Imams amongst the Companions
Now we will talk about those who after Prophet (peace be upon him) are the Imams of Sufis on Sufism, Spiritual States and Maqamat (Stations), so that proof may be provided from the life sketches of the companions (may Allah be pleased with them) on Sufism and its methods.
1. Abu Baker Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him)
The first amongst the companions is the successor of Prophet (peace be upon him), guide and Imam of the followers of celibacy and solitude, free of calamities of nafs (lower soul) Abu Bakr b. Abdullah b. Uthman al-Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him). His Karamat (miracles) are well known and signs and proofs about realities and dealings are manifest. A little has also been mentioned about him under Sufism. On account of the fewness of traditions which he related he is placed by the Sufi Sheikhs as the Imam (head) of those who have adopted the contemplative life while Umar b. Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) is placed as the Imam of those who have adopted the purgative life, because of his rigor and assiduity in devotion.
Abu Bakr Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) during his night prayers used to recite the Quran in a low voice, whereas Umar b. Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) used to recite Quran in a loud voice. The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked Abu Bakr Siddiq why did he recite Quran in a low voice? Abu Bakr replied: “He to whom I call, hear.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked Umar b. Khattab why did he did recite Quran in a high voice? He replied: “To wake the drowsy and drive away the Devil.”
It is evident that reply of Abu Bakr Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) was based on contemplation, and of Umar b. Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) on purgation. Purgation, compared with contemplation, is like a drop of water in a sea, and for this reason the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that,
هل انت الا حسنته من حسنات ابوبكر
the good deeds of Umar was only (equivalent to) a single one of the good deeds of Abu Bakr.
The glory of Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) is so high that the repute of Islam is existing because of him, and from this one can imagine the state of others.
Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
دارنا فا نية واحوالنا عارية وانفاسنا معدودةَ وكسلنا موجود
“Our abode is transitory, our life therein is but a loan, our breaths are numbered, and our indolence is manifest.”
This world is a mortal place and it is worthless to occupy ourselves with it; and to depend upon loaned life is useless and to trust upon few counted breaths is heedlessness. Because, what has been lend to us is soon will be retrieved and that which is mortal, lose its existence. And what is countable finishes and heedlessness has no remedy. By this Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) suggested that the world is too worthless to engage our thoughts with it, for whenever one occupies himself with what is perishable, he is veiled from the Truth. Since this world and nafs (lower soul) are veils for the aspirant, therefore, the friends of Allah turn their backs from both. When they understand that whatever one gets as a loan, is the property of others, they abandon to intervene in other’s property.
In his prayers he used to say:
اللهم ابسط لي الدنيا و زهدني فيها
“O Allah, give me plenty of the world and save me from its calamities!”
First he prayed for the abundance of worldly goods and then asked for shield from its calamities. There is a hidden sense in it. First he asked for to bestow on him worldly goods that he might thanks for them, and then sought His help to abstain from them for His sake, so that he might have the treble merit of thanks giving and liberality and abstinence, and that his poverty may be voluntary, not compulsory.
This refutes the saying of a Sheikh of Mystical Path, who preferred compulsory poverty over voluntary poverty, for forced poverty comes at its own whereas voluntary poverty is created and better poverty is that which is achieved without any effort. But to my thinking, faqr (poverty) would be preferable when while in possession of wealth one desires for poverty and renounces the love of world from his heart, not that when one is already in the state of poverty and lust of wealth forces him to visit to the houses of rich and the courts of governors. Therefore, better faqr (poverty) is that which is attained by denying ghana (wealth) and not seeking ghana while in poverty. Since Abu Bakr Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) is the foremost of all mankind after the prophets, and it is not permissible that anyone should take precedence over him, for he set voluntary poverty above compulsory poverty. This doctrine is held by all the Sufi Sheikhs except the one whom we have mentioned.
Imam Zuhri relates that, Abu Bakr Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) after taking oath of allegiance as Caliph, mounted the pulpit and pronounced an oration, in the course of which he said:
“By God, I never coveted for to be a Caliph nor did I desire it even for a day or a night, neither had I any liking for it, nor I ever asked Allah for it openly or in secret, nor do I take any pleasure in having it.”
Now, when Allah causes anyone to attain perfect sincerity and exalt him to the rank of steadfastness, he waits for Divine inspiration that commands him for poverty or prosperity. He acts whatever way he is commanded, without exercising his own choice and will. Thus Abu Bakr, the Veracious, resigned himself to the will of Allah from beginning to the end.
Hence the whole sect of Sufis has made him their Imam and pattern in stripping off themselves of worldly things, in fixity, in eager desire for poverty, and in longing to renounce authority. He is the Imam of the Muslims in general and of the Sufis in particular.
2. Umar b. al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him)
The commander of the faithful, leader of the beneficent, Imam of the Scholastics, ocean of the adorable love, Umar b. Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) is famous for his karamat (miracles), intellect, and sagacity. He was specially distinguished by sagacity and resolution, and is the author of many subtle sayings on Sufism. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
الحق ينطق علي لسان عمر
“the Truth speaks by the tongue of Umar;”
and he also said,
قد كان في الاءمم محدثون فان يك منهم في امتي فعمر
“There have been inspired relaters in the Ummah of antiquity, and if there be any such in my Ummah, it is Umar.”
Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
العزلة راحة من خلطاء السوء
“Seclusion is better than to be part of a bad company.”
Seclusion is of two kinds, firstly turning back on mankind, and secondly, entire severance from them.
