This is both the feeling of being imperfect and needy, and the desire for perfection. The Prophet, Muhammad has said in this regard, “My honor is from spiritual poverty. I have been honored over and above all prophets by being graced with spiritual poverty.” And God revealed to the Prophet, “Say, God increase my true knowledge of You.” As this saying indicates, even though Muhammad was given the honor of Prophethood, it was still necessary that he feel his poverty and desire to be nearer to the essence of God.
The Five Symbols of Spiritual Poverty
After the seeker has performed the five ghusls, he or she prepares five objects which are taken into the master’s presence and given to the master so that the seeker on the path of the travelers toward Unity may be accepted and guided. These five objects are: a few yards of white cloth, a whole nutmeg, a ring, a coin, and some rock candy. Each of these objects is symbolic of a certain commitment made by the one who seeks to travel towards God. These commitments are represented by objects so that they will remain fixed in the traveler’s mind and never be forgotten.
1. White Cloth (chilwar)
The white cloth taken into the master’s presence represents the traveler’s shroud and indicates that the traveler, like a dead body in the hands of a ghassal (one who washes the dead), has become surrendered fully to God. In doing so, he or she considers the master’s orders as God’s orders and obeys them without ever questioning ‘how’ or ‘why’.
2. Whole Nutmeg (juz)
Juz represents the head of the traveler. In presenting juz to the master, the traveler consents to never reveal the Divine secrets that are confided in him or her. That is, even if threatened with decapitation, one should not reveal such secrets. In other words, the traveler’s head is symbolically presented to the master here as a hostage for God’s secrets.
3. Ring (angushtar)
The ring given to the master upon entering the world of spiritual poverty represents the band worn by slaves in olden times and signifies the traveler’s devotion to God. In presenting this ring to the master, the traveler vows to become devoted solely to God and to give up the desire for anything else.
4. Coin (sikka)
The coin symbolizes the wealth and riches of the world. The traveler, in presenting this coin to the master, promises to empty the heart of any desire for the wealth of the world. Here, it should be noted, the object is to have no attachment to wealth. If the sufi is rich one day, then poor the next, he or she remains unaffected by either condition. In the state of richness, the sufi should be generous; in the state of poverty, joyful and patient.
5. Rock Candy (nabat)
Nabat represents the candy given as an offering at the second birth of the seeker. Whereas the seeker’s first birth is from his or her mother, the second birth comes upon entering the domain of spiritual poverty. With this re-birth, the seeker steps into the realm of Spirituality, Truth, and Unification, being born from the mother of nature and multiplicity into the world of love (‘ishq), loving-kindness (muhabbat), and Unity (tawhid).
In presenting this rock candy, the traveler also comes to realize that the Path should be traveled with peace of mind and gladness, not with depression and displeasure.
Recline on the throne of the heart,
and with purity in manner be a sufi.