The meaning of the number four

In all kinds of cultures the number four is closely connected to the order of the world. Think of the 4 phases of the moon, the four heavenly directions, the four winds, etc In Maya cosmology the 4 is very important. The Maya settlements were ordered according to the divine plan: four ways who lead from the holy tree to the 4 directions with guardians at the 4 ends of the village. Examples of the Chinese, the Celts, the Etruscian civilisation, the Byzantines (think of the four-cornered structure of the old Byzantine church), the Hindus and so many others can be given and all of them stress the importance of the number four. And we have not yet spoken about…

The Helper of the Religion

Just suppose you are able to make an interview with Mulla Nasreddin. What would you ask him? Perhaps some of your questions are similar to the ones as given below: Q: Many countries claim you to be their citizen. In different countries like Iran and Turkey the local people say that your grave can be found. Are you a world citizen avant la lettre? A: Moi? After quitting Bokhara I have repaired first to Istanbul. Then I have disturbed the peace successively in Baghdad, Medina, Beirut and Basra, I caused pandemonium in Damascus, then dropped in at Cairo, where I held the office of chief judge of the city. I will not tell you whom I judged and how I…

Jamali

The Indian Sufi Jamali was very fond of travelling and embarked on long journeys. He was a famed poet who was even known in Herat. (my wordprocessor is changing Herat into heart…!). After visiting Mecca and Medina Jamali visited the Maghrib, the Yemen, Palestine, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and even Sri Lanka to see the footprint of Adam. It is said that he travelled in the same manner as a qalandar, and with the dust of his travels on him he arrived in Herat and visited the famous Jami. He sat down next to him. Jami was rather annoyed and asked him what was the difference between him and an ass. Jamali then answered by pointing out the distance between…

The tale of the Water of Life

Once, not so long ago and not so far away, Yahya and both his brothers were wandering about looking for water. After a lot of walking they saw a tree standing alone, far away from any other. They were very thirsty and tired, so they sat down under the tree. Presently, when they felt better, the two elder brothers said to each other: ‘Let us go on further and leave Yahya here, as he will only be troublesome to us, for he cannot walk as fast as we can. And, if we do find water, why should we have to have one third each instead of half?’ So, when the younger brother slept, they both ran off and left him….

Self-mastery

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?…

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…

Persian translation of Grandfather’s Oven

تنور پدربزرگ خام بُدم، پخته شدم، سوختم من دیر به کاروانسرای قونیه رسیدم. به همین دلیل صبحِ فردا نزد منیر شاه رفتم. متوجه شدم که کتابی میخواند و کنجکاو بودم بدانم چه میخواند. چند ساعت بعد دوباره او را دیدم. روی نیمکتی رو به روی مسجدی که مقام حضرت شمس تبریزی در آن قرار داشت، نشسته بود. در حال خواندن همان کتاب با جلد قرمز رنگ بود. دیدار سوم در باغ مَرام قونیه اتفاق افتاد. من توصیف این باغ را از اِولیا چَلَبی خوانده بودم و به همین دلیل به آنجا رفته بودم. مردم قونیه برای لذت بردن از زیبایی باغ و آواز پرندگان به آنجا میرفتند. منیر شاه باز هم آن کتاب را میخواند. او متوجه من شد و…

Eight Chishti stages

The Chishti shaykh Hamidoddin Naagawri (d. 1276) spoke about these eight stages of the path: 1. KNOWLEDGE: Without it you cannot go straight. 2. WORK: Without it you cannot produce intention. 3. CORRECT INTENTION: Without it work becomes worthless. 4. SINCERITY: Without it love does not become manifest. 5. LOVE: Without it meditation does not become correct. 6. MEDITATION: Without it progress on the path is deficient. 7. PROGRESS: Without it you cannot open the door of the divine abode. 8. THE OPENING OF THE DOOR: Without it the goal of the traveller will not appear. The goal is that you every day recite: Everything upon it is perishing, But the face of your Lord. Next to this you should…

It’s Time

مسکین معین در یک غزل بنمود اسرار ازل بشنو کلام لم یزل از کسوت گفتار او Mo’in, the dervish, has presented in a single poem the secrets of eternity. Listen to these words of eternity, clothed in the sound of his words. [Dîwân-i-Mo’în] The Sufis mention various concepts of time like, ân, dahr, zamân, waqt, qidam, abad, azal, hîn, mudda and imtidâd. G. Böwering in his Ideas of Time in Persian Sufism writes: “The philosophers had explained time; the mystics set out to conquer it.” [p. 217 of Classical Persian Sufism: from its Origins to Rumi]. Let’s start with the creative moment, ân [آن]. This moment is different from any before it. This moment is different: it’s now! If you…

The trunk and the thieves

One day three thieves entered the effendi’s house. The effendi had seen them and had hidden himself in a trunk. The thieves searched everywhere for something of some value. At last, discouraged, they opened the trunk. “What are you doing here in the trunk?” exclaimed one of the astonished thieves. “Excuse me,” said the Effendi politely. “Knowing that you couldn’t find anything valuable in my house, I was so ashamed that I hid myself”.