Waliyy And Awliyaullah
(God’s Friend [Saint] And God’s Friends [Saints])
This article explains the meaning of Waliyy and Awliyaullah (God’s Friend [Saint] And God’s Friends [Saints]) in Sufism.
Literally meaning a friend, a helper, a loyal one, or a guardian, a waliyy is one who is devoted to God with all their emotions and one who is taken by Him as a close friend. Such an attainment is called wilaya (God’s friendship or sainthood), and the greatest rank in wilaya is called qutbiya (being a spiritual pole).
Perfect sainthood consists of servants being annihilated with respect to the carnal dimension of their existence and gaining a new, ever-young, and active existence on the horizon of God’s nearness through their knowledge of God, love of God, vision of God, and discovery of the Divine mysteries. In the sight of such heroes of spirituality, who have reached the peak where the sun never sets, autumns turn into springs, and annihilation turns into permanent existence, everything is annihilated in God; everything begins and ends with Him, rises and sets with Him, and attains existence through the lights of His Existence. Those favored with such a vision experience existence in a different mood and fashion according to their capacity of perceiving of everything as dependent on Him and observe that every event takes place dependent on the Truth of Truths, Whom they find in their hearts as a “Secret Treasure.” Unceasingly thrilling at the lights they observe glittering in the countenances of the mornings and evenings, the depths of the ever-bright heavens, the multi-colored beauties of the seasons that come and go with ever-renewed scenes, the awful appearances of the vast seas and oceans, the flowing of rivers toward the seas with a deep yearning for union, the joyful cries of birds and insects, and the bleating of sheep and lambs, they are overawed by the meanings that pour into their hearts from Him. All the shapes and forms on the horizon of their vision disappear and they find themselves boiling with reflection and pleasure as if they see, feel, and experience Him alone.
Such heroes of spirituality no longer feel zeal, but rather a deep yearning to reach Him, and no longer feel attraction but rather are attracted by Him toward Him. They are completely freed from any kind of heedlessness, with the result that the light of the Ultimate Truth shows itself everywhere. Reason and the spirit are now hand in hand and the whole of existence becomes a book to read. All false candles are extinguished, one after another, and it is as if the stars have come down from the heavens to illuminate the entire world. The world with all its worldliness vanishes and is rebuilt with a new design that belongs to the realms beyond. All veils of darkness are rent apart and lights burst forth through the fissures. Everything becomes a friend and a companion to such a hero of spirituality, and the heart finds in everything whatever it looks for, thus being saved from all kinds of loneliness.
God Almighty never abandons initiates who have attained such a degree of God’s friendship to their carnal soul, not even for the twinkling of an eye. Since they are always turned to the horizon of obtaining God’s approval and good pleasure with all their being, God protects and preserves them with His infinite grace and care. There is no longer any grief or worry; they constantly receive welcome from all corners of existence and they feel spiritual joy in their hearts. As if living in the gardens of Paradise, within the protective walls of, Know well that the friends (saintly servants) of God – they will have no fear, nor will they grieve (10:62), far away from the carnal veils of darkness and surrounded by the lights of the All-Merciful—but without ever falling into heedlessness toward the fear and awe of God which they always feel in the depths of their being—they continuously receive promissory messages from the realms beyond and return them with good, righteous deeds.
Although what is primarily meant by God’s friends is all the believers, as opposed to the enemies of God—for this is what the Qur’an also means by this term—the Sufis give other significant meanings to it. According to them, a friend of God is a person of truth who, through various forms of self-struggle, such as austerity, has transcended the carnal dimension of his or her existence and reached the level of the life of the heart and spirit, thus obtaining God’s special nearness. Friends of God have annihilated themselves with respect to their carnal existence, and attained permanence with a new meaning and thus they are favored with God’s particular blessings and compliments. They have found whatever they would find and they have been saved from all kinds of pursuits. Without ever aspiring after anything perishable, they say, “Let others have whatever is worldly—God, only, is sufficient for me,” and they demand whatever they demand only for God’s sake. I think Nabi meant this by the following:
Do God’s friends ever stoop to possessing anything worldly?
Do they ever endure the burden of people?
Since friends of God always have God as their sole object, and they expect from Him whatever they expect, and thus continuously receive God’s favors, it is inconceivable that they should turn to others for their needs or aspirations.
