By: Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi
Makhdoom Ashraf’s spiritual theories presented in his oral transmission known as “Lataif-e-Ashrafi” are our guiding light today.
Indian Sufi saints of Persian origin have richly contributed to the beautiful mystical traditions in India. Their essential message included brotherhood (ukhuwat-e-insani), inclusivity (shumuliat) and a wide embrace of religious pluralism and multiculturalism. This was the key behind the vast popularity of the Sufi sages in the country.
One such Indian sage who came from Persia was Makhdoom Ashraf Jahangir Simnani whose shrine is in Uttar Pradesh. A disciple of the 13th century Bengali Sufi sheikh Hazrat Alaul Haq Pandavi and a practitioner of Ibn-e-Arabi’s philosophy of Wahdat al-Wajud (unity of the existence), Makhdoom Ashraf is highly venerated in north India. He founded the branch of the Chishti Sufi order — Ashrafi Silsila — with vital contribution of his distinguished mureed (disciple), Syed Shah Abdur Razzaq Noor Ayn.
Makhdoom Ashraf’s spiritual theories presented in his oral transmission known as “Lataif-e-Ashrafi” are our guiding light today. His discourse seeks to deepen our understanding about the basic tenets of Islam, such as wahdat and al-Tawheed (oneness of God). He introduced wahdat as a deeply nuanced and wider notion of love. “Wahdat means annihilation of the lover in the characteristics of his/her beloved”.
Explaining the essential belief in al-Tawheed (the fundamental tenet of Islam) as an all-inclusive and comprehensive Islamic doctrine, Makhdoom Ashraf has dwelled on different degrees of tawheed:
1. Wahdat-e imani (oneness in belief): It is an act of the servants of God, confirming by heart and verbally acknowledging His uniqueness.
2. Wahdat-e ilmi (oneness in knowledge): Makhdoom Ashraf stated: “This second degree of wahdat is attained within oneself, through inner spiritual knowledge. This is also called ilm ul-yaqeen (confirmed knowledge). It urges one to believe that there is no existence other than the Almighty. All other personas, virtues and actions are nothing in comparison to His persona, virtues and actions. In this degree of wahdat, one is supposed to acknowledge the growth of each person as a manifestation of the divine persona of God.”
3. Wahdat-e hali (oneness in spiritual condition): Makhdoom Ashraf explained: “It implies that the condition of wahdat is the most essential virtue of the spiritual practitioners. All darkness of the existence is lost in the light of wahdat. In this state, one should be overwhelmed by the light of wahdat in such a way as the stars lose their light in the sun.”
Finally Makhdoom Ashraf avers: “Wahdat is an ocean and the muwahhid (the believer) is a drop in it with no power of its own”.