The hidden treasure

You’ll remember the hadith qudsi that starts with: ‘I was a hidden treasure and wanted to be known.’ The following poem of shaykh Fariduddin ‘Attar [the Persian text is taken from ghazal 404 on p. 300 of the edition of the Diwan of Dr. Taqi Tafadduli] points to the mysterious contradiction that God is hidden from view while He is manifest in creation. Keep in mind, however, that He wants to be known! You’re within my soul, but my soul has no knowledge of You;You’ve filled the world, but the world has no knowledge of You. Discovering You makes my heart and soul immortal;You’re within my heart and soul, but they have no knowledge of You. Your Path makes the…

The leader of the Group

Just suppose you are able to make an interview with shaykh Junayd (d. 910 C.E.) of Baghdad. What would you ask him? Perhaps some of your questions are similar to the ones as given below: Q: Can you tell us something about your youth? A: I was born and brought up in Baghdad, but my ancestors came from the Persian town of Nihawand. My father was a Qawariri, i.e. a glass merchant. My father died, while I was still a boy. My maternal uncle took me in his home and brought me up. Q: Is it true that you began your studies with Islamic jurisprudence and Islamic traditions on the advice of your uncle, shaykh Sari as-Saqati. A: Yes! I…

The branch and the tree

Caliph Harun ar-Rashid held a vast festival in Baghdad where thousands of beautiful objects, from artefacts to jewelry to precious stones, were on display. The royal invitation was such that anyone could take anything they wished. So people took what they desired, whatever attracted their mind and eyes and heart. The caliph had a slave-girl in his harem. She did not pick up anything. She remained quiet. Harun ar-Rashid turned to her and asked: “Why don’t you also pick up something?” The slave-girl said, “Is it true that, whatever one touches in this bazaar of beautiful things, one owns it for life and that thing owns the owner?” The caliph said, “That is so.” Then the slave-girl placed her hand…

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…

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…

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…

The rude dervish

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.”

20 Poems of Hazrat Baba Farid

I’ve acquired “The Couplets of Baba Farid” as translated by Maqbool Elahi when I was in Lahore. The original Punjabi text is also contained in this book. These poems are included in the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred book of the Sikhs. 1 On the day the body was married to the soul, All the destined breaths were written in a scroll. At the approach of the last breath, The so much heard of angel, brought their counth to death. 2 Rattling bones, this angel takes life away. Tell yourself, while breathing: ‘Destiny holds the sway’. 3 Life is wife and death her husband. Husband takes his wife away. After ‘yes’ to his proposal, How can she hold back the…

Ibn Arabi: Love

Ibn al-‘Arabi has dedicated a complete chapter of his Futuhat al-Makkiya to love, which has been translated by Maurice Gloton as ‘Traité de L’Amour’ (ISBN 2-226-02715-7). He describes 3 types of love (pp. 67-127): 1. Divine love 2. Spiritual love 3. Natural love. For those not knowing Arabic or French Stephen Hirtenstein has described these 3 types of love in his ‘The Unlimited Mercifier’ (ISBN 1-883991-29-3). See pp. 191-203. A condensed description with all the major features of the exposition of the shaykh is given on pp. 194-195: “Know that Love is according to three degrees. (Firstly) there is natural love, which is the love of ordinary people, whose aim is unification in the animal spirit… It ends in the…

The greengrocer’s son and other Sufi tales

Here are a few stories about shaykh ‘Omar Ibn al-Farid. The greengrocer’s son The Egyptian shaykh ‘Omar Ibn al-Farid made a study of ahadith, the traditions of Islam, as well as of adab (belles lettres). By means of ascetic practices he tried to experience spiritual enlightenment, but he was not successful. One day he passed by a law school where he saw an old man, a greengrocer (‘attaar), doing ablutions in a wrong way. Somewhat proud of his knowledge, his piety and his ascetic temperament shaykh ‘Omar Ibn al-Farid criticized the behaviour of this greengrocer. The greengrocer then looked at him and addressed him to his surprise by name: “O, ‘Omar! You will not be enlightened in Egypt. You will…