Although all of God’s friends are people of deep spirituality, they differ in disposition and temperament, in their relative degree of attainment, and in their duties and missions. This is why they are mentioned with different titles such as the godly, the virtuous ones, those favored with God’s special nearness, substitutes, pillars, nobles, custodians, leaders, helpers or means of help, and poles. With whatever title they are called, all of them have—according to the capacity of each—common praiseworthy qualities such as truthfulness, honesty, trustworthiness, sincerity and purity of intention, piety, righteousness, abstinence, asceticism, love, mildness and forbearance, modesty, humility, repentance, penitence, contrition, fear, and reverence. And with the exception of a few extreme “ecstatics” among them, all of them act within the bounds of the principles mentioned.
Abrar (The Godly, Virtuous Ones)
The Abrar are the good, virtuous ones who strive to reach God through austerity and moral straightforwardness; they are people of honesty and righteousness, loyal servants of the Ultimate Truth who live a life very carefully in keeping with the ordinances of Shari’a. Some of the godly, virtuous ones who are extremely sincere and faithful in their relationship with the Ultimate Truth are bent on the attainment of personal perfection. Although they pursue God’s approval and good pleasure in all of their attempts and actions, they nevertheless aim at their own perfection and seclude themselves from people in pursuit of spiritual gifts and favors to such an extent that they travel from immersion to amazement, and from amazement to utmost astonishment in the waves of the gifts of the “oceans” where they feel that everything has been lost in the Divine Existence. Those who see them think that they are lunatics and mock them. Because of this, and in consideration of how deep they are in their relationship with God, they cannot act as guides for others; the reservations they cause to arise in the minds of others impede this.
There are others among the godly, virtuous ones who always follow the light of the lamp of Prophethood, and therefore act in a balanced way. They plan and put into practice all of their intentions and attempts under the guidance of the Divine Revelation, the heart, and reason. They comprehend and interpret religious matters correctly and without causing any misunderstandings. They always preserve the balance in their observations of the physical and metaphysical realms, or the physical and metaphysical dimensions of things; they correct their intuitions and perceptions in the state of ecstasy and rapture according to the fundamentals of the Religion, and they present their inferences and deductions within this perspective. They see the world from the point of view of Prophethood and, although they always avoid setting their hearts on it, they pay necessary attention to it as it is the place of observation of Divine beauties, the manifestation of the Divine Names, and the arable field of the afterlife. In whatever they do, they aim at God’s approval and good pleasure, and eternal happiness, striving in the way of the Prophet to make each second, minute, and hour of their lives into ears of corn that bear seven, seventy, and even seven hundred grains. They actually represent godliness and righteousness and set good examples for people to follow. Wherever they are, they remind people of God, and acting as if an indicator, they cause people to turn to Him in devotion. In short, they are those who are always occupied with good, virtuous deeds; who always dream of godliness and righteousness; who always follow the Creator, the Ultimate Truth, in whatever they do; and who care about the created.
Muqarrabun (Those Favored with God’s Special Nearness)
Muqarrabun are higher in rank than the Godly, Virtuous Ones due to their special nearness to God. This exalted title is also used for the most distinguished ones among the Prophets and angels. These blessed ones that are favored with God’s special nearness are guides on the way to God, distinguished “lions” in the quarter of the truth, doves who continue their journeying at the peaks, guests who have completed the most important part of the journeying and who have resolved to remain, God’s confidants in His “private lodge” who, by virtue of the truths they observe as the gifts of the horizon they have reached, have closed their eyes to fleeting things in respect of their worldly aspects. They are cavalrymen who have defeated the soldiers of carnal desires and caprices with their armies of love and yearning; they are heroes of knowledge of God who have subjected their carnal life to their heart and spirit; they are those who, by having left behind the deserts of mortality to reach the gardens of subsistence by and with God, have found utmost peace and satisfaction; they are heroes of observation and spiritual discovery who have reached the horizon of having a vision of God through God Himself; they are lovers who have appropriated the love of God as the most manifest dimension of their nature; and they are loved ones who are intoxicated with the pleasure of feeling that God loves them. Finally, they are heroes who have been perfectly favored with the compliment that God loves them and they love Him (5:54). We see and experience the true color of existence through the lens of their knowledge of God and observe the metaphysical dimension of things with the lights they shed over the face of existence.
Although some reports have been circulated among the saints concerning the number of Muqarrabun, it is not possible to say that an exact number has been agreed upon. According to some reports, the Muqarrabun consist of three hundred good ones, forty substitutes, four pillars, and two leaders. According to some other reports, they consist of a spiritual pole and four thousand saints. Whatever their number is, all of these heroes of nearness to God are the noblest servants of the Ultimate Truth and they share the same spiritual profundity of the angels.
Accepting that the Muqarrabun are composed of four thousand saints, some Sufis classify these distinguished servants of God according to their ranks as follows:
Three hundred of them are Akhyar (the good ones who pursue good in whatever they do and say); forty of them are Abdal or Budala (the substitutes, charged with the administration of spiritual life and acting as veils in the reflection of the Divine Majesty and Grandeur); seven of them are Abrar (godly, virtuous ones who have been able to make righteous deeds and sincerity a deep dimension of their nature); and there are others called by different titles.
Still others make another classification of those favored with special nearness to God, the number of which is unknown. They mention four Awtad (Pillars), and Nujaba (the Nobles, in the sense of being distinguished in the sight of God), and Nukaba (the Custodians, who care for people and the management of their affairs), and, superior to all those mentioned, Ghawth (the Helper or the Means of Divine Help), and Qutb (the Pole). Some Sufi scholars call all of those Rijal-i Ghayb (the Men of the Unseen).
Abdal (The Substitutes)
Substitutes are those pure, honest saints who help people with their affairs without being seen and who function as veils in the reflection of Divine acts. Before the Ottomans, the Iranians called them “the Straightforward,” “Easygoing Ones,” “People of Light,” or “Sufis.” Then, this term (Abdal) became a name for a spiritual order. Under the Ottomans, some men who were famous for their heroic courage and fearlessness came to be called “Substitutes.” In dervish lodges, the term has always been used to describe the “Men of the Unseen.”
According to Sufis, Substitutes are saints who avoid fame and who are unknown among people. They always hasten to do good and to help others. They are of two groups. The first group is composed of the saints who have been freed from all evil qualities and equipped with excellence and virtuousness, who resist all kinds of vices and wrongs, and who try to prevent these. The second group consists of those saints who have a particular mission and number three hundred, forty, and seven; they are also referred to by these numbers. Their numbers are not important; what is important is their place and rank in God’s sight and the duties they perform.
When one of the Substitutes dies, another one from the subgroup takes his or her place. When one of them leaves his or her place for a duty, either that one sends his double or astral body to perform the duty, or that one departs to perform the duty and leaves his double or astral body behind. (We should remind ourselves here that the idea of a human double or astral body is a matter frequently discussed in parapsychology.)
Some consider the pillars, the two leaders, and the pole as a superior group, separate from the Substitutes: they see the latter as people of a certain spiritual state, while the former are viewed as people of a certain spiritual station. They regard the latter as travelers to God and the former as travelers in and from God.
Those who maintain that there are always seven Substitutes say that they each reside in a different clime or realm, observe and acclaim the Divine acts, and respond to God Almighty with praise and thanks as conscious representatives of the activities of unconscious beings. These seven saints have particular stations, and they are mentioned with the titles they have been given according to their station.
- The first substitute represents the reflection or projection of the Prophet Abraham’s heart, and is called by the title, ‘Abdulhayy (the Servant of the All-Living).
- The second has the particular attributes of the Prophet Moses’ heart, and is called by the title, ‘Abdul’alim (the Servant of the All-Knowing).
- The third is a mirror of the Prophet Aaron’s heart, and the special name of this one is ‘Abdulmurid (the Servant of the All-Willing).
- The fourth reflects the attributes of the Prophet Enoch’s heart, and is mentioned with the title ‘Abdulqadir (the Servant of the All-Powerful).
- The fifth has a connection with the heart of the Prophet Joseph, and is known by the title ‘Abdulqahir (the Servant of the All-Overwhelming).
- The sixth is bound to the content of the Prophet Jesus’ heart and called by the title ‘Abdussami (the Servant of the All-Hearing).
- The seventh follows the heart of the Prophet Adam, and is known with the title, ‘Abdulbasir (the Servant of the All-Seeing).
