Concentration in Sufism
Concentration and prudence are Arabic words whose linguistic meanings are to think and reflect. Actually, reflection is that cognitive power and light in man that can grant observation of the esoteric aspect of anything physical and the hidden of anything visible. This process is concentration in Sufism. The Arabic word for concentration in Sufism is tafakkur and when we use its plural i.e. tafakkurat, the meaning changes to ‘worries’. This is a world of worries. And concentration can make it better. Actually tafakkur is a positive act and a kind of worship.
Allah Almighty has ordered at many places in the Holy Quran to reflect upon the universe and His signs to become aware of the hidden mysteries, this awareness will result in the Divine gnosis as well as help in determining one’s own transitory value in the universe. The topic of Holy Quran is ‘human’ and the Quran instructs him many times to use the power of thinking, concentration and prudence to be aware of whatever occurs around him and to use the power of consciousness and observation granted by Allah so that the concealed secrets of the universe can be revealed upon him. The existence of man itself is a big sign of Allah’s greatness. Man can gain the Divine gnosis of his Creator and Lord only by concentrating upon his being. As Allah says:
Meaning: And there are many signs in the earth for the people with the truth of certitude (i.e. people of perfect certitude) and in your selves (as well). So do you not notice? (51: 20-21)
Importance of Concentration
There are countless signs in this vast universe for man to concentrate upon so that he understands its Creator and Master. Concentration and prudence are Allah’s command because the doors to contemplation do not open without concentration. Man’s development stops if these doors remain closed and the history of human evolution gets lost in darkness. Not only did Muslims make great progress in the fields of science due to concentration and prudence during their journey of development but they also motivated humanity to explore the universe under the light of the Holy Quran. So, many amazing inventions came into play during this era. And sciences got such strong foundations on which the foundations of many new sciences were laid.
Whichever country progressed, did it due to research, reflection and inventions. That is why concentration, refection and research are the Quranic way of thinking.
Two Ways of Man’s Concentration
Man’s concentration works in two ways, one way looks at the outward. But when one focuses on a detail and the inward of that thing, the concentration, curiosity and research reach its inward and pulls the hidden abilities and science to the surface and as a result some invention comes into existence. The entire knowledge about everything lies in the human brain. Concentration, reflection, rumination and research are the medium to reach and gain it. For example, the knowledge on the internet was present many years before, but researchers concentrated and this knowledge came to us and now the entire world is connected because of this.
Wrapping a great book such as the Holy Quran with a beautiful silk cover and putting it on a high place, kissing it reverently day and night and then disobeying its actual teachings….. Is this the way of Muslims? Does Quran not demand from us ‘Why do you not contemplate?’
Concentration and Prudence about the Universe in the Light of Quran
Allah Almighty says:
- Meaning: Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of the night and day, there are signs (of Allah’s absolute authority) for those who possess constructive wisdom. These are the people who, remembering Allah, remain standing (as the epitome of submissiveness), sitting (as reverence incarnate), and (also keep) changing sides (in discomfort of love) and meditate on (the manifest luster of His Eminence and Beauty at work in) the creation of the heavens and the earth. (Then, acquainted with the pleasure of His gnosis, they call out spontaneously: ) ‘O our Lord You have not created (all) this without any rationale and strategy. You are (impeccably) Pure (of all shortcomings and obligations). So protect us from the torment of Hell. (3: 190-191)
In these verses, Muslims have been ordered to think about their Lord and presence in His Assembly in every state. Whether they are standing, sitting or lying down. Allah has also ordered to concentrate upon the creation of heavens and earth.
A very important goal of the revelation of Quran is to invite people to concentrate and contemplate. Abul Kalam Azad has written in his famous book ‘Tarjuman ul Quran’:
- The biggest reasoning of the Quran is the invitation of concentration. It stresses again and again on the fact that man’s path to know the reality is that he uses the intellect which Allah gave him, concentrates and reflects upon everything so that he can see inside and outside his existence. Hence there is no verse or part of verse in the Quran that doesn’t invite to concentrate.
