This now is some account of the life and wisdom of the Master, the mawlay, Shaykh Muhammad `Abdu 's-Salam ibn Mashish whose full name was ibn Mansur ibn Ibrahim al-Hasani al-Idrisi, ash-sharif of the Bani `Arus of the Jabal `Alam, to the south-east of Tetuan in the Maghrib.
Very little is recorded of the early life of Ibn Mashish except that it is said that he entered the Path of the People of Allah while he was still a child, and that his first teacher was the Shaykh `Abdu 'r-Rahman al-Madani az-Zayyat who, in his presence, lived in al-Madina al-Munawwarah, the City of the Prophet, may prayers and peace be upon him, but who would travel to instruct his follower in a matter of but one hour, returning then to his dwelling-place in al-Madina.
It was said that while `Abdu 's-Salam, may Allah be pleased with him, was being instructed on the Path that he would be in frequent prayer, above the number required for religious observance, and at times, when he had finished his praying, he would find his food prepared and laid out for him to eat. One night, however, when he felt distrust towards this food, his Master Sidi `Abdu 'r-Rahman al-Madani appeared before him and said, "Eat of this food without fear, for you are always under the Protection of Allah." From the very beginning of his entering onto the Path of Allah until his last moment, Sidi `Abdu's-Salam had deep humility, and no one visited him without becoming aware of this.
Then after some years he took the hand of Sidi Abu Madyan Shu`ayb ibn al-Husayn al-Ghawth, receiving all the holy knowledge from this great Master.
After leaving his Master Abu Madyan, he, may Allah be pleased with him, returned to his own country where he lived amongst his people as a member of the shurafa, those who are dedicated and devoted to upholding the Religion of Islam, untouched by connection to worldly positions. He was said to be a strict follower of the Qur'an and the Sunna and was deeply rooted in the Law of Islam (ash-shari`a), and once, on being asked to recommend spiritual practices for a seeker, said, "Am I a Prophet? Perform the obligations of the Law and avoid sin. Keep your heart aloof from all temporal attachments. Accept, and be content with, everything that Allah sends to you and above everything else put the Love of Allah."
They said that, "As a young Shaykh Ibn-Mashish's intention was to safeguard the purity of the Religion in a sea pervaded by Berber clans devoted to the practice of magic and suchlike things. Sidi ibn Mashish never encouraged insurrection, and always condemned those who took part in political uprising under the pretext of religious activities, so that his teaching was always towards peace and against all acts of aggression. He said, may Allah be pleased with him, "Let your heart attach itself to the Creator instead of attaching itself to the Creation. Purify your heart of doubt and vain thoughts by the Water of Certainty, and say: 'Do not drown me without having obedience to Allah in sight.' Never bare yourself but where you are certain not to meet revolt against Allah." And his actions always confirmed his words.
He would also say, "Pray to Allah ceaselessly, and do not speak of anything else, and preserve your hearts from the longing to see people at your feet. The Love of Allah is the only pole around which good deeds turn. Let your tongues speak of nothing but Allah, instead of occupying themselves with the things of this world."
Four fundamental themes ran through his Teachings: The Oneness of Existence (al-wahdat al-wujud) which he said could be realized only through asceticism, Fear of Allah and His Judgements (al-hawf bi 'llah), the belief that Allah is everywhere and that it is necessary to see His Face in everything that He has created, and fourthly, that only through the drowning in the Ocean of the Unity (`awnu fi bahri al-wahadati) can the seeker cast off and leave behind his own existence and attributes to be merged and absorbed into Allah and His Attributes.
Sidi `Abdu 's-Salam said, "Love (al-mahabba) comes from the way in which Allah takes the heart which He loves, in unveiling to it (something) of the Light of His Beauty, and the Holiness of His Majesty. The Wine (sharab al-mahabba) brings about the blending (mazj) of the Divine Qualities with the human qualities, Characteristics with characteristics, Lights with lights, Names with names, Qualities with qualities and Actions with actions. Allah extends the seeing of whom He wishes. The Wine (al-sharab) waters the hearts, the arteries and the veins." By Wine (the Arabic word is drink) Sidi Ibn al-Mashish meant the Highest Essence (ad-dhat al-`aliyya).
He said, may Allah be pleased with him, "O Allah! the strongest of what they ask You is the subjugation of the Creation to them, and they are pleased with You by that. I ask You to hand the Creation to me so that I have no shelter nor refuge except You."
