Seyyidina (may ALLAH sanctify his precious secret) said : « Know O he who is in pursuit of the path of God, O he who desires the love and the presence of God, know that this is summarized in three stations: that of Islam, that of Iman and that of Ihsane.”
Islam is adoration of God, Iman is orientation towards God and Ihsan is the contemplation of God. These three stations represent the different stages of our path towards God, which are gathered in the Divine Law (Shari’a), the path (Tariqa) and the Truth (Haqiqa).
The result of these three stages is Knowledge, because he who attains Haqiqa automatically attains God, thus he is called Knower of God (‘Arif billah).
All the stages are included in the term of Shari’a because Shari’a represents everything that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) brought us.
Certain people are satisfied with the first stage and think that it is the only one to exist. Therefore, they are called people of the exoteric (Ahlu dhahir) approach.
The second category is that which includes the two stages, that is to say the Law and the path (Shari’a and Tariqa), the people of this category are called Sufis.
The third category is that which includes all three stages. The people of this category are known as Knowers (El Arifin).