Jam‘ (absorption) literally means coming and bringing together. In the language of Sufism, it means fixing all one’s feeling, sight and consciousness on the Ultimate Truth, to the extent that one is absorbed in Him and does not feel the existence of the world with all that is in it. To the degree of one’s knowledge of God, one only knows Him, feels Him, sees Him and is saved from preoccupation with anything else. If this meaning is approached from the concept of unity, it is the opposite of multiplicity; but if it is conceived of as one’s heart cutting off relations with all else save God, then its opposite is distinguishing (farq), which we, God willing, will deal with as a separate subject.
Absorption is a state or station belonging to those who have reached the final state of the spiritual journey. Travelers to the Ultimate Truth who are honored with the gift of absorption always feel Him, know Him, and according to the level of the horizon and spiritual pleasures of each, can be aware or not aware of the people around them. But they always feel and are always conscious of the Ultimate Truth and live as if charmed by observation of the meanings that belong to Him and that are reflected in everything. They always see the manifestations of His Names and Attributes in all things and events which they encounter. Thirsty for the Divine Being Himself, they fly around the manifestations of His “Facial” Light like moths flying around a light. In tides of wonder and admiration, they cannot help but utter: All-Glorified are You, how exalted You are (as the Divine Being)!
Two steps further from this state of pleasure is absorption within absorption, which means a total absence for initiates. Travelers who find themselves in such a whirlpool of feeling are no longer aware of their own selves nor that of others. Totally detached from distinguishing, they are completely forgetful of all else save the Ultimate Truth—as anybody except He is a shadow of the shadow of the light of His Existence—and turn to Him with all their being.
For initiates who base themselves on absolute unity in all their views and considerations, everything is a shadow of the light of the Existence of the Ultimate Truth. For one who is in the state of absorption, it is a shadow of the shadow of His Existence’s light, while one who is in the absorption within absorption only sees the rays of the manifestations of His “Facial” Light in the name of the creation. Some scholars mention a further degree of absorption, which they call holy absorption. This is the rank which the verifying scholars of Sufism regard as the title of nearness to God, Who is nearer to us than ourselves, by means of supererogatory prayers. The travelers who have attained this level are conscious that it is God Who maintains them, and begin to observe everything more deeply and clearly with their innermost senses, which have become sharper than their external senses. They hear with their spirit, see with their power of insight, review and examine with their conscience, and have the ability to see the true faces of theoretical knowledge through the door half-opened through their inner vision and experience. This is the rank where travelers are favored with the full manifestation of the truth contained in He is the First, and the Last, and the All-Outward, and the All-Inward (57:3), and where they become polished mirrors that reflect it. The servants of God who have reached this farthest point either “travel in God” and rotate around themselves like the North Star, or are turning around their axis in their hearts while being in their bodies among people.
Those who have attained the rank of absorption have also been favored with “subsistence by God.” Those who hold this rank in the final stage of the journey, and who are abstracted from their own attributes in their absorption in God’s Attributes and from their own being in absorption in God’s Being, gain a new existence through subsistence by God. They begin to feel the bliss of eternality and breathe “absorption” in the delight of being aware that their acts have become lost in God’s Acts. A stage further, which can be likened to deepening in worship by bowing down after standing in the Prayer, and when they observe that their attributes have been annihilated in the all-comprehensive Attributes of God, they become lost in the delight of experiencing absorption within absorption. Finally, as a result of their own being being obliterated in the face of God’s Knowledge and Existence, they leave themselves to the consideration of the holy absorption with inner vision and spiritual pleasures, and are immersed in the feelings of wonder upon wonder.
From another point of view, the act of observing the requirements or responsibilities of servanthood to God with the utmost care, devotion, and consciousness is called “distinguishing,” while being favored with a shower of Divine gifts that come “from where they do not reckon” as a reward for this “small capital”—small in the face of God’s favors coming without reckoning—is absorption. In view of this approach, heroes of the spiritual state say that one who does not perceive “distinguishing” is ignorant of servanthood, while one who does not feel absorption is unaware of knowing God.
The Qur’anic statement (1:5), You alone do we worship, which expresses the individual consciousness developing into and translating the public consciousness, is a voice of distinguishing and servanthood, while You alone do we ask for help (1:5) is an expression of absorption and a declaration of human poverty and helplessness before God. Every initiate hears the voice of distinguishing at the beginning of the spiritual journey and feels the pleasure of absorption at the end of it. The ultimate point, which only those endowed with a particular capacity can reach, is “absorption within absorption” and the “holy absorption.” While the former signifies the rank of ahadiya (feeling God’s absolute Oneness in the sense of His concentration of the manifestations of His Attributes and Names on things or beings individually), the latter is a sign of the peak of wahidiya (feeling God’s absolute Unity in the sense of His manifestation of His Attributes and Names throughout the universe).
According to al-Kashani,  distinguishing is the knowledge of God the Almighty and spiritual pleasures of those who have not yet been able to develop their theoretical considerations about God (I personally find this view unacceptable), while absorption is immersion caused by a concentration on the Creator without ever thinking of the creation, and absorption within absorption is the peak of seeing the creation as subsisting by the Creator. This final rank is also the rank of distinguishing above absorption. Since in this rank only God’s Acts, Attributes and Essential Qualities are observed, for those who have attained this rank, the All-Holy, Ultimate Truth becomes the eyes with which they see, the ears with which they hear, and the hands with which they hold. For this reason, He attributes to Himself what they do with their free will and leave and ignore the apparent causes. The Sufi scholars are of the opinion that the verse, (8:17), You did not kill them but God killed them, and when you threw, it was not you who threw, but God who threw, besides clearly mentioning a miracle of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, alludes to this rank.
O God! Include us among Your servants sincere (in faith and practicing the religion), and endowed with sincerity, and God-revering, pious, and abstinent from all forbidden things big or small, and among those of ascetism and those near-stationed to You, and who are pleased with You and pleasing to You. And bestow blessings and peace on our master Muhammad, the leader of the God-revering, pious and the leader of those endowed with sincerity, and on his Family and Companions, those of ascetism and those near-stationed to You, and who are pleased with You and pleasing to You. Amen!