The Golden Sufi Center

The Eleven Principles of the Naqshbandi Path

The first eight principles are from 'Abd ul-Khaliq Ghujduwani (d. 1220). The final three principles were added by Baha ad-din Naqshband (d. 1389).

1. Awareness in the Breath / Awareness in the Moment (Hush dar dam)

"Every breath which is exhaled from within must be exhaled with awareness and presence of mind and so that the mind does not stray into forgetfulness."

Baha ad-din Naqshband said: "The foundation of our work is in the breath. The more that one is able to be conscious of one's breathing, the stronger is one's inner life. It is a must for everyone to safeguard his breath in the time of his inhalation and exhalation and further, to safeguard his breath in the interval between the inhalation and exhalation."

As the seeker becomes occupied with the exercise of the moment (i.e. remembering the breath), he turns his attention from remembering the past and thinking of the future, and focuses on each breath until it is expired.

Sa'd ud-din Kashghari added: "Hush dar dam is moving from breath to breath so there is no heedlessness but rather there is presence, and with each breath that we take should be the remembrance of the Real."

Sheikh Abdul Janab Najmuddin al-Kubra said in his book, Fawatih al-Jamal: "Dhikr (remembrance of God in the breath) is flowing in the body of every single living creature by the necessity of their breath—even without will—as a sign of obedience, which is part of their creation. Through their breathing, the sound of the letter 'Ha' of the Divine Name Allah is made with every exhalation and inhalation and it is a sign of the Unseen Essence serving to emphasize the Uniqueness of God. Therefore it is necessary to be present with that breathing, in order to realize the Essence of the Creator."

The name Allah, which encompasses the ninety-nine Names and Attributes, consists of four letters, Alif, Lam, Lam and Hah (ALLAH). The people of Sufism say that the absolute unseen Essence of Allah Exalted and Almighty is expressed by the last letter vowelized by the Alif, "Hah." It represents the Absolutely Unseen "He-ness" of the Exalted God (Ghayb al-Huwiyya al-Mutlaqa lillah 'azza wa jall) in which the mystic loses his separate identity with every "hah" in his breath. The first Lam is for the sake of identification (tacrif) and the second Lam is for the sake of emphasis (mubalagha).

The soul has long been thought to be in the breath. "For the early thinkers the soul was visualized sensuously as a breath-body." Awareness of the breath makes us aware of the soul and the inner body, inner self, which belong to the moment.

In the path of the Khwajagan awareness in the breath is a very great principle. Those in this path regard it a great transgression to become unconscious of the breath.

 

2. Watch your Step! (Nazar bar qadam)

Direct yourself constantly towards the goal.

Sa'd ud-din Kashghari added: "Looking upon the steps means that the seeker in coming and going looks upon the top of his feet and thereby his attention is not scattered by looking at what he should not look at." When the beginner's attention is taken by shapes and colors outside of himself, his state of remembering leaves him and is ruined, and he is kept from his objective. This is because the beginning seeker does not have the power of the "remembrance of the heart," so when his sight falls upon things, his heart loses its collectedness, and his mind becomes scattered.

Watch your step can also refer to watching circumstances, feeling when is the right time for action, when is the right time for inaction, and when is the right time for pause. Some have said that Nazar bar qadam is an expression which refers to the wisdom inherent in one's natural disposition.

Fakhr ud-Din Kashifi added: "Nazar bar qadam may be alluding to the seekers traveling through the stages of breaking from existence and putting behind self-love."

Of these three interpretations, the first refers to beginners' use of this aphorism, the second refers to those in mid-progress on the Way, and the third to the Attainers.

 

3. The Journey Home (Safar dar watan)

Your journey is towards your homeland. Remember you are traveling from a world of illusion to a world of reality. The wayfarer travels from the world of creation to the world of the Creator.

The Journey Home is the transformation that brings man out of his subjective dream state, so that he can fulfill his divine destiny.

From the Rashahat-i 'ayn al-hayat: "[The journey home refers to] that traveling which the seeker makes within his human nature. In other words, travel from the qualities of humankind toward the angelic qualities, moving from blameworthy qualities to laudable ones." Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi (d. 1624) said: "This blessed expression [traveling in the homeland] means traveling within the self. The source of its results lies in putting the final [practice] at the beginning, which is one of the characteristics of the Naqshbandi Way. And although this [inner] traveling can also be found in other tariqas [schools of Sufism], [in those] it is found only in the end after the 'traveling on the horizons' [referring to the Qur'anic verse (41:53): 'We will show them Our signs on the horizons and within their selves until they know He is the Real']."

