stages of love
(page 3 of 3)
Love (‘eshq) has
1. The first phase is fuqdaan-e-qalb
(the losing of one’s heart). It is a well-known
saying in the Arab language:
He who has not lost his heart
is not a lover.
A poet expresses this idea in
his own words:
Ze delam neshaan che khaahi
ke ze del khabr nadaaram
To begu ke del che baashad man azu asar
Why do you make a search for
my heart for I am myself unaware thereof?
Tell me yourself: What is a heart? I do
not find any sign thereof.
The reason for this is that
whosoever has a heart heeds its presence
alone and is oblivious of love:
Ke goft man khabri daaram az
Dorugh goft ke az khish-e u khabr daarad
He said that he was aware of
the essence of love.
He lied for he was only aware of himself.
When Dhu’n Nun, the Egyptian
Sufi, was asked: ‘Who is the true lover?’
– he replied: ‘When you see someone who
wears a worried look, has lost his heart
and has no control over reason, sheds tears
very often and is desirous of death and
extinction and likes all that is modest
and well-behaved, and finds time for devotion,
know that he is a true lover’.
However it can be said that
there are people who are able to hide all
these things from others. They may shed
a tear in the night but during the day they
appear to be quite cheerful. The path of
love, of course, ever goes on.
2. The second phase is taa’assof
(grief, regret). Here the lover who has
lost his heart and is separated from his
Beloved is always in grief. Qur’an 12:84
has described the plight of the prophet
Jacob in the following verse:
How great is my grief for Joseph!
And his eyes became white with sorrow
And he fell into silent melancholy.
3. The third phase is wajd (ecstasy;
wajada is to find) and ecstasy is such an
inner state that it cannot really be described.
Hafez, as ‘tongue of the unseen’, however
Motreb che parde saakht ke dar
Bar ahl-e wajd o haal dar-e haa-i o hu-i
What note played the minstrel
in the circle of music,
That the people of ecstasy and spiritual
state closed the door to all noise?
For the ecstatic the whole universe
becomes narrow like the circle of a ring.
Even the vast world of the angels (malakut)
appears to him or her of no consequence.
In case you experience this phase you’ll
not find comfort and rest anywhere.
4. The fourth phase is bi-sabri
or impatience. During this phase the lover
loses his or her vigour and strength. When
you experience this then your life catches
fire, as it were, in its yearning for the
Beloved. The flame of longing is then keeping
you excited and you’ll pass night and day
in shouting and clamouring for your Beloved:
Taa bud maraa taaqat budam ba
Chun kaar bajaan aamad zin pas man o rosvaai
Sar-panje sabram raa pichied o berun shod
Ai sabr hamien budat baazu-i tavaanaa’i
I was patient, as long as I had strength.
I suffered humiliation after the departure
of my strength.
Overcoming patience my heart rebelled.
O patience! Could you only muster this much
A Sufi has said: ‘Love and patience
are the two antonyms, which can never be
reconciled’. These are the words of a lover:
Deli ke ‘aasheq o saaber bud magar sang
Ze ‘eshq taa besaburi hazaar farsang ast.
The heart of a lover who is
patient is nothing but a stone.
Between love and patience are a thousand
5. The fifth phase in the description
of the path of the lover has been called
by the Chishtiyya Sufis siyaanat (preserving;
defence, protection; preservation; support).
The lover’s behaviour becomes like that
of a madman with eyes shedding tears, the
heart being seared, running distracted here
and there in lanes and streets, and wandering
in lonely places. He or she does not know
anything but the Beloved and utters no words
except the names of the Beloved. In his
or her madness he talks to stones and grass.
He tells his message to the morning breeze.
