A Friend of the Friends of God

Just suppose you are able to make an interview with Annemarie Schimmel (d. 2003). What would you ask her? Perhaps some of your questions are similar to the ones as given below: Q: How did your love for Islam and Sufism start? A: Since I was seven years old I wanted to study Islam. It started with a story called ‘Padmanaba and Hassan’, which I read in a book of fairytales, which I had inherited from my grandfather – the book is from the year 1870. In this tale, which is similar to a tale of ‘The Arabian Nights’, a young man from Damascus finds a spiritual guide in India, who initiates him and takes him to a magic world….

20 Poems of Hazrat Baba Farid

I’ve acquired “The Couplets of Baba Farid” as translated by Maqbool Elahi when I was in Lahore. The original Punjabi text is also contained in this book. These poems are included in the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred book of the Sikhs. 1 On the day the body was married to the soul, All the destined breaths were written in a scroll. At the approach of the last breath, The so much heard of angel, brought their counth to death. 2 Rattling bones, this angel takes life away. Tell yourself, while breathing: ‘Destiny holds the sway’. 3 Life is wife and death her husband. Husband takes his wife away. After ‘yes’ to his proposal, How can she hold back 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…

My visit to mysterious tribes

In a book of the founder of the Theosophical movement, Madame Blavadski called ‘Mysterious Tribes’ (in fact it is a book in German) I read about two curious tribes the Kurumbula’s and the Toda’s. They live, according to the book, in the Nilgiri’s in the South of India. The region is taboo for visitors. Of course, when the British still ruled India, an adventurous Englishman did not care about the taboo and even was all too eager to organise an expedition to this area. The people who carried his luggage became very afraid when they came near this forbidden region. It was said that you had to pay with your life when you entered it. There were tales of gods…

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…

A pair of trousers

Mawlana Shamsuddin Mohammad Yahya was an intimate friend of Mawlana Sadruddin Nawli. Both of them used to hear quite a lot about the spiritual greatness of Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya. They had never met him. One day, when they came to Ghiyaspur to wash their clothes, they decided to go to Nizamuddin Awliya to see what kind of dervish he was and to find how much learning and knowledge he possessed. But they felt annoyed by the type of devotion that so many people offered to Nizamuddin Awliya. They considered it to be contrary to Islam. That is why they would only say ‘Peace be with you’ according to the Islamic precepts and then sit down. As soon as Nizamuddin Awliya…

Burhanuddin Gharib

Burhanuddin Gharib (d. 1337) was a disciple of Nizamuddin Awliya. His love for the samaa’ (Sufi music; audition) was only surpassed by his love for his spiritual guide. When he was in the company of Nizamuddin Awliya he was so concentrated upon him, that he noticed nobody else present. He was very popular among the Chishtiyya of his time. Amir Khosraw and Amir Hasan were his personal friends. Nasiruddin Cheragh of Delhi used to stay with him. He had the utmost respect towards his spiritual guide, Nizamuddin Awliya. He never sat with his back towards Ghiyaspur, where Nizamuddin Awliya lived. ‘Ali Zumbeli and Malik Nusrat, who were related to sultan Alauddin, were probably jealous of their co-disciple and complained about…

The rude dervish

A poorly dressed dervish came to Baba Farid who gave him something and permitted him to depart. The dervish remained standing and asked the shaykh to give him the comb, which he had taken out from its cover and placed on the prayer-carpet. As the comb was not worth anything and had been long used by the shaykh, he did not reply to the request. The dervish began to shout loudly: “If the shaykh gives me this comb, he will receive plenty of blessings.” “Be off”, Baba Farid replied, “and do not disturb me any more. I throw you and your blessings into the river.”

Initiation

The ceremony of the initiation can be different in each Sufi order. It may start with a short speech of the shaykh to his mureed-to-be wherein some of the qualities that he or she should emulate, are mentioned. Thereafter the newcomer has to say two cycles of prayer. Then he or she has to sit in front of the shaykh with his/her right hand in the hand of the shaykh and then recites some verses of the Qur’an like: – sura Fatiha (Qur’an 1:1-7) – sura Jonas (Qur’an 10:1-109) – The fist 10 verses of sura The Victory (Qur’an 48:1-10) – The 56th verse of sura The Confederates (Qur’an 33:56) – The final 3 verses of sura The Rangers (Qur’an…

Revelation and Inspiration

Poets write inspired poetry, but from where do they receive this inspiration? And how to become the recipient of inspiration? A disciple of the Iranian poet Sa’ib once composed the following absurd verse: Seek for the bottleless wine from the wineless bottle! Sa’ib immediately responded with the following: Haqq râ zi dil khâlî az andîsha talab kon Seek for the Truth in the heart, which is empty of thought. Hâfiz is considered to be one of the greatest among the Sufi poets. A Chishtî pîr made it clear that this famous poet was not always considered to be a good poet: “It so happened one day that Hâfiz was ridiculed to such an extent that he could not bear it….