Self-Realization (Irfan-e-Nafs )
From the beginning of human life, the questions regarding ones origin, reality and identity revolve within the human mind. The desire for self realization (irfan e nafs) as well as to recognize the Creator urges a person to question or struggle to research. Consequently, Allah sent His Prophets, Messengers as well as Saints to guide mankind.
GUIDANCE TO HUMANS:
Prophet Mohammad was sent as the absolute guidance for mankind in the form of Quran and his own being. Moreover, Allah says Quran is the complete code of life and Prophet also says everything at Allah’s command. Furthermore, those who follow these are the most successful in life and hereafter because they get acquainted to self realization (irfan e nafs). In addition, the Perfect Fakirs teach the same message according to the language and expression of that era.
PURPOSE OF ALLAH’S CREATION:
In the Holy Quran, Allah reveals the purpose of creation. The crux of the teachings of Perfect Fakirs is the same. Hence, they teach Divine love so one realises that the purpose of creation is self realization (irfan e nafs). Here is a Qudsi Hadith that holds great significance among all Sufi Saints:
کُنْتُ کَنْزًا مَخْفِیًا فَاَرَدۡتُ اَنْ اُعْرَفَ فَخَلَقْتُ الْخَلْقَ
Meaning: I was a Hidden treasure; I desired to be known, so I created the Universe.
Hence, underlying reason for every creation is to recognize the Creator, Allah. This is only possible through irfan e nafs.
RECOGNITION OF ALLAH:
If the realization of Allah requires self realization (irfan e nafs) or even vice versa then it is crucial to know its method. According to a Hadith:
مَنْ عَرَفَ نَفْسَہُ فَقَدْ عَرَفَ رَبَّہُ ۔
Meaning: Whoever recognized himself, undoubtedly, recognized his Allah.
This is so because all the souls came from the Mohammadan light which came from Divine light. Allah says:
“Man is My secret and I am his secret.”
Allama Iqbal says:
الست از خلوت نازے کہ برخاست
بلیٰ از پردۂ سازے کہ برخاست
Explanation: From whose proud solitude arose the voice of ” اَلَسْتُ بِرَبِّکُمْ ” (Am I not your Lord). And, whose musical instrument arose the tune of بَلٰی (Yes You are!)?
This refers to the day of Divine covenant whereby Allah questioned souls and they answered.
EACH REALM IS A STEP TO SELF REALIZATION (IRFAN E NAFS):
The creation of man descends from Divinity itself. Hence, each realm is a stage between man and Allah. Therefore, only human soul has access to the realm of Divinity. Moreover, the incident of Miraj i.e. Miraj un Nabi confirms it. Angel Gabriel stopped at the edge of this realm and said to Prophet Mohammad:
“If I step further, my wings would burn.”
In the realm of power (alam al jabarut), the kingly soul (ar ruh as sultani) exists. The 2nd stage is the realm of angels (alam al malakut), where the soul of celestial light (ar ruh ar ruhani or ar ruh an nurani) exists. Then the 3rd stage, is this realm where the soul exists in physical tangible body (ar ruh al jismani).
RETURN TO DIVINE SELF IS SELF REALIZATION (IRFAN E NAFS):
The perfect spiritual guide gives spiritual enlightenment to the soul of his disciples. However, it depends on the Divine love and effort of the disciple in accordance to which he reaches levels in Faqr. Hence, one who surpasses these levels of the soul, gains self realization (irfan e nafs).
In addition, the soul returns to its origin after purification (tazkiyah al nafs). He reaches his origin and deciphers the purpose of creation. According to a Hadith:
“Whoever recognized his own self undoubtedly recognized his Lord.”
NAMES OF SOUL THAT LEAD TO SELF REALIZATION (IRFAN E NAFS):
The ultimate stage or form of soul is the Divine soul. It has several names as found from the writings of Saints. Esoteric self, concealed self, spiritual self, inward, batin, ruh are just some of these. Saints also call it qalb, dil, munn and heart. In general, heart refers to the organ which beats within the rib cage. However, in mysticism and Sufism, heart relates to the inner being of a person which has a spiritual existence and feeling. It is not related to the tangible organ or restricted to the worldly lifespan. Therefore, its discovery is actually irfan e nafs.
IQBAL’S KHUDI IS SELF REALIZATION (IRFAN E NAFS):
Whenever the concept of self-realization (irfan e nafs) is discussed, it is impossible not to quote Iqbal. He referred to the inward self as ‘khudi’. Hence, for him, it means inward knowledge (khud shanasi).