One of the Shaykhs who was one the Knowers of the People of Allah of the Maghrib, Sidi `Abdu 'r-Rahman al-Fasi, told of how Sidi Ibn Mashish visited him in a dream and said to him, "My son, this Path of ours is only obtained by Abasement and something of having little of this world."
Later in his life `Abdu 's-Salam retired to a cave on the top of the mountain known as Jabal `Alam, which is situated in the middle of a valley surrounded on all sides by the Atlas mountains in the Habt region of the Maghrib.
Although he lived his entire life as a recluse from the world of everyday life, he was well known to the Folk of Allah for his deep piety, sincerity and devotion to his Lord, and it was he whom Allah, the All-Mighty, chose to be the only Master endowed with His perfect and complete Knowledge (ma`rifa), and who could pass this Knowledge to a successor, Abu 'l-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli, who was to found the great school of the Shadhdhuliyya Way which prevails in many parts of the world and especially in the West, and which is blessed by Allah to this day.
Several accounts relate to the meeting between the Master `Abdu 's-Salam ibn Mashish and his student and successor Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli. Although Abu al-Hasan was born in Gumara, a small village in the Rif mountains of the Maghrib close to the Jabal al-`Alam where his future Master and Guide lived, he did not find him until he had travelled for some time to the East. There he studied in Baghdad with the Shaykh Abu Fath al-Wasiti, a student of Sidi Ahmad ar-Rifa'i who was one of the Qutbs of his time.
After a few months Abu al-Hasan's Shaykh, Sidi Abu Fath, said to him, "You have come here seeking for the Pole (Qutb) of Islam, but you have left him in the Maghrib." When Abu al-Hasan asked him, "Where will I find him, in which part of the Maghrib?" he was told, "You will find him there where you see a Light which rises up from the direction of the Maghrib, and this will be the Pole of Islam. If you follow that light you will reach your goal."
So Abu al-Hasan returned to his own country of the Maghrib and found the Light of the holy mountain of Jabal `Alam, as he had been told. He set out on the steep ascent to the top of the mountain, having first washed himself and made ablution (wudu) at a spring at the foot of the mountain, known to this day as `ayn ash-Shadhdhuli. When he reached the top of the mountain he found the Shaykh reciting from al-Qur'an al-Karim with one of his sons.
As they recited together the holy Words, Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli saw that their bodies began to sway from side to side, but in truth it was not their bodies which were moving thus, but the whole mountain which was swaying from side to side in accompaniment with their recitation. From this sign he knew that this was truly the Qutb for whom he was searching.
He went forward in reverence and awe to meet his Master, who greeted him with the words, "Have you made ablution (wudu)?" When Abu al-Hasan answered him saying, "Yes," he was told, "You cannot come to us in a state of impurity. Return and make wudu." So Abu al-Hasan returned to the bottom of the mountain, remade his ablution and climbed again to its top, and having reached the presence of the Shaykh, asked him if he would accept him as his student.
The Shaykh replied, "I told you to return when you had purified yourself with the ablution." Once again Abu al-Hasan returned to the bottom of the mountain with the question for his rejection turning in his heart, until he was shown what was necessary for him to do, because he came to realize the meaning of this initial trial and test, and the depth of the purification which it was necessary for him to make before he could enter into the Path of Allah with this holy Shaykh.
This time, as he made his ablution, he emptied himself of everything that he knew, or thought he knew, or that he had learned and taken in from other teachers, and he destroyed all his attributes, pictures, and prejudices, until he knew that he was left with only a vast space of nothingness inside him which was waiting to be filled. He was now totally surrendered to whatever this Master, whom he desired with all his being, would send him.
He climbed once more to the top of the mountain, but before he reached its summit he was met by the Master who greeted him by pronouncing his full line of descent back to the Prophet Muhammad, may prayers and peace be upon him.
The Shaykh now embraced him with the deep Love of acceptance. He could find no words with which to return the greeting, but the Master said to him, "If you wish to fetch water, you take an empty bucket to the well to do so. A full bucket has no room for water." With these words he took his beloved student by the hand and filled him to overflowing with the holy Water.
Afterwards Abu al-Hasan said: "Allah! I have washed myself of my knowledge and my actions so that I do not recognize any knowledge or action except what comes to me by the hand of this Shaykh."
