of Sidq has attained the utmost degree of truthfulness.

The second degree of Faith is Sincerity (Al-Ikhlas).

Sincerity is to perform every act of obedience and to avoid every prohibition only seeking the Noble Countenance of Allah. If you do not find in yourself any conceit, desire for repute, or showing off (in doing the above), this is the Sidq of the common people (Al-‘Amm). The Sincerity of the spiritually elite (Al-Khass) is to act in obedience without any desire for reward and to avoid the prohibitions without any fear of punishment and to have no desire to achieve some spiritual station, but rather to only act in worshipful service and yearning (Al-‘Ubudiyya wa Shawq). Worshipful service is to act without any ulterior cause or reason, but only because Allah is a God Who deserves to be worshipped and you are a servant who ought to render service. So act in accordance with this and see yourself as deserving of nothing! This, along with witnessing the blessing of being His servant, and that all (good) actions are from Him to you, as a bounty and grace, is enough for the sincere person.

The sincerity of the elite of the elite (Khass al-Khass) is to dispel the entirety of creation in your dealing with the Truth–and your ego is from among the created beings! The people of this degree see that all actions are from Allah, to Allah and by Allah! They see nothing as coming from themselves or for themselves! You must know that Allah loves those with sincerity!

The third degree of Faith is Stillness and Tranquility (Tu’manina).

This is the calmness and serenity of the heart which is independent of everything except Allah and it now lives in Allah (Baqa billah). This is achieved when the heart does not turn to what will (perceivably) benefit the ego or turn from what will (perceivably) harm it, rather it is when the Nafs has completely submitted itself before Allah–in words and deeds! The tongue of the one in this state will say, “Allahuma ‘Alayka Mu’awwali” (O Allah! I have complete dependence upon You!) This is the meaning of Tu’manina and it is not possible except for the spiritually elite (Al-Khass).

The Tu’manina of the elite of the elite (Khass al-Khass) is their absolute conviction that there is nothing in existence except Allah! The heart of this person does not rest except in Him and it does not resort to anyone but Him! It is this heart which Allah addresses in His saying, “O Nafs at rest and peace! Return to your Lord, well-pleased and well-pleasing! Enter among My servants, enter My Garden!’ (89:27-30).

THE THIRD STATION OF THE DEEN IS AL-IHSAN:

The first degree of Spiritual Perfection is To Observe Allah in Everything (Al-Muraqaba).

Al-Muraqaba is to have perpetual presence of heart & mind with Allah, along with absolute cognizance that He is aware and knowledgeable of the servant–and this observation never leaves the mind of the servant. The person at this degree sees the Realities from behind a thin veil (Hijab Raqiq), and gains an understanding of things from direct experiential knowledge of “tasting”, and may speak words which a person who is not at this degree will not understand. But still this person gains direct experiential knowledge from behind a thin veil, and does not yet have the experience of direct witnessing. This is the observation of the spiritually elite (Al-Khass) before they have direct witnessing (Mushahada). The observation after direct witnessing is the degree of Muraqaba of the elite of the elite (Khass al-Khass). The direct witnessing (of Reality) with every breath is the spiritual station of the Men of Allah (Ar-Rijal) and it is the result of Divine Gnosis (Ma‘rifa).

The second degree of Spiritual Perfection is Direct Witnessing (Mushahada).

Direct Witnessing is to see Reality by means of the Real–with ocular perception–without any doubt or skepticism or delusion, as nothing remains (of the servant) except the Truth, by the Truth, in the Truth. Not even a single hair remains with the servant (at this degree), because they have been completely annihilated to themselves and to other-ness (Al-Ghayr wa’l Ghayriyya). The tongue of the one in this state will say, “Nothing remains except Allah, nothing at all!” as there remains no name, no description, no form, and no limitation. This ocular perception (Ru’ya) takes place without any “how” (Kayf), “definition” (Tahdid), “union” (Itihad), “direction” (Jihat), “comparison” (Muqabila), “beginning” (Ibtida’a), “connection” (Itisal), or “separation” (Infisal). There is no “remembrance” (Dhikr), “remembered”(Dh akir) or “one remembering” (Madhkur). “Truth has come and falsehood has vanished. Surely, falsehood is ever bound to vanish.”(17:81).

This degree (of direct witnessing) is lower than the degree of spiritual illumination (Fath) and everything before this degree is not the Fath–but it is the door to Divine Gnosis (Ma’rifa). Every ‘Arif is spiritually illuminated (Maftuh), but the opposite is not the case!