Unfortunately, most interpreters of Iqbal’s work, have wrongly taken the concept of khudi as ego instead of the soul or inward. Paradoxically, ego takes one away from Allah whereas soul is the greatest connection which takes one closest to Allah.
Moreover, people who are not really acquainted with Sufism also call it as conscience. Furthermore, it is that voice which stops one before he commits a sin and the one which repents and feels guilty. This is because the soul is not designed to commit sin and gives a signal when it is being used against its nature.
SELF REALIZATION (IRFAN E NAFS) LEADS TO GNOSIS OF ALLAH:
Perfect faith means full command upon self-realization (irfan e nafs). If one observes then also means the awareness that one has an inner being apart from the physical body. Moreover, it is the soul which is accountable to Allah. Hence, it’s awakening is necessary. Therefore, this is also the way to gnosis and closeness to Allah.
SELF REALIZATION (IRFAN E NAFS) IS PART OF ISLAM:
Another issue facing the Muslim umma is that even Quranic verses are read on the surface with basic meaning taken from them. However, the Quran has deeper meaning which is its esoteric meaning. The true meaning of Islam hidden inside the Quran is not deciphered by most scholars. Resultantly, the focus is upon the outer aspect and not on the spiritual aspect. Hence, there is no room for one to reach irfan e nafs. Therefore, this has resulted in the downfall of the Muslim umma. However, the true success only remains in the esoteric meaning of the word of Allah.
SELF REALIZATION (IRFAN E NAFS) IN LIGHT OF QURAN:
Irfan e nafs in the light of Quran has been explained in this way:
وَ فِیۡۤ اَنۡفُسِکُمۡ ؕ اَفَلَا تُبۡصِرُوۡنَ
Meaning: And I am within your selves. So do you not notice? (Adh-Dhariyat-21)
وَ نَحۡنُ اَقۡرَبُ اِلَیۡہِ مِنۡ حَبۡلِ الۡوَرِیۡدِ
Meaning: And I am nearer to the man than his jugular vein. (Qaf-16)
اَفَرَءَیۡتَ مَنِ اتَّخَذَ اِلٰـہَہٗ ہَوٰىہُ
Meaning: Have you seen him who has made his desires (of nafs, inciting innerself) his god. (Al-Jathiyah-23)
اَوَ لَمۡ یَتَفَکَّرُوۡا فِیۡۤ اَنۡفُسِہِمۡ ۟
Meaning: Have they not meditated within themselves. (Ar-Rum-8)
According to a Qudsi Hadith:
لَاْ یَسْعُنِیْ اَرْضِیْ وَ لَا سَمَآئِی وَلٰکِنْ یَسْعُنِی قَلْبُ عَبْدِالْمُؤ ِمن
Meaning: Neither earth can possess Me nor the skies but only the heart of believer (Mumin) can.
SELF REALIZATION (IRFAN E NAFS) IN LIGHT OF HADITH:
The need for self realization (irfan e nafs) is also been emphasized by Hadiths of Prophet Mohammad:
اِنَّ اللّٰہَ لَا یَنْظُرُ اِلٰی صُوَرِکُمْ وَ لَا یَنْظُرُ اِلٰی اَعْمَالِکُمْ بَلْ یَنْظُرُ فِیْ قُلُوْبِکُمْ وَنِیَّاتِکُمْ
Meaning: Verily! Allah observes neither your physical appearance nor the deeds rather He scrutinizes your inward and intentions. (Bukhari, Muslim)
اِنَّمَا الْعَمَالُ بِالنِّیَّاتِ۔
Meaning: The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions.
قَلْبُ الْمُؤْمِنِ عَرْشَ اللّٰہِ تَعَالیٰ۔
Meaning: The inward of a believer is Allah’s Throne.
MESSAGE TAUGHT BY ALL SUFI SAINTS:
It is interesting to note that all the Islamic Saints and Mystics have laid great stress upon irfan e nafs. Hence, it means to recognize Allah which is the eternal goal of mankind.
بس بصورت عَالَمِ صُغری توئی
پس بمعنی عَالَمِ کُبْریٰ توئی
Meaning: You are a little world by appearance but in reality, you are a great world.
آدمی راہست حِسِ تن سِقیم
لیک دو بَاطن یکے خلق عظیم
Meaning: Although physically, a person is worthless but his esoteric self has large realm in it.