Concentration in the Light of Hadiths
Al-Ghawth al-Azam Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani says:
The Holy Prophet (pbuh) said:
- A moment of concentration is greater than years of worship.
- One moment of rumination is greater than seventy years of worship.
- A moment of consideration is greater than thousands of years of worship.
So, it shall be said about these, concentration for a moment upon subsidiary aspects of religion is greater than one year of worships. Concentration for a moment upon obligatory worships is greater than seventy years of worship. Concentration for a moment on Divine Gnosis is greater than thousands of years of worship and this leads to Divine Oneness. (Sirr-ul-Asrar)
The Holy Prophet (pbuh) has declared a moment of concentration greater than a year of worship. There must be wisdom behind this. But we have still become careless towards concentration. Isn’t this devaluation of intelligence? Isn’t this being unthankful towards Allah’s blessings!! Why did Allah give us intellect? We should use it but why do we not? Why have we forgotten the great blessing of concentration? Just think… Just understand!
What are we gaining by practically neglecting Allah Almighty’s great blessing and what reward will we get? The procedure of concentration is that we contemplate about something, ponder upon its system. As a result, It will show the reflections of Allah’s greatness. The doors to realities and secrets of the universe will open. When all the wisdom is revealed, man will exclaim “‘O our Lord You have not created (all) this without any rationale and strategy.” (3: 191)
Concentration in the Light of the Teachings of Saints
Hazrat Ali (ra) said while explaining the importance of concentration and prudence:
- The light of intellect increases with concentration
- There is no insight for the one who is not used to concentration
- Consideration for long intervals improves outcomes.
Man will learn the reality that this universe and everything in it is following a system and law in a particular manner and discipline only if man uses his wisdom and insight. And there is nothing that does not have expedience behind it, as Allah says:
- Allah has created the heavens and the earth with a decreed celestial order. Surely, there is in this (creation) a sign (of His Oneness and Might) for those who believe.
Sayings of Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani about Concentration
- If you want to say something, cogitate about it first. Have good intentions and then speak. This is why it is said that tongue of an illiterate dominates his heart while the heart of an educated person dominates his tongue.
- So concentrate and ponder. This is a process which needs the stability of the inward and outward, and separation from everyone.
Sultan Bahoo says in his book Kaleed-ul-Tauheed Kalan:
- Concentration upon the blessings of Allah increases the love of Allah, concentration upon the favours of Allah increases modesty, concentration upon the promises and warnings of Allah increases the fear of Allah, concentration upon the gnosis of Allah enhances the Divine light of Tauheed in the inward, concentration upon the knowledge of Quran increases the passion for good deeds in the heart, concentration upon the worldly matters darkens the inward and indulges it in evil plannings. Nothing is worse than the world and worldly people. Strange are the people who consider this worst thing better than the name of Allah and the faith and Faqr of Prophet Mohammad.
Saying of Sultan-ul-Faqr VI Sultan Mohammad Asghar Ali
- Reflection and concentration mean to ponder over something to have its knowledge and understanding. The entire material and scientific progress where this world stands today is the result of reflection of scientists upon the material things. Hence, this reflection is the base of every invention and discovery.
Saying of Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman
Sultan ul Ashiqeen says:
- To learn or to understand the reality of something, we think over it and a kind of curiosity is created in our minds like, why does it exist and what is its use? If we concentrate upon the reality of a minor thing, we can find its great importance but if a very important thing is not considered about, even that becomes trivial and insignificant. By pondering over the reality of a thing we can have deeper knowledge about its characteristics. The more we concentrate upon the reality and importance of a particular thing, the more we come to know about its qualities and significance. All the material and scientific development of today’s world is based upon concentrating and thinking about the importance of different things and their uses. When a scientist thinks and reflects upon different aspects of a problem, only then can he find a solution or when he reflects on the significance of a thing, only then brings out its qualities and makes it useful for mankind. Same is the case with every invention and discovery that it is based upon reflection and rumination of certain scientist, thinker or philosopher. (Sufism-The Soul of Islam)
Positive and Negative Concentration
Concentration is of two types, positive and negative.
