ISTIDRAJ – إِستِدراَج
Literally: An asking, inviting, inciting, causing (a thing) to move step by step, degree by degree. A drawing (one) in by degrees.
Allah's enticing a sinner to utter perdition little by little through granting success and ni’mahs at the beginning of sinning. To take a person in accordance with his desires along a path to a certain point where disaster awaits.
In his book titled Ta’rifat, Sayyid Sharif Jurjani describes karâmât as “an extraordinary state emerging from a person who has îmân and his ‘amal as-sâlih.” Then he adds that “if this state emerges from a person without îmân and his deeds, it is istidraj.”
“KNOW, O FRIEND, that the karâmât and istidraj are opposites in meaning. Karâmât is an act of Allah like a miracle. Those who have karâmât know that it originates from Subhân, that Allah oversees and protects them, and wills them khayr. This strengthens their certainty of tawakkul. Although they are sometimes conscious of the karâmât through the permission of Allah, it is safer and best for them and their belief that they remain unaware that Allah does this through them. For example, Allah may cause them to say unconsciously what occurs to another person’s heart or mind, or reveal scenes from the ghayb so that others may be guided to hidâyah. These beloved ‘abds are unaware of what Allah does for His ‘abds through them.
As for istidraj, for example, some things from the ghayb may appear to people in ghaflah. They even may perform extraordinary. Attributing these to their nafs or power, they grow in ananiyyah, vanity and distance from Allah. They say: اِنَّمَا اُوتِيتُهُ عَلَى عِلْمٍ 1 , and it happened because of the purity of my nafs and my heart’s enlightenment.” There is no confusion between ahl al-karâmât and ahl al-istidraj at the half-way of their spiritual journey. Those who have attained the highest ranks and realized self-annihilation are aware of the things belonging to the ghayb with their external senses, through the permission of Allah, which function as if means for Allah to execute His decrees. Since their inner world is perfectly illumined and illuminates their outer world, they distinguish clearly between karâmât and istidraj.” Al-Mathnawi al-Nuri (322)
“If someone who is honoured with karâmât knowingly manifests an extraordinary matter, and his nafs al-ammarah is persistent, then in respect of him relying on himself and on his nafs and his kashf and falling into pride, it may be istidraj. If unknowingly he displays a wondrous act; for example, a person has an unvoiced question, and he gives an appropriate answer as a making speak by Haqq, and afterwards understands, this increases his confidence, not in his nafs, but in his Rabb. He says: "I have a Preserver who does tarbiyyah me better than I myself." And this increases his tawakkul. This is a harmless sort of karâmât; he is not charged with concealing it, but he should not intentionally display it, because of pride. For since apparently, man's kasb has some connection with it, he may relate it to his nafs. When it comes to bestowal, it is sounder than the second sort of karâmât, the sound sort, and in my opinion, is more elevated. To display it is to make known a ni’mah. The kasb has no connection with it, and the nafs does not attribute it to itself.” The Letters (50-51)
1 (I have been given it only on account of ‘ilm I possess -28:78)