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….

Contemplation and Meditation

The terms contemplation and meditation are sometimes seen as synonyms and sometimes as different Sufi techniques. Mushahadah, ru’yah and muraqabah are words often used for contemplation, while fikr (tafakkur) is one of the terms used for meditation. Al-Jurjani gives a number of descriptions of tafakkur, starting by saying that “it is the application of the heart to the signification of the things in order to attain the object of the search”. It is according to him “the torch of the heart, which makes it possible to discern the good from the bad, and the profit from the loss. The heart that doesn’t meditate, is submerged in darkness”. He ends his explanation thus: “Meditation, it is said to point to a…

Baba Farid

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.”

The Heart

چو بشنوی سخن اهل دل مگو که خطاست سخن شناس نه ای جان من خطا این جاست When you hear the speech of the people of the heart, don’t say it is mistaken. You are not an expert in speech; that is why you are mistaken. Khwaja Hafez calls the Sufis ‘people of the heart’. These experts don’t consider the physical heart to be the real heart. Shah Ne’matollah Wali states: ‘The heart [qalb] is an incorporeal luminous substance [jawhar-e-nurani], intermediate between the spirit [ruh] and the self [nafs]’. Shaykh Ibn al-’Arabi says: ‘Were it not for the excess of your talking and the turmoil in your hearts, you would see what I see and hear what I hear’. Turmoil…

10 Sufi tales about khwaja Khidr

Hakim at-Tirmidhi describes Khidr as the one who travels over land and sea, mountains and valleys searching and longing to meet the friends of God. Hakim at-Tirmidhi tells about Khidr a remarkable tale. Khidr knew from the beginning of time what would happen to these friends of God. He wished to see in his own life what would become of their works. That is why Khidr received such a long life that he would experience all of it up to the Day of Resurrection. Here are more tales: TALE 1 The Chishti shaykh Nasiruddin Cheragh Dehli says (see pp. 13-14 of “The Best of Assemblies”): There once was a dervish, who went into the desert. He there met a Pir….

Diwaan-e-Mo’in: Ghazal 30

Here is a ghazal from the Diwaan-e-Mo’in (Persian text: Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Patna): Robud jaan o delam raa jamaal-e-naam-e-khodaa Nawaakht teshna labaan raa zolaal-e-naam-e-khodaa My soul and my heart have been captivated by the beauty of the name of God. My thirsty lips have been comforted by the pure water of the name of God. Wesaal-e-haqq talabi hamneshin naamash baash Bebin wesaal-e-khodaa dar wesaal-e-naam-e-khodaa If you search for union with God, be a companion of His name, You’ll see that union with God is in union with the name of God. Miyaan-e-esm o mosamma chu farq nist bebin To dar tajalliye asmaa kamaal-e-naam-e-khodaa As there is no difference between the name and the Named One, You’ll see in…

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…

The works of shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi [part 9]

Sa’diyya Shaikh has translated a number of poems wherein shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi tells that he has transmitted a khirqa to a female murid, like Dunya, Siti al-’Aysh, de daughter of Zaki al-Din, Zumurrud, Jamilah, Safari, Fatima, Safiyya and other women (Sufi Narratives of Intimacy – Ibn ‘Arabi, Gender and Sexuality; pp. 102, 137-138, and 229-231). Here is an example: When you, the ultimate point of my pain,And you, the best of people in meaning and form,Adopted my good qualitiesAnd you, the best of people in meaning and form,And her qualities had already possessed my heart,And if you wanted to verify thatIn itself it would be a piece of news.From the most illumined of garmentsI wrapped her in the raiment of…

Mystical Marriage

Nekah-ye-ma’nawi oftaad dar din Jehaan raa nafs-e-kolli daad kaabin A mystical marriage was celebrated in religion. The Universal Soul gave the earth as a dowry. I have visited Lahore in Pakistan a number of times. During one of these visits I went to Shaikh Muhammad Ashraf, one of the local publishers to buy some books. I noticed another customer whose pile of books was as large as mine and we started to talk. During a meal together I found out that he belonged to a Pakistani Sufi order. I told him that I had bought The Secret Rose Garden of shaykh Mahmud Shabistari. The above quote is from this book which has become one of my favourite Sufi books. As…

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…