The third degree of Spiritual Perfection is Divine Gnosis (Ma’rifa).

Divine Gnosis is the steady fixation and firm establishment of the spirit in the Presence of Direct Witnessing, along with complete annihilation and continuation in Allah (Fana at-Tam wa’l Baqa Billah). Divine Gnosis (Ma’rifa) is the last station of the Deen and repentance (Tawba) is the first, but Tawba is better than Ma’rifa because Gnosis is the result of repentance–alt hough the reality of repentance is repentance from repentance–and this is not possible without Ma‘rifa!

This is what was alluded to by Shaykh al-Khatm Ahmad al-Tijani(RA) when he said, “I did not achieve the degree of repentance.”, meaning that he was repentant from seeing his Tawba. As long as the servant sees himself in the act of repentance, he has not achieved the (real) degree of Tawba!

This is an abridged explanation of the Three Stations of the Deen and if I were to continue giving details on the subject I would need to write a whole book. As I mentioned before, the reality of Al-Islam is (to say) “La ilaha il Allah”; the reality of Al-Iman is “So know! La ilaha il Allah.”(47:19); the reality of Al-Ihsan is “Say: ‘Allah!’ Then leave them to play in their vain discussions.”(6:91).

The Presence (Hadrat) of Shaykh al-Tijani(RA) is the Station of Al-Islam, the Presence of the Messenger(SAWS) is the Station of Al-Iman, and the Presence of Allah is the Station of Al-Ihsan. “Until your Lord is the highest degree.”

Ibrahim ibn Al-Hajj Abdullahi al-Tijani

Kossi, Senegal

1350H/1931

APPENDIX: Additional commentary on the Three (3) Stations of the Deen and its Nine (9) Corresponding Degrees:

1.)The reality of repentance (Tawba) is to repent from repentance. “Know that Allah accepts repentance from His servants and takes the Sadaqa, and that Allah Alone is the One Who forgives and accepts repentance, the Most Merciful.”(9:104).

2.)The reality of righteousness (Al-Istiqama) is subsistence/continuation after extinction (Baqa ba’da Fana). “Verily, Allah commands that which He wills.”(5:1).

3.)The reality of conscious awareness (Taqwa) is to totally focus ones thoughts on Allah Alone. “That is because Allah, He is the Absolute Reality.”(31:30).

4.)The reality of truthfulness (Sidq) is to make ones direction and destination only to Allah. “Everything will perish except His Face.”(28:88).

5.)The reality of sincerity (Ikhlas) is to recognize that all actions are not from you, to you, or for you. “Indeed, you are guiding to a Straight Path–the Path of Allah to Whom belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. Verily, all matters at the end return to Allah.”(42:53); “His is the Dominion, and to Him belongs all the praises and thanks, and He is Able to do all things.”(64:1).

6.)The reality of stillness and tranquility (Tu’manina) is not to hope for something to cease which exists, nor to desire something which is non-existant. “Truly, Allah knows and you know not.”(16:74); “He cannot be questioned as to what He does, while they will be questioned.”(21:23).

7.)The reality of observing Allah in everything (Muraqaba) is to perpetually attach ones heart to (the Presence of) Allah. “Verily, your Lord is Ever Watchful (over them).”(89:14); “And whatever work you are engaged in or whatever portion of the Qur’an you recite, and whatever actions the people are doing, We are Witness thereof when you are doing it. And nothing is hidden from your Lord (so much as) the weight of an atom on the earth or in the heavens. Nor what is less than that or what is greater than that, except it is in a Clear Record.”(10:61); “And indeed We have created man and We know what his own self whispers to him. And We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.”(50:16); “Have you not seen that Allah knows whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is on the earth? There is no secret counsel of three except He is their fourth–nor of five but He is their sixth–nor of less than that or more but He is with them wherever they may be.”(58:7).

8.)The reality of direct witnessing (Mushahada) is see the Truth with ocular perception. “And to Allah belong the East and the West, so wherever you turn there is the Face of Allah.”(2:115).

9.)The reality of Divine Gnosis (Ma’rifa) is to (continuously) witness the Perfect Divine Essence. “There is nothing like Him.”(42:11).

This is from what has been inspired to Shaykh Ibrahim ibn Al-Hajj Abdullahi al-Tijani(RA)

Kossi, Senegal

1350H/1931