Chishti stages of love – Part 2

The stage of exclusive attachment to the Beloved also has five phases.

1. The first phase of exclusive attachment to the Beloved is called mu’aanadat (enmity). What happens that when the lover moves in company, she or he feels ill at ease with strangers and is afraid of being laughed at. People become her or his enemies and are prone to ridicule this lover. To explain this the author of Resaala-e-‘eshqia (The Epistle of Love) has quoted the following verse of Qur’an 22:52

We have not sent a messenger or prophet before you
but when he recited the devil would intrude into his recitation
Yet Allah annuls what the devil has cast.
Then Allah establishes his revelations.
Allah is All-knowing, Wise.

This shows that the forces of evil prepare their front against the lover, worry him (her) and try to scandalize him (her). They do not take notice of those who are not progressing along the spiritual path, but this is of course not the case in regard to the lover. It cannot be avoided that there is calumny or malicious misrepresentation in love. A Sufi has said:

Az paride nehaayate rang o az tapide nehaayate del
‘Aasheq bichaareh har jaa hast rosva mishavad

The extremely pale face and heavy beating of his heart
Expose the poor lover to ridicule on all hands.

2. The second phase of exclusive attachment to the Beloved is called sedq (truth, veracity, sincerity). It has been said:

Affectionate love is truth and sincerity
And the one who is true and sincere,
Is the friend of Allah.

Qur’an 39:33 has hinted at it in the following verse:

And he who brings the truth
And he who confirms it –
Those are the ones who are god-wary.

Some of the Sufis have placed the position of that friend of Allah who is really truthful and sincere, directly below the one of the prophets.

Sa’di has said:

Raasti mujeb-e rezaa’i khodaa
Kas nadidam keh gom shod az rah-e raast.

Truthfulness is an attribute that pleases God.
I have never seen one get lost who trod on the right path.

3. The third phase of exclusive attachment to the Beloved is eshtehaar (publicity; divulging; proclamation). It is the publicity of the state of the lover. At this point the lover steps out of her or his egotism and does not care whether (s)he is held in respect or disgrace. The Beloved gives publicity to the lover’s condition and spreads it far and wide. Some lover prayed to God: ‘Keep me in concealment’. In reply he was told: ‘O, Man! God never conceals anything’.

But at this point there are many difficulties to tide over.

Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti preferred to remain concealed to the public eye. He stayed at lonely places and when people got to know about his inner attainments he moved on to a place where no one knew him. One day, however, he received the order to go to Ajmer in India and to settle there. From that time on he was well known. It is said that after his death he was found with these words written on his forehead:

He was a Beloved of Allah
He died in the love of Allah.

This may be a legend, but it is given as an example of the stage of publicity.

4. The fourth phase of exclusive attachment to the Beloved is shakwa or complaint, i.e. bewailing the distraction caused and the anguish suffered. This is why the prophet Jacob has said: ‘I only complain of my distraction and anguish to God’.

The prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) exclaimed: ‘Praise be to You alone and before You alone I complain of my anguish’.

How can a lover complain of his Beloved? However he or she can express his or her humility, distraction and helplessness before the Beloved alone and not before anyone else.

When the prophet Job in his distress complained to Allah: ‘Affliction has touched me, but You are the most Merciful of the merciful’. Allah said this about him: ‘We have indeed found him steadfast, a blessed servant. He did ever return (to Us)’.

The complaint of the lover amounts to this: ‘Is there anyone save You before whom I may complain of my woe and anguish’.


Har kasi dar jahaan kasi daarad
Man toraa daaram o toraa o toraa
Chu hich baab az-in dar tariq raftan nist
Kojaa ravim o az dar kodaam dar daarim.
Az dast-e to ham pish-e to feryaad konam ze aankeh
Chun joz-e to namibinam feryaad rasi raa.

Everyone has someone in this world to look after him,
I have none but You, You and You.
As there is no other door to enter on the path I am following,
How can I leave this door? Which other door is open to me?
From You I complain to You alone!
For – beside You – I see no one to whom I may appeal.

The fifth phase of exclusive attachment to the Beloved is – according to the Chishti Sufis – hozn (grief, sadness. affliction, sorrow). You may know that to the qualities of the heart belong:

a. will
b. reason
c. passionate love
d. the urge for self-assertion or negativism
e. contentment and displeasure
f. cheerfulness and grief
g. eloquence of speech and the capacity to express its will effectively

It has been said:

Verily Allah regards as a friend
The heart that is agonised for Him.

