(A glossary of terms follows this article)
Although I never met Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib in this Dunya, I have bathed my soul in his Hudhur through his Diwan and those enlightened beings that knew him; who carry his message/light to this day. I was profoundly moved upon hearing his Diwan sung by the Fuqara of his circle. In part it was the Baraka of the Diwan that contributed to my accepting Islam.
Prior to my contact with these overflowing vessels of light, I had been invited many times to become Muslim. Yet it was not until the light of Marifat shown upon my soul, that it was compelled to enter the house of Islam. The very first gift given to me at the time of my Shahada was my own copy of the Diwan of Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib.
That Diwan has remained with me to this day. Twenty-eight years later, it remains for me an ever-fresh well of light and knowledge. Gathering regularly with others in its recitation, the diwan nurtures the soul and inspires Himma for the Face of Allah.
In 1995 I had the opportunity to make Ziyarat to the many shrines of the Awliya ullah in Morocco. Before going, I counseled with my teacher, Shaykh Fadhalla Haeri. I expressed my desire to visit the Zawiyya and shrine of Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib. He replied that he was unable to give me Idhin to make that visit, because he did not have the Idhin to give. He remarked that there had been much fitna around Shaykh Habib’s shrine, and didn’t want me to become caught in its wake. I accepted his counsel without pause.
While in Morocco in the great city of Meknes, I visited many shrines and Zawiyyas, avoiding the Zawiyya of Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib. On the very first night while asleep in my hotel, I had a vivid dream. I saw an old wooden door recessed within a niche of an old Moroccan entryway. The door opened and standing in the doorway was the smiling face of Siddi Muhammad, an old blind faqir of Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib. He beckoned me to enter into the home. As I entered a brilliant light engulfed the room. I looked for its source and saw the shrouded tomb of Shaykh Muhammad ibn-al Habib.
At that point I awoke. The dream infused my being with a deep sense of satisfaction and humility. I was content in myself, that although I would not visit the actual Shrine, I was blessed with the vision in my dream.
The next day, I continued my visits to the many shrines and places of Dhikr. While at one of these shrines, a man approached me in a very agitated manner. He grabbed my hand, insisting that I was in the wrong place, and that I must go with him. I recognized that this was an opening; an invitation I had to accept. I stood up, his hand still grasping my hand. He pulled me through the city streets of Meknes at a pace I struggled to match. I felt like a child whose shorter legs had to double in steps to keep up. We turned into a covered street. The entrance was marked with the words Bab ul Zaytun. At the end of the street, there was a shaded area, which led to a doorway. My heart began to race and my legs became weak, as I noticed it was the very same doorway that I had seen in my dream the night before. The door suddenly opened, and there standing in the doorway as in my dream, was Siddi Muhammad welcoming me into the Zawiyya of Shaykh Muhammad ibn-al Habib.
For many years there had only been three places in this world I had wanted to visit. The first two were Mecca and Medina. The third was this Zawiyya. As I entered the Zawiyya, I could not speak. Tears ran down my cheeks flooding my eyes to the point of blindness. Siddi Muhammad recognizing my state, grasped my hand and led me to the head of the shrine and sat me down. He sat next to me for nearly one hour as I remained unable to express in words my utter awe and gratitude.
I soon regained my composure and greeting Siddi Muhammad, kissing each other’s hand with the traditional greeting/recognition of the Sufis. Although we spoke different languages, we clearly communicated with the universal language of the heart. Light moved between us like a summer breeze moving through a garden in full bloom; the fragrant flowers mingle their perfume, intertwining in an overwhelming and transcendent elixir of Love.
After some time, the wife of the late Shaykh entered the Zawiyya bringing a tray of hot cous cous soup. Siddi Muhammad and I both ate. It was one of the most nourishing meals I had ever had. Before departing from the Zawiyya, I had the honor to sing a Qasida with Siddi Muhammad from Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib’s Diwan; listening carefully to the subtle inflection, soaking up the patterns of sound. I had no doubt that the Shaykh was present in our invocation.
The Diwan of Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib is a treasure chest of knowledge and a transmitter of light. It must be recited with presence of heart and serious intention to raise one’s state. It is a practice that resonates the eternal echo of true being-ness. It lifts the Himma of all who reflect on its meanings. I offer the following commentary of the Qasida, with the intention of sharing what I have discovered of its meaning. It is only a small glimpse into this song. The true and complete meaning is beyond anything I could possibly say.
