Experience over the centuries has shown that Sufi meditation (muraqabah) leads to all stages of perfection. For this reason, although shaykhs of our order also perform dhikr (recitations evoking remembrance of God), durud (supplications for blessings upon the Prophet SAW), and recitations, muraqabah is the most important component of their inner work.
The origin of muraqabah lies in the saying of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW),
“Adore Allah as if you are seeing Him, and if you do not see Him, know that He is seeing you.”
Literally, muraqabah means to wait and to guarantee or protect. When used as a Sufi technical term, the meaning of muraqabah is to detach oneself from worldly pursuits for a period of time with the intention of nurturing the spiritual guidance that the seeker has received from his shaykh.
Another way of putting it is that in a human being’s inner being there are subtle centers of consciousness. If, after receiving guidance, one takes time from worldly pursuits to focus on these subtle centers, then that is meditation. Meditation leads to gnosis and paves the path to nearness with God. When the seeker detaches him or herself from other pursuits and sits and waits for blessings, sooner or later the seeker begins to feel some kind of activity in the heart, sometimes in the form of heat, sometimes as movement, and at other times as a tingling sensation.
During meditation, the seeker must not focus on the spiritual form or color of the heart, because the attention must be directed towards the Divine Essence, who is beyond all qualities. In this practice, It is advised to sit in meditation for at least thirty to forty-five minutes. No particular sitting posture is required. In the beginning, there is a rush of thoughts in the seeker’s mind; this is no cause for concern. Hazrat Azad Rasool (RA), used to say that we are not trying to concentrate our thoughts, as is the practice in yoga and other spiritual techniques. We are trying to awaken the heart.
Once the heart is awakened, thoughts gradually subside. Eventually the seeker experiences a drifting and enters a different dimension. There is a difference between this drifting and sleep. Drifting is the shadow of annihilation. Hazrat Shaykh Ahmad Faruqi Sirhindi (RA) said,
“He comes and He takes you away.”
In sleep, the soul is inclined towards the lower realm and takes refuge in the heart. In the state of drifting the soul is inclined towards the higher realm and takes refuge in the self.
When the seeker is in the state of drifting, the seeker is not aware of individual being. In this state the seeker can also experience visions (kashf). As it is possible for the seeker to have thought projections, no importance should be attached to these experiences. Hazrat Shaykh Ahmad Faruqi Sirhindi (RA) said,
“These experiences are simply there to please the seeker’s heart. The final destination lies ahead.”
Hazrat ‘Ala’uddin ‘Attar (RA) (d. 1400) said that meditation is better than the practice of the remembrance of negation and affirmation. Through Sufi meditation it becomes possible to attain the station of vice-regency of God in the dominion of the physical world and the world of spirit.