Essential to the progress of the follower of a shaykh towards the rending of veils and victory over this illusionary world is consistent and daily Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation.
Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation is synonymous with the technical Sufi term which translates to “Noble Connection” and has always been a central practice of Islamic spirituality—Sufism. This science of contemplation is the subject of an entire section in the works of Imam Ghazzali (q), and it has always been a core practice of the Masters of the Naqshbandi Order. Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation may also be seen as synonymous with the more general practice of meditation that is so central to many of the Eastern spiritual traditions, the goal of which has always been the fusion of the individual back into the oneness of the Universal Reality.
The default condition of mankind is immersion in the illusion of this world. For the uninitiated, that illusion is reality—the material world of the senses is all that exists. However, as we progress along the path of spiritual development, our understanding of reality changes. We learn that this world is completely unreal. We come to understand that there is another reality—an authentic reality—behind this realm of illusion, a reality from which we are veiled, but which, nonetheless, is the only reality that really matters to us.
Once we reach this level of understanding, once we come to accept the illusory nature of the world around us and begin to discern the reality that lies behind it, we begin searching for a doorway through which we can pass out of this realm of delusion into the realm of realities. Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation is that doorway.
Through Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation, we detach ourselves from this false world and immerse ourselves in reality. Only by cutting ourselves off from the unending onslaught of the senses, by tuning out the distractions of this world, can we hope to escape from its tyranny and oppression.
We must recognize that there is no special reward for doing what is required. If we perform the daily prayers, pay the poor-tax, fast, and make the pilgramages, we will only have done what our Lord commanded—thereby, God-willing ensuring our salvation in the next life. But there is no trophy for completing these basic requirements. There is no trophy for fleeing from a burning building—the one who escapes the fire by virtue of that fact alone. If we want greater rewards than that we must look farther. Those who want to reach higher stations must work harder.
Endless treasures await those who strive towards their Lord, but each treasure has its key that must be unearthed. Performing supererogatory devotions, praying extra prayers, and making remembrance of God and recitation of His Names and recitations of prayers (all such remembrance and recitation is referred to under the general Sufi term of “remembrance” or dhikr) are all keys that unlock such secrets. But the most important key, the one that unlocks the door to the Divine Presence, is Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation.
All prophets came to their peoples urging them to see beyond this world to the heavenly plane beyond this life. But we cannot enter into this new world without leaving the old one behind. First, we must extricate ourselves from the tangled web of ego and attachments that binds us here. This act of extrication is referred to as “negation.” When we manage to negate ourselves, when we manage to die before we die, then we enter fully into the world of realities.
Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation is the first step on this path of self-negation. The practice of Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation has no rational explanation in the terms of this world, because in its essence it is a negation of this world. It is based on spiritual rather than material principles—chief among being the existence of two types of sight which function simultaneously in each person.
Principles of Sight
One form of sight is limited and requires a medium in which to function. The other is unlimited, functioning independently of any medium.
The medium within which the first form of sight functions is physical space. This form of seeing can only perceive that which exists in the dimensions of physical space. Even within those dimensions, it is extremely limited. For example, it can only detect that which reflects or emits wavelengths of light within a narrow band of the electromagnetic spectrum.
It cannot perceive very small objects without the aid of special mechanical or electronic aids. It can only encompass objects with an unobstructed line to the person who sees. This mode of seeing also relies on physical action of the eyes to transmit the images they perceive onto the screen of the mind.
The other form of seeing is free of such limitations, and functions on the plane of heavenly realities. The images it apprehends are projected directly onto the screen of the mind without the intervention of external organs. It is this mode of sight that functions during Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation.
Seeing one’s spiritual guide by means of this second form of sight. It is the seeker’s attempt to concentrate his thoughts on the screen of the mind, liberating his perceptions from physical limitations. The more frequently he is able to project a thought form upon that mental screen, the more vividly that mental pattern will be realized within the mind. That is why maintaining consistency is so important with this practice, and indeed with all spiritual practices.
Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation may then be seen as a mental approach whose ultimate goal is to allow the seeker to travel from this world of illusion to the Divine Presence. When we visualize our spiritual mentor, the knowledge of the Divine Attributes that operate through him is reflected back upon our minds. With frequent repetition, the mind of the follower reaches the level of enlightenment, acquires the ability to communicate directly with the Mentor, and acquires spiritual awareness of the Mentor. In the science of Sufism, this state is referred to as the station of Affinity. Attuning oneself with someone more pious than ourselves.
The best and most reliable way of enjoying this affinity is through the longing passion of love for the Mentor. By maintaining the practice of Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation, the mind of the Mentor continues to transfer knowledge and understanding to the mind & Heart of the follower, according to the intensity or degree of this love. As this love grows and the bond of Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation intensifies, the Divine Lights operating in and through the Mentor—which are, in fact, reflections of the Beatific Vision of Allah are transferred to the follower. This enables him to become familiar with the Lights of the Divine Presence, so that he can experience the Beatific Vision and open the doorway within his heart to the Presence of Allah / God / The Divine Presence. In Sufism, this state is referred to as the station of “Becoming One with the Mentor.”
These Lights and this Vision of the Divine Presence are not personal traits of the Mentor. Just as the follower is able to experience these Divine Realities through his spiritual connection with the Mentor, the Mentor experiences them through his spiritual connection with the Holy Prophet [s]. The Mentor, in his turn, absorbed the knowledge and attributes of the Prophet [s] through the same devoted attention and concentration. In the language of Sufism, this state of affinity between the Mentor and the Prophet [s] is referred to as the station of “Oneness with the Holy Prophet.” And it is through this spiritual union with the Prophet [s] that the Mentor is able to share his abilities with the follower.
