Thus began my Sufi journey, and I set out with wholehearted commitment and all my energy upon the road of the “difficult choice.” For he who desires the next life and strives for it as he should strive, let him take the path of Tasawuf (Sufism). For the Sufis, as Al-Ghazali said (6), are those who tread the path of God uniquely. My soul was intoxicated with the love of God, dizzy with its fragrance. All I wanted was to achieve closeness to God and be blessed enough to meet Him. There was no truth, nor goodness, nor beauty, nor beloved other than God. Everything apart from Him (Glory be to Him) is a trace of His traces, perfume from the scent of His bounty, an atom from the treasures of His power, and a sparkle from the lights of His presence.
Intellect is lost in the oceans of His glory, and the mind is bewildered in the glitter of His beauty. He is hidden from sight, and yet apparent in the clarity of His effects. Manifested to perceptions, and yet He is “The Hidden” (نطابلا) in the mysteries of His wisdoms
and the secrets of His perfection. There is nothing that does not sing His praises nor celebrate His remembrance, for God has inspired all of His creatures to glorify Him in the language of the ecstatic state (لاحلا) if they cannot do it in words. For he who is not moved by spring and its flowers, or captivated by the oud and its strings, is one who is deaf, dumb, and blind; his nature is corrupt and incurably sick.
I used to be infatuated with the love of God and the longing to be with Him. I felt the fire of yearning for Him and the flames of adoration for His being. I saw Him in everything. I heard His voice calling me in every place! I knocked at every door in my pursuit to be close to Him and performed every act that would please Him, which entailed utmost piety and sincerity in everything I do as befits Him (Glory be to Him).
I was always engaged in His remembrance: I was seeking Him, beseeching Him, and thanking Him for the blessings, both apparent and hidden. I would repent and ask for forgiveness, I would cry and regret any time I wasted not in His service. I would constantly reassess myself and police my actions for Him in everything I did—nay, I even policed my innermost thoughts, impulses, and intimate notions. He was watching me, and knew that which I would hide and that which I would declare. Even though I could not see Him, He could see me: “He knows that which deceives the eyes and what the breasts conceal.” (7)
I used to praise Him in good times, bad times, and in times of severe trial. I used practice patience and fortitude, and when an affliction befell me, I would say, “To God we belong, and to Him we shall return. Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord, and mercy. And they are those who are the rightly- guided.” (8)
Nighttime was my golden opportunity for making du’a and lamenting, for remembrance and contemplation. For an intimate dialogue and for additional worship. For turning to God and imploring Him, and for turning to Him in fear. I would reprimand the soul “that is prone to evil.”(9) In fact, my extreme piety and obsession led to me not facing God in du’a until after accounting myself very strictly, and examining what I had sent before and after (from du’a of the Prophet). I used to feel ashamed to meet God with a sin on my account!
There is no question of exaggeration here, for indeed, in those early days, I was truly at the height of my religious zeal, and the mark on my forehead is a testament to that: a reminder of a past that was pervaded by devotion, and a heart enveloped by faith. While others sufficed with praying the compulsory prayers, with a few adding to them by praying sunnah prayers, my prayers often exceeded an hour because of the thikrs and wirds and du’as and nawafil.
I was especially fond of getting up in the night before Fajr, for this was the time I felt the closest to God. Most people were asleep, and in the quiet, cool darkness, I could feel God’s presence close. I would pray the night prayer and then make du’a, for this was the time when du’as are answered, as narrated in the noble hadith: “Allah descends to the lowest heaven every night when two-thirds of the night is over and says, ‘Is there anyone asking who may be given? Is there anyone supplicating who may be answered?’”
I tried to avoid asking anyone but God, in accordance with the noble hadith: “O, my son! If you ask, then ask God, and if you seek help, then seek help from God, and know that if the people were to gather against you to harm you, they will not be able to harm you with anything that is not destined for you, and if they were to gather together to benefit you, they will not benefit you with anything that is not written for you. The pens have dried and the scrolls have been folded.”
I used to praise God and thank Him for giving me the blessing to perform my extra acts of worship and thikr, for I believed He had chosen me for these sweet, long hours that I was able to grab in my daily life so that I could seclude myself with God (Glory be to Him) and empty my heart to Him of my concerns and sorrows, and show my sincere love and devotion.
I would never eat, drink, move, visit the doctor or a friend, or enter a house or exit from it, or take on a task, or say a word, or give an opinion, until I mentioned God’s name and sought His guidance, and relied upon Him, and requested from Him success.
It was my habit that if I saw a sick person or someone with a disability, I would pray for them to be cured and aided, and I would also thank God for my health. I was quite certain that he who loves God and is sincere to Him will be like the king of the universe. There were some moments that gripped me where I felt the presence of God in me, and mine in His, as though I was a part of Him and He was a part of me. So who is stronger than me or mightier than me in this world? I thought about the noble hadith qudsi: “The servant does not cease to come near to Me through extra acts of worship until I love him, and when I love him, I become his hand with which he grips, his eyes with which he sees and his hearing by which he hears.”
Whenever I succeeded in anything, I would attribute it to the bounty of God, whereas if I failed at anything, I would only blame myself and ask God, Most High, to give me success. In both cases, I would praise God and thank Him, and seek refuge in Him from the evil of my soul and evil of my actions. In such instances, I remembered the words of God, Most High: “But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah knows, while you know not.” (2:216) For He alone (Glory be to Him) knows the unseen. In this way, I consoled myself by bringing God to mind in every situation. “Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest!” (13:28) By this, I hoped to emulate the prophets, the pious, and God’s beloved Al-Mustafa: the chief of the messengers, the seal of the prophets, and the best of all mankind.
(6) The Saviour from Error and the Joiner to the Might of the Magnificent by Al-Ghazali, page 103.
(7) Sura al-Ghafir 40:19.
(8) Sura al-Baqara 2:157
(9) Surah Yusuf 12:53