stages of love
(page 1 of 3)
The pen faces difficulties
or even fails when trying to describe love.
As you know steps can be seen leading up
to the ocean, but what happens then? The
well-known Chishti Sufi Khwaja Nasiruddin
Cheragh (the “lamp”) of Delhi, who was the
successor of Nizamuddin Awliya has described
the indescribable. He not only described
ten stages and fifty phases of love, but
he also experienced them. I’m grateful to
the work of Mir Valiuddin in this respect.
I’ve at places added some relevant anecdotes.
Scholars say that the description of the
Chishti stages of love has not been written
by the aforesaid Sufi. It does not really
matter, as the only thing of importance
is the experience of love.
The first stage of love is olfat
(friendship, attachment, familiarity, companionship,
intimacy). It is another name for the inclination
of the heart towards the object of love.The five phases of olfat are
distinguished as follows:
1. A person
hears of the beauty of a lovely person and
a desire rises in him or her to have some
sort of contact with this person. A qawwal
(a Sufi troubadour) once sang some poetry
when visiting Nizamuddin Awliya at a time
when Nizamuddin Awliya had not yet been
initiated into the Sufi path and had not
yet found a shaykh. The singer first described
the inner qualities of shaykh Bahauddin
Zakariya of Multan. His words had no effect
at all on the young listener, but when he
paid attention in his songs to Baba Farid,
Nizamuddin Awliya, felt a great love entering
his heart although he had never met Baba
Farid. This psychological accident has been
described by a poet in the following couplet:Hadies-e hosn-e u naagaah firo
khaandand dar gusham
Dar aamad ‘eshq o yakbare be-bord ‘aql az
man o husham.Suddenly the description of
came to the ears of mine,
Love entered and at once took away
the reason and understanding of mine.This is olfat, the first
phase of love.
2. The second phase is ketmaan-e-mailaan
(hiding one’s inclinations). This
implies that you keep your love as a close
secret and that you bear the agony thereof.
A poet expresses his experience thus:
Man az tabieb o parastaar har
Davaa’iye dard-e man in dard bi davaa’iye
I need no physician or servant
to attend on me,
The remedy for my pain is this pain itself
without a remedy for me.
There is an expression among
the Sufis. It is the ‘secret of the Friend’.
Everything that is confided to you by the
Beloved should be kept a secret. You also
do not speak about the pain of love to others.
3. In the third
phase a sort of yearning (tamannaa = wishing,
asking for) sets in the heart of the lover
which urges him or her to come into direct
contact with his Beloved. In this state
the lover neither cares for his/her life
nor is afraid of death. If union with the
Beloved is difficult or impossible, the
lover prefers to die pining for Him. So
Farhaad died in his passion to secure his
beloved Shirin. This experience has been
expressed by a poet thus:Agar Farhaad raa haasel nashod
paiwand baa Shirin
Ham agar jaan-e shirinash bar aamad dar
tamannaa-yashWhen Farhaad could not gain
union with his sweetheart, Shirin
Then he even offered his own sweet life
in his yearning for her.
4. The fourth
phase is styled ekhbaar o estekhbaar (informing
and asking for news), i.e. the desire to
be fully aware of each other’s condition.
An aspect of this phase is reflected by
Hafez when he exclaims:
Har chand duram az to keh dur
az to kas mabaad
Liken omied vasl-e to-am ‘an qarib hast
Whenever I am far from You –
O, let nobody be far from You!
Then I hope that soon I will meet You.
5. The fifth
phase is called tazarro’ o tamalloq
or humility and making professions of love
(tazarro’ means: humbling oneself;
self-abasement, humility; earnest supplication;
complaining, lamenting, whereas tamalloq
means: flattering, cajolement, fawning;
making professions of love; blandishment;
adulation; dalliance; ceremony).
The lover sheds tears and says, to use the
language of Amir Khosraw:
Belab aamad-ast jaanam to biaa
keh zende maanam
Pas az aan keh man na maanam becheh kaar
You will know that the expression ‘my soul has come to my lips’ means:
am on the verge of dying’:
My soul has come to my lips,
so, in order that I may live, come!
When I am no longer here, what will be the
use if You should come?
