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Spiritual Method

The spiritual method of the Nimatullahi Order is based on four principles: remembrance of God (dhikr), contemplation (fikr), meditation (muraqiba), and self-examination (muhasiba).

Dhikr is defined in the dictionary as ‘remembrance’. According to the sufis, however, this term has a much more specific meaning: total and uncompromised attention to God, ignoring all that is not God.

You remember Us truly in your heart and soul,
only when you have forgotten both the worlds.
- Shah Nimatullah

One can recite the words of dhikr heard from anyone, but dhikr itself can be bestowed only by a perfect master. To receive dhikr in the first manner is like catching a seed scattered by the wind. As Rumi has expressed it:

You may know this existence is a trap,
yet dhikr born of the will
only paves the road to hell
To receive dhikr in the second manner, from a perfect master, is like having the seed planted in fertile soil. Under the care and nurturing of a perfect master, the seed of dhikr planted in the heart will take root, grow and bear fruit.

Fikr is defined in the dictionary as contemplation or reflection. Contemplation for the sufi is the traversing of the path in the heart, born through the remembrance of God. By the remembrance of God, the lightning of Divine manifestations comes to illuminate the house of the heart. With this illumination, the heart’s contemplation becomes awakened and is transformed into a guide on the path of truth.

While ‘rational’ contemplation is woven, ‘heart-based’ contemplation is to be found. In rational contemplation, the motivation and guiding force is reason, whereas in heart-based contemplation the motivation and master is God alone.

Give up your reason and be with the One,
for a bat cannot bear the light of the sun.
Wherever the light of God is the guide,
what need is there for Gabriel’s advice?
- Shabistari

Muraqiba is two people taking care of and protecting each other. The sages of the path have said about muraqiba that just as God takes care of and protects humanity, so too human beings in their hearts must take care of and protect their relationship with God. Ibn ‘Arabi has written:

Meditate upon God in all situations,
for God meditates upon you.

Muraqiba is keeping oneself away from what is not God, both outwardly and inwardly, concentrating one’s whole being upon God. In the early stages of the path, meditation provides a way of practicing self-control. After a great deal of effort, it leads to the point where one’s restless thought becomes restrained and one’s heart attains calmness and serenity, accompanied by closeness to God. As a result of such meditation, sufis gradually become estranged from the world of ‘I’ and ‘you’. They eventually lose even the sense of meditation with its lingering quality of duality as God caused them to die to themselves and brings them to life in Himself.

As defined in the dictionary, Muhasiba means to balance accounts or to be precise in calculating. In sufi terminology, Muhasiba or self-examination, means to take account of ones’ actions and thoughts in traveling towards God, to know that God always keeps a record of what one does.

In the words of Shah Nimatullah:

Muhasiba, at the beginning, is a balancing of accounts between negative and positive acts. At the end, it is the actualization of pure Unity – in both the station of ‘Unity in multiplicity’ (being inwardly absorbed in God, while outwardly existing in the world) and ‘Unity in Unity’ (being outwardly and inwardly absorbed in God).

Excerpt taken from The Path: Sufi Practices by Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh

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