The Four Stages in Sufism ( Sharia, Tariqa, Haqiqa, Marifa )

The Four Stages in Sufism

( Sharia, Tariqa, Haqiqa, Marifa )

Islam is the way that leads to the Lord, Allah. Like any other way, the soul of Islam, Sufism, requires the seeker of Allah to pass different stages to become One. The very first stage is sharia then the intermediary stages are tariqa, reality (haqiqa) and gnosis (marifa) whereas the last one is Faqr (Oneness).

Divine love is the base of all the stages of Sufism

The base of all of them is the ardent Divine love (Ishq). Unless one does not feel the love of Allah with all the passion how can he cross all these stages!

Crossing all the four stages of Sufism is compulsory

Moreover, crossing all the aforementioned stages is mandatory otherwise reaching destination will remain only a dream.

The love and lover like a wave submerge into the ocean of the Beloved

  • Khawaja Banda Nawaz says:

There are five stages of Divine love.

How Divine love is nourished?

First being sharia and it is to hear the beautiful attributes of Allah which nourishes love.

How Divine love is aroused?

Second is tariqa which is to seek the Beloved and follow Him.

How it becomes intense?

Third is the reality (haqiqa) and it is that where thoughts circle only the One.

Desire of Beloved

Fourth is gnosis (marifa) which is to perish one’s desires for the Beloved’s.

Annihilation in Allah

Fifth is Oneness and it is to annihilate the entire entity both exoteric and esoteric and attain complete immortality with Allah. When one crosses all these five stages successfully then there remains nothing but ardent Divine love. The love and lover like a wave submerge into the ocean of the Beloved.

The foremost, the last, the revealed and the hidden are love

A Saint’s wise words are that the existence lies between two Divine loves. It means that beginning and end is love as every entity that is present is not void of it neither can it sustain without love. Hence, the foremost, the last, the revealed and the hidden are love. (Payam-e-Ishq by Rumi)

Keep away from sins

  • Sultan Bahoo says:

The seekers who love Allah sincerely always keep away from sins. Even a little particle of Divine love is better than gaining excellence in jurisprudence and the devotion of seventy years. As only by virtue of Divine love a seeker becomes confidant of the secrets of the Divine Oneness and Lordship. While the arrogance created due to excessive knowledge and devotions deprives one of these blessings. (Ain-ul-Faqr)

A simple example

Sharia among the masses is famous as the exoteric commands of Quran and Sunna whereas esoterically the same is tariqa. A simple example could be that ablution as defined in sharia is to purify one’s body and ablution of tariqa is inward’s purification from satanic and lustful diseases.

What is core of sharia?

  • Sultan Bahoo says:

What is sharia? What is infidelity? Sharia is the path laid down by the Holy Prophet. Therefore a person following his footsteps day and night at last reaches the Mohammadan Assembly. In Mohammadan Assembly he learns all the knowledge of Hadith and its decisive dictum. This path of sharia is from Divine favour and experiences. One who denies the Mohammadan Assembly and conceals Allah’s gnosis he is an infidel and unbeliever. The core of sharia is fiqh, Faqr, Oneness (Tawhid), gnosis and union with Allah and the core of infidelity is world, arrogance, narcissism and many devious qualities which leads to decline. (Nur-ul-Huda Kalan)


The journey

When a seeker takes the first step to reach Allah, he soon realizes that he only knows that Allah is God but is unaware of His Essence and attributes. Then he starts to recognize Him through worships. After performing these worships with utmost fervor and zeal he then reaches tariqa. Here an intense desire arouses within to see the most magnificent Allah.  Uncontrollably moves forward to such heights that though outwardly he is in world but esoterically forever remains engrossed in the thoughts of the Beloved due to which idols begin to fade and He manifests.


