Allah, the Almighty, said:

{…And We revealed to you the message that you may make clear to the people what was sent down to them and that they might reflect.68 } [an-Naḥl 16:44]

قَالَ الله عز وَجل "وأنزلنا إِلَيْك الذّكر لتبين للنَّاس مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِم ولَعَلَّهُم يَتَفَكَّرُون."

Know that reflection is the search for insight in pursuit of the final goal; it is of three types:

  1. reflecting on the essence of tawḥeed

  2. reflecting on the wonders of [His] acts and creations

  3. reflecting on the realities of actions and [interior] states

اعْلَمْ أَن التَّفَكُّرَ تَلَمُّسُ الْبَصِيرَةِ لِاسْتِدْرَاكِ الْبُغْيَةِ وَهُوَ ثَلَاثَة أَنْوَاع:

  1. فِكْرَةٌ فِي عَيْنِ التَّوْحِيدِ

  2. وفِكْرَةٌ فِي لَطائِفِ الصَّنْعَةِ

  3. وفِكْرَةٌ فِي مَعَاني الْأَعْمَالِ وَالْأَحْوَالِ

As for the reflection on the essence of tawḥeed, it is the audacious sailing into the ocean of denial,69which none will survive except through taking shelter in the light of disclosure 70 and adhering to the outward (textual) science.
As for the reflection about the wonders of [His] acts and creations, it is the water that irrigates the seeds of wisdom.
As for reflection about the realities of actions and [interior] states, it facilitates the journey on the path of ḥaqeeqah (truth).

فَأَما الفِكْرَةُ فِي عَيْنِ التَّوْحِيدِ فَهِيَ اقتِحامُ بَحرِ الْجُحُودِ لَا يُنجي مِنْهُ إِلَّا الِاعْتِصَامُ بضِياءِ الْكَشْفِ والتَّمَسُّكُ بِالْعلمِ الظَّاهِرِ
وَأمَّا الفِكْرَةُ فِي لطائف الصَّنَائِع فَهِيَ مَاء يسْقِي زَرْعَ الْحِكْمَةِ
وَأما الفِكْرَةُ فِي مَعَاني الْأَعْمَالِ وَالْأَحْوَال فَهِيَ تُسَهِّلُ سُلوكَ طَرِيقِ الْحَقِيقَةِ

One may be saved from reflecting on the essence of tawḥeed by three things:

  1. realizing the incapacity of the intellect 71

  2. despairing of realizing the ultimate target72

  3. taking shelter in the stronghold of ta‘dheem (exaltation)73

وَإِنَّمَا يتَخَلَّص من الفِكْرَةِ فِي عَيْنِ التَّوْحِيدِ بِثَلَاثَة أَشْيَاء:

  1. بِمَعْرِفَةِ عَجْزِ الْعَقْلِ

  2. وبالإياسِ مِنَ الْوُقُوفِ على الْغَايَةِ

  3. وبالاعْتِصامِ بِحَبْلِ التَّعْظِيمِ

The wonders of [His] acts and creations are appreciated by three things:

  1. careful consideration of the origins of the favors

  2. responding to the [Divine] signals

  3. escaping from the captivity of desires

وَإِنَّمَا تدْرَكُ لَطائِفُ الصَّنَائِع بِثَلَاثَة أَشْيَاء:

  1. بِحُسْنِ النّظَرِ فِي مَبَادِئِ المِنَنِ

  2. والإجَابَةِ لِدوَاعِي الإشاراتِ

  3. وبالخَلاصِ مِن رِقِّ الشَّهَوَاتِ

One may realize through reflection the rankings of actions and [inner] states through three things:

  1. adhering to knowledge [of the Shari‘ah]

  2. suspecting all the outer states74

  3. identifying the rankings of others

وَإِنَّمَا يُوقَفُ بالفِكْرَةِ عَلى مَرَاتِبِ الْأَعْمَالِ وَالْأَحْوَالِ بِثَلَاثَة أَشْيَاء:

  1. باستِصحابِ الْعِلْمِ

  2. واتِّهامِ المَرْسومَاتِ

  3. وَمَعْرِفَةِ مَواقع الْغَيْرِ

68 Tafakkur (تفكر) is the reflexive form of the root fakarفكر, which means to reflect or meditate. These forms are used in Arabic to describe actions that require great effort and persistence.
69 Denial of true tawḥeed, since true tawḥeed (to the author رَحِمَهُ الله) happens after annihilation of the self, so as long as he or she is aware of his or her reflection and the ‘self’ that is reflecting, they would still not have realized the true meaning of His oneness and would still be in denial. This is all based on the author’s concept of ‘fanâ’’ or ‘annihilation.’ However, the mainstream Sunni concept of annihilation (fanâ’) may be more accurately described as the annihilation of all desires and pursuits in relation to the pursuit of His pleasure and the annihilation of the creations in the calculations of one who is always aware of and focusing on Allah. While he or she realizes the existence of those creations, they never obstruct him or her from beholding the Divine, the True One, the Ultimate Effector, the Beginner of all things. When you observe the creations, they will be like panes of glass that never block you from seeing through them. When they hurt or benefit you, you see His decrees and His works in their actions. Your response will be cognizant of Him, not them.
70 The concept of ‘kashf’ (disclosure) occurs frequently in Sufi writings. This is usually used in the context of disclosing some of the unseen to the seeker. The unseen is relative and absolute. The relative is known to some of Allah’s creation, such as an event that is taking place in China at the moment you are reading this, while you are in your living room in America. It is unseen to you, but not to all of creation. Allah may show some seekers some of this (relatively) unseen as a karâmah or to strengthen their faith. Some Sufis exaggerate in what may be revealed to the wali until they attribute to them knowledge that is the sole property of Allah. Kashf may also refer to granting a person proper understanding of the realities of existence and the deen. As long as this kashf is subservient to the shar‘ of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, it is a sound concept. Any thoughts by which one may be inspired must go through the test of conformity with the Revelation (Qur’an and Sunnah). Abu Sulaymân ad-Dârâni (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

”رُبمَا يَقع فِي قلبِي النُّكْتَة من نكت الْقَوْم أَيَّامًا ، فَلَا أقبل مِنْهُ إِلَّا بِشَاهِدين عَدْلَيْنِ الْكتاب وَالسّنة“.

“Sometimes a thought of those of the people (seekers) crosses my heart, but I would not accept it without two trustworthy witnesses: the Book and the Sunnah.” (Ṭabaqât aṣ-Ṣoofiyah by as-Sulami)
71 Then he or she will lose hope in realizing the essence of the Divine and comprehending it through that intellect. The finite cannot have an encompassing understanding of the infinite, and the intellect may not be able to judge or gauge that of which it has no previous experience.
72 Then they will be content with what they were told about Him and His attributes and they will not seek to pursue that which is concealed from them in this world.
73 One may escape from any attempt to qualify His attributes by exalting Him above all similitudes and imaginations.
74 Not only those of this dunyâ, like wealth and power, but even the religious obligations and acts, like prayers, charity, and fasting. One should not be deluded by them. They also should not be the subject of one’s devotion. Only Allah must be.

Manâzil as-Sâirin


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

Translation and Footnotes


Hatem al-Haj