This is a beautiful discourse regarding annihilation of the self, by Moulana Yunus Patel (ra) - taken from Aashiq-e-Sawdiq (The True Lover of Allah):
THE SPEECH OF THE HEART
.... “An Aashiq (ardent lover of Allah) is that servant of Allah who has divorced his mortal self from his carnal desires…” (i.e. He has annihilated himself).
Having recognised the true nature of his nafs (i.e self/ ego); its inherent evil and baseness, the true lover of Allah divorces himself and severs any kind of ‘friendly’ relationship which he had had with his nafs. In turn, he establishes his relationship and friendship with Allah Ta’ala as it should be. He recognises Allah as his Master and himself as just a slave of Allah.
Rasulullah :saws: has informed us that our deadliest enemy is our nafs. And the nafs, without having undergone any reformation, is evil, corrupt and destructive.
However, when hidayat (guidance) and taufeeq (Divine assistance) knocks at the door of the heart and the heart opens to sincere submission to Allah Ta’ala, then there follows recognition, and progression until the ultimate stage of annihilation is reached.
THE STAGES OF THE NAFS
In the Qur`aan Sharief, Allah Ta’ala makes mention, in the words of Hazrat Yusuf (‘Alaihis Salaam) :
“…VERILY THE NAFS IS A GREAT COMMANDER OF EVIL… [SURAH YUSUF 12 : 53]
Since the inclination and pleasure of the nafs lies in desires and lusts, it thus invites one to indulge in sin. In fact, the nafs wallows in self-deception, considering itself worthy of submission.
In disposition and temperament, the nafs resembles Fir’aun (who had declared himself to be God) and Shaytaan is comparable to his right hand, Haamaan (who had encouraged, supported and endorsed the claims of Fir’aun). Hence, on the advice and encouragement of Shaytaan, the nafs imposes demands and expects that we accommodate, oblige and serve it.
Only with mujahada (striving) and Islahun-Nafs (reformation) does it progress to the nafs which is ‘Lawwamah’.
This nafs has also been mentioned by Allah Ta’ala in the Qur`aan Sharief. Allah Ta’ala states :
“AND I SWEAR BY THE SOUL THAT REPROACHES AT EVIL.” [SURAH QIYAMAH 75 : 2]
Whilst the nafs which is ‘Lawwamah’ is inclined to the pleasure of sins, it is also given to the obedience of Allah. Thus, when a person succumbs to evil, he is remorseful and regretful and reproaches himself on his weaknesses. He has a conscience that troubles him.
However, with a little more effort, [and this too under the guidance of a Sheikh who is learned, experienced and pious] the nafs will sooner than later have no option but to relinquish its illusory ‘throne’ and ‘crown’, and its fantasy ‘kingdom’ and adopt its rightful garb of a slave.
With the Fadhl (grace) of Allah Ta’ala, such a nafs becomes ‘Mutma`innah’ – content and satisfied with complete obedience to the Ahkaam (orders) of Allah.
In Tafseer Mazhari, Qadhi Thanaullah (Rahmatullah ‘alaih), defines this Nafs-e-Mutma`innah as :
v The nafs which enjoys security from the Azaab (punishment) of Allah Ta’ala.
v The nafs which has recognised Allah Ta’ala and as such does not enjoy any satisfaction except in the Zikr (remembrance) of Allah. It does not want to be distanced from Allah Ta’ala for even a second.
Like the fish that enjoys satisfaction and comfort only deep down, in the depths of the ocean, so too does this nafs enjoy satisfaction only in the depths of the ocean of the Qurb (proximity) and Muhabbat (Love) of Allah Ta’ala.
Such a nafs will be called upon by Allah Ta’ala at the time of death as:
“O (YOU) THE ONE IN (COMPLETE) REST AND SATISFACTION! COME BACK TO YOUR LORD, WELL PLEASED (YOURSELF)AND WELL PLEASING UNTO HIM! ENTER YOU, THEN, AMONG MY HONOURED SLAVES, AND ENTER YOU MY PARADISE!” [SURAH FAJR 89 : 27/28/29/30]
Whilst these are the stages traversed to achieve ‘Annihilation’, it should be understood that this is most easily and successfully obtained with the suhbat (company) and direction of the Ahlullah.
Thus, the Aashiq of Allah becomes the personification and embodiment of the Hadith : “Die before you die.” when he annihilates himself (i.e. his nafs) and submits himself in totality to Allah Ta’ala…when he chooses the hukm (order) of Allah and the pleasure of Allah over the hukm of his nafs and the pleasure of his nafs.
He then regards himself as nothing; a non-entity. As such, at every given moment, there is ‘Abdiyat (servitude). This then is proof of his love for Allah Ta’ala.
Hazrat Ibraheem bin Adham (Rahmatullah ‘alaih), a great Wali of Allah Ta’ala, once mentioned having learnt the method and etiquette of servitude from a slave he had purchased.