Hafez has written:
Ai paadeshah-e khubaan daad
az gham-e tanhaa’i
Del bi to bejaan aamad vaqt-ast keh baaz
O, King of the fair! I complain
to You about my pain of loneliness.
Without You I’m close to death – it is time
that You return
The second stage of love is sadaaqat (true
friendship, sincerity, candour, loyalty,
fidelity). In this stage the heart remains
unaffected by the Beloved’s fidelity or
infidelity, disregards and denials, and
by bestowal of favours. You can recognise
it by five marks:
1. When you have reached it, then you regard
carnal desires as foes, you are antagonistic
to your heart’s passion, you forsake sensual
pleasures and you keep your heart devoid
of the love of the world. In such a state
the harshness by the Beloved is welcomed
as a pleasant gift:
Zahr az kaf-e dust hamchonaan
Baa shauq fero beravam degar ham
Poison becomes like honey when
offered by the Friend,
I desire to sip more of it eagerly.
Har dard o ranj kaz to rasad
bar del-e hazin
Aan mahz raahat-ast maraa ‘ain-e ‘aafist
Every pain or suffering You
inflict on my sad heart,
Is to me but a pleasure and the source of
2. The second phase is ghairat
(jealousy). On reaching this phase the lover
becomes jealous and on account of jealousy
does not appreciate anyone even to utter
the name of one’s Beloved or steal a glance
at ‘that twig of a rose’:
Beh golshan miravad aan shaakh-e
gol man miram az ghairat
Kaf-e khaaki bedast aar ai sabaa dar cheshm-e
That twig of a rose entered
the garden and I am dying of jealousy.
O, gentle breeze! Take a handful of dust
and throw it into the eyes of the flowers.
Sa’di is not open in regard
to his experiences as well:
Hadies-e ‘eshq-e to baa kas
Keh ghairat-am nagozaarad keh beshnovad
The tale of Your love I cannot
tell to anyone,
Because my jealousy does not permit that
others hear it.
When the lover progresses further
in this phase, he or she feels jealous of
his or her own self. Shibli had prayed to
God thus (as this text is in Arabic and
not in Persian I cannot give a proper transcription):
O, Allah! You are almighty and
Resurrect me blind on the Day of Judgement,
So that even my eyes may not behold You!Amir Qasem has expressed these
experiences in the following couplet:
Ze del rashq aaiadam chun begozarad
dar dil khiaal-e to
Chonaan binam keh oftad cheshm-e ghairi
bar jamaal-e toI feel jealous of my heart when
the thought of You passes into my heart,
How can I tolerate others beholding Your
A poet has expressed the psychological
reasons for this experience of jealousy
in the following couplet:Ze ghairat khelvat del raa ze
ghairat kardeh-am khaali
Keh ghairat raa namizibad dar in khelvat
sara (?) raftan
Out of jealousy I’ve cleared the privacy
of my heart of all others but You,
For nobody but You is worthy to enter this
place of retreat.
3. The third phase is eshtiyaaq
(ardour, wishing, longing, desiring, craving,
yearning) in which the desire to meet the
Beloved blazes into a conflagration and
the poor lover involuntarily complains:Moshtaaqi o saburi az hadd gozasht
Gar to shikeb daari taaqat namaanad maaraaMy longing and patience have
passed beyond all boundaries, o Friend!
If You’d be patient in meeting me, then
no strength will remain to me.And:
Ai bi to haraam zendegaani
Khod bi to kodaam zendegaani
O, without You life is forbidden
What life is a life without You to me?
The Persian text is not given
for the two final lines:To live without beholding Your
Is to treat a state of death as life.
4. The fourth phase is zekr-e
mahbub or remembrance of the Beloved. You
will know this saying (given without transcription
from Arabic):He who loves a thing speaks
of it often.Once a lover fell ill. His friends
inquired of him whether they should call
a physician. He replied: “My physician is
the recitation of the name of my Beloved”.Ai naam-e to shefaa’iye amraaz
O ze naam-e to aam hosul-e aghraazO, Your name is a healing for
all my ailments,
And by Your name I’ll attain all my ends.5. The fifth phase is tahaiyor
(bewilderment, astonishment). Because of
his exalted rank the prophet addressed Allah
as ‘the Guide of the bewildered’ and finally
prayed:O, Lord! Increase my bewilderment
at You!When the Beloved is sublime
and it is impossible to have access to Him,
what remains there except awe and bewilderment?To’i sultaan-e molk-e-hosn man
Bejoz-e hairat degar nabud nasieb-e jaan
bi hoshamYou are the King of the realm
of beauty and I am a poor dervish.
