Grandsheikh was telling me about Ka`bul Ahbar, the most learned man among the Jews living in Hijaz in the time of the Prophet (s). Because of his great learning, Ka`b was expecting the coming of a Prophet, the Last Prophet, whose appearance he had found foretold in the Scriptures.
Ka`b’s knowledge was so extensive that he had reached to the ‘Station of Gabriel’, but not beyond. According to Grandsheikh, knowledge is divided into two parts: one part extends from the Earth to the Station of Gabriel (as). The Sons of Adam may learn this knowledge through their intellectual efforts. The other part extends upward from the Station of Gabriel. Gabriel is the Angel who represents intelligence—and intellectual knowledge reaches up to his station; however, after that station are oceans of strange and wonderful knowledge which are all beyond the boundaries of the mind and intellect. The mind is not capable of balancing those oceans of knowledge, and when confronted with them can only say, “No further can I go, I have reached my limit.”
Technologically learned people are floundering and struggling unsuccessfully to arrive at a complete understanding of the creation through empirical knowledge—they want to be able to see everything in front of their two eyes and analyze it; they want to analyze everything by means of their five senses, and anything outside of the perception of their senses is rejected. Whoso says that knowledge is limited to what the five senses can observe and does not accept any other type of knowledge, he is a fool, for you can never limit knowledge at all.
In order to prove this point, it is enough to point out that everyday in the scientific fields they work in there is progress, and all the time they are progressing from one horizon of knowledge to the next. If one were to say, “This is the last horizon,” he would be foolish, for when he arrives at that first horizon there will be yet another in front of him, and so on; in fact, endless horizons may be discovered—and so it is with knowledge; endless horizons, and the only limits are in our minds. If we can surpass those limits, we will find that whenever we are tired and cannot go on any further, there will appear another horizon – oceans, endless oceans. To reach the next ocean you must discard this mind, otherwise you will have been caught and trapped by it.
People can acquire many knowledge through study and practice, and they may attain high degrees, but as long as they are bound to the mind’s limitations, they can advance no further. Ka`b was a person who advanced through his mind to the Station of Gabriel but couldn’t go on from there. He knew the Prophet well but delayed his acceptance of Islam until the time of Omar (r); therefore. he delayed also in reaching that spiritual knowledge.
Grandsheikh was saying about the third caliph Othman (r), that he was of a very high degree among the Sahaba and was the most modest of the Prophet’s companions. He performed so many services for the Prophet, and after the Prophet’s lifetime he gathered all the verses and Surahs of the Holy Qur’an into book form. In spite of this, Othman (r) didn’t attain the spiritual ranks attained by Abu Bakr (r) and Ali (r) because he sometimes held firmly to his own desires instead of putting them completely in line with the Prophet’s. This was also one reason for his martyrdom: misfortunes befell him as a result of his not being able to totally leave his own desires behind.
Man hasn’t the capacity to carry all knowledge in his mind and body, and yet he asks for more and more: this is a sign for mankind that within them there exists something which is always asking without ever becoming satiated. This ‘something’ is above our physical bodies and minds, a power which controls them and without which neither of them could function. Therefore, beyond any doubt, our bodies and minds are under the control of an unknown, indescribable, ‘supernatural’ power. That power impels man to seek more and more knowledge, endlessly; but the mind cannot keep all these knowledge, and so it says, “I can’t.” But still man asks for more, because there is something above our minds controlling it, and that ‘something’ is our soul and the indescribable power behind it. This is the meaning of the verse which says that Allah Almighty created man for the purpose of knowing Him, for His Divine Knowledge.
Every knowledge which has appeared points to the Creator and describes His attributes, but still we are asking to know who our Creator is and what His attributes are, as our souls are always thirsty to know their Lord and to approach Hun. The more we know our Lord, the more we are going to love Him, and the more we love Him, the more we will approach Him and taste of boundless bliss.
If we put a spoon of sugar in this glass of water. it will dissolve; and in like manner up to four or five spoonfuls will dissolve, but more than that it will be unable to absorb, and the sugar will fall to the bottom of the glass. Likewise, our minds have a limited capacity for absorbing knowledge—they reach their maximum, beyond which they cannot go. Our limited minds are as incapable of absorbing boundless Divine Knowledge as that little glass of water would be of absorbing all the sugar in the world. Our souls, however, have unlimited capacity for knowledge and will ever be thirsting for more. As long as the soul is imprisoned by the senses of the physical body, our mind will hold it down. The mind is the guardian over the soul and keeps it passive, inactive. The situation will remain so until you transcend the boundaries of the mind and open yourself up for the soul’s activity—endless activity; but people are closed, and only the souls of Prophets and Saints are really opened up—all others are sleeping, passive, imprisoned.
How and why do our souls remain passive? You must pay close attention to this point. When we are putting the desires of our physical bodies over and above the desires of our Lord and His Prophet, there can be no activity for our souls. The reason for the passivity of the soul is that we follow the dictates of our minds, which are, in turn, striving only to please the physical body. If you are able to reject the base dictates of your mind and follow the desires of the Prophet, then soul-activity will appear little by little.
Among the Sahaba, the most active soul was the soul of Abu Bakr (r) because he never put his desires in the first place; after him came Sayyidina Ali (r) who, in like manner, attained strong soul-activity. It is incumbent upon us (Fard) to do as much as we possibly can of our Lord’s desires, and it is a meritorious action (Sunna) to do as much as we can of the Prophet’s desires; those who have done their utmost to fulfill this Fard and Sunna have attained the light of sainthood. Of all the souls, the brightest is that of Sayyidina Muhammad (s), after his the souls of the other Prophets, and after them, the soul of Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (r).
Therefore, the Tariqat-an-Naqshbandiyya, (as it is passed down through Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (r)), activates the souls of the murids to whatever extent the murid can bring his desires to accord with the desires of his Sheikh. So many murids have high spiritual aspiration (Himma) and they sat: “Oh my Sheikh, I am asking for himma in order that my soul be activated.” The Sheikh replies: “Oh my son, I am asking service from you (Khidma). What is this service? You must be like me; when you are like me, my spiritual powers may come to you, but if we are not of the same kind of metal, the current can’t pass through you: I am copper, you must not remain stone.”
Once Grandsheikh told me that his Sheikh, Sheikh Sharafuddin, said to him: “Oh Abdullah Efendi, look at me and tell me what you see.” Grandsheikh looked and said: “Oh my Sheikh, when I look at you, I see myself.” Then Sheikh Sharafuddin said: “Now look at yourself.;’ He looked at himself and saw Sheikh Sharafuddin—there was no opposition in him to prevent this from happening. Allah Almighty asked the Prophet to be with Him, and the Prophet asked the Sahaba to be with him; to be ‘with him’ meant for them to be as he wished for them to be. The Sheikh, also, is asking murids to be ‘with him’.