Sakina And Itmi’nan (Serenity And Peacefulness)

This article explains the meaning of Sakina and Itmi’nan (Serenity and Peacefulness) in Sufism.

Literally meaning calmness, silence, steadiness, solemnity, familiarity, subsidence of waves and tranquillity, sakina (serenity) is the opposite of flightiness, restlessness, and wavering or indecision. In the language of Sufism, serenity means that a heart gradually comes to rest as a result of experiencing gifts from the Unseen. Such a restful heart always expects breezes to come from the realms beyond, and thus travels around in a state of itmi’nan (peacefulness) in the most complete care and self-possession. This rank is the beginning of the rank of certainty coming from direct observance. The resulting confusion over gifts coming through knowledge with gifts “obtained” through insight clouds the horizon of observing secret truths, which gives rise to wrong conclusions [about the reality of things].

Serenity sometimes comes in the form of perceptible or imperceptible signs; at other times it appears so clearly that even ordinary people can identify it. Sometimes serenity and its signs resemble spiritual breaths or Divine breezes that can be perceived only with great care; at other times, they come miraculously and so clearly that anyone can see them, as in the case of the Children of Israel during the time of Prophet Moses, and remain for some time among those deserving to be rewarded or equipped with it. One example is the mass of something resembling vapor or mist that surrounded Usayd ibn Khudayr while he was reading the Qur’an.[1] Such events are considered manifestations sent to strengthen the believers’ willpower and to affirm and hearten them.

Peace Dove Harmony Dove Hand Keep Soap Bubble

Peace Dove

In either case, serenity is a Divine confirmation for those believers aware of their helplessness and destitution before God, a means of thankfulness and enthusiasm, as stated in:

He it is Who sent down serenity into the hearts of the believers so that they may have more faith added to their faith (48:4).

A believer confirmed with serenity is not shaken by worldly fear, grief, and anxiety, and finds peace, integrity, and harmony between his or her inner world and the outer world. Such a person is dignified, balanced, confident, assured and solemn, and self-possessed and careful in his or her relations with God Almighty. Egoism, vanity, and pride are abandoned; every spiritual gift received is attributed to God; humility and self-discipline are exhibited while thanking Him; and all dissatisfaction and uneasiness is ascribed to personal weakness and examined in the light of self-criticism.

As for peacefulness, it is defined as full satisfaction and the state of being at complete rest without any serious lapse. It is a spiritual state beyond serenity. If serenity is the beginning of being freed from theoretical knowledge and awakened to the truth, peacefulness is the final point or station.

The ranks or stations of radiya (being pleased with God in resignation) and mardiya (being approved by God) are two dimensions of peacefulness belonging to good and virtuous believers and the depths of resignation. The ranks of mulhama (being inspired by God) and zakiya (being purified by God) are two other difficult-to-perceive degrees of peacefulness relating to those brought near to God. The gifts coming through them are pure and abundant.

Some thoughts and inclinations displeasing to God may appear in serene souls, while only perfect calmness is found in those that are peaceful and at rest. Peaceful hearts always seek God’s pleasure or approval, and the “compass needle” of their conscience never swerves. Peacefulness is such an elevated rank of certainty that a soul traveling through it sees in every station the truth of: I wish to set my heart at rest (2:260) and is rewarded with different gifts. Wherever the believer is, the breeze of: No fear shall come upon them, neither shall they grieve (2:62) is felt; the good tidings of: Fear not, nor grieve, but rejoice in the good news of Paradise that has been promised to you (41:30) is heard; the sweet, life-giving water of: Beware, in the remembrance of God do hearts find peace and tranquillity (13:28) is tasted; and corporeality is defeated.

Whirling darwish

Whirling Darwish

Peacefulness is realized when believers transcend material causes and means. Reason’s transnatural journey ends at this point, and spirits are freed from worldly anxieties. Here, feelings find whatever they seek and become as deep, wide, and peaceful as a calm ocean. Those who have acquired this rank find the greatest peace only in feeling the company of God. They become aware of Divine Beauty and Grace in their hearts, feel attracted toward Him in order to meet with Him, are conscious that existence subsists by God’s existence, and that the power of speech exists only because He has Speech. Through this opened window they acquire, despite their finitude, the power to see and hear in an extremely broad capacity. In the whirl of the most complicated events, where everyone else is bewildered and falters, such people travel in safety and escape the whirl.

In addition to being freed from worldly anxieties, a believer whose heart is at rest or peace welcomes with a smile both death and the obstacles following death, and hears the Divine compliments and congratulations:

Return to your Lord, pleased and well-pleasing. Enter among My servants, and enter My Garden (89:29-30).

Death is seen as the most agreeable and desired result of life. When his or her life has ended in death, he or she hears, as was heard from the grave of Ibn ‘Abbas, in every station passed through after death, the same Divine congratulations or Decree:

Return to your Lord, pleased and well-pleasing. Enter among My servants, and enter My Garden.

Such people spend their lives of the grave on the “shores” of Paradise, experience the Great Gathering in wonder and admiration, the Supreme Weighing of Men’s Deeds in awe and amazement, pass over the Bridge, only because he or she has to pass over it, and finally reaches Paradise the last, eternal abode of those whose hearts are at rest or have found peace and tranquillity. For such a one, the world is as ‘Arafat[2] prepared on the way leading to the eternal forgiveness of the believers. The worldly life is the Festival Eve, and the other life is the Day of Festival.

Our Lord! Grant us in the world what is good, and in the Hereafter what is good, and protect us from the punishment of the Fire. And bestow blessings and peace on our master Muhammad, the Prophet, the chosen one, and on his Family and Companions, good and virtuous.

By M. Fethullah Gulen

[1] Usayd bin Khudayr felt surrounded by a vapor-like mass while reading the Qur’an and felt greatly exhilarated.
[2] The hill where Muslim pilgrims stay for some time on the eve of the Religious Festival of Sacrifice.

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