top of page


Aguvo hoi’ to sab dukh sahiye’, nahi to sukh su’n shara su’n rahie’ (Buj Nirinjan) “If you have an Escort (Guide), then endure all privations, otherwise (it is better to) stay peacefully in the Shariah.” Mystical tendency in every religion has tended to describe different stages or the realms leading to the Ultimate Reality. The Koran says: “That you shall certainly ascend to one state after another” (84:19). According to the mystical doctrines, there are four stages, through which, the soul of the seeker has to pass for eternal union with Creator. These realms are Shariat, Tariqat, Haqiqat and Marifat.


The Shariah is an Arabic term used to designate Islamic law. It originally referred to a path trodden by camels to a water source, a course to the watering place or resort of drinkers. Hence, it means the clear path or the highway to be followed. The word shari’a occurs once in the Koran: “We have set you on a shari’a (way) of command, so follow it.” (45:18), its cognate shir’a is also used once, “To each We have appointed a shir’a (way) and minhaj” (path) (5:48). The verb shar’aoccurs twice, once with God as subject, “He has laid down for you as religion that which He enjoined also on Noah” (shara’a lakum min al-din) (42:13) and once in relation to rebels, “Or do they have companions who have laid down for them as religion that which God did not permit” (shara’u lahum min al-din) (7:163). The word shara’i (pl. of shariah) was used in the Prophet’s time for the essentials of Islam.

The shariah is the Divine Law by virtue of endorsing a person becomes a Muslim. It is a pattern for the individual’s life and the law, which binds the Muslims into a single community. The shariah is for Islam the means of integrating human society. It is the way by which man is able to give religious significance to his daily life and be able to integrate this life into a spiritual center. Man lives in multiplicity. He faces multiplicity within himself and at the same time lives in a society of which he is a part, which he cannot integrate save in the shariah. With the pace of time, new challenges emerge, thus the interpretation of the shariah’s ordinance, the outer dimension is required with the help of the guide, which is called Tariqat, the next mystical path or the inner dimension of Islam. The ordinances of the Shariah need to be interpreted with the change of time, and that is materialized with the tool of the Tariqat.


The tariqah (pl. turuq) or the path, which is usually known as the tasawwuf. Having trodden thoroughly on the shariah, the persons desirous of further spiritual elevation, take a route sprung from the shariah, which is called the tariqah, the Sufic or mystical path. When the word shariah is used, one immediately calls to mind the beliefs of Islam, the external decrees comprising forms of worship, rules of behavior and civil and criminal laws. Within this outer shariah there exists an inner shariah, known as tariqah. The shariah is concerned with the observance of the outward manifestations of religion, whilst tariqah concerns inward vision of divine power (mushahadat ar- rububiyya). Every rite not informed by the spirit of reality is valueless, and every spirit of reality not restrained by the law is incomplete. The shariah exists to regulate mankind, whilst the tariqah makes us to know the dispositions of God. The shariah exists for the service of God, whilst the tariqah exists for contemplation of Him. The shariah exists for obeying what He had ordained, whilst the tariqah concerns witnessing and understanding the order He had decreed. The one is outer, other the inner dimension. None can reach the tariqah without a guide.

The Koran (5:48) says, “For every one of you We have appointed a way (shariah) and a path (minhaj).” The word minhaj is derived from nahj means path. Only a man who can walk on flat ground can hope to climb a mountain. On this juncture, a man needs a guide to lead him towards the inner dimensions of the religion. Jalaluddin Rumi says in his Mathnawi (3:588), “Whoever travels without a guide, needs two hundred years for a two days journey.” For the Ismailis, the Imam of the age is the only Guide for their spiritual growth. This path is long and hard, requiring constant obedience and struggle. On this stage, he speaks: “O’God! Publicly I call Thee ‘My Lord’ but in solitude I call Thee ‘O’my Beloved.’” (Hilyat al-Awliya, Cairo, 1932, 9:332 by Abu Nu’aym al-Isfahani).