"Traveling on the horizons" is traveling from place to place. At the beginning of the journey it can mean leaving home to find a guide or teacher. Also it happened in former generations that when the wayfarer had become established in a place, got accustomed to it and become familiar with its people, they took on traveling in order to break down habit and comfort and cut themselves off from renown. They would choose travel in order to experience complete emptying.

It means traveling within oneself, looking at oneself, examining oneself and one's reactions, and how they act upon one.

This reflects the stress that the Naqshbandi path puts on the inner states, stages, processes.

Be an external resident and let your heart travel.
Traveling without legs is the best kind of travel.

 

4. Solitude in the Crowd (Khalwat dar anjuman)

There are two kinds of retreat. One is the outward kind in which the seeker, far from people, sits alone in his cell until he comes into contact with the spiritual world. This result comes about because the external senses withdraw themselves and the inner senses extend themselves to signs from the spiritual world.

The second kind of retreat is the hidden one, where the seeker is inwardly witnessing the secrets of the Real while he is outwardly surrounded by people. Khalwat dar anjuman is of this second type of retreat: outwardly to be with people, inwardly to be with God.

In all your outer activities remain inwardly free. Learn not to identify with anything whatsoever.

Khwaja Awliya Kabir, one of the deputies of 'Abd ul-Khaliq Ghujduwani, explained khalwat dar anjuman as follows: "'Retreat within the crowd' is that state when one is so constantly and completely absorbed in divine remembrance that 'one could walk through the market-place without hearing a word.'"

They are with their Lord and simultaneously they are with the people. As the Prophet said, "I have two sides: one faces my Creator and one faces creation."

'Abd ul-Khaliq Ghujduwani himself was known to say: "Close the door of the formality of sheikhhood, open the door of friendship. Close the door of khalwat (solitary retreat) and open the door of suhbat (companionship)." Baha ad-din Naqshband said in this connection: "Our path is in companionship. In [physical] retreat there comes fame and with fame comes calamity. Our welfare lies with the assembly and its companionship, on condition that [self-] negation is found in one another."

When Baha ad-din reached Herat on his journey to Mecca, the Amir Hussein arranged a gathering in his honour. At the assembly the Amir asked him, "Since with your Presence there is neither audible dhikr, nor voyaging, nor audition of special music and poetry, what is your path?" He answered, "The pure words of the tribe of 'Abd ul-Khaliq Ghujduwani, which are 'retreat within the crowd,' and we follow in their Way." "What is retreat within the crowd?" the Amir asked. "Outwardly to be with the people while inwardly to be with God," said Naqshband. The Amir expressed surprise and asked whether this was actually possible. Baha ad-din replied that if it were not possible God Most High would not have indicated it in a Qur'anic verse which describes those who are not distracted from the remembrance of God even while in the marketplace: "Men whom neither business nor profit distracts from the recollection of Allah" [24:37]. This is the way of the Naqshbandi Order.

Ahmad Faruqi Sirhindî, Mujaddid-i-alf-i-thani (the Renewer of the second millennium), said: "Retreat within the crowd is derived from traveling in the homeland since if traveling in the homeland is properly accomplished, then retreat within the crowd will properly occur. The seeker within the diversity of the crowd travels in his own land, and the diversity of the horizons finds no way into the meditation cell of his inner self. This treasure will manifest with difficulty at the beginning and with no difficulty in the end. And in this tariqa it is the portion of the beginning while in other paths it is at the end. This is so because the treasure is derived from traveling within the self (with presence in the moment), which is at the beginning of this path, while traveling on the horizons takes place simultaneously. This is the opposite of the other paths which make the traveling on the horizons the beginning and the traveling within the self the end."

In the words of al-Kharraz: "Perfection is not in exhibitions of miraculous powers, but perfection is to sit among people, sell and buy, marry and have children; and yet never leave the presence of Allah even for one moment."

In constant communion with the Beloved within,
a stranger to the world.
Those endowed with such beauty are rare indeed
in this world.