  • Sayyid Abdul Karim bin Ibrahim al-Jili says:

Worship is act of righteousness for the desire of reward which is (merely) a segment and slavehood (ubudiyah) is act of righteousness to please Allah without the intention of reward. Lordship (beyond slavehood is the level where there manifests only the Divine Essence) is to act for Allah and it is the protector of all the stations. (Insan-e-Kamil)

Sharia is tree, tariqa is its branches, gnosis is leaves and reality is its fruit

The pious deeds of sharia are worship (if performed with pure intentions). The deeds of tariqa, reality and Faqr are Lordship. One who has not performed the worships of sharia with a sincere inward cannot reach the worships of reality and without reaching the station of reality no one can perform worships the way they deserve to be performed. Sharia is base, tariqa is stair and reality is the final level of completion. The Holy Prophet said:

“Sharia is tree, tariqa is its branches, gnosis is leaves and reality is its fruit.” (Sirr al-Asrar)

A seeker cannot travel through all the stages solely by his worships rather the mediation of the perfect spiritual guide is compulsory. If anyone thinks the opposite then he is engulfed by the deceits of Satan and is depraved.

The perfect and accomplished spiritual guide

  • Sultan Bahoo says:

One should follow four spiritual guides; spiritual guide of sharia, spiritual guide of tariqa, spiritual guide of reality and spiritual guide of gnosis.

Spiritual guide of sharia

Who is spiritual guide of sharia? He is the one who teaches the basic pillars of Islam which are Islamic creed (Kalimah Tayyibah), salat, fasting, zakat and hajj.

Spiritual guide of tariqa

Who is spiritual guide of tariqa? One who makes his disciples the true slaves of Allah and detaches them from both the worlds.

Spiritual guide of reality

Who is spiritual guide of the reality? He is the one who persuades his disciples to sacrifice their lives for Allah.

Spiritual guide of gnosis

Who is spiritual guide of gnosis? One who blesses his disciples with Divine secrets and acquaints them with the secret of Divinity. The spiritual guide who cannot take his seekers to these levels is a fraud and cheat. (Ain-ul-Faqr)

Worships without soul are merely deception

Sultan Bahoo further says that worship, endeavour and abstinence which does not take one to Allah’s gnosis and union is mere deceit and apostasy.

  • When you see a (pseudo) Fakir who toils hard in austerity, asceticism and abstinence but is unaware of the spirituality and inward way to Allah, get to know that he is depraved and his end will also be among the depraved ones. (Ain-ul-Faqr)

Investigate your own innerself (nafs) first

Another instance as quoted in Sultan Bahoo’s book Ain-ul-Faqr is:

The scholars, jurists, judges, rulers and kings investigate and check thousands of people on the basis of sharia but never check or investigate their own innerself (nafs) even once in their life. However, the Fakirs always keep check upon their innerselves and hold it accountable day and night.

After this accountability, the Divine love which is like a judge in their being orders to kill the innerself, the love which is the jurist orders to behead it while the invocation and meditation act like a ruler and issue the order to imprison it with the chains of sincerity to Allah and put a necklet of obedience to sharia around its neck.

I am surprised at the behavior of those people who judge others and hold them worthy of punishment but never check their own innerselves and let it ruin them. The Holy Prophet said:

سَیِّاٰتِیۡ زَمَانٌ عَلٰی اُمَّتِیۡ یَقۡرَؤُنَ الۡقُرۡاٰنَ وَیُصَلُّوۡنَ فیِ الۡمَسَاجِدِ وَلَیۡسَ فِیۡ قُلُوۡبِھُمُ الۡاِیۡمَانۡ

Meaning: A time will come when people of my nation will recite Quran and offer salat in mosques but their inwards will be void of faith. (Ain-ul-Faqr)

To be pious and knowledgeable is to keep away from sins

Sultan Bahoo says:

Listen! It is not compulsory to adopt extra pious deeds or acquire too much knowledge. However to sincerely act upon the knowledge you have gained about the religion and abstaining from the sins is compulsory. Excess of worships is also not obligatory. The person who consciously keeps himself away from sins is truly the pious and knowledgeable person. If a person ever remains worshipping in the nights and keeps fasts in the days but commits sins like before then it means that his worships are not benefitting him and he is inclined towards evil. So, it should be understood that one must not gain knowledge from the teacher who is the seeker of world as it is said:

