SAKINA AND ITMI'NAN (SERENITY AND PEACEFULNESS)
Literally meaning calmness, silence, steadiness, solemnity, familiarity, subsidence of waves and tranquility, sakina (serenity) is the opposite of airiness, flightiness, restlessness and wavering or indecision. In the language of sufism, sakina means that a heart becomes at rest by the gifts coming from the Unseen. Such a restful heart is always in the expectation of the breezes to come from the realms beyond in utmost care and self-possession and travels around itmi'nan (peacefulness). This rank is the beginning of the rank of certainty coming from direct observance. This is why the gifts coming through knowledge are confused with the gifts 'obtained' through insight and the horizon of observing secret truths is clouded. This gives rise to some wrong conclusions [about the reality of things].
Sakina sometimes comes in the form of signs perceptible or imperceptible, while at other times it appears so clearly that even ordinary people can identify it. Sometimes sakina and the signs of it are of the kind of some spiritual breaths or Divine breezes which can only be perceived with great care. Or, at other times, they come miraculously and as clearly as, or in such manifest forms that, everyone can see, as they came to the Children of Israel, and remain for some time among those deserving to be rewarded or equipped with it - like a mass of something resembling vapor or mist which surrounded Usayd ibn Khudayr while reading the Qur'an [Usayd bin Khudayr felt surrounded by a vapor - like mass while reading the Qur'an and felt greatly exhilarated]to strengthen their will-power and affirm and hearten them. In either case, sakina serves as a Divine confirmation for the believers aware of their helplessness and destitution before God, as a means of thankfulness and enthusiasm. It is stated in the verse He it is Who sent down serenity into the hearts of the believers so that they may have more faith added to their faith (48.4). A believer confirmed with serenity is not shaken by worldly fears, grieves and anxieties and finds peace and integrity and harmony between his inner and outer world.
This man of peace, integrity and harmony confirmed and equipped with serenity is dignified, balanced, confident, assuring and solemn in his behavior, and self-possessed and careful in his relations with God Almighty. He has nothing to do with egoism, vanity and pride. He attributes to God whatever spiritual gift and relief he receives and is humble and self-disciplined enough to thank Him therefor, while ascribing to his weaknesses whatever dissatisfaction and uneasiness he suffers, and criticizes himself.
As for itmi'nan (peacefulness), it is defined as full satisfaction and the state of being at complete rest, without any serious lapse. Peacefulness is a spiritual state beyond serenity. If serenity is a beginning to be freed from theoretical knowledge and awakened to the truth, peacefulness is a final point or station.
The ranks or stations called radiya (being pleased with God in resignation) and mardiyya (being approved by God) are two dimensions of peacefulness belonging to the good and virtuous and depths of resignation. The ranks called mulhama (being inspired by God) and zakiyya (being purified by God) are two other degrees of peacefulness relating to those brought near to God which are difficult to perceive and the gifts that come through them are pure and abundant.
In the souls equipped with serenity, some thoughts and inclinations displeasing to God may appear, while in those peaceful and at rest there is perfect calm. The peaceful hearts always seek God's good pleasure or approval and the 'compass needle' of conscience never swerves. Peacefulness is such an elevated rank of certainty that a soul travelling through this rank witnesses in every station the truth of I wish to set my heart at rest (2.260) and is rewarded with different gifts. Wherever he is, he feels the breeze of No fear shall come upon them, neither shall they grieve (2.62), and he hears the good tidings of Fear not, nor grieve, but rejoice in the good news of Paradise that has been promised to you (41.30). He also tastes the sweet, life-giving 'water' of Beware, in the remembrance of God do hearts find peace and tranquility (13.28), and lives victoriously over his corporeality.
Peacefulness is the name for transcending material causes and means. The trans-natural journeying of the reason ends at this point and the spirit is freed from worldly anxieties. Feelings find at this point whatever they seek and become as deep, wide and peaceful as a calm ocean.
A man who has acquired this rank finds the greatest peace only in feeling the company of God, becomes aware of Divine Beauty and Grace in his heart, and feels attracted toward Him to meet with Him. He is also conscious that existence subsists by God's existence and that he is endowed with the power of speaking because God has Speech. Through this window opened to him, he acquires, despite his finitude, the power of seeing and hearing infinitely and an infinite capacity. In the whirl of the most complicated events where everyone else is bewildered and falters, he travels in safety and escapes the whirl.
In addition to being freed from worldly anxieties, a man with a heart at rest or peace welcomes death and the obstacles following death with a smile and hears the Divine compliments and congratulations of Return to your Lord, pleased and well-pleasing! Enter among My servants, and enter My Garden! (89.2830). He sees death as the most agreeable and desired result of life. When his life has ended in death, he hears, as it was heard from the grave of Ibn 'Abbas, in every station he passes by after his death, the same Divine congratulations or DecreeReturn to your Lord, pleased and well-pleasing! Enter among My servants, and enter My Garden, and spends his life of the grave on the 'shores' of Paradise, experiences the Great Gathering in wonder and admiration, and the Supreme Weighing of Men's Deeds in awe and amazement, passes the Bridge since he has to pass it as every other man does, and finally reaches Paradise, which is the last, eternal abode of those whose hearts are at rest or have found peace and tranquility.
For such a one, the world is as if Arafat - the hill where Muslim pilgrims stay for some time on the eve of the Religious Festival of Sacrifice - prepared on the way leading to the eternal forgiveness of the believers. The worldly life is the Festival Eve, and the other life is the Day of Festival.
TASAWWUF OR SUFISM
Tasawwuf or sufism (the translation usually preferred in the West) is the name of the ways sufis follow to reach God, the Truth. While the term tasawwuf usually expresses the theoretical or philosophical aspect of the search for truth, its practical aspect is usually referred to as 'being a dervish.'