Inanimate things – so it appears – talk
to the lover, who may have the experience
described by Shakespeare:
And this our life,
Exempt from public haunts,
Finds tongues in trees,
Books in running brooks,
Sermons in stones…
Lovers keep alive by the scent
of the Beloved alone and are resurrected
uttering His name. One of the Sufis has
written (and please correct possible mistakes):
Buy-e mahbub chu bar khaak-e
Che ‘ajab gar beshavad zende azu ‘azm-e
When the scent of the Beloved
passes over the mortal remains of the lovers
Then it is not strange that even decayed
bones may come to life.
The ninth of the Chishti stages
of love is called enslavement (taim; Is
this a case of a spelling-mistake? It has
not been translated by Steingass as enslavement
but as: a servant. I wonder if there is
a word in Arabic or Persian looking like
taim but with a somewhat different rendering
in Roman characters? Suggestions?). At this
stage the manacles of humiliation and submission
are put around the neck of the lover whose
feet are bound by the fetters of slavery.
The ring in the ear of a Chishtiyya Sufi
can be seen as a symbol of this slavery.
A Chishti pir has put these
lines of Jami (d. 1492) into English:
Notwithstanding a king You are
and we beggars in abjection,
Do not remove the skirt, for we are delved
deep in devotion.
As we have the mark of Your
Wherever we go, we are a king without doubt
Jami be used to tyranny and
You know that we are not fit for faithfulness
The ninth stage has also five
1. The first phase is called
tafarrod (isolation, detachment, singularity,
separation, i.e separation from the rest
of the world). Reaching this phase the lover
is isolated from all except the Beloved,
and thus he attains union with the Beloved:
Dar khish gomam keh man cheh
Ma’shuqam o ‘aasheqam kodaamam.
I am lost to myself, what is
Am I a beloved or a lover, what am I?
The lover is now freed of his
Hadith-e man varaqi baaz kon
keh man nah manam
Hame to gashtam o inak hadith shod kutaah
My story is a page, turn it
so that I am not there!
I have completely been transformed into
You and now the story ends.
The lover and the Beloved are
one, there is no more duality:
‘Aasheq o ma’shuq o ‘eshq har
seh yaki daan dar asl
Farq-e miyaan man o to hast haqiqat hu ast
Know this: The lover, the Beloved
and love are in fact one!
There may appear to be a difference between
you and me, but in reality only He exists.
‘Aasheq mahv dar ‘eshq o ‘eshq
mahv dar ma’shuq
The lover has been effaced in
love and love has been effaced in the Beloved.
These verses of shaykh Mansur
al-Hallaaj are well-known:
I am He Whom I love and He Whom
I love is I,
We are two spirits dwelling in one body.
If you’d see me, you’d see Him,
If you’d see Him, you’d see both of us.
Experiencing this phase of detachment shaykh
Mansur al-Hallaaj involuntarily cried out:
Is it You or I? No, both of
us are one!
I shun and avoid positing duality.
During this phase the Beloved’s
jealousy is stirred. The veil of duality
is lifted! It is in this sense that Qur’an
55:27 has been understood by the Sufis:
Everyone upon it will perish,
But the face of your Lord, full of majesty
and nobility, will abide.
A Sufi poet has said:
‘Eshq o ‘aasheq mahv gardad
Khud hamaan ma’shuq maanad vas-salaam
Love and the lover have been
effaced at this place,
Only the Beloved remains and goodbye!
2. The second phase is estetaar
(occultation; being hid; concealment). Here
concealment is solicited and desired by
both sides, but the jealousy of the Beloved
exceeds that of the lover. The Prophet Muhammad
(s.a.w.) has said:
I am jealous and Allah is more
jealous than I.
What takes place is thus described
by a lover:
Del pish to-am dide bejaa’i
Taa khalq nadaanad ke toraa minegarestam
My heart is with you; my eyes
are at another place
So that people may not know I’m looking
This is an unusual phase. People
who have reached it may express themselves
in the language of signs and symbols:
Raazi-st maraa baa shab o serri-st
Shab daanad o man daanam o shab
Alef laam mim – alef laam mim saad
I share a secret with the night
and it is a strange secret.
