Love (‘eshq) has five phases:
1. The first phase is fuqdaan-e-qalb (the losing of one’s heart). It is a well-known saying in the Arab language:
He who has not lost his heart is not a lover.
A poet expresses this idea in his own words:
Ze delam neshaan che khaahi ke ze del khabr nadaaram
To begu ke del che baashad man azu asar nadaaram
Why do you make a search for my heart for I am myself unaware thereof?
Tell me yourself: What is a heart? I do not find any sign thereof.
The reason for this is that whosoever has a heart heeds its presence alone and is oblivious of love:
Ke goft man khabri daaram az haqiqat-e ‘eshq
Dorugh goft ke az khish-e u khabr daarad
He said that he was aware of the essence of love.
He lied for he was only aware of himself.
When Dhu’n Nun, the Egyptian Sufi, was asked: ‘Who is the true lover?’ – he replied: ‘When you see someone who wears a worried look, has lost his heart and has no control over reason, sheds tears very often and is desirous of death and extinction and likes all that is modest and well-behaved, and finds time for devotion, know that he is a true lover’.
However it can be said that there are people who are able to hide all these things from others. They may shed a tear in the night but during the day they appear to be quite cheerful. The path of love, of course, ever goes on.
2. The second phase is taa’assof (grief, regret). Here the lover who has lost his heart and is separated from his Beloved is always in grief. Qur’an 12:84 has described the plight of the prophet Jacob in the following verse:
How great is my grief for Joseph!
And his eyes became white with sorrow
And he fell into silent melancholy.
3. The third phase is wajd (ecstasy; wajada is to find) and ecstasy is such an inner state that it cannot really be described. Hafez, as ‘tongue of the unseen’, however writes:
Motreb che parde saakht ke dar parde-ye samaa’
Bar ahl-e wajd o haal dar-e haa-i o hu-i bebast
What note played the minstrel in the circle of music,
That the people of ecstasy and spiritual state closed the door to all noise?
For the ecstatic the whole universe becomes narrow like the circle of a ring. Even the vast world of the angels (malakut) appears to him or her of no consequence. In case you experience this phase you’ll not find comfort and rest anywhere.
4. The fourth phase is bi-sabri or impatience. During this phase the lover loses his or her vigour and strength. When you experience this then your life catches fire, as it were, in its yearning for the Beloved. The flame of longing is then keeping you excited and you’ll pass night and day in shouting and clamouring for your Beloved:
Taa bud maraa taaqat budam ba shekebaa’i
Chun kaar bajaan aamad zin pas man o rosvaai
Sar-panje sabram raa pichied o berun shod del
Ai sabr hamien budat baazu-i tavaanaa’i
I was patient, as long as I had strength.
I suffered humiliation after the departure of my strength.
Overcoming patience my heart rebelled.
O patience! Could you only muster this much of strength?
A Sufi has said: ‘Love and patience are the two antonyms, which can never be reconciled’. These are the words of a lover:
Deli ke ‘aasheq o saaber bud magar sang ast
Ze ‘eshq taa besaburi hazaar farsang ast.
The heart of a lover who is patient is nothing but a stone.
Between love and patience are a thousand miles.
5. The fifth phase in the description of the path of the lover has been called by the Chishtiyya Sufis siyaanat (preserving; defence, protection; preservation; support). The lover’s behaviour becomes like that of a madman with eyes shedding tears, the heart being seared, running distracted here and there in lanes and streets, and wandering in lonely places. He or she does not know anything but the Beloved and utters no words except the names of the Beloved. In his or her madness he talks to stones and grass. He tells his message to the morning breeze. Inanimate things – so it appears – talk to the lover, who may have the experience described by Shakespeare:
And this our life,
Exempt from public haunts,
Finds tongues in trees,
Books in running brooks,
Sermons in stones…
Lovers keep alive by the scent of the Beloved alone and are resurrected uttering His name. One of the Sufis has written (and please correct possible mistakes):
Buy-e mahbub chu bar khaak-e ahbaab gozarad
Che ‘ajab gar beshavad zende azu ‘azm-e ramim.
When the scent of the Beloved passes over the mortal remains of the lovers
Then it is not strange that even decayed bones may come to life.
The ninth of the Chishti stages of love is called enslavement (taim; Is this a case of a spelling-mistake? It has not been translated by Steingass as enslavement but as: a servant. I wonder if there is a word in Arabic or Persian looking like taim but with a somewhat different rendering in Roman characters? Suggestions?). At this stage the manacles of humiliation and submission are put around the neck of the lover whose feet are bound by the fetters of slavery. The ring in the ear of a Chishtiyya Sufi can be seen as a symbol of this slavery.
A Chishti pir has put these lines of Jami (d. 1492) into English:
Notwithstanding a king You are and we beggars in abjection,
Do not remove the skirt, for we are delved deep in devotion.
