EDITOR’S NOTE: THE Station of the Sought is one of the advanced states of the heart for worshippers who are seriously striving for nearness to Allah, according to Ibn Al-Qayyim. It has three tiered levels, ascending from lower to higher: (1) Allah protects His servant from sin by instilling in the servant an internal sense of discontent that he cannot quell in himself against whatever base desire piques in him and inclines him toward a particular act of sin; (2) Allah shields His servant against divine blame for any event of misdeed and turns it for him into a cause for elevation by way of repentance and consequent righteous deeds, and that raises the servant higher and nearer to Allah than he was before his misstep. We proceed to (3) the third and highest level of the Station of the Sought.
The author of Al-Manâzil [Shaykh ʿAbdullâh Al-Anṣâri Al-Harawi, d. 482/1089] said [therein]: “The third level of the Station of the Sought is the Allah’s selection (ijtibâʿ) of His servant exclusively, as prophet Moses, having gone out to fetch fire, was chosen by Allah for Himself, allowing there to remain [of Moses] only a borrowed form [of his previous self].”
I [Ibn Al-Qayyim] say: ijtibâʿ means ‘selection,’ ‘preference,’ and ‘exclusiveness.’ It is the iftiʿâl form of [the Arabic trilateral root] jîm • bâ’ • yâ’. [One says in Arabic:] jabaytu al-shay’, “I selected such and such a thing” when you collect and guard it, as with the collection of wealth, and the like. Similarly, al-i ṣtinâʿis also selection and choosing.
What [Shaykh Al-Harawi] means by this is that Allah “chose” Moses and “elected” him exclusively for Himself, for no cause within Moses himself, nor by virtue of any attempt on Moses’ part. Moses set out to fetch fire but returned as the one spoken to by the One, the Irresistible, and thus Moses became of the noblest of Allah’s creation. This occurred on the initiative of the Glorious Lord, with no prior qualification or means. Thus goes the [Arab] proverb: “O servant [of Allah]! Be more hopeful of the bounty you do not hope for than the one you do hope for.”
For, the truth is, Moses came but to fetch fire from the light he saw in the dark night, but returned with Allah having spoken to him in secrecy—and Allah is the very best of confidants.
The Meaning of Moses Remaining as a ‘Form”
It is possible that in Harawi’s statement that in selecting Moses for Himself, Allah thereby was “allowing there to remain only a borrowed form” of Moses, that the word ‘form’ refers to the enduring essence with which Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was raised above [Moses] by many levels, owing to the “form’s” subsistence [in Moses].
It may also mean, and this is more likely, that Allah took [Moses] and selected him for Himself from among all the worlds and elected him to [directly receive] His Divine Speech, such that there remained nothing of Moses, thereafter, except a mere form by which he dwelt among men and could be categorized as being one of them, as a perfection of Allah’s wisdom and as a display of Allah’s power.
Thus when Moses’ death came, it was merely that form that returned to his Lord. Thereby his status of election was perfected, outwardly and inwardly, in essence and form, and the loaned form returned to its true Owner—to whom all matters return.
What Prophets: Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad Manifest
Moses was a manifestation of divine might, which is why his Law (Sharîʿah) was one of might and severity. Hence, his people were commanded to kill [the wrongdoing among] themselves, prohibited from eating fat, animals with uncloven hoof [see The Quran, 6:146] and other pure foods. Further, they were prohibited also from taking the spoils of war. Their punishment was hastened in many cases. And they were made to bear burdens and shackles that no others were made to bear [the removal of these burdens is indicated in Sûrat Al-Aʿrâf, 7:157].
Moses was the most awe-inspiring and dignified of Allah’s creation, the most severe in anger and courage for the sake of Allah, and the one who struck the most fear among the enemies of Allah, so much so that one could not look him in the eye.
In contrast, Jesus was a manifest sign of Allah’s beauty, and his Law (Sharîʿah) was one of charity and benevolence. He neither fought nor engaged in war. In his Law, there was no fighting at all. The religious among Christians prohibit fighting for them, for by engaging in it they are in fact disobeying the divine legislation (sharʿ) of Jesus, for the Gospel commands them thus: “Whosoever smiteth thy right cheek, turn to him the left; and whosoever taketh away thy coat, give him thy cloak. And whoever shall compel you to go a mile, go with him two” and the like (Bible, Matthew 5:39-41). Their Law has no hardship, shackles, or burdens. Indeed, Christians invented monasticism on their own, without having been obliged to do so [Quran 57:27].
As for our Prophet ﷺ, he was a manifestation of perfection, combining strength, justice, and severity for the sake of Allah; and with this gentleness, compassion, and mercy, came his Law (Sharîʿah) being the most perfect of laws, and his Community being the most perfect of all communities, the same being true of their [spiritual] states and stations.
That is why his Law has brought justice as an obligation and duty, but also charity and benevolence [above and beyond justice] by way of recommendation and preference; severity upon an occasion of severity and gentleness upon an occasion of gentleness; the sword in its place, and magnanimity in its place. [Allah] thus mentions injustice and prohibits it, and mentions justice and requires it, and mentions charity and recommends it in some verses.
Thus, His words—the recompense of evil is evil in like measure—this is justice; and whosoever forgives and makes peace, his reward is upon Allah [Sûrat Al-Shûra, 42:40]—this is charity. He loves not the wrongdoers is a prohibition of injustice, while His words—If you punish, then punish with the like of that wherewith you were afflicted—this is an obligation of justice, and a prohibition of injustice. But if you endure patiently, verily it is better for the patient [Sûrat Al-Na ḥl, 16:126], this is a recommendation for charity. His words: And if you repent, then you have your principal (without interest); Wrong not, and you shall not be wronged, this is also the prohibition of injustice. And if the debtor is in straitened circumstances, then (let there be) postponement [of payment] to (the time of) ease—this is justice. And that you remit the debt as almsgiving would be better for you if ye did but know [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:279-80]—this is charity.
Similarly, whatever Allah has prohibited for His Community is for their protection and safety: prohibiting for them everything that is corrupt and harmful and permitting to them all that is good and beneficial. Thus His prohibition for them is mercy, whereas for those before them prohibition was not devoid of chastisement.
Moreover, Allah guided [the Muslim Community] to what communities before them had lost, and granted them of His knowledge and forbearance, making them the best Community ever brought forth for humankind, thereby perfecting for them the virtues that had been scattered among previous communities, just as He perfected their Prophet ﷺ with virtues that had been scattered among prophets before him, and perfected in His Scripture [the Quran] the virtues that had been scattered in all the scriptures before it.
The same is true of His Law [for this Community]. They are the ‘elect’ and they are the chosen ones, as the Almighty said: He has chosen you and has not laid upon you in religion any hardship [Sûrat Al-Mu’minûn, 22:78]. Moreover, he made them witnesses unto humankind, thus granting them the status of prophets who are witnesses unto their communities. The details of the superiority of this Community and its special virtues call for a tome in itself, indeed, many tomes. And that is the bounty of Allah, which He gives to whomever He wills—and Allah is Most Munificent.