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…

The four dervishes

Have you read the book attributed to Amir Khusraw called ‘The four dervishes’? It has been translated into English by Amina Shah, the sister of Idries Shah. It is a book of tales with a structure like the one of the Arabian nights (‘the structure is the message’ is a sentence calling for comments!). The peculiar thing that can be said about the original is that it is said to have a healing quality. I have stayed for some time in a sufi khaneqah in India and there I have seen it being read aloud near the bed of someone who was ill. I am wondering about this healing quality. Why is it that this book is used for such…

The Hidden Friends

When the great friends of Allah are left to themselves no one of them would choose for a public display. That is because they know, that Allah has not created them in the first place for themselves or for the service of some other creature. He only created them for Himself and that is why they occupy themselves with the reason for which they have been created. However, when Allah – without that they choose so for themselves – shows them in public by that what he puts in the hearts of his creatures, then this belongs to His affairs. They do not aim for such a thing. When he, however, hides them and makes them insignificant in the hearts…

Training of the heart

Shaykh Nasiruddin Chiragh of Delhi told his mureeds clearly and firmly that the entire structure of spiritual discipline was based on the proper training of the heart. The qibla (focus-point) of the heart is God. The heart is the amir (ruler) of the body. When it turns away from its focus-point, the body also moves away from its focus-point. The anwar (divine lights) first descend on the soul and then they are transmitted to the body, which is subordinate to the heart. When the heart is moved, the body is also moved. Hal (spiritual state) is the result of the purity of action. Hal is transitory and is not permanent. If it becomes so it becomes a maqam (station).

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…

The inner knowledge dealing with thoughts (impulses), their classification and their differences

Our shaykh Abu’n Najib as-Suhrawardi [he is the uncle of the author] has informed us: [now the isnad connecting him with the prophet is given, but it is omitted by me] “The messenger of God said: ‘The devil has the habit of whispering [in the hearts of people and the angels do the same. The whisper of the devils points to evil purposes and declares the truth to be a lie, the whisper of the angel points to good purposes and declares the truth to be true. Whosoever experiences the last type should know that it comes from God and who experiences the first type should take his refuge in God for the devil’. Then he recited: ‘The devil threatens…

The Scholar and the Dervish

This is the recorded interchange of questions and answers of an‘alim (a scholar in Islam) and a dervish: – No one has ever seen you pray! – That is true! – You do not wear a patched cloak, like the other Sufis… – No, I don’t! – You do not use a rosary to remember God… – True! – You do not visit Sufi centres… – No, I don’t! – You do not discuss spirituality, you do not quote from the classical masters, and you do not have a beard! – True, true, true! – Can you tell me why? – Because it would interfere with my spiritual activities.

The best of assemblies: 35 sufi tales

The sayings of the Chishti shaykh Nasiruddin Mahmud, who was known as “The Lamp of Delhi” have been collected in Khair al-Majaales (= The Best of Assemblies ). I remember seeing an Urdu translation of this book in a small bookstall at the dargah of Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti in Ajmer. I did not buy it. The Persian original must be hard to get as knowledge of Persian is leaving in India these days. Some of the anecdotes as given below can be found in Khair al-Majaales, while other stories have been derived from different Chishti sources: Tale 1 In a story in The Best of Assemblies a prince of Rum happens to hear the first line of a qasida of…

A meeting near Vienna

You may know that in the Middle Ages the Turkish armies have stood in front of the gates of Vienna. A sardar of one of these armies happened to meet a European merchant just after concluding a certain battle. For some reason or other he did not kill this merchant. To his surprise it was possible for them to communicate, as the merchant was able to speak fluent Turkish. It so happened that the merchant had spent some years in Smyrna as a friend of Hodja Hasan, who was a Sufi shaykh as well as a successful merchant. This Hodja Hasan had introduced the European merchant to a dervish, Baba Tahir, who had been so kind to accept the European…

The Sufi and the Sinner

There was a man in Amsterdam who was a notable sinner, yet was granted an audience whenever he wanted to speak with shaykh ‘Abd Allah Chishti, as if he was among the Sufi’s inner circle. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of people came to visit the shaykh at one time. Others who were less privileged than this man had to wait days, weeks or even months to see the shaykh. Some of the murids of the shaykh were irritated by the favour shown to this man and complained among themselves: “Is it possible that our spiritual guide and teacher doesn’t know that this man is a great sinner? If our murshid knew, he would certainly not be so friendly with him!”…