Wait and See, Who Grazes his Ego All Day Won't Get Far
(A follower asked Sheikh Nazim): "Could you tell me a little bit about the development of the soul?”
The Sheikh answered: Wait and see... Blindfolding is a tactic sometimes used by those who lead people along terrifying mountain paths, a technique which insures the safe arrival of that traveller. Those guides know the areas they are leading their people through to be so high and dangerous that, were their eyes not blindfolded, they would be overcome with fear and fall down. The mountain guides, however, are so skilled and experienced that it is no trouble for them to cross those precipices and to lead others as well. After those dangerous paths have been successfully traversed in this condition, the guide removes the blindfold, and the traveller looks back in amazement, saying: "Did I really cross that?" We have such terrifying crossings to make on our way. Therefore, it is also a tactic of the Guides of this Path – the Naqshbandi Path – to keep the follower's eyes closed until he reaches "safety step". Only when that point has been reached the full reality becomes clear to him. But, as of yet, there is no need of letting you see extraordinary things, indeed it would be dangerous to your continued development. Grandsheikh knows when you have made your "safety step" and removes the blindfold.
<b>"Is there something more I can do in order to progress toward the point of unveiling more quickly?" </b>
Sheikh: You can do nothing except to follow. Follow your Guide: his orders, his example, his manners. If you concentrate on following him you will proceed along the Path with him: to follow is important, nothing else. Even if you can only manage to connect to and remember your Sheikh once a day, that will be enough for you to be written as his follower; it means that you have boarded that "train" and are still riding on it. As long as the train continues on towards its destination you will move towards yours as well. Even if you are not working as hard as you should for your spiritual life, it doesn't matter so much, for you are still aboard the train – and be you asleep on the floor of the third-class car: the train is moving and you are on it. What is important is to take a train. Yes, even if you are asleep day and night you may progress, if you just keep up your connection with your Sheikh. Pointing to this fact is the saying of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, that on the Last Day everyone will be raised up with his loved ones. So, the more you love your Sheikh, the more you should be able to follow his orders and his example in obedience to Allah Almighty and His Prophet. But even the laziest follower will not be left behind until he reaches his station. For if he is asleep the conductor will come and wake him up, saying: "Wake up, wake up, we have arrived at your station." Then he will groggily reply: "What? Have we really arrived?" "Yes, take your baggage and go."
<b>"Is there any way for us to know what our destination is?" </b>
Sheikh: He Almighty knows, and He leads you there by means of His beloved servants, servants who have been dispatched for your guidance and who must, therefore, know your destination as well. Allah's Prophet knows, Grandsheikh knows, the chief inspector knows and the conductor knows as well. (Another follower): "Many people who join Sufi Tariqahs expect that by following the Path they will very quickly experience many strange and wonderful states, that the whole journey will be made more exciting for them by their extraordinary visions and inspirations. And actually many followers of other Sufi Paths do relate that they are constantly experiencing amazing states, such as 'Ecstasy' and 'Union with the Divine', and all manner of visions and mystical powers." "But as for myself, I feel just like a normal person. Yes, I do feel much better and more at peace with my- self than I did before – quieter inside and happier. And although I may occasionally see some extraordinary dreams, they are not all that frequent. Certainly, all of what I experience is nothing at all like the marvelous things followers of other ways describe. If I am going somewhere I only know it by some subtle changes, not by dramatic signs; and to tell you the truth, it is alright with me this way; I don't really feel any desire right now to see or do all those things." Sheikh: In our way we are not seeking to see some- thing, but we are pursuing real servanthood of our Lord Almighty: to be His eternal humble servants. We are not looking after anything else, neither here nor hereafter.
<b>"But many spiritual seekers hope to gain mystical powers." </b>
Sheikh: It doesn't matter. We have such spiritual powers, and are keeping them hidden. They are of no use to us, and instead of expending that energy in such outward manifestations we are using it to strengthen ourselves in worship and obedience. There is no need for us to look around – that is a way for weak people. If I say to our brother Sheikh Sindbad: "Go and do such-and-such an errand," I needn't offer him a red candy to get him to do it; no, he gets up and hops to it. But if I ask a small boy to run the same errand, I will offer him a red sugar candy: then he will run, otherwise maybe he won't. That is the level of those who are still childish; the level of those who obey without awaiting reward is higher – theirs is the level of adult- hood. Grandsheikhs don't seek to use such extraordinary powers. They are ashamed to perform miraculous acts, ashamed in front of their Lord, because there can be no doubt that the ego is also pleased with such miraculous feats, and takes its share in them as well, which is, of course, counter-productive to our aims. We seek to abase the lower self, not to blow it up all out of proportion by giving it the satisfaction of our performance of miracles.