TEACHINGS OF SUFI SAINTS:
Khawaja Hafiz Shirazi says:
یار باماست روز و شب حافظ
ہمچوں جانے کہ ہست در رگ وپے
Meaning: O Hafiz! My beloved is with me day and night, just as life is within my veins and muscles.
Bu Ali Shah Qalandarsays:
یار در تو پس چرائی بے خبر
Meaning: Your Beloved (Allah) is within you, why are you so oblivious.
Al-Ghazali explains the Hadith
مَنْ عَرَفَ نَفْسَہُ فَقَدْ عَرَفَ رَبَّہُ
“O man! Nearest to you is your very own entity.”
If one does not have self realization (irfan e nafs), then how can one recognize others? If one is only aware of his physical organs, then how can one realise one’s reality? Even animals have this kind of awareness. Self realization (irfan e nafs) is not about eating when hungry or to quarrel when angry or to have sexual intercourse when overcoming with lust. Man has been made superior to animals on this basis that he discovers himself.
IRFAN E NAFS IS BEYOND ALL INSTINCTS:
One remains deprived on one’s identity unless one gains irfan e nafs. The evil, angelic and human instincts are limited but irfan e nafs is beyond all these. However, these qualities must not overpower a person. Ibn Arabi states:
O seeker! Gain irfan e nafs. What are you, your reality and your relation with Allah? On what basis are you the Truth (Haq) and the world (Alam)? (Fusus al Hikam)
SULTAN BAHOO TEACHINGS ABOUT SELF REALIZATION (IRFAN E NAFS):
Sultan Bahoo encourages the Muslim umma to discover their inwards. The true irfan e nafs is that Allah is the reality of human and vice versa. Sultan Bahoo says:
قربِ حق نزدیک من حبل الورید
تو جمالش رانہ بینی بے نظیر
Meaning: The Divine Essence is closer than the jugular vein but you are spiritually blind and the union with Allah is not destined for you. (Deewan e Bahoo)
Sultan Bahoo explains that usually the inciting innersef does not become obedient. However, under one circumstance, it does change. Moreover, when a person gains closeness to Allah through Ism e Allah Zaat, his inward enflames with Divine love. It is then that the innerself restricts itself from sins through tazkiya nafs (tazkiyah meaning purgation and nafs meaning innerself). Hence, it repents leading to spiritual awakening. Therefore, a person becomes acceptable in the Mohammadan Assembly and gains irfan e nafs. Therefore, he is purified from all evil elements and gets acquainted with Divine intutuions. (Mehak ul Faqr Kalan)
According to the Hadith of Prophet Mohammad:
مَنْ عَرَفَ نَفْسَہُ فَقَدْ عَرَفَ رَبَّہُ
Meaning: Whoever gains irfan e nafs undoubtedly recognized his Lord.
This is a lesson for the Mohammadan umma. Through irfan e nafs, one becomes aware of spiritual states. The innerself starts to let go of all worldly desires and sins. Hence, man bows to his slavehood to Allah without which his existence is a shame. (Mehak ul Faqr Kalan)
LEVELS AND OBEDIENCE OF INNERSELF TO REACH SELF REALIZATION (IRFAN E NAFS):
Sultan Bahoo explains that the Divine lovers are the one who have gained irfan e nafs. This is because their attention is always on their Beloved who resides in their inwards. Moreover, the way to irfan e nafs is only through focus upon the inward which is seen through Divine vision. If the innerself is elevated, one reaches the reality. Further, this also ensures that all the physical acts are also done in the righteous way. The inwards of the Fakirs are enlightened with the Divine vision and irfan e nafs.
The esoteric self of a man is like a deep ocean and his body is just a bubble. (Nur ul Huda Kalan)
SULTAN BAHOO POETRY ON IRFAN E NAFS:
Sultan Bahoo motivates on gaining irfan e nafs. In one of his poetry, he states:
چشمِ بند عینک بہ پیش چشمِ دِل
خوش بین دیدار را در جسمِ گل
Meaning: Close your physical eye while the inner eye is watching and witnesses the Divine vision in the earthen body. (Taigh-e-Barhana)
MEANING OF SELF REALIZATION (IRFAN E NAFS) THROUGH ALPHABETS:
The Arabic word for esoteric self is ( قلب ) (Qalb). It has three alphabets; ( ق ) (Q), ( ل ) (L) and ( ب ) (B). The alphabet ( ق ) (Q) refers to Qurbe. closeness of Allah. Moreover, the alphabet ( ل ) (L) refers to Laqa i.e. vision of Allah. Whereas, the alphabet ( ب ) (B) refers to Baqa i.e. immortality with Allah and having the Divine observations. In fact, these all belongs to the inward. Whoever possesses these attributes is the man of inward otherwise a dog in the guise of a human. (Qurb-e-Deedar)
IRFAN E NAFS MEANS AN ETERNAL LIFE:
According to Sultan Bahoo, irfan e nafs means an eternal life.
