This is the first letter from “Fifteen Letters (Khamsata ‘Ashara Maktuban)”
O dear one!
When the lightnings of direct witnessing1 flash from the clouds of the emanation of:
Allah guides to His Light whom He wills, (24.35)
—and the winds of the union of love blow from the windward of the care of:
He chooses for His mercy whom He wills,2 (2.105)
—the fragrant plants of close rapport will flower in the gardens of the hearts,3
—and the nightingales of longing will chant in the orchards of the spirits with the tones of:
Alas, my grief for Joseph! (12.84)
—and the fires of yearning will burn in the stoves of the innermost beings.4
The wings of the flying thoughts will become too tired in the space of greatness in its pursuit of the destination of the flight,
—the greatest minds will go astray in the deserts of spiritual knowledge,
—and the foundations of the cornerstones of understanding will shake from the shock of the majesty.5
The ships of determination will sail in the depths of the seas of:
They did not value Allah as He should be valued6 (39.67)
—by the winds of:
As it floated on with them amid waves like mountains,7 (11.42)
—and when the waves of the sea of the all-engrossing love of:
He loves them and they love Him, (5.54)
—collide, everyone will call in the tongue of the spiritual state
O my Lord! Disembark me with a blessed disembarking, and you are the best to disembark.8 (23.29)
So the predestined care of:
They for whom We have preordained good things (21.101)
—will reach them, and it will disembark them on the shore of the Jūdī9 of:
A seat of truth. (54.55)
It will take them to the assembly of the intoxicated of:
Am I not your Lord? (7.172)
—it will spread for them the tablecloth of the feast of the bliss of:
For those who do good there will be good and more, (10.26)
—and it will pass around to them the cups of attainment from the casks of nearness by the hands of the cupbearers of:
And their Lord shall provide them with pure drink,10 (76.21)
—so they will be honored with an everlasting kingdom and the sovereignty of:
And if you look far you shall see bliss and a great kingdom.11 (76.20)
1 “Shuhūd (direct witnessing)” is a spiritual state in which the person has direct revelatory experiences.
2 This and the previous verse emphasize that Allah chooses whom to grant this spiritual favor to.
3 The flashes of direct witnessing and the whiffs of the union with the Lover are not permanent, but they leave the heart with the unique experience of intimate friendship.
4 Having tasted intermittently that unparalleled experience, the heart now cannot stand the separation and wants that experience permanently. The pain of separation is reminiscent of prophet Jacob’s pain when he lost his beloved son prophet Joseph. The term “sirr (innermost being)” denotes the deepest and most secret part of man.
5 “Maʿrifa (spiritual knowledge)” is an experientially acquired spiritual form of knowledge that is beyond the comprehension of even the greatest brains. It is not something that can be attained or understood by reason but it can become accessible only to the sound heart. Spiritual knowledge is a fruit of piety: “And be pious toward Allah and Allah shall teach you” (2.282).
6 But the seeker is determined to continue his pursuit of that intimate closeness to Allah, knowing that He is worthy of every effort, and being aware of and avoiding the failure of those who underestimated Allah.
7 This journey of salvation is similar to that of prophet Noah, which Allah commanded him to make and subtly directed.
8 As he negotiates the difficulties of sailing in the sea of divine love, he prays to Allah to guide him to the shore of His acceptance.
9 Exegetes think that “the Jūdī” is the name of the mountain on which Noah’s arch settled.
10 Allah will then land the seekers safely as He guided Noah’s arch to the Jūdī.
Allah then admits them into the company of those who are intoxicated with His love. They will be served unique food and drink that are available only to those who attain nearness to Him.
11 This turn of fortune and honor from Allah will be everlasting.