The knowledge of this ablution has become the habitual practice (sunna) for all those of this holy Path who have followed after him, because it is the only way to reach the knowledge of the Reality, and the Light from that meeting continues to pour out without ceasing to both the East and the West.
While he was living with his Master, `Abdu 'Salam ibn Mashish, on the holy mountain, many wonderful signs from Allah came to Abu al-Hasan, through this holy Guide. One such sign was that on the night of his arrival on the mountain he was sleeping at the entrance of the cave where his Master lived. He dreamt that he was asking the Shaykh to grant him certain wishes, one of them being that Allah, the Mighty and Supreme, would incline the hearts of His creatures in favor towards him. Then he wished to ask his Master if it was necessary for him to live in solitude, or in the desert, in order for him to be in the right station (maqam) to perform his religious tasks, or whether he should return to the towns and inhabited places to seek out the company of scholars and virtuous people. While he was turning these things in his heart he heard the Shaykh praying fervently and calling out, "O Allah! People ask You to make their relations with other people easy, but I ask You to make them difficult, so that I may always seek refuge and protection in You alone."
The next morning when Abu al-Hasan asked his Master about this state, he replied, "I complain to Allah of the contentment which submission and abandonment to the Will of Allah brings." When he saw the astonishment on his student's face at hearing his words, he added, "Because I fear that the sweetness of such an existence would make me neglectful of my duty towards Allah."
Then Abu al-Hasan said, "This is the Pole of Islam. This is the Sea which overflows." He knew then that his Master had taken hold of his whole heart, and he was thereby completely illumined.
Then one day, as he sat in the presence of his Master who had his young son on his knees playing and enjoying himself, the thought came to him to ask him about the Greatest Name of Allah. He, may Allah be pleased with him, said that at that moment the child who sat on his father's knees put his hands on his shoulders and shook him, saying, "O Abu al-Hasan, you want to ask about the Greatest Name of Allah. It is of no importance to ask about the Greatest Name of Allah. It is important that you should be the Greatest Name of Allah-that the Secret of Allah should live in your heart." When his son had finished speaking, the Master smiled and said, "Such a one has answered you for me."
Abu al-Hasan remained with `Abdu 's-Salam's presence for the time that Allah, the All-Mighty, willed that he should, and when he was about to leave him to continue on his journey, his Master counselled him saying, "O `Ali. Allah! Allah! When you are amongst the people, refrain from mentioning the Secret. Remove your heart from their presences. It is for you to provide for your needs, and to observe what is prescribed by the Law (ash-shari`a). Thus you will attain the highest rank of holiness. I adjure you, by Allah, to this. You are under obligation to give to Allah that which is owed to Him, and He will do the rest, and will protect you. Say, "O Allah! Deliver me from their mentioning, and of accidents which should befall me because of them. Protect me against their wickedness, and by Your Kindness enable me to avoid their snares, for You are powerful over everything."
`Abdu 's-Salam also counselled his beloved student saying, "Do not take for friends those who seek your friendship. These are cheap people. Do not take in friendship those who prefer their own self to you, and do not take for friends those who prefer you to themselves, because their sincerity is only based on appearances. But take those friends who when they make mention of anything say, 'Allah!' They should be humble towards Allah and none other but Him."
Ibn Mashish, may Allah be pleased with him, also said, "Guide the people to Allah, and do not guide them to anything but Him, for he who guides you to the world has cheated you, and he who guides you to work has made you suffer. But he who guides you to Allah has counselled you well."
It was said that when Sidi `Abdu 's-Salam prayed, the Saints of Islam prayed behind him and on all sides, both men and women.
It was recorded that once when Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli, desiring spiritual progress, asked his Master to petition Allah in his favor, he, may Allah be pleased with him, answered, "Allah is with you, O Abu al-Hasan, and if He is with you, which needs other than that can you have?"
A man once asked Sidi `Abdu 's-Salam for permission to take part in Jihad. He, may Allah be pleased with him, answered him with Allah's Words to His Prophet Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him, "Those who believe in Allah and the Last Day, ask not leave of thee that they may struggle with their possessions and their selves. And Allah knows those who fear Him."
He, may Allah protect his secret, said once to his beloved student Abu al-Hasan, "If you wish to fight your soul, examine it, let it take hold of the fear of sin, and imprison it in Allah's possession wherever you are."
