Friday, March 29, 2013

The Khalwati Path / Seclusion and Withdrawal for Spiritual Communion



take refuge in the cave: God will spread His grace over you, and will endow you - whatever your outward condition be - with all that your soul may need. ~ The Qur'an 18:16


Travel beyond the confines of this life and see the vastness of His kingdom beyond space. Let your ear listen to what it has not heard before, and your eye see what it has not seen, until it leads you to where you see the One of the world and all the worlds. Express your passion for the One from your heart and soul until you see the Reality with the eye of certainty. There is only One and nothing but Him, He is Alone and there is no God but Him. ~ Sidi Mohammed ibn Ali al-Baqir



Spiritual retreat even though observed invariably by all Sufi Orders, there is a particular one order which place special emphasis on this practice and not surprisingly the order is also called Khalwati or Khalwatiya (Retreater). The Khalwati order (also known as Halveti, as it is known in Turkey), along with the Naqshbandi, Qadiri and Shadhili orders, it is among the most famous Sufi orders. The order takes its name from the Arabic word khalwa, meaning “method of withdrawal or isolation from the world for mystical purposes.”

The Khalwati order is known for its strict ritual training of its dervishes and its emphasis of individualism. Prime characteristic of the order is individual asceticism (zuhd) and retreat (khalwa).

Spiritual retreat is the backdrop for the Khalwatiya order. “Khalwa” basically refers to a solitary retreat in places like caves; “And your Lord revealed to the bee saying: Make hives in the mountains” (Quran 16:68), or in other places like zawiyas (“In houses that Allah allowed to be raised and in which His name is mentioned.  He is exalted therein morning and afternoon by men who are not distracted by business and selling from the remembrance of Allah” (Quran 31:36-37).

The khalwa is held either for 7 or 40 days during which a disciple does extensive spiritual exercises under the direction of a master. A khalwa is traditionally for 40 days. The primary model for Khalwati accounts of retreat was the Prophet’s (peace and blessing be upon him) prayer and fasting in the cave of ‘Hira for 40 days.

The number 40 is very significant. It describes a different reality to different sciences. In mathematics 40 is an octagonal number, and the sum of the first four pentagonal numbers, it is a pentagonal pyramidal number, and a semiperfect number. 40 is also a repdigit in base 3 (1111). In Sufi terms, number 1111 is the multiplication of the 11 letters of the Greatest Concealed Name. According to Sufi literature, the Greatest Name contains 11 letters and it is read 11/111/1111 times. “I did see eleven stars." [Quran 12:4]. Number 111 stands also for the digit of Mohammedian Sciences.”

In science 40 is the atomic number of zirconium. In Islam 40 is repeated a number of times.

• The Holy Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) said through so many chains from the Companions Sidna Ali, Sidna Ibn Abbas, and others, “Whoever wholly dedicates to Allah 40 days, the wellsprings of wisdom shall appear from his heart to his tongue."

• Forty is the age of Prophethood (nubuwa). The Holy Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) was 40 years old when he first received the revelation delivered by the archangel Gabriel. “Mohammed was not the father of any man among you. He was a messenger of God and the final prophet. God is fully aware of all things.” (Quran 33:40)

• Forty is the age of the “Absolute Poleship" (al-Qutbaniya al-'Udhma). “We enjoined the human being to honor his parents. His mother bore him arduously, gave birth to him arduously, and took intimate care of him for thirty months. When he reaches maturity, and reaches the age of forty, he should say, "My Lord, direct me to appreciate the blessings You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and to do the righteous works that please You. Let my children be righteous as well. I have repented to You; I am a submitter." (Quran 46:15)

• The Holy Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) was praying and fasting in the cave for 40 days,

• Prophet Sidna Musa (peace be upon him) spent 40 days on Mount Sinai where he received the 10 commandments. "And when We appointed (a period of) forty nights with Moses."(Quran 2:51), “We summoned Moses for thirty nights, and completed them by adding ten. Thus, the audience with his Lord lasted forty nights” (Quran 7:142)

• Forty was the number of days that Prophet Ilyas spent in the wilderness before God appeared to him in a cave on Mount Sinai (also known as Mount Horeb)

• Sayyida Khadija was 40 years old when she married the Holy Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him)

• Allah Most High revealed to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) to keep away 40 days from Sayyida Khadija. During these days, he fasted and engaged only in worship and prayer. At the end of 40 days, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) ate a heavenly apple, then Lady Khadija became pregnant of Sayyida Fatimah, chieftain of womankind. Shaykh Abil Abbas Tijani said as reported in Jawahir al-Maani: “As for the fact that Fatima did not menstruate, it was due to the formation of her genital fluid, which originated from the Prophet eating one of the apples of the Garden of Paradise. That is why the Prophet said about her "She is a human houri".

• When Allah Most High commanded the Holy Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him), to call his close relatives (Ahl al-Bayt) for Islam - "And warn your nearest relatives" (Quran 26:214), the Prophet told Sidna Ali ibn Abi Talib to prepare a meal and invite their relatives, who numbered 40.

• Qudsi Hadiths are 40 in number

• Guided Viceregency (Khilafa Rashida) lasted for 40 years after the death of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him)

• Imam Sidna Ali ibn Abi Talib died at the year 40 after Hijra.

• Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) spent 40 days in a fire. "We said: O fire! Be cool and a means of safety for Ibrahim” (Quran 21:69)

• Prophet Sidna Musa (peace be upon him) traveled 40 years in the desert,

• People of Israel wandered 40 years in the desert. “Allah said: ‘Therefore will the land be out of their reach for forty years; in distraction will they wander through the land: but sorrow thou not over these rebellious people.’" (Quran 5:26),

• Prophet Sidna Yunus (Jonah) was in a whales mouth for 40 days. “Then the big Fish did swallow him, and he had done acts worthy of blame. Had it not been that he (repented and) glorified Allah, He would certainly have remained inside the Fish till the Day of Resurrection.” (Quran 37:144)

• Prophets Sidna Dawud (David) and Sidna Suleiman (Solomon) each ruled for forty years

• Forty was the number of days that the Messiah Sidna Isa (Jesus) was tempted in the desert by Satan

• Prophet Sidna Isa walked the desert and fasted in the wilderness for 40 days,

• The Dajjal roams around the Earth in 40 days, 40 days that can be as many as 40 months, 40 years, Allah knows the best

• The Holy Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) said that one who takes to heart and preserves forty hadith relating to their religious needs shall be raised by Allah as a learned scholar on the Day of Resurrection.




There are a number of conditions of khalwa, according to the Khalwatiya Order:

• Entering the place of khalwa the way a mosque is entered, performing ablution before entering it, seeking help from the spirit of the Sufi master. “For each one of them we provide; we provide for those and these from your Lord's bounties. Your Lord's bounties are inexhaustible.” (Quran 17:20) “There is a mosque whose foundation was laid from the first day on piety; it is more worthy of thy standing forth (for prayer) therein. In it are men who love to be purified; and Allah love those who make themselves pure.” (Quran 9:108) “When Moses came to the place ( Mount Tur ) appointed by Us, and his Lord addressed him, he said: "O my Lord! Show (Thyself) to me, that I may look upon Thee." (Quran 7:143)

• The khalwa place should be clean, peaceful, dark, and the retreater should surrender all worldly and exterior religious affairs, as the first step toward surrendering his own existence. “Indeed Allah does not change His favour upon any nation until they change their own condition.” (Quran 13:11) “In houses that Allah allowed to be raised and in which His Name is mentioned.  He is exalted therein morning and afternoon by men who are not distracted by business and selling from the remembrance of Allah” (Quran: 31:36-37) “Which none shall touch but those who are clean” (Quran 56:79) “Truly did Allah fulfill the vision for His Messenger: You shall enter the Sacred mosque, if Allah wills, with minds secure, heads, shaved, hair cut short, and without fear. For He knew what ye knew not and He granted besides this a speedy victory.” (Quran 48:27) “We see the turning of thy face to the heavens: now shall We turn thee to a Qibla that shall please you.” (Quran 2:144)

• Assiduity in dhikr must be maintained in order that the Remembered One may, at the final stage, make Himself manifest to the retreater. The heart of the retreater must be perpetually attached to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) or his master, who has been appointed by Allah to guide him, so Sufis allege. He is to keep each retreater's company constantly, spiritually as well as physically. “I am looking at you all the time” “Tell the believing men that they shall subdue their eyes” (Quran 24:30) “And those who believe in Allah and His messengers― they are the Sincere (Lovers of Truth) and the witnesses (who testify), in the eyes of their Lord” (Quran 57:19). "There has already been for you a Sign in the two armies that met: one was fighting in the cause of Allah the other resisting Allah; these saw with their own eyes twice their number. But Allah doth support with His aid whom He please In this is a warning for such as have eyes to see." (Quran 3:13) “Take warning then, O ye with eyes (to see).” (Quran 59:2)

• "The retreater should also visualize the meanings of the words of the invocation, if he is capable of understanding them.  If not, he should listen to what he is remembering with his tongue, in order to keep his mind from drifting away from his purpose." (Jawahir al-Ma’ani)

• The retreater must keep silent throughout the forty days of his khalwa even if he goes out for some reason. “(Zakariya) said ‘O my Lord! Give me a Sign." "The Sign", was the answer "shall be that you shall speak to no man for three nights, although thou art not dumb.’” (Quran 98:10)


Khalwat Mein Khudi Hai Khudgeer, Walekin
Khalwat Nahin Ab Dair-o-Haram Mein Bhi Muyassar

Retreat is blessed state ʹBout self gives knowledge great:
Alas! this state divine, Isnʹt found in fane or shrine.

~ Iqbal


In his book, Journey to the Lord of Power, Sidi Muhyiddin b. Arabi (d. 636/1221) discusses the stages through which the Sufi passes in his khalwah,

"The Sufi should shut his door against the world for 40 days and occupy himself with remembrance of Allah, that is to keep repeating, "Allah, Allah..." Then, "Almighty God will spread before him the degrees of the kingdom as a test. First, He will discover the secrets of the mineral world. If he occupies himself with dhikr, He (God) will unveil to the secrets of the vegetable world, then the secrets of the animal world, then the infusion of the world of life-force into lives, then the "surface sign" (the light of the Divine Names, according to Abdul-Karim al-Jili), then the degrees of speculative sciences, then the world of formation and adornment and beauty, then the degrees of the qutb. Then he will be given the divine wisdom and the power of symbols and authority over the veil and the unveiling. The degree of the Divine Presence is made clear to him, the Garden and Hell are revealed to him, then the original forms of the son of Adam, the Throne of Mercy. If it is appropriate, he will know his destination. Then he will reveal to him the Pen, the First Intellect, then the Mover of the Pen, the right hand of the Truth. (The "Truth" as defined by al-Jili is that by which everything is created, none other than God most High.)


May Allah the All Knowing One and Source of All Knowledge increase us in useful knowledge and spare us from useless knowledge and empty information. Rabbi zidni ilman, Rabbi zidni hiqmah, Rabbi zidni marefah. O Allah increase our knowledge, our wisdom and our gnosis.




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