فِیْ صُحْبَۃِ تَاثِیْرٌ

Meaning: The company affects strongly. (Ain-ul-Faqr)

One should keep on progressing in spiritual journey

If one truly desires to be bestowed by Allah’s favours and to find the blessing of proximity and union then all the stages of sharia, tariqa, reality and gnosis must be excelled at. Like water becomes pungent and polluted if it halts at a place, same is human’s journey for soul gets trapped into the deception of innerself and Satan if it stays at a station for too long.

None but Allah

  • In ar-Risala tul-Ghausia, Allah says to Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani:

O Ghawth al-Azam! Once you have intended to enter My sacred court then do not incline towards material world (alam an-nasut), realm of angels (alam al-malakut) and realm of power (alam al-jabarut). As world is Satan of scholar, realm of angels is Satan of a Mystic and realm of power is Satan of the experienced. Thus who inclined towards any of them is among the condemned.

Engrossment in Divine gnosis

  • Sultan Bahoo says:

Do you know why Prophets and Saints are respected and honoured? They forever remain engrossed in Divine gnosis. Hence, none is greater in status more than them for they are superior and eminent. (Mehak-ul-Faqr Kalan)

The importance of a perfect spiritual guide

Important to realize is that to cover all the stages of Sufism one does need guidance from the perfect spiritual guide for he knows all the waystations, hurdles and veils of the path. Without him one cannot understand the reality of sharia in order to follow it truly then how is it possible to understand the rest of the stages.

Sultan Bahoo says:

  • The spiritual guide who is a man of sight and union forever remains in the state of presence in the court of Allah. He has such spiritual strength that he can command the presence of his disciple many miles away through the power of inward. Moreover with his one spiritual sight he can make the seeker travel through the stages of sharia, tariqa, reality and gnosis and seeker steadfastly remains on the way to Allah. This is the path of a spiritual guide who is a man of sight and union and that of a seeker whom such a guide chooses. No one knows this path besides them. (Mehak-ul-Faqr Kalan)

Allah is in the inward of the Universal Divine Man

  • At another instance Sultan Bahoo says:

Fakir Bahoo informs the travellers of the mystic way that Allah is neither in the six dimensions nor in the sun, moon or the four basic elements. Neither you can find Allah through intellectual discussions nor through ignorance. Neither is He bound by time, space or states nor can be viewed in physical beauty of things. One can neither gain His closeness through lengthy supplications or recital rounds nor through exoteric pious deeds or asceticism. Neither by begging from door to door nor by wearing rags or keeping quite. Get to know and understand it verily that Allah is in the inward of the possessor of Divine secrets (al-Insan al-Kamil / the Universal Divine Man). If you come (to him to know this secret) the doors are open and if you do not then Allah does not need anyone. (Ain-ul-Faqr)

Superiority of Sarwari Qadri order

Only the perfect and accomplished spiritual guide of the Sarwari Qadri order is aware of all the waystations. He knows all the difficulties and their solutions on the way of sharia, tariqa, reality and gnosis. This is because his soul resides in realm of Divinity (alam al-LaHoot) and has bequeathed the treasure of Faqr. He takes the seeker from this material world to the realm of Divinity under his supervision and does not let him become stagnant at a station nor let him get engulfed in satanic whispers.

The peak of Sarwari Qadri order is both the Essence and the attributes

It is the perfect and accomplished spiritual guide because of whom the Sarwari Qadri order has superiority over all the other spiritual orders. Also other orders reach only to the Divine attributes at their peak but Sarwari Qadri order’s peak is the Divine Essence and the attributes.

