Monsieur de Fortgib

When Deschamps was a little boy in Orleans, he was treated to some plum pudding by a neighbour, Mr. de Fortgibu. Ten years later he again encountered plum pudding in a restaurant in Paris. He wanted to order some, but the waiter told him that another customer had already ordered the last remaining dish. Deschamps looked; it was Mr. de Fortgibu who had ordered the dish. Years later Deschamps was again offered some plum pudding at a gathering. As he ate, he recalled the earlier incidents and told his listeners that the only thing missing at that moment was Mr. de Fortgibu. Suddenly the door burst open, and a very old man verging on senility staggered in. Who should it…

Shah Jahan’s humility

While resting one summer’s day during the heat of the noon hour, the great Mogul king, Shah Jahan, was suddenly overcome with thirst. He clapped his hands for a servant to bring him water, but none of the palace servants happened to be nearby. Rising from his couch, he looked in the water jug that was always kept in his chamber. It was empty. “Water I must have,” said the king, “and that at once. And the only way to get it now is to go to the well and draw it up myself”. Leaving his royal chamber, he went to the well and drew up a bucket filled with fresh, cold water. But as he leaned forward to draw…

The greengrocer’s son and other Sufi tales

Here are a few stories about shaykh ‘Omar Ibn al-Farid. The greengrocer’s son The Egyptian shaykh ‘Omar Ibn al-Farid made a study of ahadith, the traditions of Islam, as well as of adab (belles lettres). By means of ascetic practices he tried to experience spiritual enlightenment, but he was not successful. One day he passed by a law school where he saw an old man, a greengrocer (‘attaar), doing ablutions in a wrong way. Somewhat proud of his knowledge, his piety and his ascetic temperament shaykh ‘Omar Ibn al-Farid criticized the behaviour of this greengrocer. The greengrocer then looked at him and addressed him to his surprise by name: “O, ‘Omar! You will not be enlightened in Egypt. You will…

Knowing his sufi classics

A man once asked Abe Lincoln what should be engraved on a honorary plaque for his office. He wanted Lincoln to furnish words of wisdom that would be helpful in all circumstances. Lincoln thought about it for a while, then said: “This too shall pass!” You know that these words are in fact the advice given by shaykh Fariduddin ‘Attar in Persian: In ham migozarad

The Secret

Sîdî Mubârak ibn ‘Alî was a Sufi shaykh. A certain seeker by the name of Sîdî al-‘Arbî met him in a mosque in Fez. He asked the Sufi: “Teach me how the secret reaches those who are its depositaries?“ Sîdî Mubârak gave him this answer: “I want you to sneeze now!” Sîdî al-‘Arbî then responded: “I do not need to sneeze at this moment” Sîdî Mubârak retorted: “It is the same for me. I am not able to teach you what you’ve asked for at this moment”.

These dervishes are like apes

While it is good that murids in the beginning of their path emulate the behaviour of their murshid, it is important that in due course of time this doesn’t turn into a blind following (taqlid) of their spiritual guide and teacher. A Sufi shaykh visited some dervishes in Misr during his travels. When he was with them, he taught some apes to do a dance. They learned to do it very quickly. Dressed in golden robes and wearing impressive crowns, they went through the steps and, for a while, put on a very good show. This show took place in front of the dervishes the shaykh had visited. They responded with enthusiasm to the dance of the apes. Something unexpected…

The sufi tale of the city of Azalâbâd

Within the shadow of the city wall, at the place where the cypress trees begin a long dark blue march down the mountainside to the ocean, sits the basket weaver. Daily, as his ancestors have done for generations before him, he squats in the dust, surrounded by strands of coloured straw, weaving not only baskets but tales of love, lust and longing; fabricating from the gossip of passers-by new mythologies and legends. He tells them of their own lives, yet they hear them as the stories of others. As they pass in and out of the city on various errands, some people mesmerized by his swiftly moving fingers stop for a moment, sitting next to him to listen, only later…

Chishti stages of love – Part 2

The stage of exclusive attachment to the Beloved also has five phases. 1. The first phase of exclusive attachment to the Beloved is called mu’aanadat (enmity). What happens that when the lover moves in company, she or he feels ill at ease with strangers and is afraid of being laughed at. People become her or his enemies and are prone to ridicule this lover. To explain this the author of Resaala-e-‘eshqia (The Epistle of Love) has quoted the following verse of Qur’an 22:52 We have not sent a messenger or prophet before you but when he recited the devil would intrude into his recitation Yet Allah annuls what the devil has cast. Then Allah establishes his revelations. Allah is All-knowing,…

When a man comes to see you

A book on Sufism that I’ve edited came out several months ago and I put a copy thereof in the mailbox of a friend, who had made 2 of the photo’s that were used in the book. A week later I found out that he was not at home as I received a letter from Bokhara in Uzbekistan. He had travelled to this place (he told me when he came to visit me) in order to go to Qasr-e-Arefin, where you can find the tomb of shaykh Bahauddin Naqshband. You may know of the Khwajagan, the ‘Masters’, one of them being the murshid of Khwaja Abu Ishaq Shami Chishti, the founder of the Chishti order. Several centuries later Bahauddin Naqshband…

Diwaan-e-Mo’in: Ghazal 27

This is a complete ghazal attributed to Khwâja Mo’înoddîn Cheshtî: Az pas-e-parda jamâlî mî-nomâyad kîst ân Ân-ke yak yak parda az rokh mî-koshâyad kîst Who is He Who shows His beauty from behind the curtain? Who is He Who gradually removes the veils before His face? Tâ ba-kaî chûn ahwalân bînî lebâs-e-mokhtalef Ân-ke har dam dar lebâsi mî-nomâyad kîst ân How long will you, like a squint eyed person, see creation dressed only in different, unrelated forms? Who is He Who appears all the time dressed in these outward forms? Jâm-e-maî bar kaf nehâda ‘aks-e-khûd dîda dar ân Har zamân dar bâda-ye-mastî mî-fezâyad kîst ân You see yourself reflected in the glass of wine you hold in your hand, But…