Tasawwuf has been defined in many ways. According to some, tasawwuf is Almighty God's annihilating man with respect to his ego and self-centredness and then reviving him spiritually with the lights of His Essence; in other words, God's annihilating man with respect to his own will and then directing him by His Own Will. Another approach to tasawwuf sees it as the continuous striving to be rid of all kinds of bad maxims and evil conduct and acquiring virtues.
Junayd al-Baghdadi, a famous Sufi master, defines tasawwuf as a way by which to recollect 'self-annihilation in God' and 'permanence or subsistence with God.' Shibli's definition is summarized as being always together with God or in His ever-presence while aiming at nothing worldly or even other-worldly. Abu Muhammad Jarir describes it as resisting the temptations of the carnal self and bad moral qualities and acquiring laudable moral qualities.
There are some who describe tasawwuf as seeing behind the [outward] reality of things and events and interpreting whatever happens [in the world] in relation with God Almighty. Then, by regarding every act of the Almighty as a window to 'see' Him, living one's life in continuous effort to view or 'see' Him with a profound, spiritual 'seeing' indescribable in physical terms, and living in profound awareness of being continually overseen by Him.
All the accounts just given can be summed up as follows: Tasawwuf means that by being freed from the vices and weaknesses particular to human nature and acquiring angelic qualities and conduct pleasing to God, one lives one's life in accordance with the requirements of knowledge and love of God and in the spiritual delight that comes thereby.
Tasawwuf is based on observing the rules of Shari'a down to good manners and penetrating their (inward) meaning. An initiate or traveler upon the path (salik) who can succeed in this never separates the outward observance of Shari'a from its inward dimension and carries out all the requirements of both the outward and inward dimensions of religion. Through such observance, he travels toward the goal in utmost humility and submission.
Tasawwuf is a path leading to knowledge of God and is a way demanding solemnity [of bearing and purpose]. There is no room in it for negligent or frivolous manners. It requires that the initiate should, like a honeybee flying from the hive to flowers and from flowers to the hive, continuously strive in pursuit of knowledge of God. He should purify his heart from all attachments other than seeking God, and resist all inclinations and desires and appetites of his carnal self. He should also lead his life at a spiritual level with a readiness to receive Divine blessings and inspirations and in strict observance of the Prophetic example. Sincerely admitting attachment and adherence to God as the greatest merit and honour, he should renounce his own desires for the sake of the demands of God, the Truth.
After these [preliminary] definitions, we should discuss the aim, benefits and principles of tasawwuf:
Tasawwuf requires strict observance of the religious obligations and austerity in life-style, the renunciation of animal appetites.
Tasawwuf aims, by purifying man's heart and employing his senses and faculties in the way of God, to live a life at the spiritual level. Tasawwuf also enables man, through constant performance of the acts of worshipping God, to deepen his consciousness of being a servant of God. It enables him to renounce the world with respect to its transient dimension and the face of it that is turned to human desires and fancies, and awakens him to the other world and to the face of this world that is turned toward the Divine Beautiful Names.
The benefit of Tasawwuf is that man develops the angelic dimension of his existence and acquires a strong, heart-felt and experienced conviction of the truths and articles of faith that at first he had accepted only superficially.
The principles of tasawwuf may be listed as follows:
Acquiring knowledge and understanding of the religious and gnostic sciences, and following the guidance of a perfected, spiritual master may be added to these principles, which are of considerable significance in the way of the Naqshbandiya.
It may be useful to discuss tasawwuf in the light of the following basic concepts which are the subject-matter of the books written on good morals and manners and asceticism, and regarded as the points where one finds the 'Muhammadan Truth' in one's heart. They can also be considered as the lights by which to know and follow the spiritual path leading to God.
Known by his simple and austere lifestyle, Fethullah Gülen, affectionately called Hodjaefendi, is a scholar of extraordinary proportions. This man for all seasons was born in Erzurum, eastern Turkey, in 1938. Upon graduation from divinity school in Erzurum, he obtained his license to preach and teach. In addition to his great contribution to the betterment activities of education in Turkey by encouraging people to open private schools, he is renowned for his painstaking endeavors for the establishment of mutual understanding and tolerance in society. His social reform efforts, begun during the 1960s, have made him one of Turkey's most well-known and respected public figures. His tireless dedication to solving social problems and satisfying spiritual needs have gained him a considerable number of followers throughout the world.
Though simple in outward appearance, he is original in thought and action. He embraces all humanity, and is deeply averse to unbelief, injustice, and deviation. His belief and feelings are profound, and his ideas and approach to problems are both wise and rational. A living model of love, ardor, and feeling, he is extraordinarily balanced in his thoughts, acts, and treatment of matters.
"Whenever I see a leaf fall from its branch in autumn, I feel as much pain as if my arm was amputated."
He is acknowledged, either tacitly or explicitly, by Turkish intellectuals and scholars as one of the most serious and important thinkers and writers, and among the wisest activists of twentieth-century Turkey or even of the Muslim world. But such accolades of his leadership of a new Islamic intellectual, social, and spiritual revival-a revival with a potential to embrace great areas of the world-do not deter him from striving to be no more than a humble servant of God and a friend to all. Desire for fame is the same as show and ostentation, a "poisonous honey" that extinguishes the heart's spiritual liveliness, is one of the golden rules he follows. Gülen has spent his adult life voicing the cries and laments, as well as the belief and aspirations, of Muslims in particular and of humanity in general. He bears his own sorrows, but those of others crush him. He feels each blow delivered at humanity to be delivered first at his own heart. He feels himself so deeply and inwardly connected to creation that once he said: "Whenever I see a leaf fall from its branch in autumn, I feel as much pain as if my arm was amputated."