Hazrat Ibraheem bin Adham (Rahmatullah ‘alai h) asked the slave: “What is your name ?”
The slave replied : “That which you give to me.”
He then asked : “What would you like to eat ?”
The slave replied : “Whatever you give me to eat.”
He then asked : “What would you like to drink ?”
The slave answered : “Whatever you give me to drink.”
He asked : “What would you like to wear ?”
The slave replied : “Whatever you give me to wear.”
He then asked : “Don’t you have any desire ?”
The slave in turn asked : “What does a slave have to do with desire ?”
We, as the servants and slaves of Allah, should also take lesson.
This is the reality of servitude.
My Sheikh, Hazrat Maulana Hakeem Muhammad Akhtar Saheb (Daamat Barakaatuhum) mentions in some poetry :
“True ‘Abdiyat is to die and to live in The pleasure of my Master.”
A person once asked Hazrat : “How are you?”
Hazrat replied : “I am living and I am dying …. I am dying and I am living.” – meaning :
When any desire which is displeasing to my Beloved Master, surfaces within my heart, then for the pleasure of my Beloved Allah, I sacrifice, with pleasure, that
desire. Thus, do I ‘die’ for Him. On this ‘fanaa’, He blesses me with ‘life’.
Initially, the Saalik experiences some difficulty in rendering the sacrifices of his heart, for the pleasure of Allah. His heart is, at such times, expressive of : “O my Allah, Your pleasure before my pleasure.”
However, on the lofty plane of fanaa, having experienced the sweet pleasure of the pleasure of Allah, there is happiness with every decision of Allah Ta’ala, and an ecstasy accompanying every sacrifice rendered for Allah Ta’ala. The expression of the heart is then :“O my Beloved Allah, Your pleasure is my pleasure.”
When such a condition subdues the Aashiq of Allah, he forgets himself in his Love for Allah Ta’ala.
Until the person does not forget his own self in the Love of Allah, he is not a lover of Allah. As long as a person maintains his own position and considers himself to be a person worthy and deserving of honour, dignity and respect, he has not recognized the Greatness of Allah Ta’ala and thus cannot be a
true lover of Allah.
Since he has not annihilated himself, he is in reality a lover of himself.
When a person does not consider himself one before whom everyone should stand with respect, shake his hand and kiss his forehead, and when he adopts humility and humbleness as the garb of his heart and character, then Allah Ta’ala puts his respect into the hearts of people. On his sincere servitude to
Allah Ta’ala, others then wish to meet him, shake his hand and even serve him.
Following annihilation is elevation. Hazrat Umar (j) had related a Hadith from Rasulullah :saws: : “He who is humble for Allah’s sake will be exalted by Allah, for though he considers himself lowly, he is great in the eyes of men; but he who is proud will be abased by Allah, for though he considers himself great, he is lowly in the eyes of men to such an extent that he is of less value in their estimation than a dog or a
The pre-condition is that this humility be for the pleasure of Allah Ta’ala and not so that one may gain recognition and honour amongst people. This humility manifests itself when a person recognizes the Greatness and Grandeur and Absolute Power and Majesty of Allah Ta’ala.
My Sheikh describes this condition of annihilation very aptly :
When the sun of Allah’s Greatness rises within the heart then the stars of takabbur (pride), riyaa (show) and ujub (vanity) wane in its light and become non-existent.
STORY OF THE RAINDROP
Sheikh Saadi (Rahmatullah ‘alaih) mentions a beautiful story, in his Bustaan, of a raindrop which fell from a spring cloud.
Seeing the magnitude and vast expanse of the ocean, it was ashamed. Reflecting and introspecting, it thought : “Where am I next to the sea ? Compared with it, I am extinct. I am nothing.”
In its contemplative and pensive mood, it regarded itself with an eye of disdain. Whilst doing so, an oyster surfaced from the ocean and took the raindrop within the haven of its care. Destiny then shaped its course that eventually the raindrop became a renowned Royal pearl.
For its humility and humbleness, it found itself exalted. Its annihilation, made it existent.
Annihilation of the nafs is indeed a very real concept in Islam - for those who are ardently seeking love and closeness to Allah (subhnawataála).
The objective is islaah (reformation of ones heart) and complete obedience to the commands of Allah Taa'la and His Nabi (sallalahu alahi wasalam)
It would not be correct to group all sufis into one basket - while it is true, that there are many groups who have strayed from the teachings of Quraan and Sunnah and have introduced actions that are foreign to islam/ or are borrowed from other religions/ cultures, true Tasawwuf: "revolves around the purification of heart and soul, the reformation of the nafs (self / ego), developing intense love for Allah Ta’ala and a connection with Him, such that we submit to Him, with heart, mind, soul and body. The Qur`aan Sharief alludes toTazkiyya and Islaah a number of times." (Maulana Yunus Patel (ra) ).
In shaa Allah, we should all be striving to reach such a state - of true love and submission in our entirety, to our Creator.