Wasil (the One Who Has Reached)13
Literally meaning one who has reached the final point in a journey or who has met with the one or the thing that one intends to reach, wasil, in Sufi terminology, denotes one who, having been saved from all the veils of corporeality and carnality one after the other, and who has covered all the distances that originate from themselves, has reached the final point of their journey, where they feel and experience the company of God Almighty, Who is the nearest of all to everyone and everything.
Surmounting all the veils of corporeality that surround a human being, one within the other, and reaching the horizon of experiencing God’s company is possible sometimes by God’s special help and attention, sometimes by special knowledge of God, sometimes by the serious endeavors and efforts made during a spiritual journey, sometimes by following a path in which we admit our innate impotence and poverty, as well as our enthusiasm and thankfulness, and sometimes by extraordinary Divine attraction. All of these means of reaching the final point of the spiritual journey are the manifestations of God’s grace on different wavelengths. Without His grace and special attention, a traveler can neither be saved from the veils of corporeality and carnality nor cover the distances that originate from themselves to reach the intended horizon. God is the One Who is the nearest of all to everyone and everything, and it is He Who also brings those who strive to reach Him for His sake closer to Himself. Unless God brings us near, no one can feel the delight, which is called meeting, nor can they experience His company.
When God manifests His grace, He makes everything easy;
He creates the means of doing it and bestows it instantly. Anonymous
Common people can experience such a meeting or its shadow when they go to the other world with belief. However, there may be among them those who are drawn to the realms beyond through an extraordinary grace and who are favored with special compliments.
As for the elect who are God’s noble, greatly favored servants, they traverse the distances that originate in themselves while they are still in the world, feeling as if they are experiencing the truth of We are nearer to him than his jugular vein (50:16) from the horizon of the observation of the heart and spirit, each according to the degree of their conviction and knowledge of God and their place in God’s sight. They breathe God’s company in their inner world.
There are others who are more advanced than the elect. They are the heroes of special favor and attention. They observe such things from the horizon of the spiritual intellect and through the mysterious windows of “secret,” beyond all modalities of quality and quantity and beyond the limits of time and space, that they have neither been seen by other eyes nor heard by other ears nor conceived of by other minds. We can describe these as the heroes who state: “If the veils (before the Unseen) were removed, my certainty would not increase.”
If these heroes have reached that highest rank by following a spiritual path, then they are journeying “in God.” They rotate like satellites around the lights and mysteries of the Ultimate Truth, increasing more and more in profundity with every attempt they make, and even though they have realized the meeting with the One of all eternity, their journey toward Him is never-ending. They constantly pursue observations beyond “ certainty of knowledge,” continuously seek and realize visions that lie beyond “ certainty of observation or vision,” and experience intoxicating pleasures through the manifestations reflected in their world of spirit that emanate from the door which has been partially opened on “ certainty of experience.”
This peak of spirituality is where every hero of truth comes to see, know, hear, and experience the mysteries that belong to the realms beyond, and clearly discovers and witnesses the original essence and nature of everything animate or inanimate and their relationship with the Creator; in addition, they are aware of the fact that everything belongs to Him, subsists with Him, and is bound to return and on the way of returning to Him. Those who are able to observe existence from this peak clearly see what is light and what is of light, what is separation and what is union, what is the pang of separation and what is the delight of reunion, what is transient and who is eternal, what is bound to decay and what is permanent. They confirm the truth of their theoretical knowledge on the basis of witnessing, observation, and experience.
Since this peak is also the horizon from which the Prophets, pure, saintly scholars, and saints observe and monitor the realms beyond, it is such an awe-inspiring and delightful area of special study for the heroes of meeting with God that it is impossibly difficult for there to be another Divine favor in the world equal to it. Reaching this point is a supreme attainment and rank; the favors that emanate from there are many and multifarious, and the point itself is where the world and the Hereafter are observed together. However, the hero of meeting who is distinguished with such degree of Divine attention and favors is and should be extremely reticent about the favors with which they have been honored, and is absolutely modest. They try to conceal their relationship with God even from their own eyes. Just as Divine Grandeur and Dignity require that there to be veils before the acts of God’s Power in the corporeal world, so too, the one who has reached the final point of journeying toward God and has been established there should not reveal the gifts that emanate at the peak of meeting with God. Even while they continue their relationships with the realms beyond the peak, they should frequently look down at the first step of the stairway which they have used to rise to that level and sigh in the consideration of: “We have not been able to know You as knowing You requires, O the All-Known!”, thus admitting their inability to worship God as the duty of worshipping God requires. As a result of this realization, they say: “We have not been able to worship You as worshipping You requires, O the All-Worshipped!” Thinking: “Why am I blessed with these Divine compliments and consideration even though I have never done anything to deserve them?”, the traveler should consider that whatever favor they have been honored with is purely a Divine gift.
