The word nisbat in Arabic means an affinity or connection between two people. In Sufi terminology, it is the affinity that develops between God and human beings. The essence of Sufism is that a person should develop some quality or virtue to such a degree, that it should permeate that person’s being utterly.
When such a quality becomes an essential part of one’s being, it can be termed spiritual affinity. The objective of the Sufi quest is the attainment of this spiritual affinity.
There are many different types of affinity: the affinity of doing what is beautiful, the affinity of purity, the affinity of intense love, the affinity of spiritual ecstasy, the affinity of unity, the affinity of peace, and the affinity of remembrance among others.
It would, however, not be correct to assume that these affinities can only be obtained through Sufi practices. The exercises are only a means of achieving these. In reality, these are God’s gift that He bestows on whomever He wills without consideration of spiritual lineage. In this regard, the statement of Hazrat Khwaja Baha’uddin Naqshband (r.a.) is the most comprehensive.
Someone asked him about the saints of his lineage, and he replied, “I did not reach God through the saints of my lineage. An attraction to God was bestowed upon me and that is what took me to God.”
The Companions (r.) and the followers of the Prophet (s.) who came later, used to obtain spiritual affinity through different means. Consistency and regularity in the performance of the five obligatory daily prayers, voluntary prayers, constant praise of God, the recitation of the Holy Qur’an, the remembrance of death, and the fear of the Day of Judgment lead to the quality of nearness to God becoming ingrained in their hearts. For the rest of their lives they guarded this affinity, for it is the same path that has come from the Prophet (s.) to the shaykhs of different orders.