None of these opinions or considerations is based on the Qur’an or the Sunna, but each has its source in the spiritual discoveries of some saints of discovery and is open to interpretation. For this reason, we are not obliged to accept these opinions or considerations as being absolutely true. Nevertheless, whatever their duties, titles, or positions are, and whatever blessings God favors them with, all of the saints are those who have certain degrees of knowledge of God, who are supported by God, and who, with their refined hearts and purified souls, are open to certain Divine mysteries.
Still another consideration concerning the place and duties of the saints known as Substitutes is as follows:
Three hundred of them represent the reflection of Prophet Adam’s heart and are mirrors to it, forty of them have a connection with Prophet Moses’ heart, seven are affiliated with Prophet Abraham, five with the bosom of Archangel Gabriel, three with Archangel Michael, and one from among them, who is the greatest among them and represents the greatest sainthood, is affiliated with the greatest of all beings, Prophet Muhammad, upon him be perfect blessings and peace. When the last one dies, the one who is superior to all others takes his place, and when somebody from among them dies, that position is filled by another one from another group. Like the number of Substitutes, the opinions about their residences and titles vary considerably.
There are nearly twenty reports from the Prophet concerning the existence of such a group of saints among the Men of the Unseen. According to these reports, because of their value in His sight, God Almighty sends rain, helps the believers against their enemies, and removes calamities from them. The Substitutes are like a center of gravity for the earth; God employs them as a spiritual means of keeping the earth on its axis and provides for others out of their high place with Him. They forgive the wrong which people do to them; they return evil with good; and they continuously follow the path to Paradise through mildness, forbearance, and generosity. They attach special importance to the soundness and purity of their hearts and they always wish good for Muslims. They have no worldly ambitions, and they avoid quarreling even with their enemies. They always shun exaggeration in their speech, and they represent the middle way in speech. They avoid religious innovations, and they do not go to extremes in their worship. Of whatever rank they are, they never like or approve of themselves. Resignation to whatever misfortune comes to them from God, utmost care about not committing any action that is religiously forbidden, a deep reverence for and obedience to God Almighty, and never cursing anyone—all these are mentioned among the foremost attributes of the Substitutes.
Some commentators on Hadith such as Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya regard all those reports as fabricated and reject them. Imam Suyuti, another commentator, considers thatsince the hadiths support one another, as a whole, they may be considered as sound as the Prophetic Traditions that have been reported through many reliable chains of transmission. Hafiz Sahawi, following a moderate or middle way, notes that all those reports are weak in reliability and therefore open to criticism. In view of these different considerations, I leave the truth of the matter to God, saying: “God knows best.”
The original Arabic term translated as Substitutes is abdal, which is the plural of badal. The term badal has another plural form: budala. This term is used by the Sufis for seven important figures among the “Men of the Unseen.” They can change places with unusual speed and can be present in many different places at the same moment. It is not clear whether this occurs by the separation of their double or astral bodies from their original bodies so that they can be manifested in many places at the same time, or by their unusually speedy movement and because they are able to be present in many places, one after the other, within a short time. It sometimes happens that the Substitutes are not aware of this mysterious transportation. The author of Futuhat al-Makkiyya (“The Makkan Conquests”), Muhyi’d-Din ibn al-‘Arabi, considers that the Substitutes (called budala) observe the acts of God Almighty in each of the seven climes. They both observe the acts of the All-Glorified One and appear to be curtains for their reflections, acclaiming them. They receive their spiritual training as Uways al-Qarani did, that is, without being trained by a spiritual master.
Nujaba (The Nobles)
“Nobles” is a title used for the “Fortys,” or some among the “Fortys” included in the “Men of the Unseen.” According to verifying Sufi scholars, these are the heroes of altruism who have completed their ascension toward God by going down among the people to guide and spiritually educate them. They think of nothing other than guiding people to God; they encourage hearts always to do good, and they erect spiritual barriers before evils. They try to confront possible misfortunes through prayers and supplications and they are ready to sacrifice themselves for the good of people or to prevent disasters. Their hearts always beat with feelings of self-sacrifice, compassion, and tender care for others. Since they have dedicated their lives to the happiness of others, they live a life overburdened with the troubles of others and sigh for them. Even if there are times when they feel happy at the news of others’ happiness, they are always sorrowful because of what they have witnessed or heard concerning the sufferings of people. In respect of their mission, they are heirs to the Prophets.
