Service

In former days there was a man named Hamid. In his youth he lived in Delhi as the servant of Tughril, that same Tughril who late in life had himself crowned as king in Lukhnauti. In short, this Farid became the servant of that Tughril, and he remained in his service till one day, as he was waiting on Tughril, a form appeared to him. ‘O Hamid,’ it asked, ‘why are you waiting on this man?’ Having spoken, it disappeared. Hamid was puzzled about who this could be. Then a second time, as he was waiting on Tughril, again that form appeared and asked: ‘O master Hamid, why are you waiting on this man?’ Hamid remained perplexed. Then he saw…

When a man comes to see you

A man who lived in Algeria heard all kinds of stories on the many supernatural powers of a certain friend of God who lived in Fez, Morocco. Because of these stories an image had been created by him of an extraordinary and very charismatic man. He undertook a travel in order to meet this friend of God. The Algerian was very interested in his secrets. When he arrived in Fez, people pointed out the house of the saint of God. According to his imagination there would be two doorkeepers. He knocked at the door of the house and the friend of God opened the door. The visitor asked him to be taken to his master as he was convinced that…

Diwaan-e-Mo’in: Ghazal 29

This is a complete ghazal attributed to Khwâja Mu’înuddîn Chishtî: Ay ki andar ‘ain paidâ’î nihâni kîstî Har chi dar fahm u gumân âyad na ânî kîstî Who are You, Who are both clearly manifest and hidden? You, Whose existence is beyond intellect and imagination? Jumla-yi-ashyâ zi hadd-i-wasf shud ma’lûm-i-khalq Ay ki bîrûn az hadd-i-wasf-i-bayânî kîstî All things are distinguished in creation by the extent of their definitions. Who are You, Whose description is beyond any limitation? Ay ki dar har mazhar-i-naw’î zuhûrî karda’i Dar libâs-i-hajla ‘ayân ‘iyânî kîstî Who are, Who manifest Yourself in each kind of place, Whose eyes are manifest behind the curtain of the bridal chamber? Nai badan az tu khabar dârad na jân az tu…

Contemplation and Meditation

The terms contemplation and meditation are sometimes seen as synonyms and sometimes as different Sufi techniques. Mushahadah, ru’yah and muraqabah are words often used for contemplation, while fikr (tafakkur) is one of the terms used for meditation. Al-Jurjani gives a number of descriptions of tafakkur, starting by saying that “it is the application of the heart to the signification of the things in order to attain the object of the search”. It is according to him “the torch of the heart, which makes it possible to discern the good from the bad, and the profit from the loss. The heart that doesn’t meditate, is submerged in darkness”. He ends his explanation thus: “Meditation, it is said to point to a…

The Greatest Providence (Al-‘Enaayat Al-Kobraa)

Ibn al-‘Arabi writes: “Know, o true listener, that the people of God, when the Real One draws them towards Himself…, He places in their hearts something calling them to seek their happiness. So they seek after that and inquire about it until they find in their hearts a certain tenderness and humility and striving for peace and release from the state of ordinary people with their mutual envy, greed, hostility and opposition. Then when they have completed the perfection of their moral qualities or have nearly done so, they find in their nafs something calling them to solitary retreat and withdrawal from ordinary people. So some take to wandering and frequenting the mountains and plains, while others do their wandering…

Qawwali

The qawwals in the subcontinent of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh often sing the following poem, which is attributed to Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi, but is not found in his Divan: To karimi man kamina barda am Laiken az lotf-e shoma parvarda am Zendagi amad baray bandagi Zendagi bi bandagi sharmendagi Yad-e u sarmaya-e iman bovad Har gada az yad-e u soltan bovad Sayyed o sarvar mohammad nur-e jan Mehtar o behtar shafi-ye mojreman Chun mohammad pak shod az nar o dud Har koja ru kard wajh Allah bud Shahbaz la makani jan-e u Rahmatal lil ‘alamin dar shan-e u Mehtarin o behtarin-e ambiya’ Joz Mohammad nist dar arz o sama’ An Mohammad Hamid o Mahmud shod Shakl-e ‘abid surat-e ma’bud shod…

The Far and Near side to Madness

The work of the philosopher Wouter Kusters consists of making an attempt to understand the ins and outs of madness. Psychiatrists easily prescribe medication, but remain unaware of what this different state of consciousness really implies. Kusters intends to develop a kind of common ‘language’ regarding the alpha and omega of madness [Wouter Kusters: Filosofie van de waanzin; 2014:23]. J.W. Perry in his The Far Side of Madness [1974:8] writes: “What do we make of the fact that, when out of their senses, some people have experiences perhaps of beauty, perhaps of terror, but always with implications of awesome depth, and that when they re-emerge out of their craze and into their so-called normal ego, they may shut the trapdoor after them…

Self-mastery

The secret of the cook is not to lose your self when you search for yourself. Shaykh Yahya Suhrawardî wrote a quatrain about the right kind of orientation: Hân tâ sar rishta-yi-khud gum nakunîKud râ barâ-yi nîk wa bad gum nakunîRah-raw tuî wa râ tuî manzil tuHushdâr ki râh-i-khud be khud gum nakuni Take care not to lose sight of the origin of your self,Lest, for the sake of good and bad, you lose your self.The traveller, the road and the destination, you are yourself.Take care not to lose the road to your self!   There is another version of the first line, mentioning rishta-yi-khirad [instead of rishta-yi-khud], and this can be translated as ‘the thread of wisdom’ or ‘the thread of the intellect’. What causes us to lose self-mastery?…

In the darkness I was given the water of life

Sa’di has written: “I have travelled in many lands, I have visited many peoples and plucked an ear of corn from every cornfield, for it is better to go barefoot than to wear tight boots, better to endure the hardships of travel than to stay at home… And I would add: with every returning spring one needs must choose a new love – for last year’s calendar, my friend, is of no use today!” Sufis have travelled a lot. For them travelling is a spiritual practice. Here is an account of such a travel. A Chishti shaykh made a travel and arrived in the house of one of his mureeds. A small ceremony was taking place starting with the recitation…

Discerning your thoughts

Najmuddin Kubra has given a short summary of the subject of discerning one’s thoughts: The first is the thought that is from God, and the sign of that thought is that it enters the heart spontaneously, and one should not deny that thought. In reality one cannot do so, but that is the practice of beginners, that they do deny it, because the beginner has not yet distinguished it from the thoughts that come from the master. The second is the thought from the heart, and the third is the thought from the angel. These two are close to each other, yet between the thought from the heart and the thought from the angel there is a subtle difference. You…