 

5. Remembrance (Yad kard)

Concentration on Divine Presence.

For the Naqshbandiyya remembrance is practiced in the silent dhikr.

Keep God, the Beloved, always in your heart. Let your prayer, dhikr, be the prayer of your heart.

According to Khwaja Ubaydullah Ahrar, "the real meaning of dhikr is inward awareness of God. The purpose of dhikr is to attain this consciousness." The purpose of the dhikr is to keep one's heart and attention entirely focused on the Beloved in love and devotion.

The dhikr is not just repeated as words, but is in the heart.

Remembrance of the tongue becomes remembrance of the heart. Abdu'l-Qadir al-Gilani said: "At the first stage one recites the name of God with one's tongue; then when the heart becomes alive one recites inwardly. At the beginning one should declare in words what one remembers. Then stage by stage the remembrance spreads throughout one's being—descending to the heart then rising to the soul; then still further it reaches the realm of the secrets; further to the hidden; to the most hidden of the hidden."

 

6. Returning (from distraction), Going Back (Baz gasht)

Travel one way. The return to God. Single-minded pursuit of divine truth.

This means banishing and dispelling every thought, good or bad, that comes to mind involuntarily during the dhikr. When performing the remembrance the heart is required to attain the calm contentment of: “Oh Allah, my goal is You and Your good pleasure; it is nothing else!” So long as there is any space left in the heart for other interests, such calm contentment cannot take shape, and the remembrance cannot be genuine. Even if this tranquility cannot be attained at the outset, one must not abandon the remembrance, and it is necessary to persist in its performance until this feeling is acquired.

The meaning of baz gasht is the return to Allah Exalted and Almighty by showing complete surrender and submission to His Will, and complete humbleness in giving Him all due praise. The reason, mentioned by the Holy Prophet in his invocation, ma dhakarnaka haqqa dhikrika ya Madhkar (“We did not Remember You as You Deserve to be Remembered, O Allah”), is that the seeker cannot come to the presence of Allah in his dhikr, and cannot manifest the Secrets and Attributes of Allah in his dhikr, if he does not make dhikr with Allah's support and with Allah's remembrance of him. As Bayazid Bistami (d. 874) said: “When I reached Him I saw that His remembering of me preceded my remembrance of Him.” The seeker cannot make dhikr by himself. He must recognize that Allah is the one making dhikr through him.

“Beloved, you and your approval are my purpose and desire.” This attitude will rid one of impure thoughts and distractions. It relates to the path of absorption. One Sufi was concerned that he was not sincere, and was ashamed. So his sheikh took him to a Sufi who was on the path of absorption, and this sheikh told him that absorption, not hair-splitting, would free him from his problem. The wayfarer realized that in his worry about his dishonesty and shame, his wants and needs, he had been focused on himself, separating himself from his Beloved.

According to Khwaja Ahrar, the saying “returning” means that we have within us the goal of our striving. The seeds of transformation are sown in us from above and we have to treasure them above all possessions.

 

7. Attentiveness (Nigah dasht)

Struggle with all alien thoughts. Be always mindful of what you are thinking and doing, so that you may put the imprint of your immortality on every passing incident and instance of your daily life.

Be watchful. Be aware of what catches your attention. Learn to withdraw your attention from undesirable objects. This is also expressed as "be vigilant in thought and remember yourself."

Nigah means sight. It means that the seeker must watch his heart and safeguard it by preventing bad thoughts from entering. Bad inclinations keep the heart from joining with the Divine.

It is acknowledged in the Naqshbandiyya that for a seeker to safeguard his heart from bad inclinations for fifteen minutes is a great achievement. For this he would be considered a real Sufi. Sufism is the power to safeguard the heart from bad thoughts and protect it from low inclinations. Whoever accomplishes these two goals will know his heart, and whoever knows his heart will know his Lord. The Holy Prophet has said, "Whoever knows himself knows His Lord."

Sa'd ud-Din Kashgari said: "The seeker must, for one hour or two or whatever he is capable of, hold onto his mind and prevent thoughts of other [than God] entering." Another description from the Munahej ul-Sair has it that: "[Nigah dasht is the] guarding of the special awareness and presence which have resulted from the noble dhikr, so that remembering of anything other than the Real does not find its way into the heart/mind."

