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THE EARLY YEARS
- Explaining Past Experience
I was fifteen years old when the beginnings of these secrets occurred in my heart. I am now fifty-five; how shall I explain to you the secrets of my unveilings, and my subtle witnessings, things that have escaped you? But I shall explain some things that were unveiled to me in days past, and I shall mention to you what happened to me after that, if God most high wills.
- The Earliest Presentiments
Understand (and may God bless your understanding!) that I was born among ignorant drunkards who had gone astray, and was raised by common people of the market, “as though they were asses taking fright, fleeing from a lion” [Qur’an 74:50-51], up to the age of three. The question occurred to my heart, “Where is your God, the God of creation?” We had a mosque at the gate of my house. I saw some children and asked them, “Do you know your God?” They said, “It is said that he has no hands or feet.” For they had heard from their fathers and mothers that God most high transcends limbs and members. But when I asked that question, I was filled with endless joy. Something happened to me that is like what happens with the illuminations that occur while remembering God’s names [dhikr], and the visitations of meditation, but I did not know the reality of what happened.
- The Awakening of Love
I reached the age of seven, and in my heart there occurred a love of remembering and obeying him, and I sought my conscience and I learned what it was. Then passionate love occurred in my heart; my heart melted in passionate love. I was mad with love in that time, and my heart was at that time a diver in the ocean of pre-eternal remembrance and in the scent of the perfumes of sanctity. Then visitations of ecstasies appeared within me without causing any distress, a delicate emotion agitated my heart, and my eyes filled with tears. I knew not what it could be but the remembrance of the names of God most high. And at that time I was seeing all of existence as though it was beautiful faces, and during this period I grew fond of seclusions, prayers, devotions, and pilgrimage to the great shaykhs.
- Entering the Mystical Path
When I reached fifteen years, it was as though I was addressed from the hidden world, and it was said to me, “You are a prophet.” I said in my conscience, “I have heard from my parents that `There is no prophet after Muhammad,’ so how can I be a prophet, when I eat and drink, answer the call of nature, and have private parts?” For I thought that the prophets do not have these defects. Time passed, and I was lost in passionate love. I arose from my shop for afternoon prayers, and I went out into the desert seeking water for ablutions. I heard a beautiful voice, and my conscience and my heart were agitated. I said, “You who speak! Stay with me!” I climbed upon a hill near me, and I saw a beautiful person in the dress of the shaykhs, but I was unable to speak. He said something concerning the divine oneness, but I knew nothing about it. A ravishing and a bewilderment befell me.
- Flight to the Desert
I was afraid, and people were walking around. I was out in a ruin, and remained there till night fell. Then I left and returned to my shop, and remained there until dawn in ecstasy, distress, sighs, and tears. I was astonished and bewildered. On my tongue without volition came the words, “Your forgiveness! Your forgiveness!” [Qur’an 2:285]. My tongue was stilled, and it was as though I was sitting for days together. I sat there another hour. Then ecstasy overwhelmed me, and I threw into the road the money box and whatever was in the shop for time of scarcity. I tore my clothes and headed to the desert. I remained in that state a year and a half, ravished and astonished, weeping and ecstatic. Great ecstasies and hidden visitations happened every day. In those ecstasies I saw the heavens, the earth, mountains, deserts, and trees as though they were all light. Then I settled down from that distress.
- The First Unveiling
I had recovered from that veiling [of my early life], and I longed for the service of the Sufis. So I shaved my head, though I had fine and beautiful hair. I entered among the Sufis, and worked in their service, and undertook strivings and exercises. I studied the Qur’an and memorized it. Most of my time was spent among the Sufis, in ecstasy and spiritual states. But nothing in the way of hidden unveilings happened to me until one day I was on the roof of the lodge, meditating on the hidden world. And I saw the prophet Muhammad (God’s blessings upon him), with Abu Bakr, `Umar, `Uthman, and `Ali (may God be pleased with them) passing in front of me, and this was my first unveiling.
- Finding a Master
But I did not have a master at that time, and I returned to my home [Pasa] seeking a master and guide who was one of the saved. Then God most high guided me to shaykh Jamal al-Din Abi al-Wafa’ ibn Khalil al-Fasa’i (may God have mercy on him), and he too was a beginner. And God most high in his company opened to me the doors of the angelic realm and uninterrupted unveilings, and in his company spiritual states overflowed with hidden sciences and religious mysteries, until innumerable ecstasies and unveilings took place.
Ruzbihan Baqli, The Unveiling of Secrets: Diary of a Sufi Master, translated from the Arabic by Carl W. Ernst (Chapel Hill, NC: Parvardigar Press, 1997), pp. 9-12, paragraphs 7-13.
Extracts are reproduced with the kind permission of Parvardigar Press.