Divine Attraction

Jazba-ye-nur-e-jamaalash mikashad suye khudam
Gu’yaa u sham’ o man parwaana am ay ‘aasheqaan

The attraction of the light of His Beauty draws me towards itself,
As if He is the candle and I am the moth, O lovers!

‘Jazba’ in this ghazal from the Diwaan-e-Mo’in means ‘attraction’. It is the attraction by the divine, because of which someone can be lifted to the top of the mountain, without any effort of his/her own. The noun ‘majzub’ is derived from the verb yazaba, meaning ‘to be attracted to’ and a majzub is therefore attracted to God.

In order to be able to guide others someone who has experienced this divine attraction needs to travel once again to the top of the mountain, but now not in an enraptured state of attraction, but in a conscious way, thus being able to experience the pros and cons of the Sufi path him/herself.

Let us return to the majzub. According to modern medical ideas a majzub would not be seen as a ‘wise fool’ but probably as a schizophrenic or epileptic. An epileptic is in this case someone with a mental disorder. It has been forgotten that epilepsy was called the ‘holy disease’ in former times and ‘epileptos’ means in Greek ‘enraptured’.

In a secular Western culture there is no room for expressions like divine attraction, but when we move back in time we meet in Christianity Symeon Salos of Emesa or St. Andreas. A majzub is of course not limited to the Islamic culture. Among Vaishnava mystics in Bengal there is a state called ‘divyonmada’, which is a madness wherein the mystic abandons him/herself in God.

The German J.W. Frembgen has written a portrait of Mama Ji Sarkar, a living majzub he has met himself. He has told many popular anecdotes about Mama Ji.

When Mama Ji moved to Rawalpindi (a town in Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan) he used to run up and down the streets in a state of divine attraction, shouting: ‘I am the Qalandar of God’. Once he seized a man by the throat, lifted him up easily, and threw him from one side of the road to the other. The man remained completely unhurt.

This unusual behaviour has been interpreted by the local people as an instance of a charismatic power by a majzub, whose presence in an unknown way is beneficial to that region.

At a later period in time Mama Ji was considered not so much as a ‘sahib-e-kashf’ (a master in the art of unveiling) but only as a beggar and hashish addict by the local authorities. So the police picked him up on the road and put him in a van, together with some other destitutes. But when the driver tried to move off, his motor refused to start. All the efforts to get it going were in vain. Next, two of the van’s tires burst without any visible reason. It was then that the police realised that they had arrested a holy man. They apologised to Mama Ji and begged his forgiveness. As soon as the majzub descended from the vehicle, the motor started.

Let us leave Mama Ji alone (let’s also not ask if the police officers needed to change the tires of the van) but let’s turn to another majzub who was fond of kebabs prepared in yogurt:

There was a majzub who was very fond of kebabs prepared in yogurt. Once a man brought him such kebabs, which he ate and praised highly. As the mahjub praised the kebabs, the heart of the man became like a polished mirror and he was able to see sights from distant places reflected in his heart. He was so deeply affected that he took to wandering and after many months he eventually settled in Kashmir.

For twenty years he remained in this state of inner transformation until quite suddenly one day that light of that inner candle expired and he found himself returned to his former state. This threw him into a condition of such total distress that he started wandering again, trying all the while to discover what had really happened: How had he first entered into a state of inner transformation and why was it he subsequently lost it?

When a dervish is on his or her way to God there are two possibilities, dealing with an active or a passive attitude. You can progress by means of your own activities (kushish) or you can leave things to the divine attraction (kashish). Many dervishes prefer the second possibility. They even quote a saying of the Prophet:

Jadhbatun min jadhabaati l-haqq towaazi ‘amala t-taqalayn
One single time of being drawn by God equals all the work of human beings and jinns.

The Sufis however also teach us that the person who has only experienced this being drawn by God is not fit to become a Shaykh, just like the traveller (salek) on the Sufi path is unfit for this post, when not also having received the experience of this divine attraction. A Sufi shaykh should be either a majzub-e-salek or a salek-e-majzub.

The modern Sufi shaykh from Algeria, shaykh ‘Abd al-Qader (d. 1883), has written about the two ways, the way of the traveller and the way of the attracted one, in standing-place # 18 of his “Book of Standing-Places”. He has been strongly influenced by shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi. Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi has taught us that the divine attraction can have different effects with different people. Sometimes no effect is apparent on the outside, while in other cases the external signs are difficult to discern.

A Persian Sufi shaykh, who relates the experience of being attracted and travelling by means of self-effort to the unity of existence (wahdat al-wojud), explains this:

“Ordinary people are of the opinion that human beings are lovers and God is the Beloved, and that a lover only comes nearer to the Beloved, because of His attracting (kashish) the lover, while they at the same time progress by their own effort (kushish). Who thinks like this, is still a prisoner of duality. The ‘aref (the Sufi with deep inward knowledge and experience) however knows that lover and Beloved are one and the same”.

“These two ways, the way of effort and the way of being attracted, come from ourselves, one of which comes from our external aspect (zaher), the other from the internal (baten) aspect of our own reality. By the interaction of outward and inward the gnostic makes progress on the Sufi path”.

“When his or her inner being has experienced the suffering of seeking and longs for perfection, then his or her external being gives an effort to attain this goal. This is the meaning of the divine word: ‘The ones who have given effort on Our way, those will surely be guided along Our way’. Only the gnostic who sees the giving of effort and the being attracted as one single reality, is fit to be a shaykh”.

While the above teaching is sufficient as a kind of conclusion, let us present something more. The starting point of this article has been a poetic line about the attraction by the divine attributed to Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti. Let us present one final anecdote. It describes his meeting a majzub, which proved to be a turning-point in the life of Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti:

When he was hardly fifteen years old he became an orphan. The young man had inherited a grinding mill and a garden. These formed his source of livelihood. From a very early age he liked the company of the Sufis and the dervishes and offered them great respect. It so happened that one day in the year 1150 he was watering his garden. A majzub, called Ibrahim Qanduzi, all of a sudden entered his garden. The young owner extended to him the utmost courtesy and presented him a bunch of grapes.

Ibrahim Qanduzi was highly pleased by the hospitable treatment accorded to him. He wanted to repay the young man. The majzub took out a piece of oil-cake and after chewing it, gave it to him. The effect of it was a noticeable change in Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti. The desire for enlightenment got transmitted to him. He sold his grinding mill and the garden, and distributed the proceeds thereof amongst the poor. Having done all this, he started on his tours and travels.