Allah, the Almighty, said:

{…And when he recovered, he said: Exalted are You!...}637 [al-A‘râf 7: 143]

قَالَ اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: }فَلَمَّا أَفَاقَ قَالَ سُبْحَانَكَ{

Nafas (breath)638 is so called because the breather finds comfort in it.639 It is of three levels; they resemble the levels of waqt (timeliness).640 There are three breaths:

يُسَمَّى النَّفَسُ نَفَسًا لِتَرَوُّحِ الْمُتَنَفِّسِ بِهِ، وَهُوَ عَلَى ثَلَاثِ دَرَجَاتٍ، وَهِيَ تُشَابِهُ دَرَجَاتِ الْوَقْتِ. وَالْأَنْفَاسُ ثَلَاثَةٌ:

The first breath is a breath taken while being veiled.641 It is full of turmoil and associated with knowledge.642 When the seeker breathes, it is with sorrow, and when he speaks, it is with sadness. In my opinion, it emanates from the lonesomeness of being veiled. It is the darkness that they consider to be a station.643

النَّفَسُ الْأَوَّلُ نَفَسٌ فِي حِينِ اسْتِتَارٍمَمْلُوءٍ مِنَ الْكَظْمِ، مُتَعَلِّقٍ بِالْعِلْمِ، إِنْ تَنَفَّسَ تَنَفَّسَ بِالْأَسَفِ، وَإِنْ نَطَقَ نَطَقَ بِالْحُزْنِ، وَعِنْدِي هُوَ مُتَوَلِّدٌ مِنْ وَحْشَةِ الِاسْتِتَارِ، وَهِيَ الظُّلْمَةُ الَّتِي قَالُوا إِنَّهَا مَقَامٌ.

The second breath is a breath taken while beholding the Divine appearance,644 and it is a breath that is:

  1. in the station of bliss looking up towards the liberation of eye witnessing645

  2. full of the light of wujood (actuality)646

  3. and looking up towards the cessation of all signals647

وَالنَّفَسُ الثَّانِي نَفَسٌ فِي حِينِ التَّجَلِّي، وَهُوَ نَفَسٌ:

  1. شَاخِصٌ عَنْ مَقَامِ السُّرُورِ إِلَى رَوْحِ الْمُعَايَنَةِ

  2. مَمْلُوءٌ مِنْ نُورِ الْوُجُودِ

  3. شَاخِصٌ إِلَى مُنْقَطَعِ الْإِشَارَةِ

The third breath is a breath that is:

  1. purified by the water of holiness648

  2. subsisting by the scheme of pre-eternity649

  3. the breath that is referred to as the pure light

So, the first breath is a lamp for the diligent, the second is a stairway for the seeker, and the third is a crown for the actualizer.

وَالنَّفَسُ الثَّالِثُ نَفَسٌ:

  1. مُطَهَّرٌ بِمَاءِ الْقُدْسِ،

  2. قَائِمٌ بِإِشَارَاتِ الْأَزَلِ

  3. وَهُوَ النَّفَسُ الَّذِي يُسَمَّى بِصِدْقِ النُّورِ

فَالنَّفَسُ الْأَوَّلُ لِلْغَيُورِ سِرَاجٌ، وَالثَّانِي لِلْقَاصِدِ مِعْرَاجٌ، وَالثَّالِثُ لِلْمُحَقِّقِ تَاجٌ.

637 This station is about a breath/sigh the spirit takes on its way out from distress, in transit between two stations, or out of relief or joy. The verse talks about Prophet Moosâ’s relief after he fell unconscious in shock when God manifested Himself to the mountain.
638 May also be translated as sigh or respite.
639 The three lettered root (ن - ف - س) usually infers relief after distress.
640 The general resemblance between breath and waqt (timeliness/moment) is that our time is measured by our breaths. The specific resemblance is that both are contingent on transient ḥâls (inner states).
641 The seekerwas in a ḥâl or maqâm that has been concealed from them, so now they suffer the distress of their loss.
642 He or she has the knowledge which causes him/her to mourn the loss, but not the sweetness which would have given him/her contentment.
643 The sheikh does not seem to consider this deprivation a station. Those of the masters who did may have meant, as Ibn al-Qayyim elucidates in Madârij, that it comes with many benefits. Among them are: not taking His gifts for granted; making the servant reliant only on His Lord, not his ‘ilm or ḥâl; and tasting the sourness of deprivation to later appreciate the sweetness of His grace.
644 It is the appearance of the manifestations of the Divine attributes to the eyes of one’s heart.
645 This is still the witnessing of the Divine by the eyes of the heart. The tajalli of His attributes to the heart is not all equal. Eye witnessing is a phase when that tajalli becomes complete.
646 Wujood is Station 96 of this book.
647 To the sheikh, the cessation of all signals happens at the point of self-annihilation, where statements and even signals cannot describe one’s experience.
648 Purified from beholding the siwâ (other than God).
649 This heart had left behind everything muḥdath (originated) and clung only to the pre-eternal.

Manâzil as-Sâirin


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

Translation and Footnotes


Hatem al-Haj