Letters From a Sufi Teacher by Shaikh Sharfuddîn Manerî
Letter 1 : ON MONOTHEISM (TAUHÎD)
MASTERS OF THE PATH have divided monotheism into four stages. The first stage consists in
repeating, vocally, without any inner conviction, “There is no God save Allâh”. (Lâ elâha ill’ Allâh). This is
hypocrisy, and does not profit on the day of resurrection.
The second stage consists in repeating the said vocally with an inner conviction based upon conventional imitation (as in the case of ordinary
people), or some form of reasoning (as in the case of an intellectual theist). This is verily the visible body
of monotheism, frees one from gross polytheism and from hell, and leads to heaven. This second stage,
though safer than the first, and less unstable, is for all that a low one, fit for old women. ( Weak souls.
The third stage consists in Light shining in the heart, which reveals the One Agent alone [Page 2]
as the root of all phenomena, and the non-agency of all else. This is quite unlike the conviction of
ordinary people or that of an intellectual theist. Such a conviction is a fetter to the soul, whereas the
vision of the Light breaks all fetters. There must be difference between one who believes a certain
gentleman to be in his house, on the testimony of others ( as in the case of ordinary people ), another
who infers the residence of that gentleman in the house, because he sees his horses and servants at the
gate (as in the case of the intellectual theist), and another who actually sees the gentleman in the house
(as in the case of the third stage). In the third stage one sees the creatures and the Creator, and
distinguishes them from Him. This much of separation still persists hence it is not perfect union in the
eyes of the Masters.
The fourth stage consists in the pouring forth of the Divine Light so profusely, that it absorbs all individual
existences in the eyes of the pilgrim. As in the case of the absorption of particles floating in the
atmosphere in the light of the sun, the particles become invisible they do not cease to exist, nor do
they become the sun, but they are inevitably lost to sight in the overpowering glare of the sun so, here,
a creature does not become God, nor does it cease to exist. Ceasing to exist is one thing, invisibility is
another. ..When thou [Page 3] lookest through a mirror, thou dost not see the mirror, for thou mergest it
into the reflexion of thy face, and yet thou canst not say that the mirror has ceased to exist, or that it has
become that reflexion, or that the reflexion has become the mirror. Such is the vision of the Divine Energy
in all beings without distinction. This state is called by the Sûfîs, absorption in monotheism. Many have
lost their balance here: no one can pass through this forest without the help of the Divine Grace and the
guidance of a Teacher, perfect, open-eyed, experienced in the elevations and depressions of the Path
and inured to its blessings and sufferings…….Some pilgrims attain to this lofty state only for an hour a
week, some for an hour a day, some for two hours a day, some remain absorbed for the greater portion
of their time.
Beyond the four is the stage of complete absorption, i. e., losing the very consciousness of being
absorbed and of seeking after God for such a consciousness still implies separation. Here, the soul
merges itself and the universe into the Divine Light, and loses the consciousness of merging as well.
Merge into Him, this is monotheism: lose the sense of merging, this is unity. Here there are neither
formulae nor ceremonies, neither being nor non-being, neither description nor allusion, neither heaven
nor earth. It is this stage alone [Page 4] that unveils the mystery: “All are non-existent save Him”; “All
things are perishable save His Face”. “I am the True and the Holy One.” Absolute unity without duality is
realised here.Do not be deluded, but know: everyone who merges in God is not God.
The first stage of monotheism is like the outermost shell of the almond; the second stage is like the
second shell; the third stage is like the core; the fourth stage is like the essence of the core of
the almond. All these are known by the name of the almond, but each differs immensely from the others
in status, result, and use.
This note should be studied patiently and intelligently I since it deals with the basis of all developments,
activities, and supersensuous phenomena. It will explain the phraseology and the allusions in the writings
of the saints, and throw light on the verses on monotheism and the stages thereof.
O brother! though an ant, thou mayest turn out to be a Solomon. Do not think thou art an impure sinner:
though a gnat, thou mayest become a lion. ..God raises the monotheist out of the dualist, the faithful cut
of the faithless, and the devotee cut of the sinner.
Letter 2: TURNING TO GOD OR CONVERSION Or REPENTANCE (TAUBÂH)
Taubâh literally means to turn back. But the nature of the turning must be different with different
individuals according to the difference in their conditions and stages. Ordinary people would turn from sin
with apology in order to escape punishment; middling ones would turn from their deeds to secure the
regard of the Master; the Elect would turn from all worlds, here and hereafter, and feel the insignificance
and non-existence thereof in order to realise the glory of the Maker. The turning of a beginner cannot be
permanent. A saint says of himself: “I turned back 70 times and failed [Page 6] each time; but my seventyfirst
turning proved steady, and I failed no more”.
Khwâjâ (Master) Zoonoon of Egypt observes that the Taubâh of ordinary people consists in turning from
sins, that of the Elect in turning from heedlessness.
Khwâjâ Sobaid and many others are of opinion that Taubâh consists in remembering one’s past
transgressions and being ever ashamed of them, so that one may not grow proud of one’s many virtues.
On the other hand, Khwâjâ Junnaid and many others hold the view that Taubâh consists in forgetting
past transgressions, i.e.. in expunging their impressions from the heart, so that it may become as pure as
if it had never committed them.
Taubâh his obligatory for all pilgrims at all times, since for each pilgrim there is always a stage higher
than his present one. If he halts at any stage, he stops his pilgrimage and commits sin.
Taubâh consists in a firm and sincere resolution to abstain from sins, so as to assure God of one’s
unwillingness to commit them in future; and in compensating, to one’s best ability, those one has harmed
in any way.
Taubâh is the basis of all developments, as the ground is for the foundation of a building, The chief
requisite is Îmân (peace, faith, or moral [Page 7] sense), Taubâh and Îmân appear together, and the latter
illumines the heart in proportion to the former.
The real Taubâh lies in turning from one’s nature. When the disciple turns from his nature he becomes
another; i.e., he does not become another man, but his qualities change. Then he unfolds true Îmân,
which sweeps away many-ness and leads to unity. Ere the turning, Îmân is but conventional and nominal.
“How long will you worship God with your tongue only? This is no better than worshipping desires. So
long as thou dost not become a Moslem from within, how canst thou be a Moslem merely from without?”
The lame ass of conventional faith and the lip-behaviour that we have cannot help us to tread the Path.
None ought to despair under any circumstance whatsoever. Here work is without a motive, and requires
no payment. Many are instantly raised from the level of image-worship to a stage higher than the angels
and heaven. The Lord does whatever He wishes.How and why find no room here. May God make
thee a seer of His, and remove thee from thyself! Do thou aspire high, though thou art low at present. O
brother, human aspiration should stoop to nothing, either on earth or in heaven! Such men are so
constituted as to care for neither hell nor heaven. They seek God and God only and spurn what is not He
Sufism (Tasavvuf) is ceaseless motion, since standing water becomes stagnant. A man may
corporeally be in his closet, yet his spirit may run to the Malakût (The astral and lower mental planes.)
and the Jabrût. (The higher mental plane) Rapid motion, like the morning breeze, can neither be seen not grasped.