Effort and Natural Aptitude
There are some people who attain exalted spiritual station without effort and striving on their part. Their very nature is such that without any effort or striving, they love God and come to have such spiritual relationship with the Holy Prophetsa as can never be surpassed.
As time passes, their inner fire of love for God continues to grow stronger and with it grows the fire of love for the Holy Prophetsa. In all these matters God becomes their Guardian and Provident.
When that fire reaches its climax, they fervently desire that the glory of God be manifested upon the earth, and this becomes their greatest delight and their ultimate purpose. Thereupon God’s signs appear for them on the earth. God Almighty does not manifest His grand signs, nor does He convey information of great future events to anyone except those who are wholly lost in His love, and are as desirous of the manifestation of His Unity and Glory as He Himself is.
They are unique because special Divine mysteries are revealed to them and the unseen is disclosed to them with the utmost clarity. No one else is honoured in this unique way.
[Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 22, p. 68]
The Sufis have mentioned two ways of spiritual progress – effort and natural aptitude. Effort is to embark upon the way of Allah and His Messenger out of a wise choice. As God says:
That is: ‘If you wish to become the loved ones of Allah, then follow the Holy Prophetsa.’
That perfect guide is the Messengersa who endured such calamities as have no equal, and did not pass one day in comfort. Only those can be counted his true followers who follow every word and action of his with the utmost effort. God does not love the slothful and those who have no desire to encounter hardship. Such people will only incur the wrath of God Almighty.
In order to carry out this Divine commandment of following the Holy Prophetsa, the seeker must first study the whole life of the Holy Prophetsa and then follow in his footsteps. This is the way of a seeker. It is fraught with calamities and hardships; it is only by enduring them that a person becomes a seeker. The rank of those invested with natural aptitude is higher than that of the other seekers. God Almighty does not treat them as mere seekers but Himself exposes them to calamities and draws them towards Himself through His eternal magnetism.
All prophets were so drawn towards God. When confronted with calamities, the human soul is illumined by undergoing such hardship, just like iron and glass, which, though they have the quality to shine, but become capable of reflection only after being polished to the extent that they begin to reflect the features of anyone who stands before them. Spiritual exertion and toil act like polish. The heart too should be polished until it develops the quality of reflection; which in other words means:
The heart of the seeker is a mirror which is so polished by calamities and hardships that he begins to reflect the qualities of the Prophetsa. This stage is reached when, through striving and repeated efforts at purification, all impurities are washed away. Every believer is in need of such cleansing.
No believer will attain salvation without becoming a polished mirror. The seeker carries out this polish himself and endures hardships by virtue of his own pursuits, but the one with a natural aptitude is subjected to hardships. God Himself becomes his Polisher and, polishing him with diverse types of calamities and hardships, bestows upon him the qualities of a mirror. The end result of a seeker and one possessing natural aptitude is the same. Hence, righteousness has two aspects: effort, and natural aptitude.
[Malfuzat, vol. 1, pp. 29-28]