Muraqabah and tawajjuh

Murāqabah and tawajjuh [1]

In the pre-Mujaddidī Naqshbandī Order, tawajjuḥ (facing) and murāqabah (controlling) were nearly used as identical terms. ʿAlā al-Dīn al-ʿAṭṭār told his student ʿAbdullāh Imām-ī Iṣfahānī, that tawajjuh is an issue of the heart and that everyone experiences different unveilings/manifestations (ẕuhūrāt) according to their abilities. Then he mentioned five methods of tawajjuh:

  1. The seeker reflects about Allah, Him watching the seeker at every moment, so the seeker avoids all bad deeds with his limbs and even all kinds of bad thoughts.
  2. The seeker reflects about Allah, Him knowing everything occurring to the seeker’s heart and so the seeker protects his heart from all evil thoughts and all that which is not Allah.
  3. The seeker reflects about himself and the world as non-existent and ponders about Allah as the one and only real existence,
  4. The seeker reflects about the existence of everything which is inside and outside the cosmos and that all existence coming forth in both realms is in reality the existence of Allah himself.
  5. He only sees the Essence of only the real existing and nothing else. [2]

Aḥmad Kāsānī describes tawajjuh as “that you do see God in every place existing and present and watching you.” [3]

Some of the Sufis mentioned how tawajjuh is done and said:

“Seekers ready their hearts for God’s manifestations and reflect about Him, that He is nearer to them then their own jugular veins. This then overcomes them and they resemble people falling into a sea, drowning in the sea, not being capable of thinking something else.” [4]

According to ʿUbaydullāh al-Aḥrār quddisa sirruhū, tawajjuh and murāqabah are both means for the Seeker to get ready for clothing himself with the character of God. So all those who already do have a naturally good character, are automatically ascribed to the dervishes. [5]

In Naqshbandī sources we find four different forms of Tawajjuh:

  1. Tawajjuh to God (with the heart),
  2. Tawajjuh to the heart
  3. The Murīd facing (tawajjuh) his Shaykh,
  4. The Shaykh facing (tawajjuh) his Murīd.

Tawajjuh to God:

The seeker shows effort to direct his heart and his thoughts towards Allāh subḥānahū wa taʿālā. He repeats the Supreme Name “Allāh” in full concentration, ponders about Him being ominpresent while being transcendent of directions and so the rapture (jazbah) of Allāh finds a place in his heart, because real tawajjuh without jazbah is impossible. [6] He ponders about The Real One, transcendent above all similarities and everything. [7]

Tawajjuh to the heart:

This tawajjuh is applied in two different forms. The Seeker imagines the name “Allāh” written on his heart and he focuses on this writing and faces it and he reaches the consciousness of being in His divine presence. [8]

Or he thinks about the meaning of the Supreme Name “Allāh” beyond writings and words, beyond Arabic and Persian, and focuses himself totally on his own heart. First he has to force himself to this kind of tawajjuh, but after a while it will be easy for him, and he will get used to it, so that it will even become a custom for him. If this way of tawajjuh is too difficult for him, he imagines the Supreme Name “Allāh” being light which is covering his whole being. He keeps this light in front of his eyes and does focus himself totally on his own heart. [9] Like a turtle is watching his eggs and not looking away for a moment from his eggs, the seekers focuses on his heart and believes like the turtle, who thinks that his eggs will die if he doesn’t look at them for a single moment, that his heart will be ruined if he is not focusing on it for a single moment. Or like a chicken, which thinks that its egg will get broken if it is not sitting on it all the time. The seeker must also focus on his heart the same way as these animals focus on their eggs, and the seeker must shun all heedlessness and worldly thoughts so that he can reach the result. [10]

The “holy principles” (kalimāt-i qudsiyya), which are the eleven principles of wayfaring to God, mention “nigāh dāsht” and “wuqūf-i qalbī”, both carrying the meaning of guarding the heart from thoughts going astray and so both seem to be like tawajjuh. [11]

Facing the Shaykh:

