A’uzubillahi minashaitonir Rojeem, Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem, Allahuma Solli wa Salleem ‘ala Sayidina Muhammmadin wa aalihi wa sohbihi…
Shaykh al-Imam al-‘Aydarus said, “Sufi Shaykhs have agreed that their affair is built upon little food (consumption), little speech and sleep as well as seclusion from people, discipline of the soul, spiritual retreats (khalwah) and that all objectives and stations only occur under (the guidance) of a gnostic shaykh or (one who is) referred to as Insan al-Kamil (The Perfect Man).
The Imam here mentioned about the four pillars of striving (al mujahadah) in the journey to Allah. Concerning this the poet said,
“The house of sainthood has its pillars divided into 4 by the abdaal*. Between silence and always being alone and staying up at night and and eating little.”
So these pillars are as the Shaykh mentioned i.e. little food, sleep, speech and seclusion.
Every seeker who sleeps much and eats much and speaks much and mingles with people, engaging in that which does not concern him/her then his/her seeking is mere pretension. Imam al-Haddad combines these four in a line of poetry which close meaning is,
“Your self discipline it with silence, sleeplessness, little food and avoiding people.”
And in another line, “…through discipline with silence, hunger and avoiding bad company as well as wakefulness…”
These four pillars are the pillars of mujahadah towards Allah ta’ala. As for food, it must (most importantly) be halal and the seeker as well as Muslims in general must avoid the doubtful or syubhah from entering their stomachs much less the forbidden or haram. After this he/she should adhere to the Prophetic etiquettes (adab) that relate to food and drink. These etiquettes will give light to the heart and also they will convert one’s mundane activities into ‘ibadah. After which the seeker should also give concern to the time and quantity of food.
As for the time aspect, it is how much one consume in a 24hr period. Some of those who strive (against their nafs) limit themselves to one meal (in a 24hr period). Majority of those who are moderate have 2 meals in 24 hrs. Those who eat once usually eatat the end of the night (sahur or sahar time) or in the beginning of the night. As for quantity, that which is moderate is what is instructed to us in the sound Prophetic tradition. By the saying, “…a third for food, a third for drink and a third for his breath.” The highest (standard for qtty.) is limiting to the amount that keeps the back straight. This is indicated in the beginning of the Sahih hadith, “The son of Adam is sufficed by little morsels that keep his back straight.”
The least (or lowest level) in striving in food in terms of quantity, after avoidance of doubtful food is that the person does not allow him/herself to become particularly attached to a certain type of food and thinking about it alot. There is nothing wrong if a person naturally inclines to a certain type of food than another. However, it is blameworthy if the person becomes extremely attached and thinks about it alot to the extent that they’ll even think about it during their ‘ibadah. Therefore, the seeker should have a share in inheriting the Prophetic Way, “that he (the Prophet pbuh) would eat that which he found or was available.” Then the seeker should adhere to Prophetic etiquettes in consuming food and he/she should refrain from what he/she desire even if it were a single morsel. This is the least of striving concerning food.
to be continued…
*substitute Saints, those whom substitute their spiritual states (aḥwāl) [one for another]. They have submitted their bodies to the vigour (ḥīl) in their innermost secrets (asrār). Then they move from state (ḥāl) to state, and from knowledge (‘ilm) to knowledge, so that they are constantly increasing in the knowledge of that which is between them and their Lord. -Sahl at-Tustari