Somewhere about the time that I was admitted in the Woodburn School, Calcutta, I had my first experience of a train journey, when I was taken to Benares to my maternal grandfather who was a mystic. He perceiving my interest in charms and magical practices, one day in an affectionate manner gave me the advice to aspire not to be an Amil (one who practices charms) but to be a Kamil (perfect). He explained to me that a mystic who is satisfied to remain an Amil belongs to a very low degree of mysticism, but a Kamil belongs to that high stage of it where magic and charms count as nothing, for he attains the true knowledge of God and, living in close fellowship with Him, surpasses in dignity all earthly glories, even those of kings and angels.
That day was a landmark in the experience of my religious life. Under his guidance I began to study the higher phases of mysticism. I was deeply impressed with the description of the journey of a mystic; a new and unexplored supernatural region lay before me. The perils of the journey thrilled me and the glory of the successive stages inspired me with an intense desire to become a salik, a traveller. I realized that the books fail to give a true and adequate knowledge of mysticism, and once again I came to feel that the true knowledge of God was not a matter of book learning but of experience. It comes by illumination and revelation. Only under the discipleship of a murshid, a recognised leader of an established religious order, could the journey be undertaken.
With an earnest longing I sought to be initiated into a religious order, but I was refused on account of my young age. I felt particularly attached to the Qadri Order, for as my grandfather was a member of it, I had an opportunity of studying its characteristics more closely, and he had extolled its dignity and privileges in such glorious language as to inspire me with an earnest longing to be its votary. Constant refusal to be initiated in the order only resulted in greater persistency on my part to seek admission into it. Perseverance such as mine was not to go without its reward, for eventually one day I was introduced to a pir, by my grandfather, of his fraternity. He was a Khalifa, successor to my grandfather's pir, Didar Ali Shah of Ghazipur. After he had satisfied himself as to my conduct, motives and my general knowledge of Islam, he consented to initiate me by performing the rite known technically as
tawajjuh, but refused to make me a disciple on account of my young age.
The manner of the performance of this mystical rite is no secret, for it is described in general terms in books, nevertheless, a promise of secrecy is extracted from the candidate before it is performed. A detailed account of it occurs in my book Sufism (see pages 87, 88, and 99). It may suffice here, however, to say that it is regarded as a means of "transmitting" spiritual power from a pir to another. The degree of its effectiveness depends upon the degree of a pir's own spiritual power. In the exercise of Tawajjuh by an accredited pir a kind of "experience" is certainly received. In consequence of the fact that the exercise is directed to the heart of the recipient, the heart is the seat of the mystical experience gained by tawajjuh. The general nature of the experience must vary with every individual, excepting of course, in its essential features which in every case must remain the same. As to the nature of the personal experience in the exercise of tawajjuh, the lips of the disciples are sealed under a solemn oath of secrecy. What happens in that particular moment and what he experiences personally within, are never to be disclosed to another except to his pir to whom the experience must be described minutely, that he judges the progress of his disciple. Some western writers have explained it in the terms of hypnotism, in any case, the essential feature of this experience may be described as a kind of 'illumination.' It at least gave me an assurance of the existence of another reality which lies beyond the senses, and of the presence of inner perception independent
of the organ of sight. It corroborated the statement of a Muslim mystic: "When a gnostic's spiritual eye is opened, his bodily eye is shut." On the other hand this does not produce a moral transformation in the recipient of tawajjuh, though as a result of the experience gained by it a moral transformation may follow.
The practice of Dhikr forms the most important part of the Sufi life, and I was instructed immediately after tawajjuh, in those forms of it which are known as Pas-anfas and Habs-i-dam and are described in my book Sufism (see pages 97 and 99). The rest I was to learn from my grandfather according to the progress of my journey.
After the ceremony of the initiation into the mystic order of the Qadirya fraternity I became - to speak in Sufi terms - a Salik, or traveller, and under the guidance of my preceptor I was to travel along at-Taliqat, the Path, and pass from stage to stage meeting in the unseen world Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad and finally to reach and enjoy the Union with Allah. Formerly Allah was to me a terrible King, the neglect of whose commands was to be punished very severely. Consequently I had to take great precautions to prevent any thought from wandering about in prayers, and so to create a sense of fear during prayer I used to imagine a terrible God watching every detail of my prayers, but now this Mighty Avenger was my Beloved, and I a lover. I was not to follow the letter of the law but its spirit. The ritual prayer was not something ceremonial, but its every posture had a meaning, and I was to discover their inner significance
in course of the progress of my journey. The ritual namaz must become a privilege and an occasion of niyaz, a supplication for the favour of His fellowship as a mystic I acquired the desire for the purification of my soul, and a thirst after God. The practices of Dhikr would often send me in a state of semi-unconsciousness and sometime in a state of ecstacy. It was a glorious privilege to desire nothing but Allah, to know nothing but Allah, to be aware of the existence of nothing but that of Allah.
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