There has been a single event, which has pointed out to me my conscious beginning of my inner search. It was the death of my father. I come from a family with good education, they are religious without overdoing it and my life has been a very protected one. I was 25 years old and I wanted to start a job, but the death of my father was a big shock to me. That is why I started to search, I needed to look for a meaning, I wanted to know what was the meaning of my life.
A little later I was no longer satisfied with my job as an engineer, with my life in Paris, with my friends… That is why I left Paris and left my job and went back to my region of origin, the Provence. I wanted to take a sabbatical leave, to have a break, in order to find out what I should really do. I was in fact searching something, without knowing what it was. I was thinking of having a completely different job, of starting a new profession… I wanted to fill a void.
After my return to the south I met old friends. One of my former friends made an astrological chart for me, which was truly interesting. I started to wonder about my relations with my family and thought about the difficulties I had with other people, with exterior relations. Until now my life had mostly been directed toward the exterior side of things and as I wanted to find a meaning behind my life it brought about a return to the interior dimension.
All of this lasted some years. I had undergone psychotherapy and similar things. Little by little I had begun to understand some things in regard to my parents, concerning myself, my way of functioning… Before that I never asked questions to myself, and from that time on I tried to live in a better way and to improve myself. I got engaged in several psycho-physical therapies. I’ve tried all kinds of things. It helped me quite a bit.
I started to appreciate solitude more and more, whereas in the past I did not like it at all. Before the ages of 25-30 I was unable to spend a single evening on my own. In the past, whenever I was alone I made lots of phone calls. Now of course people could phone me but I never phoned them. I also made lots of music as it was a means to be occupied with something else.
I started with practising tai chi chuan and studied the Chinese teachings regarding energy. I then met people who were occupied with activities, which were more and more in accordance with my new orientation in life. That what from the start was only working to improve myself on the psychological level, became – because of these meetings, group activities and several books that I’ve read – a true spiritual quest, a searching for ultimate meanings. Because of meeting some people and reading some books I was able to reconcile myself with Christ and to connect him with a notion of spiritual guidance.
Little by little I started to feel hopeless and felt that I was unable to canalise what took place. As for my job my life was chaotic, going from one thing to the next without ever being satisfied. As for friendship a similar story could be told because of the same reason. Three years passed without friendship. I even started to think of the monastic life.
For me the monastic life represented ‘the spiritual path’. The spiritual path manifested itself in France as the monastic life. I was, however, open to all religions without being attached to one of them. In spite of my acknowledging of Christ I did not consider myself to be connected to the catholic religion.
I was practising meditation and tai chi chuan often in nature and in solitude, but there was always some dissatisfaction. At certain moments I felt a prayer arising in me. I did not say: “I am going to pray” – as it really was an interior vibration. I was experiencing a very strong inner state.
A little later I got into contact with the Sufi path.
One day I was told by a friend with whom I had practised tai chi chuan, that he had organized a concert with Sufi music in Marseille. The samaa’ included a group called Jilani. The experience was like a beam of lightning. Beyond the young people who were singing I was aware of a sacred dimension, which could be experienced. The joy, the brotherhood, the link that tied them together …, it really hit me. I was someone who really preferred solitude, but still I was touched by this group who moved about in this sacred dimension because of their song.
During the night the singers all slept with my friend with whom I myself stayed. We spent the rest of the night in talking – it happened during the month of Ramadan – and because of this exchange I had the impression that I had found my spiritual family. These people spoke the same language of the heart. I had at last found people with the same aspiration as I was having, with the same way of seeing life and its assignments.
Things went fast hereafter. The next morning all the singers had left and I was together with the wife of my friend who was a disciple on the same path. That made it possible to have more talks. I felt very much at ease. I had seen the rosaries, the photos of the shaykh, the way of praying and I saw a few things at the level of practices. I did not ask so many questions, but the wife of my friend noticed that I had a strong inner urge. That is why she invited me for another meeting.
I found myself amongst a group of people who from one point of view had nothing in common with ascetics: there was joy, singing, lots of food… It was so different from the things I had aimed at, that, in fact, it was quite funny. It was a meeting of great simplicity. We were not there to talk about theories. Practical things connected the people in this gathering to a sacred dimension. The fact that the singing and the invocations took place in a group, by people close together, appealed very much to me. I was also inwardly moved by the prayer. I started to come to the meetings of the disciples.
When being engaged in this way I was certain to have found my way. It was as if the mental part in me, which was always very powerful, was silenced: I experienced a kind of inner peace. About Islam I can say that I could never have imagined that I would become a Muslim one day. I did not know really know Islam. I experienced no difficulty at all in becoming a Muslim; on the contrary the practices of Islam really touched an inner cord.
In this period my inner and outer agitation came to a halt. This was also true at the professional level as I went back to a position as an engineer. I, also, could never having imagined myself to get married and to have children as I always told myself that I was not ready.
I returned to a life of greater simplicity. I had the impression to have arrived somehow…, not at the end of the journey, but I had boarded a train and I had a seat in it which suited me. Three years have passed, but I clearly feel that I have stepped into a train, which moves forward at great speed!