As we have the mark of Your slavery engraved,
Wherever we go, we are a king without doubt and discussion.
Jami be used to tyranny and hardships,
You know that we are not fit for faithfulness and submission.
The ninth stage has also five phases.
1. The first phase is called tafarrod (isolation, detachment, singularity, separation, i.e separation from the rest of the world). Reaching this phase the lover is isolated from all except the Beloved, and thus he attains union with the Beloved:
Dar khish gomam keh man cheh naamam
Ma’shuqam o ‘aasheqam kodaamam.
I am lost to myself, what is my name?
Am I a beloved or a lover, what am I?
The lover is now freed of his ego:
Hadith-e man varaqi baaz kon keh man nah manam
Hame to gashtam o inak hadith shod kutaah
My story is a page, turn it so that I am not there!
I have completely been transformed into You and now the story ends.
The lover and the Beloved are one, there is no more duality:
‘Aasheq o ma’shuq o ‘eshq har seh yaki daan dar asl
Farq-e miyaan man o to hast haqiqat hu ast
Know this: The lover, the Beloved and love are in fact one!
There may appear to be a difference between you and me, but in reality only He exists.
‘Aasheq mahv dar ‘eshq o ‘eshq mahv dar ma’shuq
The lover has been effaced in love and love has been effaced in the Beloved.
These verses of shaykh Mansur al-Hallaaj are well-known:
I am He Whom I love and He Whom I love is I,
We are two spirits dwelling in one body.
If you’d see me, you’d see Him,
If you’d see Him, you’d see both of us.
Experiencing this phase of detachment shaykh Mansur al-Hallaaj involuntarily cried out:
Is it You or I? No, both of us are one!
I shun and avoid positing duality.
During this phase the Beloved’s jealousy is stirred. The veil of duality is lifted! It is in this sense that Qur’an 55:27 has been understood by the Sufis:
Everyone upon it will perish,
But the face of your Lord, full of majesty and nobility, will abide.
A Sufi poet has said:
‘Eshq o ‘aasheq mahv gardad zin maqaam
Khud hamaan ma’shuq maanad vas-salaam
Love and the lover have been effaced at this place,
Only the Beloved remains and goodbye!
2. The second phase is estetaar (occultation; being hid; concealment). Here concealment is solicited and desired by both sides, but the jealousy of the Beloved exceeds that of the lover. The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) has said:
I am jealous and Allah is more jealous than I.
What takes place is thus described by a lover:
Del pish to-am dide bejaa’i degarastam
Taa khalq nadaanad ke toraa minegarestam
My heart is with you; my eyes are at another place
So that people may not know I’m looking at you.
This is an unusual phase. People who have reached it may express themselves in the language of signs and symbols:
Raazi-st maraa baa shab o serri-st ‘ajab
Shab daanad o man daanam o shab
Alef laam mim – alef laam mim saad
I share a secret with the night and it is a strange secret.
The night knows and I know and the night:
A, l, m – a, l, m, s
The above and other abbreviated letters are symbols of the same kind. As Qur’an 53:10 hinted at:
Then He revealed to His servant what He revealed.
3. The third phase is that of the giving of your life (bazl-e-ruh). When you experience this you do not feel concern for your life. Some lover has said:
Az man gomaan mabar ke del az dust bar konam
Taa jaan dar-in tan ast dam az ‘eshq barzanam
Gar beshenovi ke qaafela mord dar ghammat
Avval kasi ke jan dehad az bahr-e tu manam
Don’t imagine that my heart will get tired of the Friend.
As long as I’m alive every breath will be out of love.
If You hear that the caravan perished in grief for You,
Know then, that I was the first one to die for Your sake.
4 and 5. The fourth and the fifth phases are – according to the Chishtiyya Sufis – that of fear and hope. During these phases, the lover, due to the dread of the termination of his or her love with the Beloved, trembles and shudders, and the hope of meeting the Beloved gladdens the heart of the lover. Keeping in view God Almighty’s attributes of dominance, dignity and unconcern the lover fears that his or her love for God at some moment may get transferred to someone else besides Him or any of the lover’s acts may displease Him. It is evident that when a person is deep in love with some object, he or she will be afraid of losing it. Now, if the Beloved is such that losing Him is probable, the lover will certainly feel alarmed at the very idea crossing his/her mind. The Gnostics hold that (s)he who worships God merely on the basis of love and forsaken fear, may due to pride and taking undue liberty with God, perish. And (s)he who worships God due to fear alone and does not feel love for Him drifts away and is severed from Him. On the other hand God makes that person His beloved and draws that person near to Him, who worships Him and is devoted to Him both due to fear and love. It follows that fear is a sine qua non for the lover and love is necessary for him or her who is afraid. The following tradition conveys the same: ‘Faith is midway between fear and hope’.