If one with true knowledge of God, whose eyes are fixed only on the lights and mysteries beyond the Names and Attributes, attempts to reveal the Divine mysteries that they have perceived, they will not only be stunted, but will also cause shock and astonishment in the spirits of others. For this reason, such a person keeps their love and yearning buried in their bosom as something secret that has been entrusted to them, and they never reveal, nor are they permitted to reveal, the mysteries that belong to the realms beyond to those who have not yet been able to surpass themselves.
In fact, there are many who talk about these mysteries, but I think what they relate as mysteries must be their dreams or daydreams. All of those who talk about meeting with God are not ones who have reached the final point of spiritual journeying to meet with Him, just as everyone who follows a spiritual path is not one with true knowledge of God. One who has true knowledge of God is a hero confirmed by Divine grace, and is one who clearly observes the realms of Divine Names and Attributes and reads and interprets what they observe correctly and without throwing others into confusion. This hero’s perception and awareness of the meanings that radiate from the corporeal or physical realm is called “ knowledge which is true,” while their observation of the lights and mysteries that belong to the realms beyond and further than beyond is termed as “ knowledge of the truth.” The Absolute Pourer of blessings causes this hero of spiritual knowledge to be aware of the mystery of His Glory beyond description, perception, and comparison, making this person happy and rejoiced with His special attention and consideration. Even though the mind cannot comprehend the true nature and occurrence of this mysterious favor, the conscious nature or conscience feels this trust with its particular capacity in waves of awe and amazement. The tongue prefers silence and the spirit falls silent in contemplation.
“ Knowledge of God’s Acts” is a Divine gift that may be bestowed on every initiate; “ knowledge of Divine Attributes and Essential Qualities or Characteristics” is a heavenly offering to the elect with a special capacity. “Knowledge of the truth” is a Divine favor and award for the most elect who have attained the level of developing their angelic aspect. Let those who are incapable of understanding continue not to understand, and those who are reluctant to accept insist on non-acceptance, those who are distinguished with knowledge of God constantly observe these mysteries and lights with the eyes of their souls and live in ecstasy.
In the eyes of the soul of those with knowledge of God
there exists the light of spiritual knowledge;
God’s help comes to them with
the attainment of the mystery of this knowledge.
As was summarized before (in the 2nd volume of Emerald Hills of the Heart) under the title of Ma‘rifa ( Knowledge of God), the attainments on the path toward knowledge of God are a mount, while those who have attained this knowledge are the rider, and their knowledge is their capital. For this reason, those who are devoid of this knowledge cannot traverse the distance from Him nor reach the point of meeting with Him, while a hero of this knowledge and meeting never thinks of turning back or being the lover of others. Why and how can such a person think such a thing when, in the words of Yunus,14 they have found the choicest honey or the true source of all honey and have been saved from the love of their own soul. They have attained “the manifest conquest” or even “the absolute conquest,” which means being on the horizon of the manifestation of Divine Essence. Some of those who have been honored with this attainment at times live in such absorption and intoxication, like a happy one in whom the Lights of God are reflected, that they are aware of no one other than God, including themselves.
It should also be pointed out that there are so many degrees and levels of feeling and experience in this extraordinary attainment called “meeting with God” that none of the beloved servants of God who travel along the same route or axis can completely perceive the nature of another’s meeting with Him. Just as saints can know the ranks of each other only if God allows them to, the heroes of meeting being able to perceive the nature of others’ meeting with Him is also dependent on Divine inspiration. Unless God makes it known, no one can know what or where somebody is; students or initiates cannot know the mysteries of the guide’s or master’s meeting with God, and the master or guide cannot discover how a perfect student or an initiate with knowledge of God travels toward and realizes meeting with Him. It is the Creator Who knows everything, and others can know only to the extent that God allows them to know.