Hazrat Ali says, “I recognized my Lord after my intentions shattered”. This is positive concentration. The one by which man comes to know about who he is? What his limits are? What his worth is? Positive concentration improves the personality of man and becomes the medium for the emergence of the best personality. Hence they remain steadfast even in tough situations.
Negative concentration is like a running sore for man and his personality. It throws his growing conscious into the prison of deprivation and makes his personality negative. It aggravates his ego. He becomes a victim to malice, lying, arrogance, jealousy and many other inner diseases. If you focus on the story of Adam and Satan, you will see that malice, lying, arrogance and jealousy had rooted in Satan. And arrogance started growing inside him due to which he didn’t obey Allah’s order. Satan concentrated on negative points and made it a matter of ego. A stubborn personality developed inside him and he remained biased which caused him to get banished from Allah’s court. It is a tragedy in today’s society that everyone focuses on negative details and no one concentrates on the positive points. Which is why diseases like rage, malice, lying, arrogance, and jealousy have surfaced.
Types of Concentration
Sultan Bahoo says:
- There are three levels of concentration:
- Initial concentration
- Medium concentration
- Extreme concentration
1. Initial Concentration
The initial concentration is better than the worship of one year. As the thinker starts invocation and reflection, he suffers from an extreme fear of death and then never forgets death. He breaks all hopes from worldly life and considers himself a traveller every moment.
2. Medium Concentration
The medium type of concentration is that by which the kingly invocation starts. By this concentration first of all the invocation is started with which the kingdom of seven climes is gained. After it the kingly invocation starts and its invoker is called the sultan of Mystics, sultan of the immortals, sultan of renouncers, sultan of endurers, sultan of scholars, sultan of practitioners, sultan of lovers and the sultan of invokers. The kingly invocation is the combination of four invocations; the oral invocation, the inward invocation, the invocation of the soul and the secret invocation. In the kingly invocation the consideration of a moment is better than the worship of seventy years.
Although during this concentration at times honour, at times surprise, at times the majestic absorption, at times trance of the Beauty occupies the seeker spiritually. In such circumstances the man of observation and Divine union should remain alert. As at this station due to the spiritual occupation of invocation and extreme intoxication some seekers are dominated by paganism, polytheism and ego. Consequently the seekers suffering from frenzy of egoism are accursed by heavens like Satan. To be persistent on the Divine path, it is essential to focus and concentrate on Ism-e-Allah Zaat and the truth of certainty.
3. Extreme Concentration
- Fakirs attain the extreme level of concentration. This level cannot be attained by the one who does not surpass and forget four levels of reflection i.e. the reflection of pre-existence, of eternity, of the world and that of the hereafter; four invocations i.e. the oral invocation which is merely a habit, the inward invocation which is a devotion, the invocation of soul which is a worship and the secret invocation which is the exact beneficence; four lives i.e. the life of physical world, life of angelic realm, life of realm of power and the life of realm of Divinity; four stations i.e. the station of sharia, station of mysticism, station of reality and that of gnosis. Unless he renounces everything and returns to the Divine light immersing in annihilation after annihilation, immortality after immortality, gets bestowed with utter forgiveness and attains the levels of nearness and union becoming exactly the absolute Essence, he remains victim of his ego. (Mehak-ul-Faqr Kalan)
Sultan Bahoo says:
- Attaining the extreme concentration is a very arduous toil. Therefore to travel the path of concentration, hold the hand of such a spiritual guide who is the perfect Fakir. (Mehak-ul-Faqr Kalan)