In order to know the Spirit of our Master Sidi `Abdu 's-Salam ibn Mashish, may Allah have mercy upon him, it is necessary for us to look into his Al-Wazifa since it is the only piece of writing from his hand which is available for us to study. It was revealed to him, he said, in a dream from the Prophet Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him, himself. For `Abdu 's-Salam's heart, may Allah be pleased with him, was chosen to contain this revelation and to transmit it to all the followers who were to come from him. In this holy revelation the Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him, showed him that his Secret, prayers and peace be upon him, was the key to the Door of the Knowledge of Allah, Mighty and Supreme is He. Therefore Ibn Mashish said, "This is the Secret which Allah preserves and guards. How mighty is he among the Prophets who is a picture and example of the Existence of Allah."
The Knower of Allah, the Qutb of this time, may Allah benefit us through him, Sidi Shaykh Muhammad Said al-Jamal ar-Rifa`i, has written a Commentary on this Wazifa of `Abdu 's-Salam ibn Mashish, which reveals many of its hidden meanings for its readers. It is from this Commentary that we now include some excerpts, which can, if Allah wills, guide us into this Knowledge which was granted to our Master Abdu 's-Salam ibn Mashish, may Allah protect his secret. He said, according to the words revealed to him by his Beloved Prophet, and may Allah hallow his Secret:
"O Allah! Send Your Blessings and send Peace in all the affairs
Of the revealed and the Hidden,
upon the one from whom the Secrets
Which were hidden in his lofty Essence,
Were cleft asunder by becoming revealed."
And we do not know what befits him of respect and might."
"And the Lights which were hidden
in the sky of his lofty Qualities,
Burst asunder into full moons,
and in him the Truths ascended, from him to Him;
And the Knowledge of Adam descended through him,
and upon him,
The One who unites all things.
This is the Preserved Secret
which none of us creatures knew before,
And which no one who comes after him can obtain,
In spite of his instinctive yearning for witnessing it.
O Allah! he is Your Secret which unites all secrets.
And the Gardens of the World of the Kingdom
and the World of Dominion,
Enjoying the flowers of his glowing Beauty.
And the reservoirs
which are distinguishing signs of Omnipotence,
Pour forth in profusion the lights of his dazzling Secret."
In his Commentary on these lines, the Shaykh Muhammad Said al-Jamal ar-Rifa`i, our Master says: The World of Omnipotence is the Presence of the Secrets which manifest the Essence freed of all incidents and choice. Briefly, an analogy can be made. The World of the Kingdom (al-mulk) and the World of Dominion (al-malakut) shine out through him, the Prophet, may prayers and peace be upon him, like spacious gardens on high. Another indication of this is the use of the word 'garden' for both these Worlds. His Beauty, prayers and peace be upon him, is like the plants in gardens... and the World of Omnipotence is like a sea on the two shores of which are gardens that are watered from its reservoirs.
The World of the Kingdom is the world of the presences, of bodies which produce manifest deeds and actions, so that everything which is known through the senses is from this Presence.
The World of Dominion is the Presence of souls, and it is the World of Manifestation of the Qualities of Beauty (jamal) and Majesty (jalal). Also everything that is known by the White Mind and by true understanding is from this Presence.
The Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him, embellishes the World of the Kingdom and the World of Dominion just as flowers beautify gardens... so that these two Worlds are enhanced by his Beauty, may prayers and peace be upon him.
The Commentary continues: He, my Master, increased the honoring and glorifying and ascended from the station (maqam) of the 'special' to the station of the 'general' and said:
"And there is nothing that is not dependent upon him.
And which is not tended by his all-pervading Secret."
"For `Abdu 's-Salam was shown that there is nothing that is not founded upon him and linked to him, prayers and peace be upon him, and that this is from the Grace of Existence... because he is the Spring of all things and their Mother."
"And there does not exist anything which is not cared for
By his all-embracing Secret which is the Protector of all things.
If there were not his Intercession in every ascent and descent,
Those interceded for, as it is said, would disappear."
In his Commentary the Master explains that these words mean: They would be destroyed, and no trace of them would remain... especially in respect to the travelling to Allah, Most High. It means that there is no possibility for the traveller to witness the Reality, Praised and Exalted is He, except through his, may Allah's prayers and peace be upon him, mirror.