Ke natarsad ze bi niyaaziye u
Ke nanaazad ze kaarsaaziye u
Who is not afraid of His unconcern?
Who does not rely on His providence?
10. The tenth and final stage of the Chishti stages of love is valah or bewilderment (other translations are: being frightened; being sad, afflicted, sorrowful, distracted o impatient from love or grief; fear; terror, grief, perturbation of mind, stupor). This stage is beset with tremendous dangers, consequently it has been said:
In distance there is torment
And in nearness bewilderment.
This sense can be grasped in the following words uttered by a lover:
Gar binamat jaan miravad
Var nanegaram khod chun ziyam
Hairaanam andar kaar-e khod
Kit jaan daham yaa nanegaram
If I see You I lose my life!
If I don’t see You, how can I live?
Confusion has come to my affair:
Should I offer my life or should I abstain from seeing You?
Ahmad al-Ghazzaali (the brother of the more famous Muhammad al-Ghazzaali. Ahmad is in fact the more interesting of the two brothers. Unlike his brother he has acted as a Sufi shaykh by accepting personal disciples. Ahmad has left a very subtle bequest to us in the shape of his teachings on love) in his treatise Risaala-e Savaaneh (which has completely been translated into English!) writes: ‘The beloved is always a beloved. His attributes are unconcern and freedom from want. The lover is always a lover, his/her attributes are want and poverty. Thus as a lover will always require a beloved, want will always be his/her attribute, and as a beloved is not in need of anything, unconcern will always be his attribute’.
The same sense has been expressed by a lover thus (I am not quite sure of the following transliteration):
Hamvaare to del robude ma’zuri
Gham hich niyaaz mawadde ma’zuri
Man bi to hazaar shab bekhun dar budam
To bi to shabi nabude ma’zuri
You always captured my heart and cannot help it.
You have not gauged the grief You have causes and cannot help it.
I have passed a thousand nights in anguish without You,
Not for a night You were other than You are and cannot help it.
The Beloved, regardless of the attributes of loveliness, is independent of the lover. But if the attribute of loveliness is taken into consideration, the Beloved too, may be considered to be in want of love and the lover. The Beloved, however, exists and for His existence does not require anything. The same cannot be said of the lover. Khwaajaa Abu’l-Wafaa of Khwarazm says: ‘If the famous tradition “I was a hidden treasure, I desired to become known and I created the world in order to be known” be kept in view, it could be said that the divines and Gnostics have an assignment in the world of love of the Absolute. The verse of the Qur’an: “He loves them and they love Him” shows that lovers too are held in high regard in the Sanctorum of love of the Absolute. But it is better to dispel false hopes, for the reason that He does not stand in need of anybody’.
Aayine dar rui khod midaashte ast
Taa bekhod ‘aasheq zaar aamade ast
U ze jomle faaregh ast o har kasi
Andarin da’va bedidaar aamade ast
U-st ‘aasheq u-st ma’shuq u-st ‘eshq
Kisti to jomle chun yaar aamade ast
The Beloved placed a mirror before Him
And has fallen in love with Himself.
He is independent of all and everything.
He has appeared with the claim to see Himself.
He is the lover, He is the Beloved and He is love.
Who are you when the Friend is all these?
Now what remains there except astonishment and bewilderment?
Hairat andar hairat ast o vaalehi dar vaalehi
Andar in rah sad hazaaraan ‘aql-e ‘aaqel mobtalaa ast
Astonishment after astonishment and bewilderment after bewilderment:
On this path the intellect of thousands of sages will be sorely tried.
This stage, too, has five phases:
1. The first phase is that of ebtehaal (supplication; lamenting, deprecating; being sincere in prayer). The lover takes recourse to it in all humbleness and meekness. The lover begs of the Beloved nothing but the Beloved Himself. It is totally wrong if the lover begs of his or her Beloved anything except the Beloved Himself. He or she would not be a lover at all, in the true sense of the word. The object most desired by the lover is the Beloved Himself. His or her cry is: “You are the goal of my quest!”
In a frenzy of helplessness the lover cries out:
Man chun ziyam keh ruye degar khush namikonad
In chesham ru-siyah keh beruye to khu gereft
How can I be alive as no other face appeals to me?
This unfortunate eye of mine is used to seeing You!
2. The second phase of the final stage among the Chishti stages of love is that of ‘the drinking of the wine of love’. In this phase the lovers have different tastes. Some quaff this wine in the goblet of pain and some sip it out of the cup of longing and say:
I drank cup after cup of the wine of love.
Neither I felt satisfied nor the wine was finished.
