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What does Fana mean in Irfan (Mysticism)?
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What does Fana mean in Irfan (Mysticism)?
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Fana’ is an Arabic word and literally means non existence and annihilation.[1] In the words of the Urafa’, it means for a servant to utterly abide in Allah in a way that the humanistic aspect of the servant fades away into the Rububiyyah aspect of Allah.

In order to explain what is mentioned above, we need to shed light on the following points:

1- As we know, Allah, due to his unlimited wisdom, has created man in a way that during every moment of his lifetime he thinks of unlimited perfection and seeks his immortality and eternal life through unlimited perfection and does not withhold from any effort in order to reach this aim. He seeks whatever he does not possess and when he possesses it, he longs to have a higher level and better quality of it, and therefore this desire does not let him rest for one moment.

However, we must pay attention that the origin of this desire is true and not fake and false, in fact it is a truth utterly in accordance with the essence of man so that by this exclusive gift that only he enjoys, he can raise himself from the lowest to the highest point and once again return to his true station and value.

2- Man is a creature with free will that has the potential to both ascend to high levels and to descend to the lowest of low.

3- On his way towards perfection lies obstacles that the Urafa’ refer to as the “Ta’ayyonat”[2] and “Inniyyaat Fardiyyah”[3] and until he does not show disregard and detachment from these “Ta’ayyonat” and does not bypass these barriers, he will not be able to reach his aim. These are the very obstacles and curtains that do not allow the light of Allah to shine upon His servant.

In light of what was mentioned above, we conclude that: when a spiritual wayfarer passes each station after another and disregards all Inniyyat  and materialistic and spiritual Ta’ayyonat and his existence fades away in that of Allah, he has then reached the stage of Fana. At this point, he pays no attention to his own existence and is utterly fascinated and overwhelmed by the beauty of his beloved one, and whatever he sets sight on, is a reflection of his beloved one in his eyes.

This is why some of the Urafa’ have said that the person who stated “Ana al-Hagh” (I am the lord) never intended to claim being Allah, but rather he was negating any means of Inniyyah, meaning that “I do not see any of me inside my being, instead I only see my beloved one.”

In closing, we should mention two points:

1- The Urafa have divided this path into different stations and stages and have perceived Fana’ as the last stage of the path towards Allah.[4]

For example, Attar believes this path to be comprised of seven stations: request, love, knowledge, self-sufficience, tawhid (unity), astonishment, need and Fana’.

2- The Urafa have mentioned different types of Fana[5]:

A: The external Fana which is the Fana of one’s acts in a way that an Aref would perceive all acts as Allah’s and attributes all of them to Allah. It is mentioned in the famous hadith of Qurb al-Nawafil that: “...و انه لیتقرب الی بالنافلة حتی احبه فإذا احببته کنت سمعه الذی یسمع به و بصره الذی یبصر به و لسانه الذی ینطق به و یده التی یبطش بها ان دعانی اجبته و ان سالنی اعطیته[6]. The prophet of Islam said: Allah has said: “My servant strives to come closer to me through mustahab acts until I love him, and when I love him, I will be his ear by which he hears, and his eye by which he sees, and his tongue by which he speaks. (At that point), if he calls me, I will answer him and if he asks for something, I will grant it to him.”

B: The internal Fana which is Fana of one’s features and attributes; the change of human features into Godly features.

Khajeh Nasir Tusi (rah) says: “When an Aref is withdrawn from himself and connected to Allah, he will perceive all powers as a means and manifestation of Allah’s power that every possible thing is made possible with and all knowledge as a manifestation of Allah’s knowledge to which no being is hidden or unrevealed, and all longing and desiring as longing for Allah from which no dependant being refrains from.”[7]

C: The Fana of one’s Dhaat (essence and entity); this is the final stage of the Aref’s spiritual journey towards Allah which not all Urafa can achieve. At this point, even the curtains of light of Allah’s names and attributes are removed and the Aref sees the inner essential manifestations of Allah.  In this perception, the Aref clearly sees Allah’s utter power and authority and the Fana’ of his own essence and entity and witnesses that his and other beings’ Wujud (existence) is all a shadow of Allah’s, as it is said in the hadith: [8]ان روح المؤمن لأشد اتصالاً بروح الله من اتصال شعاع الشمس بها” (Surely the closeness and connection of the soul of a believer to that of Allah is greater than the connection of the sun’s rays to the sun.)[9]



[1] Farhange Farsi, Amid, pg. 1551.

[2] Personal characteristics and traits.

[3] Existence.

[4] However, there are different opinions among the Urafa in regard to the number of these stations.

[5] Refer to: Divane Hafez ba Sharhe Erfani, Ahmad Daneshgar, pp. 144-145.

[6] Usul Kafi, the book of Faith and Disbelief, chapter: “من اذی المسلمین و احتقرهم” (those who bother the believers and belittle them).

[7] Sharh Isharaat, Ibn Sina, vol. 3, the degrees of the mystics, pg. 390.

[8] Kafi, vol. 2, the book of Faith and Disbelief, chapter: “أخوة المؤمنین” (the brotherhood of believers), hadith 4.

[9] Refer to: Chehel Hadith, Imam Khomeini, pg. 382.

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