Miraj in words of Sultan Bahoo

  • Sultan Bahoo says:

On the night of Miraj, the Prophet mounted al-Buraq and Archangel Gabriel escorted him. The whole universe was decorated and eighteen thousand worlds were adorned and presented before him. From there onwards, Gabriel stopped advancing (as he could not go beyond the realm of power for it is only the destiny of human beings).

His sight neither turned aside nor was overbold

In spite of all the wonders, the Prophet remained engrossed in beholding Allah, nothing drew his attention away. Hence Allah said:

مَازَاغَ الْبَصَرُ وَمَاطَغَیٰ

Meaning: His sight neither turned aside nor was overbold. (An-Najm 17)

Faqr is my pride and Faqr is from me

When the Prophet reached the utmost boundary of creation (Sidrat al-Muntaha), he beheld the Face of Faqr and enjoyed the status of Sultan-ul-Faqr. He absorbed the resplendent light of Faqr and then had the honoured by proximity and union with Allah at the point of ultimate nearness (qab qausain  قاب قوسین ). He found the blessing with the honour of having conversation directly with Him. Then he advanced to the ultimate stage of Faqr which is to annihilate in Allah and became the companion of Faqr being One with the Essence. Thus acquired all the virtues of love, gnosis, intense longing and yearning for the Beloved, intellect, tolerance, kindness and generosity. It is said:

 تَخَلَّقُوْا بِاَخْلاَقِ اللّٰہِ تَعَالٰی

Meaning: Let yourself be possessed by the attributes of Allah.

When the entire ocean of Oneness gathered in the Prophet’s self on reaching the final stage of Faqr, he said, “Faqr is my pride and Faqr is from me.” (Mehak-ul-Faqr Kalan)

The perfect spiritual guide of Sarwari Qadri order is the reason of success in the path of Faqr

Seekers of Allah in the path of Faqr follow the footsteps of the Prophet and do not stop at any station until and unless they achieve proximity, union and Divine vision. They remain focused on Allah throughout their journey form beginning which is sharia to extremities which is Faqr and perform exoteric and esoteric worships only for Allah. Moreover they love Allah only and do not desire anyone or anything other than Him. If seekers of Allah perform abundant worships, still they do not consider it worthwhile. Even if every wonder of realm of angels and power lay bare before them, they still would not glimpse towards them. When they attain union with Allah at the peak of Faqr they say, “Allah is sufficient for us.” Even at peak they say:

 ھَلْ مِنْ مَّزِیْدَ

Meaning: Is there more?

Additionally they progress in proximity to Allah every moment. On reaching the heaven of proximity they neither grieve nor fear. Divine favour is always with them. Satan cannot mislead them due to their pure intentions. This is all the beneficence of the perfect and accomplished spiritual guide.

Veils between every stage

Sultan Bahoo speaks of sharia, tariqa, reality and gnosis in his works. Moreover he elaborates their interrelation and the states which seekers of Allah go through. Sultan Bahoo says:

  • Understand that sharia is honour, tariqa is actions, reality is states and gnosis is union. Between sharia and tariqa lie seventy thousand great veils of all that is other than Allah of which the greatest is that knowledge which gives birth to arrogance and lustful desires. Human unless frees himself from egoism, arrogance and lust cannot reach reality.

Similarly between tariqa and reality there are seventy thousand great veils of unveiling (kashf) and miracles. Unless man frees himself from them, he cannot reach reality. There are seventy thousand veils of attributes between reality and gnosis. A Mystic should stop desiring gnosis in the court of Allah (and leave all matters to His will) to dive into the ocean of annihilation.

