Safar (Journeying)

Literally meaning being transported from one place to another, journeying in the language of the Sufis is described as being freed from living a restricted life with carnal or bodily concerns and bounds, and turning to God on the horizon of the heart. It can be viewed and dealt with within the concepts of "journeying toward God," "journeying in God," and "journeying from God."

Turning to God or journeying on His way begins with a person's conscious decision and continues along the bridges of belief, the practice of Islam in daily life, and attaining excellence in one's deeds in awareness that God always sees us and whatever we do. It requires sincerity and purity of intention in faith and the practice of Islam, as well as austerity, asceticism, righteousness, and piety. It continues until the point where the Divine Being, Who introduces Himself to us with the words, We are nearer to him than his jugular vein (50:16), favors the wayfarer, who feels invaded by His love and being attracted by Him and experiences an overflowing zeal toward Him, with special nearness to Him. Those who have reached this point and feel this nearness in their spirit cannot help but utter, "There is no longer any space, neither in the heavens nor in the earth!" Without stopping, they continue their journeying, which has now passed beyond time and space.

Journeying occurs at various levels and forms according to how the initiate has been prepared for it, the extent of his own spiritual capacity and, more than anything else, according to the particular gifts with which the One Who is nearer to everything than itself will favor him.

Journeying begins with reflection on the outer world and the human inner world, and by perceiving God's particular manifestation of His mercy and His assistance amidst His overall manifestations of His Names in the light of belief in Divine Unity, and by feeling this particular manifestation in one's inner world with pleasure. This journey, which can be viewed as journeying toward God, continues with the continuous sipping of Divine knowledge by observing His unique stamp on whatever there is in the universe, from the earth to the farthest galaxies. Initiates making this journey never set their hearts on anything other than God, but spend unending efforts to turn to God in their hearts, continuing their relationships with other things and beings only with respect to the fact that they are, in truth, also indicators of God. As long as they feel the breezes that emanate from this proceeding on the way to God in the depths of their hearts or observe their horizon of being favored by God on their peaks, they feel more and more provoked to rise higher and boil from the depths of their hearts in the virtuous circle of observation and pleasure. This state of theirs can be viewed in the light of the verse, Those who keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety: when a suggestion from Satan touches them—they are alert and remember God, and then they have clear discernment (7:201). An initiate who has reached this elevated horizon sees, feels, and evaluates everything differently and displays continuous changes from a lower state to a higher one.

In the second stage of journeying, or in the second journeying, initiates free themselves from different pieces of information that have been collected from different sources and proceed toward unity in thought on the horizon of knowledge of God, exhibiting this unity through all their faculties. This stage can be viewed as "journeying in God," and it consists of an initiate's feeling through the Divine Names the Divine Being Himself called by these Names; and his experiencing the protection and direction of the Divine Attributes; and regarding his innate poverty as a means of pride, continuously progressing toward Him on his particular horizon through the perception of his own innate poverty and helplessness. Initiates in this second stage are always aware of Him, are satisfied with their knowledge of Him, voice Him, and experience themselves in His company at all times. Some call this stage journeying in "the company of the Ultimate Truth." Heroes of spirituality who have reached this peak on the horizon of being aware of the Divine Names watch what is beyond through the prism of the Divine Attributes, and cast their nets of spiritual faculties to catch mysteries. Like sunflowers always turning their faces to the sun, with the eyes of their hearts fixed on a certain point on the horizon, and their consciences conducting business with the Divine Being, they act in great awe of the Divine Presence, shuddering at realizations which they feel according to their level. Every one of their states displays the truth voiced in, They do whatever they do and give whatever they give in charity and for God's cause, with their hearts trembling at the thought that they are bound to turn to their Lord. It is those (illustrious ones) who hasten to do all kinds of virtuous deeds, and they are in a virtuous competition with one another in doing them (23:60–61). When they turn their eyes to the sensed existence, they notice the Divine Names; and when they contemplate what exists beyond the sensed existence, they are struck with wonder and amazement.

One drowned in such knowledge of God cannot distinguish between the Names and He Who is called by these Names;
The disciples of the guides of the Order of Jilan are cognizant of such mysteries.
M. Lutfi[1]

The third type of journeying or the third stage of journeying consists of going beyond the difference between the outward and the inward in existence and the Religion, and being favored with the unshakable conviction of and experiencing God's particular manifestations on oneself and relations with oneself as an individual, as well as the overall manifestations of His Names throughout the universe. This highest point in journeying corresponds to the horizon of feeling absorbed in Divine Existence. This absorption must never be thought of as Incarnation or Union,[2] both of which are false beliefs. Rather, it means going beyond all opposites in the sensed dimension of existence and experiencing the transcendent unity that encompasses and operates in everything. As explained by Jalalu'd-Din ar-Rumi,[3] absorption means that initiates feel annihilated in their horizon of knowledge and love of God. This rank, which is described in the Qur'an (53:9) as nearness to the point where there is only a distance between the strings of two bows (put adjacent to each other), or even nearer (than that), essentially belongs to the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. And those who have reached the final point of nearness to God and sainthood can experience its shadow, each according to their particular capacities, and are freed from all opposites and dichotomies in their hearts.

We can mention another type of journeying. This type of journeying is particular to the heirs of the mission of Prophethood. It consists of turning back among the created after completing ascension to the Creator and feeling absorbed in His Existence. It is such a particular Divine favor that, having set their feet firmly on the Divine Oneness, initiates who are distinguished by it deepen their ascension with "descent," with the zeal of conveying to others all their experiences and the gifts with which they have been, are, and will be, favored. These initiates become the translators of the Creator among the created. This type or stage of journeying, which is also called "journeying from God and with God," is the most valuable and meritorious of journeys and is another to designate the rank of having reached the highest point.

Those who have achieved this last journeying sometimes seem strange and are estranged among people. However, conscious of their being favored with Divine company, they spend lives in an atmosphere where they always feel the breeze of Prophetic congratulations: "How happy are those estranged!"[4] They constantly feel the breezes that flow from the worlds beyond and the next world and they experience both of the worlds together.

Some of the Sufi elders regard the beginning of journeying as "journeying," and its end as "residence." Some others approach both the beginning and end as "residence," while still others see the journey, with all of its stages, to be "journeying."

There are some different considerations concerning journeying that arise from differences of temperaments and schools of Sufism. Believing that they are not directly related with journeying itself in its essential nature, we will be content with briefly mentioning the concept of " journeying in the native land (safar dar watan)," which the followers of the Naqshbandiya Order regard as one of the eleven essentials of journeying. We will also give a short definition of the other essentials.

Safar dar watan (journeying in the native land) is used when a traveler toward God is freed from bad morals and the influence of carnal desires, being equipped with angelic attributes. This is in conformity with the saying of the Greatest of Migrants in God's cause, upon him be peace and blessings: "A migrant in God's cause is the one who migrates from what God has forbidden."[5]

The other eleven essentials, each of which is expressed with a particular term, are as follows:

Hush dar dam (Awareness in every moment): This means that initiates are conscious of what they do and are aware that God sees them at every breath. An initiate who accomplishes this is regarded as one who constantly remembers and mentions God.

Nazar bar qadam (Noticing one's steps): This signifies that travelers toward God are always careful of where they put their feet and how they take each step. It also describes how travelers fix their eyes upon God without ever setting their hearts upon anything or anyone else.

Halwat dar anjuman (Secret meeting amidst crowds): This term, which signifies that an initiate is alone with God while among people, implies the reaction of the Naqshbandiya against seclusion. They maintain that seclusion suggests a secret desire for renown, whereas social life prevents such a desire and is preferable in respect of being beneficial to people.

Yad kard (Remembrance): This term means that travelers toward God should keep their inner world under constant supervision, holding their breath and mentioning God in their hearts. This can also be described as remembrance or mention of God through the heart.

Baz kasht (Distinguishment): This is what is meant in the verse, When you are free (from one task), resume (another task) (94:7), and it denotes how initiates resume a new good deed after they finish their invocations. It is the summation of "O my God! You are the One Whom I seek out, and Your good pleasure is what I yearn for."

Nigah dasht (Noticing): This means more than s elf-supervision and denotes being meticulously careful about one's inner world, trying not to think of, or remember, anything other than God. It varies in degree according to capacities.

Yad dasht (Keeping in mind): This denotes what the Qur'anic term ihsan (excellence, perfect goodness) means. It is used to express that initiates should continually act in the awareness that God always sees them and their actions.

Wuquf zamani (Awareness of time): This signifies that initiates who have almost reached the final point in journeying should be awake and employing the utmost care and self-possession, acting with insight at every moment of their lives. It is often regarded as one of the significant spiritual stations toward the final point in journeying.

Wuquf adadi (Awareness of number): This is a term used to describe how initiates should be careful to mention certain words or phrases in the exact number that their guide wants them to.

Wuquf kalbi (Awareness of one's h eart): This term signifies that initiates who have reached the final point in journeying should turn to God with all their faculties and concentrate on Him. It is a state belonging to those who have reached the peak.

May God guide us and you to the safe and sound way, and may His blessings be upon our master, Muhammad, full of pity and compassion, and on his Family and Companions, who were noble, godly and virtuous.

[1] Muhammed Lutfi Efendi (1868–1956): One of the Sufi masters who lived in Erzurum. He has a Diwan containing many beautiful, lyrical poems. (Tr.)

[2] Incarnation means God's taking the form of a human being and being seen in this form, while Union means a person's joining Divinity or being one with God. (Tr.)

[3] Jalalu'd-Din ar-Rumi (1207–1273): One of the Muslim saints and Sufi masters most famous in the West. He is regarded as the founder of the Mevlevi Order of the whirling dervishes, famous for his Mathnawi, an epic of the religious life in six volumes. He lived in Konya, Turkey. (Tr.)

[4]Muslim "Iman" 232; at-Tirmidhi, "Iman" 13. (Tr.)

[5]al-Bukhari, "Iman" 4; Abu Dawud, "Jihad" 2. (Tr.)

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