Combs

There has been someone who manufactured combs and who had his workshop in the street wherein you could also find his guild. His name was ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (the slave of the Almighty) and he always could be seen in his jallaba, the long dress with the hood and wide sleeves, and a litham, a veil which covered his somewhat severe facial expressions. The material he used for his combs, he derived from the skull of oxes. He bought them from several butchers. He dried the skulls at a rented place, he removed the horns, opened them along their length and straightened them above a fire. The last act, of course, had to be done in a very careful way, as…

The Shaykh’s Cat

During the morning meditation, the cat of a certain khanegah often caused quite some disturbance. So shaykh Ahmad, the resident Sufi Pir, ordered that the cat always had to be tied up when that practice got performed..  After the death of shaykh Ahmad, the cat still got tied up during the morning meditation. When the cat died, another cat was bought in order to “properly” tie it up during the meditation. Several elaborate Sufi handbooks were written in later ages by scholarly followers of shaykh Ahmad about the symbolical meaning of tying up a cat. 

Sufi Meditation and Contemplation

Someone presented a kashkul to me one day. A kashkul is a begging bowl used by the Chishti dervishes. The kashkul is made from a species of large gourd whose shell is sliced in half to create a heavy, oval bowl. It is polished with oil to give it a black sheen and it is easy to clean. It is very practical, because a dervish can accept money in it, but it is also fit to receive morsels of food in it. The dervish makes clear by means of his kashkul, that he is poor, while his Beloved is the Rich One. Recently I’ve received another kashkul. It is the Kashkul-e-Kalimi. It is a Chishti manual dealing with zikr and…

Adherence to habits

Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti has said: “There is no greater or more awful calamity in your own existence than the adherence to habits. There is no poison deadlier than this, that you may desire to enrol spiritual disciples. The traveller in search of the truth who longs to have spiritual disciples does not reach the high station”.

10 Sufi tales about khwaja Khidr

Hakim at-Tirmidhi describes Khidr as the one who travels over land and sea, mountains and valleys searching and longing to meet the friends of God. Hakim at-Tirmidhi tells about Khidr a remarkable tale. Khidr knew from the beginning of time what would happen to these friends of God. He wished to see in his own life what would become of their works. That is why Khidr received such a long life that he would experience all of it up to the Day of Resurrection. Here are more tales: TALE 1 The Chishti shaykh Nasiruddin Cheragh Dehli says (see pp. 13-14 of “The Best of Assemblies”): There once was a dervish, who went into the desert. He there met a Pir….

The Red Falcon of the King

Just suppose you are able to make an interview with Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. What would you ask him? Perhaps some of your questions are similar to the ones as given below: Q: Can you tell us something about yourself? A: Yes! Q: Please do so! A: My name is Usman Marwandi. This implies that I hail from Marwand near Tabriz. I left it in what you call the thirteenth century. Q: Why are you called Lal Shahbaz? A: Lal Shabbaz means the red falcon of the king. I have had one longing, i.e. to return to my Beloved. It so happens that a falcon always wishes to return to the hand of the king. I have always put on…

The best of assemblies: 35 sufi tales

The sayings of the Chishti shaykh Nasiruddin Mahmud, who was known as “The Lamp of Delhi” have been collected in Khair al-Majaales (= The Best of Assemblies ). I remember seeing an Urdu translation of this book in a small bookstall at the dargah of Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti in Ajmer. I did not buy it. The Persian original must be hard to get as knowledge of Persian is leaving in India these days. Some of the anecdotes as given below can be found in Khair al-Majaales, while other stories have been derived from different Chishti sources: Tale 1 In a story in The Best of Assemblies a prince of Rum happens to hear the first line of a qasida of…

The stone and the tree

There was once a dervish in Abadan, whose cell was always surrounded by disciples, people who had come from far and near to hear his wisdom and try to achieve knowledge and spiritual fulfilment. Sometimes he spoke to them, sometimes he did not. Sometimes he read from books, and sometimes he made them perform various tasks. The disciples tried, for decades, to understand the purport of his words, to fathom the depth of his signs and symbols, and in every way possible to get closer to his wisdom. Those who understood what he taught, were the ones who did not spend time trying to puzzle out things. They cultivated patience and attention, and refrained from looking for verbal associations from…

Generosity

Hatim at-Tayy was known for his extreme largesse, which was so great that whenever a man of his circle found himself in dire straits, he would refer to Hatim at-Tayy as the proverbial solver of all problems. Once a man who lived rather at a great distance of Hatim’s dwelling place was sorely pressed from want of funds. For days he fretted and worried about this, while his situation steadily worsened, until one day his wife said to him: ‘Whatever we try to do to pull ourselves out of this trouble, it just gets worse. How long is this to go on? Why don’t you go now and speak to Hatim at-Tayy and ask him to help you for once?’…

Diwaan-e-Mo’in: Ghazal 27

This is a complete ghazal attributed to Khwâja Mo’înoddîn Cheshtî: Az pas-e-parda jamâlî mî-nomâyad kîst ân Ân-ke yak yak parda az rokh mî-koshâyad kîst Who is He Who shows His beauty from behind the curtain? Who is He Who gradually removes the veils before His face? Tâ ba-kaî chûn ahwalân bînî lebâs-e-mokhtalef Ân-ke har dam dar lebâsi mî-nomâyad kîst ân How long will you, like a squint eyed person, see creation dressed only in different, unrelated forms? Who is He Who appears all the time dressed in these outward forms? Jâm-e-maî bar kaf nehâda ‘aks-e-khûd dîda dar ân Har zamân dar bâda-ye-mastî mî-fezâyad kîst ân You see yourself reflected in the glass of wine you hold in your hand, But…