Makhdoom Ashraf Jahangir Simnani (1287–1386 CE), also known as Makhdoom-e-Simnan, was a revered Indian Sufi of Persian origin. He was an ardent follower of Shaikh-e-Akbar Ibn al-Arabi and was particularly imbued with his spiritual conception of Wadhat-ul Wujud (Unity of Existence). Blessed with the 14 different chains of Sufism, he rendered remarkable services to the development of Chishti and Qadiri Sufi orders in India.
Makhdoom Ashraf Jahangir was born in Simnan, Iran, in a family descended from the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.). After an untiring spiritual journey of a seeker, he eventually settled in India and established his khanqah in what is today’s Ambedkar Nagar district in Uttar Pradesh. He was a disciple of the 13th century eminent Chishti Sufi saint of Bengal Hazrat Alaul Haq Pandavi, the disciple of another prominent Chishti Sufi of Bengal, Khwaja Akhi Siraj Aaina-e-Hind. Makhdoom-e-Pak formed his own Sufi order (silsila) through his spiritual disciple Hazrat Sayyad Shah Abdur Razzaq Nur-ul Ain, the 11th direct descendant of the renowned Sufi Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani (r.a). Attributed to the name of Ashraf Jahangir Simnani (r.a), the disciples of his Silsila are called “Ashrafi”.
Makhdoom-e-Pakleft behind his spiritual theories and ideas in a book in the Persian language titled Lataif-e-Ashrafi, which essentially means subtleties of Ashraf explaining the anecdotes of Sufism. After I went through a large chunk of the spiritual discourses presented in Lataif-e-Ashrafi, I felt the need to share a very interesting and pertinent discourse that Makhdoom-e-Pakhas delivered with regard to the basic Islamic tenet, Tawheed (monotheism or oneness of God). In this discourse, he sought to deepen his disciples’ understanding of the very first and foremost pillar of Islam, that is, belief in Tawheed.
Makhdoom-e-Pak on Sufi Definition of Tawheed
At the very outset, Makhdoom-e-Pak gives a very touching and mystically moving definition of Tawheed, which can be loosely translated as: “Monotheism means annihilation of the lover in attributes of his/her Beloved”.
In this context, Makhdoom-e-Pak has aptly quoted Sayyid al-Taifa Hazrat Junaid Baghdadi, one of the most renowned early Persian mystics of Islam and a central figure in the golden chain of many Sufi orders. His quotation on Tawheed goes on as a remarkable Sufi proverb in Arabic, which means “When one develops the true essence of Tawheed, all external forms of belief and ritualistic customs vanish away and the only thing that remains intact is the existence of one and only God, in the same form as it has remained for ages”.
Buttressing his perspective on Tawheed as an inclusive, all-embracing and comprehensive term, Makhdoom-e-Pak has described different degrees of Tawheed in detail. He has put it into various categories, mainly (1) tawheed-e imani (oneness in conviction), (2) tawheed-e ilmi (oneness in intellect) and (3) tawheed-e hali (oneness in personal state). He beautifully dwells on each category of Tawheed in a manner imbued with spiritual connotations.
With regard to the tawheed-e imani, Makhdoom-e-Pak says:
“Tawheed-e imani can be explained as an act of the servants of Allah, confirming by heart and verbally acknowledging the uniqueness and individuality of His divine virtues in accordance with the injunctions given in the Quran and Prophetic traditions.
Explaining tawheed-e ilmi, Makhdoom-e-Pak says:
“This second degree of Tawheed is attained within oneself; through inner spiritual knowledge. This is also called ilm ul-yaqeen (confirmed knowledge), which is one of the initial stages of Tasawwuf that exhorts one to believe and confirm that there is no existence other than Allah almighty and He is actually the only present and pervading entity. All other personas, virtues and actions are nothing in comparison to His persona, virtues and actions. In this degree of Tawheed, one is supposed to acknowledge the growth of each and every person as a manifestation of the divine persona of Khudawand (God), considering each virtue as reflection of the Absolute Source of all virtues”.
Makhdoom-e-Simnan’s view of tawheed-e hali
Having explained the above degrees of Tawheed, Makhdoom-e-Pakgoes on to dwell on the term tawheed-e hali, which he considers a state of faith standing in the third degree. This is how he illustrates what he thinks the term means:
“It implies that the haal or state of Tawheed is the most essential virtue of the spiritual practitioners. All darkness of the existence is lost in the light of Tawheed. In this state, one should be overwhelmed by the light of Tawheed in such a way as the stars lose their light in the sun. And at the crack of dawn, its light begins to prevail and gradually overpowers the light of all the stars”.
“Having attained this higher culmination of Tawheed, the state or haal of Muwahhid (believer in one God) gets completely lost in the deepest cognition of Wahid (the One and Only), to the extent that he/she sees nothing except the beauties of His zaat (existence) and His sifat (virtues and attributes). In this process, the observer (mushahid) goes to the extent that he begins to consider his own existence as that of the Almighty and his own observation (mushahida) as an attribute of His. Thus, as he gets more and more deeply immersed in the sea of Tawheeed, his existence attains complete synergy with that of the Almighty”.
Thus, Makhdum-e-Pak concludes that “a muwahhid (believer) is like a drop in the roaring ocean of Tawheed”. He says: “Tawheed is an ocean and the muwahhid is just a drop in it with no influence, appearance or power of its own”.
*Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a classical Islamic scholar and English-Arabic-Urdu writer. He has graduated from a leading Islamic seminary of India, acquired Diploma in Qur’anic sciences and Certificate in Uloom ul Hadith from Al-Azhar Institute of Islamic Studies. Presently, he is pursuing his PhD in Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.