Dervishes conceive a hierarchy of spiritual beings residing in a world not perceptible to the senses.
Their center is Mecca, but they are said to be present at the same time at any other place of the world and the universe.
Although they are invisible they can be seen with the ‘eye of the heart’. The spiritual condition of the dervishes is decided by them; they are Spiritual Masters.
At the top of the hidden hierarchy is the Qutub or Pole. He is attended by three Nujaba.
Below them are four Autad or Pillars.
Next in rank come seven Anvar or Lights.
The following category of entities are called Abdal or Helpers and number forty. Though they are considered to reside in a different dimension, they manifest themselves also in persons here on earth. When any one of them dies his place is filled by one selected from mankind.
Further we find seventy Nughaba or Nobles and three hundred Naghabat or chiefs. All of them have ‘the power to bind and to loose’.
Next comes Khidr as the Master of Saints.
Below him are the Auliya or Saints.
All the beings of these different categories have the power to appear in any form of their choice.
A description of the saints attributed to the Prophet reads: “Their faces are luminous and they sit on thrones of light; they are not afraid when men are afraid, nor do they grieve when men grieve.”
AI-Hujwiri wiri writes in his Kashf al-Mahjub (Translation R.A. Nicholson. Luzac & Co. London 1976.): “Among them (saints) there are four thousand who are concealed and do not know one another and are not aware of the excellence of their state, but in all circumstances are hidden from themselves and from mankind.”
Spiritual exercises can develop an inner organ of perception called the qalb or ‘heart’. Divine light enters a person through the qalb. The qalb is the first of the lataif.
Literally latifa (Arab. sing. of lataif) means delicate, subtle, penetrating. In Sufism the lataif are organs of higher perception and subtle energy. They are not located physically in the body. Their activation leads to higher psycho-physical stages. Naqshbandis consider five lataif. Other orders consider six or only two lataif.
It was in the Prophet’s ‘heart’ that Jibrail placed the Qoran on the Night of Power in a cave on Mount Hira in 610 A.D. When Jibrail first opened Muhammad’s ‘heart’, Muhammad felt as if he were suffocating, as if he were about to die.
Development of the qalb should lead to a state of perpetual awareness, even while asleep or dreaming. A hadith relates that the Prophet once told the Companions: “My eyes sleep, but not my ‘heart’. Sleep is confined to my eyes. It does not affect the consciousness of my ‘heart’.” Zikr exercises not leading to a transfusion of subtle energy of the practitioner’s being are quite ineffectual.
While reciting a collection of zikrs the disciple can practice rabita or the visualization of a mental picture of his teacher.
Development of the ‘heart’ and further transformation of one’s self can be achieved through muraqaba or concentration of the disciple on the Presence of a saint in order to benefit from his vibrations. When the saint has left his physical body muraqaba can be practiced an his grave.
Tawajjuh happens when a saint with his psychic powers actively assists a disciple to realize a higher stage.