The night knows and I know and the night:
A, l, m – a, l, m, s
The above and other abbreviated
letters are symbols of the same kind. As
Qur’an 53:10 hinted at:
Then He revealed to His servant
what He revealed.
3. The third phase is that
of the giving of your life (bazl-e-ruh).
When you experience this you do not feel
concern for your life. Some lover has said:
Az man gomaan mabar ke del az
dust bar konam
Taa jaan dar-in tan ast dam az ‘eshq barzanam
Gar beshenovi ke qaafela mord dar ghammat
Avval kasi ke jan dehad az bahr-e tu manam
Don’t imagine that my heart
will get tired of the Friend.
As long as I’m alive every breath will be
out of love.
If You hear that the caravan perished in
grief for You,
Know then, that I was the first one to die
for Your sake.
4 and 5. The fourth and the
fifth phases are – according to the
Chishtiyya Sufis - that of fear and hope.
During these phases, the lover, due to the
dread of the termination of his or her love
with the Beloved, trembles and shudders,
and the hope of meeting the Beloved gladdens
the heart of the lover. Keeping in view
God Almighty’s attributes of dominance,
dignity and unconcern the lover fears that
his or her love for God at some moment may
get transferred to someone else besides
Him or any of the lover’s acts may
displease Him. It is evident that when a
person is deep in love with some object,
he or she will be afraid of losing it. Now,
if the Beloved is such that losing Him is
probable, the lover will certainly feel
alarmed at the very idea crossing his/her
mind. The Gnostics hold that (s)he who worships
God merely on the basis of love and forsaken
fear, may due to pride and taking undue
liberty with God, perish. And (s)he who
worships God due to fear alone and does
not feel love for Him drifts away and is
severed from Him. On the other hand God
makes that person His beloved and draws
that person near to Him, who worships Him
and is devoted to Him both due to fear and
love. It follows that fear is a sine qua
non for the lover and love is necessary
for him or her who is afraid. The following
tradition conveys the same: ‘Faith
is midway between fear and hope’.
Ke natarsad ze bi niyaaziye
Ke nanaazad ze kaarsaaziye u
Who is not afraid of His unconcern?
Who does not rely on His providence?
10. The tenth and final
stage of the Chishti stages of love is valah
or bewilderment (other translations are:
being frightened; being sad, afflicted,
sorrowful, distracted o impatient from love
or grief; fear; terror, grief, perturbation
of mind, stupor). This stage is beset with
tremendous dangers, consequently it has
In distance there is torment
And in nearness bewilderment.
This sense can be grasped in
the following words uttered by a lover:
Gar binamat jaan miravad
Var nanegaram khod chun ziyam
Hairaanam andar kaar-e khod
Kit jaan daham yaa nanegaram
If I see You I lose my life!
If I don’t see You, how can I live?
Confusion has come to my affair:
Should I offer my life or should I abstain
from seeing You?
Ahmad al-Ghazzaali (the brother
of the more famous Muhammad al-Ghazzaali.
Ahmad is in fact the more interesting of
the two brothers. Unlike his brother he
has acted as a Sufi shaykh by accepting
personal disciples. Ahmad has left a very
subtle bequest to us in the shape of his
teachings on love) in his treatise Risaala-e
Savaaneh (which has completely been translated
into English!) writes: ‘The beloved is always
a beloved. His attributes are unconcern
and freedom from want. The lover is always
a lover, his/her attributes are want and
poverty. Thus as a lover will always require
a beloved, want will always be his/her attribute,
and as a beloved is not in need of anything,
unconcern will always be his attribute’.
The same sense has been expressed
by a lover thus (I am not quite sure of
the following transliteration):
Hamvaare to del robude ma’zuri
Gham hich niyaaz mawadde ma’zuri
Man bi to hazaar shab bekhun dar budam
To bi to shabi nabude ma’zuri
You always captured my heart
and cannot help it.
