ISTIDRAJ – إِستِدراَج
Literally: An asking, inviting, inciting, causing (a thing) to move step by step, degree by degree. A dragging (one) in by degrees. Raising or lowering by degrees.
As an Islamic term: Allah's dragging a sinner to absolute ruin and destruction, little by little, at the beginning of sinning, by granting success, ni’mahs and great numbers of followers and sometimes wonders appearing like karâmât. It is to take a person according to his desires along a path to a certain point where disaster awaits. The person, who is given istidraj, supposes it to be a progress conforming to his benefit. But in reality, he is dragged to the abyss.
The Qur'an decrees by the âyahs (7:182) and (68:44) سَنَسْتَدْرِجُهُم مِّنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ “We draw them in step by step to their ruin, in ways that they do not realize.”
Allah continuously gives such a person ni’mahs, which are not khayr for him; he thinks that those ni’mahs are from the favour of Allah and the way he follows is right and haqq; he increases his pride and rebel; then he faces the torment of Jahannam. Since istidraj is apparently a favour but, in reality, a punishment, it is named كيد (kayd), Allah’s catching a sinner in his misdeeds.
In a hadith, istidraj is described as follows:
اِنَّ اَرَاَيْتَ اللَّهَ تَعَالَى يُعْطِى الْعَبْدَ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا مَايُحِبُّ وَهُوَ مُقِيمٌ عَلَى مَعَاصِيهِ فَاِنَّمَا ذَلِكَ اِسْتِدْرَاج لَهُ
“When you see that Allah Taâ’lâ gives a person things of the worldly life which he loves and desires whilst he remains persistent in sinning, then [know] that it is only istidraj from Allah Taâ’lâ.” (Musnad Ahmad, vol. 4 p.145)
In his book titled Ta’rifat, Sayyid Sharif Jurjani described karâmât as “An extraordinary state emerging from a person who has îmân due to his ‘amal as-sâlih.” Then he adds, "If this state emerges from a person who does not possess îmân or who performs deeds that do not conform to the Sharî’ah, it is istidraj.”
Istidraj might be given to some deceptive worldly leaders as well as the individuals who possess ananiyyah, in the field of religion.
Since Allah tests His ‘abds with successes as well as difficulties, a Muslim should not trust in apparent successes.
KNOW that the meaning of karâmât is the opposite of the meaning of istidraj. Karâmât is an act of Allah like a miracle. The one honoured with karâmât knows that it came from Subhân, not from his nafs; by knowing the existence of the One Who oversees and protects him, and Who wills khayr for him, his certain belief (yaqîn) and tawakkul increase. Sometimes, he is conscious of the karâmât with the permission of Allah, sometimes not; the safer and best is the second one.
For example, by answering a question in someone’s heart with a speech endowed by Allah, or being seen while someone was awake, the one honoured with karâmât becomes the means of that person’s hidâyah, but he is not aware of what Allah does for His ‘abds.
As for istidraj, it consists of some things from the ghayb appearing to people in ghaflah or to people performing extraordinary acts. But by attributing these to his nafs or power, his ananiyyah, pride and distance from Allah increase. He says: “اِنَّمَا اُوتِيتُهُ عَلَى عِلْمٍ , all that I have been given is by virtue of the ‘ilm that I possess and the purity of my nafs and my heart’s enlightenment.”
There is no confusion between the people of karâmât and the people of istidraj at the lesser ranks of walâyah. Through their senses and feelings, which they use for the sake of Allah, those who have attained self-annihilation in the highest elevated ranks see the things belonging to the ghayb, which are uncovered for them with the permission of Allah. That means the difference between karâmât and istidraj is very clear. Because the inner luminosity of those personages, which illumines their outer, cannot be confused with the dark state of those who call people to their ananiyyah.
Al-Mathnawi al-Nuri (228)
To disclose a karâmât without necessity is harmful. Whereas to disclose a bestowal is making the ni’mah of Allah known. If a person honoured with karâmât knows that he displays an extraordinary act, and if his nafs al-ammarah remained, it might be istidraj in respect of relying on himself, his nafs and kashf and falling into pride. If he displays an extraordinary act without knowing it; for example, a question presents in someone’s heart, he gives a congruous answer to that question with a speech endowed by Allah; then he understands it. After understanding it, his trust in his own Rabb increases, not in his own nafs. And he says: "I have a Hafîdh, Who does tarbiyyah me better than myself."; he increases his tawakkul. This kind is a harmless karâmât; he is not charged with concealing it, but he should not intentionally try to display it for pride. Because he might relate it to his nafs since, apparently, man's kasb has a share in it. As for the bestowal, it is safer than the second kind of safe karâmât, and in my opinion, is more elevated. To make it known is to make the ni’mah of Allah known. The kasb has no share in it; his nafs does not attribute it to itself.
The Ninth Letter
1 اَمْ يُرِيدُونَ كَيْدًا فَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا هُمُ الْمَكِيدُونَOr, like charlatan munâfiqs and deceptive zindiqs whose fitrahs are corrupted and consciences rotted, do they want to deceive and trick the people and turn them away from the hidâyah, which they cannot obtain? Do they want to make others believe what they do not even believe by calling you at one time a soothsayer, at another time a madman and another time a sorcerer? Do not be saddened at their wiles and denials, and become dispirited by deeming such deceitful charlatans as human beings! Rather, increase your efforts! Because they only trick their own nafs and harm themselves. And their success in evil is temporary; it is istidraj and stratagem of Allah.
The Twenty-Fifth Word/First Light/First Ray/5th Point
Mentioned in the riwâyât are the wondrous actions and works of the two Dajjals, and their extraordinary power and grandeur. To a degree that it was informed that some unfortunate people attribute a sort of ulûhiyyah to them. What is the reason for it?
The Answer: وَالْعِلْمُعِنْدَاللّٰهِ2
, as for their actions and works being so great and extraordinary, since their actions and works mostly are destruction and urging to the desires of the nafs, they easily carry out such extraordinary works that it has been said in one riwâyât: "A single of their days is a year." That is, the works they carried out in one year cannot be carried out in three hundred years.
As for their power appearing to be extraordinary, it consists of four aspects and reasons:
The First: Since, as a result of istidraj, the good things and successive advances, which occur through the strength of brave armies and hardworking nation, in their despotic and huge rule are unjustly attributed to them, it causes their persons to be imagined to have the power of thousands of men. But in haqiqah and according to the rules, the positive good, honour and prize that come into existence through the actions of a community are divided among the community and given to its members. And evils, destructions and losses are attributed to its leader's failure in his administration and faults.
For example, if a battalion conquers a fortress, the prize and honour belong to their bayonets. While if there are losses due to faulty planning, they belong to their commander.
Thus, entirely contrarily to this fundamental principle of haqq and haqiqah, due to positive progress and good things being attributed to those fearsome leaders and negative works and faults being attributed to their unfortunate nation, those individuals, who deserve public hatred, gain the public love of the people of ghaflah as a result of istidraj.
The Fifth Ray-The Second Matter