Fuḍayl ʿIyāḍ was seen retired from the people and sitting in the corner of a mosque, having made the Real’s remembrance his closeness friend. He had brought to hand the chevaliers’ retreat with the Real, on the carpet of expansiveness in the tent of He is with you [57:4]. A friend arrived and saw him alone. He took seeing him as a blessing and sat before him. Fuḍayl said, “My brother, what has made you sit with me?” What has made you intrude upon me in this seclusion? Such detachment, that you attend to me!
The dervish said, “Please excuse me. I did not know. I was unaware of your present moment and ecstasy. Now tell me something about your present moment and speak of a fine point about your traveling so that I may not remain without a portion of companionship with you.”
Fuḍayl said, “I will say what is fitting for you. Know that Fuḍayl is not attending to others because he is giving gratitude for the blessings of the Blessing-Giver and asking pardon for his slips. In his heart, there is no place for anything. When I look at myself, I ask pardon for slips, and when I look at Him, I show gratitude for blessings.”
Then Fuḍayl turned his face toward heaven and said, “O God, who has the capacity in himself to give gratitude to You? Who is able to serve You as is fitting for You? O God, when someone’s portion of Your friendship is talk, he has been defrauded! When someone’s spirit and heart are of use in this road, what business has he with Your union? O God, for me it is enough of Your blessings that I have never had patience in love for You; with spirit and heart, I sniff the dust at the top of Your street, and with the hand of hope I bang the knocker on the door of friendship. Wherever in the world, I find someone lost, I tell him my story.”
Then he turned his face to the dervish and said, “Fear your place, guard your tongue, and ask God to forgive your sins and those of the faithful, men and women.” Surely the soul commands to ugliness. Know that the soul has four levels: first the commanding soul, then the deceiving soul, third the sorcerous, and fourth the serene.
The commanding soul has not been placed in the crucible of discipline, nor has the skin of its existence been taken to the tanner. In dealing with God’s creatures it rises up with antagonism and keeps the attributes of a predator. It constantly talks ill of people, speaks up only for itself, and always takes steps in its own desires. It grazes in the world of mortal nature and drinks water from the spring of caprice. It knows nothing other than eating, sleeping, and doing what it wants.
Concerning the owners of this soul, the Exalted Lord says, “Leave them to eat, enjoy, and be diverted by hopes—they will soon know” [15:3]. Their form has a human color, but their attribute is satanic. This is why He says, “satans of jinn and men” [6:112]. This soul is a tremendous veil and the disrupter of the religion, the quarry of every sort of ungodliness and the center of evils. If a person is able to escape from it, he will escape by opposing it, for the Splendorous Qur’an reports like this: “As for him who fears the standing place before his Lord and prohibits the soul its caprice, surely the Garden shall be the shelter” [79:40-41]. All the prophets and messengers commanded the people to act with severity and to struggle against this soul. Muṣṭafā said, “We have returned from the lesser struggle to the greater struggle.” “The most arduous struggle is the struggle against the soul.”
Struggle in God as is the rightful due of His struggle [22:78]. The rightful due of struggle is that you not nurture the attributes of the commanding soul—like avarice, appetite, greed, rancor, pride, enmity, and hatred—but you hold them in check. Whenever they stick up their heads, you keep them away from yourself with the stone of struggle, just as that chevalier said:
“The serpent-soul is coiled around your heart’s treasure—
strike it with struggle’s stone for the heart’s covenant!
If you are ill in spirit and fear the jests of the Turning Wheel,
pour a draft on your spirit from the cup of striving.”
As for the deceiving soul, it is lower than the commanding soul. It does not have the strength to resist a man, but it always lies in ambush to see how it may gain a hold. For example, it sees a desirer in the station of togetherness on the road of struggle and discipline, so it places one of the journeys of obedience before him, like the hajj, or war, or a pilgrimage. It says, “This is better and higher in the way stations of obedient acts.” In what it says, it speaks the truth, but it is deceiving and scheming, for it wants to throw the desirer out of the station of togetherness and scatter his thoughts and perplex him in this journey. He may reach his goal and he may not. And, if he does reach it, he may never again see this togetherness. Thus Junayd said, “A thousand desirers entered this road along with me, but all of them fell short and I came out on top.” This is why desirers need a pir in the road of desire, for the pirs have recognized the way stations of this road, and the deceiving soul’s ambuscades are not hidden from them. They keep track of the states of the desires and guide them to what is suited for their steps.
The great ones of the religion have said that as long as a man has not become a possessor of stability, he will not be safe from the deceiving soul. A little bit of water is defiled by a small amount of impurity, but the ocean never becomes defiled. The state of the beginners is delicate: a blameworthy thought arises from the deceiving soul and moves it. But the state of the folk of stability and the lords of the end is a mountain, and the wind cannot move a mountain. After the deceiving soul is the sorcerous soul. It circles around the folk of the Haqiqah. When it sees them consolidated in acts of obedience and various sorts of discipline, it says, “Be merciful to your own soul—‘Surely your soul has a rightful due against you.’” When the man is not a realizer, it brings him from the station of the Haqiqah to the station of the Shariah and places a concession before him. Whenever a concession comes forth, the ease of the soul appears. The soul gains strength from it and takes him back to the first step—once again the commanding soul comes forth.
Ibrāhīm Khawāṣṣ said, “For forty years I quarreled with my soul, which wanted bread and yogurt from me. One day I felt merciful toward it. I brought to hand a dirham of lawful silver and was walking in Baghdad to buy bread and yogurt. I entered the ruins and saw an old man, fallen in the terrible heat. Bees were flying down and taking his flesh. I felt mercy for him and said, ‘Poor indigent!’ The man lifted up his head and said, ‘Khawāṣṣ, what indigence do you see in me? Is the crown of submission not on my head and the pearl of recognition not in my heart? You’re the indigent. After forty years you’re still not able to prevent your soul from its appetite for bread and yogurt.’”
In brief, know that the sorcerous soul does not command a man to disobedience, rather to obedience. When the man steps into the street of obedience, a color rises up from the obedience itself. It says, “After all, you are better than the wine-drinking, ungodly man.” He comes to believe this in himself and he looks upon himself with the eye of approval, while looking at others with the eye of disdain, until finally he is destroyed.
Abū Bakr gazed on himself with the eye of the Haqiqah and saw the reality of himself. He said, “Dismiss me, for I am not the best of you.” O Abū Bakr, you keep on saying this, but the religion of the submission and the holy Shariah address you with these words: “The best of the people after God’s Messenger is Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq.” From here begins the serene soul. It is the soul of the prophets and the friends. It has the bond of protection from sin and the curtain of a kind favor. The prophets are inside the protection’s pavilion and the friends inside the curtain of guarding and kind favor. If for one instant the bond of protection were to be taken away from the prophets, the same thing would appear from them that appeared from Pharaoh and Haman. If for one moment the guarding, preservation and kind favor were to be cut off from the friends, all of them would put on the sash of unbelief. If the Arab Prophet had gone forth for a thousand years, and if there had not been Then He drew close, so He came down [53:8], where would he have gotten to?