The 40 stations on the path of irfan (mysticism) according to the 10th century Persian mystic of Nishapur, Khorasan, Sheikh Abū-Sa'īd Abil Khayr:
In the Name of Allah Most Merciful and Compassionate And in him is our refuge.
The Shaikh, the traveler upon the spiritual path, the devotee of God, the king of the saints among those who have inquired into the Truth, Abu Said ibn Abil-Khayr, may Allah illuminate his spirit, has said that the arif must possess forty stations (muqamat) if his march upon the path of Irfan is to be acceptable:
The first station is intention (niyah). The traveler on the path must possess such an intention that if he were to be given this world and its blessings and the other world and its paradise or its calamity and affliction, he would give away this world and its blessings to the infidels, the other world and its paradise to the believers and keep the calamity and affliction for himself.
The second station is conversion (inabat). If he is in spiritual solitude he sees God. Changes in the world do not alter his inner secret and calamities sent by Heaven do not cause the bird of his love to fly away.
The third station is repentance (tawbat). All men repent from what is forbidden and do not eat of the forbidden lest they suffer punishment. They (the urafa) repent from what is lawful and eat what is lawful lest they become afflicted by what is forbidden and doubtful.
The fourth station is discipleship (iradat). All men seek comfort and with it wealth and worldly blessings. They seek affliction and with it dominion and sanctity.
The fifth station is spiritual struggle (mujahabat). People seek to multiply ten to twenty. They try to turn twenty into nothing.
The sixth station is constant attention (muraqabat). Constant attention is to guard one’s soul in spiritual retreat until of necessity the Lord of the Universe preserves one from committing sin.
The seventh station is patience (sabr). If the disaster of the two worlds befalls them they will not so much sigh. And if the love of the people of the worlds descends upon them they will not cease to march on the path of patience.
The eighth station is invocation (dhikr). In their heart they know Him and with their tongue they invoke Him. Whenever they are in an impasse they know no road save which leads to His Presence.
The ninth station is contentment (rida). If they are kept without clothing [by God] they are happy and if they are kept hungry they are happy. Never do they reside in the house of self-will.
The tenth station is opposition to the carnal soul (mukhalafat-i nafs). For seventy years their carnal soul cries in agony with the desire of receiving a single favor and does not receive anything but pain and hardship.
The eleventh station is agreement (muwafaqat). Disaster and well-being, favor and privation are the same for them.
The twelfth station is surrender (taslim). If the arrow of fate faces them from the hiding place of calamity they place themselves in the catapult of surrender and open themselves before the arrow of fate, making their soul and heart a shield before it. In front of the arrow of fate they stand still.
The thirteenth station is confidence (tawakkul). They do not demand anything of creatures nor of God. They worship Him only for Himself. There are no questions or answers exchanged. Consequently the Lord of the Universe enables them to attain the object of their desire when they are in need, and there is no reckoning involved.
The fourteenth station is asceticism (zuhd). From all the wealth of this world they have only a patched cloak of a hundred pieces made of muslin, a mat and a piece of felt. That cloak is a thousand times dearer to them than fine scarlet cloth and sumptuous dress.
The fifteenth station is worship (ibadat). Throughout the day they are occupied with the reading of the Qur'an and the invocation of the Name of God and throughout the night they remain standing on their feet. Their bodies are seeking to be of service, their hearts are exuberant with love of the One, their heads are roaring in quest of the contemplation of the King.
The sixteenth station is abstention (wara). They do not eat of just any food, nor do they wear just any kind of clothing. They do not sit in the company of just any kind of people and they do not choose the companionship of anyone save God, exalted be He.
The seventeenth station is sincerity (ikhlas). Throughout the night they pray and throughout the day they fast. If their carnal soul does not obey and then they observe obedience, they will sell fifty years of obedience for drinking of a sip of water and give those fifty years to a dog or to whomever it might be. Then they will say, “O soul! Dost thou now understand that what thou didst is not becoming of God?”
The eighteenth station is truthfulness (sidq). They do not take a single step without truthfulness and do not breathe a single breath save in truth. Their tongues speak of their hearts and their hearts of their inner secrets and their inner secrets of God.
The nineteenth station is fear (khawf). When they look at His justice they melt in fear, and they have no hope in being obedient [towards God’s commands].
The twentieth station is hope (raja). When they regard His grace they boast in joy, and they have no fear or terror.