Nukaba (The Custodians)
Nukaba are the saints who are always together with people, correcting their faults, and guiding all toward good with mildness and kindness. Although the term is used for those in the Sufi Orders of Rifai and Badawi who have completed their spiritual journeying and have begun the mission of guiding people to God, according to the verifying Sufi scholars they are the purified souls whose spiritual profundity and discovery transcend their scope of learning and sight and who always observe the spiritual domain or realm of existence; by God’s leave, they are able to penetrate the hearts of people and what occurs to them. They carry out the duty of some sort of translation between the physical and metaphysical realms, interpreting existence in accordance with their capacity and in consideration of the understanding levels of their audience, and persistently try to find ways to God through everything. In their view, the universe is a meaningful book which contains messages within messages, with all its parts making up the words, sentences, and paragraphs. In these ever-wakeful souls and truth-voicing tongues, the truth expressed herein shows itself: The universe is a supreme book of God throughout, Whichever letter you look at, you read God.
Awtad (The Pillars)
Awtad are the four “Men of God” who are so close to one another that one cannot do without the other. They make their spiritual journeying and carry out their duties under the shadow of the missions of Enoch, Elijah, Jesus, and Khadr, upon them and our Prophet be peace. According to the particular mission of each, they have the titles ‘Abdulhayy (The Servant of the All-Living), ‘Abdul’alim (The Servant of the All-Knowing), ‘Abdulmurid (The Servant of the All-Willing), and ‘Abdulqadir (The Servant of the All-Powerful), and they reflect the spiritual content of Prophets Adam, Abraham, Jesus, and Muhammad, upon them be peace and blessings, or represent the reflections of their truths. Their connection with God is through the lenses of the Archangels Gabriel, Michael, Israfil, and ‘Azrail, upon them be peace. They each correspond to a pillar of the Ka’ba, which signifies the door or stairway to that station.
Muhyi’d-Din ibn al-‘Arabi is of the opinion that the Pillars are the seven saints who carry out their duties according to a hierarchy that exists among them.
Some call all the saints of God—including the Nobles, Custodians, and Pillars—the “Men of God” in the sense that they are heroes of the truth with certain spiritual power. Their most distinguishing attributes are their deep reverence for God and their feeling of awe before Him; being overwhelmed by the manifestations of the All-Merciful; arousing God’s existence and omnipresence in the minds of those who see them; sobriety and dignity coming from the constant awareness of God’s company; being deeply ashamed of certain ordinary human acts and states—even though they are lawful; being aware of God in everything in a different wave of sensation; self-forgetfulness when they are aware of God; continuous self-supervision and attributing to Him whatever gifts and blessings they are favored with; and remaining unknown by others. With respect to their being unknown, they are called “the Men of the Unseen” or “the Army of God.” In one of his poems, Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror refers to those men who are endowed with a sacred spiritual power and asks for their prayers in carrying out the duty of serving God’s Word.
With respect to these men’s being able to make the Divine mysteries felt in the hearts of others, they are called “the Men of Conquest”; because of their being unknown or being known only by a few, they are known as “the Men of the Unseen.” In regard to their generally living in ecstasy, they are called “the Men of Power,” and because they approach everyone with gentleness and tolerance and return evil done to them with good, they are “the Men of Kindness.”
Ghawth (The Helper or the Means of Divine Help)
Signifying help, coming to the aid of others, and giving spiritual help, the term ghawth is used by the Sufis to denote saints of the highest rank.
A person who has attained this rank has been honored with a particular Divine favor and, by God’s leave, hurries to the aid of those in difficulties. Those who do not have this capacity cannot be regarded as Ghawth; any poles (Qutb) who cannot be mirrors for Divine help are not called ghawth.
One who combines the spiritual status of being a Ghawth with the rank of being a Qutb is called Ghawth-i A’zam (the Greatest Helper), and if the one who has been favored with the rank of being a Qutb is also honored with being a Ghawth, he is called Qutb-i A’zam (the Greatest Pole). Each of these titles has aspects particular to itself.
Since those honored with these exalted ranks represent the shadow of Haqiqat Muhammadiya (the Muhammadi Truth), they are in the company of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, with respect to being mirrors to certain Divine truths. Their part in the universal mission of the Prophet is expressed by Süleyman Çelebi as follows:
(God said to the Prophet): I have made your essence a mirror to Me,
And inscribed your name together with Mine.
