The striving for attaining spiritual stability and spiritual sobriety is dependent on God-Consciousness at all times. The Promised Messiah(as) said Jis dum ghafil us dum kafir: The moment you are not God-conscious it would tantamount to disbelief. (Malfuzat Vol 4 page 341 2016 Edition)
Allah says in the Holy Quran:
Allah desires to lighten your burden, for man has been created weak. (4:29)
Sin is a burden. It is a burden that keeps the God-fearing humble. A disciple of saint asked him,
“What is life’s most difficult task?”
Without hesitation the saint replied:
“To have no burden to carry.”
Who does not long for a “sinless” world where nothing we do goes wrong, nothing we do has dire consequences for us and others, nothing we do need makes us sorry? But we do not live in such a world.
The Holy Prophet(sa) is reported to have said
“All human beings are sinners; the best of the sinners are those who repent.” (Ibn Majah)
What this means is that we must strive to graduate from being recurrent sinners to becoming recovering sinners.
Allah says in the Holy Quran:
And that you seek forgiveness of your Lord, and then turn to Him in repentance (11:4) (11:91)
This indicates that in the spiritual development of man the stage of Taubah (repentance) comes after, and is higher than Istighfar (seeking Allah’s forgiveness for sins committed and seeking His protection from the evil effects of past sins and seeking strength from Him to be able to avoid committing future sins).
The Promised Messiah(as) said:
‘Istighfar has priority over repentance, inasmuch as Istighfar is the help and strength which are obtained from God and repentance means standing on one’s own feet. It is the way of God that when a person seeks help from Him, He bestows strength and with that strength the supplicant stands on his own feet and thus possesses the faculty to do good, which is called ‘turning to God’. This is the natural sequence of it. It is appointed for seekers that they should seek help from God in every condition. Till a seeker obtains strength from God, he can do nothing. The strength for repentance is acquired after Istighfar. If there is no Istighfar, the faculty of repentance dies…. With the birth of humans, the task of creation came to conclusion but the task of sustenance is perpetual. Therefore, the need of perpetual Istighfar was recognized… Bring Taubah (repentance) to fruition by acts of obedience and good deeds (Amal kay saat taubah ki takmil karo) (Malfuzat Vol 4 page 296 2016 Edition)
We’re not sinners because we sin. We sin because we’re sinners. It means we have succumbed to the self that incites to evil (nafse amaara). Because of that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil. We are trapped in a vicious cycle of sin and half-hearted repentance leading to hardened hearts are disabled souls.
Our lives are an aggregate of sins, lapses and transgressions. But for the shelter of God’s Mercy on us we would all be destroyed. This Mercy is attracted for us by the prayers of our elders. We must build on this with our own prayers and true repentance. Allah says Innallaha yo hibbul tawwabeena wa yo hibbul mutahhireen:
Allah loves those who turn to Him and Allah loves those who keep themselves clean. (2:223)
The Promised Messiah(as) cites the example of Adam(as) on how he sought Allah’s help and forgiveness by praying
“Our Lord (Rabbana), we have wronged ourselves; and if Thou forgive us not and have not mercy on us, we shall surely be of the lost.” (7:24) .
The Promised Messiah(as) further says that in the Holy Quran whenever the word Rabbana is used implicit in its meaning is repentance (Taubah) (Malfuzat Vol 4 page 285 2016 Edition)
The key to achieving and maintaining spiritual stability and spiritual sobriety is God-Consciousness at all times. This is facilitated by remembrance of Allah. That is why the instruction in the Holy Quran “Wazkurullah Kaseerun” (2:201) (62:11) The Holy Prophet(sa) said,
“Let your tongue always be moist with the rememberance of Allah.”
The time spent without zikrullah will be the only regret in Jannah.
The sum of this wisdom is to develop love and fear of Allah and complete devotion (tabbatal) to Allah and complete dependence and trust (tawwakul) in Allah and self-effacement. The gold standard for us is the example of The Prophet(sa). He had attained the highest spiritual eminence. He was The First Muslim. As Allah commanded The Prophet(sa) to say Qul inna salati wa nosoki wa ma yahya wa ma maati lillahey rabbilaalameen: Say My prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds ‘He has no partner. (La Sharikala hoo) And so I am commanded (Wa Bayzaleka umirto), and I am the first of those who submit.’ (Ana Awalul Muslemeen) (6:163-164)
This is the state of Fana or total self-effacement.