For this reason, as it was also the case with some of the Companions of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, since many perfect human beings, at least many travelers toward God who are candidates for perfection—even though they are favored with knowledge of God and meeting with God—cannot or are not allowed to know the horizon of those who have close relationships with God or the peak where they stand, they may not accept others of the same degree of nearness to God as them, even though the latter are pure, saintly scholars who are heirs to the mission of the Prophets; they may even go so far as to disparage them. This standpoint may sometimes be a risky trial for the travelers on the path toward God. Although, provided they keep silent about others and purify their hearts of bad moral qualities, they are candidates to be the doves of the heaven of sainthood, they suffer losses on the way to earning, either due to their biased love of their own ways or their hostility toward others or envy of God’s favors on others, and cause the people of heresy and unbelief to rejoice by taking up a stance against God’s close friends. Another cause of loss is that one sees oneself and their group as being great and qualified to guide others, while perceiving of others as insignificant and in need of guidance.
There are as many paths toward God as the breaths of creatures and it is possible for everyone who travels toward Him sincerely to attain a certain degree of nearness to God and to realize some sort of meeting with Him. It is not vanity, self-esteem, self-assertion, or pretension, but modesty, self-denial, and mortification that are fundamentally important in traveling toward God. No one knows the number of the people who have been paid no importance by others have reached the Ultimate Truth, while many others who are self-esteemed and hold a position in people’s eyes have remained at the half-way point.
I think it is fitting to put an end to this parenthetical discussion with the following stanza by Ibrahim Haqqi of Erzurum:15 Eastern Turkey. He was a prolific, encyclopedic Sufi guide and writer, who wrote
Haqqi, come and do not reveal your secret,
If you intend to become matured on this path.
Do not look down on the people who are ruined in appearance,
There are ruins that hold secret treasures.
* * *
It is primarily dependent on God’s grace and help—may God never leave us deprived of His grace and help—and secondarily on the endeavor (himma) of the servant that the one who wills or the willing one can desire God, and that an initiate can travel toward Him in accordance with the rules of travel, and that one who has reached the end of the path to reach Him can traverse the distances originating in themselves, and that all these Divine favors and blessings continue. Endeavor is an important provision for one who has reached the end of the path and God’s intimacy or special nearness and treatment is a special favor of Divine companionship for such a hero.
When used concerning the servants of God, the term himma ( endeavor) means trying, self-exertion, making an effort, resolution, starting an approvable task with sincere intention and feeling the excitement of responsibility with all the strength of the heart; when this term is used to refer to God, it denotes His response to all these activities (with special succor and reward).
Endeavor is an important dynamic for the traveler to the Ultimate Truth. The peaks that seem to be insurmountable are usually surmounted through endeavor, and it is also through endeavor that the steps along the stairway toward God and the pleasures and states of meeting with Him are determined. However, the travelers, the heroes of endeavor, are different from one another. A traveler who is always alert, in continuous pursuit of the realization of a goal with all their outer and inner senses, and always dreams of meeting with God with their eyes fixed on the door—such a traveler has a posture particular to themselves in the location where they are. While the posture of those who always use their free will to be able to fulfill the Divine purpose of their creation in all their acts is one of standing in perfect respect at the door of God. The worshipful attitude of another, of the hero of meeting with God, the one who has assigned all their endeavors, every day, hour, minute, and second of their life to earning God’s approval and good pleasure, and who is distant from all considerations of state and station, who always thinks of and mentions God alone, and turns to God on the way of knowing Him with perfect certainty, and who is forgetful of their own desires, seeking God alone, preferring a single instant spent in His sacred company to any other achievement—this worshipful attitude of such a hero of meeting is completely different.
In fact, being freed from all other physical and spiritual relationships, our turning to the Ultimate Truth with a feeling of great need and melting away in Him is God’s right on us and our duty toward Him. A human being has a single heart that can bear the love of a single beloved. For this reason, we should assign this Divine intellect of ours to His love alone, closing all doors on everything but Him, and fixing our eyes on Him in utter oblivion of even ourselves, with a yearning to meet with the All-Loved and Besought One. A person is valuable to the extent of their endeavors. Thus, one who has reached God after a faultless journey is also a hero of endeavor.
The author of al-Lujja16 expresses this heroism as follows:
If you want to fly upwards, unfold your wings of endeavor,
For what is primarily required for flying are wings.
Those who have kept their wings of endeavor stretched out have, by God’s leave, neither remained half-way nor fallen prey to wild beasts.