The twenty-first station is annihilation (fana). They melt their carnal souls in the crucible of annihilation and become annihilated from all that is below Him. Their tongues do not speak of things of this world. There is nothing upon their tongues save His Name. Their bodies do not move save to obey Him and their minds do not spring into action save for Him.
The twenty-second station is subsistence (baqa). If they look to the right they see God and they look to the left they see God. They see Him in whatever condition they are. They subsist through His subsistence. They are satisfied with what He has ordained for them. They are joyous because of His grace and bounty.
The twenty-third station is the science of certainty (ilim al-yaqin). When they look through the eye of the science of certainty they see from the highest heavens to the lowest level of the earth without any veil.
The twenty-fourth station is the truth of certainty (haqq al-yaqin). When they see through the eye of the truth of certainty they pass beyond all artifacts and creatures and see God without any hows and whys and without any veil.
The twenty-fifth station is gnosis (marifaaht). Through all the creatures of the two worlds and through all people they perceive God, and there is no accusation to be made of their perception.
The twenty-sixth station is effort (jahd). They worship Him in their hearts and in their souls, and there is no doubt in their obedience.
The twenty-seventh station is sanctity (wilayat). This world and the next are not fit to be embraced by their spiritual will, and all of paradise and its bounties are not worth an atom in their eyes.
The twenty-eight station is love (muhabbat). Throughout the whole world they have only one Friend. Their love is one, for both outwardly and inwardly they are with the One. Their bodies melt in joy and their hearts are always happy in the Sacred Presence. They have no thought of children or wife, of the world or of wealth.
The twenty-ninth station is ecstasy (wajd). They are not to be found in the world, nor in the graveyard nor at the Resurrection nor on the straight path (sirat) [bridging over hell and leading to Heaven]. They are in the Most Sublime Presence. Where they reside is only God and them.
The thirtieth station is proximity (qurb). If they say, “0 God! Make all the people of infidelity and rebellion and all the people of polytheism and revolt be forgiven because of us,” the Lord of the Universe will not reject their demand.
The thirty-first station is meditation (tafakkur). Their intimate friend is His Name. Their peace resides in His message.
The thirty-second station is union (wisal). Although their person is in this world, their heart is with the Lord.
The thirty-third station is unveiling (kashf). There is no veil between God and their hearts. If they look below they see as far as the Gaw-mahi [the creature supporting the earth]. And if they look above they will see the Throne and the Pedestal, the Pen and the Guarded Tablet as far as the Sacred Precinct. Nothing is hidden from them.
The thirty-fourth station is service (khidmat). They do not cease to render service for the blinking of an eye. Nor are they for a single moment absent from the presence of the Friend.
The thirty-fifth station is catharsis (tajrid). If they be taken to hell, they say “Greetings!”, and if they be taken to paradise, they say “Greetings!” Neither does paradise cause them joy nor hell fear. They never turn away from His friendship and they possess nothing of all that is in this world.
Thirty-sixth station is aloneness (tafrid). In this world they are strangers among creatures. If they be beaten they will not leave the Path and if they be caressed they will not be fooled.
The thirty-seventh station is expansion (inbisat). They are audacious before God. If the Lord of the Universe sends an angel of death to them at the time of death, they will not obey. Until they hear from the Friend of the world they will not allow their souls to depart. They do not fear Nakir and Munkar and they do not give a thought to the Resurrection. They neither set foot in the Supreme Heaven nor look upon the face of the houris and the heavenly mansions until they have had a vision of the forgiving King.
The thirty-eighth station is the ascertaining of the Truth (tahqiq). They are all in a state of wonder with cries and lamentation. They flee from creatures and hang by the chain of His gate.
The thirty-ninth station is the supreme goal (nihayat). They have reached the inn by the roadside and have cut through the deserts of calamity. With the eye of the heart they have seen God.
The fortieth station is Irfan (mysticism). The arif is he who has become purified of all desire. His inner being is purified from wretchedness. His words are free from inadvertancy, thoughtlessness and calumny. His mind is radiant and his eyes are turned away from the world. He has become instructed with the Truth.
Of these stations, each belongs to a prophet among the prophets - may peace be upon them - the first Adam and the last Muhammad - upon them and upon other prophets and messengers and the angels of proximity be peace. And may God, the Exalted, be satisfied with all the companions of His Prophet. Amen.
[Reference: M. Damadi, Maqaqamat-I abbain-I Abu Said, Maarif-I Islami (Islamic Culture vol.XII, April 1971,pp. 58-62.]