As regards the station of his Secret, prayers and peace be upon him, there is no hope of anyone knowing It, in his presence, because the difference between the station of his Secret and that of his Soul, prayers and peace be upon him, his Intellect, his Heart, his Self, is that the station of his Secret is the Muhammadan Reality which is Divine Light. And it is not possible for either the intellect or the consciousness of the created being, even the Perfect One, to know and understand if he is in his presence. But if he destroys everything, then he can reach It.
Know, and may Allah protect you, that when He, Glory be to Him and Exalted is He, created the Muhammadan Reality, He put into It for His Creation all that He had apportioned from the abundance of the Hidden and Revealed Knowledge, the Secrets and Revelations, the Lights and the Truths, in all their Decrees and necessities.
Then Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him, ascends until now in the witnessing of Divine Completion which cannot be reached by anyone save him, and this Perfection never passes away throughout all Eternity.
Then Sidi `Abdu 's-Salam said: "And give him a new creation unceasingly."
The Shaykh's Commentary explains: In these words, `Sidi `Abdu 's-Salam asked that the 'unending succession' may be in like measure to the new creations which will never be interrupted, either in this world or in the Hereafter, as Allah, Glorified and Exalted is He, says: "What, were We wearied by the first creation? No indeed: But they are in uncertainty as to the new creation." (50:15).
All existing things, in their manifest and in their hidden state, in their displayed and in their innermost existence, do not remain for two moments in the same state, because the time for their existence is also the time for their passing away. This refers to relative existence and non-existence, but not to true Existence, because there are manifest Realities in every rank according to its measure.
Then the unveiling of the revelation continued as `Abdu 's Salam said:
"O Allah! he is Your Secret that unites all secrets,
And Your Light which encompasses all lights.
And Your Guide who leads through You.
So that no one reaches (to You),
but to his unassailable Presence."
The Shaykh, may Allah benefit us through him, says in explaining these words: Know that the Muhammadam Inheritor is the Secret of Allah which unites all secrets, and his Light contains all lights... as my Master `Abdu'l-Ghani an-Nabulsi, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "Know that the possessor of the Muhammadan Inheritance is the Seal of the Saints of his time, just as the Prophet Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him, is the Seal of the Prophets, and there will be no Prophet after him, but in every Time of Allah there are Saints of Allah, Praised and Glorified is He, as numerous as there were nabi before."
There is a hadith of the Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him, in which he said, "The Knower of this Community is like any of the Prophets of the Children of Isra'il." Then as Sidi `Abdu 's-Salam, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "The Muhammad Inheritor, who is Your Guide, leads through You, in as much as he is the manifestation of Your Highest Essence and of Your Splendid Attributes. For that reason his Guidance is complete, his words and his actions and all his doings. According to the measure that he follows the noble Law (ash-shari`a) and in the measure of his Love, and to the extent that he is drowned in the Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him, he can take from this noble Secret. Through this, when he destroys everything that he has, he then gives yearning for another to remember Allah when His Name is mentioned. What I mean is that what is behind this presence cannot be revealed to every traveller, because the presence of the Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him, or the Guide, may Allah be pleased with him, is the Veil which prevents anyone from knowing what is behind it, unless he is annihilated and returned to non-being, and to be completely like the Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him, or like his Guide. For the return to non-being is only for the Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him, but as for the Creation, it is returned through him."
Sidi `Abdu 's-Salam then called to his beloved God saying:
"O Allah! join me to him through his spiritual Line,
And make his praised and noble descent true through me."
Here, as the Commentary explains in the Shaykh's words, may Allah benefit us through him: No one knows the Secret of the Line of the Love except the lovers of Allah who contain It. After this bond has been reached, the seeker gains that from which the eyes of the Creation are veiled. For he becomes of the Family of Allah because He, Glory be to Him, brings the Line of the Love down upon His lovers who are His Family...
Know that from the heart of every person who is connected to this noble Line gush forth springs of Wisdom and Knowledge, through which each follower is guided, because he is connected to the Line of the Messenger of Allah, may prayers and peace be upon him.
Then, in asking for the realization of this noble descent, there are numerous signs, one of them being that the setting for his Muhammadan manners, prayers and peace be upon him, and the rules of the praised and noble shari`a cannot be perfected except through realization, which for the Knower of Allah is the complete Knowing and the highest degree of asking.
However, he who claims to be connected to this spiritual Line, the Line of the Love of Allah, Praised and Glorified is He, but who does not practice the rules of the shari`a, is like a liar who sees a mirage in the desert and says that it is water.
