Chapter 1: On Certainty
You must, beloved brother, strengthen and improve your certainty. For when certainty prevails in the heart and establishes itself therein the unseen becomes as if seen and the man aided by providence says, as ‘Ali, may God ennoble his face, said: ‘Were the cover to be removed, I would not increase in certainty.’
Certainty is power, firmness and stability of faith so great that it becomes as a towering mountain which no doubts can shake and no illusions rock. Rather, doubts and illusions disappear completely, and when they come from outside are neither listened to by the ear nor heeded by the heart. The Devil cannot approach the possessor of such certainty; he flees from him, fears his very shadow, and is content to keep at a safe distance. As the Messenger of God, may blessings and peace be upon him, has said: ‘Satan is afraid of the shadow of `Umar, and `Umar never takes a road but that Satan takes another.’
Certainty derives its power and excellence from many things. The first, most essential and pivotal of these is that the servant listen attentively with his heart as well as his ears to verses and hadiths relating to God, His Majesty, Perfection, Magnitude, and Grandeur, His Uniqueness in creating and deciding, ruling and compelling; likewise to the truthfulness and perfection of the Messengers, the miracles they were aided with, and the sundry chastisements which befell those who opposed them. That these are sufficient to bring about certainty is indicated by His Word (Exalted is He!):
Is it not enough for them that We have sent down upon you the Book which is recited to them? [29:51]
The second is to learn from looking at the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, and the wondrous and astounding creatures that God made them teem with. That this brings about certainty is indicated by His saying (Exalted is He!):
We shall show them Our signs on the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the Truth. [41:53]
The third is to behave according to what one believes, outwardly and inwardly, zealously, and to the limits of one’s resources. That this brings about certainty is indicated by His saying (Exalted is He!):
And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good.[29:69]
Proper certainty results in, among many other things, acquiescence in God’s promise, confidence in what He has guaranteed, turning to God with pure longing, abandoning all things which distract from Him, continuously returning to Him in all circumstances, and spending all one’s energy in seeking His good pleasure.
In sum, certainty is the essential thing, and all other noble ranks, praiseworthy traits of character and good works are its branches and results.
Virtues and actions are strong or weak, sound or unsound, according to the strength or otherwise of certainty. Luqman, upon whom be peace, said: ‘Action is possible only in the presence of certainty; a servant acts in obedience only to the extent that he has certainty, and a man becomes neglectful in his actions only when his certainty diminishes.’ This is why the Messenger of God, may blessings and peace be upon him, has said: ‘Certainty is the whole of faith.’
Believers have three degrees of certainty. The first is that of the People of the Right Hand, this is firm belief but with the possibility of becoming doubtful or shaky under certain circumstances. This is called faith.
The second is that of the Ones Brought Nigh, which is the possession of the heart by faith and its establishing itself therein so firmly that its opposite becomes no longer possible or even imaginable. In this degree the unseen becomes as the seen. This is called certainty.
The third is that of the Prophets and the True Saints (siddiqun) who are their perfect heirs. Here the unseen becomes seen, which thing is called unveiling (kashf) and contemplation (mushahada)
There are grades within each degree: all are good, but some better than others. That is God’s grace, He bestows it upon whom He will, and God’s grace is abundant. [57:29]
... The Book Of Assistance, Imam Abdullah ibn Alawi Al-Haddad