The Four Doors

Peace, one and all…


‘Say, ‘Truly my prayer and my sacrifice, my living and my dying are for God, Lord of the worlds’. (Quran 6:162)

To realise this passage, to make it real within the depths of the heart, takes constant prayer and an ever-ready willingness to sacrifice short-term gratification, as well as a life lived always for God, in God, and a commitment to that Reality that holds true even in the face of death itself, all for the sake of God alone.  This sublime verse is also a description of the path to that Reality, a map of the journey home.

As I read this verse in this new moment, I am struck by how well it resonates with the Sufi understanding of the various stages of spiritual growth. In particular, I am strongly reminded of the Maqalat of beloved Haji Bektash Veli. In his understanding, there are four doors to be passed through: Divine Law (Shariat), the Spiritual Path (Tariqat), Spiritual Understanding (Marifat) and Reality (Haqiqat). Each of these stations are characterised by a particular level of seeker. The first level, of Shariat, is the domain of the worshipper (abidler), whose proper focus is attention to the details of ritual prayer, amongst other things. In other words, to make this Quranic passage real we have to focus on prayer, as a way of living, rather than as simple ritual. The second level pertains to the spiritual path, known as tariqat. In beloved Haji Bektash’s explication this is the domain of the ascetic (zahitler), whose proper focus is on self-denial and withdrawal from the world. In the context of the verse before us, our whims and desires must be sacrificed in order to clear our inward eye, or else we will remain unable to perceive the deeper mysteries of life. This brings us to the third level of spiritual understanding, or marifat. As we travel along the way, the heart’s eye becomes able to perceive the meanings behind our outward worship and our renunciation of whim. We are able to truly see, and thus to live deeply in God. To know in this intuitive, moment by moment manner is a characteristic of the Knowers, or ariflar.

Finally, beyond the domain of knowledge lies the realm of love.  Our verse concludes with dying. Ultimately, even our separative existence has to be sacrificed. We have to hand ourselves over to the Divine lovingly, and thus willingly taste death. It is not for naught therefore that the Prophet (as) enjoined us to ‘Die before you die’. Haji Bektash describes this as the realm of haqiqat, of Absolute Reality, and those who arrive in this blessed realm as lovers (muhiblar). It is love alone that helps us transcend the last barrier, the barrier of our very existence itself.  And love, it seems, must be expressed; to be in love one must be loving.  We leave ourselves behind and become love.

May all who pass by this day be blessed with goodness.

Dem-i Hazret-i Mevlana…

Ask olsun!


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