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Qal­aq (Pas­sion)

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism-2

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Literally meaning boredom with the place where one is and with the surrounding conditions, feeling discomfort as if in imprisonment or captivity, qalaq (passion) is intense love, deeper than the desire for Paradise that the ordinary worshipper feels, more profound than the feelings aroused by a Sufi leader's knowledge concerning God, and more intense than the lover's love for the beloved, and which exhausts his/her power to endure such love. The initiate falling in love to such an intense degree finds on the horizons of his or her innermost world glimmers of a meeting with the Beloved and feels his or her heart beating with the idea that above all is God's being pleased with them (9:72).

The Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, expresses this degree of passion that burns endurance to ashes with the desire of union in the words (20:84), I have hastened to You, my Lord, so that You may be well-pleased (with me). He manifests his extraordinary yearning and excitement to meet with his Lord.

There is another kind of passion manifesting itself in the form of distress in figurative love-the love felt by a person for one of the opposite sex-and that arises from the worry that the beloved may be loved by others. Jami' expresses such passion as follows:

When one says that he is a lover, this casts me into worry and distress,
For I am afraid that he is in love with my beloved.

Such passion should not be confused with the passion an initiate feels on the way to God. All sorrows and joys felt on this way are because of Him and from Him. For this reason, any pain or sorrow a traveler to God feels is sweet in itself, and the pleasures are as pleasant as the water of Paradise.

When the zeal and yearning felt to meet with the Beloved come to an unendurable point, whatever there is in the heart other than the desire for union vanishes. It even happens that love is, to a certain extent, not considered any more, and seekers progress to the following states according to the intensity of their passion:

  • All things, each according to its own "wavelength," begin to tire the seeker; the result is that at times the heart feels a desire for union with Him, while at other times it burns with the yearning to die to meet with Him. The fire is so great that the seeker sees none other than Him.
  • Despite corporeality and bodily desires, the seeker begins to be so immersed in profound spiritual life that neither reason nor will-power retain the capacity to control or give direction. As a result, the person cannot help falling into confusion in matters that require the ordinary operations of common sense and discernment:

I did not know myself as I see me now,
I wonder whether He is me or I am Him?

Not only in the performance of duties of worship and obedience to God, but also in worldly affairs the seeker now travels on the horizons of witnessing God's signs distinctly.

  • When the veil between a hero of passion and the Beloved is partly lifted so that the way to union shows itself to some degree, the initiate goes into a spiritual state of being seized by a fire from which there is no longer any possibility of rescue or escape. The initiate thinks of nothing more than meeting with the Truly Beloved One. The lover is at the same time as being a lover also a beloved, a willed one at the same time as being one who wills, and one sought for at the same time as one who is seeking.

It can be said that in the state in which he was before he began to receive the Revelation, God's Messenger experienced the first two kinds of passion mentioned above. The following verses that we quote from a long poem of Yazicizade Mehmed Effendi[1] express this in a chaste language:

Why is it that you stay in such a sorrowful mood?
Why is it that there is sadness in your blessed inner world?

..............................................................................

Without answering them, he turned back again
to where he stayed and unburdened himself to the Almighty.

..............................................................................

He said: "My heart is in love and desire; my soul is on fire;
Why are these tears coming from my eyes, O Never-ending All-Ruling?
I have lost my patience, having come to the end of my endurance;
What can I say to my Beloved? I have no strength to bear all that takes place.

..............................................................................

Climbing the mountain, he prostrated, putting his face on the earth;
He wept and entreated God, saying: "O One never-ending!"
The angels saw him and pitied him,
And the maidens in Paradise shed their tears:
"O God! Your beloved one has made his upright body doubled over."

Many Companions of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, made similar utterances on this same point. "Tomorrow, I will join the friends-Muhammad and his Companions," is only one example of these.[2]

The one who feels the greatest passion is also the master of the creatures, upon him be peace and God's blessings. At a time when the world offered itself to him with all its pomp and splendor, as the greatest of all creation, as one who had completed his duty and had come to the point where he could express his yearning for union with the Truly Beloved One, he said, "O my God! (Now it is time to go) to the Highest Friend!"[3] and turned with all his being to the Absolutely Beloved One with the desire of fulfilling what was required of him by the rank of being beloved by Him. He put a full stop to the lines of ascent and descent[4] by proving that he uniquely enjoyed the rank of being His beloved one. He was no longer Muhammad but was transformed into being Ahmad,[5] and fully perceived that whatever he had and accomplished was all from God.

On him and his family be the most perfect of blessings to the fill of the heavens and the earth.


[1] Yazicizade, Mehmed ibn Salih (d. 1451) Author of Muhammadiya. Buried in Canakkale, Turkey. (Trans.)
[2] Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, 3:223, 262.
[3] Al-Bukhari, "Marda'," 19; Al-Muslim, "Salam," 46.
[4] A human being's coming to the world from the world of spirits is that person's descent, and the life in this world ending in death with the subsequent chain of events until he or she enters Paradise, which is his or her return to God, is the ascent. (Trans.)
[5] The Messenger's name before his coming to the world was Ahmad. Prophet Jesus promised his coming with this name (61:6). He was Muhammad during his life-time in the world and during his mission of Messengership. He is also called Ahmad in the other world after his death. With its own peculiarities, his being Ahmad is called the reality of his being Ahmad (Haqiqat al-Ahmadiya) in the Sufi terminology, and his being Muhammad with its own characteristics, the reality of his being Muhammad (Haqiqat al-Muhammadiya). (Trans.)