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…

Allâh

In order to say ‘God’ there are two words in Arabic: 1. Allâh, which is reserved for the unique God and is a proper name, which exists only in the singular 2. Ilâh which is a shared (i.e. not unique) name, which has a plural âliha and thus is susceptible to refer to all gods, although according to Islam there is of course only One. The two terms have etymological connections; some lexicographers say that Allâh is the contracted form of al-Ilâh. The two important questions asked in this respect are what is the origin of the name Allâh, which is of interest to the lexicographers and the other one is what is the meaning and the definition of the…

The inner knowledge dealing with thoughts (impulses), their classification and their differences

Our shaykh Abu’n Najib as-Suhrawardi [he is the uncle of the author] has informed us: [now the isnad connecting him with the prophet is given, but it is omitted by me] “The messenger of God said: ‘The devil has the habit of whispering [in the hearts of people and the angels do the same. The whisper of the devils points to evil purposes and declares the truth to be a lie, the whisper of the angel points to good purposes and declares the truth to be true. Whosoever experiences the last type should know that it comes from God and who experiences the first type should take his refuge in God for the devil’. Then he recited: ‘The devil threatens…

Generosity

Some travellers arrived at the grave of Hatim Tai, a man who was famous because of his generosity. Nothing happened and they became a little bored. One of them even fell asleep. When he woke up he told the others that he had seen Hatim Tai who told him to slaughter one of their own camels and eat it in his name. This they did, but they thought it to be a strange kind of generosity. In the morning, however, the son of Hatim Tai came and presented them with two camels. He had seen his father in a dream, who told him to present two camels to the travellers who stayed near his grave, as a compensation for the…

Your name will resound throughout the world

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…

Fasting in Ramadan

The month of fasting, Ramadan, is often greeted by the Sufis as a good friend, and as a welcome and honoured guest. They love to see this guest come, but also to see him go. The implication of the first is clear, but perhaps not of the second. The end of the month of fasting is followed by a feast. In ordinary terms it means that you can eat and drink. In Sufi terms the feast implies the meeting with the Beloved. The Beloved is then the cupbearer Who pours out the wine of gnosis and love. Jami writes (ghazal # 1-178 p. 201): Helal-e ‘id jostan kaar-e ‘aam ast Helal-e ‘id-e khaasaan daur-e jaam ast The search of the…

The Cherisher of the Poor

Just suppose you are able to make an interview with Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti, who is also known as Gharib Nawaz, the Cherisher of the Poor. What would you ask him? Perhaps some of your questions are similar to the ones as given below: Q: Can you tell us how you started on the spiritual path? A: After the death of my father – I was hardly 15 years old – I inherited a grinding stone and a garden. These formed my source of livelihood. From a very early age I liked the company of dervishes and I always offered them great respect. My meeting with Hazrat Ibrahim Qanduzi was a turning point in my life. It so happened that one…

A judge in Basra

A judge in Basra, which is a city in Iraq, was renowned for his excessive acuteness of mind, observation and penetration. Many stories have been told about him in connection with these qualities, which were really astonishing. It is related of him that he said: “I was never worsted in penetration but by one man. I had taken my seat in the court of judgement in Basra, when a person came before me and gave testimony that a certain garden, of which he mentioned the boundaries, belonged to a man whom he named. As I had some doubts of his veracity, I asked him how many trees were in that garden, and he said to me after a long silence:…

Sufi Travel

Fernando Pessoa has something interesting to say about travel: A glimpse of open country above a stone wall on the outskirts of town Is more liberating for me than an entire journey would be for someone else. I’ve listened today to an author who writes travel books. He was making a long journey by train. He was sitting on some sacks of grain, while being absorbed in his thoughts. His train then passed a city known because of its sacred places for the Sufis. Suddenly it was as if he saw a kind of ‘window’, which offered a view of the world of imagination. Some Sufis have travelled in the beginning of their lives and then became residents, while other…