Allah says:

I am found in those hearts,
Which are broken for My sake.

The prayer of the lover is nothing but this:

Joz ‘eshq-e to ‘aishhaa faraamusham baad
Hozn-e to be-jaaiye jaan dar aaghosham baad

Would that I forget all pleasures instead of the love of You,
Would that instead of my life I may embrace the pain of You.

The seventh phase according to the Chishtiyya Sufis has been styled mahabbat (love, affection; friendship, esteem, benevolence). This is a sublime phase and it has been mentioned in Qur’an 5:54 thus:

Allah will certainly produce a people
Whom He will love
And they will love Him.

Love is a gift. You cannot start to love somebody. In the above Qur’anic sign the love of Allah precedes human love, the Beloved is in fact the first lover…

Mahabbat has also five phases.

1. The first phase is that of hosn-e akhlaaq or good morals and good conduct, in private and in public, in prosperity and in adversity. At this phase the acts and deeds of the lover are praiseworthy and earn for him public esteem. His or her eyes behold none except the Friend and the heart of the lover does not think of anyone save the Beloved.

The lover is aloof, yet in society, considering that men are fellow-creatures, he or she is polite to them. But inwardly the lover is aloof and is distant from his/her fellow-beings and remains attached to the Beloved only. The modus operandi of the lover is that the lover now combines in him/herself both singularity and plurality.

Some Sufi has made the Beloved say:

Gar ba hame’iye chu bi mani bi hame’iye
Var bi hame’ie chu ba mani baa hame’iye

If you are with all, but since you are not with Me, you are with nobody.
If you are not with anybody, but since you are with Me, you are with all.

2. The second phase is that of malaama wa izhaar-e sokr wa haira or the courting of blame in a state of intoxication and bewilderment. At this level the lover is intoxicated and loses the consciousness of his/her own self by drinking deep of the cup of love. The lover is neither afraid of disgrace nor does he fear ignominy; distraught he charges forth and like one drunk finds the way to the kharaabaat or ‘tavern’:

‘Eshq-e to maraa kharaabaati kard
Var na man bichaareh ba-saamaan budam

Your love turned me into a haunter of taverns,
Else I would have been tranquil in mind.

Many stories are known about shaykh Hasan of Basra – a Sufi who has been mentioned in the beginning of the Chishtiyya line of succession – and in most of them someone else comes out as ‘better’ than him, while Hasan Basri’s ‘faults’ clearly have been depicted. It is, however, important to know that these reports often come from a single source: Hasan Basri himself!

Now innumerable favours are showered on the lover and (s)he has to pass through many tribulations also. Sometimes the prophet of Islam is told:

If you had not been,
I would not have manifested My Lordship.

And sometimes – like in Qur’an 17:86 – he is informed:

If We so wish,
We certainly can blot out
That which We have revealed to you;
Then you would find no advocate
To assist you against Us.

Sometimes Moses, the interlocutor of Allah, is told (see Qur’an 20:41):

I have chosen you for Myself.

And sometimes he is warned (see Qur’an 7:143):

You will not see Me.

Allah says in Qur’an 2:30 with regard to Adam:

I will create a vicegerent on earth.

And sometimes – as in Qur’an 20:121) – it is said about him:

Adam thus disobeyed his Lord
And so went astray.

In this way Allah sometimes raises the rank of the lover and sometimes puts him/her to an ordeal. But if the lover is perfect, (s)he never takes his eyes off the Beloved and in all his/her ways desires nothing but what the Beloved desires and exclaims:

Agar moraad-e to ay dust na moraadi maa-st
Moraad-e khish az-in bish man nakhaaham daasht

If it is Your wish, o Friend, that I give up my own wish,
Your wish is then best and I’ll no longer have any wish of my own.

3. The third phase is that of moshaahadat-e ghaib (contemplation of the mystery, witnessing the unseen). On reaching this phase the lover becomes someone of ‘insight’ and the Beloved reveals to him/her some of His ways and attributes, infuses into his/her heart the effulgence of His love and draws his/her mind to the very source of knowledge.

But this stage is beset with innumerable pitfalls; many heads roll here in the dust and not a few lives are lost. I’ve met a Chishti shaykh who recited some appropriate verses of Hafez about the ‘victims’ of this phase. Tears were running down his cheeks… But if the Beloved continues to favour the lover and the latter closes his/her eyes to all but the Beloved as has been said in Qur’an 53:17 of the prophet of Islam that his

Sight never swerved,
Nor did it go wrong.

then it is the assumption with Allah of the position of qaaba qawsain as Qur’an 53:9 puts it:

Coming thus within two bows’ length or closer.

