The branch and the tree

Caliph Harun ar-Rashid held a vast festival in Baghdad where thousands of beautiful objects, from artefacts to jewelry to precious stones, were on display. The royal invitation was such that anyone could take anything they wished. So people took what they desired, whatever attracted their mind and eyes and heart. The caliph had a slave-girl in his harem. She did not pick up anything. She remained quiet. Harun ar-Rashid turned to her and asked: “Why don’t you also pick up something?” The slave-girl said, “Is it true that, whatever one touches in this bazaar of beautiful things, one owns it for life and that thing owns the owner?” The caliph said, “That is so.” Then the slave-girl placed her hand…

Stages of the development of the soul

…The one who knows his nafs (soul or self), knows his Lord… In order not to complicate things, I’ll mention only the nafs, which can be translated as soul or self, and not deal with the other faculties like ruh (spirit), qalb (heart), etc. Some Sufis say that the distinction between nafs and ruh is one of degree, implying that the ruh (spirit) is of a higher degree than the nafs (soul or self). It is a wrong habit in fact to translate nafs as “ego”, as in the stages of development of the nafs this refers to the beginning of this development only. There is a saying attributed to the Prophet (but not found in the “Sahih Sitta”, the…

The sufi tale of the city of Azalâbâd

Within the shadow of the city wall, at the place where the cypress trees begin a long dark blue march down the mountainside to the ocean, sits the basket weaver. Daily, as his ancestors have done for generations before him, he squats in the dust, surrounded by strands of coloured straw, weaving not only baskets but tales of love, lust and longing; fabricating from the gossip of passers-by new mythologies and legends. He tells them of their own lives, yet they hear them as the stories of others. As they pass in and out of the city on various errands, some people mesmerized by his swiftly moving fingers stop for a moment, sitting next to him to listen, only later…

How He Won the Office of Grandvizier

A king wanted to appoint a grandvizier. Three candidates competed for the king’s nomination to this high office, but the king was unable to decide which one of them was the most intelligent, and the most suitable for the post. At last, he decided to subject them to a competition, the winner of which would be chosen as grandvizier. The king summoned the three candidates and told them that he had prepared five balls, three of which were white and two were black. He said he would place one ball on the turban of each of the three men. Each of them would be able to see the balls on the heads of the other two, but would have to…

20 Poems of Hazrat Baba Farid

I’ve acquired “The Couplets of Baba Farid” as translated by Maqbool Elahi when I was in Lahore. The original Punjabi text is also contained in this book. These poems are included in the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred book of the Sikhs. 1 On the day the body was married to the soul, All the destined breaths were written in a scroll. At the approach of the last breath, The so much heard of angel, brought their counth to death. 2 Rattling bones, this angel takes life away. Tell yourself, while breathing: ‘Destiny holds the sway’. 3 Life is wife and death her husband. Husband takes his wife away. After ‘yes’ to his proposal, How can she hold back the…

Meeting Khidr

Meeting Khwaja Khidr is the theme in the eight Sufi tales below: STORY 1 Shaykh Khusraw, who was one of the most important companions of shaykh Bahauddin Naqshband has said: “One day I went for a visit to the shaykh and I found him standing at the edge of a basin, while he was speaking to an unknown person. When I greeted him, the stranger walked away and went to another part of the garden. The shaykh told me: “That man is Khidr!” He said it twice. I, however, did not reply and remained silent and with the assistance of God it so happened that I experienced neither any outward attachment nor any inward inclination in my soul to Khidr….

A Lighthouse

A lighthouse is an inspiring symbol. It points to the bestowal of light. It offers guidance and safety to the seafarer. Yusuf ibn ash-Shaykh has been fascinated by the lighthouse of Alexandria. According to some legends the lighthouse was more than 650 meters high; that its marble cladding was so bright that a tailor could thread a needle by its light at midnight; that its beacon could be seen as far as Istanbul; or that it cost 23 tons of silver to build – almost twice the cost of the Parthenon in Athens. Yusuf ibn ash-Shaykh’s Kitab Alif Ba (= the Book of the letter A and B) is more factual. Because of his description the lighthouse of the city…

Hazrat Mian Mir

The following information on the life and teachings of Hazrat Mian Mir has mostly been derived from chapter 111 of a forthcoming publication of Dr. Zahurul Hassan Sharib: Hazrat Mian Mir is a great Pir of the subcontinent of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. He is considered as an outstanding wali (friend of God) and an eminent mystic. He traced his relationship from the second caliph of Islam, Hazrat ‘Umar Farooq. His grandfather was named as Qazi Qalandar. His father, named, Qazi Sa’in Data belonged to the Qadiriyya order of the Sufis. His mother, named Bibi Fatima, was the daughter of Qazi Qadan. She was a very accomplished woman of her time. He had four brothers, namely Qazi Bolan, Qazi Mohammed…

Jami

Jami has written some beautiful quatrains, wherein he deals with important issues of the Sufi path like unity, which are at times expressed in terms of love, lover and the Beloved.

The heavenly witness

Shaykh Awhaduddin Kermani says: ‘Aan shaahed-e-ma’nawi ke jaan-am tan-e-ust’, which means ‘my soul is the body of the heavenly witness’. He adds that the illuminated appearance of the heavenly witness is a co-respondent to his soul. The figure of the heavenly witness can become visible when your lower self gets purified by means of the training along the Sufi path. Spiritual development implies the transformation of the headstrong soul into the pacified soul. According to shaykh Nuruddin Esfarayini in his Kaashef al-Asraar this heavenly witness can already appear to you when you have not yet attained the level of purification of the pacified soul. The darkness available in your soul can have its effect on the heavenly witness, who may…