As some people said, "Do not obey anyone except Him, then you will make His Love manifest. By my life! This is a wonderful example, because if your love is righteous, then you obey because the lover obeys the one he loves."
Another sign is that every one of his noble manners, and every rule of his sublime shari`a, contains secrets and realities which not all creatures can contain. Therefore it is necessary to ask for the realization of the rules of the honored shari`a, and the glorification of the Books of the Reality, and their People...
Sidi Ibn Mashish then asked Allah:
"And let me know him,
with a knowledge by which I can see his Face,
And through which I can become his manifestation."
By this supplication (du`a), as the Shaykh, may Allah benefit us by him, explains, he meant: Let me know him through tasting, feeling and seeing, in everything that manifests of Your ancient eternal Beauty, and this is the supplication from the sublimity of the yearning (himma) where the Prophet Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him, said, "Allah provides for the slave according to his yearning (himma), in as much as he asks for the ascent from the knowledge of certitude (`ilm al-yaqin) to the eye of certitude (`aynu 'l-yaqin), because the existence of things, from the Muhammadan Light and their appearances, and the Ahmadan Beauty is a realized and established knowing, which is the knowledge of certainty (`ilm al-yaqin).
Concerning the eye of certitude (`ayn al-yaqin), it is the attaining or unveiling of revelation and eye-witnessing, and especially on the horizons of vision or as far as the Eye can see. Allah, Praised and Exalted is He, says, "We shall show them Our signs in the horizons and in themselves, until it is clear to them that it is the Truth. Suffice it not as to thy Lord, that He is witness over everything?" (41:53).
The Commentary then continues: This is the case of those who are drowned in the Ocean of the Love, as my Master Abu 'l-`Abbas al-Mursi, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "By Allah! if the Messenger of Allah, prayers and peace be upon him, were to be veiled from me for the twinkling of an eye, I would not count myself to be a Muslim." He meant that Allah, Praised and Exalted is He, had united His slave with his Prophet in the Unity of the Essence, the Essential Union, in which neither in the fana nor in the baqa of Abu `Abbas was there any possibility of separation, unbinding or dissolution from the Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him.
This state cannot be known, in any way at all, by the intellect, but only by travelling through the hand of a complete Guide.
The Master, Ibn al-Mashish, may Allah be pleased with him, then said, as he travelled deeper and deeper into the Ocean of the Unity of the Reality of his beloved Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him:
"I drink directly from it,
From the watering-places of the Bounty,
Through this Knowing, lead me on his firm Path,
On his Straight Path, to his presence which is linked
To Your Holy Presence which shines
With the revelations of his human virtues."
As our Shaykh, and Master says: These words are a call from the traveller's heart saying, "May You be be the Traveller with me, and the One Who takes me by the hand on his firm Path, which is his living and clear Way, which is the Way of the highest Proximity, the Way of his noble shari`a, which is free from all faults and errors." As the Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him, said, "I leave you a pure white shari`a whose night is like its day." (Hadith Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim). This means that any presence which reaches to his Presence is purified and freed from all false connection and false contact to his Presence.
From this is known that he, may prayers and peace be upon him, has many Presences, and that the one which is here required is that which is linked to the Holy Presence. This is the one in which every traveller seeks refuge in Allah, and through which he witnesses the connection of the Muhammadan Presence to the Holy Presence in all its meanings.
Sidi ibn Mashish then continued his supplication by asking his Beloved God:
"And plunge me into the Ocean of Oneness,
Which encompasses every totality
Made up of its individual parts,
And of every individual part.
And pull me back from the morass of the Unity
Into the freedom of Diversity (at-tafrid)
beyond freedom or limitation."
In his Commentary, the Master explains this by saying: In this Sidi Ibn al-Mashish was asking for the annihilation (fana') in the Ocean of Oneness, which is equivalent to the manifestation of the Essence, wherein there is no trace left of the influence of the Names, or the Qualities, or of anything of individual appearances.
As this Presence completely encompasses all things, and as things are never empty, whether they are complex or simple, because the Essence is in everything, therefore he says, "Which encompasses every totality, made up of its individual parts." This he said in order that it may be known that in the Unity everything is an independent ocean He used the word 'ocean' in the plural form in the Arabic language, so that we may know that every person to whom the One is revealed in his rank, falls down into the Eye of the Unity. It then becomes possible for all restraint to be thrown away, and for all the veils to be lifted from the Face of the Secrets. This can be either through belief or in actions. But the trusting traveller does not need to fear the Revelations, because they are the Source of belief and of all evidence.
