While discussing ecstasy and willful rapture, we have mentioned the states of dahsha (utmost astonishment) and hayman (stupor). A few words will be said here concerning them, although the former is a dimension of hayra (amazement) and was discussed in the first volume of this book together with amazement, and the latter is not a lasting station for a traveler on the way to God, but only a transitional halt.
Meaning fear and dismay in the face of a frightening event or situation, utmost astonishment is the feeling of shock which travelers to God experience during their spiritual journey on coming face to face with the manifestations of the Beauty and Grace of the AllBeloved. Although there is no explicit statement touching on it in the Book or in the Sunna, a relation with the verse (12:31), whose meaning is, When they saw him, they so admired him that they cut their hands, can be established.
Some have described utmost astonishment as the shock when encountering an incident beyond one’s understanding and endurance, and power to explain. This can also be described as experiencing the truth that the Divine manifestations exceed the limits of reason, and that love for God goes beyond the limits of patience; and getting into a state beyond one’s capacity of perception.
We add here some further explanations about this state:
Travelers on the way to God feels astonishment when the state in which they find themselves exceeds the limits of their knowledge and perception, and then they go into a state of ecstasy beyond their endurance, where God will favor them with spiritual discoveries disproportionate to their efforts. One can go into ecstasies unintentionally when reciting the Qur’an or performing Prayers, although selfpossession and a feeling of awe are essential to both; the heart can go into spiritual arrhythmia as a result of excessive rapture, destroying the balance and selfcontrol in an initiate; a traveler on the way to God behaves hastily and sometimes in an uncontrolled manner, under the enrapturing influence of witnessing God’s signs, although seeking God always demands loyalty and faithfulness. All of these are causes of utmost astonishment.
When, under the influence of the state that the initiates have entered upon, or because of the spiritual pleasure they feel, they see the whole creation annihilated in God’s Existence and all time ending in eternity, and the spirit witnessing God’s signs, then they are swept up in astonishment. That is the spiritual station where travelers on the way to God can hear through God’s Own Hearing and see through God’s Own Sight.1
When the slopes of the heart are unexpectedly exposed to the shower of gifts from the AllGlorified and the Divine favors, when the lights of nearness to God envelop one, and when secrets are disclosed to the extent that they result in reaching the horizon of worshipping God as if actually seeing Him, astonishment pervades the whole being of the lover of God. The person is then lost in the depths of selfannihilation and the considerations of astonishment. The following verses of Gedai, expressing this spiritual station, are truly beautiful:
I did not know myself as I see me now,
I wonder whether He is me or I am Him?
This is the point where lovers lose themselves;
I have burnt away, so give me water!
This feeling experienced by those still on the journey may sometimes cause confusion. For this reason, those who do not lead their lives in strict accordance with the Qur’an and the Sunna and who do not feed their subconscious with the lights that emanate from the sun of Prophethood, upon him be peace and blessings, may be deceived through the influence of these feelings and experiences. Such deception may lead them to utter words of pride incompatible with the rules of Shari‘a, words that are irreconcilable with selfpossession.
Stupor (Hayman) is used to denote one whose thirst is deepened by drinking, not quenched or satisfied, and also one who is mad with passionate love.
In Islamic Sufism, stupor means that an initiate is deeply in love with God, and therefore loses selfcontrol in great ecstasy, drowning in wonder, appreciation, and spiritual pleasures under the influence of the surprising Divine gifts and manifestations that pervade the heart during the journey to God. Since there are no explicit statements in the Qur’an and the Sunna concerning stupor, many exacting scholars have tended to see it, like astonishment, as a spiritual state rather than a station, something transient rather than lasting. Although some have attempted to relate it to the verse (7:143), Moses fell down in a faint (as if struck by lightning), it is evident that the situation of a Messenger receiving Divine Revelation cannot be reconciled with a faint. So, I feel that we should approach Moses’ falling down in a faint on Mount Sinai as his conscious astonishment and shock, an attitude that he felt was fitting for him in the face of God’s partial manifestation of His Majesty in all Its transcendence and above all corporeality.
Like astonishment, stupor can also be analyzed in three categories:
When initiates, aware of their helplessness, poverty and worthlessness before God, are favored with Divine gifts far beyond their capacity during the first stages of their journey, then they—like Prophet Job, who entreated God, saying, “I cannot be indifferent to any of Your favors,”30 —joyfully desire more and more gifts. Such an attitude, when observed in those who are on the way, is characteristic of those in the first stages.
In the face of abundant gifts granted in advance in response to the sincerity of the initiate and his or her virtue that God knows that he or she will acquire in the future, the initiate renews him or herself in perception, spirit, and will, and observes with deep pleasure the wonders and marvels, whose doors have been half opened. In the mood expressed in the verse (66:8), Our Lord, complete our light for us!, the person, with great determination and spiritual tension, longs for and expects what lies beyond the favors already granted. The couplet of Gedai,
I have dipped my finger into the honey of love;
Give me some water!
very beautifully expresses this degree of stupor.
Initiates attain a state where they feel they are standing on the same point as their sight reaches and careful about where they put their feet, and they begin to observe the universe from the horizon of annihilation and disappearance. They reach the point where nothing other than God exists any more for them and they feel their existence annihilated in God’s Existence, which they experience every moment with a new manifestation of Him. They acquire an unshakable certainty that God always sees them, that certainty being a gift of recompense for reaching the highest point of excellence, and they overflow with the yearning and zeal to see Him.
We should mention here that all these favors come in proportion to the strength of belief, and as long as the initiates can maintain their relation with God from the heart and continue to lead their life in utmost loyalty to Him. This depends on strictly following the master of the creatures, upon him be peace and blessings. Any extraordinariness which arises in a state where one does not feel perfect attachment and devotion to him, is likely in most cases to be deceptive. Those seeking the gifts of the Almighty must certainly enter the circle of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, and the lovers of the Almighty’s light must conform to the rhythm of that circle.
O God! I ask You for useful knowledge, and seek refuge in You from any knowledge of no use; and I ask You for acceptable action. And bestow blessings and peace on our master Muhammad, and on his Family and Companions, all of them.