The status described in, “God has made him a mirror to Him as the Sole Divine Being,” primarily and with all its comprehensiveness, belongs to the Master of creation, upon him be peace and blessings, who is the greatest of the Perfect or Universal Men. Each of the other Perfect or Universal Men has a relative, particular part in this great honor.
The Sufis maintain that in every century there is a Helper or Means of Divine Help (Gwahs) who is the leader of all the contemporary men of God, the door among people to the attainment of Divine assistance, the moderator of the spiritual realm or domain of existence, and the pivot of Divine gifts and blessings. If a Helper is also a Pole, his title is the Greatest Pole, and his rank is the status of the Greatest Pole.
Such a hero of spirituality who is honored with this rank has such capacities that not only ordinary people like us, but also those who have reached the final point of spiritual journeying are unable to perceive them. This rank is the most comprehensive mirror to the Divine Names, the essence of existence, and the greatest focus of the Muhammadi Truth. By virtue of this distinction, and by God’s leave, such a one is an authority entitled to represent the implementation of the Divine decrees under the leadership and protection of Haqiqat Ahmadiya (Ahmadi Truth or the Truth of Ahmad) and in the light of the Muhammadi Lamp, 54 upon him be peace and blessings.
The scholarly people of sainthood mention the names of such great saints as ‘Abdu’l-Qadir al-Jilani, Abu’l-Hasan al-Harakani, Shaykh al-Harrani, and Imam Rabbani, as those who have attained this rank in the history of Islam. These personages, who have combined the rank of being a Pole with that of being a Helper, are mentioned with the titles of “the Greatest Pole,” or “the Greatest Helper.” As they represent the status of being the Greatest Pole, they are also called “the Pole of the Poles.”
With respect to being the representatives of spiritual perfection, they are also regarded as the true heirs to the duties of Prophethood and the special, most distinguished representatives of succession to the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. It is undeniable that the purification of the carnal soul, refinement of the heart, and spiritual struggle all have an important part in the attainment of this rank. However, it should also be borne in mind that this rank is a special gift of God which He accords to whomever He wills. God Himself declares:
That is God’s grace. He grants it to whom He wills. Surely God is of tremendous grace (62:4).
This elevated rank has sometimes been represented by a single individual, sometimes by a collective personality formed around God’s good pleasure through a sincere brother/sisterhood, and selfless unity and solidarity, or, quite possibly, by a community of Muslims which serves the true faith and the Qur’an purely for God’s sake.
Qutb (The Pole)
Qutb is the title of one who is the focus of the views of the earth and heaven’s inhabitants, the perfect vicegerent of God, the Ultimate Truth, the heir of the Master of creation, upon him be peace and blessings, and the perfect, universal man who always exists among humankind.
After the pride of humanity, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, this rank was represented by the first four Rightly-Guided Caliphs in order of succession, who were true successors to the duties of Prophethood. They were followed by the greatest scholars or the founders of Islamic Schools of Law, who had the capacity to deduce new laws from the Qur’an and the Sunna, the greatest saints, and the saintly scholars.
Together with the rank of Helper, the rank of Pole is also the greatest of spiritual ranks. While a Helper is primarily distinguished by coming to the aid of others who are immured in difficulties, a Pole may also be favored with the rank of Helper and become a source of spiritual radiance and a reflector of God’s gifts. Being heir to the Muhammadi Truth, a Pole represents a reflection of the Master of creation, upon him be peace and blessings, under his guardianship in the age where he lives, and is a successor to him in his duties as a spiritual master.
By virtue of the special gifts with which he is honored, and by virtue of having been equipped with a special capacity in accordance with his duty, a Pole is, like the North Star, a singular, chosen one upon whom the views of all the inhabitants of the earth and heavens are focused. This mysterious power station, which is always open to the metaphysical realms, has effects on the human outer and inner faculties that resemble the spirit’s control of the body. This power of penetration comes from this person’s knowledge of God; this knowledge of God originates in God’s Knowledge, Which in turn has Its source in the Divine Essence. With respect to his own essence, or when left to his own devices, a Pole is like a drop of water—but a drop that contains the entire reflection of the sun by virtue of God’s favors upon him. Such a one is nothing but an atom, but that atom reflects all of the heavens. For in their essential nature, Poles are nothing—they are zero—but they are equipped with such essential values and qualities that they reflect eternity.