You have not gauged the grief You have causes
and cannot help it.
I have passed a thousand nights in anguish
Not for a night You were other than You
are and cannot help it.
The Beloved, regardless of the
attributes of loveliness, is independent
of the lover. But if the attribute of loveliness
is taken into consideration, the Beloved
too, may be considered to be in want of
love and the lover. The Beloved, however,
exists and for His existence does not require
anything. The same cannot be said of the
lover. Khwaajaa Abu’l-Wafaa of Khwarazm
says: ‘If the famous tradition “I was a
hidden treasure, I desired to become known
and I created the world in order to be known”
be kept in view, it could be said that the
divines and Gnostics have an assignment
in the world of love of the Absolute. The
verse of the Qur’an: “He loves them and
they love Him” shows that lovers too are
held in high regard in the Sanctorum of
love of the Absolute. But it is better to
dispel false hopes, for the reason that
He does not stand in need of anybody’.
Aayine dar rui khod midaashte
Taa bekhod ‘aasheq zaar aamade ast
U ze jomle faaregh ast o har kasi
Andarin da’va bedidaar aamade ast
U-st ‘aasheq u-st ma’shuq u-st ‘eshq
Kisti to jomle chun yaar aamade ast
The Beloved placed a mirror
And has fallen in love with Himself.
He is independent of all and everything.
He has appeared with the claim to see Himself.
He is the lover, He is the Beloved and He
Who are you when the Friend is all these?
Now what remains there except
astonishment and bewilderment?
Hairat andar hairat ast o vaalehi
Andar in rah sad hazaaraan ‘aql-e ‘aaqel
Astonishment after astonishment
and bewilderment after bewilderment:
On this path the intellect of thousands
of sages will be sorely tried.
This stage, too, has
1. The first phase is that of
ebtehaal (supplication; lamenting, deprecating;
being sincere in prayer). The lover takes
recourse to it in all humbleness and meekness.
The lover begs of the Beloved nothing but
the Beloved Himself. It is totally wrong
if the lover begs of his or her Beloved
anything except the Beloved Himself. He
or she would not be a lover at all, in the
true sense of the word. The object most
desired by the lover is the Beloved Himself.
His or her cry is: “You are the goal of
In a frenzy of helplessness
the lover cries out:
Man chun ziyam keh ruye degar
In chesham ru-siyah keh beruye to khu gereft
How can I be alive as no other
face appeals to me?
This unfortunate eye of mine is used to
2. The second phase of the final
stage among the Chishti stages of love is
that of ‘the drinking of the wine of love’.
In this phase the lovers have different
tastes. Some quaff this wine in the goblet
of pain and some sip it out of the cup of
longing and say:
I drank cup after cup of the
wine of love.
Neither I felt satisfied nor the wine was
Some drink it out of the cup
of grief, some out of the cup of toil, some
out of the cup of fear and a few out of
the cup of hope. And everyone has to undergo
toil and tribulation of every kind.
3. The third phase is sokr (intoxication.
It has been observed by some gnostic:
The one whom the goblet of love
Will be awakened by the sight of the Beloved.
Love is intoxication in astonishment
And there is astonishment in intoxication
And the lover is usually intoxicated.
That is the reason why the seekers
Ay saaqi az aan mey keh din
o aa’ien-e man ast
Bi khisham kon keh masti aa’ien-e man ast
O, cupbearer! Serve me the wine
which is my faith and my custom!
Let me lose my consciousness for intoxication
is my custom.
4. The fourth phase according
to the Chishtiyya is that of ezteraab (distraction,
agitation, disturbance of mind, perturbation,
commotion; anxiety, anguish, trouble; perplexity,
restlessness, distraction; precipitation)
and bikhodi (selflessness, ecstasy; rapture;
being out of one’s senses; madness). A story
can be told. Once a love was weeping in
loneliness and was crying: ‘Fire! Fire!’
