Translation from Ibn Al-Qayyim’s Madarij Al-Salikin (Steps of the Seekers) | The Station of the Sought (Al-Murad) | Part 2

EDITOR’S NOTE: IN Part One of The Station of the Sought, Ibn Al-Qayyim states that this Station has three levels, the first level being Allah’s protection of His servant by way of the servant’s own compulsion against disobedience. Ibn Al-Qayyim further gives three distinct descriptive explanations of this first level, which were presented in the previous episode as “First,” “Second,” and “Third.” This may have mislead the reader to take them as the three levels of this Station that Ibn Al-Qayyim is itemizing. We reproduce the first level of this station again here to ensure clarity, before going on to the Second Level of the Station of the Sought.

The First of the Three Levels of the Station of the Sought

The author of Manâzil Al-Sâ’irîn [Shaykh ¢Abdullâh Al-An|âri Al-Harawi, d. 482/1089] said [therein]: “The station of being sought has three levels. At the first level, the servant is protected by way of his own compulsion against disobedience from it. The delight of disobedience is thus spoiled for him, its opportunity diminished, and its doors closed.”

This means that when such a servant inclines toward an act that would stand between the servant and his Lord, when the servant is prone to surrender to his base desires, his Master protects him, as if forcibly, by spoiling and dimming the pleasure of the sin. Thus, he does not feel its pleasure save mingled with much discontent, which may even overcome its pleasure altogether and eliminate it, rendering the pleasure of the sin little more than a stealthy shadow.

In this way, Allah narrows the servant’s opportunity or means (of sin) as He surrounds him from it until he no longer inclines to it or settles into it. And even when the causes are available, a defender is appointed to him who comes between him and it, one who says to him: “Look! You are being deceived.” This is the essence of (divine) care, protection, and shelter.

Moreover, the paths of sin that incur wrath are closed to him, even if he dislikes this. This is a mark of (divine) compassion for and protection of him.

The Second of the Three Levels of the Station of the Sought

[Al-Harawi] said: “The second level is that [Allah] shelters the servant against any occasions of shortcoming, protecting him from marks of blame, alerting him to the consequences of his lapses. He did this with [prophet] Solomon, when he slaughtered the steeds [that had distracted him from the late-afternoon prayer]. Thereafter, Allah carried him upon the wind of bounty. Allah did this also with Moses, when he cast down [in a rage for the sin of the Children of Israel in fashioning the Golden Calf] the Tablets [just inscribed for him by Allah on Mount >ûr], and then seized [by the hair and beard] his brother’s head. He did not show displeasure to them [for their shortcomings] as He did show with prophets: Adam, Noah, David, and Jonah.”

The difference between this [second] level and the one preceding it is that in the preceding one falling into occasions of disobedience is prevented by force, whereas in this one when a shortcoming deserving of blame occurs, Allah does not blame and chastise the servant. This is a kind of indulgence (dalâl), for this occurs only to the elect and beloved of Allah; for a beloved one is forgiven for what others cannot be forgiven, for love is the most persuasive of intercessors.

So when a misstep occurs, Allah gives the reins of the error to him [the elect, the beloved one of Allah], making it an excuse for raising the servant’s status; an occasion for sincere repentance, exceptional humility, and meekness before Him; and an increase in righteous deeds that earns him nearness to Allah many times more than what it was prior to his misstep. Thus, his misstep becomes more beneficial to him than many righteous deeds. This is a mark of divine attentiveness toward a servant and a sign of his being among His beloved friends.

The Shaykh has adduced the story of Solomon, of when his steeds distracted him from afternoon prayer. Overcome by rage and protectiveness for [the sake of] Allah, he was led to slice their ribs and necks with the sword, thus destroying the property that distracted him from Allah, for His sake [see Sûrat ßâd, 38:31-40].[1] Allah replaced them for him by mounting him upon the wind, thus handing him the reins of this misstep, making it a cause of nearness and elevation to that lofty status.

He also adduced the story of [Prophet] Moses, of when he threw down the Tablets upon which there was inscribed Allah’s Word, breaking them, and [violently] seized the beard of his brother, who was a prophet like him [see Sûrat Al-A¢râf, 7:142-157; and Sûrat >â Hâ, 20:83-98]. Allah did not take Moses to account for this, as He had taken Adam to account for eating from the tree; or Noah for asking for the salvation of his [disbelieving] son [when the latter refused to embark with his father upon the Ark]; or David concerning a woman of Orba (see Sûrat ßad, 38:21-26); or Jonah, concerning his abandonment [of his mission to his people of Nineveh] (see Sûrat Al-ßâffât, 37:139-148).

I heard Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy on him, say: “Similarly, Moses struck the eye of the Angel of Death and knocked it out, but his Lord did not reproach him for this.[2] Also, during the [Prophet’s] Night Journey (Isrâ’), Moses quarreled concerning the Prophet œ when Allah raised [Prophet Muhammad œ] above [Moses], and [the latter] raised his voice [to Allah] about this. Yet Allah did not reproach him for this either.” [Ibn Taymiyyah] said: “That is because Moses stood on the lofty stations that earned him this indulgence, for he combated the Pharaoh, the greatest of Allah Almighty’s enemies, opposing him and his people. Moreover, he strove most diligently to set aright the Israelites and struggled most assiduously for the sake of Allah, against the enemies of Allah, and was zealous for the sake of his Lord. Thus, he is tolerated [by Allah] in what others are not.”

In contrast, [prophet] Thu Al-Nûn [the ‘Companion of the Whale’, Jonah], since he had not reached this status, was imprisoned in the belly of the whale due to Allah’s displeasure. Allah has, indeed, made a perfect measure for all things.

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[1] This is one interpretation, that Solomon, slaughtered his prancing steeds because, as a worldly indulgence, they had distracted him from the worship of his Lord. Another is that, after offering his belated worship after its office, he summoned for the steeds to be returned to him, whereupon he himself, as king, engaged in the menial grooming of the steeds, in humility.

[2] The reference is to a report in Muslim and Nasâ’i: Abû Hurairah reported that Allah’s Messenger œ, said: The Angel of Death came to Moses and said: “Respond to (the call of) Allah (i. e. be prepared for death). Moses delivered a blow to the eye of the Angel of Death and knocked it out. The Angel went back to Allah u and said: “You sent me to your servant who does not like to die and he knocked out my eye.” Allah restored his eye to its proper place (and revived his eyesight) and said: “Go to My servant and say: ‘Do you want life? And in the case that you do want life, place your hand upon the body of the [specified] ox, and you shall live such number of years as the (number of) hairs your hand covers.” Moses said: “What, then?” He said: “Then you will die.” Whereupon he (Moses) said: “Then why not now?” (He then prayed:) “Allah, cause me to die close to the sacred land [meaning Jerusalem].” Allah’s Messenger œ said: “Were I near this place, I would show [you] his grave by the side of the path at the red mound.

Written By

Uwaymir Anjum is the Imam Khattab Chair of Islamic Studies at the Department of Philosophy, University of Toledo. He is also professor of Islamic Intellectual History at Qatar University. He studies the connections between theology, ethics, politics, and law in classical and medieval Islam, with a subfocus on its comparisons with western thought. Related fields of study include Islamic philosophy and Sufism. His dissertation, published in 2012 by Cambridge University Press, is entitled Politics, Law, and Community in Islamic Thought: The Taymiyyan Moment. His translation of Ibn al-Qayyim’s Madârij Al-Sâlikîn is forthcoming.

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