Some have interpreted endeavor as purifying one’s bodily life from attachment to anything worldly, one’s spiritual life from the pursuit of spiritual pleasures, and one’s heart from consideration of Paradise and its pleasures, thus being turned to the Truly Worshiped, Deservedly Besought One with all of one’s senses and faculties. I think they refer to the whole-hearted devotion which is mentioned in the verse, And keep in remembrance the Name of your Lord (and mention It in your Prayer), and devote yourself to Him wholeheartedly (73:8), which expresses a special attitude of nearness to God for those who have a special relationship with Him, and is a call to a different, special meeting with Him. Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, was the unequalled hero of such whole-hearted devotion and the foremost addressee of such a call. He covered his distance from God and was the nearest of all to Him. Despite this, Prophet Muhammad never slackened in his endeavors and used to make extraordinary efforts to be able to remain turned to Him and to meet with Him. He was in continuous pursuit of “what is more and further,” for he was the guide of all initiates, and the leader of all who reached and would reach Him. For this reason, he guided everybody to the path of becoming close to God and instructed them in the manners that were to be assumed for His company and His special nearness. This path requires endeavor, and that horizon wants freedom from any inclination to anything else but Him. How beautifully the author of al-Minhaj speaks:
You will never be able to have special nearness
to Him in His private “lodge,”
Until you are completely freed from inclination
to any other but Him.
It is a requirement of courtesy to take off one’s worn-out clothes so that one can don the garment of satin offered by the Sultan. Being a most important aspect of human nature, the heart is a home of God in the sense that it is where His special attention and favors are manifested. Unless it is purified of any trace that belongs to others than Him, the Sultan will not turn to it with favor, and without this, meeting with Him is not possible. Everyone who has arrived at the end of the path and whom the Ultimate Truth has honored by making them aware of His nearness experiences some degree of meeting, according to their capacity and the breadth and brightness of their mirror of spirit. The meeting of some is crowned with God’s special nearness and relationship and the one who has attained this degree of meeting is regarded as an “intimate one.” Literally meaning a close, bosom friend, this term in the terminology of some Sufi masters denotes one who feels togetherness with God at heart and in spirit to the extent that they only think of Him, with everybody else having completely disappeared from sight and being removed from the heart. This is companionship with God that is experienced beyond time and space and beyond all modalities of quality and quantity.
Some heroes of meeting voice this honor of special nearness by continuously mentioning God with His Acts, Names, and Attributes. This favor is called “ intimacy with mentioning of God.” There is another, deeper state which they call “ intimacy with God.” In this state one is completely freed from any concern for anything but Him, remaining continuously turned to Him with the sensations of all one’s spiritual faculties, and constantly breathing His presence without ever thinking of anything or anyone other than Him. In a blessed, figurative saying which is related as a hadith qudsi—the Prophetic saying whose meaning was inspired in the Prophet’s heart directly by God—God says: “I am together with one who mentions Me and I am an intimate friend of one who has acquired intimacy with Me.” In another narration in which Prophet David, upon him be peace, is addressed, it is said: “O David! Yearn for Me and acquire intimacy with Me. Part company with all else other than Me.” We should understand that by the phrase “parting company with” or “keeping apart from all else than God Almighty,” the travelers of the path to God should not feel any concern for anything or anyone but God on account of that thing or person itself. Nothing has an existence independent of Him and everything depends on His Names and Attributes. For this reason, those who have true knowledge of God always perceive the Names in whatever there is in the universe and feel a form of relationship with the creation on account of the Names Which are the source of their existence; thus they are gradually freed from other connections and are able to turn to the All-Sacred Being called by the Names, beginning to breathe “intimacy with mention of God” and “ intimacy with God.”
Imam al-Ghazzali17 reminds us that intimacy with God is an exalted position which every traveler toward God cannot attain; he tells us the following:
Every hero who attempts to reach God
cannot grasp intimacy with God.
Even those who resort to every means
they can find cannot perceive it.
Those of intimacy with God are all noble,
generous, purified heroes;
They always work and act purely for the sake of God.18
Those who have intimacy with God are the favorites of the realms beyond heavens and the most fortunate among those with nearness to God. They have traversed the distance that originates from their own selves, felt His nearness to everything, enjoyed special compliments as the ones who have reached Him, and have been firmly established in His intimacy.
