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Wasil (One Who Has Reached)

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism-3

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Wasil denotes a hero of spirituality who has reached the final point in the journey made to attain perfect knowledge of God and is meticulously careful to follow His decrees in parallel with the profundity of that knowledge. A wasil has also reached the highest point on the horizon of the heart and spirit, where he or she can observe the Divine manifestations. In Turkish, such an individual is also called an eren (one who has attained and been matured, or one with perfect attainment).

With the term wasil, we indicate a hero of truth whose particular efforts have been crowned with particular aid, and whose particular instances of turning to God and devotions with particular sainthood, and who has therefore been honored with an indescribable nearness to God. A wasil is a sincere one who is continuously drawn toward God in spiritual raptures, and who has programmed his or her will to reach and meet with the Ultimate Truth. Such a one is also a guide who leads others to God without any deviation. Tokadizade Şekip[1] draws attention to this attribute of a wasil: My star was dim and my fortune did not smile on me;

All the days of my life were passing in darkness.
But it was a day when one with perfect attainment came to my aid,
Then I lived glorious days, and I experienced happy ages.

Whether during journeying or upon reaching the horizon of meeting with God, a wasil is extraordinarily meticulous in God's orders and prohibitions, and tries his utmost to perform the duties of worship fully, constantly considering His inconceivable Grandeur. Even though they are completely sincere and earnest in their devotions, still they tremble with fear that they are unable to observe their duties toward God. With sensitivity proportionate to their efforts, and with a transcending profundity, they do their best to carry out their responsibilities. Such sincere and profound devotions and continuous, earnest efforts receive extra favors from God Almighty. As stated in the Prophetic Tradition, whose meaning is directly from God, When I love him, I become his power of hearing with which he hears, and his power of sight with which he sees,[2] the Almighty, with ever-flowing gifts, makes the wasil hear what will be heard and see what will be seen, and has such a one travel around the station of being loved by Him to reach horizons where the wasil will fully grasp the things which are pleasing to Him.

Though all those who have reached the final point discussed have common perfections, it is a reality that there are some significant differences among them with respect to the specific nature and relative comprehensiveness of their attainments.

Some of them are in unceasing rapture, drowned in the experience of being in the constant company of God, and lead their life fixed on their target with their intellect, logic and reasoning under the direction and protection of Divine manifestations. Any deviation from their target is out of the question, for since their being or self- consciousness has been burned away with the rays of the Divine "Face," they cannot see, hear, or feel anything other than Him and they live in constant spiritual intoxication. Their intoxication is to the extent that they never think of calling at the shores of sobriety or the quays of carnal reason. It can actually be said that even if they want to think of doing so, they are unable to. It is true that some certain temperaments who have reached this rank have suffered some confusion, but this has rarely taken place. Some among this rank may lose their power of reason, which makes humans responsible for their acts, simply because of the intensity of their feelings of attraction toward God; thus, some of their resulting attitudes, words, and acts may be contrary to the rules of Shari'a. The utterances of Jibali Baba,[3] for instance, and words such as, "There is nothing but God in my cloak!", "Glory be to me, how grand I am in respect of my essential qualities!", and "I am the Truth!"—which were uttered by Bayazid al-Bistami,[4] Junayd al-Baghdadi,[5] and Mansur al-Hallaj, respectively, men who were considered to be among the greatest figures of the Sufi way—and other similar statements are effectively attributable to the intensity of the feeling of attraction and to their spiritual intoxication.

Contrary to the exhaustion and calmness caused by unions in physical terms, a wasil is always active, as if programmed to act, observe, love, and learn incessantly. This is why there is a continuity in the relationship of the wasil's spiritual life with eternity, while carnal love dies away because of this union. The spiritual union or meeting with God at the end of the spiritual journeying is so different that its pleasure continues to deepen more and more; one who has reached this point experiences ever new instances of union, as if favored with union at every moment. Nasimi[6] voices this kind of union, which is the highest point to be reached for a traveler toward God, as follows:

The place where I am has developed into no-space;
This body of mine has become a soul completely;
God's Sight has manifested Itself to me;
And I have seen myself intoxicated with His meeting.
A call has come to me from the Truth:
"Come, O lover, you have intimacy with Us!
This is the place of intimacy;
I have seen you as a faithful one!"

In order to be able to reach this point, a very important factor for the traveler, in addition to a particular aspect of human free will, is a feeling of attraction toward God. It is said that a feeling of attraction toward God, the Ultimate Truth, is actually better than the act of worship formally carried out by humanity and the jinn, and this has been circulated among the saints to emphasize that the feeling of attraction toward God is a means of God's nearness, which both humans and jinn can attain through repeated, regular worship.

The feeling of attraction sometimes comes as a Divine favor in return for an initiate's sound intention and steadfastness to reach God, and it serves them for reaching the heaven of perfections in an instant. At other times, it happens in order to save initiates from the troubles of journeying, as God Almighty favors them with the partial or particular manifestation of the truth stated in, All-Glorified is He Who took His servant for a journey by night (17:1), carrying them to the point where they can experience God's nearness according to their capacity. In whatever way it occurs, there can be no doubt that this feeling of attraction is a gift from the All-Merciful.

In one of his poems in his Diwan Kabir, Jalalu'd-Din ar-Rumi describes an instance of meeting with God, which he attained through such a feeling of attraction, as follows:

The mount of love of meanings has taken away both my reason and heart. Ask me where it has taken them. It has taken them somewhere beyond which you cannot know. I have reached under an arch where there is no moon, nor skies. I have arrived in such a world that it is no longer a world. When the All-Beloved Soul appears like the Canopus[7] from the side of the Pillar of the Yemen[8] beyond all terms of quality and quantity, no longer does the moon, nor the sun, nor the pole of the seven heavens remain. The lights of the All-Beloved Soul overwhelm all of them.