It is in such a situation that you are allowed the privilege of beholding His countenance. Qur’an 25:45 expresses it thus:

Have you not turned your vision to your Lord?

This is the highest favour that you may receive from the Beloved:

Chu az jomleye jahaan boridi man toraa aam

When you have severed your connections
With all, then I am yours.

This has been hinted at in the following verse of Qur’an 18:16 also:

When you withdrew from them
And what they worship apart from Allah,
Take refuge in the Cave.

Here kahf or cave means the cave of union (kahf al-wesaal). This point comes at the end of the journey to Allah.

The fourth phase is that of aarzu-e molaaqaat or the wish to meet the Beloved. Someone who is not in love with the Beloved cannot stand the tribulations at this stage. The difficulties experienced will be overwhelming and the meaning of these difficulties will then be unclear to you. Hafez has written:

Nai dawlat-e donya besetam miarzad
Nai lazzat-e hastiyash-e alam miarzad
Na haft hezar saleh shadiye jahan
In mehnat-e haft ruz-e gham miarzad

During tyranny the treasures of the world have no value;
During grief the delights of existence have no value;
The seven thousand years of joy of the world
Compared to the sorrow of seven days of adversity have no value.

With the lover having reached the fourth phase of aarzu-e molaaqaat as referred to above by the Chishtiyya Sufis, the case is completely different. Even if this lover is bathed a hundred times in his own blood and even if the lover is hanged a hundred times on the gallows of tribulations, the longing for union with the Beloved and the desire of meeting Him face to face grows stronger in the lover’s heart. The thought of acceptance and rejection does not cross his/her mind. If (s)he received like Moses a hundred lashes of lan taraani or ‘by no means you can see Me (direct)’ (see Qur’an 7:143) on his/her back, even then (s)he will go on reiterating the cry (see Qur’an 7:143):

Show Yourself to me,
So that I may look upon You.

As a lover has said:

Agar be tir zanandam o gar be tigh koshand
Be hich zarb o siyaasat ze to nadaaram dast

Even if I’m hit by arrows or killed by a sword
None of these blows or punishments will deter me from seeking You.

The fifth phase has been styled estinaas (desire for intimacy) according to the Chishti Sufis:

The sign of attachment with the Beloved
Is detachment from all else.

The lover’s cry is:

Ai baadshaah-e hosn khodaaraa besukhtim
Yakrah su’aal kon keh gadaaraa che haajatast

O, beautiful King, for God’s sake, I am in flames!
Ask, at least once, what this beggar needs!

The eight stage is ‘eshq (love), which is another name of excessive and intense affection. At this stage one looses one’s reason and senses:

Ketaab-e hosn-e to ruzi qadaa mikhaanad dar gusham
Shodam az ‘eshq-e begaana na ‘aqlam maanad na husham

One day fate related in my ear the tale of Your beauty,
An unknown love seized me and reason and understanding left me.

Love is the conflagration which burns the hay-stick of existence to ashes and uproots the tree of life. Shebli has said:

Love is the fire, which once kindled in the heart,
Consumes everything other than the Beloved.

A Sufi has said:

‘Eshq aamad o kard khaane khaali
Bar daashte tigh-e laa obaali
Haasel-e ‘eshq in sokhan bish nist
Sukhtam o sukhtam o sukhtam

Love entered and turned my house empty,
It carried the sword of ‘I-don’t-care’
The outcome of love amounts to nothing but this:
I am burnt, I am burnt, I am burnt!

Faith does not reach perfection without love. Qur’an 2: 165 emphatically says:

The believers are overflowing in their love for Allah.

But love is something spontaneous and not acquired. In Qur’an 2:247 it is given:

Allah grants His power to whom He pleases.

In the words of al-Hujwiri, near whose grave Mo’inoddin Chishti sat in meditation: ‘Love is a divine gift, not a thing that can be acquired by human effort without divine grace … If the whole universe wished to attract love, it could not. If it made the utmost effort to repel it, it also could not’.

Ghaaleb has expressed this fact thus:

Love, O Ghaaleb is not controllable
This is a fire
Which neither can be kindled
Nor extinguished at will.

The Chishti shaykh Mohammad Gisu Daraaz says:

‘Eshq wahabiye serf ast o bakhsheshi khaase ast

Love is an unmixed gift and a special boon.

The following is one of his couplets:

Love-making is not our own choice,
God crowns the head He likes.

All Sufis unanimously agree that love is a gift of God.