Withdrawal from All That Is Other-Than-Allah
My Ruh speaks to me and says: ‘My reality is the light of Allah, so do not see other-than-Him.
The Ruh is by the order of Allah. It is and has always been connected to the eternal reality, which is beyond space and time. It is the ray of light from the source of all lights. It entered the realm of experience out of Love, to be married to the Soul, on its journey to fulfilling Allah’s wish to be known. It speaks to the Soul through the heart and inspires it to surrender the illusion of its separation from it. When one strives in the remembrance of Allah, the Heart, as described in the Qur’an, becomes tranquil. When the heart becomes tranquil it is empty of all, other than the light of Allah. In this condition, Allah communicates to the soul from the Ruh, the nature of the self/world and reflects in its purified mirror the Tawhid of Allah.
This line and all subsequent lines of this great Qasida are an articulation of the experience of self-realization or Marifat ullah. It is generously laid out in the form of a Mythal making it possible to communicate the dynamics of Marifat ullah to the sincere seeker. It lays out a table-spread of signs and ideas which are designed to inspire and nourish the soul, preparing it to LEAP from the divine menu to the meal. The Shaykh uses the form of a conversation with himself to communicate what takes place as a whole experience in a flash or a moment into non-time.
If I were not a light I would be other-than-Him. Indeed otherness is nothingness; so do not be content with it.
Each one of us has a Ruh. That Ruh echoes in us the eternal Divine Reality. It dictates the nature and outcome of our life’s experience. No soul can ever be content with anything in this world, unless through self-realization, all things take their place as signs and stepping-stones to the experience of Tawhid.
The Shaykh lays out the gauntlet that no mind can survive. No rational process can satisfactorily conclude. It reflects the Divine play and alludes to the only conclusion that can only be arrived at by leaving behind mind, and attaining divine self-realization.
The first half of the formula of divine self-realization is, La illa ha il Allah; meaning there is no God, deity, power or reality, other than the One All-Encompassing, All-Pervading and All-Sustaining. The second half of the formula, Muhammad Rasulullah, identifies the one, who recites it, as a Muslim.
Allah says in a Hadith Quddsi, “the whole Universe cannot contain me, but the heart of the Mumin contains Me”.
The nature of the heart is infinite. It is the portal through which Allah is known. The Soul will not be content with anything other than the containment of Allah’s Light within the heart. The Shaykh says, “So do not be content with it”. It is a rhetorical statement; underscoring that contentment is only with Allah.
If you look with the eye of your secret you will not find other- than-Allah in this earth or heaven.
Imam Ali relates, in so many words, that man thinks he is but an insignificant accumulation of flesh, yet the whole universe is within him.
The “eye of your secret” is profoundly explained in Allah’s words in which He says:
“My slave draws near to Me through supererogatory acts of worship. Out of Love for Me, I Love him. When I Love him, I become the hand by which he grasps and the eye by which he sees”.
This does not mean fusion or divine incarnation! But rather the love of the lover becomes so great, that nothing exists but that love. Love is what initiated the creation, and it is the giving of Love, reflected back to the Creator that illuminates the heart and the inner eye. When this happens, certainty of the Creator adorns the lover. He is transformed, and sees nothing other than the Lover’s traces wherever he looks. To the lover, all of creation becomes His communications (love letters) manifest in forms, indicating His Love and His want to be known.
But the illusion of other-than-Him hides Him. So shed your desires if you wish to see Him.
From the moment we enter into this world we begin to form a self-view, which is constructed by both the inner and outer senses (see: Journey of the Self, by Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri). The inner and outer senses are the windows in which all experience of life flows. Each one of us, though we essentially share the same nature, will individualize according to the particular exposure we have in this world.
The firsts habits that form early on in our lives are the foundation to which the rest of our life patterns are built. One of the very first and most profound experiences takes place at the breast of the mother. There is a moment in which the child glances at the mother and recognizes her as “the other”. Out of this experience is born the first sense of separation and self-awareness. The soul experiences itself as a separate entity and begins its journey of return to union.
All other experiences of life after this moment are based on this essential experience. You become hungry, you seek food to quell the hunger. You become thirsty, you seek drink to satisfy the thirst. This compounds as the scope of life expands into childhood, maturity, and adulthood.