People rushed to her and finding there no
fire, asked: ‘What is on fire?’ The lover
sobbed bitterly and pointing to her heart,
said (Qur’an 104:6-7):
It is God’s kindled fire,
Which attains even the hearts.
This malady from which a lover
suffers, is usually a prolonged one and
recovery is possible only by seeing the
Beloved. It is the property of love that
it always keeps the lover uneasy and restless.
Love inflicts on the lover various diseases,
as has been said by Fayzi:
Khaasiyat-e simaab bud ‘aasheq
Taa koshte nagardad ezteraabash naravad
The lover has the property of
His restlessness will not go away until
he is killed.
5. The fifth phase, which concludes
the Chishti stages of love is talaf (destruction;
ruin). An ‘aref (a gnostic) was asked to
enumerate the stages of love. He said: ‘It
begins with a gift, then death by consent,
then you can guess what follows’:
Dar rah-e ‘eshq tavaazo’ nabud
Dast bar daashtan az khish salaam-ast injaa
On the path of love the only
humility is annihilation
To leave the self here brings about salvation.
Now the lover arrives at the
point of annihilation and is lost even to
annihilation itself. In this annihilation
she or he gains everlasting life in the
Beloved. The Qur’an 44:56 hints at it in
the following verse:
They do not taste death therein,
Except for the first death;
And He guards them…
A Sufi has written this poem:
Taa mard ze khish faani motlaq
Asbaat ze nafiye u mohaqqaq na shavad
Az khish berun aa’i keh u to baashi
Var na bagozaaf aadami haqq na shavad
Until you have not completely
Affirmation of Him compared to denial of
Him cannot be verified.
Step out from yourself, so that He may become
Or else you cannot attain to the truth just
Here we come to the real meaning
of love: ‘Love is the negation of all the
attributes of the lover and the putting
the Beloved Himself in their place’. This
means, that the lover does not now subsist
by her or his attributes. The lover now
subsists by the very essence of the Beloved
alone. Someone saw Majnun making Laila’s
and his own sketches simultaneously on the
ground. Then he effaced Laila’s sketch.
It was remarked: ‘What sort of love it is,
which makes the lover efface the sketch
of the beloved. Majnun said in reply: ‘If
you do not find Laila in me, then make another
drawing of her’.
This story has been related
by a poet thus:
Chun ‘aasheq raa kasi bekaarad
Ma’shuqe az u berun aarad.
When someone draws the lover’s
The Beloved comes out of it.
The existence of the lover is
made manifest by the existence of the Beloved
only. As a lover you have no separate or
independent existence of your own:
Man aangeh khod kasi baasham
keh dar maydaan-e muhkam-u
Na del baasham na jaan baasham na sar baasham
na tan baasham.
I am somebody when I’m in His
I have neither a heart, nor a soul, nor
a head, nor a body.
The being of the lover is dependent
on the being of the Beloved alone. The lover
has no being by her/himself, but exists
in the Beloved alone:
Chun hast baqaa’iye man baaqi
beh baqaa’iye to
Pas ham to hamaan baaqi khod raa cheh baqaa’
As my existence is dependent
on Your existence,
Then You alone exist, so why should I desire
for an existence of my own?
The Chishti stages of love show
that a true lover, due to the prompting
of the feeling of love, merges totally in
the Beloved, effaces her or his soul and
body in this love and with all energy available
wants the Beloved alone. As it has been
said: ‘If you seek an object and strive
for it, you will find it’. You will succeed
and the promise of ‘The one who seeks Me,
finds Me’ is fulfilled. Ebn-e-‘Abbaas has
said that God said: “I am present. Seek
Me and you will find Me. If you seek anything
else besides Me, you will never find Me’.
For this very reason all the
eminent Sufis have regarded the path of
love as the most effective approach to God.