Some drink it out of the cup of grief, some out of the cup of toil, some out of the cup of fear and a few out of the cup of hope. And everyone has to undergo toil and tribulation of every kind.
3. The third phase is sokr (intoxication. It has been observed by some gnostic:
The one whom the goblet of love inebriated,
Will be awakened by the sight of the Beloved.
Love is intoxication in astonishment
And there is astonishment in intoxication
And the lover is usually intoxicated.
That is the reason why the seekers had begged:
Ay saaqi az aan mey keh din o aa’ien-e man ast
Bi khisham kon keh masti aa’ien-e man ast
O, cupbearer! Serve me the wine which is my faith and my custom!
Let me lose my consciousness for intoxication is my custom.
4. The fourth phase according to the Chishtiyya is that of ezteraab (distraction, agitation, disturbance of mind, perturbation, commotion; anxiety, anguish, trouble; perplexity, restlessness, distraction; precipitation) and bikhodi (selflessness, ecstasy; rapture; being out of one’s senses; madness). A story can be told. Once a love was weeping in loneliness and was crying: ‘Fire! Fire!’ People rushed to her and finding there no fire, asked: ‘What is on fire?’ The lover sobbed bitterly and pointing to her heart, said (Qur’an 104:6-7):
It is God’s kindled fire,
Which attains even the hearts.
This malady from which a lover suffers, is usually a prolonged one and recovery is possible only by seeing the Beloved. It is the property of love that it always keeps the lover uneasy and restless. Love inflicts on the lover various diseases, as has been said by Fayzi:
Khaasiyat-e simaab bud ‘aasheq raa
Taa koshte nagardad ezteraabash naravad
The lover has the property of mercury:
His restlessness will not go away until he is killed.
5. The fifth phase, which concludes the Chishti stages of love is talaf (destruction; ruin). An ‘aref (a gnostic) was asked to enumerate the stages of love. He said: ‘It begins with a gift, then death by consent, then you can guess what follows’:
Dar rah-e ‘eshq tavaazo’ nabud ghayr fanaa
Dast bar daashtan az khish salaam-ast injaa
On the path of love the only humility is annihilation
To leave the self here brings about salvation.
Now the lover arrives at the point of annihilation and is lost even to annihilation itself. In this annihilation she or he gains everlasting life in the Beloved. The Qur’an 44:56 hints at it in the following verse:
They do not taste death therein,
Except for the first death;
And He guards them…
A Sufi has written this poem:
Taa mard ze khish faani motlaq na shavad
Asbaat ze nafiye u mohaqqaq na shavad
Az khish berun aa’i keh u to baashi
Var na bagozaaf aadami haqq na shavad
Until you have not completely annihilated yourself,
Affirmation of Him compared to denial of Him cannot be verified.
Step out from yourself, so that He may become you,
Or else you cannot attain to the truth just like that.
Here we come to the real meaning of love: ‘Love is the negation of all the attributes of the lover and the putting the Beloved Himself in their place’. This means, that the lover does not now subsist by her or his attributes. The lover now subsists by the very essence of the Beloved alone. Someone saw Majnun making Laila’s and his own sketches simultaneously on the ground. Then he effaced Laila’s sketch. It was remarked: ‘What sort of love it is, which makes the lover efface the sketch of the beloved. Majnun said in reply: ‘If you do not find Laila in me, then make another drawing of her’.
This story has been related by a poet thus:
Chun ‘aasheq raa kasi bekaarad
Ma’shuqe az u berun aarad.
When someone draws the lover’s picture,
The Beloved comes out of it.
The existence of the lover is made manifest by the existence of the Beloved only. As a lover you have no separate or independent existence of your own:
Man aangeh khod kasi baasham keh dar maydaan-e muhkam-u
Na del baasham na jaan baasham na sar baasham na tan baasham.
I am somebody when I’m in His clear field:,
I have neither a heart, nor a soul, nor a head, nor a body.
The being of the lover is dependent on the being of the Beloved alone. The lover has no being by her/himself, but exists in the Beloved alone:
Chun hast baqaa’iye man baaqi beh baqaa’iye to
Pas ham to hamaan baaqi khod raa cheh baqaa’ khaaham
As my existence is dependent on Your existence,
Then You alone exist, so why should I desire for an existence of my own?
The Chishti stages of love show that a true lover, due to the prompting of the feeling of love, merges totally in the Beloved, effaces her or his soul and body in this love and with all energy available wants the Beloved alone. As it has been said: ‘If you seek an object and strive for it, you will find it’. You will succeed and the promise of ‘The one who seeks Me, finds Me’ is fulfilled. Ebn-e-‘Abbaas has said that God said: “I am present. Seek Me and you will find Me. If you seek anything else besides Me, you will never find Me’.
For this very reason all the eminent Sufis have regarded the path of love as the most effective approach to God.