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…

Decline and fall of the Roman Empire

A short time ago the month of Moharram, which marks the start of the New Year according to Islam, has begun. In the past I have been in Ajmer, India when Moharram started and I think back with mixed feelings to it as it was a difficult time for me. In the India where I was Sunni and Shia Islam are not two separate worlds. On the dargah of Khwaja Sahab there is for some time no qawwali. Because I followed everything in a Sufi khaneqah with its stressing of the importance of ‘Ali you can understand that Muharram is an important month. People remember the sad fate of Husain, the grandson of the prophet, who became a martyr in…

The Lamp of Delhi

Story 1 The well-known Suhrawardi poet and Sufi Jamali thus pays tribute to shaykh Nasiruddin Mahmud, the “Lamp of Delhi”: Tanash aadaab zaaher raa aadibi Delash amraaz baaten raa tabibi Cheraaghiye masjed eqsaa’i maqsud Nasiruddin-e-mellat shaykh mahmud His body demonstrated the external rules of good manners. His heart healed the hidden diseases. He was a lamp of the mosque showing the way to the goal: Nasiruddin of the religion, shaykh Mahmud. Story 2 It was a little before noon on a hot summer day in Delhi in the early years of Sultan ‘Alauddin Khalji’s reign, that Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya left his comfortless room on the upper storey, which was burning like an oven, negotiated the clumsy and dangerous staircase, and…

It saved his life

In a restaurant in the West people objected to the presence of some Japanese. A certain man – he was called Laurens van der Post – then strongly objected to this racist behaviour and said to the owner of the restaurant that if the Japanese had to go that he would never visit the restaurant again and he would tell his friends to do the same. It not only worked, but because of talking to these Japanese visitors he got interested in the Japanese culture and even learned the Japanese language. This saved his life years later. He became a prisoner in a Japanese camp in Indonesia and because of his speaking Japanese he could survive as a much needed…

Mystical Marriage

Nekah-ye-ma’nawi oftaad dar din Jehaan raa nafs-e-kolli daad kaabin A mystical marriage was celebrated in religion. The Universal Soul gave the earth as a dowry. I have visited Lahore in Pakistan a number of times. During one of these visits I went to Shaikh Muhammad Ashraf, one of the local publishers to buy some books. I noticed another customer whose pile of books was as large as mine and we started to talk. During a meal together I found out that he belonged to a Pakistani Sufi order. I told him that I had bought The Secret Rose Garden of shaykh Mahmud Shabistari. The above quote is from this book which has become one of my favourite Sufi books. As…

Diwaan-e-Mo’in: Ghazal 30

Here is a ghazal from the Diwaan-e-Mo’in (Persian text: Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Patna): Robud jaan o delam raa jamaal-e-naam-e-khodaa Nawaakht teshna labaan raa zolaal-e-naam-e-khodaa My soul and my heart have been captivated by the beauty of the name of God. My thirsty lips have been comforted by the pure water of the name of God. Wesaal-e-haqq talabi hamneshin naamash baash Bebin wesaal-e-khodaa dar wesaal-e-naam-e-khodaa If you search for union with God, be a companion of His name, You’ll see that union with God is in union with the name of God. Miyaan-e-esm o mosamma chu farq nist bebin To dar tajalliye asmaa kamaal-e-naam-e-khodaa As there is no difference between the name and the Named One, You’ll see in…

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 Magic Jar

It is said that once upon a time a woodseller went to a forest from the city in order to search for fire wood. By chance that day four fairies were resting in he forest. They had placed before them a magic jar. When they needed anything such as silver, gold, meats and all kinds of food and drinks, they dipped their hands into the jar and pulled it out. They were enjoying themselves when suddenly the woodseller walked by them. They invited him to join them. The woodseller spent several days with them forgetting all about his wife and children. A few days later he came to himself and said to them: “I am a woodseller. Unless I take…

Diwaan-e-Mo’in: Ghazal 6

To khaasa ze maa baash ke maa niz toraa aa’im Dar har do jahaan maqsad o maqsud-e-to maa’im You are special to me and I am also there for you. I am your goal and your final destination in the two worlds. Gar yak qadam az kuye talab suye man aa’i Maa sad qadam az raah-e-karam pish-e-to aa’im In case you take but a single step towards Me in your search, I will take a hundred steps out of kindness towards you. Maa ganj-e-nehaanim o to meftaah-e-fotuhi Ham az to baraaye to dar-e-ganj koshaa’im I am a hidden treasure and you have the key to open it, So that for you alone I can open the door to the treasure….

The sufi interpretation of the letter Alif

Hakim Tirmidhi calls the science of letters (‘ilm al-huruf) the science of the friends of God (‘ilm al-awliya). Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi gives it lots of attention by writing about it in his second chapter of his masterpiece “The Meccan Openings”. The alif (the letter a) is isolated in writing. This means that it cannot be written connected to the letter following it. The alif thus symbolizes the transcendent, unqualified essence. The downward stroke of the alif symbolizes universal manifestation from the highest state of Being to the lowest one. Shaykh ad-Dabbagh has been a so-called ummi, an illiterate, just like the Prophet has been called ummi. The shaykh was not truly illeterate, but in his case ummi implies that he…