He, may Allah benefit us by him, continues: Know that the 'morass of tawhid' applies to many things, and also states which hold the traveller back, preventing him from reaching the Unity. Other aspects of this morass, for example, are scholastic religious dogmas and the calls of the self and of desire for independence. These are the most harmful impediments that can befall the traveller on his Way, and which present a barrier against his attachment to his Lord, as our Master `Abdu 's-Salam Ibn Mashish says.
The freedom of diversity (at-tafrid) is the second separation, not the first, of which the Master gives proof by his words: "Which is beyond either freedom or limitation." There are three stations, and there is no fourth. The first is that of the first separation, which is the station of alterities and is referred to as al maqam al aghyar, the station of dissimilarities or contrasts, and of how they manifest themselves. They stop the traveller if he believes in them, and gives them an existence other than true existence. These make limitation.
The second station is that of the first Union, which is the witnessing of the many in the One, but here the vision is cut off from the complete Union by the necessity for the Names and Qualities, actions and Commands. This is the station of freedom.
The third station is that of the second separation, which is the witnessing of the One in the many, and the descent of Existence in all its ranks. He who owns this station gives the one with Truth his Truth, and the one with Equity his equity, and this is necessary because it is the complete Perfection, and the perfect Completion. The actions of the person in this station take place at the perfect moment, in the perfect time, and therefore he lacks nothing, nor is he lacking in anything, for the perfect completion of every action and every state.
After this our Master Sidi `Abdu 's-Salam ibn Mashish, may Allah be pleased with him, then asked for the fourth station, the Union of the Union, as he said:
"And drown me in the Spring of the Sea of Oneness,
Through the witnessing, until I do not see, and I do not hear,
And I do not sense, nor feel, except through It,
While descending and ascending,
as it is and never ceases to exist."
Then, in his explanation the Shaykh says: My Master requested the fourth station which is the Union of the Union. He asked for the complete and perfect drowning in the Spring of the Essential Oneness, and the state of the Reality of the Order.
"And make the Great Veil the life of my Spirit by revelation
And by eye-witnessing,
since the Order from You is Mercy and Love."
Sidi ibn Mashish continued with his supplication, and commenting on this the Shaykh said: Here the Great Veil, being the Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him, Sidi Ibn Mashish was asking to be united to him in the complete bond of Love and surrender through which he, prayers and peace be upon him, might be the life of his Spirit so as to receive Revelation and Witnessing. His words: "Since the Order is like this-a Mercy from You, and Love," mean that Allah, Praised and Glorified is He, because of His Generosity, His Excellence, His Mercy and His Benevolence, in the Reality of the Order, made the Muhammadan Presence, the Spirit of all the spirits. But this no one understands except those who know Allah, and they are the Masters of Eye-Witnessing and inner Revelation.
Then Sidi Ibn Mashish said about this Union without end which he asked for:
"O Allah! make his Spirit the Secret of my Reality
By tasting and by state. And his Reality,
The Unifier of all my worlds,
In the abodes of Knowledge
In this world and in the Next.
And make this true to me
In accordance with what is with You,
By the realization of the First Truth and the Last
And the Revealed and the Hidden.
O first One, there is nothing before You,
O Last One there is nothing after You,
O Revealed One there is nothing above You.
O Hidden One, there is nothing beneath You."
Here `Abdu 's-Salam ibn Mashish, may Allah hallow his secret, was asking that the Prophet's Reality might be the Gatherer of all his worlds, both on the outside and the inside, so that he would not be dependent upon anything else but him, and so that he might follow him in everything that he ordered, avoiding the things that he forbids. He requested that his Reality might not remain either as nafs or heart or soul, but that it might become the Soul of the Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him, and its Secret. He asked that he might attain this by tasting and by state, and not by knowledge, nor through imaginings, nor thought (hayal). For it should be known that the Muhammadan Spirit, as in Sufi usage, means the Holy Spirit (ar-ruh al-quds) upon which all the universes are founded, and not only all the universes, but also all things. Also, all possible Decrees are based upon his mirror just as snow is built up from its mirror, which is water. Then the meaning of his words, "And O Allah! make the noble Muhammadan Reality true to me in accordance with what is the Order concerning this, with You", refers to the First Contact of the Day when Allah, the All-Mighty, asked, "Am I not your Lord?"