Only bewilderment and nothing else has been
my share in my foolish life.The third stage of love is termed
mavaddat (friendship, love, benevolence),
which is marked by the excitation of the
heart and passionate desire (hayajaan-e
qalb o ettisaafe baa-l havaa) for the Beloved.
Its phases are also five.1. The first phase is niyaahat
o ezteraar, which means lamentation and
perturbation. The lover now moans, groans
and expresses great agony in regard to the
moon-faced, that is, beautiful, Beloved:Dar havaa’i to ai bot-e mah-rui
Mikonad nawhe bar tanam har mu’iIn my passion for You, o moon-faced
Every hair of my body is wailing.2. The second phase is gerya
o boka, which means weeping and wailing.
It is said about the prophet of Islam that ‘he was always sorrow-stricken and shed
tears’. In his prayer he would humbly say:O, Allah! Bless us with a weeping
As a lover has said:Jaanaan-e man az feraq-e to
Kin aab-e chashm-e man hame ru’ye zamien
Sereshkam rafteh rafteh bi to daryaa shod
Biyaa dar kashti chashmam neshin o sair-e
daryaa kon O, my Beloved. I wept so copiously
in separation with You,
That from my tears the entire surface of
the earth turned wet.
My tears gradually swelled into a river
in separation with You,
Come and sit down in the boat of my eye
and go a-sailing in the river.
3. The third phase is hasrat or regret. On reaching this phase the lover casts a
sorrowful glance on the life wasted and
feels sad in the memory of the time spent
without the Beloved:‘Omri keh bi to miravad az marq
Ruzi keh bi to migozarad ruz-e mahshar astWorse than death: a life that
passes without You;
The Day of Judgment: a day that passes without
4. The fourth phase is fekr-e mahbub or
letting the thought of the Beloved seize
the lover. This is the stage of
intense meditation. Such a meditation brings
the Beloved close to the mind of the lover.
That is why an hour of meditation has been
regarded as of greater value than sixty
years of ritualistic prayers. A Sufi has
expressed this idea in the following couplet:Nakhaaham joz-e to yak saa’at
tafakkor darad gar kardan
Keh dar ham do jahaan jaanaan nadaaram chun
to deldaariI do not desire to think of
anyone but You, not even for a moment:
For in both worlds I have got only You as
a Beloved to hold my heart.
5. The fifth phase is moraaqabat-e mahbub
(watchful contemplation of the Beloved). This is a sublime stage. It is said that
once ‘Ali was saying his prayers and
suddenly people witnessed that his face
turned pale and he fell down unconscious
on the prayer-mat. When he recovered he
said: “During the prayers I contemplated
on God and I felt ashamed of my shortcomings”.According to the Chishtiyya
Sufis the fourth stage of love is styled
(passionate desire; affection; favour; love;
desire). In this stage the lover is always
inclined towards the Beloved or longs for
Him. It also has five phases:
1. The first phase is khozu’ (humility). Hasan says:
For meeting the Beloved face
Nothing is better than presenting yourself
With humility at the threshold of the Beloved. As a lover has said:
Yak jaan cheh mataa’-st keh
Ammaa cheh tavaan kard keh maujud hamien
What is the value of this one
life, that I sacrifice it for You?
But what can I do, as I only have this very
2. The second phase is etaa’at-e
mahbub (obedience to the Beloved). It implies
to spend your life in obedient devotion
to your Beloved and to dedicate to Him all
that you have:Maraa taa jaan buvad ‘eshq-e
Maraa taa sar buvad gui-e to saazamAs long as I am alive I’ll love
As long as I have my head, it is a ball
to play with for You.