This tawajjuh means to face a living or a deceased Shaykh and the main purpose of this is to reach spiritual divine outpouring (fayd) or spiritual support (istimdād). Bāqībillāh said, that while doing Rābīṭa or Tawajjuh, one of the dhikrs from the many dhikrs is going from the heart of the Shaykh to the heart of the Seeker. This happens through reverberation. [12] ʿAbdullāh Imām-i I­ṣfahānī, one of the students of ʿAlā ad-Dīn ʿAṭṭār, describes the method of tawajjuh in the ʿAlāiyya branch of the Path, which includes facing the Shaykh with the heart:

“The seeker first imagines the face of the Shaykh he is affiliated with. When heat and a spiritual state occurs, he leaves this imagination or lets it stay on the side of his imagination and uses his whole strength to face his heart.” [13]

These are examples of facing the Shaykh for divine spiritual outpouring (fayd). According to the narrations, one of the students of Amīr al-Kulāl’s son, Amīr Hamza, went out with a caravan to finish some business in another city. While being on the road, they were robbed by bandits and the students faced the soul of their Shaykh Amīr Hamza. After a while the bandits returned, gave them their belongings back and asked if those people have a spiritual guide like their description. When they said yes, the bandits admitted that they have made tawba and want to become his students. [14] This narration is an example for facing the shaykh to ask him for spiritual support.

There are also many examples for facing a deceased spiritual guide. It is well-known that Bahā ad-Dīn Naqshband and ʿUbaydullāh al-ʾAḥrar at the beginning of their spiritual education spent a lot of time at some graves. ʿAla ad-Din al-ʿAṭṭār said that the purpose of visiting a grave is to face Allāh and that the soul of the inhabitant of the grave can be a means of fully facing Allāh. [15] But it is not a condition to visit the grave to face a deceased spiritual guide because it can also be done from a distance, like Bahāʾuddīn Naqshband facing ʾUways al-Qaranī and Ḥakīm al-Tirmidhī’s souls.[16]

Facing the Student

Shaykh Muhammad Tahir Bakhshi Naqshbandi Mujaddidi teaching the dhikr to a new seeker

Shaykh Muhammad Tāhir Bakhshi Naqshbandi Mujaddidi inducing the dhikr into the heart of a new seeker by placing his index finger on the seeker’s Laṭīfa Qalb (the heart subtlety). The shaykh induces divine fayḍ into the heart of the seeker, by which the heart immediately starts proclaiming the God’s name “Allah” automatically, and divine attraction (jazba) is induced into the inner self.

Facing the students means that a spiritual guide faces his seeker to forward him divine spiritual outpouring (fayḍ) and to grant him perfection. According to a narration, ʿAlī al-Rāmītanī was once visited by a very important guest, but there was no food left at home. Rāmītanī left his house in despair and being outside he saw one of his students approaching his house with food. He was very happy and when he dismissed his guest, he called this student and offered him to ask whatever he wishes. This seeker said that he wants to become a perfect human being as ʿAlī al-Rāmītanī himself is. So al-Rāmītanī faced the student and in a very short time the student reached perfection. [17] Muḥammad Bābā Samāsī glanced upon Amīr al-Kulāl who was wrestling in the Arena and faced him. At that moment, a fire fell on the heart of Amīr Kulāl and he was drawn (jazba). He followed the Shaykh and pledged him the oath of allegiance (bayʿa). [18] Bahāuddīn Naqshband also faced the son of his Shaykh Amīr Kulāl, Amīr Burhān and forwarded divine spiritual outpouring (fayḍ) to him and helped in ripening Amīr Burhān in taṣawwuf. [19] ʿAlāʾuddīn ʿAṭṭār said, that for the effects of the facing to last, the seeker has to be eager and has to keep the orders of his Shaykh, or several days later this effect will vanish. [20] All these examples show us the facing of the seeker to forward him divine spiritual outpouring (fayḍ) so he can grow. But in the Mujaddidī Era of the Path, the way of facing the student became much more detailed and was renewed. Now the spiritual guide took the Seeker in front of him and focused on and faced the Laṭāʾif (subtleties of the body and soul) one by one and forwarded divine spiritual outpouring to them. This procedure resulted in the Laṭāʾif starting to do dhikr.

