Spiritual Progress

Whatever their operative strength, the collective rites alone could not assure arrival at the final steps of the journey toward God. Spiritual realization can only be an affair of each instant, as is well put in the expression "son of the moment" (ibn al-waqt), by which the Sufi is defined. For each moment of the life of the faqīr there is a corresponding adab, a convention, which can be a ritual practice, a correct behavior, or, better still, an inner attitude in conformity with that which God expects from His servant. In fact, according to a teaching of Abu'l-'Abbas al-Mursī (d. 686/ 1287), who was the master of Ibn 'Ata Allah of Alexandria:

For the servant four moments exist, not one more: the blessing and the test of which he is the object on the part of God, the obedience and the disobedience with which he himself tests. And at each of these moments, the servant has a duty to God: in blessing, this duty is gratitude; in the test, constancy; in obedience, the awareness of grace; and in disobedience, repentance and contrition. 26

In order to reach such a "presence of spirit" (muhdarah), which allows, according to a hadith frequently encountered in treatises on Sufism, "to render to each one and to each thing his due," the faqīr must follow, under the direction of his master, a discipline that includes two inseparable aspects: a sustained effort toward self-knowledge and daily spiritual exercises based essentially on invocation.