Muraqaba is the Sufi word for meditation. Literally it means “to watch over“, “to take care of”, or “to keep an eye”. Metaphorically, it implies that with meditation, a person watches over or takes care of his spiritual heart (or soul), and acquires knowledge about it, its surroundings, and its creator.
Stages of Muraqaba
Following are the maqamat (stages) in which sufis have broadly categorised their journey of ascension. This categorization is an arbitrary one, and each level is generally further divided into several sub-levels. During the process of enlightenment, some stages can merge or overlap each other.
GNOSIS OF SELF
This is the starting level of meditation. When a person starts meditation, he enters into a somnolent or sleep state often. With the passage of time, the person goes into a state between sleep and wakefulness. So the person can remember that he saw something, but not specifically what it is.
With continuous practice of meditation, the sleepiness from meditation decreases. When the conscious mind is not suppressed by sleep and is able to focus, the person can receive the spiritual knowledge from his subconscious mind. At this stage, the person is unable to see or hear anything, but he is able to experience or perceive it.
Warood (coming, beginning)
When adraak (experience) becomes deep, it is exhibited as sight. The stage of warood starts when mental concentration is sustained and somnolence is at its minimum. As soon as the mind is focused, the spiritual eye is activated. The conscious mind is not used to see through the spiritual eye, so concentration comes and goes. Gradually, the mind gets used to this kind of visions and the mental focus is sustained. With practice, the visions/experience becomes so deep that the person starts considering himself a part of the experience rather than considering himself an observer.
GNOSIS OF THE UNIVERSE
Kashaf/Ilhaam (unveiling of arcane knowledge)
Kashaf, or Ilhaam is the stage where man starts getting information that most people are unable to observe. In the beginning, this condition occurs suddenly without personal control. With practice, the mind gets so energized that it can get this knowledge by will.
When a person can get any information about any event/person with his will, this condition is called Shahood. This stage is broadly categorized according to activation of the senses:
- The person can see things anywhere in the universe
- The person can hear things anywhere in the universe
- The person can smell things anywhere in the universe
- The person can touch things anywhere in the universe (hadith)
Fatah (opening, victory)
The peak of Shahood is called Fatah. At this stage, the person doesn’t need to close his eyes for meditation. Here the person is freed from both space and time. He can see/hear/taste/touch anything that are present anywhere in time and space.
GNOSIS OF THE CREATOR
Fanaa (extinction, annihilation)
Through a series of stages (maqamat) and subjective experiences (ahwal), this process of absorbation develops until complete annihilation of the self (fana) takes place and the person becomes al-insanul-kamil, the “perfect man”. It is the disintegration of a person’s narrow self-concept, social self- and limited intellect (feeling like a drop of water aware of being part of the ocean). The stage is also called Fana fit tawheed (“extinction with the unity”), and Fana fil Haq (Extinction in the reality).
Sair illallah (journey towards the God)
Here the person starts his spiritual journey towards the ultimate reality of the universe, i.e. God. Also called Safr-e-Urooji
Fana fillah (Extinction of the self in God)
One of the important phases of mystical experience which is attained by the grace of God by a traveller on the mystical path is the state of fana fi Allah, “extinction of the self in God”. This is the state where the person becomes extinct in the will of God. It is important to mention that this is not incarnation or union. Most Sufis, while passing through this experience, have preferred to live in the greatest depth of silence which transcends all forms and sounds, and enjoy their union with the beloved.
- The highest stage of fana is reached when even the consciousness of having attained fana disappears. This is what the Sufis call “the passing-away of passing-away” (fana al-fana). The mystic is now wrapped in contemplation of the divineessence. (Nicholson, The Mystics of Islam, p.60).
- Since it is a state of complete annihilation of carnalself, absorbation or intoxication in God, the pilgrim is unable to participate in worldly affairs, he is made to pass into another state known as Fana-al-Fana (forgetfulness of annihilation). It is a sort of oblivion of unconsciousness. Since two negatives make one positive, the pilgrim at this stage regains his individuality as he was when he started the journey. The only difference is that in the beginning he was self-conscious, but after having reposed in the Divine Being, he regains that sort of individuality which is God-consciousness or absorbation in God. This state is known as Baqa-bi-Allah — living or subsisting with God. (Alhaj W.B.S. Rabbani, Gems of Sufi Gnosticism)
Sair min allah (journey from the God)
Here the person comes back to his existence. Also called Safr-e-Nuzooli.
Baqaa billah (eternal life in union with God)
This is the state where man comes back to his existence and God appoints him to guide the humans. This is a state in which the individual is part of the world, but unconcerned about his or her rewards or position in it. This doctrine is further explained in an authentictradition of the prophet which states that God said:
- And the most beloved things with which My slave comes nearer to Me, is what I have enjoined upon him; and My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing Nawafil (praying or doing extra deeds besides what is obligatory) till I love him, so I become his sense of hearing with which he hears, and his sense of sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he grips, and his leg with which he walks
There is another verse from Qur’an , that is used to explain this concept.
- We (Allah) are nearer to him (man) than his jugular vein (50:6)
When Sufis have come out of the Fana fillah state and enter Baqa billah, many of them have produced works of unsurpassed glory, especially in the fields of philosophy, literature, and music. These works have crowned the culture of the entire Islamic world and inspired Sufis and non-Sufis for generations. As the great Persian Sufi poet, Hafiz of Shiraz, who is fondly remembered as the “tongue of the unseen”, said centuries ago: “He whose heart is alive with love, never dies.”. Allah says about these people in the Qur’an:
- “Lo, indeed, the friends of God have no fear, nor are they grieved.”
DIFFERENT TYPES OF MURAQABA :
There are many different kinds of muraqaba that are practiced in various Sufi schools in different parts of the world. Following is a list of the ones commonly practiced.
Beginner level muraqabas
- Muraqaba of light
These are usually used for beginners, or for cure of various diseases.
Middle Level Muraqabas
- Moat (Death) — For getting acquaintance with life after Death
Adam (Pre-existence) — Next level of Muraqaba of Nothingness.
- Fana (Annihilation) — Annihilation of Self, getting acquaintance with the alpha and omega of universe.
High Level Muraqabas
- Tasawwur-e-Shaykh (Focussing mind on master) — To facilate the transfer of spiritual knowledge from master to student.