Murāqabah

In the first period of the Naqshbandī path, murāqabah was a term which was used nearly identically to tawajjuh. We can see that in this period murāqabah meant to face ones heart and control it. In tawajjuh the object of the facing can differ, but in murāqabah the object is always the heart.

A Naqshbandi dervish in Muraqabah. It is common to cover one's head during meditation.

A Naqshbandi dervish in Muraqabah. It is common to cover one’s head during meditation.

Murāqabah of the heart means that the seeker realizes that God is watching over him all the time and is seeing the seeker and his heart. So the seeker controls his outer and inner states, secures his heart so that worldly thoughts (khawāṭir) don’t overcome it (nigāh-dāsht). He ponders about the Supreme Name (Allāh) and faces his heart. He reviews his deeds and past time and tries to not waste his time in vain and tries to avoid heedlessness in every breath he takes. All that means Murāqabah. [21] It is advised to review ones deeds, called Muḥāsabah, which is part of the Murāqabah, after the Morning Prayer (fajr) and after the afternoon prayer (aṣr) – totally twice a day. [22]

ʿAlāʾ ad-Dīn ʿAṭṭār says about Murāqabah:

“The Method of murāqabah is higher than the method of the affirmation and negation (nafī wa ithbāt / dhikr of kalimah al-tawhīd) and nearer to God’s drawing (jazba). Through murāqabah, one can reach the stations of disposal of the angelic and material realms. Recognizing a stray thought (khawāṭir), glancing with insight and enlightening the heart happens  through murāqabah.” [23]

Muḥammad Pārsā said about rābiṭah: “A sign for the correct performance of the murāqabah is that the seeker holds onto the divine orders.” He also said, that for the murāqabah to last, one has to cut all worldly connections, be enduring in acting against the wishes of the lower self and has to avoid conversations with heedless people. [24] According to ʿUbaydullāh ʾAḥrār, the reality of murāqabah is waiting. [25] It seems that he means with waiting, that one awaits the divine spiritual outpouring (fayḍ) and avoids while waiting all the astray thoughts. So it is narrated, that one of the first Sufis performing murāqabah was Junayd al-Baghdādī, who learned the murāqabah from a cat, which was waiting motionless in front of the mouse hole entrance to catch the mouse. [26] Mawlānā Sulṭān, one of the students of ʿUbaydullāh ʾAḥrār, said, that murāqabah, like dhikr and tawajjuh, has a own specific kind of light. [27] According to Aḥmad Kāsānī, the end of murāqabah is the beginning of mushāhadah (witnessing). [28] In the resources available, heedless people who haven’t reached the reality of murāqabah but are acting like they have are heavily criticized. [29]

Shams ad-Dīn al-Kulāl, one of the most advanced students of Amīr Kulāl, learned the method of murāqabah on his way to perform his pilgrimage (hajj), while visiting the spiritual guides of Irāq. He was the first one who spread this method in Transoxania. Shāh Naqshband taught this method to Muḥammad Pārsā on their last pilgrimage to the Hijāz. [30]

The murāqabah in the pre-Mujaddidī era meant focusing on the heart and being wary of it, but in the Mujaddidī era itself it was systematized and gained a new meaning: to focus on several koranic verses and terminologies of taṣawwuf and to deeply reflect about them. [31]