With one of their eyes always scanning the physical dimension of existence, Poles constantly observe the realms beyond with the other eye, in unceasing pursuit of the radiance of recognition or knowledge of God. They weave the spiritual lacework of existence with the silky threads of wisdom that pour into their hearts and give them to those around them. Like the sun, they always give off light and illuminate all that is around them. And like a surging ocean, they bubble over from within and diffuse life into hearts.
Since Poles have fully developed their innate capacities, they are heroes of extraordinary performance. They are perfect persons whose hearts are mirrors to the Archangel Israfil, and whose power of speech mirrors Gabriel, and whose power of attraction mirrors Michael, and whose power of repelling mirrors ‘Azrail. By virtue of this, they are each, in one respect, a focus of creation as a mirror to all realms, vicegerents of God in their age, special students and representatives of the Muhammadi Truth, rays of the first manifestation of existence beyond time, and luminous, transparent means for the conduction of Divine mysteries to all hearts. Being heirs to the Prophet, they establish new rules to acquire and deepen in knowledge of God and the Religion. The Shi’a attribute this rank only to ‘Ali and the eleven Imams who descended from him through the Prophet’s beloved daughter, Fatima, and the last of whom is the Mahdi; this is a restriction. God may accord this honor to whomever He wills among His servants who have been endowed with the necessary capacity and He may make Himself known through them.
The Sufi scholarly saints mention two types of Pole, one being “the Pole of guidance” and the other being “the Pole of existence.” The “Pole of guidance” represents the spirit of Prophethood as the owner of the greater rank of Pole, while the “Pole of existence” stands for the inner dimension of the Seal of Prophethood with the title of the Seal of Sainthood. The scholars who have expert knowledge of the matter hold the opinion that although in the same period there may be more than one Pole of guidance, there can only be one Pole of existence. The axis of whichever great angel honored with special nearness to God or illustrated Prophet he journeys around, or the rug-seat of whichever saint he occupies, the Pole of existence always turns toward the light of the existence of the Pole of Prophethood, upon him be peace and blessings, and toward his spiritual assistance.
Although there are Sufi scholars who mention some people as the Poles of existence who have existed since the Prophet Adam, upon him be peace, this view has not received much acceptance. The majority of the experts in this matter agree that in every age the Pole of existence is mentioned with the title of ‘Abdullah (the Servant of God) and ‘Abduljami (the Servant of the One Who Has All Excellences in the Infinite Degree).
All the information given so far is based on the spiritual discovery and observation of some talented saints. For this reason, more or less space can always be assigned to the subject. There may even be those who say different things on this matter. God knows best. Therefore, what I should finally do is to entreat God Almighty, saying:
Our Lord, take us not to task if we forget or make mistakes! Our Lord, forgive us, then, our sins, and blot out from us our evil deeds, and take us to You in death, in the company of the truly godly and virtuous.
O God! Show us truth as truth and enable us to observe it, and show us falsehood as falsehood and enable us to avoid it. And bestow Your blessings and peace on the Sole Owner of the subtle essence and meaning of being, Muhammad, the sun of the heavens of mysteries, the object of all lights, the pivot of the Divine Majesty, and the axis of the sphere of the Divine Grace and Beauty, and on His Family and Companions, who are the stars of guidance and the springs of assistance.
By M. Fethullah Gulen
 Yusuf Nabi (1642–1712): One of the most well-known Ottoman poets of the seventeenth century. He was born in Urfa, southeastern Turkey, and emigrated to Istanbul when he was twenty-four. He lived in Istanbul and Aleppo. He usually wrote didactic poems where he criticized certain vices in society and which contained moral lessons. (Tr.)
 As for further reference, see Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, 1:112, 5:322; at-Tabarani, al-Mu’jam al-Kabir, 10:181, 18:65; al-Munawi, Fayd al-Kadir, 3:167–170. (Tr.)
 Taqiyyud-Din Ahmad ibn Taymiyya (1263–1328): A very famous Muslim scholar who was born in Harran in southeastern Turkey near the Syrian border. As a member of the Hanbali School of Law, he defended “return to the Qur’an and the Sunna,” being very critical of new developments in thought within Islam over centuries. (Tr.)