Turning one’s back on mankind means choosing a solitary retreat, and in renouncing the society of one’s fellow creatures externally. And instead of observing others faults, should contemplate of the faults in one’s own conduct, so he is saved from the evils of others and they from his. But severance from mankind is related to heart and attribute of the heart has no relationship with the outward. Hence, when one cuts off his heart from mankind and worldly affairs, then nothing worldly attracts him and he is always attached to the thoughts of the Truth, i.e. it is a spiritual state, which is not connected with anything external. When a person is under such a state, he knows nothing of created beings. Such a person, although he is living among the people, but his heart is actually isolated from them. This is very exalted maqam (station) and difficult to attain. This was the maqam of Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), for externally he lived among the people and performed his duties as their Commander and Caliph and internally he was completely attached to Allah. It is the specialties of the spiritualists who may outwardly are mixed with mankind, but their hearts always adhere to Allah and return to Him in all circumstances. They regard any intercourse they may have with mankind as an affliction, and pray to Allah for their safety from such afflictions because the world is never pure in the eyes of those whom Allah loves. So, this intercourse with fellows does not divert them from Allah. Thus Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said,
داراسست علي البلوي بلابلوي محال
“the house which is founded on affliction, can never be free of afflictions.”
Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) was amongst the closest associates of Prophet (peace be upon him) and his all acts were admitted in the Court of Allah. At the time of his conversion to Islam, Gabriel (may blessings of Allah be on him) came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and told him that creature of the Heaven was celebrating on Umar’s conversion. He is the Imam of all creature of Allah and a model of Sufis in wearing muraqqa (patched frock) and rigorously performing the duties of religion.
3. Uthman b. Affan (may Allah be pleased with him)
Amongst the companion, the jewel of the treasury of modesty, the guide of pious, established on maqam (station) of rida (resignation), follower of the Prophet (peace be upon him), is Abu Umru Uthman b. Affan (may Allah be pleased with him). His virtues and wisdom on all matters is manifest.
Abdullah b. Rabah and Abu Qatada (may Allah be pleased with them) have related that we were with the Commander of the Faithful, Uthman on the day when his house was cordoned by the rebels. When the rebels reached at the door, his slaves also took up their arms but Uthman said to them that whoever of them did not take up arms on that day would be a free man. We went forth from the house in fear of our lives. On the way Hasan b. Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) met us, and we returned with him to Uthman, that we might know on what business he was going to Uthman. After he had saluted Uthman and condoled with him he said: “O Commander of the Faithful, I dare not to draw sword against Muslims without your command. You are the Emir of the Muslims, give me the order so I repulse the rebels from you. In reply Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “O my nephew, go back and rest at your house until Allah shall bring His decree to pass because I do not wish to shed blood of Muslims.” And this is the sign of total resignation in the hour of calamity, and this is degree of khullat (rank of friendship with Allah).
Similarly, when Nimrod lit fire and put Abraham (may blessings of Allah be on him) in the sling of catapult, Gabriel (may blessings of Allah be on him) came to Abraham and asked if he wanted anything?
Abraham answered, “From you, no,”
Gabriel said then you may ask Allah.
حسبي من سوالي علمه بحالي
since He knows in what plight I am, I need not ask Him.”
Here Uthman also acted similarly as Abraham acted before the fire of Nimrod. He was in the position of Khalil (Friend) in the catapult, and the seditious mob was in the place of the fire, and Hasan was in the place of Gabriel; but Abraham was saved, while Uthman got martyred. Salvation is connected with subsistence and destruction with annihilation. Some subtle sayings on this topic we have already mentioned. The Sufis take Uthman as their Imam in sacrificing life and property, in resigning their affairs to Allah, and in sincere devotion. He was the true Imam of Shariat and his rank of friendship with Allah is manifest.
4. Ali al-Murtada (may Allah be pleased with him)
The cousin of the Prophet (peace be upon him), drowned in the ocean of calamity, Imam of Aulya (saints), is Abu al-Hasan Ali b. Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him). His prominence and rank in the Path (of Sufism) is very high. He explained the principles of Divine Truth with exceeding subtlety, so that Junaid said:
شيخنا في الاصول والبلاء علي المرتضي كرم الله وجهه
“Ali is our Sheikh as regards to the principles (of Sufism) and endurance of affliction,”
Sufis call the theory of this Path Principles, and its practice is entirely self-mortification and endurance of affliction.
Some one requested Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) for guidance on which he replied:
“Do not much care of your wife and children, for if they are the friends of Allah, He does not waste His friends, and if they are His enemies, why should you take care of Allah’s enemies?”
This refers to severance of the heart from all, save Allah, because Allah keeps His servants in whatever state He wills. As Moses left his wife in a most miserable plight and committed her to Allah, and as Abraham took Hagar and Ismail and brought them to a barren valley and committed them to Allah. Both did not make their families as their chief care instead fixed their hearts on Allah. Their trust on Allah in their afflictions caused them to gain His mercy both in this as well next world.
Someone asked Ali that what was the most praiseworthy act?
Ali replied: “Prosperity of heart with Allah.”
The heart that is so enriched is not made poor by having no worldly goods nor glad by having them. This saying is relevant to the theory of poverty and purity, which has already been discussed.
Hence, Sufis are follower of Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) in respect to the truths of outward expressions and the subtleties of inward meanings, the stripping one’s self of all property either of this world or of the next, and consideration of the Divine providence. He has subtle sayings and signs in abundance and it is not possible to make them part of this work.