The Necessity of Self-Vigilance and Its Meaning
It is possible that because of self-vigilance, even if it is just for a moment, the veils are lifted from one’s soul, something that cannot take place even for thirty years of struggle and spiritual self-mortification.The most important subject in wayfaring to Allah is self-vigilance (Muraaqabe) for the purpose of attaining proximity to God. And it is the key to all kinds of felicity and the best way to attract virtues and blessings.
The meaning of self-vigilance is when a servant, due to his attention to God, attains such a station of faith that:
1. He sees no volition of his own and awaits Divine bestowals.
2. He disregards other than God and anticipates Lordly benevolence.
3. He is immersed in the shoreless ocean of what Allah desires and yearns to meet the Beloved.
4. His heart craves to meet God, and his spirit is restlessly eager to come in the alley of the Friend.
5. In order to reach this exalted purpose, he seeks help only from Him, so that God opens the door of His mercy on him, with this endless and eternal blessing, and closes the doors of His punishment in such a way that they never open again. And it is possible that because of self-vigilance, even if it is just for a moment, the veils are lifted from his soul, something that cannot take place even for thirty years of struggle and spiritual self-mortification, for “Allah turns their bad deeds into good deeds” (25:70), and “for those who do actions of beauty is the most beautiful reward and an increment” (10:26).
Divine Mercy and Volition
This increment [mentioned in the above verse 10:26] is an increment of Allah’s special mercy, for “that is the favor of Allah, He gives it to whosoever He wants.” (62:4)
A beggar can turn into a king in a moment of Divine Attraction
Only in a moment a mountain is given in return for a straw
Therefore, O wayfarer, upon you is self-vigilance, upon you is self-vigilance, upon you is self-vigilance.
Daylami writes in his Irshad al-Qulub:
God says: “And Allah is always extremely and perpetually vigilant over everything.” (33:52)
The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) said to one of his companions: “Worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you cannot see him, [certainly] He can see you.” This saying of the Holy Prophet is in reference to self-vigilance (muraaqabe), for self-vigilance in reality is that the human being should know that Allah is looking at him, and is watching him in all his states.
And the most exalted benefit for a servant of God is to know in every breath of his that God is vigilant over his actions and close to him, such that He is aware of his actions, He sees his movements, hears his talks, and knows his secrets. And his movements are in His command, and his heart is in His hand. And in view of this state, he has no power to hide anything from God, nor can ever leave the Divine sovereignty.
Luqman said to his son: “When you wish to disobey Allah, go to a place where God cannot see you!” He said this to point out that since you are one who cannot find a place where God cannot see you, then do not sin.
Almighty God says in the Qur’an: “He is with you wherever you are.”
Was God Not Present?
It is narrated that one of the scholars would show more love to one of his students who was young and clever. This created ill-feeling and criticism in the rest of his students. In order to practically prove to them that he is right in showing more love to that particular student, he gave a bird to each and every student and said, “Slaughter this in a place where no one can see you.” After a few minutes, all the students returned with their slaughtered birds. Then, after a few seconds, the young [favorite] student appeared while he had not yet slaughtered the bird.
The teacher asked him: “Why have you not yet slaughtered the bird?”
The student responded by saying, “It is because of your command. You had said I should slaughter it in a place where no one is present. And I did not find a place where the One, Unique and Non-composite God is not present.”
The teacher said to him, “well done!” and applauded him, and thereafter addressing his students said, “It is for this very reason that I chose him among you and venerated him.”
The Effects of Self-Vigilance
1. To select what Almighty God has chosen.
2. To respect what Allah respects.
3. To consider low what Allah considers low.
Hence, hope in God would motivate you to worship, and fear of the justice of God would protect you from sin. And self-vigilance leads to shame and makes you reach the realities and forces you to account on seemingly minute affairs of life.
Know that the best worship is self-vigilance, a kind of vigilance that is perpetual and continuous. The felicity of the human being is when he is constantly in the state of self-appraisal and self-vigilance and always monitors and trains himself. For God sees his works and is aware of them. And he should know that he is always in the presence of God, and not for even a moment is he far from God’s knowledge.
Etiquettes of Self-Vigilance
1. One observes the acts of worship, programs, and supplications of the months and days of the year.
2. Rather, he is not oblivious of the supplications of hours of the day and night.
3. Of greater importance is that he must be careful not to pass his moments in vain.
4. He should always anticipate the arrival of the vivifying breeze from the alley of the Friend, for the Most Noble Messenger of Allah said: “Without any doubt, in your life time there are moments when the All-compassionate breeze blows.” Therefore, stay vigilant of those golden moments and do not disregard them.
A former student of Allama Tabatabai and numerous notable scholars, Ayatollah Hasanzadeh Amuli is renowned for his scholarship in the fields of spirituality and philosophy. He currently lives and teaches in the holy city of Qom.
Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from the author’s Sirat al-Suluk, which is being serially translated from Farsi into English on the Al-Lisan Scratch Pad blog by Shaikh Muhammad Khalfan.