Yet others have written that nigah dasht also applies to the time of the dhikr itself: "Nigah dasht is when the seeker at the time of the dhikr holds his heart/mind upon the meaning of LA ILAHA ILLA 'LLAH so that thoughts do not find entrance into his heart, because if thoughts are in the mind then the result of the dhikr, meaning presence of the heart/mind, will not manifest." It has also been said, "Nigah dasht is an expression meaning the prevention of the occurance of thought at the time one is occupied with [repeating] the fragrant sentence [of LA ILAHA ILLA 'LLAH]."

Abdul Majid Il Khani said that the meaning of preserving the heart/mind from incoming thoughts is that they lose their hold on the mind. In this connection Khwaja Ubaydullah Ahrar said: "The meaning of preserving the mind [from thoughts] is not that the seeker can avoid thoughts at the beginning [of his attempts], but rather that thoughts do not disturb the attendance and presence [required for the dhikr]. [Thoughts] can be likened to straw which has fallen onto moving water and yet the water is not prevented from its course. 'Abd ul-Khaliq Ghujduwani said: "It isn't so that thoughts never enter the heart/mind, but rather that at times they do and at times they do not." His statement seems to be supported by Khwaja 'Ala al-Din al-'Attar who reported: "Succeeding with thoughts is difficult or even impossible. I preserved my heart for twenty years from thoughts, after which they would still appear but they then found no hold there."

 

8. Continued Remembrance / Perpetual Invocation (Yad dasht)

Constant awareness in the presence of God. "The complete experience of divine contemplation, achieved through the action of objective love."

Those on the path maintain that when inner love is always present in one's dealings with the world, then one has achieved this mindfulness.

This is the last stage before transformation is completed. The seeker becomes aware that his loss of "self" will be compensated by objective love. The humiliation (abnegation of self) that leads to this stage ceases to touch the seeker for he discovers the unlimited joy that Truth will bring.

Yad dasht refers to the durability of the awareness of the Real in the path of "tasting" (living in the multiplicity of illusion). In the Rashahat-i 'ain al-Hayyat it is stated: "Some have said that this is a perceiving/witnessing which is the domination of witnessing the Real in the heart through essential love."

Ubaydullah Ahrar said: "Yad dasht is an expression meaning the durability of the awareness of the Glorious Real." He said further: "It means presence [with God] without disappearance."

Regarding the use of the term for the period of the dhikr itself it has been said: "Yad dasht is that which the dhakir (person practicing dhikr) during the dhikr maintains [fully the meaning of] negation and affirmation in his heart in the presence of the Named."

Khwaja Ubaydullah Ahrar has described the principles five through eight as following each other in this manner: "Yad kard (Remembrance) refers to the work of invoking/remembering. Baz gasht (Returning) means turning to the High Real in the manner that when saying the fragrant sentence of the dhikr the seeker follows this in his heart with "God you are my true goal!" and nigah dasht (Attentiveness) is the holding on to this turning [to the Real] without words. Yad dasht (Recollection) means constancy/firmness in [the holding on of] nigah dasht (Attentiveness)."

 

9. Awareness of One's State of Mind / Time (Wuquf-i-zamani)

Baha ad-din Naqshband said that this consciousness is the maker and guide of the disciple. It means to be attentive to one's state of mind at any given moment and to know whether it is a cause for giving thanks or for repenting.

It means: To keep account of one's temporal states. To distinguish presence, huzur, from absence, ghaflat. Baha ad-din described this as "self-possession" or "mindfulness." He added that one should always be grateful when one returns to a state of presence.

In wuquf-i-zaman the seeker remains constantly aware of his changing states. Baha ad-din Naqshband explained: "Wuquf-i-zamani is the work of the traveler on the Way: to be attentive of his state, and to know whether it is a cause for giving thanks or for repenting, to give thanks while feeling spiritual elation, and to repent while in spiritual dryness or contraction."

He also stated: "The foundation of the work of the seeker has been established in the awareness of time [exercise] as seeing at each moment whether the perceiver of breaths is [breathing] with presence or with forgetfulness."

