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Waridat and Mawhiba (Gifts and Favor)

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

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Mawhiba (favor) literally means benevolence, kindness, and extra Divine bounties, while waridat (gifts) denotes what occurs to or emerges in one's heart as a Divine gift. The Sufis use them to signify God Almighty's special attention and consideration for those who travel toward Him, and His particular enlightenment and guidance, which can be described as "the lights of Divine Attributes" or "the lights of Divine Names." They are manifested in certain circumstances in the inner world of initiates so that they can see and evaluate everything correctly.

First and foremost, the Prophets and then all saints and pure, saintly scholars, including even minor saints, are favored with such gifts. However, the gifts that come to the Prophets, whether in the form of inspiration or Revelation, are certain to be from God, and it is impossible for Satan and the carnal soul to interfere with them. For this reason, they have a certainty and strength of evidence, and are therefore binding for believers. As for the gifts coming to saints or saintly scholars in the form of inspiration, since neither saints nor saintly scholars have absolute protection against Satan or the carnal soul, they are acceptable only in the case when they are in perfect accord with the Qur'an and the Prophet's Sunna, and are not binding for others.

Although there are differences between the literal meanings of "gifts" and "favor," and these terms are sometimes used to denote feelings of joy or sorrow, or exhilaration or distress, or expansion or contrition, appearing in the inner world of humans, the majority of Sufis tend to use them interchangeably and mean by both the sacred meanings that emerge in, or the breezes of inspiration that come to, the heart. Human free will has no part in their emergence or coming. Both the gifts and favor are Divine presents bestowed on the beloved servants of God without the means of either eyes or ears; they cannot be obtained through reason or logic.

Such a manifestation of Divine gifts sometimes occurs without the servant's turning to God or doing anything religious; sometimes it happens as a result of deep, serious reflective thought or concentration. In both cases, it is a special Divine radiance that is beyond the perception of senses or consciousness. However, a hadith the meaning of which is directly from God refers to human endeavor in receiving this manifestation and reminds us of how important human will, tendencies, and choices are in God's sight. It is as follows: "Whoever draws near to Me by a hand-span, I will draw near to him by a yard."[1] The maxim, "Endeavor is from the disciple and breath from the guide," is also good in expressing this reality; while the maxim, "The cessation of regular recitations causes the cessation of gifts," is a serious reminder which we should not neglect in our relationship with God, the Ultimate Truth. Indeed, just like the prayer for rain serves as a means for the rain to come, regular recitations and remembrance of God are regarded as among the most important means of obtaining the shower of gifts. Again, just like a baby who does not weep is not offered milk, the doors of the heaven are not opened to the one who neither sighs nor groans. It is true that it is a requirement of respect for God and sincerity in worshipping Him that we should not have any expectations in return for our turning to Him. However, if God has made His consideration and gifts dependent upon His servants' turning to Him, then the mysterious key to all the gifts and favors must be that we should turn to Him.

All such gifts and favors that come from God are always His extra bounties, which He grants in addition to His usual bounties. However, as stated in the couplet,

The effects of Divine effusions differ according to the capacities of every being;
A pearl-oyster receives pearls from the rain of April, but a snake, poison,

whether they come in the form of continuous breezes or in the form of lightning of manifestation, the gifts proceeding from the Divine Attribute of Speech manifest themselves differently according to people's capacities, sincerity, and purity of intention.

Gifts and favors sometimes suddenly emerge in the heart. They say whatever they will say, and then disappear. They sometimes appear as different signs or signals concerning a subject upon which the initiate has concentrated. In whatever way or form they come, any gift or occurrence in the heart which is in accordance with the Religion is a Divine repast, bounty, and guidance. Such a gift should be evaluated with self-possession and not be belittled.

Indeed, God Almighty sends warnings to His servants in different forms concerning whatever will happen to them, be it good or bad, agreeable or disagreeable, sweet or bitter, happy or sad, or exhilarating or distressing, and He calls on them to be aware. According to the position and responsibility of each, God sends signals to them concerning themselves or their environment, he awakens their hearts, shows them the ways of seeking refuge with His dispensation or forgiveness against His punishment, or arouses in them feelings of thankfulness by rewarding them with certain favors. Furthermore, God inspires in them some alternative ways to solve their personal or social problems, and to attain relief from the troubles they suffer. Thus, out of His compassion, He compels them toward the shores of salvation. Through such surprising gifts, God Almighty sometimes makes His valuable servants feel His continuous presence and suggests that He always cares for and protects them.

However, it sometimes happens that the suggestions of Satan or the carnal soul appear in the hearts of the travelers alongside the breezes of Divine inspiration. This is highly risky for those who are at the beginning of the journey and cannot distinguish between truth and falsehood. They may even take some thinly disguised suggestions from Satan for the "breaths" of the All-Merciful.

Since, in particular, those of "childish" nature who see human dignity and greatness in displaying extraordinary things and desire to be known as different from or greater than others, pursue unusual occurrences, Satan may deceive them by suggesting thousands of falsities, together with a few truths, which he uses as bait. The way to be able to remain free from such deception is to live in pursuit of God's approval and good pleasure in the footsteps of God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and to have, in return for servanthood to God, no expectations of extraordinariness such as wonder-working, or of spiritual pleasures.

