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al-Asfar al-arba‘a (The Four Spiritual Journeys) are..?

Haqiqa is the third spiritual station within the mystical path. The inner path is the ancient and authentic form of Islam that emphasizes extreme asceticism, obedience of God’s will in the form of the Shari’a, and purification of the body and soul by prayer and repentance. The followers strive to perfect themselves and come into the presence of God while still living. Mulla Sadra of the Isphan School in his philosophical and theological summa, al-Hikma al-muta‘aliya fi-l-asfar al-‘aqliyya al-arba‘a (Transcendent wisdom of the four journeys of the intellect), popularly known as al-Asfar al-arba‘a (The Four Journeys) highlights four stages of spiritual development: shari’a, tariqa, haqiqa, and marifa.


1. Shari’a: Shari’a is Islamic law as revealed in the Qur’an and Sunna. The first step is following every aspect of the law perfectly. The purpose of this is to prove their love for God, by rigorous self-discipline and constant attention to their conduct. When one fully lives his or her life according to the Shari’a he or she is ready to progress to the second stage. This conformity to earthly rules is important because it recognizes that the spirit of a man or woman is affected by the actions of the body. In this way, bringing the body under the will of God also purifies the spirit and a pure spirit is essential for the second step.

2. Tariqa Tariqa in Arabic means “path” and it denotes a Shi’i/Sufi brotherhood or order. The orders are governed by Awaliya (pl. Wali), spiritual leaders that mentor the follower. Wali are identified by the signs of God’s grace that are evident, such as the ability to perform miracles. The followers are committed to the spiritual lifestyle and want to progress further in their spiritual education. With time the disciple is introduced to the awrad, a series of prayers particular to the spiritual order. These prayers must be studied before they are recited, because mistakes made in the prayer are sins. When the disciple has studied and recited the awrad for an undeterminable amount of time, gradually spiritual illuminations -that are veiled from most people- begin to reval themselves. This is the third stage, haqiqa.

3. Haqiqa Haqiqa is a difficult concept to translate. The book Islamic Philosophical Theology defines it as “what is real, genuine, authentic, what is true in and of itself by dint of metaphysical or cosmic status”. Haqiqa may be best defined as the knowledge that comes from communion with God, knowledge gained only after the tariqa is undertaken – one can see beyond the physical world because of his proximity to God and possession of haqiqa. Haqiqa is less a stage in itself and more the marker of a higher level of consciousness, which precedes the next and final stage, marifa.

4. Marifa Marifa has been defined as “knowledge”. Marifa is “gnosis”, knowledge obtained in God’s presence that has no relation to earthly knowledge and which can only be obtained by personal experience. Marifa is gained from direct illumination from God and thus is only available to those who have progressed through the stages of spirituality and have entered into God’s presence.

Chittick, William C. 1992. Faith and Practice of Islam: Three Thirteenth Century Sufi Texts. Albany: State University of New York.
Aw man – what a question – I struggle with the first…


  • ..Bismillahirahmaniraheem..
    ..In the Name of God, the Most Merciful, and Most Compassionate..

    The five steps of spiritual ascendance.
    1. shari’at – the discrimination between good and evil, right and wrong, and the conducting of one’s life according to the good. Lit.: the way that leads to water; the law; right conduct; right procedure.

    2. tariqat – unswerving and complete acceptance of the good, and the carrying out of every action accordingly. The truth of intention, certitude, determination, faith, patience, and duty. Lit.: the path.

    3. haqiqat – the realization of Truth which is the Divinity, and the beginning of the communication with God.

    4. ma’rifat – the knowledge of the secrets of God. Ma’rifat has no day or night; it is the realization of God intermingled within all lives as the Light without shadow, as the Truth within truth, as the Unique One shining without separation in all of the worlds.

    5. sufiyyat – the fifth and ultimate level of spiritual ascendance. It is the state of one who has transcended the four religions and has merged with God.

    May Faith (Iman) fill every human beings heart!
    Peace be always with you.

  • Have you ever read the original Arabic version of Asfar?
    I disagree with Hakim Mulla Sadra in some aspects.
    But the major difference between mulla sadra and the Sufi thoughts is that he did believe passing the stage of Sharia is never means you don’t need it in the next stage (for e.g. Tariqa) so he stated that even if you are in the stage of Tariqa, Haqiqa or Marifa you should still keep Sharia. that is very important point. mullah sadra kept saying his praying, fasting and etc up to his death. On the contrary, some Sufis believe sharia is the lowest stage and when you passed it, you should forget all Islamic orders like prayers (salah) or fasting. some of them even believe that you can by-pass the sharia!
    this abridgment cannot reflect the Mulla sadra thoughts in proper way!

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