Allah, the Almighty, said:

{… and devote yourself to Him with [complete] devotion.} [al-Muzzammil 73:8]180

قَالَ اللهُ عَزَّ وجَلَّ: "وَتَبَتَّلْ إِلَيْهِ تَبْتِيلًا"

Tabattul is complete dedication181. His saying “ilayhi” (“to Him”) is an invitation to absolute detachment. It is of three levels:

التَّبَتُّلُ الِانْقِطَاعُ بِالْكُلِّيَّةِ، وَقَوْلُهُ "إِلَيْهِ"دَعْوَةٌأَيِ التَّجْرِيدِ الْمَحْضِ.وَهُوَ عَلى ثَلَاثِ دَرَجَاتٍ:

The first level is the complete detachment from the self-interests and observation of the world in fear or hope, or with any concern. He or she does that by:

  1. cutting off hope (in this world) by contentment182

  2. cutting off fear (from this world) by submission

  3. disregarding all concerns (about this world) by observing the truth183

الدَّرَجَةُ الْأُولَىتَجْرِيدُ الِانْقِطَاعِ عَنِ الْحُظُوظِوَاللُّحُوظُ إِلَى الْعَالَمِ، خَوْفًا أَوْ رَجَاءً أَوْ مُبَالَاةً بِحَالٍ:

  1. بِحَسْمِ الرَّجَاءِ بِالرِّضَى

  2. وَقَطْعِ الْخَوْفِ بِالتَّسْلِيمِ

  3. وَرَفْضِ الْمُبَالَاةِ بِشُهُودِ الْحَقِيقَةِ

The second level is the complete detachment from oneself by:

  1. shunning passions

  2. embracing the breeze of uns (comforting intimacy with Allah)

  3. beholding flashes of disclosure184

والدَّرَجَةُ الثَّانِيَةُتَجْرِيدُ الِانْقِطَاعِ عَنِ التَّعْرِيجِ عَلَى النَّفْسِ:

  1. بِمُجَانَبَةِ الْهَوَى

  2. وَتَنَسُّمِ رَوْحِ الْأُنْسِ

  3. وَشَيْمِ بَرْقِ الْكَشْفِ

180 This is about complete dedication shown in the night prayers after one is done with his or her worldly occupations. Complete dedication of the body, heart, and mind is demanded and encouraged at certain times. Complete dedication of the heart is always demanded.
181 No contradiction
Muslim reported from Sa‘eed ibn al-Musayyib: “I heard Sa‘d (ibn Abi Waqqâṣ) saying that ‘Uthman ibn Maz‘oon’s thoughts about tabattul (celibacy) were rejected (by the Messenger), and had he been given permission, we would have gotten ourselves castrated.”
The hadeeth obviously does not contradict the verse, but it shows that the same word may sometimes apply to different concepts, and the Shari‘ah may validate some of them and reject others. The unfailing measuring stick is the teachings and life of the Messenger ﷺ and his Companions (may Allah be pleased with them).
Tabattul in the sense of solitude and shunning the community is generally forbidden or disliked. Some forms of it may be suitable for certain people due to their personal inclinations or their inability to uphold their principles while engaging challenging realities.
182 If you are content with what He gives you, you will not lose your dignity or morality pursuing more from this world.
183 The truth is that all the creations and their actions are under the complete control of their Creator. Why, then, should you be concerned about this world when your dedication to Him should suffice you? Obviously, this is not an invitation to tawâkul or negligence, but true tawakkul, where one makes the provisions Allah has ordered him or her to make, and then has complete reliance on Him. When one is incapable of making these provisions, they should still have complete reliance on Allah, because those provisions are but causes, but He is the Ultimate Causer and Effector.
184 When He discloses to you the way to the various stations, the flaws of your nafs, and, most importantly, the meanings of His names and attributes.
185 By reassessment of its correctness and its sincerity and purifying uprightness from the flaws of uprightness.
186 Jam‘(جمع): union, unity, gathering, togetherness with Allah.
The valid concept of union (which is different from the heretic belief of ḥulool and ittiḥâd, translated as Divine indwelling and union) is when your will completely conforms to His, so you are one with Him in purpose. It also refers to the state of being with Allah, cut off from worldly pursuits and cravings. More importantly, it refers to observing the unity and oneness of the Real, the Eternal, the First, the Origin, the Source, the Ultimate Effector, the Self-Sufficient One, and observing that all else (ghayr) is true because He is the True Creator, but at the same time, they are contingent upon His will and manifestations of it. Additionally, all events in the universe are also true but again, they are nothing but manifestations of His names.
Farqفرق (separation, distinction, difference, variance) is the opposite of jam‘ when it means separation from Him or tafarruqتفرق (meaning diversion, dispersion, and distractibility). In this case, it is obviously negative. However, when it means distinction (as when one observes the multiplicity of the creations and created phenomena), then it is not negative unless it causes tafarruq.
One must be aware of jam‘ and farq in the sense that he or she must observe the multiplicity from their angle, because Allah’s wants of us vary according to our circumstances. For example, one must distinguish between His commands and prohibitions and His decrees that He likes—such as the faithfulness of the believers—and His decrees that He dislikes—such as the rejection of the disbelievers. Noticing the farq (variances, differences, distinctions, multiplicity) in these things is essential while acknowledging the unity of the Origin, the Maker, the Owner, and the Controller, and working towards your jam‘ (togetherness) with Him. The observation of these differences will enable you to move to the highest level of ‘uboodiyah (servitude), where your highest pursuit is not what you want of your Lord, but what He wants of you. The comforting intimacy (uns) you feel during dhikr (remembrance) will not then keep you from walking to the masjid to catch the jamâ‘ah (congregational prayer) or entertaining your guest when they arrive or tending to the needs of your family, etc. You are doing all that because it is what He wants of you in those circumstances.

Manâzil as-Sâirin


Shaykhul-Islam Abu Isma‘il Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Ansari al-Harawi (396-481H)

Translation and Footnotes


Hatem al-Haj