In the state of intimacy that is beyond any measure, Divine manifestations are always felt on different wavelengths. It sometimes happens that certain manifestations of Divine Majesty touch and stroke the faculties of those who have reached Him, during which they feel enveloped with feelings of fear and awe. After a time, there is a period in which the manifestations of His Grace surround them, and at this time they find themselves with more profound sensations of intimacy. In the former state, those who have reached Him tremble and shake like trees and turn pale like the leaves turning in the fall. When faced by the showers of the latter sort of manifestation, they breathe: “I have found the honey of all honey, the source of all honey; let whatever I have be plundered.” In an atmosphere in which they continuously feel and experience new instances of attention and favors, they regard everything, including their own selves, as being among that which is other than Him, and thus try to keep distant even from themselves. Even if they live among people, they never get entangled in any veil, and hear, see, and speak about Him alone. They even avoid imagining anything that is transient or bound to decay, their eyes are closed to anything other than His Light, they regard any speeches that are not about Him as empty words, and react against any manners, speeches, or acts that do not remind of Him or cause to be aware of Him or increase the relationship with Him. Whenever they hear a speech or see an action that is not related to Him, they feel as if their heart was bleeding.
Those distinguished with true knowledge of God and self-possession always preserve their respectful attitude both in the state of meeting with Him and intimacy with Him. They are always in a state of fear, due reverence, and awe. Whatever state they are in, they manifest good manners and modesty. Even though they sometimes feel a tendency toward affectation and utterances that do not comply with the essentials of the Shari‘a in the face of the compassionate and complimentary manifestations of Divine Grace, they immediately tremble and pull themselves together due to their continuous awareness and self-possession, bowing in utter respect and assuming the manners that are required by their positions.
All that we have been trying so far to explain concerning “the one who has reached” are certain features of the states of those who have reached the end of their spiritual journey and met with God. Those who do not experience or taste these cannot perceive or know them, and it is not known to what extent those who know reveal what they know. The sweetness of the honey can only be perceived when the honey is tasted, the smell of a rose is only sensed when the rose is smelt, and the spiritual states can only be known when they are experienced. A friend of the Ultimate Truth expresses his experiences to those who have not had these experiences as follows:
If you are a weeping nightingale, come to the rose-garden;
Attain fresh fragrance from the fresh roses.
O God! I ask You for belief which has penetrated my heart and certainty which does not mislead, so that I may know certainly that nothing but what You have preordained will not happen to me; and bestow blessing and peace on our master Muhammad, and on his Family and Companions.
By M. Fethullah Gulen
13 Meeting with God and Wasil (the one who has reached or attained) have been described in the third volume of Emerald Hills of the Heart – Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism, pp. 16–24. Here it is described together with “the one who wills” and “the initiate” on account of the final gifts that come in return for meeting with God or reaching the end of the journey, and the self-possession that is required in return for these gifts.
14 Yunus Emre (1240–1320). One of the most famous Sufi folk poets who have made a great impact on the Muslim-Turkish culture. His philosophy, metaphysics and humanism have been examined in various symposiums and conferences on a regular basis both in Turkey and abroad. (Tr.)
15 Ibrahim Haqqi of Erzurum (1703–1780) was one of the most outstanding figures in the Ottoman Turkey of the 18th century. He lived in Erzurum and Siirt in in many subjects such as theology, morality, mathematics, astronomy, and medicine. His Ma‘rifetname (“The Book of Knowledge and Skills”) is very famous and still being widely read. (Tr.)
16 The author of al-Lujja is Mawlana Nuru’d-Din ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn Ahmad al-Jami‘ (1414–1492). He is commonly called the last great classical poet of Persia, and was a saint. He composed numerous lyrics and idylls, as well as many works in prose. His Salaman wu Absal is an allegory of profane and sacred love. Some of his other works include Haft Awrang, Tuhfatu’l-Ahrar, Layla wu Majnun, Fatihatu’sh-Shabab, Lawa’ih, ad-Durrah. (Tr.)
17 Imam Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazzali (1058–1111): A major theologian, jurist, and sage who was considered a reviver (of Islam’s purity and vitality) during his time. Known in Europe as Algazel, he was the architect of Islam’s later development. He wrote many books, the most famous being Ihyau ‘Ulumi’d-Din (“Reviving the Religious Sciences”). (Tr.)
18 Ihyau Ulumi’d-Din (Turkish trans.), 4:340.