Rabita – Heart Connection
Unquestionably, the most important of the tools used on the Sufi path is rabita, or heart-connection. At the moment of biat (initiation into a Sufi tariqa), a valve is opened in the student’s spiritual heart, and a spiritual energy connection is made between him, his shaykh, and the entire silsila (line of spiritual ancestors). Herein lies the importance of ijaza, the shaykh’s permission to teach tasawwuf (the Sufi method). With ijaza comes the key the shaykh uses to open his murid’s (student’s) connection to the spiritual chain, the “rope of Allah.” Hence it can be seen that Sufi lineage is not simply a matter of ancestral tradition – it is the dynamic link to Allah’s essence, which is activated at biat and continues to operate through the use of rabita. The silsila as a chain of transmission is the means through which Allah transfers knowledge of Himself to the murid’s heart. It is the cable used to download information, so to speak, from the source. Making rabita is accessing that information.
The Sufi murid should practice the use of rabita continually. He is urged to make a deliberate, thoughtful connection to his heart upon every undertaking in his daily life. At the outset of each activity he is taught to make the mental assumption that it is not he, but his shaykh, who is performing the action. This practice is designed to help the student leave the notion of self-involvement, which in turn leads to the existential knowledge of the illusory nature of his individual self. The mature student of tasawwuf realizes that in making rabita to his shaykh, he is in truth making rabita to Allah.
The murid practices rabita with his shaykh very pointedly while reciting his wazifa (personal zikr, or recitation of Allah’s names). Under no circumstances should a student discuss his wazifa with another murid, as this may breed an unhealthy competitiveness. It is a personal formula to help his purification process, which the shaykh modifies when he sees that an improvement has been made in the murid’s spiritual condition.
Along with the establishment of connection with the silsila, during the initation process into tariqa, the shaykh employs a technique known as talqin, or inculcation. The practice of talqin is the directed use of the mind to plant the seeds of positive change in the murid’s heart. Through talqin, the heart of the murid is instilled with zikr through the invocation of several of His Beautiful Names. Other ritual prayers are also implanted in the murid’s heart during biat. Throughout the murid’s training, the shaykh is in constant rabita with him, and uses talqin regularly to help his student, often from afar.
The shaykh’s job is to protect his murid from spiritual danger by utilizing talqin, both to fix Allah’s light in the murid’s heart and to work against any counterproductive effort made by negative forces. The murid is likewise instructed in the use of this mechanism for self-regulatory purposes, whereby he can make an effort to distance himself from negative attributes. Through the willful mental conditioning of talqin, he intends to convince himself to forego inappropriate thoughts or behavior. His use of talqin can also be beneficial in reinforcing the work of other assigned practices of tasawwuf.
Utilizing rabita is exercising the central tenet and true meaning of Islam, which is surrender. Through continual use of rabita, the murid’s sense of self dissolves in his shaykh, the state known as fanaful shaykh, then in his pirs as fanaful pir, then in the Prophet (peace be upon him) as fanaful Rasul, and, ultimately, in Allah, as fanafullah. This is the true state of self-annihilation, more aptly conceived of as “merging in Allah.” When the murid comes to the indisputable realization that he truly does not exist, he understands the real truth of “La ilaha ilallah,” that Allah alone exists.