Maulana Rumi narrates a story of a man seeking God. He goes to His door and knocks at the door and a voice answers, “Who’s there?” It is “I” the man says. The voice says, “Go away.” After many years of training, of disciplining, of search and struggle, he comes back, and with much greater humility, he knocks again on the door. The voice asks, “Who is there?” The man says, “It is You.” The door swings open, and the voice says, “Come in”. The story is a metaphor for the spiritual path. When man has willingly submitted and surrendered to God. There is nothing left of him.
The Promised Messiah(as) narrates a story as written in Masnawi Rumi which highlights this further. A man had a parrot that he kept in a cage. The man was going on a journey and was telling his parrot about it. The parrot says to him if you happen to go by that tree in the forest you will see and hear a lot of parrots. Tell them that I said that they are greatly blessed to be free and out and about. The man sets off. He passes by that tree and stops and delivers his message to the parrots. When he is finished a parrot falls to the ground and flutters for a while and is then lays still as if dead. The man was very sad and felt guilty about the whole incident. He comes home and tells his parrot the whole story. When he is finished the parrot in the cage falls to the bottom of the cage, flutters and lays still as if dead. The man was further grieved. He removes the parrot from the cage and throws it out. The parrot comes to life and perches itself on a wall and says to his master. Neither one of us is dead. I asked them how to free myself from the cage and the parrot showed me what to do. You must die to be free
This is a metaphor for freeing ourselves from the cage of self that incites to evil (nafse aamara). We must kill our egos, passions and desires and come into complete submission to Allah’s Will. It is only then that we inoculate ourselves from sin and other vices and the burden of sin is reduced to nothing.
At this stage man is only inclined to doing good deeds and worshipping and remembering Allah. It is heaven on earth. For such people there are two heavens. One here and one in the hereafter. As Allah says in the Holy Quran: walay mun khafa maqama raabayhe jannatain: for him who fears to stand before his Lord there are two gardens of paradise (55:47)
Syed Abdul Qadir Jilani(ra) says that when reaches this stage salat and good deeds are no longer a burden. They become and enjoyment and spiritual food and reward.
The Promised Messiah(as) says “Remember that no one can attain salvation through his deeds. Salvation is attained purely through God’s grace. The God in whom we believe is merciful and benevolent… Salvation is not something specific for the Hereafter. True salvation begins in this very life. It is the light that descends upon the soul and helps us tread the path of truth and wisdom so man is led to God…”
Khalifatul Masih V(aba) in his Friday Sermon (Sept 19th 2008) said when Allah Almighty commands believers to “seek forgiveness from Allah,” He also complements it with, “Allah is Most forgiving, Merciful.” The Holy Quran says Allah’s Mercy Transcends all other Attributes (7:157). This message is also conveyed by a story the Sufis tell about an 11th century mystic whose prayers had once been interrupted by a familiar voice. “oh Abu Al-Hasan!” God said. “Do you want me to tell people what I know about your sins, so that they may put you to death?” “Oh Lord “he whispered back. “Do you want me to tell people what I know about Your mercy, so none will ever feel obliged to bow down to you again?” “Keep your secret “said God . “And I will keep mine”
Perhaps thinking of this, the holy daughter of the Promised Messiah(as) Hazrat Nawab Mubaraka Begum Sahiba(ra) prayed to God as follows:
O Allah, just cover me up in Your Mercy,
Please do not ask me for any accounting, let me proceed without any reckoning
Do not ask me any questions, O My All Hearing and All Seeing God
Do not ask me for any answers, O You to Whom no answer can be made
My sins cannot be greater than Your power to Forgive
I am fully devoted to Thee, please set all accounting aside and let me go
I swear in Thy Name Sattar – the One Who Covers up the faults of a sinner
Please forgo all questioning on the Day of Judgement
Our last words are All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds.