Chapter XIV (t)
Superiority of the Prophets over Saint
Sheikhs of Sufism have unanimous opinion that the saints at all times and in all circumstances are followers of the prophets, and confirm their mission. The prophets are superior to the saints, because the end of saintship is only beginning of Prophethood. Every prophet is a saint, but none is a prophet among the saints. The human attributes of the prophets are non-existent with them, while the saints attain this state temporarily. The short-lived state of the saints is the permanent maqam (station) of the prophets and which to the saints is a maqam that is a veil to the prophets.
The Sunni Ulama and the Sufi mystics are unanimous on this view, but a small group of Hashwiyya which is known as Mujasima (Image) of Khurasan who talk in a self- contradictory manner concerning the principles of Tawhid (Unification). Although they do not know the fundamental doctrine of Sufism, but pretend to be saints. Saints they are indeed, but the saints of the Devil. They maintain that the saints are superior to the prophets, and it is a sufficient proof of their error that they declare an ignorant to be more excellent than Muhammad (peace be upon him), the Chosen of Allah.
The similar opinion is held by another likened sect who pretend to be Sufis, and admit the doctrines of the incarnation of Allah and His descent (into human body) by transmigration and the division of His essence. It is one of the two reprobated sects about whom I have promised to give detail account. Both these sects claim to be Muslims, but they agree with the Brahmans in denying special privileges to the prophets. Whoever denies the excellence and superiority of Prophets, is an infidel. Moreover, the prophets are preacher of the Truth and Imams, and the saints are their faithful followers, and it is absurd to suppose that the follower of an Imam is superior to the Imam himself. The truth is that the degrees and ranks, experiences, and spiritual powers of all the saints together would appear as nothing compared with one act of a true prophet, because the saints are seekers and devotees, whereas the prophets are accomplished and have attained their object. They are commanded to preach and guide the people to the way of Truth.
If anyone of heretics should urge that an ambassador sent is usually inferior to the person to whom he is sent, as e.g. Gabriel (may blessings of Allah be on him) is inferior to the Prophets, in reply I say that their presumption is wrong, as when a king sends his ambassador to someone, he ensures that the recipient is better than the ambassador, therefore, Gabriel (may blessings of Allah be on him) was sent to the Prophets and all the Prophets are superior to him. But if an ambassador is sent to a group of people or to a nation, then it is mandatory that he should be superior to them. Since Prophets came to their people as ambassadors and they were superior to them, about which no sensible person has any doubt, nor does any ambiguity arises in his heart. Therefore, one moment of the prophets is better than the whole life of the saints, because the saints when they attain their goal only then talk of their contemplation and while still being human, their humanity is annihilated. On the other hand, contemplation is the first step of the Prophets; and since the Prophet’s starting stage is the saint’s goal, hence, they cannot be judged by the same standard.
Among the Sufis, all the seekers of the Truth are unanimous that excellence of walayat lies in Union and at this maqam (station) man attains such a degree of rapturous love that his wisdom is enraptured in gazing upon the acts and in his longing for the actual Agent. He regards the whole universe as Agent and sees nothing but His manifestations. Thus Abu Ali Rudbari says, “لوزالت عنا رويته ما عبدناه were the vision of that which we serve to vanish from us, we should lose the name of servantship,” for we derive the glory of worship solely from vision of Him.
This is the beginning state of the prophets, inasmuch as separation is inconceivable in their states. They are entirely in the essence of union, whether they affirm or deny, whether they approach or turn away, whether they are at the beginning or at the end. Abraham, in the beginning of his state, looked on the stars and moon and said
“this is my Lord,” and when he looked on the sun he said
this is my Lord” (Q 6: 76-78), because his heart was overwhelmed by the Truth, he was united in the essence of union and did not see else or if he had seen aught else he saw it with the eye of union and in the reality of that vision he disavowed his own and said
لا أُحِبُّ الآفِلِينَ
I love not those that set” (Q 6: 76).
As he began with union, so he ended with union. Saintship has a beginning and an end, but Prophethood has no beginning or end. The prophets were prophets from the beginning, and shall remain so till the last, and before they existed they were prophets in the knowledge and will of Allah.
Abu Yazid when asked about the state of the prophets, he replied:
“May Allah forbid! We have no power to raise an opinion on them, and in our notions of them we are wholly ourselves. Allah has placed their denial and affirmation in such an exalted degree that human vision cannot reach unto it.”
Accordingly, as the rank of the saints is hidden from the perception of mankind, so the ranks of the prophets are hidden from the judgment of the saints. Abu Yazid was a unique incredible personality of his age. He says:
My spirit was taken to the heavens. It looked at nothing and gave no heed, though Paradise and Hell were displayed to it. Then it was passed through creature and veils but it paid no heed. Then I became a bird, and flying in the air of the Absolute until I passed into the sphere of purification and gazed upon the field of Eternity and beheld there the tree of Oneness. When I looked at the tree I myself was all that. I cried, “O Lord, Thou art with me, but I cannot attain to Thee, and I cannot escape from the veil of my selfhood. What am I to do?” Allah spoke:
“O Abu Yazid, thou must win release from thy `thou-ness` by following My beloved (Muhammad (peace be upon him)). Smear thine eyes with the dust of his feet and follow him continually.”
This is a long narrative. The Sufis call it the ascension of Bayazid. The term “ascension” denotes proximity to Allah and the ascension of prophets takes place outwardly and in the body, whereas that of saints takes place inwardly and in the spirit. The body of an Apostle resembles the heart and spirit of a saint in purity and nearness to Allah. This is a manifest superiority. And this is so because saint is enraptured and intoxicated in his state so much that he is withdrawn from himself and in that state his human attributes are annihilated and he is adorned with the gift of proximity with the Truth. When he returns to the state of sobriety all those evidences have taken shape in his mind and he has gained knowledge of them. Accordingly, there is a great difference between one who is carried thither in person and one who is carried thither only in imagination and thought.