Revelation of Mystery (Kashf al Mahjub)
Absence (ghaybat غیبت) and Presence (hudur حضور)
Chapter XIV (y)
Absence (ghaybat غیبت) and Presence (hudur حضور)
The terms, although apparently opposed to each other, express the same meaning while referring to the real essence of the object. These terms are commonly in use among the theologians. The hudur حضور (presence) is presence of the heart with intuitive faith so that what is hidden from it has the same force as what is visible to it. The ghaybat غيبت (absence) is absence of the heart from all things except Allah to such an extent that it becomes absent from self and absent even from its absence, so that it no longer be able to regard its own absence and its sign is withdrawal from all formal customs, as a prophet is divinely preserved from what is unlawful. Hence, absence from one's self is presence with Allah, and presence with Allah is absence from self. So who is absent from self, would be present with the Truth and who is present with the Truth would be absent from self. Allah is the Lord of the human heart. When divine rapture overpowers the heart of the seeker, the absence becomes like presence (with Allah) for his heart and partnership and division disappear. The self identity finishes, as an elder has said:
ولي فواد وانت مالكه بلا شريك فكيف ينقسم
“Thou are the Lord of my heart, without any partner: how, can it be divided?”
As there is no one except He the sole Lord of the heart, He has absolute power to keep it absent or present as He wills. In reality this is the whole argument and basis for the doctrine and Sufi Sheikhs also agree to it. But where dispute has arisen, the Sheikhs have different opinions on the subject. One group prefers presence over absence and the other declares that absence is superior to presence. It is the same sort of controversy as that concerning sobriety and intoxication. The sobriety and intoxication refers to subsistence of human attributes, whereas absence and presence convey about the annihilation of the human attributes. Therefore, absence and presence are in reality more sublime.
Ibn Ata, Hussein b. Mansur, Abu Bakr Shibli, Bundar b. al-Hussein, Abu Hamza Baghdadi, and Sumnun Muhibb and a group of Iraqi Sheikhs are amongst those who consider absence superior to presence and they say:
“You yourself are the greatest of all veils on the path of Truth. When you have become absent from yourself, the evil contained in thy being are annihilated in you, and your inward state undergoes a fundamental change. The maqamat (station) of novices become a veil to you, and the states of the seekers of the Path become a source of calamity to you. The secrets of the nature are manifest and the existing things look contemptible and wretched before your liberality. Your eye is closed to itself and to all other than Allah, and your human attributes are consumed by the flame of proximity to Allah. This is the same state of absence in which Allah created you from the loins of Adam, and made you to hear His exalted words, and distinguished you by the honorary robe of Unification and the garment of contemplation. As long as you were absent from yourself, you were present with Allah unveiled, but when you became present with your own attributes, you got absent from your proximity to Allah. Therefore your hudur حضور (presence) is the cause of your perdition. These are the meaning of the following words of Allah,
وَلَقَدْ جِئْتُمُونَا فُرَادَى كَمَا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ
“And behold! Ye come to us bare and alone as we created you for the first time:” (Q 6:94).
On the other hand, Harith Muhasibi, Junaid, Sahl b. Abdullah, Abu Hafs Haddad, Abu Hamdun, Abu Muhammad Jurairi, Husri, Muhammad b. Khafif, (the author of the doctrine), and others hold that hudur حضور (presence) is superior to ghaybat غيبت (absence). They argue that all excellences are connected with presence. The absence from one's self is a way leading to presence with Allah, and when the presence is attained, the way becomes a calamity. Hence, one who is absent to himself, certainly he is present with the Truth. Presence is the fruit of absence. Absence without presence is insanity or subjugation and destruction. Therefore, it is must to renounce heedlessness in order that the object of absence i.e. presence is achieved, and when the object has been achieved, the means loses its worth. It is said:
“The absent one is not he who is absent from his country, but one who is absent from attaining desire. The present one is not he, who has no desire but he who has no heart which could harbor object.”
Another elder has said:
من لم يكن بك فانيا عن نفسه وعن الهوي بالانس و الاحباب
فكانه بين المراتب واقف لمنال حظ اولحسن ماب!
“The one who is not annihilated from his nafs (lower soul), love of people and friends; He, for the attainment of human lusts and desire of better ending, is struck up between the degrees.”
It is a well-known story that one of disciples of Dhu al-Nun set out to pay visit to Abu Yazid. When he came to Abu Yazid’s worship cell and knocked at the door, Abu Yazid asked, “Who are you, and whom do you wish to see?” The disciple answered: “I want to see Abu Yazid.” Abu Yazid said: “Who is Abu Yazid, and where does he live, and what is he? I have been seeking Abu Yazid since long, but I have not found him.” When the disciple returned to Dhu al-Nun and told him what had passed, Dhu al-Nun said: “My brother Abu Yazid is lost with those who are lost in Allah.”
Somebody requested Junaid to be present with him as he wanted to talk to him. Junaid answered, “O my brother, you have demanded that thing of me that I have long been seeking. For many years I have desired to remain present with the Truth for a moment, but I cannot. How, then, can I become present with you just now?”
Absence involves the sorrow of being veiled, while presence involves the joy of revelation, and under no circumstances the revelation can be equal to veil.
Sheikh Abu Said says:
تقشع فيما الهجر عن قمرالحب والا سفر نورالصبح عن ظلمة الغيب
“The clouds of separation have been cleared away from the moon of love, and the light of morning has shone forth from the darkness of the unseen.”
The distinction made by the Sheikhs between these two terms is mystical, and on the surface just verbal, for they seem to be approximately the same, as it may be presence with the Truth or absence from self. One who is not absent from himself, is not present with the Truth, and who is present with Him, is absent from self.
The grief of Ayub (may blessings of Allah be on him) in his affliction did not proceed from himself as he was absent from himself in that state. Therefore, Allah did not distinguish his grief from patience, and when he cried,
truly distress has seized me” (Q 21:83), and Allah said,
إِنَّا وَجَدْنَاهُ صَابِرًا
truly We found him full of patience and constancy.” (Q 38:44).
The same is also evident from the following narrated by Junaid:
“There was a time when the inhabitants of heaven and earth wept over my bewilderment, then came a time when I wept over their absence and now my state is such that I have no knowledge either of them or of myself.” This is an excellent indication of presence.
I have briefly explained the meaning of presence and absence in order that you may be acquainted with the doctrine of the Khafifis, and may also know in what sense these terms are used by the Sufis.