A Summary of Lesson One of Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz’s commentary on “Miftah al-Sara’ir” (“Key to the Inner Secrets”) by his ancestor, Shaykh Abu Bakr bin Salim. The book contains essential advice for every seeker.
Allah’s Attributes of Forgiving and Concealing
Shaykh Abu Bakr bin Salim (may Allah have mercy upon him and benefit us by him) mentions Allah’s name, “al-Ghaffar” (the Oft-Forgiving) so that we know that our sins cannot veil us from Him however great or numerous they are.
The Devil benefits from an act of disobedience by making the person who commits it fall into a greater act of disobedience which is to despair of Allah’s mercy. Or he makes him believe that his sin is greater than Allah’s mercy. Sins are the attribute of the slave and forgiveness is the attribute of Allah. How can the attribute of the slave be greater than the attribute of Allah?
The sign of someone who is truthful in seeking forgiveness from their Lord is that they forgive whatever wrongs Allah’s slaves do them. It is only fitting that Allah then forgives them. The one who constantly seeks to take his rights from people will have the hardest reckoning on the Day of Judgement.
The Shaykh also mentions Allah’s name, al-Sattar (the One Who conceals people’s faults). If someone wishes for Allah to conceal his faults, let him conceal the faults of Allah’s slaves. The Prophet ﷺ said: “If someone conceals a believer’s faults, Allah will conceal his faults in this life and the next.
Lifting the Veil
The Shaykh says: “The One Who lifted the veil that lay between Him and His protected friends such that they witnessed Him in everything by means of the eye of the inner sight.”
When Allah lifts the veil between Him and His slave, the slave tastes a sweetness which is indescribable. He then attains direct knowledge of Allah which is the true manifestation of human nobility. The bliss which he then experiences in Paradise and in gazing upon Allah’s noble countenance is according to the degree of his knowledge of Allah. Your bliss in Paradise is according to your knowledge of the Creator of Paradise.
The knowers of Allah say that the greatest punishment is being veiled from Allah. One of them said: “Punish me in whatever way you wish but do not punish me with the abasement of being veiled from You.”
The knowers of Allah witness Him in everything and nothing veils them from Him. The creation for them is like a mirror in which they witness the beauty, greatness and perfection of the Creator. For them the creation is like a sheet of glass through which they witness Allah. For the disbelievers and heedless, however, it is like a wall which prevents them from seeing what is behind it, namely Allah.
The Shaykh swears an oath later in the book that he did not see anything in creation without witnessing Allah before it, with it or after it. He made this statement at the age of seventeen. So what was his state at the age of eighteen or nineteen and in every year of his life thereafter? He lived more than seventy years and the pious increase in closeness to Allah in every breath.
Allah honours His pious slaves by breaking for them some of the norms in creation (karamat), which serves to increase the certitude of their followers. The lower self naturally tends towards idleness, heedlessness, arrogance and boredom. When the pious went against these tendencies and broke their bad habits, Allah broke the norms in creation for them.
Every created thing is by nature in a state of tasbih (proclaiming Allah’s transcendence) so when the believer makes abundant tasbih his heart is in harmony with the creation. Making abundant tasbih assists the wayfarer on the path to Allah.
Paradise and the Fire
For every good deed the believer performs his place will be in Paradise will be expanded. Bestowing prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ causes the believer’s place in Paradise to expanded the most, as has been narrated . The more he bestows prayers upon the Prophet, the more his place will be expanded.
Likewise, if someone commits a bad deed and if it is not forgiven, their place in the Fire will be expanded and their punishment will be increased.
It has been narrated that if someone asks Allah for Paradise three times, Paradise will say: “O Allah, make him one of my people.” And if someone seeks refuge in Allah from the Fire three times, the Fire will say: “O Allah, protect him from me.”
There is a valley in the Fire which is reserved for those who show off in their recitation and of the Qur’an and the prayer. Even the Fire seeks refuge from the terror of this valley because it is a manifestation of Allah’s wrath.
Some hadith state that the stations of Paradise are as numerous as the verses of the Qur’an. It will be said to the person who memorised the Qur’an and acted according: “Recite and ascend as you used to recite in this life and your station will be according to the last verse that you recite.” That person will recite verse after verse and ascend (and there is 500 years’ distance between each station) until he reaches the highest station in the highest level of Firdaws.
Firdaws is the highest level of Paradise and the Throne is its ceiling. But there is a higher level – al-Wasilah – which is reserved for the Messenger of Allah ﷺ . He said: “Ask Allah to give me al-Wasilah (after the adhan) for it is a station reserved for one slave, and I hope to be that slave.”