Between annihilation in Allah, the Ever Living (Al-Hayy), the all-Sustaining (Al-Qayyum) and immortality with Allah lies seventy thousand great veils and unless human annihilates is body in the contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat he can neither become immortal with Allah nor can attain life in both the worlds. This station is called the Divine beatitude and this is the station about which it is said:

صِرَاطَ الَّذِیْنَ اَنْعَمْتَ عَلَیْھِمْ

Meaning: The path of those upon whom You have bestowed Your favours. (Al-Fatihah 7) (Mehak-ul-Faqr Kalan)

Sultan Bahoo’s words to guide seekers of Allah

  • Sultan Bahoo has guided seekers of Allah in following words:

Sharia means to devotedly go against the evil of the Satan. The basic conditions of sharia are; to order towards gnosis and do good deeds, to feel ashamed of disobeying Allah, eat only that is allowed, speak the truth, have know-how of major and minor sins, acquire knowledge and wisdom, fortify oneself by religious obligations, Sunna, compulsory and desirable acts and worship within this fortification by the grace and help of Allah.

The precondition in tariqa is to have speed, just like a falcon who reaches its destination in no time. While in reality the condition is to take Allah as the sole Reality i.e. to believe that only He exists, whatever happens is from Him. Do not dare to object my friend!

خَیْرِہٖ وَشَرِّہٖ مِنَ اللّٰہِ تَعَالٰی

Meaning: The good and evil both are from Allah.

The good for all the creation is Prophet Mohammad and evil is the Satan. You decide what do you want? The condition for gnosis is to be sympathetic. The more gnosis one gains the more humble he becomes. Whosoever is unaware of the reality of these four levels i.e. sharia, tariqa, reality and gnosis is ignorant like animals. He does not know anything about the spiritual journey of mysticism and fakirism. (Ain-ul-Faqr)

Spiritual states in different stages of Sufism

Understand that at all the four stages (sharia, tariqa, reality and gnosis), there are spiritual states of contraction (qabd), expansion (bast) and intoxication (sukr), while at the level of Tariqa there is agony also. May Allah save us from the agony of death, especially the unexpected sudden death!

Whether the seeker is at initial, intermediary or final level, as soon as he enters the level of tariqa he starts understanding his spiritual states and guards himself from evil. Reciting blessings and salutations in the state of ecstasy keeps one safe. Sharia is like breath of a person and tariqa is like step, a person takes step when he intends to start a journey.

Tariqa is the spiritual path, one needs provisions like food and water while travelling a path otherwise he may reach near death out of thirst and hunger. Sharia is like boat and tariqa is like river which is ever in the Noah’s deluge and its stormy waves are turning everything in tospy-turvy. So, to cross this river, the guidance of the spiritual guide is inevitable who is like a favourable wind, he takes out the boat from the storm and saves it from sinking. (Ain-ul-Faqr)

Allah Himself opens the way towards Him

  • Sultan Bahoo says:

Without the spiritual guide, a seeker may take forty years to cross the level of tariqa. However, if he is following the spiritual guide, he can take the seeker out of the states of tariqa in just a moment and carry him to the level of reality. The first requirement at the level of reality is to be respectful. A seeker must feel the Omnipresence of Allah and always consider himself present before Allah. This is to become obedient, adopt pious deeds and gain composure. Then he covers all the waystations coming ahead by the grace of Allah as Allah himself opens the ways for him. Hence he becomes independent of every desire. Only Allah! Everything other than Allah is lust. (Ain-ul-Faqr)

Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman

The present accomplished spiritual guide of Sarwari Qadri order Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman toils hard day and night to guide seekers of Allah on the path of Truth. He cleanses the rusty inwards through his celestial company, alchemic sight, invocation and contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat. He guides them in covering the stages of sharia, tariqa, reality and gnosis. There are innumerous examples in the form of his disciples whose souls have ascended to the realm of Divinity and have presence in the Mohammadan Assembly without extra mystic endeavours.

Invitation to Faqr

Open invitation for every traveller to pledge oath on the hands of Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman. Specially, for those who wish to progress through sharia, tariqa, reality and gnosis and wants to accomplish Faqr and Divine love. This is the only way to be successful in both the world and the hereafter.

Door are always

The doors which leads to the Truth are open for those seekers of faith who wish to understand teachings of Islam to the very depth and to practice it for Divine proximity.

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