Two Paths of Progress
The Sufis have written that there are two paths for attaining progress. Firstly, the spiritual quest and secondly, spiritual magnetism.
The Spiritual Quest
The spiritual quest is to embark upon the path of Allah and His Messengersa as a result of one’s own understanding and sense. For example, Allah the Exalted states:
Meaning, if you desire to become the beloved of God, then follow the Noble Prophet, on whom be peace. It was this Perfect Guide and Messenger who shoul- dered such afflictions as are unparalleled in the history of the world. He did not rest even a single day in his life. Now, those who truly emulate their Master can only be ones who follow his every word and action with assiduous toil and labour. Only he is a follower who obeys the Holy Prophetsa in all respects. Allah the Ex- alted does not like those who flock to comfort and flee from hardship. Rather, such a one shall incur the wrath of Allah Almighty. In this verse, Allah the Ex- alted has commanded obedience to the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. The task of a seeker of God ought to be to first study the entire life of the Holy Prophetsa and then follow him. This is called ‘the spiritual quest.’ There are great trials and tribulations in this path. It is only after these difficulties are shouldered that a person becomes a seeker of God.
The rank of those who are absorbed in God is greater than those who are seekers on the path of God. Allah Almighty does not leave the former group of people to go on as mere seekers; rather, He casts them into adversity Himself and then pulls them towards Himself through his eternally spiritual magnetism. All the Proph- ets were absorbed in God as such. When the human soul is faced with hardship it is strained and gains experience, and as a result, begins to glow. For example, iron or glass possess the inherent quality to shine but only become clear after repeated polishing to the extent that one is eventually able to see their own face reflected in these materials. Spiritual efforts also serve as a polishing agent. One ought to polish the heart, to such an extent that one is able to see in it a reflection of their own face. What is implied by seeing one’s own face? It means to embody the fol- lowing :
Develop within yourselves the attributes of Allah.
The heart of a seeker of God is like a mirror, which is polished by trial and tribu- lation to such extent that the character of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, begins to be reflected in it. This occurs when, after much spiritual effort and purification, no traces of filth and impurity remain. It is then that this rank is conferred upon an individual. Every believer is to a degree in need of such cleansing. No believer can attain salvation until they become a mirror. A seeker of God polishes themselves of their own accord and bears difficulty by virtue of their own effort. But a person absorbed in God is thrown into tribu- lation. God Himself refines such a person and bestows upon them the qualities of a mirror by subjecting them to countless forms of adversity and affliction. In actuality, the end result of a seeker of God and one who is absorbed in God are the same. These are two aspects which relate to the righteous: the spiritual quest and spiritual magnetism.