Maa naqd-e ‘omr sarf rah-e yaar
Kaari keh kardeh-iem hamien kaar kardeh-iem
Our entire life has been spent
in the service of the Friend,
Our work is just this very service!
3. According to the Chishti
Sufis the third phase is sabr (patience).
As someone has said:
Endure and gulp in all pain
without remonstrance.The only way open for a lover
is tacit endurance: The Beloved does what
pleases Him. A tradition of the prophet
When Allah loves anyone devoted
He puts him to severe tests.
When he endures them steadfastly,
He is marked out for distinction,
With all his imperfections overlooked
And with unasked for spiritual favours conferred
For no special effort on his part to deserve
them.It goes without saying that
the above tradition is true for all lovers,
male and female. Such is the love of Allah
to you in case you love Him ardently. Some
Sufi has rightly remarked:Joz sabr nist saiqal-e delhaa’i
Chun istaad aab be-aayine mirasad
Only patience can polish restless
When water stands still, it resembles a
4. The fourth phase is in Persian
pronunciation tazarro’ (humbling oneself;
self-abasement, humility; earnest supplication;
complaining, lamenting). The Qur’an 7: 205
commands:Wadhkor-Rabbaka fi nafseka tadarro’anw-wa
khifatan…And remember your Lord in yourself,
in humility…When matters come to such a
pass for the lover, that neither meeting
the Beloved lies in your power, nor the
breeze of the garden of proximity reaches
you, and when neither you possess the physical
strength to speak, nor is your soul strong
enough to soar high, what else can you do
except to weep and feel helpless!
Chun nist dast zuram o yaaraa’i
Inak rah-e tazarro’ … gerefteh-im
Because my hands are without
and my power of resistance has waned,
I have now taken the path
of humility and prayer.
5. The fifth phase is
that of redaa (satisfaction). There
is no consensus of opinion, among the Sufis,
whether redaa is a maqaam (station) or a
haal (state). To some Sufis is identical
with the utmost trust in Allah. There are
others however who hold that redaa is not
acquired by individual effort, but that
it is a gift of Allah. Abu ?Ali ad-Daqqaaq
(d. 1015) is of the opinion that redaa implies
that one should not criticise fate. When
once the heart of an individual is at peace,
then it can be concluded that he has attained
redaa. According to Dhu’n-Nun (d.
860) to be satisfied with one’s fate
means redaa. Al-Junayd of Baghdad (d. 910)
took a different view. According to him
redaa means and implies self-surrender.
To renounce the limited will constitutes
The object of redaa is belief. Beshr ebn
al-Haareth (d. 841) treats redaa as higher
and greater than piety. The reason that
he gives is that whilst a pious man is on
the way, one who submitted to the will of
Allah has already reached the destination.
A lover addresses the Beloved
in this way:Ai sarv-e boland bustani
Dar pish derakht qaamat-at post
Gar sar nah neham bar aastaanat
Digar cheh konam dar degar hast
O the tall cypress of Your garden
Dwarfs before Your stature
If I do not put my head on Your threshold
What else can I do? Is there any other door
The fifth stage of love according
to the Chishtiyya Sufis is called shaghaf
(violent affection, violent love; alacrity;
love, longing, yearning; joy). The word
has been used in Qur’an 12:30 in connection
with the love affair of Zulaykha with Joseph:Qad shaghafa-haa hobbaaTruly he has inspired her with
violent love.It also has five phases:1. The first phase is the obedience
to the commands of the Beloved and the carrying
out of His orders, willingly and spontaneously.
One of these commandment can be found in
Qur’an 11:112 and is given now:Fas-taqem kamaa omertaBe then upright as you have
been commandedAnd what has been commanded?
See Qur’an 73:8 for an answer:Wadhkoresma Rabbeka
wa tabattal elayhe tabtilaaAnd remember the name of your
And devote yourself wholeheartedly to Him.A Sufi has expressed it in this
quatrain:Moshghal-e toraa khabr ze ‘aalam
Majruh-e toraa haajat-e marham nabovad
Dar ‘eshq-e to gar hazaar gham pish aayad
Chun dar nazar-e to-am az aan gham nabovadOblivious of the world: the
one who is concentrated on You,,
Not in need of any salve: the one wounded
If I suffer even a thousand woes in Your
I do not feel their sting in case I am seen
by You.2. The second phase is the guarding
of the inward against all, except the Beloved.
