Comforting Intimacy


Allah, the Almighty, said:

{And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me—indeed I am near…} [al-Baqarah 2:186]

قَالَ اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: "وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ"

Uns refers to the spirit of nearness.390 It is of three levels:

الأُنْسُ عِبارَةٌ عن رُوحِ الْقُرْبِ وَهُوَ عَلَى ثَلَاثِ دَرَجَاتٍ

The first level is uns with the signposts,391 and this is about:

  1. finding sweetness in dhikr392

  2. nourishment through hearing393

  3. recognizing the signs394

الدَّرَجَةُ الْأُولَى: الْأُنْسُ بِالشَّوَاهِدِ، وَهُوَ:

    اسْتِحْلَاءُ الذِّكْرِ
    وَالتَّغَذِّي بِالسَّمَاعِ
    وَالْوُقُوفُ عَلَى الْإِشَارَاتِ

The second level is uns with the light of disclosure.
This is a type of uns that transcends the previous one. It is infused with the intensity of passion and struck by the waves of fanâ’ (self-annihilation).
It is the uns that overwhelmed some people’s intellects, and robbed others of their resilience, and removed from them the restraints of knowledge. Concerning this, the following du‘â’ was reported (from the Prophet ﷺ): “…I ask for shawq (intense longing) to meet You in a manner that does not entail harmful hardship or misguiding trials…”395

والدَّرَجَةُ الثَّانِيَةُ الْأُنْسُ بِنُورِ الْكَشْفِ
وَهُوَ أَنَسٌ شَاخِصٌ عَنِ الْأُنْسِ الْأَوَّلِ، تَشُوبُهُ صَوْلَةُ الْهَيَمَانِ، وَيَضْرِبُهُ مَوْجُ الْفَنَاءِ.
وَهُوَ الَّذِي غَلَبَ قَوْمًا عَلَى عُقُولِهِمْ وَسَلَبَ قَوْمًا طَاقَةَ الِاصْطِبَارِ، وَحَلَّ عَنْهُمْ قُيُودَ الْعِلْمِ. وَفِي هَذَا وَرَدَ الْخَبَرُ بِهَذَا الدُّعَاءِ: "أَسْأَلُكُ شَوْقًا إِلَى لِقَائِكَ مِنْ غَيْرِ ضَرَّاءَ مُضِرَّةٍ وَلَا فِتْنَةٍ مُضِلَّة."

The third level is the uns of fading out in the shuhood (beholding/attendance) of the Divine presence.
Nothing can express its essence, delineate its definition, or recognize its nature.396

والدَّرَجَةُ الثَّالِثَةُ: أُنْسُ اضْمِحْلَالٍ فِي شُهُودِ الْحَضْرَةِ
لَا يُعَبَّرُ عَنْ عَيْنِهِ وَلَا يُشَارُ إِلَى حَدِّهِ، وَلَا يُوقَفُ عَلَى كُنْهِهِ.

390 Uns is a spiritual state in which nearness to Allah results in a sense of comfort and sweetness that permeates the heart, leaving no room for loneliness or estrangement. Reflecting on His majesty and (particularly) His beauty and committing to a life of devotion and virtue leads to this state.
Linguistically, ‘uns’ is a verbal noun from the past tense ‘anasa’, which means ‘found comfort in the company of.’ It was said that ‘insân’ comes from the same root ‘anasa’ because he is a social being or ‘nasiya’, which means ‘forgot’ because Adam forgot, and his descendants are forgetful.
391 The proofs, signs, witnesses, and testimonials God places in our way. They could be His spoken signs in the Qur’an or the created ones in the universe, or even the states He allows the heart of the seeker to experience, as well as the soul’s realizations of the fruits of faith and obedience. All will strengthen the faith of the seeker and guide the course of the traveler.
392 You cannot find comfort in the company of someone without spending time with them.
393 The nafs feeding off the transmitted knowledge of the Revelation and hearing only Allah in all sounds and instances, thereby becoming rabbâniyah (godly).
394 A heedful heart will guide the sight, hearing, and all the senses to penetrating the world of particulars and images and realizing the realities and meanings behind them all. A heedful heart will not stop only at the apparent implications of words, but—without disregarding the apparent—retrieves from the inferred troves of wisdom that are indiscernible by others. There must be congruency, however, not contradiction, between the apparent and the inferred meanings. Imam Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah be pleased with him) gives examples in Madârij about some of those subtle signs. For example, he mentions that the requirement of the purity of body and garment in the prayer points to the other requirement of cleansing the heart in order to realize its full reward and benefit. Likewise, if one must face the qiblah with their body, their hearts, a priori, must not be turned away from the One they invoke.
395 The sheikh is describing a very vibrant spiritual state between the first and last levels of uns. In this phase, the spiritual imports and experiences may overwhelm some with weaker intellects and cause them spiritual intoxication or at least failure to persevere through those spiritual imports (waridât). They may become audacious with their Lord. They may utter statements of apparent disbelief. They may not abide by the restraints of knowledge. The sheikh mentioned this to warn the seekers against those perils on the path. Certainly, the greatest of the seekers—like al-Karkhi, al-Junayd, and their likes—passed through these phases without fluttering due to the strength of their intellects, the soundness of their knowledge, and most importantly, the tawfeeq of their Lord.
396 As usual, the sheikh makes fanâ’ (self-annihilation) the ultimate level in every station. (Please see the earlier discussion on fanâ’ and baqâ’.)

Manâzil as-Sâirin


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

Translation and Footnotes


Hatem al-Haj