(Fana'). Self-annihilation or self-effacement or dissolution or passing away from self. Through being joined to Allah, the Real; man is annihilated from himself - the 'limited existence' of the traveller is overpowered by the 'absolute existence' of Allah, so that the traveller becomes unaware of his own self and the creation. Fana' is the last stage on the ascent to Allah. When travelling to the Source, the seeker passes through different levels of fana', each of which brings him closer to his Goal. There are hundreds, even thousands, of fana's. Every time a form of ignorance is removed to be replaced by knowledge, the murid has experienced fana'. He has tasted the annihilation of an ignorance. And, every moment of existence is in fact a moment which is pregnant with its own particular knowledge. So, for the aware one, each moment can be a fana'. However, within the higher teaching of Tasawwuf there are three major types of fana', through which the murid must travel if he is to reach the Absolute. These are Annihilation in the Murshid/Spiritual Guide, Annihilation in the Messenger and Annihilation in Allah.
(Fana Fillah). Annihilation in Allah. This is the final stage on the Journey of Return to Allah. The being of the lover is annihilated and absorbed into the Being of the Beloved. From here onwards there is endless travelling with the Infinite unfolding of knowledge from the Essence Itself.
(Fana fi Rasul). Annihilation in the Messenger, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (May the Salutations of Allah be upon him and Peace). 'No one will meet Allah before meeting the Prophet'. After annihilation into the Self of the Murshid, the seeker journeys, through the Infinite Grace of Allah, to the next annihilation, which is Fana fi Rasul - annihilation in the Messenger. At this point the seeker is pervaded by an overwhelming love for the Holy Prophet Muhammad. This is a love which is greater than anything he has yet experienced. The Holy Prophet becomes dearer to him than life itself.
(Fana fil Murshid/Shaykh). Fallen man cannot, by his own resources, reach Annihilation in Allah.. He requires a Spiritual Guide, a Murshid, who is a pure receptacle for the Divine Outpouring which emanates from the Holy Prophet Muhammad. This Outpouring comes through his Teaching, and from the Divine Book of Allah, the Qur'an, which contains all the mysteries of life and which was brought to all of creation by the Holy Prophet. Annihilation in the Spiritual Guide occurs when this Teaching of the Prophet Muhammad, which is passed on by the Murshid, enters the murid's heart and becomes firmly established. The murid becomes absorbed by the Teaching, through constant meditation and contemplation of Allah.
What is the meaning of Annihilation in one’s Spiritual Guide? We would have to say that the seeker will be absorbed. This is far beyond the way of respect, honouring the wishes of and following the teaching of the Murshid; which is the normal standard in any field of life when we are learning a trade, regardless of what that trade is. In the higher teaching, Fana fil Murshid is a very serious and powerful experience and is one of the keys to developing the higher stages of awareness. The murid, besides the standard way of feeling the Murshid’s presence and keeping his thoughts on the Murshid - in his contemplations may experience the engulfing of himself by the Murshid through certain powerful conditions. Literally, he feels that he is within the physical body of the Murshid. It is not sentimental thinking or respect or being obedient to the requests of the Murshid, but there is a powerful link – as the saying goes “Ruhi ruhaak ya Ruhi”. The two become one. The murid, in his spiritual practices, will experience that he is within the Murshid to the highest degree, so that even when looking in the mirror, he may experience that he is looking with the eyes of the Murshid.
This is a brief indication to the meaning of fana fil Murshid. This experience opens the door to the realities of the Holy Prophet and the accessibilities to the Universal Man, or you could say, The Reality of Muhammad. This transition is very necessary - if one does not experience this; to a certain degree he will always be alienating himself from a part of the teaching - this overpowering experience of Fana fil Murshid.