The essential lesson in this pattern is that no matter what desire is fulfilled, another takes its place. Ultimately the soul realizes that true long-lasting satisfaction can only be attained through an inner state that is not dependent upon the ever-changing play of desire and fulfilment.
It is here where the soul awakens to its divinely intended nature. It pierces the veil of illusion in seeking contentment and fulfilment from the temporary nature of this life. It is by focusing and concentrating all desire towards the direction of the permanent Creator that the soul finds true contentment and freedom from illusion of “other-than-Him”.
Board the ship of the sunna and you will be rescued in it, and travel the path of its captain in his love.
Every sailor knows that without a map, and the command of an experienced captain, a sea journey is out of the question.
Allah in His boundless Mercy has not left mankind without guidance. Fulfilment of His Love/Desire to be known and worshipped is reflected in the being of the Prophet Muhammad. May we forever be connected to his being/light. His is the most perfect worship and example to all mankind.
It was for him the creation came forth, and without him the creation would cease to exist. From him the rivers of knowledge and light have flowed. Those who have emptied their cups have been filled from his ocean. His light formed an unbroken chain that has stretched throughout time and space. Today millions are saved by its strength and fortitude. In this unbroken chain are: Imams, Shayukh and Awliya ulallah. Some are hidden, some are known. They transmit the fullness of his wisdom light. They are the tent poles by which the earth is held together. By following them in their Love and guidance, we are gifted with the Prophetic light.
Unite the wine with the goblet and be annihilated by it, and you will obtain going-on by His secret and sublimity.
Allah says in Quran, in Surat ul Rahman:
‘kulluman alayha fan wa yabqa wahju dhul jallalli wa ikram’.
Everything is in annihilation but the face of the Majestic, the Generous.
It is already the reality. Allah was, is and has always been in charge. Behind all the multiplicity of experience, there is only one actor. That is Allah. The veils of illusion, the play of duality, make us see “other than Allah”.
As the Shaykh says “in otherness there is nothingness, so do not be content with it”.
Mankind will never be content until he knows his Creator. He will twist and turn, rampage through this world, reaching the farthest reaches; there he will only find Allah. This life is but a mirage in the desert of our limited perception. We see the shadow show and call it real. But it is the light behind all shadows that gives the shadow it’s meaning. For the true seeker and lover, his journey begins by riding his desire towards the face of the Beloved. When he reaches the door to his Beloved, he dismounts even his own desire, to enter Her house with nothing left of him. He is annihilated in his love of the Beloved. He has “united the wine (of Love) with the goblet” (of self). He then is gifted with a robe of “going on”. He emerges to this world having left himself in the total care and charge of his Beloved. He now walks in the path of true submission to the will and command of his Lord. His heart has been purged of all but the light of the Beloved. He serves Her alone. He communicates with Her in subtle ways. He serves the creation by representing Her desires, and is a treasure, and an example to all who wish to make the ultimate journey in this life.
See His tawhid with the eye of inner sight, but separation is His shari’at so do not forget it!
We have within us the Divine spark that is the “Ruh bil amurrurabi”, (by the order or decree of the Lord).
When the soul (nafs) is purified and is in total submission to the Creator it sees only His hand in all things. This discovery of “seeing” is a result of giving up every self-generated agenda/desire for that of the Divine Will. The seeker has given up the management of his affair to the Lord of All. He has been given the gift of seeing His “tawhid with the eye of inner sight”.
As long as there is a breath in the body, and a tongue that can speak, one must come under the guidance and pattern of the Prophetic profile. It is the ship of safety, returning to the Safe Harbor.
The Prophet was simultaneously “abdahu wa Rasulluhu”. His way was a slave and servant of Allah as well as the conduit and medium for the Divine message.
The Shari’at of Islam is universal laws applied to mankind, in order to raise his stature and being as a conscious reflector of the Divine Light. The pattern of Shari’at was embodied in the personality of the Prophet, transmitted and developed in purity through his appointed family, as well as those who have inherited his light. The Shari’at makes possible the enlightenment of the soul and in extension the potential enlightenment of family and society. Hidden treasures of knowledge and wisdom overflow from its practice. It is far from the current superficial systems of law, dos and don’ts, which inhibit freedom and self-expression. It is rather the opposite. The practice of Shari’at conserves the vital energies required to obtain true freedom. Self-expression is defined within noble limits, revealing the purpose of the One True Self.
Make your concerns one, and by Him all your needs will be met, and you will enter into His protection.
Allah says in the Qur’an that He did not create mankind or Jinn, but to worship Him. He also says in a Hadith ul Quddsi that he was a “treasure unknown loving/wanting to be known, so He manifested the creation to be known.
Our ultimate and prime directive is to know the Creator. Everything in this created universe is stamped with the Divine Intention to be known. All other consideration is subservient to this prime intention. Every other ambition or stated desire will be inherently dissatisfying. These cannot be the ultimate goal, rather the vehicle for ultimate failure.
The successful seeker focuses his life’s energy to the divinely stated purpose (to know Allah). When this is done, any other desire or accomplishment takes its rightful, balanced place in our lives. All things created are designed to support, indicate and provide assistance toward fulfilling the Divine intention of the Creator.
So when you love another, you love with the Love of Allah. When you receive your sustenance, you see the hand of Allah. Through this knowledge, wisdom will grow. You will fall under His Protection and Divine Providence.
Hand over your affairs to the One who knows best, for He is the Knower of every heart and every desire.
There is only one affair; all others are secondary to it. Our lives have been designed to fulfil the purpose. The Designer knows best, the outcome. He is the Maker of the heart and desires it to be only for Him. When the heart is for Him alone our experience of life will be that of joy and fulfilment. If our hearts are littered with other than His Plan, disappointment, pain and grief is its reward.
May Allah make our hearts empty of all but His Light. May Allah make us people who remember him in every state. May we see His hand in all things and protect us from the whispering distraction of Shaytan. We ask Allah by His Overflowing Generosity, that He purify our minds and hearts for Him Alone, and that we live in His light and wisdom/joy forever.
Oh Lord, bless Muhammad, the secret of existence and its source and splendour.
Ameen Ameen Ameen
Intimate friends of Allah, meaning they are reliable and trustworthy, as their friendship is based on a higher reality instead of their own personal whims and desires.
Purified energy and blessings that flows from the presence of an enlightened being. It may also be present at the tombs of saints, or places touched by Allah’s Mercy.
A collection of teaching songs or odes designed to inspire the murids on their journey to realization.
Remembering Allah, declaring the unity of Allah.
This world (as opposed to the next life), worldly, and temporal things or possessions. Dunya is rendered real by attachment to it.
Faqir is the singular of Fuqara, meaning poor. The wayfarer acknowledges his poverty in the face of Allah’s possession of all wealth. He is in need and Allah is his only respite.
Temptation, trial, enchantment, seduction, captivation; a burring with fire. Fitna is whatever distracts or disturbs one from focusing on the true purpose of our souls. Fitna reveals the true nature of what is being afflicted.
Fuqara is the plural of Faqir, meaning poor. The wayfarer acknowledges his poverty in the face of Allah’s possession of all wealth. He is in need and Allah is his only respite.
Divinely inspired teachings directly revealed on the tongue of the Prophet. It is distinguished as separate from the revelations of the Qur’an.
Yearning and inspiration for the face of Allah.
Spiritual authority or permission.
The clearly articulated revealed teachings as it applies to the liberation of mankind now and forever.
Marifat or Marifat ullah
Direct knowledge of Allah. His Tawhid.
The one who contains an inner landscape of meaning derived from witnessing both the inner and outer signs of the creator.
The one who submits to the revealed divine laws to improve the condition of his heart, mind and body and establish justice and equity. The Muslim is the one who follows the Shari’at, refines his Iman and strives to be in the state of Ihsan.
A song from a Diwan.
The Prophet who is a Messenger.
The Divine spark that resides within the soul of every human being. It is all that is and remains pure within the human being.
The declaration of faith made at the time one enters Islam. It is also repeated with every prayer throughout the life of a Muslim.
Shaytan is the energy that whispers in the breasts of human beings. Shaytan has no power or strength. Shaytan can only suggest. It is the soul (nafs) of the person that once inspired by the suggestions of Shaytan, acts upon it and bares its results.
The unity of all things. Oneness.
Literally means corner. It refers here to a place where the Shaykh teaches and his followers ‘corner’ their selves for the purpose of purification.
To make a visit to a saint or shrine for the purpose to enrich and improve ones state of heart and mind.
Hajj Mustafa Ali al-Haydari is Chief Editor of www.nuradeen.com Made available from
Nuradeen Community Project