Prayer and Concentration – Part 4

Excerpts from the original by Ayatullah Khomeini

Contributed by Jameel Kermalli ((Sanford, United States)

The gnostics have, to a certain extent, described the mysteries of salat and other forms of worship and have benefited to the extent of their capacity from the statements contained in the traditions of the Infallible One may peace be upon them. Although an understanding of the reality of the matter is rarely attained by anyone, whatever extent of it that has been mentioned is a free gift for those who have an aptitude for it.

Attention to the Worshipped One:

As to the heart’s attention to the Worshipped One, that also consists of various degrees that fall into three main levels. One of them pertains to concentrating the heart, on revelations (tajalliyat) of Divine Acts. Another of them relates to concentrating the heart. on revelations of Names and Attributes. The third consists of concentrating with the heart on revelations of the Essence. Each of these levels consists of four planes that may be generally put as the plane of knowledge, the plane of faith, the plane of direct experience, and the plane of absorption (or annihilation, fana’). That which is meant by concentrating the heart on revelations of Acts on the plane of knowledge is that in it the wayfaring devotee knows on the level of theoretical knowledge and metaphysical proof that all the levels of existence and all the visible and unseen domains of being are manifestation of the effusion of the Most Sacred Essence, and that all of them, right from the lower levels of the world of nature to the fountainhead of the higher malakut and the greater jabarut, are equally and uniformly present before His Sanctity. They are all manifestations of His unfolding Will, as mentioned in the following sacred tradition from al-Kafi

Al-‘Imam al-Sadiq-may peace be upon him-said: “God created the Will by itself. Then He brought all things into existence through the agency of the Will. ” [12]

Hence the Will by itself is manifestation of the Essence and other existents have been created through its means. We don’t however intend to give here the proof of this sublime matter. The devotee who understands this matter on the plane of theory and metaphysical proof, knows that his own being, as well as his worship, knowledge, will, heart, the actions of his heart, and his inward and outward being all of them are present before His Sanctity or, rather, they are presence itself. Should the pen of his intellect inscribe this truth on the tablet of his heart and should the heart attain conviction in this certain, axiomatic premise by the means of theoretical and practical exercises, he will obtain attention of the heart to the revelations on the plane of faith. After the perfection of this faith and following the exercises and austerities and attainment of the perfect piety of the heart, the wayfarer is afforded by Divine guidance to partake of the tajalliyat of Acts, directly experiencing them with his heart, until his heart becomes the complete mirror of those tajalliyat and he achieves the state of swoon (sa’q) and annihilation (fana’). This is the ultimate stage of attention that ultimately leads the attentive one to be absorbed in the tajalliyat of Acts. Many of the wayfarers of the path of gnosis remain for ever immersed in this state of swoon and do not come to themselves.

And should the wayfarer’s heart have a greater capacity than this as a result of the light of the Most Sacred Effusion (fayd-e aqdas) in pre-eternity, he will recover from this swoon, resume his sociability (uns) and return to his domain and receive the tajalliyat of Names and, traversing similar stages, reach annihilation in Attributes (fana’-e sifati) in proportion to his permanent prototype (`ayn-e thabit), becoming annihilated in one of the Divine Names. Many wayfarers of the mystic path remain in the state of annihilation in Names (fana’-e asmai) and do not come to themselves. Perhaps the following sacred tradition is a reference to this group of awliya’:

Verily My friends are under My cloak. None knows them except Me. [13]

And should his capacity, endowed to him by manifestation of the Most Sacred Effusion (in pre-eternity), be of a greater extent than this, he will recover from this swoon and annihilation, regain sociability, come to himself and receive the tajalliyat of the Essence, until, on reaching the last stage of annihilation in Essence and total swoon, his journey ends and complete annihilation is attained. Some have said that the verse:

Whoso goes forth from his house an emigrant to God and His Messenger, and then death overtakes him, his wage shall have fallen on God…,(4:100)

alludes to this group of awliya’ of God and wayfarers towards Him, and the reward of these wayfarers lies solely with the Sacred Essence.

And sometimes the wayfarer may recover from this station, whereupon, by virtue of his capacity and in accordance with the scope of his permanent prototype, he devotes himself to the guidance of the creatures:

O thou shrouded in thy mantle, arise, and warn! (74:1-2)

And should his permanent prototype be subject to the Greatest Divine Name, he would be the completing arc of the circle of prophethood, such as was the case with the Noble Messenger and the Great Seal of the Prophets-may God’s benedictions be upon him and his Family. For the permanent prototype of none among the creatures, from the first to the last one, or that of any of the prophets and messengers, conformed to the Greatest Divine Name nor did it reveal the Divine Essence in all its aspects.

Hence the Essential Reality of the Messenger manifests all the aspects of the Essence and this manifestation culminated in guidance, intuiting the total span of Reality and bringing prophethood to its culmination by his sacred existence. And if, supposedly, any of the awliya’ were to reach this station by following the sacred essence (of the Prophet) and through his guidance, his intuition (kashf) would be identical to it and repetition in legislation would not be permissible. Thus the circle of prophethood was completed by his sacred being and the last brick was laid in the circle of prophethood, as mentioned in hadith.

It should be known that the worship and spiritual states of those who stand on each of the stations mentioned, are very different and extremely various. Each of them partakes of prayer a portion that is not possessed by one who has not reached that station. Of course, that which was experienced by al-‘Imam al-Sadiq-may peace be upon him-during the course of `ibadah is something that is not possible for others. It is narrated from Sayyid Ibn Tawus-may God sanctify his soul-as mentioned in the Falah al-sa’il, that he said:

It has been narrated that our master, Ja’far ibn Muhammad al Sadiq-may peace be upon him-was once reciting the Qur’an in his salat. He went into a swoon, and when he emerged from it he was asked, “What was that that led you into that state?” He gave a reply, which meant, “I continued repeating verses of the Qur’an until I reached a state wherein it was as if I heard them directly from Him Who had sent them down. And it is beyond human power to witness Divine glory.” [14]

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