According to the Koran, “He has made complete for you His favours outwardly and inwardly.” (31:20). M.M. Zuhruddin Ahmed comments, “As this verse is addressed to the believers, it is said to indicate that the Prophet was sent to complete both the blessings of zahir and batin, which the Sufis interpret as Shariah and Tariqah.” (Mystic Tendencies in Islam (Karachi, 1981, p. 89)

Shariyat sadi mai hai, Tariqat sadi dai hai (Bulleh Shah) “The Shariat is the mother and Tariqat, the foster mother.”

The mystical trend or the interpretation of the Shariah was not a revolt against the Islamic theology, but it was a liberated thinking and mystic interpretation of Islam. Sufism, the Tariqat is the inner and esoteric dimension. It is the inner source of life and the center, which coordinates inwardly whole religious organism of Islam. It is the custodian providing the means of realization. Only by living according to it can man gain that equilibrium which is the necessary basis for entering upon the Tariqah. Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah said, “You also incline your hearts in Sufism (mysticism). You should have aim at elevation yet lofty. The Sufism is the Tariqat (next to Shariat), it will lead you to the Haqiqat in piecemeal; you will start to fly. The insight soul will step upward in paces.” (Dar-es-Salaam, 29th September, 1899).

Maha vikat ehi va’t hai, bin aguve’ gayo na jaire’; aguvo hoi eh sangat, amar nirantar paiy re’ (ginan)

“This path is much difficult to follow. None can traverse without an Escort. Only when accompanied by a Guide, the water of life is found.”


The word haqiqah means reality or the road leading to ultimate reality. On this stage, the believer observes everything in heart, drenched with love. The haqiqah is the sum total of the tariqah. The Koran says, “And those who are recipients of the Book (the Shariat), surely know that this is the haq (or haqiqat), the reality from their Lord.” (2:144), “He has revealed to you this Book (the Shariat), which is the haq (reality) and confirmation.” (3:2) and “And when they hear that which has been revealed to the Messenger, you see their eyes overflow with tears because of the haq (reality) they recognized” (5:83).

Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah said, “What are Haqiqat and Shariat? This is another topic. This one and that one can never become one, will never be one. This one loves the Book, fasting, prayer and bandage. That one aspires for freedom... but whoever is a haqiqi, pursues a variant path, like Jesus, Pir Sadruddin, Nasir Khusrao, Pir Shams, Maulana Rum, did in the days gone by and they adored to path of Haqiqat. This path is very difficult for ignorant.” (Dar-es-Salaam, 29th September, 1899). Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah also said, ““If the haqiqi understand meaning of annihilation in God, the Marifat is achieved forthwith.” (Zanzibar, 13th September, 1899).

Haqiqat ka parda na khol, marifat su’n m’n dharie’ (ginan) “Do not unveil the veil of the Haqiqat, but concentrate on the Marifat.”


The word marifah is a noun derived from the verb arafa or i’tarafa means to ask somebody for information. Its root letters altogether with 71 different forms are used in the Koran. When an animal is lost, “a man comes to recognizes it” (ya’tarifu-ha). The Koran says, “Verily, it is not the eyes that are blind, but blind are the hearts which are in the breasts” (22:46). It imparts the way of marifah (gnosis) that the realities and recognition are perceived with the eyes of the hearts. The Prophet said, “If you knew God as He ought to be known, you would walk on the seas, and the mountains would move at your call” (Kashf al-Mahjub, p. 267). The term irfan is another name of the marifat.

Al marifatu wujud jihlika inda qiyami imihi (Junayd Baghdadi) “The marifat is the perception of the existence of your real ignorance in the face of God’s knowledge.”

