The Planiverse

“The year is 1981, and in the computer lab of a large university a group of graduate students and their professor are hard at work on the departmental mainframe, graphically modelling an imaginary two-dimensional world. The project is going well, extraordinarily well, when one student suddenly notices that the world they are building on-screen is… inhabited!” So begins A.K. Dewdney’s tale of discovery and communication with the two-dimensional civilization of Arde. Since its original publication in 1984 The Planiverse has developed a kind of cult readership, following in the footsteps of Edward Abbot’s nineteenth-century classic Flatland. As a kind of mental puzzle or brain-teaser, it challenges and delights, inviting readers to imagine just how a two-dimensional world might actually work….

A Peculiar Friend

Among the many darvishes Javad had befriended since coming to Tehran were a number of qalandars – wandering dervishes with no home and few, if any possessions – most of whom were not even members of the Nimatullahi order. These darvishes came to him when they were in need or trouble because they knew that no matter what their difficulty was, he would always be willing to befriend them in whatever way he could, without ever questioning their motives or passing judgment on them. One of these qalandars, a man who Javad had helped a number of times in the past, was named Hajji Mohammad Jafar Kermani. It came as no surprise to Javad, therefore, when he was awoken one…

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…

Early sufis in the Chishti order

Many people think that Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti is the founder of the Chishti order. This is not correct, so in the following article I intend to tell something about his spiritual ancestors and briefly something about their teachings. The Chishti order of the Sufis derives its name from Chisht (pronounce: Chesht, hence Cheshti). Chisht is a small town near Herat in Afghanistan. When travelling and arriving in Herat I intended also to visit Chisht, but it was said that the road was not safe, because of dacoits, so I abandoned the idea. The first one to call himself Chishti was Abu Ishaq Shami. As the name Shami implies he came from Syria or even from Damascus (ash-Sham). He met a…

Thou art the blessing

Yesterday, together with my youngest son, I made a trip to Leyden in order to visit a shop called WARP 9, which specialises in science fiction articles. After having bought a video I persuaded him to come with me to a second hand bookshop as possibly some books in the field of Star Trek could be found therein. We passed the Oriental Antiquarium wherein formerly the famous publisher Brill was settled. (Of course if it was up to me we would also have visited this place, but there are rather poorly equipped in the field of science fiction). In the second hand bookshop my son found nothing that interested him, but I found a real treasure. I found the critical…

Sufi doctrine: Allâh

In order to say ‘God’ there are two words in Arabic: 1. Allâh, which is reserved for the unique God and is a proper name, which exists only in the singular 2. Ilâh which is a shared (i.e. not unique) name, which has a plural âliha and thus is susceptible to refer to all gods, although according to Islam there is of course only One. The two terms have etymological connections; some lexicographers say that Allâh is the contracted form of al-Ilâh. The two important questions asked in this respect are what is the origin of the name Allâh, which is of interest to the lexicographers and the other one is what is the meaning and the definition of the…

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…

The ‘Urs of Sayyid Bukhari

Looking ahead of us, the oasis village of Uch Sharif, nestled deep in the eastern Punjab of Pakistan, emerged from the desert. As we entered it was throbbing with people. Today was not only Friday, Jum’ah, but the ‘urs of a famous saint, Sayyid Bukhari. An ‘urs is a yearly celebration of the death date of a famous wali (friend) of Allah. In Pakistan and the Indian sub-continent Islam was spread, upheld and revitalised by Sufis. The people who loved these men often built beautiful structures around their tombs, sometimes with an adjoining mosque. These darbars as they are called became places for Muslims to come to, and by the life-example and barakah of the dead wali, to remember, possibly…

The heavenly witness

Shaykh Awhaduddin Kermani says: ‘Aan shaahed-e-ma’nawi ke jaan-am tan-e-ust’, which means ‘my soul is the body of the heavenly witness’. He adds that the illuminated appearance of the heavenly witness is a co-respondent to his soul. The figure of the heavenly witness can become visible when your lower self gets purified by means of the training along the Sufi path. Spiritual development implies the transformation of the headstrong soul into the pacified soul. According to shaykh Nuruddin Esfarayini in his Kaashef al-Asraar this heavenly witness can already appear to you when you have not yet attained the level of purification of the pacified soul. The darkness available in your soul can have its effect on the heavenly witness, who may…

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….