Approaching the Presence of God

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The following is extracted from Sharh al-Hikam al-Ataiyya of Shaykh Ibn Ata Allah Iskandari (r.a) and further explained by Shaykh Ibn `Abbad al-Rundi (r.a).

How shall divine light shine upon a heart whose mirror is stamped with the impressions of created things? Or how shall it travel to Allah while chained in its lusts? Or how shall it wish to enter the presence of Allah while uncleansed from the impurity of forgetfulness of Him? Or how shall it hope to understand subtle secrets while having not repented from its mistakes? – Shaykh Ibn Ata Allah (r.a)

Shaykh Ibn `Abbad al-Rundi (r.a) explained this as following:

It is impossible to bring two mutually exclusive opposites together. Such as trying to unify movement and stillness or light and darkness. These things that the author (May Allah have mercy on him) has mentioned are opposites that do not come together. Thus, the light of faith and certainty illuminating the heart is an opposite of the darkness that overtakes it by relying on material forms and created things. Likewise, for the
traveler to Allah Most High to cut off his lower self is opposite to letting his lusts and desires have free reign. Similarly, entering into the presence of Allah requires that the servant’s internal self be pure and removed from bad traits which is the opposite of his condition of impurity by not remembering Him; this impurity causes him to be removed and distanced from the Divine. Finally, understanding subtle spiritual secrets comes about from godfearingness which is the opposite of persisting in disobedience and mistakes.

There is an allusion to this point in His Most High’s statement: “Fear Allah and Allah will teach you.” [Qur’an 2:282] Also it has been reported in a hadith, “Whoever acts by what he knows, Allah makes him inherit knowledge of what he did not know.”

Yahya ibn Ma`in (May Allah have mercy on him) said, “Ahmad ibn Hanbal met Ahmad ibn Abu Hawari and said to him, ‘O Ahmad, narrate to me an account that you heard from your teacher Abu Sulayman.’ Abu Hawari replied, ‘O Ahmad, say subhanallah (glory be to Allah) without conceit.’ Ibn Hanbal then uttered subhanallah in a prolonged fashion without conceit. Ibn Abu Hawari then said, ‘I heard Abu Sulayman saying ,’When a person’s soul resolves upon leaving sins, it moves about in the metaphysical world and returns to the servant with rare pieces of wisdom without any scholar teaching it any knowledge.’ Then, Ahmad ibn Hanbal stood up and sat down three times and said, ‘I haven’t heard in Islam any narration more wondrous to me than this.’ Then, he mentioned the hadith we mentioned above: ‘Whoever acts by what he knows, Allah makes him inherit knowledge of what he did not know.’ He then said to Ibn Abu Hawari, ‘You’ve spoken the truth and so did your sheikh.’”

Because these things are opposites, Shaykh Ibn Ata Allah (May Allah have mercy on him) marvels at the one who believes that they can come together and at the one who craves to attain the ranks of the realized spiritualists while having the ugliest faults.

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