The ascension toward God and meeting with Him which was achieved by the great saints, according to the capacity of each, is a manifestation of the Ascension of the Messenger of God and his meeting with God, which is expressed by Süleyman Çelebi[9] as follows:

At that moment, the Divine Being manifested
Himself in such overflow that
There was no longer space or the heavens.

The difference between the ascension and meeting with God that is achieved by great saints who follow in the footsteps of the Messenger, which are a manifestation of his Ascension and meeting with Him, compared to the Messenger's own Ascension and meeting with God, is as great as the difference between a saint and the Messenger.

Among those who have reached the final point of nearness to God are others who, having drowned in the spiritual experience where the existence of all things and beings including themselves is annihilated in the Eternally and Truly Existent One's Own existence, crown self- annihilation in the ocean of annihilation with a return to life in the horizon of sobriety. They do so in order to be able to have others feel the spiritual pleasures they have achieved, through the windows of the states and stations they have attained, and thus they share the favors that have been accorded to them with those souls that are capable of receiving. Thus, as a requirement of being heirs to the mission of Prophethood, they graciously return among us.

These noble servants of the Ultimate Truth are extremely meticulous in observing the Divine orders and prohibitions, both at the beginning and end of their journeying. They never display attitudes or make utterances which do not conform to the rules of the Shari'a, either in their experiences of attraction toward God, or in the peaks of their disclosures and observations of the Divine truths where the lights of the Divine Face burn away everything. Without exhibiting any attitude that is irreconcilable with servanthood to God, they always try their utmost to carry out whatever servanthood to God requires their willpower to do, as decreed in, And (continue to) worship your Lord until what is certain ( death) comes to you (15:99). They carry out their duties of service according to the depth of their knowledge of God and love of Him, and commensurate with their experiences of attraction. They prefer being servants at the door of the Ultimate Truth to all other achievements and stations, and they always give precedence to servanthood to Him over the rewards that come from Him. Regarding their knowledge of Him as insufficient on any given occasion, they emphasize their inability to give due thanks for God's favors to them. Saying, "We have not been able to worship You as worshipping You requires, O Worshipped One," they confess that they have not been able to do anything worthy of mention in the name of worshipping God. With the words, "We have not been able to know You as knowing You requires, O Known One," they excuse themselves for their lack of sufficient capacity of knowing God. And by uttering, "We have not been able to thank You as thanking You requires, O Thanked One," they sigh with a deep sense of shame as they are unable to give due thanks for the limitless favors of the All- Favoring.

These people of great stature are extraordinarily self-possessed, exceptionally aware, and full of feelings of fear and awe, even when carrying out their duties with the deepest commitment and responsibility. It can be said that their inner worlds are best pictured and manifested by the Divine declaration, Who do whatever they do and give whatever they give in charity and for God's cause, with their hearts trembling at the thought that they are bound to return to their Lord (remaining anxious, for they are unsure whether God will accept from them and be pleased with them). It is those (illustrious ones) who hasten to do all kinds of virtuous deeds, and they are in a virtuous competition with one another in doing them (3:114). In any case, God knows the ultimate truth in all matters.

O God! Show us the truth as truth and enable us to observe it, and show us falsehood as falsehood and enable us to avoid it. And bestow Your blessings and peace upon our master, Muhammad, whom You have chosen among all creation, made perfectly pure, and favored with Messengership, and on his Family and Companions, whom You have chosen and favored with blessings.

[1] Tokadizade Şekip was one of the Turkish poets and writers who lived in Izmir in the first half of the twentieth century. He wrote in favor of freedom during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II, and was one of the founders of the Association for Defending the Basic Rights in Izmir. (Tr.)

[2]al-Bukhari, "Riqaq" 38; Ibn Hibban, Sahih, 2:58. (Tr.)

[3] Jibali Baba is one of the saints who lived in Istanbul just before its conquest by the Turks in 1453, and died during the conquest. According to some, he is Jebe Ali Pasha, who was one of the saintly commanders of the Turkish army during the conquest. The district Jibali in Istanbul was named after him. (Tr.)

[4] Abu Yazid (Bayazid) al-Bistami (d. 804–874): One of the greatest Sufi masters. He was from Bastam, Iran. Junayd al-Baghdadi said: "Abu Yazid holds the same rank among us as Gabriel among the angels." His life was based on self- annihilation and the practice of devotion. (Tr.)

[5] Junayd al-Baghdadi (830–910): One of the most famous early Sufi masters. He lived and died in Baghdad. He enjoyed great respect and was known as "the prince of those having knowledge of God." (Tr.)

[6] Imadu'd-Din Nasimi (1369–1417): Azerbaijan's outstanding poet of the fifteenth century, wrote in Azerbaijani Turkish along with Arabic and Persian. He was very accomplished in lyric poems. (Tr.)

[7] Canopus is the brightest star in the southern constellation of Carina, and the second brightest star in the night-time sky, after Sirius. (Tr.)

[8] The Pillar of the Yemen (Rukn Yamani) is the southern corner of the Ka'ba which faces Yemen. (Tr.)

[9] Süleyman Çelebi (1351–1422) is the writer of the famous Mawlid (whose original name is Wasilat an-Najat, meaning "The Means of Salvation"). He lived in Bursa, Turkey. Mawlid, which was composed and is widely read in Turkey on certainoccasions is a long poetical history of the Prophet Muhammad's life and his matchless virtues and achievements. (Tr.)