On the stage of the marifah (gnosis), “the gnostic becomes more humble every hour, for every hour is drawing him nearer to God. The gnostic sees without knowledge, without sight, without information received, and without observation, without description, without veiling and without veil. They are not themselves, but in so far as they exist at all they exist in God. Their movements are caused by God, and their words are the words of God, which are uttered by their tongues, and their sight is the sight of God, which has entered into their eyes. So God Most High said: ‘When I love a servant, I, the Lord, am his ear, so that he hears by Me. I am his eye, so that he sees by Me, and I am his tongue, so that he speaks by Me, and I am his hand, so that he takes by Me.’” (vide Reading from the Mystics of Islam, London, 1950 by Margaret Smith).


The Tariqah is the inner dimension of the Shariah, and the Haqiqah springs therefrom, and ultimately the Marifah radiates thereby. Badi’uz-Zaman Furuzanfar quotes a famous hadith of the Prophet in Ahadith-i Mathnawi (Tehran, 1955) that, “The shariah is my words (aqwali), the tariqah is my deeds (af’ali), the haqiqah is my interior states (ahwali) and marifah is my secret (israri).” In another hadith, “shariah is the night, and the tariqah the star. The haqiqah is the moon and the marifah the sun.” (ashariatuka lail wa tariqatuka nujum wal haqiqatuka qamar wal marifatuka shams). Thus, the Islamic tasawwuf (mysticism) is based on four pillars: Shariah, Tariqah, Haqiqah and Marifah. These are stations of the spiritual journey related to religion, knowledge and soul on straight path, by walking on which the believer can attain extreme proximity of God.

Shariat : The seeker observes the doctrines of the Islamic tenets. Tariqat : The seeker discards outer world and observes inner worship, through piety and austerity. Haqiqat : The seeker becomes communed in God. Marifat : The seeker is annihilated.

Shariat – The relationship betwixt a slave and his master.

Tariqat – The relationship between a son and his father.

Haqiqat – The relationship betwixt a lover and his Beloved

Marifat – The extinction in the Divinity.

Shariat is like travelling to God on foot. Tariqat is like progressing to God by car. Haqiqat is to progress to God by air. Marifat is Wasl-e-Haq i.e. to merge within into the reality of God.

Pir Hasan Kabiruddin has excellently symbolized these four dimensions of Islam in the forms of four types of females, i.e, Hastanni (elephant), Chetarnni (art), Shankhanni (conch) and Padmanni (lotus).

In short, the Shariat is a tree, its branch is the Tariqat. The flower of which is the Haqiqat, and the Marifat is its fragrance.

Pahele’ to tanku shariat batave’, pichhe’ rah tariqat pave’ Tab tuje’ ha’l haqiqat ave’, marifat keri shud batave’. (ginan) “First (the Guide) shows you the Shariat, after which you will be brought to the road of Tariqat. Then the state of Haqiqat dawns you, then you will acquire insight of the Marifat.” Eji gat’ma milo nitonit, pahele’ mano shariat, tariqat aur haqiqat, marifat me’n mn’ku’n ma’r. (ginan) “Make regular congregation. First you believe in the Shariat, Tariqat and Haqiqat and kill the mind in the Marifat.” Eji shariat haq kari janni’e, to turat tariqat pai’e, Haqiqat dil mahe’n naqashi’e, to turat marifat mili jai. (ginan) “Know the Shariat as a truth, then will acquire the Tariqat at once. Ingrain the Haqiqat in heart, you will swiftly harvest the Marifat.” It means that the Shariat is the guide of the Tariqat, while one gets guidance of the Marifat from Haqiqat. Thus, the Imam is the only Guide, who imparts all about the Shariat and Haqiqat. Min yarful haqiqat-i wa shriat-i billah Imam faqad kufr (Hadith) “It is unlawful to learn Shariat and Haqiqat from others except the Imam.” Pir sohi ruda ajab bhigove’, to tame’ shariat rang ma rachoji, Din thi davo munafiq lave’, so to dojak ha’th samare’ji; Din haqiat tame’ sabit rakho, to tame’ duniya’na hiras va’roji (ginan)

“The Pir is such who exhorts correct marvels, but why you are contended in the color of the Shariat? The heretic revolts against religion, who intentionally makes his way toward hell. Keep the religion of the haqiqat perfect, and shun mundane lust.”