Maulana Yaqub Charkhi, in his Explanation of the Names of Allah, said: "Khwaja [Naqshband] instructed that in the state of qabz (contraction) one should seek God's forgiveness, whereas in the state of bast (expansion) one should offer thanks. Close observation of these two states constitutes wuquf-i-zamani." Wuquf-i-zamani of the Naqshbandi path is equivalent to the term "mohasseba" (keeping account of/close observation) used by other Sufis.

Jami, in the Resalah-i-nuria, said:"Wuquf-i-zamani is a term meaning the keeping account of the times one passes in [a state of] dispersal (tafriqah) or collectedness (jam'iyyat)."

 

10. Awareness of Number (Wuquf-i-adadi)

An expression meaning the observation of the number of individual repetitions of the dhikr. Jami said: "Wuquf-i-adadi is the observation of the number of dhikrs and of whether this [observation] yields results or not." According to Baha ad-din Naqshband, "The observation of the number of repetitions of the dhikr of the heart is for gathering thoughts/mental activity which are scattered."

According to Khwaja 'Ala al-Din al-'Attar, "The important thing is not the number of repetitions but rather the composure and awareness with which one makes them."

According to Baha ad-din Naqshband, this awareness is the first stage of entry into the spiritual world.

This could also mean that for beginners, reading about the achievements and states of consciousness demonstrated by those advanced in this practice would be helpful, since in reading about another's state of nearness, one acquires a certain quality of inner inspiration.

For advanced disciples, this technique, which facilitates the initial stages of acquiring inner intuition and inspiration, brings a consciousness of the unity of diversity:

This diversity and proliferation is all but a show,
The One is manifest in the all.

Diversity, if you look with open eyes, is naught but unity. No doubts for us, though there might be in some minds. Though appearance is in numbers, the substance is but one.

(It should be noted that inner inspiration, that understanding which brings the practitioner and people on the path closer to higher teachings, comes through divine grace and is not due to mind discoveries. "Knowledge comes from grace. The difference between divine inspiration and divine knowledge is that divine knowledge comes through internalizing the light of the Essence and the divine attributes, while divine inspiration is gained through receptivity to inner meanings and those types of instructions which manifest within the practitioner.")

 

11. Awareness of the Heart (Wuquf-i-qalbi)

The heart becomes aware of God. This marks the awakening of divine love. The individual becomes aware that his existence is an obstacle to his final transformation and he no longer fears to sacrifice it because he sees for himself that he will gain infinitely more than he loses.

Wuquf-i-qalbi has been described as having two meanings. One is that the seeker's heart in the midst of the dhikr is conscious and aware of the Real. On this point Khwaja Ubaydullah Ahrar said: "Wuquf-i-qalbi is an expression meaning an awareness and presence of heart toward the Most High Real felt in such a manner that the heart feels no need of anything except the Real." This meaning is similar to that of yad dasht.

Heart consciousness means heart's resting with the Beloved, as if nothing and no one else existed.

The other meaning is that there is awareness of the heart itself. In other words, the seeker during the time of the dhikr is attentive to the cone-shaped heart which is the "seat of subtlety," and prevents it from becoming unaware during the saying of the dhikr.

Baha ad-din Naqshband did not consider it necessary to hold the breath during the dhikr as is done in some tariqas, even though he considered that practice to have its benefits; nor did he consider essential the wuquf-i-zamani and wuquf-i-adadi (awareness of time and awareness of number). But according to the Qodsîyyah he considered "the observance of wuquf-i-qalbi the most important and necessary because it is the summary and essence of the intention of the dhikr."

Like an expecting mother-bird, sit watchfully on the egg of your heart,
Since from this egg will result your drunkenness, self-abandoned,
uproarious laughter and your final union.

 


This description of the Eleven Principles is compiled from a number of sources, including:

· Introduction to the Qodsîyyah (Holy Sayings of Baha ad-din Naqshband), Edited and annotated by Ahmad Tâhirî `Irâqî. Tehran, 1975.
· Molana Fakhreddin Vaaez Kashefi. Rashahat-i 'ayn al-hayat (Trickles from the Source of Life), Volume I, Nuryani Charitable Foundation, Tehran 1977.
· Hasan Shushud. Masters of Wisdom of Central Asia,. Moorcote, Yorkshire: Coombe Springs Press, 1983.
· J. G. Bennett. The Masters of Wisdom, Santa Fe, New Mexico: Bennett Books, 1995.