Training the Soul (Seyr-i Suluk)
The Spiritual Journey (Sulûq)
Sulûq refers to the spiritual journey of the believer as he proceeds on the tariqat. The murshid shows the way, leading the wayfarer on the path of towards God teaching him how to check the longing for worldly desires, and how to shun conceit, jealousy and above all, arrogance. The wayfarer (sâliq) will strive to attain the highest moral conduct, wisdom, sense of justice, and humility. As Isma’il Hakki explains:
“One commences on the Sulûq in order to replace ignorance with knowledge and vice with virtue. The seeker will subdue the nafs and allow God to fully illuminate the heart.”
In his Futuhat al-Makkiyyah Shaykh ul-Akbar Ibn al-‘Arabi writes that the sâliq proceeds toward God by means of what he calls hâl (condition) and yaqîn (certitude). ‘Abd ar-Razzaq al-Kashani refers to sulûq as a healing for the heart, the dismissal of temporal worries, and the securing of a place near God.
The Sulûq consists of four steps:
1. The walk toward God, sayr ilallah, refers to self-discipline, and the progress toward the Reality. The goal of this walk is to reach the Highest Summit. Human beings may reach God only if the veils separating the two are forever removed.
The spiritual pursuit toward God, like that of gaining knowledge, begins step by step. One learns first the basic elements and slowly seeks the highest erudition, knowledge of the Reality, ilmi laduni. Only when the heart and the soul are clean and pure can human beings attain the State of Fana’ Fillah, extinction in God.
2. The walk to God, sayr fillah, refers to the stage when one is fully endowed with heavenly attributes and when one reaches the spiritual state the very instant the veils are removed, and he begins to see the light of Divine Knowledge. The wayfarer becomes absorbed in the Oneness of God and remains in this blissful state, baqa’ billah.
3. The walk with God, sayr ma’allah, refers to the stage of complete freedom from all that is material. The wayfarer has totally entered within the Divine. God is closer to him than the bow is to the arrow. This is one meaning of the Qur’an verse: “Qaba qawsayni aw adna.” (53:9) At this stage nothing remains of the believer’s ego, his “I”-ness. He has become one with Reality. The Prophet Muhammad experienced this state the time Gabriel approached him.
4. The walk from God, seyr amillah, refers to the stage of complete absorption into Reality, though the believer is ready to return to normal life among the people. Thus, it is also called “remaining after annihilation” or “appearing after annihilation”. It is the highest of all stations.
The Bektashi Way urges the need for a murshid to lead the believer along this long and strenuous walk. A perfect human, a murshid-i kamil, will never permit the wayfarer to go astray. He will lend his ears and his helping hand throughout the spiritual journey as the seeker strives to remove evil thoughts and tormenting doubts. Without a murshid no one can reach his goal, even if he or she is endowed with innate knowledge, virtue, and spiritual strength.
The wayfarer needs to advance his self and to nurture his soul. This raises the question: What are the self and the soul? Man consists of both body and soul. There is no need to describe the human body, as its biological and physiological functions are recognized. Yet many have attempted to examine and describe the spiritual side of man. The Sufi mystics consider the self of man, the nefs, to consist of a mineral, a plantlike, an animal, and a human component.
The mineral component is that power which keeps the makeup of the body intact and whole.
The plantlike component supports the growth of the human being and seeks the right nutrition, securing its distribution through out the body.
The animal component of existence which provides man with the ability to walk and to feel, and with other senses enabling him to see, hear, smell and taste.
The human component is the soul, and within it, self-awareness. This power has no connection whatsoever with matter. The center of this component resides in the depth of the heart, which is traditionally called the black dot, nuqta-i süveyda. Inasmuch as this component initiates the activities of the human body, there is a connection between the two. This inner component is called soul, and it refers also to the conscience.
The Sufi mystics see the growth of moral conscience as taking place through seven phases which are cited in the Qur’an: Ammara, Lawamma, Mulhimma, Mutma’inna, Radhiya, Mardhiya, and Kamila. The wayfarer must cultivate both conscience and soul. As the believer (led by his murshid) initiates the spiritual journey, his or her moral faculties are at the stage of Ammara, during which the individual is still a slave worldly temptations. As the wayfarer proceeds to the next stage, Lawamma, he recognizes these temptations, comprehends their detrimental qualities, and yet is still unable to resist them. Then, at the stage of Mulhimma, the wayfarer repudiates these temptations, and as he reaches Mutma’inna, the he or she becomes oblivious of temporal concerns and slowly reaches the level Radhiya. As spiritual love grows, he or she crosses the Mardhiya and soon enters the stage of Kamila, the stage of perfection.
The soul (and its companion, consciousness) is in itself divided into several parts. That within the soul is called sirr (secret), and within sirr, is the sirr us-sirr (secret ot the secret). Furthermore, sirr us-sirr includes khafi (the hidden), and the latter, khafi ul-akhfa (the hidden of the hidden). Of these, the khafi ul-akhfa contains the loftiest spiritual mysteries.
The wayfarer must nurture awareness and enlighten the soul. The name of God should be invoked in the way the murshid designates throughout this journey. As the wayfarer begins the spiritual journey the moral faculties are at the stage of Ammara. The struggle of wrestling against the self begins as he or she proceeds toward the Mulhimma stage. It is a brutal, yet a satisfying struggle, for the wayfarer begins to feel the joy of invoking the name of God, and to glimpse the treasure of spiritual love. He or she begins to abandon worldly concerns, and all thoughts and desires are directed toward the almighty God. The wayfarer is now at the Mutma’inna stage, in which he sees only the beauty of God's creations, and for His sake he is ready to render up his life. As he enters the Radhiya stage he has forsaken the worldly pleasures and seeks only the beauty of God. All pleasure from flesh and matter withdraws from him, and as he proceeds through the stage of perfection, Mardhiya, he is ready to enter the highest stage, Kamila, in which the integration with God and His love occurs. This is the condition of the saints and of those who are closest to God.