In one of his quatrains, he says:
ایہہ تن رَب سچے دا حُجرا، وِچ پا فقیرا جھاتی ھُو
ناں کر مِنت خواج خضر دی، تیرے اندر آب حیاتی ھُو
شوق دا دِیوا بال ہَنیرے، مَتاں لبھی وَست کھڑاتی ھُو
مرن تھیں اگے مر رہے باھوؒ، جنہاں حق دی رمز پچھاتی ھُو
Explanation: Your body is the temple of Divine manifestations. Reflect you’re your inward. Prophet Khidr has drunk the vital water of Divine love which is also present within your inward. Discover the Divine Essence within you through irfan e nafs.
SELF REALIZATION (IRFAN E NAFS) IS MANIFESTATION OF THE BELOVED:
According to Sultan Bahoo, irfan e nafs means the manifestation of the Beloved. He says in one of his quatrains:
ایہہ تن رَب سچے دا حُجرا، دِل کھڑیا باغ بہاراں ھُو
وِچّے کُوزے وِچے مُصَلّے، وِچ سجدے دِیاں تھاراں ھُو
وِچے کعبہ وِچے قبلہ، وِچے اِلَّا اللّٰہُ پکاراں ھُو
کامل مرشد ملیا باھوؒ، اُوہ آپے لَیسی ساراں ھُو
Explanation: The reality has dawned upon me that my inward is the home of my Beloved. Only through irfan e nafs can I see Him. I am overwhelmed due to my happiness. I purify my soul with ablution from the the goblets. I bow in front of my Beloved. Due to irfan e nafs, now I know that Kaaba is within me as here I am united with Allah. My Perfect Murshid has opened my eyes to the affirmation of ‘none but Allah ( اِلَّا اللّٰہُ ). He is my protector and guardian.
CONTEMPLATION OF ISM E ALLAH ZAAT:
Conclusively, self realization (irfan e nafs) is the core and crux of the teachings of Sufi Saints, Mystics and Fakirs. This is the only method of the recognition of the Creator, Allah. Man and Allah are connected through steps of Divine descent and through realms of the soul. As the soul progresses, man reaches Divinity. This process is that of irfan e nafs. However, only the perfect spiritual guide holds the authority and calibre to nourish Divine love within the disciple’s soul. Hence, the disciple gains irfan e nafs. Sultan ul Ashiqeen has spent his life spreading the these teachings of irfan e nafs. He purifies the inwards of all who come to him so they spiritually elevate. Sultan ul Ashiqeen grants the invocation and contemplation of Ism e Allah Zaat to all his disciples. This is the key to self realization (irfan e nafs).
SULTAN UL ASHIQEEN QUOTES ON IRFAN E NAFS:
One can gradually reach the destination of self-realization only by the guidance and attention of the spiritual guide.
When a person realizes himself only then he recognizes Allah. The key to awaken and enlighten the soul, inner core, esoteric self, conscience and insight is the invocation and contemplation of Ism e Allah Zaat.
The person who does not attain the recognition of Allah in this world remains blind spiritually. Therefore, he won’t be able to recognize Allah on the Day of Judgment because he will be raised blind.
What is a self realized person?
It is the person who has fully understood his inner being in terms of its origin and soul and has recognized Allah. It does not refer to someone who is still engrossed in his identity in terms of gender, caste, race, etc.
How do you do self realization?
Self realization is gained through the invocation and contemplation of Ism e Allah Zaat granted by the Perfect Murshid of Sarwari Qadri order.
Why is self realization important in our lives?
The importance of self realization is that liberates one from irrelevant emotions and expectations. It makes a person trust more upon Allah as he realizes that man is nothing and Allah is everything. A person becomes more humble and submissive in the court of Allah.
What does self realization feel like?
Some people do yoga and spiritual exercises for self seeking empowerment. However, self realization can only be gained through obedience and submission towards the Perfect Murshid. It is the training given by the Perfect Murshid through which a person feels innerself purified and gains self realization.
What is the importance of self realization?
It teaches one to observe, embrace and overcome the greatest fears of life. This is because their focus is upon Allah.
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