Then know, that these four noble Names are the pillars of existence, and if the traveller realizes them, then he falls into the station of the Eye of the Witnessing.
Therefore my Master requested help through them, for he meant that You are the First Truth, which existed before my realization of Your Existence in me, or of any knowledge of You, and You are 'O Last One' in respect of my complete annihilation in You. There is my annihilation a second time, after which He does not leave any trace of myself, and there is no more humanity. 'O Revealed One' means that there is no manifestation above Your Manifestation, wherever You are manifest to me through the appearance of everything. This is where You become my Witnessing after You were my Absence. I witness You through everything, but You are Greater than all the witnessing. 'O Hidden One' which means that under Your hiddenness there is nothing, and behind Your Secret there is no other Secret.
For this therefore the Master Ibn Mashish asked his Lord:
"And strengthen me, through You, and for You...
And unite me with You.
And take away Your Veil from my eye,
And place a barrier between everything which is not You."
This meant that the Master Ibn Maskish asked his Lord for the strength of witnessing and for protection from the tawhid of the descent of desires and forced intentions, as Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli said, "We do not ask You to remove what You want, but we ask You to help us with Your Spirit, in what You want, as You helped Your Prophets and Messengers, and especially the truthful ones of Your Creation, because You have power over everything... And unite me with You, which is the Unity through drowning, and permanent witnessing. Lift me up beyond the witnessing of things which are other-than-You. Lift me up beyond becoming intimate with creatures and multiplicity, and of the manifestation of the Divine Qualities in this world.
It was necessary for him to see only with the pure Eye of his heart, therefore he said: "Destroy Your Veil both from my outer eyes and from my inner Eyes, so that my eye returns to be a real Eye, and withdraw the blindness from it, which is the reason for the Veil. Empty your heart from things that are other-than-God, and He will fill it with Divine Knowledge (ma`rifa) and Secrets."
Sidi `Abdu 's-Salam then asked:
"And make me of the leaders of Your Goodness and Caring.
O Lord, give us from You a Mercy
And provide for us uprightness in our conduct.
Make us of those who are rightly guided through You,
And of those who guide.
Until no slightest glance falls on anything that is not You;
Until no desire guides us, except to You."
Sidi Ibn Mashish ended his Wazifa with an Invocation:
"Verily Allah and His angels
Send their prayers upon the Prophet.
O you who believe! Send your Prayers upon him,
And greet him with your deep peace.
O Allah! Send our prayers upon him from us,
The most befitting prayers,
And greet him with the complete peace.
For surely we cannot estimate his great value
And we do not know what befits him
Of respect and glorification."
"The prayers of Allah, Exalted is He, and His Peace, and His Greetings, and His Mercy, and His Blessings be upon our Master Muhammad, Your slave, your Prophet and Your Messenger, the unlettered Prophet. And upon his Family and Companions, of even and uneven numbers, and upon the numbered complete and blessed Words of our Lord."
Although Sidi `Abdu 's-Salam ibn Mashish left only the Wazifa as a written legacy, this is more than enough holy Food for the thirsty and hungry traveller on the Path of Allah. In it are hidden many holy jewels of the deep Secret Knowledge.
From this we can see that what Allah, Praised and Exalted is He, gave him, in his heart, was a deep Spring of the Water of the Spirit coming directly from the Spirit of the Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him. This Spring which came through Sidi ibn Mashish, still flows out in profusion to all who follow in his way which, through his successor and inheritor, became known as the Way of Ash-Shadhdhuli.
As our Guide of this Way, the Qutb, the Shaykh Muhammad al-Jamal ar-Rifa`i says about it: "It is not like any other Sufi Way. If you know the meaning of the Arabic word shadhdh which means isolated, alone, singular and extraordinary, and the li which means, for Me, then you can feel some of its meaning.
The Way of `Abdu 's-Salam Ibn Mashish was to be special only for Him (for Me). There is no Shaykh in this Way, there is only Allah. Through the Spirit, which is linked, without beginning and without end, to the Spirit of the Prophet, the one who truly follows, and obeys from the Reality, can find himself inside the real Garden of the Heart of his Beloved, until when he walks and continues in this Way, he can reach to be He - to be the Reality without any doubts.
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