It is the quality of the black color that it dominates over other colors and make them alike while mixing. Likewise, once the pigment of the Shariat is covered up, the hue of other three realms becomes vapid and veiled, tending people to reckon the Shariat the principle path or only source of salvation and fail to discriminate between marrow and bark. In other words, we can observe while standing on mountain the lowest site of the soil. Likewise, one who is an adherent of the Shariat, he seldom comprehend factual faculty of the Marifat. Here we may quote from the translation of a Persian couplet by Maulana Rumi which defines these stages. "Shari'at is the candle light, which brightens the path. Tariqat is the adaptation of path. Reaching the goal is the Haqiqat, which one obtains through concentration of Marifat."

Ibn Arabi explained these four realms that, “At the level of the law (Shariah), there is Yours and Mine. That is, the law guarantees individual rights and ethical relations between people. At the level of the mystical path (Tariqah), Mine is yours and Yours is mine." The disciples are expected to treat one another as brothers and sisters to open their homes, their hearts, and their purses to one another. At the level of Truth (Haqiqah), there is No Mine and No Yours. The advanced disciple at this level realizes that all things are from God, that they are really only caretakers and that they possess nothing. Those who realize Truth have gone beyond attachment to possessions and beyond attachment to externals in general, including fame and position. At the level of gnosis (Marifah), there is No me and no You. At this final level, the individual has realized that all is God, that nothing and no one is separate from God.” Imam Mustansir billah II said in Pandiyat-i-Jawanmardi (p. 2) that, “The (real) believer is one who from the Shariat arrives at Tariqat and from the latter to Haqiqat, which is the real inner meaning of Shariat. Shariat may be compared to a candle. Tariqat to the path, and Haqiqat to the designation. One must strive to walk along the correct path, lit by the candle, and reach the abode of Haqiqat. The foundation of Haqiqat is to recognize the Imam. The purpose of everything is its inner meaning, which forms its (real) substance, its essence and sweetness. Therefore, the ultimate purpose of Shariat (introduced) by the Prophet was its inner meaning which was Haqiqat i.e. the recognition of the Imam of the time” (p. 2), and also, “And faith comes from and is perfected by the Marifat and Shinakhat of the Imam of the Time and obedience.” (p. 58)

In conclusion, it is related in the Sufic treatises that once Hazrat Ali was asked by a man about four stages of the Islam. Mawla Ali said, “Have a glance at four trees in your front, four boys are sitting thereon on each tree. You go and slap them one by one, then come to me.” The man approached first tree and slapped boy’s cheek. In reciprocation, he too slapped him. Then, he moved to second and slapped, who turned his face to other side. Then, moved to third and slapped the boy, who welcomed and brought forth his second cheek to slap once more. Lastly, he came to the fourth boy and slapped, who kissed his hand and said, “Beloved brother, Is there any injury while slapping me? If so, it will hurt my heart.” The man returned back to Hazrat Ali, who said, “These four boys are sitting on four trees. The first connotes Shariat, second Tariqat, third Haqiqat and fourth in succession the Marifat.” (Philosophy in Sayings of Ali ibn Abu Talib (Delhi, 1928, p. 78) by Mohmed Nawaz.

Karachi: May, 2021

Recent Posts

See All

Ginan Resources

We receive a lot of requests from our members for audios of ginans or ginan resources, transliterations of ginans, original Gujarati text of ginans etc. Please follow the link below for all above reso


The history of the earth began 4.5 billion years ago. In the 3.5 million years since prehistoric life began to inhabit on earth, the world has changed incredibly – from the position of the continents


bottom of page