Some maintain that the Divine gifts of inspiration and angelic evocations come together with some thrill or feeling of coldness, followed by a spiritual pleasure and contentment, while Satanic suggestions cause bewilderment, anxiety, and debasement. But it is difficult to say that this is always true. For this reason, what we should do is not to base our relationship with God on such favors or gifts, and we should not behave as creditors waiting for something in return for our worship; rather, we should act as one who is in debt, in deep awareness of our servanthood, regarding living in accordance with the Qur'an and the Sunna as His greatest gift and favor to us, and simply pursuing His approval and good pleasure instead of seeking extraordinary occurrences.

Any gift or favor that blows into us from the Divine Names and Attributes of Glory is both a special compliment and a warning to us; they are sent to strengthen our sincerity and faithfulness. Through such a compliment and warning, a traveler turns to God completely, desiring only Him and pursuing only His approval and good pleasure. Any gift of inspiration occurs in the heart unexpectedly, as if a manifestation of the Divine Name the All-Overwhelming, removing from the heart the desires for or tendencies toward fleeting things. Even though the spirit experiences intoxication during these moments, it usually finds itself in a wave of exhilaration and contentment. It is moved more with the desire of servanthood, and as a result of the ensuing virtuous cycle between the manners of servanthood and the flow of gifts, the traveler to God finds himself under a heavy shower of gifts.

Divine gifts sometimes manifest themselves in the form of "the lights of Divine Attributes." They sometimes illuminate the bodies of travelers along with their hearts, and take these illuminated travelers out of the narrow confines and corporeality to the height of the angels. Through the treasure of, "There is no power or strength save with God," the gifts make people powerful in their innate weakness and rich in their innate poverty, transforming them into polished mirrors reflecting God. These gifts are followed by new ones, with the result that God widens the horizon of knowledge and perception of such people, sharpens their resolution for worship and obeying God, equips them with an unshakeable resistance against sins, and increases in them endurance in the face of calamities by showing them their true nature and consequences. He also enables them to concentrate on their willpower against hastiness in their spirit, inspiring in them that there is an appointed term for any result to be obtained, and He directs their hearts to good, permanent deeds by showing them the true nature of transient things. The travelers favored with these gifts completely submit to the Will and commands of God, even if advancing to the observation of His "Face," and they are resigned to all His judgments concerning themselves while in the world, living each minute and second of their lives illuminated by the lights of His Attributes.

With their enlightened intellects, they read and interpret the corporeal realm correctly, and continuously advance toward Him; with their purified hearts, they observe the inner dimension of existence and keep pace with spiritual beings. With the horizon of their "secrets," they set out to transcend all existence and try to hunt the mysteries of Divinity, feeling as if they are hearing the speech of angels.

Those with enlightened hearts and intellects are not only perfect in their relationship with God Almighty but they are also, by God's leave, able to solve all the problems they encounter. They easily penetrate the spirits of those who enter their atmosphere and can always move the hearts of those around them with knowledge and love of God.

It is by means of such lights of Divine Attributes and Essential Qualities that the hearts of the travelers to God favored with such gifts become a cataract of knowledge of God; the spirits of God's lovers overflow with Divine radiances, and the exacting sages, or people of wisdom, become translators of Divine mysteries. The horizons of the discovery and observation of Divine truths become clear to wakeful hearts, and the truths behind the Divine Names become manifest.

Some have viewed the light of these gifts as the rise or appearance of the Light of Prophethood in talented spirits, and all the favors to come as dependent on always turning to that source of light—and they have done their utmost to remain devoted to that source without suffering any eclipse. While they are so devoted to the Sun of the heaven of Messengership, upon him be peace and blessings, we ordinary people should be sensitive, respectful, and unbiased toward the saints and saintly scholars, who are like the moon in relation to the sun, so that we may be favored with such a light of gifts.

There is not another light more powerful and penetrating than this light which is regarded as being among the gifts of Prophethood. As for the Light of the Seal of Prophethood, it is the sole source of all the lights of Prophethood, and it has precedence over them all. As the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is the matchless pearl in the sight of God with respect to his mission, he is also peerless in human perfection. He is the seed of the tree of creation, and the ultimate cause for existence with respect to his mission. He is the most lovable to God and the most advanced in friendship with Him. He is the sole light that removes all the veils of darkness, and the dove that wings on the horizon of "the two-bow-length's nearness (to God) or even nearer." Eyes have been opened and the white and black distinguished through his guidance; the mysteries behind the veil of existence have been cleared through his messages, and the pains and anxieties of humanity have ceased, hearts have become calm through the glad tidings he gave.

All of us have recognized God Almighty with His absolute transcendence, holiness, and freedom from anything unsuitable for Him by means of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, and it is again by means of him that we have learned how to love the Creator and obtain His friendship. We had no knowledge of true love and friendship; it is by means of the light the Prophet Muhammad diffused that we have come to know what loving, being loved, making friends, and acting in friendship mean.

Upon him be the most perfect of blessings and most complete of salutations to the fullness of the earth of the heavens, and on his Family and Companions, who were the conveyors to all later generations of all the basic pillars, principles, and precepts of the Religion.

[1] al-Bukhari, "Iman" 32; Muslim, "Musafirun" 215. (Tr.)