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On Hidden Shirk

Shaykh Salah, his servant, reported: “Shah Naqshband said one time to his followers, ‘Any connection of your heart with other than Allah is the greatest veil for the seeker,’ after which he recited this verse of poetry:

“The connection with other than God Is the strongest veil, And to be done with it, Is the Opening of Attainment.”

Immediately, after he recited this verse, it came to my heart that he was referring to the connection between iman and islam. He looked at me and laughed and said, ‘Did you not hear what Hallaj said? “I rejected the religion of God, and rejection is obligatory on me even though that is hideous to Muslims.” O Shaykh Salah, what came to your heart — that the connection is with belief and Islam – is not the important point. What is important is Real Faith, and Real Faith for the People of the Truth is to make the heart deny anything and everything other than God. That is what made Hallaj say, “I denied your religion and denial is obligatory on me, although that is hideous to Muslims.” His heart wanted nothing except Allah.”

“Hallaj, of course, was not denying his faith in Islam, but was emphasizing the attachment of his heart to God Alone. If Hallaj was not accepting anything except Allah, how could one say that he was actually denying the religion of God? His testimony of the reality of his Witnessing encompassed and made as child’s-play the ordinary witnessing of the common Muslim.”

Shaykh Salah continued, saying, Shah Naqshband said, “The people of God do not admire what they are doing; they act only out of the love of God.”

Shah Naqshband said,

“Rabi’a al-’Adawiyya said, ‘O Allah I didn’t worship seeking the reward of Your Paradise nor fearing your punishment, but I am worshipping You for Your Love alone.’ If your worship is for saving yourself or for gaining some reward for yourself, it is a hidden shirk, because you have associated something with Allah, either the reward or the punishment. This is what Hallaj meant.”

Shaykh Arslan ad-Dimashqi said,

“O Allah, Your religion is nothing but hidden shirk, and to disbelieve in it is obligatory on every true servant. The people of religion are not worshipping You, but are only worshipping to attain Paradise or to escape from Hell. They are worshipping these two as idols, and that is the worst Idolatry. You have said, man yakfur bi-t- taghuti wa yu’min billahi faqad istamsaka bi-l-`urwati-l-wuthqa (“Whoever disbelieves in idols and believes in Allah has grasped the Firm Handhold”) [2:256]. To disbelieve in those idols and to believe in You is obligatory on the people of Truth.”

Shaykh Abul-Hasan ash-Shadhili (q), one of the greatest Sufi Shaykhs, was asked by his shaykh, “O my son, with what are you going to meet your Lord?” He said, “I am coming to Him with my poverty.” He said,

“O my son, do not ever repeat this again. This is the biggest idol, because you are still coming to Him with something. Free yourself of everything and then come to Him.

“The people of laws and external knowledge hold fast to their deeds and on that basis they establish the concept of reward and punishment. If they are good, they find good and if they are bad they find bad; what benefits the servant is his deeds and what harms him is his deeds. To the People of the Way, this is the hidden Shirk, because one is associating something with Allah. Although it is an obligation to do (good deeds), yet the heart must not be attached to those deeds. They should only be done for His sake and for His love, without expectation of anything in return.”