Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat
I know ‘awliya (God’s close servants) have desires but do ‘arifin (gnostics) have physical desire too?
I pray you are well.
Even Prophet’s Had Physical Needs
The ‘arifin (gnostics) are a class of the ‘awliya. They are humans, which means that they have all of the physical needs and urges other humans have. This is the same for the Prophets, who all have the highest ranks. [Laqqani, Jawhara al-Tawhid]
Spiritual development does not mean shedding one’s humanity. Rather, we see that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) embodied the pinnacle of all spiritual states, yet he was also the perfect embodiment of human traits.
Embracing One’s Humanity
We see this in his sunna. He didn’t reject the needs of the body; he directed them in a manner that was pleasing to Allah. When some young men decided wanted to do more to draw closer to Allah, they decided to shun marriage, meat, and sleeping on a bed respectively.
When the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) heard of this he said, “Why are people saying such things? I pray [at night] and I sleep. I fast [some days] and don’t fast [on others]. I marry women. Whoever is averse to my way (sunna) is [far] from [following] me.“ [Muslim]
Embracing one’s humanity and spirituality is the way of the righteous; each aspect supports the other. Virtuous character and actions make them closer to Allah, and that closeness to Allah inspires them to be better in their character and deeds.
Exceptions Are Possible
It is possible that a particular person could have one of their physical needs dulled by Allah, so they can focus on worship. The great saint, Abu Yazid al Bistami, once asked Allah to remove his need for fulfilling his physical urges but then regretted it after realizing this was not something the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) did. Consequently, this need was dulled within him, such that he was not affected by it. [Qushayri, Risala]
May Allah make us of those who embody all aspects of the way of the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace). Amin.
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani