Wajd and Tawajud (Ecstasy and Willful Rapture)

This article explains the meaning of Wajd and Tawajud (Ecstasy and Willful Rapture) in Sufism.

Wajd (ecstasy) is overflowing with spiritual joy and enthusiasm, and rather than using reason, logic, or will, one follows the spiritual state in which one is. It consists of God’s surprising visit to the heart of one of His servants with special favor. When this favor originates in God’s Grace, breezes of nearness to Him begin to blow; when it originates in His Majesty [The Attributes of God can be understood as, broadly, of two kinds, with two kinds of manifestations. One kind are the Attributes of Gracesuch as Mercy, Compassion, Love, Forgiving, etc. The other kind are Attributes of Majestysuch as being overwhelming, compelling, punishing, etc. (Trans.)], self-possession accompanied by sorrow, fear, and awe, appear.

Some have explained ecstasy as the spirit’s being unable to bear the turmoil caused by love during reflection on God, invocations to Him, and recitations of His Names. It has also been interpreted as being the amazement, excitement, and trembling that the heart undergoes when it receives special favors from God that originate in His Grace and Majesty.

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Although derived from the same root word, wajd (ecstasy) and wujud (finding) are different from one another. While finding, as will be explained later, means passing beyond the sphere of the influence of the carnal self and the limits of corporeality and finding the Desired One as He is, free from all qualitative and quantitative considerations and restrictions, ecstasy is the overflowing of the heart with feelings of love, yearning, zeal, respect, and exaltation. Ecstasy is a surprising and unexpected emotion. The next step is the state of being in constant ecstasy as the fruit of a continuous recitation of God’s Names and His praise, glorification, and exaltation.

Ecstasy generally manifests itself in two ways:

♦ Some Divine gifts and manifestations of His Glory emerge in the heart, without the person’s willing or intending it. We also call this “disclosure” (mukashafa), which cannot be related to any cause originating in human beings them-selves.

♦ Ecstasy manifests itself also in the form of spiritual pleasures and zeal, or amazement and astonishment. These feelings pervade the whole being and arouse in the person feelings of awe, fearfulness, and crying. This kind of ecstasy is mainly witnessed in circles where people recite God’s Names together. These feelings arise unintentionally in the hearts of peo­ple. Enraptured by the sounds of the hammer used by Zark­ubi in Konya, Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi said:

The souls that have clung to water and clay,
are pleased on being freed from them,
and be gin to dance in the air and breezes of love,
be coming perfect ed like the full moon.

If ecstasy appears as the result of willful concentration and by being forced, it is called willful rapture (tawajud). This can be seen in initiates, especially at the beginning of the way. Our master, upon him be peace and blessings, advises: “Weep when you are reciting the Qur’an. If you cannot, force yourself to.”

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Swan couple

If we add willful rapture and the finding (wujud) to the two kinds of ecstasy mentioned above, we can divide the subject into four titles:

♦ Willful rapture resembles ecstasy, the difference being that it emerges as a result of forcing the self and spiritual concentration. It is witnessed in initiates who are still on the way and is the lowest degree of the actions of the heart.

♦ Ecstasy is the unexpected overflowing of a heart which has been equipped with belief, knowledge and love of God, and with spiritual pleasures, with yearning, zeal, spiritual joy and the Divine gifts. It is the main topic being discussed here, and is the state which is based on the hadith: “There are three things which show that one who has them has tasted the pleasure of belief: loving God and His Messenger more than any­thing else, loving for God’s sake, and being careful with the things that lead to Paradise and Hell.” [Al-Bukhari, “Iman,” 9; Al-Muslim, al-Jami‘ al-Sahih, “Iman,” 67.]

♦ Constant ecstasy is the state in which the heart is favored with a continuous spiritual tension, with spiritual experiences, and varying, uninterrupted Divine gifts by virtue of the depth of its relationship with the Necessarily Existent Being and the Giver of Life, and the heart’s committed search for the ways of nearness to Him. The verse (18:14), We made firm their hearts and they rose, proclaiming: “Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth. We will never call anyone apart from Him God!” expresses this sort of love and excitement.

♦ Finding is the highest point of excellence; it is mentioned in a Prophetic Tradition as worshipping God as if one were seeing Him [The hadith is: “Ihsan (Perfect goodness or excellence) is that you worship as if seeing God. Even if you do not see Him, He certainly sees you.” The hadith mentions two degrees of excellence: worshipping God as if seeing Him, which is the greater one, and worshipping Him in the consciousness that God sees His servants. Al-Bu­khari, “Iman,” 37; al-Muslim, “Iman,” 1. (Trans.)], and the effusive feelings of excitement and astonishment result from being favored with the burning manifestations of Divine Existence.

In itself, ecstasy has also degrees:

♦ The lowest degree is that which arises from reflection on God’s signs and using the other senses and faculties to have a sound and deep relationship with God. A heart with this degree of ecstasy experiences the pleasure of belief in and knowledge of God, closing itself to all others than the Almighty.

♦ The second degree is that, in proportion to the profundity of the heart, and owing to the gifts that stream into it, the conscience or conscious human nature is awakened to the illumination and inspirations far beyond the receptive capacity of the ears, eyes, and mind.

♦ The highest degree is the inconceivable state of seeing, knowing, and thinking of Him alone in everything and always feeling His company without considering any other being, by virtue of the fact that all human faculties having taken on His color (with which He has colored the whole universe). One who has attained this degree can achieve amazement (dahsha) if able to take half a step further, and will fall into a stupor (hayman) if proceeding the full step. It is difficult to understand and interpret these two states with our normal human capacity of perception and reason.

O God! All praise be to You for Your Light by which You have guided us. And all praise be to You for Your mighty Clemency by reason of which You forgive us. And may Your blessings and peace be upon him whom You sent with the mission of Messengership as a mercy for the whole creation, and on His family and all of His Companions!

By M. Fethullah Gulen

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