- When the possessor of contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat gets blessed with presence in the Mohammadan Assembly by the contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat and shahada then starts the meditation with closed eyes, he holds the sword of contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat in his hand and slays all the major and minor sins of his whole life with it. He also kills his inciting innerself, Satan, devilish whispers, obsessions, evil thoughts rather all his enemies on the earth with this sword. The Holy Prophet said, “Concentration of a moment is better than the worship of both the worlds.” The Holy Prophet has declared the eternal invocation (of Ism-e-Allah Zaat) and its perfect concentration and meditation as the collection of all the pious deeds according to the holy verses: Meaning: Surely good deeds delete the evil ones. This (reward) is for the true invokers of invocation (of Ism-e-Allah Zaat). (11:14) (Kaleed-ul-Tauheed Kalan)
- Identification of the man of concentration is that he concentrates about his Lord through Ism-e-Allah Zaat by the grace of which no sin is committed by him and he always remains firm on the straight path. Another sign of such man is that he always remains engrossed in the invocation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat. Due to this his inward is liberated from hypocrisy and he is spiritually purified. Further identity of the man of concentration is that he omits all the traces of other than Allah by getting engrossed in the invocation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat. (Mehak-ul-Faqr Kalan)
Conclusion of Sultan Bahoo’s saying
He says that concentration is a result of the Saints’ persuasion and training. And that the secrets of inward cannot be revealed without the favour of man of inward (perfect spiritual guide). That perfect spiritual guide who inwardly pledges allegiance to the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and gets the permission from him to bestow Ism-e-Allah Zaat.
Deprivation from Concentration
Concentration leads to the light of gnosis. Concentration can be individual as well as collective. A nation destroys itself if it does not concentrate and ponder. Many nations have faced Allah’s wrath in the forms of earthquakes, rain of rocks, floods and storms, sectarian disputes and massacre, etc. These are various forms of Allah’s wrath. But the biggest of Allah’s wrath is the deprivation from concentration and reflection, hence the entire nation is left dumb and unsound.
Another way to reflect is self-accountability meaning to keep analyzing your own deeds.
Muslims have forsaken concentration for a long time and become careless. As a result, anyone can drive them wherever he wants. It is the result of deprivation from concentration that ignorance, unfamiliarity from sciences, arts and history, and not understanding the temperament of other nations have become their identification and emotionalism has become their temperament. It is due to deprivation from concentration that we are apparently familiar with Islam but the Mohammadan light has left us. Today our leaders are away from Allah and our Salats are without the pleasure of Divine Love, Hajj is considered tourism, and Jihad has totally become a picture of corruption. These are the bitter fruits of deprivation from concentration even though we follow the Holy Book that calls us towards concentration again and again.
The Perfect Spiritual Guide of this Era
Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman is the Perfect Spiritual Guide of this era. He grants seekers the Ism-e-Allah Zaat with or without allegiance. And trains them through its invocation and contemplation and turns them into men of concentration. He says:
- The path of Faqr is the path of concentration. Concentration reveals the secrets of this path. Which is why seekers of Allah remain engrossed in concentration every moment. Concentration and reflection do not require seclusion or closed eyes. The seeker keeps pondering over a single point every moment whether in solitude or in crowd or doing the worldly chores. Allah gradually reveals upon him the hidden secrets of that matter. In this way he views everything with open eyes and gets aware of Divine secrets.
May Allah favour us to walk the path of Faqr with perseverance! Ameen.
Q.1 What is Concentration in Sufism?
Concentration means to ponder over something to have its knowledge and understanding. Actually, reflection is the cognitive power and light in man that can grant observation of the esoteric aspect of anything physical and the hidden of anything visible. This process is concentration in Sufism.
Q.2 What is the Difference between Meditation and Concentration?
Meditation usually needs seclusion and closed eyes while one can concentrate whenever and however he wants.
This blog is English translation of an Urdu article of the magazine “Mahnama Sultan-ul-Faqr Lahore” for the month of February, 2016. The title of the Urdu article is:
Originally penned by Noreen Abdul Ghafoor Sarwari Qadri from Lahore is presently in English by Mohammad Bin Moghees Sarwari Qadri, exclusively for websites.