Spiritual States (أحوال)

The aḥwāl أحوال (spiritual states) come to the spiritual wayfarer (سالك) from time to time on their journey towards God. They are graces of God, like a beautiful gift, rather than something acquired through your own effort. You will not stumble upon the batin (inward) until you are practicing the zhahir (outward). When the outward is practiced, and the inward is purified of its worldly attachments, and thus attaches itself to desire for God, then it can wait patiently for those spiritual gifts while maintaining its rigorous daily rituals of outward acts of worship (like salah, siyam, and the wird–prayer, fasting, and the litany from your sheikh) and inward acts of purification.

Aḥwāl vs Maqāmāt

The aḥwāl are distinguished from the maqāmāt (مقامات) in two aspects.

  1. The aḥwāl are usually transitory, coming and going.
  2. The aḥwāl are a gracious favor of God, while the maqāmāt are obtained through merit and efforts along with Divine acceptance and providence. You put forth the effort, and Allah ﷻ opens the way for you.

Denying Aḥwāl

Those who deny the reality of the ecstasies and other spiritual experiences of the Sufis merely betray their own narrow mindedness and shallow insight. Some allowance, however, must be made for them, for it is as difficult to believe in the reality of states of which one has no personal experience as it is for a blind man to understand the pleasure of looking at green grass and running water, or for a child to comprehend the pleasure of exercising sovereignty. A wise man, though he himself may have no experience of those states, will not therefore deny their reality, for what folly can be greater than his who denies the reality of a thing merely because he himself has not experienced it! Of such people it is written in the Koran, “Those who have not the guidance will say, ‘This is a manifest imposture.’”

From “The Alchemy of Happiness”

Further Reading

The Britannica actually has a pretty good entry on ahwal: https://www.britannica.com/topic/hal

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