FANA-FILLAH (To Forget Everything Except Allahu ta'âlâ)
Imâm-ı Rabbânî (rahmat-Allâhu 'alaih) in his book Ma'ârif-i Ladunniyya, in the Twenty-sixth Ma'rifat, explains 'fanâ' as follows:
Fanâ means to forget everything except Allahu ta'âlâ. Each of the five lâtifas in âlam-i amr has a picture, a likeness in man. These five lâtîfas have been given the names of heart, soul, sir, khafî and akhfâ. The majority of Awliyâ, being unable to differentiate between them, called all of them "the soul." When referred to as "the soul," these five things are understood. [We are made of matter, and live among material beings. Beings that are made of matter consist of the seven skies and the kursî and arsh. These nine classes of beings are one within the other, like the layers of an onion. The outermost one is the arsh. Each layer is very much larger than the one within it. It is like the greatness of the ocean in comparison to a drop of water. There is no matter outside the ninth layer, which is the arsh. These beings which are not material are called "âlam-i amr" (beings of command) because they were created with the single command "Be!" Classes of material beings that consist of the nine layers are called "âlem-i khalq." 'Khalq' means 'dimension,' that is, matter. Âlam-i khalq was created in seven days. The building stone of âlam-i khalq is matter. The building stone of âlam-i amr is called "latîfa." Âlam-i amr is made of various lâtîfas. Out of these, samples of five of them were given to men. Profound Islâmic savants were able to understand these lâtifas and even their originals in the âlam-i amr. Today there is no such profound savant left on the earth. These five lâtîfas existing in men were given the names of heart, sir, soul, khafî, and akhfâ. Even the great savants such as Imâm-i Ghazâlî were unable to differentiate them from one another and called all of them "the soul." Very few savants, such as Imâm-i Rabbânî, were able to recognize them one by one.] The soul, that is, the lâtifas, used to know Allahu ta'âlâ before it united with this body. It used to have a little inclination, knowledge and love towards Allahu ta'âlâ. It had been given the strength and potential to become exalted and promoted. But it could not improve before uniting with this body; to improve it had to unite with the body. For this reason, first the soul was given an affection towards this body. Then, it was allowed to go towards the body. It threw itself upon the body. Being very fine and very expansive, it sank and penetrated all parts of the body. It became unrecognizable, unknown in the body. It forgot about itself. It came to think of itself as the body. It lost itself in the body. Thus, most people consider themselves only as bodies. Being unaware of the existence of the soul, they disbelieve it.
Allahu ta'âlâ, being very merciful, sent messages to men, that is, to souls, through prophets ('alaihimussalawâtu wattaslîmât). He invited them to Himself. He prohibited them from being dependent upon this dark body. He who was predestined to be good in eternity obeys Allahu ta'âlâ's commandments and puts an end to his dependence upon the body. He bids farewell to it and goes back up to his former heights. His love towards his asl (origin), which he used to feel before uniting with the body, increases gradually. His love towards a transient being decreases. When he thoroughly forgets about this dark and obscure darling of his, that is, when there is no love left, he will have attained the Fanâ of the body. Thus he will have passed beyond one of the two basic steps on the way of tasawwuf. From then on, if Allahu ta'âlâ favours and blesses him, he will make progress and henceforth will begin to forget about himself, too. As this oblivion increases, he will forget himself thoroughly. No longer will he know of any being besides Allahu ta'âlâ. Thus, he will also attain the Fanâ of the soul. He will thus pass beyond the second step. The soul's coming to this world is intended to attain this second fanâ. It could not attain this without coming to this world.
If the lâtifa of the heart, which is called "Haqîqat-i Jâmîa," [see fn. (40) of article 31] passes beyond these two steps together with the soul, it will attain its own fanâ together with the soul. If the nafs accompanies the heart in this way, it will be purified too. That is, it will attain its own fanâ. But, when the nafs reaches the heart's grade, if it remains there instead of getting exalted and passing beyond these two steps, it will not attain oblivion. It will not become mutma'inna.
A person who has attained the fanâ of the soul may not attain the heart's fanâ. The soul is like a father to the heart. And the nafs is like a mother to the heart. If the heart has an inclination towards the soul, who stands for its father, and turns away from the nafs who stands for its mother, and if this inclination increases and draws the heart towards its father, it will reach its grade. That is, it will pass beyond these two steps. When the heart and the soul attain fanâ, the nafs does not necessarily attain fanâ. If the nafs has an affection, an inclination towards her son, and if this inclination increases and makes her reach near her son, who has reached his father's grade, she will be like them. The case is the same with attaining fanâ for the lâtifas of sir, khafî, and akhfâ.
The memories and thoughts being rubbed out and removed from the heart signify the fact that it has forgotten the things other than Allahu ta'âlâ. Not to be able to remember anything means that knowledge and everything else is gone. In fanâ, knowledge has to be wiped out.