Therefore, the Grandsheikhs of Naqshbandiyya never do anything miraculous unless they are ordered to do so by the Holy Prophet. They are very simple and humble people: you can't distinguish them from ordinary people. They may have nuclear power, but they are so humble that they see themselves as being nothing. If someone urges them to perform a miracle, they may reply: "Oh my son, what are you saying? I am but an ordinary person, an empty case, so how can you expect me to do something like that?" Yes, it is true that they are empty, empty until power comes through them. When that power is sent to them they may do anything, but without it they can do nothing. By means of spiritual purification they have become like unalloyed copper wires which allow power to pass through them without resistance, but if they are disconnected from the source of energy they have no power of their own.
So many seekers believe that it is important to be able to read people's mind, foretell the future, fly in the air and walk on the sea: they think that these are the signs of a real Master. But they must keep in mind the fact that houseflies and mosquitoes can also fly in the air, and water-bugs walk on the water. So many evil people also – not only Prophets and Saints – have attained supernatural powers to deceive people: Allah leaves them to misguide those who seek misguidance, those who seek something other than His Divine Countenance.
The Anti-Christ (Dajjal) who will appear at the end of time will possess some of the greatest mystical powers ever heard of. No, to perform extraordinary feats is certainly not our goal. Our goal is to become sincere servants of our Lord, to be constant in our worship and good actions – to please our Lord with our steadfastness in obedience and love of Him. To be steadfast on the path of faith in our times is a miracle in itself. Many weak-willed people are being pulled into unbelief, unable to resist the onslaught that is virtually sweeping belief from the hearts of men in our times. To follow the Path from beginning to end, surmounting its obstacles, and to move steadily forward towards our goal: that is miraculous. To dabble, to make no sacrifice, no commitment – to be on this way one day and on another the next – that is not the way of the sincere seeker, it is the way of those lacking sincerity and seriousness.*
The Naqshbandi Way is clear: its Masters seek nothing but their Lord's Countenance. If any thought of heavenly reward or pleasures should cross their minds, they consider themselves to have broken their state of ritual purity and in need of repeating their ablution. And if any of this world's enjoyments should captivate their thoughts, they consider it necessary to take a total ablution, a complete bath. (Follower): "We would have to live in a swimming pool!" Sheikh: Yes, but we are still little boys, not yet having attained to that station. It doesn't matter yet, you are not responsible in the full sense of the term in the Divine Presence. The Naqshbandi Masters are occupied in the Divine Presence and look no more to what this or the next life have to offer.
The main spiritual exercise of the other Sufi Orders centers around the repetition of the phrase: "La ilaha il1a-llah" (There is no God except the One True God, Allah). This is the sword with which the attachments to all "gods" beside the One True God, Allah, are cut. It is the negation of partners to Him Almighty. With the repetition of this phrase one affirms that He Alone deserves to be worshipped, renouncing the worship of all other than He. Be those idols of metal and wood, our own egoism and self-worship, worship of money, power, lust or other people, worship of the intellect, body or whatever else – far exalted be He above all we imagine about Him! The main Naqshbandi formula is the repetition of the Holy Name: "Allah". For after the "operation" of cutting all those lower attachments has been completed the servant calls on his Lord and approaches the Divine Presence. When he really says "La ilaha illa-llah" he negates all else – even himself, and accepts to be nothing in the Unity Oceans of his Lord Almighty. He will never reappear, nor will he want to emerge from that ocean. Then there is only: "Allah, Allah, Allah..."
Whoever is seeking this station is welcome; who is looking around for something may find many ways to make himself into "something".
*The Sheikh is, of course, not referring to changes in Way and teacher for true spiritual reasons, like Abu Yazid AI-Bistami who changed Sheikhs ninety-nine times. What he is referring to is inconstancy because of the seeker's unwillingness to accept responsibility or to make the deep and sometimes painful change of habits called for when following the Way to completion.