The terms contemplation and meditation are sometimes seen as synonyms and sometimes as different Sufi techniques.
Mushahadah, ru’yah and muraqabah are words often used for contemplation, while fikr (tafakkur) is one of the terms used for meditation.
Al-Jurjani gives a number of descriptions of tafakkur, starting by saying that “it is the application of the heart to the signification of the things in order to attain the object of the search”. It is according to him “the torch of the heart, which makes it possible to discern the good from the bad, and the profit from the loss. The heart that doesn’t meditate, is submerged in darkness”. He ends his explanation thus: “Meditation, it is said to point to a thing [whereof the realisation] is more simple and more easy to do than the word itself [makes clear] .
Fikr can also be translated as reflection. The Prophet has said: “Reflect (tafakkur) upon all things, but reflect not upon God’s essence”.
A Chishti pir writes this about meditation: “Meditation is the key of divine knowledge. Through meditation, divine wisdom is revealed, divine love is realised, divine justice is understood, divine purity is extolled and divine laws are explained. Meditation ultimately leads to concentration. It leads to serenity of mind and confers bliss and tranquility. Fix a time for meditation. The duration of the time does not matter. What matters most is the regularity and constancy, with which it is done”.
“Meditation, in fact, is focussing your attention and thoughts on one object continuously and without break. Meditation implies the flow of thought-current in one particular direction for a certain period of time. During meditation the mind is at rest. It is unmindful of external things or of any sort of distractions”.
“Meditation is the path to the know yourself road. Meditation is an aid to self-knowledge, self-realisation and self-control. Meditation is the beginning of the voyage of self-discovery. Practise meditation daily for some time and you will find that you are not only spiritually awakened, but that you are also a changed person. Along with the spiritual awakening, there will be mental and physical awakening. In other words, meditation will ultimately lead to the unfoldment of your personality”.
Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi applies mushahadah to:
- looking at things with the affirmation of unity as a guide;
- to the vision of the Real in things;
- to the reality of certainty without doubt.
Ru’yah (vision). Contemplation with the physical eye – not with the inner eye – in whatever circumstance.
Muraqabah or watchful awareness is discussed in ch. 126 of the Meccan Openings, while ch. 127 deals with abandoning watchful awareness. He says in the opening line of ch. 126:
Be aware of Him during every radiant shining moment,
as He is exalted is He beyond aware of you.
A certain kind of watchful awareness, according to the shaykh,
“is that you watch over your heart and soul, the outward and the inward, so as to see the effects of your Rabb (Cherisher, Lord) in them, so that you would act according to what you see – the effects of your Rabb”.