Firar and I'tisam(Fleeing and Taking Shelter)


Literally meaning running away from something, firar (fleeing) denotes in the language of sufism journeying from the created to the Creator, sheltering from the 'shadow' in the 'original,' (in sufism, the creation is viewed as a shadow of an original, truly existent One, Who is God, the Creator). It also means renouncing the 'drop' to plunge into the 'ocean,' (since everything in the world is no more than a drop taken from an ocean, in sufism, material existence and pleasures are regarded as having the meaning and worth of a drop, while the Origin of existence, the Creator, corresponds to the ocean). Further it means discontent with the piece of glass (where the sun is reflected) turning to the 'sun,' (a piece of glass signifies Divine manifestations in the world, while the sun the origin of these manifestations, that is God Himself) and escaping the confinement of self-adoration to 'melt away' in the rays of the Truth. The verse Flee to God (51.50) which points to a man's journeying in heart and in spirit, may be referring to this action of the heart, the spiritual intellect. The more distant a man is from the suffocating atmosphere of corporeality and the carnal dimension of his existence, the nearer to God and the more respectful to himself he is.

Let us hear from the Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, who was a loyal slave at the door of the Truth, how one fleeing to and taking shelter in God is rewarded: Then I fled from you when I feared you, and my Lord has granted to me the power of judging (justly and distinguishing between truth and falsehood, and the right and wrong) and has made me one of His Messengers (26.21). The Prophet Moses draws attention to the fact that the way leading to spiritual pleasures and meeting with God and Divine vicegerency and nearness passes through fleeing. The fleeing of ordinary people is taking refuge with God's forgiveness and favor from the tumults of life and the ugliness of sins. They always repeat or consider the meaning of My Lord! Forgive and have compassion, for You are the Best of the Compassionate (23.118). They also seek God's shelter in utmost sincerity, saying: I take refuge with You from the evil of what I have done. The fleeing of the distinguished ones - distinguished by their piety and nearness to God -is fleeing from their own defective qualities to Divine Attributes, from feeling in the depths of the heart to discernment and observation, from the ceremonious performance of the duty of worship to its innermost dimension, and from carnal feelings to spiritual sensations. This is referred to in O God! I take refuge with Your approval from Your wrath and with Your forgiveness from Your chastisement. The fleeing of the most advanced in knowledge and love of God and in piety is fleeing from Attributes to Divine Being or Essence and from the Truth to the Truth Himself.

They say I take refuge with You from You, and are always in awe of God. The fleeing of all those groups results in taking shelter and seeking protection. As consciousness of fleeing is proportionate to the spiritual profundity of him who flees, so also the quality of the destination reached varies according to the degree of the awareness of him who takes shelter. Those to be regarded as from the first group end in knowledge of God. They remember God through everything they see and mention Him. They cherish desires and imagine things impossible for them to realize and finally come to rest at sensing the reality of We haven't been able to know You as knowing You requires, O Known One. They always feel and repeat in ecstasy: Beings are in pursuit of knowledge of You, and those who attempt to describe You are unable to do so. Accept our repentance, for we are human beings unable to know You as knowing You requires. Those to be included in the second group sail every day for a new ocean of knowledge of God and spend their lives in ever-renewed radiations of Divine manifestations. However, they can in no way be saved from the obstacles intervening between them and the final station where their overflowing spirit will subside. With their eyes fixed on the steps of the stairway leading to higher and higher ranks, they fly upward from one rank to another and tremble with fear of descending. Those to be included in the third group who have been freed from the tides of the state (see: State) and drowned in amazement (see: Amazement) are so intoxicated with the 'wine coming from the source of everything' that even the Trumpet of Israfil cannot cause them to recover from that stupor.

Only one who has been able to reach this rank can describe the profundity of their thoughts and feelings. Jalal al-Din al-Rumi says: Those illusions are traps for saints, whereas in reality they are the reflections of those with radiant faces in the garden of God. (Mathnawi, vol.1, p. 3) What is meant by 'the garden of God' is the manifestation of Divine Unity-the manifestations of one or many or all of the Divine Names throughout the universe. 'Those with radiant faces' denote Divine Names and Attributes which are focused on a single thing or being. So, the meaning of the couplet is this: The traps in which saints are caught are the manifestations of Divine Names and Attributes. These manifestations consist in illusions in the view of those who are blind to Divine truths. In the words of Sari Abdullah Efendi, since the hearts of the Prophets and saints are mirrors where the Names and Attributes of God as Divine Being or Divinity are reflected, the Attributes of God as the Lord or Divine Lordship, which are the garden of their radiant faces, manifest themselves to them at every moment with new charms.