In the state of “Oneness with the Holy Prophet,[s]” the follower is gradually consumed by love, passion, and longing for the Prophet [s] until, step-by-step, he assimilates and apprehends the knowledge of the Prophet [s]. At that auspicious moment, the knowledge and learning of the Prophet [s] is transferred to the seeker in accordance with his capacity. He also absorbs the traits and attributes of the Holy Prophet [s], again each according to his capacity, aptitude, and ability.
From this exalted state, the follower continues to progress by developing his affinity with the Prophet [s]. Ultimately, he reaches the point of being able to truly and authentically acknowledge the Lordship of Allah recognizing God as the Lord of All the Worlds with full comprehension and acceptance of the meaning of that Lordship. At this point, he declares, “Yes, indeed, You are our Lord God!” This is the station of affinity with Allah, and is referred to in Sufism as the state of “Oneness with Allah,” or simply “Oneness.”
Where the follower goes from this station—if he is granted the ability to reach it and continue beyond—is beyond the power of words to narrate or explain, for it is a realm of spiritual subtlety that cannot be described.
Core Practices of Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation
Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation is the key and essence to spiritual development, for it is nothing other than the development of excellence, which is the highest level of spirituality as taught by Prophetic Reality. It is the very annihilation of oneself in the presence of the Divine, in the light and reality of the Mentor, who is in reality the disciple’s source, and the origin of the light of his or her soul.
Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation is thus a return to one’s true and perfected self. It is the fastest and most direct method for spiritual progress. Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation is making migration from one’s self to Allah, Ellohim, Yewah, Ya Huwa, God Almighty, The Divine Presence. It is migration from the false identity this world has assigned the individual to the real identity that Allah has created and which exists in His Divine Presence.
Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation is the perfect method for the development of spiritual consciousness, the awakening of the heart, soul, and the mind’s light—otherwise dormant. Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation is the denial of the senses which enslave one to this world. Through Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation, one may awaken to the true reality. Thus it is the essence of asceticism, and the necessary path for seekers of the truth, for those men of God who willfully and completely turn away from this world, who will not and cannot rest until they arrive at their divine destinations.
Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation is also the means of healing the body with the light of the Divine. It leads to purification of the blood and the development of mastery over one’s electromagnetic energy field. It is the key to the process of alchemy whereby the light, energy, and electricity of the Divine Presence change the mercury of this world that poisons one’s system into the gold of the blessed Prophetic Light.
Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation is reality. It is moving from slavery and bondage towards emancipation and freedom. In summary and essence, to practice Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation is to die to the world and awaken into reality. It is, therefore, the aim, goal, and purpose of all spiritual practice.
Preparing for Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation
The ideal time for Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation—and indeed for spiritual endeavors in general—is at night, preferably after midnight through to early morning. This is the time when the world is asleep, but the lovers and seekers of God are awake and traveling towards reality and their Divine destinations. The plane of consciousness is made clear when this world is veiled by night, and the chaotic world is at rest. That is when the mind and heart may operate most efficiently and effectively.
Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation is actually a state of heedfulness that must be constantly and perpetually maintained during the day. Those committed to this path seek to maintain a state of mindfulness in each breath, not forgetting their Lord for even a moment. This said, the quiet hours of the night are the best time to begin to develop this practice. Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation before midnight is very slow; after midnight, it is very fast.
Before beginning Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation, The Angelic Power of Water, the source of all Life. The seeker must first make ablution with the realization of its inner aspects, washing away the burdens and darkness of this world from mind and body, igniting and sealing the energy that lies in one’s being. The extremities washed during ablution are your primary means of interacting with this world, and any taint left by that contact must be cleaned off. The seeker must also wash private parts with water after using the restroom. Cleanliness is close to Godliness!
Just as it is important to maintain the purity of your body, it is also important to maintain a proper physical appearance. The most direct method for establishing your identity as a traveler upon the path of self-purification is to adopt the correct outward appearance, abandoning the dress of worldliness and instead wearing the apparel of the next life. In doing so, you leave behind your old identity, that slave of the material world, and assert your true identity as a servant of the Divine.
The dress most conducive to spirituality is the clothing worn by The Prophetic example[s], the traditional clothing worn by the prophets of Allah. The follower must wear his best clothing. The ideal color is white, for it best deflects the negativity and bad energy of this world.
We must hold fast to all the elements of Modesty.
You should set aside a small corner of your house for spiritual activity, a niche which will become blessed and charged with angelic light and presence. If possible, select a part of the house into which light cannot easily penetrate. Lay out a nice prayer carpet, orienting it in the direction of prayer. Place a candle or oil lamp before it in emulation of The Prophet Moses (as) who, in seeking the presence of the Divine, traveled towards the Burning Bush. It is also recommended that you light either incense or a scented oil diffuser to attract angels and positive energy. Finally, you should keep a picture of your Mentor nearby as a spiritual compass with which to align yourself and to facilitate the connection to his presence and reality.
When we speak of creating complete darkness in the meditation place, that means a complete absence of physical light. It does not mean an absence of spiritual light, for that is precisely what we are seeking in Muraqaba / Sufi Meditation. The best way to seek such spiritual light is to find a room that no physical light can enter. If you do not have access to such a place, then go to the lowest level of your home and cover yourself with a blanket so that you can perceive no light (if you do this then of course you will have to modify spiritual exercises involving candles—do not burn yourself).
One should state one’s intention as prescribed:
“I intend the forty (days of seclusion); I intend seclusion in the House of God; I intend seclusion; I intend isolation; I intend discipline (of the ego); I intend to travel in God’s Path; I intend to fast for the sake of God in this Place of God.”