Biko’s Bird

Biko desired to be a spiritual guide, but he attracted no murids. That’s why he became jealous of shaykh ‘Abdullah, the local Sufi master. He tried to discredit him with a trick. When shaykh ‘Abdullah was teaching the local halqa, Biko went to this assembly with a very small bird in his hands. He intended to ask the master if the bird was dead or alive.  In case the shaykh would say that it was dead, Biko would open his hands in order to let the bird fly away. When the answer would be that the bird was alive, he’d quickly crush the bird and thus kill it. In both cases the master would give the wrong answer.  Biko, full…


A certain Sufi remarked that after his death he’d leave a letter in a certain box. When things wouldn’t be easy, then the box should be opened in order to read the letter. Then it so happened that things indeed became very difficult. That’s why the box was opened and the letter was read, stating: “Everything is gonna be all right! I’m certain you’ll find a solution!”

The Shaykh’s Cat

During the morning meditation, the cat of a certain khanegah often caused quite some disturbance. So shaykh Ahmad, the resident Sufi Pir, ordered that the cat always had to be tied up when that practice got performed..  After the death of shaykh Ahmad, the cat still got tied up during the morning meditation. When the cat died, another cat was bought in order to “properly” tie it up during the meditation. Several elaborate Sufi handbooks were written in later ages by scholarly followers of shaykh Ahmad about the symbolical meaning of tying up a cat. 

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 secret of the cook is not to lose your self when you search for yourself. Shaykh Yahya Suhrawardî wrote a quatrain about the right kind of orientation: Hân tâ sar rishta-yi-khud gum nakunîKud râ barâ-yi nîk wa bad gum nakunîRah-raw tuî wa râ tuî manzil tuHushdâr ki râh-i-khud be khud gum nakuni Take care not to lose sight of the origin of your self,Lest, for the sake of good and bad, you lose your self.The traveller, the road and the destination, you are yourself.Take care not to lose the road to your self!   There is another version of the first line, mentioning rishta-yi-khirad [instead of rishta-yi-khud], and this can be translated as ‘the thread of wisdom’ or ‘the thread of the intellect’. What causes us to lose self-mastery?…

The Compass of the Dervish

A governor of Isfahan, after a rich meal, went to take his rest on the cool balcony of his palace. He gave himself up to meditation, for he felt in low spirits. As he reclined on his couch, he was disturbed by a Chishti dervish at his gate who recited in a loud voice the following poem: When you long for union, so your heart is a garden in flower, Dedicate yourself to the searching of the One Who is your Lover. Take this as your compass, guiding you in the right direction: To show you Reality, only the Divine Light has the power. The governor rose in an irritable mood and looked down upon the dervish, who now serenely…

The Quest of the Dervish

A dervish being questioned by a King as to what revelation, in his quest for knowledge, had seemed to him the one most pregnant with meaning, answered thus: I’ll tell you about the second birth of my soul. My body, like a horse, has carried my soul away in the journey towards God, over the land of bodies and the ocean of spirits. When growth here below had attained its perfection, and my ‘horse’ had lived a long time, my soul left it behind and experienced a second birth. My reborn soul entered into the Eighth Climate, closer to its principles and its goal. Thus did it gradually progressed in perfection of the self, in the construction of its inner…

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?”

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 sound of music

A quarrel broke out between two men. Among the bystanders was a Chishti dervish. Just as one of the fighters was about to strike the other man with a stick, the dervish picked up his sitar and plucked a single, clear note. Upon hearing this sound, the angry man lay down his stick and walked away.