Shaikh Rajab Ali Khayyat, who was a tailor by profession, lived a very simple life in a single-story brick home in Tehran. Throughout his life, he never received any formal education in Islam. Nevertheless, the Shaikh traveled on the path of Irfan (spirituality) and achieved an incredible level of nearness to Allah through his actions. The book mentions a number of powerful narrations that serve as the basis of the Shaikh's travels on the path of Irfan and indicate the sublime levels of nearness to Allah that is possible to achieve. In one such hadith, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) says, "If your hearts were not dispersed and you were not so loquacious, you would undoubtedly hear what I hear." Accordingly, the book describes how the Shaikh strove against himself and his carnal desires, with the ultimate goal of removing the veil between himself and Allah. Before mentioning how he attained his goal, however, it is important to note that although the science of Irfan is vast and has been practiced by many different Muslim groups over time, Shaikh Rajab Ali Khayyat explicitly rejected groups and movements that did not rely on the teachings of the Qur'an and the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them).
The fruits of the Shaikh's journey on this path to Allah were fascinating. One of the results of his journey on this path that amazed me was his knowledge of the unseen. For instance, it is related in the book that the Shaikh, through his nearness to Allah, was able to see the Barzakhi state of people. Along the same lines, in one narration, one of the Shaikh's disciples recounts a story in which he was at the Shaikh's house and the Shaikh was reciting Munajaat (whispering prayers). When the disciple looked into the audience, he noticed a man with a shaved beard and began judging the man in his own mind. Just as he thought that, the Shaikh stopped his whispering prayers and said, "His beard is of no concern to you! See what his deeds are like; he may have some good in him which you are lacking." In another narration in the book, a few physicists from Tehran University came to the Shaikh and asked him very difficult questions on magnetic fields. The Shaikh – a modest tailor by profession – put his head down, deliberated for a while, and came up with the correct answers. The Shaikh achieved such an elevated state of spirituality that even Ayatullah Muhammad Shahabadi, Imam Khomeini's teacher of Irfan, offered high praise for the Shaikh and put the Shaikh's accomplishments in Irfan as above his own.
One of the major lessons that Shaikh Rajab Ali Khayyat imparted to each of his disciples and followers was that every action of ours should be done with sincere love of Allah and solely for the sake of achieving nearness to Him. In this regard, the Shaikh said, "You should change your Ustad (master); that is, you have been doing for yourself whatever you did so far. From now on, whatever you do, do it for God and (know that) this is the nearest way to God. Step on your own self, embrace the Beloved." Regarding his work as a tailor, he once said, "Every needle that I drive in the cloth for the sake of other than God, it would stick into my finger." In making du'as (supplications), Shaikh Rajab Ali Khayyat advised his followers not to ask for material things in this world (which he referred to as "the hag"), but only for union with Allah. In his daily prayers, the Shaikh encouraged people to pray with love of Allah; that is, our daily prayers should be like the meeting of a lover with his beloved. He also strongly recommended praying at the proper times, being courteous in prayer with the knowledge that one is standing before his Creator, and having presence of heart throughout prayer. Finally, Shaikh Rajab Ali Khayyat also advised benevolence to people as one of the means of achieving nearness to Allah. In this regard, he said, "If you want to find your way to the truth of monotheism, do good to people." Along the same lines, he would admonish his followers, "Help the creatures of God during the day and beg at His doorstep at night!"
Another main lesson to take from this book is that in order to travel on this path of Irfan, a person need not remove himself from his surroundings and study in the seminary for years. Shaikh Rajab Ali Khayyat lived in a bustling city in Iran, had a full-time job and a family, and interacted with numerous people daily. This is especially relevant for those of us living in North America who may think that traveling on the path of Irfan is unfeasible because of the materialistic and egocentric nature of society around us. Overall, this book is highly recommend for anyone who wants to get a small glimpse of what is possible for those sincere seekers of Allah who choose to travel on this path.