[1] From: Necdet Tosun, Bahâeddîn Nakşbend, Hayatı Görüşleri Tarîkatı,Istanbul 2012.
[2] ʿAbdullāh Imām-i Iṣfahānī, Kalimāt-i Qudsiyya-i ʿAbdullāh Imām-ī Iṣfahānī, SüleymaniyeLib.., Tahir Aga Tekkesi, no. 276, p. 36a – 36b.
[3] Muḥammad Saʿīd Bukhārī,Jamarāt al-shawq, p. 36a.
[4] Muḥammad Sharīf al-Ḥusaynī, Tuḥfatal-sālikīn, Süleymaniye Lib., Resid Efendi, no. 372, p. 216a-b.
[5] Muḥammad Qāḍī, Sisilah al-ʿārifīn,p. 129b.
[6] Aḥmad Kasānī, Risāla-iBittihiyye, Istanbul Uni. Lib., FY, no. 649, p. 174b – 175a.
[7] Ḥusayn b. Ibn-i Yemīn, Mirʾatal-badāyī, p. 48b.
[8] Jalāl Wāʾiḍ Harawī, Risala-iRāhnūmā-i Uqda Ghushāy, p. 288.
[9] Jāmī, Sarrishta, p. 18b – 19a. Husaynb. ibn-i Yamīn, ibid., p. 48a.; Tājuddin Naqshibandi, Risāla fī ṭarīq al-saʾādātal-naqshibandiyya, p. 50a-b; Husaynī, Tuhfat al-sālikīn, p. 223a-b.
[10] Sadaddin Kāshqārī, Risāla dartawajjuh, Millet Lib., A. E. Fārsī, no. 1028, p. 15a.
[11] Pārsā, Qudsiyya, p. 36; Jāmī,Sarrishta, p. 20b.
[12] Bāqībillāh, Kullīyāt-iBāqībillah, p. 80.
[13] Jāmī, Nafaḥāt, p. 407; Jāmī,Sharh-I Rubāiyyat dar Wahdat-i Wujud, p. 88-89.
[14] Mawlānā Shihab al-Dīn, ĀqāhīSayyid Amīr-I Kullāl, p. 71-72.
[15] Pārsā, Maqāmāt-i ʾAʿlā al-Dīnal-Aṭṭār, (pb. Abu al-Qasim), vr. 161a-b; Jāmī, Nafaḥāt, p. 396; Safī,Rashahāt, I/150.
[16] Abū al-Qāsim, al-Risālat al-bahāʾiyya,p. 34b-35b.
[17] Safī, Rashahāt, 1/69-70.
[18] Ibid., 1/76.
[19] Ibid., 1/78.
[20] Ibid., 1/145.
[21] For examples see Abdullahal-Dahlawi, Makātib al-sharīfa, Istanbul 1992, p. 152 – 153; Raʿūf Aḥmadal-Mujaddidī, Durr al-maʿārif, Istanbul 1997, p. 9-10.
[22] Yusuf Hamadānī, Rutbatal-hayat, p. 55; Muhammad Bukhari, Maslak al-Arifin, p. 59a – 60a; Parsa,Qudsiyya, p. 36; Fadlullah b. Ruzbihan Isfahani, Sharh-I Wasaya-I Abd al-KhaliqGhujduwani, p. 88b. Taj al-Din Naqshibandi, Risala, p. 50b; Husayni, Tuḥfatal-sālikīn, p. 223a-b.
[23] Muhammad Bukhāri, ibid., p.61b.
[24] Safi, ibid., 1/151.
[25] Pārsā, Tuhfat al-sālikīn, p.123; Qudsiyya, p. 41-42.
[26] Ubaydullāh Ahrār, Fiqarāt, p.137a.
[27] Saduddin al-Kāshqari, Risāla-itawajjuh, p. 15a; Safi, ibid., 1/216.
[28] Safi, ibid., 2/620.
[29] Aḥmad Kāsānī, Risāla-i bittihiyya, p. 175a.
[30] Safi, ibid., 2/456.
[31] Abu al-Qāsim, al-Risalaal-bahaʾiyya, p. 38b.; Safi, ibid., 1/92; Muhammad Bāqir, Maqāmāt, p. 26, 50.

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2 Responses to Muraqabah and tawajjuh

  1. ghulamrazique says:

    Assalamo Alaykum
    I myself attached with Naqsh Bandi Silsila. I would like to be updated through email.

  2. farah says:

    i m a girl, i wanna do marakbah but i don,t have any shaykh , how can i attain it.

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