A Sufi has remarked:If you guard your heart from
turning to an ‘other’,
God fills it with light.The reason for this appears
to be that ‘God is single (wetr) and appreciates
singularity alone’. As inspired in the Rose
of Baghdad, the popular name of shaykh ‘Abd
al-Qaader Jilaani, the Beloved says:Live for Me and guard your mind
Against the thought of any other.The following attitude now is
clear:Joz-e dust na biniem o na khahim
o na ju’im
Az khish gozashtim o ze aghiaar berastimWe see none but the Friend,
we long only for Him, we seek Him alone.
We have passed beyond ourselves; we are
free from all except Him alone.
3. The third phase of love according to
the Chishtiyya Sufis is to shun everything
that is distasteful to the Beloved.Nawab Khadim Hasan (d. 1970)
has said:A dervish is a friend of God
And a friend’s friend is a friend;
So when you become a friend of a dervish
You become a friend of God.
4. The fourth phase of love according to
the Sufis of the Chishtiyya way is regard
for the friends of the Beloved. The prophet,
therefore, has mentioned it in his prayer:
I pray for your love
And for the love of him,
Who loves You.
Muhammad (s.a.w.) has disclosed his method
For the sake of Your love only,
We love those who are devoted to You.
Baba Taher has written this quatrain:
Agar del delbar delbar che numa
O gar delbar dela del az che numa
Del o delbar beham aamita
Nazunam del keha delbar karuma
If my heart is my sweetheart, for the sweetheart,
which name to use?
And if my sweetheart is my heart, for the
heart, which name to use?
My heart and my sweetheart are so intimately
That I do not know - my heart or my sweetheart
- which name to use?
4. The fifth phase of love is keeping one’s
own counsel regarding love, during the love
affair between the lover and the Beloved.
Mo’inoddin Chishti has made long travels,
but he never disclosed his Sufi background.
He stayed often at lonely places. In case
people realized who and what he was, he
travelled on. Consequently Shebli has said:Love requires that it should
be concealed from others.
A Sufi has said:If only you could hold back
Your tears of love from flowing -
Tears which betray love –
You will indeed be ranked very high
Among the lovers.Some lover has stated his own
case as follows:Ghamat har chand mipusham bedaaman
Fazihat mikonad cheshm-e ravaanam
Rokh zardam nadaarad taaqat hejr
Birun mi-afganad raaz-e nehaanamHowever much I may hide the
pain of my love for You,
My foolish tears are a disgrace for me.
My pale face shows my inability to be away
It throws into the open the secret hidden
The sixth stage of love is exclusive
attachment to the Beloved. It means emptying
the heart of all save the Beloved. Shaykh Baha’i (d. 1621) has
written this beautiful poem:
Har dar keh zanam saheb-e-khane
Har ja keh rawam par to kashane to-i to
Dar maykade o dayr janane to-i to
Maqsud-e-man az ka’ba o butkhane to-i to
Maqsud-e-to-i ka’ba o butkhane bahane
Every door that I knock on,
the Lord of the house is You, You!
Every place that I go to, the light in the
house is You, You!
In the tavern and in the convent, the Beloved
is You, You!
The One I seek in the Ka’ba and the idol
temple is You, You!
Your purpose behind the Ka’ba and the idol
is to create but a pretext.
The following quatrain is by
Amir Khusraw (d. 1325), the best poet among
the Chishti Sufis:
‘Eshq amad-o shod chu khunam
andar rag-o pust
Ta kard mara tahi-o por kard ze dust
Ajza’-ye-wojudam hamagi dust gereft
Namist mara bar man baqi hama ust.
Love came and spread like blood
in my veins and the skin of me,
It filled me with the Friend and completely
The Friend has taken over all parts of my
Only my name remains, as all is He.
Amir Khusraw in these simple
and beautiful lines stresses that by love
of God he experienced unity. The last three
words (all is He) belong to the technical
vocabulary used by the Sufis to refer to
unity of existence.