 ‘Abdur-Rahman ibn Kamal Jalalud-Din as-Suyuti (1445–1505): The mujtahid imam, one of the foremost hadith masters, jurist, Sufi, philologist, and historian. He authored works in virtually every Islamic science. He lived in Egypt. (Tr.)
 Hafiz Muhammad Shamsud-Din as-Sahawi (d. 1498): A great muhaddith, who lived in Egypt. He was a student of Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani. His famous work is Maqasid al-Hasana. (Tr.)
 Uways ibn Amir al-Qarni or al-Qarani (d. 657): He was born in Yemen. Towards the end of his life, he left for Kufa, in modern-day Iraq. He was one of most outstanding figures of the generation succeeding the Companions. Some regard him as the greatest Muslim saint of the first Islamic century. (Tr.)
 Sayyid Ahmad ar-Rifai (1119–1183), the founder of the Rifai Order, and one of the greatest Sufi masters in the history of Islam, was born and lived in southern Iraq. He also had profound knowledge of Islamic religious sciences, including especially jurisprudence and Hadith. (Tr.)
 Sayyid Ahmad al-Badawi (1200–1276) was one of the most outstanding Sufi masters, to whom the Badawi Order is attributed. He was born in Morocco. When he was six years old, his family emigrated to Makka. He spent the greatest part of his life in Tanta, Egypt. He was also well-versed in Islamic sciences. (Tr.)
 Michael is the Archangel who supervises the earth with its grass, plants, and animals, and represents or presents to God their glorifications and praises of Him. (Tr.)
 Israfil is one of the four Archangels. He will blow the Trumpet just before the end of the universe and for the resurrection of the dead. (Tr.)
 ‘Azrail is the Archangel charged with taking the souls of human beings. He is the Angel of Death. (Tr.)
 Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror (1432–1481) was the seventh Ottoman Sultan, and conquered Istanbul. (Tr.)
 Haqiqat Muhammadiya (Muhammadi Truth): This term is essential to Sufism. It may be translated as the “reality of Muhammad” as God’s Messenger, the most beloved of God, the best example for all creation to follow, the embodiment of Divine Mercy, and the living Qur’an or embodiment of the Qur’anic way of life. (Tr.)
 For a detailed analysis of the Perfect or Universal Man, see M. Fethullah Gülen, Emerald Hills of the Heart – Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism, The Light, NJ, 2004, Vol., 2, pp. 289–302. (Tr.)
 Haqiqat Ahmadiya (Ahmadi Truth or the Truth of Ahmad) is the term used to designate the reality or the essence or the truth represented by the personality of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, before his coming to the world and after his departure from the world. In one respect, it signifies the unparalleled sainthood of the Prophet Muhammad. (Tr.)
 ‘Abdu’l-Qadir al-Jilani (d. 1166): One of the most celebrated Sufi masters. A student of jurisprudence and Hadith, he became known as the “Spiritual Pole” of his age and the “the Greatest Means of Divine Help.” Among his well-known books are Kitab al-Ghunyah, Futuh al-Ghayb, and Al-Fath al-Rabbani. (Tr.)
 ‘Ali ibn Ahmad Abu’l-Hasan al-Harakani (963–1033) is one of the most celebrated saints. He was born and lived in Harakan near Bistam in Iran. He lived as a poor farmer. He was martyred in fighting in Kars, a city in the farthest northeastern Turkey, and was buried there. (Tr.)
 Shakyh Hayat ibn Qays al-Harrani (d. 1185), is one of the most outstanding saints in the history of Islam. He was born in Baghdad and lived in Harran near Urfa, in southeastern Turkey. (Tr.)
 Imam Rabbani, Ahmad Faruq al-Sarhandi (d. 1624): The “reviver of the second millennium.” Born in Sarhand (India) and well-versed in Islamic sciences, he removed many corrupt elements from Sufism. He taught Shah Alamgir or Awrangzeb (d. 1707), who had a committee of scholars prepare the most comprehensive compendium of Hanafi Law. His work, The Letters, is very famous and widely known throughout the Muslim world. (Tr.)
 The Mahdi, literally meaning one who guides to truth, is the title of the blessed person whose coming toward the end of time to re-establish the truth of Islam and justice on the earth was promised by God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. (Tr.)
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