When one mention the word 'sufi saint' in Malaysia especially, the ordinary man will conjure up images of special people who can 'walk' on water or be in two places at one time or 'fly' off to the Haram at a moments notice. Very few take the trouble to read or tranlate what they preach and teach. It is to people like Muchtar Holland, Shyaikh Tosun Barack al-Jerahi et al that we owe much for bringing to us the thoughts and teaching of venerable sufi sheikhs like Ibnu Arabi, Rumi, Rabiatul Adawiyah, and Sheikh Abd al-Qadir al Jilani et al. Otherwise their thoughts ,writings and teaching would have been lost to present day audience.
The Venerable Sheikh Abd al-Qadir al Jilani [ born 470 AH, 1077-78CE ]had had volumes written on his teaching and lectures [ Utterances, Futuh al Ghaib or 'Revelations of the Unseen',Ghunyat al Talibun or 'Wealth for Seekers'] . But in Sirr al Asrar or ' Secret of Secrets' perhaps lies the primer before one could understandably graduate to the more difficult works of The Utterances, The Revelations and 'The Wealth for Seekers'.
Let us for a brief momemt transport ourselves into the mind of the Sheikh on the issue of the 'Muslim Fast', as very well translated into English by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al Jerahi in ' Secret of Secrets' :
The fasting prescribed by the religion is to abstain from eating and drinking and sexual intercourse from dawn to sunset while spiritual fasting is, in addition, to protect all the senses and thoughts from all that is unlawful. It is to abandon all that is disharmonious, inwardly as well as outwardly. The slightest breach of that intention breaks the fast. Religious fasting is limited by time, while spiritual fasting is forever and lasts throughout one's temporal and eternal life. This is true fasting.
Our Master the prophet says," There are many of those who fast get only hunger and thirst for their efforts and no other benefit". There are also those who break their fast when they eat, and those whose fast continues even after they have eaten. These are the ones who keep their senses and their thoughts free of evil and their hands and their tongues from hurting others. It is for these that Allah Most High promises, " Fasting is a deed done for My sake, and I am the one who give its reward."
About the two kinds of fasting our Master the Prophet says, " The one who fast has two satisfactions. One is when he breaks his fast at the end of the day. The other is when he sees."
Those who know the outer form of the religion say that the first satisfaction of the one who fast is the pleasure of eating after a day of fasting, and the meaning of the satisfaction 'when he sees' is when someone who fasted the whole month of Ramadan sees the new moon marking the end of the fast and beginning of festivities of the holiday. The ones who know the inner meaning of fasting say that the joy of breaking the fast is the day when the believer will enter paradise and partake of the delights therein, and the meaning of the greater joy of seeing is when the faithful sees the truth of Allah with the secret eye of the heart.
Worthier than these two kinds of fasting is the fast of truth, which is in preventing the heart from worshipping any other than the Essence of Allah. It is performed by rendering the eye of the heart blind to all that exist, even in the secret realms outside of this world, except the love of Allah. For even though Allah has created all and everything for man, He has created man only for Himself., and He says, " Man is My secret and I am his secret". That secret is a light from the divine light of Allah. It is the centre of the heart, made out of the finest of matter. It is the soul which know all the secret truths; it is the secret connection between the created one and his Creator. That secret does not love nor lean towards anything other than Allah.
There is nothing worthy to wish for, there is no other goal, no other beloved in this world and in the hereafter, except Allah. If an atom of anything other than the love of Allah enters the heart, the fast of truth, the true fast, is broken. Then one has to make it up, revive that wish and intention, to return back to His love, here and in the hereafter. For Allah says: " Fasting is only for Me, and only I give its reward".
May your Ramadan and mine be a blessed one!
Dr Nik Howk