Jamali

The Indian Sufi Jamali was very fond of travelling and embarked on long journeys. He was a famed poet who was even known in Herat. (my wordprocessor is changing Herat into heart…!). After visiting Mecca and Medina Jamali visited the Maghrib, the Yemen, Palestine, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and even Sri Lanka to see the footprint of Adam. It is said that he travelled in the same manner as a qalandar, and with the dust of his travels on him he arrived in Herat and visited the famous Jami. He sat down next to him. Jami was rather annoyed and asked him what was the difference between him and an ass. Jamali then answered by pointing out the distance between…

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…

Asking for money

An afflicted man presented himself before Alexander, the King of the Universe and asked for a dirhem. Alexander responded in a loud voice to this request: “You ask me, a king like me, so little?” “Well then”, answered the man. “Give me a town and a treasure! That will be enough to satisfy me.” “The emperor of China has received such a gift” – said the king. “Who are you to claim such things?”

The wake-up call by a forerunner

A young man in Tirmiz desired to expand his horizon. Together with some friends he decided to go on a journey in pursuit of knowledge. When he and his friends were about to leave, his mother appealed him to stay as he was the only one who could give her the care she needed. His friends left and leave this story, but the story of the young man now really takes a start. You can imagine that he felt miserable. He decided to help his mother, but at the same time, he was very sorry to see his friends leave. That’s why he felt it necessary to increase his melancholic state by regularly visiting the cemetery of Tirmiz. One Sunday…

The Queen of the Desert

Just suppose you are able to make an interview with Isabelle Eberhardt (1877-1904), one of the changed ones or abdal. What would you ask her? Perhaps some of your questions are similar to the ones as given below: Q: Can you give us some biographical details? A: My Russian mother was called Nathalie de Moerder-Eberhardt. Trophimovsky, my father, was a remarkable man. My father and mother did not marry one another. My father was a former priest of the Russian Orthodox Church. He was an anarchist and raised me as a boy. He taught me Latin, Greek, Russian, German, Turkish and Arabic. My father helped me to read parts of the Qur’an in the original. Its teachings gave me a…

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…

What’s in the Bag?

Nasreddin, carrying a brown paper bag, goes into a coffee shop and orders a coffee. The owner of the shop smiles, gives him the coffee and then, unable to contain his curiosity, says, “So, what’s in the bag?” Nasreddin gives a little laugh and says: “You wanna see? Sure, you can see what’s in the bag”, and he reaches in and pulls out a tiny piano, no more than six inches tall. “What’s that?” asks the owner of the shop. Nasreddin doesn’t say anything; he just reaches into the bag a second time and pulls out a tiny man, about a foot tall, and sits him down next to the piano. “Wow,” says the owner of the coffee shop, absolutely…

Sufi commentaries on the Qur’an

The Sufis have commented on the Qur’an in different ways. Let’s explore some of these esoteric commentaries. 1. CORRESPONDENCE Shaykh al-Qashani is according to me one of the most interesting Sufi commentators on the Qur’an. It so happened that I’ve seen his commentary in a second-hand bookshop and I almost bought it, although I cannot read Arabic. This commentary is wrongly being attributed to shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi. Shaykh al-Qashani however belonged to the school of shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi. Shaykh al-Qashani makes use of the method of tatbiq. His method of interpretation of the Qur’an consists of making correspondences. These correspondences connect the macrocosm with the microcosm. The shaykh explains the Qur’anic verses in terms of spiritual psychology and stages of…

The Secret of the Path

Some people some time ago left a book at our place. It is the book of someone unknown to me, but after some time I found out that both the writer as well as his book are well known in Moroccan Sufism. It concerns shaykh ad-Dabbâgh and his book is called Golden words (Kitâb al Ibrîz). The Shaykh lived at the end of the 17 th century and in the beginning of the 18 th century. I hope to translate some parts thereof as it may also interest you. It starts now: The esoterical science The esotertical science can be compared To 99 lines written in letters of gold And the exoterical science To the hundredth line written in ink….

Jashn-e-Khusrau: The Festival of Khusrau

The first dargah I’ve visited, has been the dargah of Hazrat Amir Khusrau. From that time on my interest in this Chishti Sufi has started. That is why I recently have ordered “Jashn-e-Khusrau: A Collection”. Jashn-e-Khusrau is a very beautifully produced book dealing with the genius of Hazrat Amir Khusrau, but that is not all. It also contains 3 CD’s with the truly excellent qawwali with the poetry attributed to Hazrat Amir Khusrau. It is the type of qawwali you can hear at Sufi dargahs and Chishti khanaqahs. One of these days I was on my way home from work. I was somewhat tired. Suddenly I hoped that “Jashn-e-Khusrau” had arrived and this thought gave me new energy. Entering our…