Improving oneself

One day, one of the disciples of Bayazid (Alaihi Rahma) asked him:

– Will you give a piece of your coat so that I can carry it with me to gain blessing?

Bayazid responded:

– O my son, if you do not improve yourself until you become a perfect person, it is not going to help you even if you cover your entire body with my skin.

The above story about Bayazid Bistami is well known for illustrating that one cannot reach high levels of spiritual attainment only by virtue of externally improving oneself.

“This shall too pass”

The expression, “This shall too pass,” articulates the following: “O human! The sorrows and joys that come to you are but guests. Do not think that they are permanent!” Do not be disturbed by life’s sorrows, because they will go. Do not be too happy with the joys of life, because they too will not last forever. That is, you are a guesthouse and your guests for but a few days are alternatively sorrows and joys.

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The subjects of your guesthouse, that make you upset, do not belong only to you. They also belong to those who will follow you. They are like transferable property. Therefore, they are not worthy of the fixed attention that can lead to drowning yourself in a sea of sorrow.

Maulana Rumi, quddisa sirruh, said:

“O seeker of the Truth! Be happy if you have sorrows! They are the tricks of reunion that the Beloved has set for you since one remembers Allah and seeks refuge in Him when one is overcome by sorrow.”

“Sorrow is a treasure. Your illnesses and the other troubles you face are all treasures.”

“Likewise, sorrow is as a blessed wind that blows on the mirror of the heart to clear the dust from it; never compare it with harmful winds.”

“In this path of love, no one but grief remembers me, thousands of thanks to it.”

Another poet who has understood this secret strove to explain it in the couplet below. The poem expresses that everything that comes from the Beloved is a blessing; even sorrows exist for thousands of good reasons. They are prepared by the Beloved to distinguish between false lovers whose only capital is their pretension and talk, and real lovers who are lost in Him:

“The unkindness of the Beloved is but an expression of loyalty, not cruelty; The one who blames his Beloved with unkindness is not a true lover!”

This is because the sorrows and pains common people perceive as punishment are in fact divine gifts in the eye of the lover of Allah. Sad hearts remember Allah more. They gain nourishment from the fountain of submission. And Allah blesses their hearts with lasting happiness by granting them exceptional gifts because of this spiritual dependence and intimacy.

THE SUBJECT MATTER OF SUFISM

The variety of definitions and explanations that have been provided of Sufism indicate the breadth of its subject matter. It might therefore be said that the subject matter of Sufism is as vast and deep as an ocean; for it covers everything related to the human soul and spirit. Essentially, it sees to the spiritual states passed by the wayfaring disciple during his spiritual journey, in the beings with whom he meantime gets in touch with, in the experiences he encounters and in the ways he finds, knows, and serves his Lord; though this would only be brief number of the otherwise great breadth of topics the subject matter of Sufism includes. Still, at the risk of being succinct, we may nonetheless proceed to expand on the primary subject matter of the Sufi path.

Above all, the Sufi path engages in the spiritual states and stations a disciple passes by in the process of perfecting his unripe spirit to ripeness, by means of purifying his heart and soul. In other words, Sufism deals with the exact ways of purifying the heart and soul and obtaining inner and outer enlightenment, to enable the actions of the Sufi to accord with Divine pleasure and thereby grant him eternal happiness. The gist of this consists in embodying an exceptional moral conduct and tapping in to the knowledge of spiritual realities. At its core, Sufism thus seeks to ensure one tastes the zest of ihsan, of internalizing faith, and enjoying its indescribable pleasure.

To put it in another way, the Sufi path is about the principles and ways to understand the Divine wisdoms, secrets and intentions concealed in names and attributes of Allah, glory unto Him, as well as their abounding manifestations throughout the universe. In this context, Sufism talks about notions related to the unseen, the spirit, the heart and the soul; as well as spiritual experiences like insight (kashf), inspiration (ilham), spiritual witnessing (mushahada), ecstasy (wajd), and love (‘ishq), and no less, the spiritual states attained as a result of undergoing these experiences.

In short, Sufism is concerned with imparting the spiritual ability to behold and witness of the names and attributes of the Lord and to acquire Divine knowledge (marifatullah), offering man a real insight into the uni- verse, the Quran, as well as himself, by taking him through a journey at the end of which awaits spiritual maturity.

  • Excerpt from the book, “SUFISM: A PATH TOWARDS THE INTERNALIZATION OF FAITH (IHSÂN)”

Being a Sufi

Ibrahim Effendi, the renowned Sheikh of the Sufi Lodge of Aksaray, eloquently voices the assorted definitions of the Sufi path in the following lines:

 

Being a Sufi, at the onset, is freedom from material existence, At the end, it is to rise to throne of the heart

Being a Sufi, at the onset, is to strip away the flesh, At the end, it is to enter the Lord’s palace of secrets.

Being a Sufi, is to remove the fading garment of the body, In return for a pure existence, and the light of the Lord…

Being a Sufi, is to kindle the candle of the heart with a flame Divine, And hence throwing it in the fire of love, to burn forever more…

Being a Sufi is save oneself from the grip of the ego, And hence to follow the Law and attain to true faith.

Being a Sufi is acquaintance with the ways of the Lord;
And hence to reach out a helping hand and cure to the needy.

Being a Sufi is to unlock the flesh with the key of the Lord’s Name, And to usher it in through the gates of nothingness.

Being a Sufi is to turn the Sufi words to action, Where each word uttered becomes a portion of life.

Being a Sufi is to learn to interpret the dreams and the word, To become a secret, in one’s own right, in the seat of life.

Being a Sufi is to become joyous and bewildered in Divine presence, To be in amazement before the secrets of the Divine.

Being a Sufi is to cleanse the heart of everything other than the Lord, To turn the heart into His Throne through faith

Being a Sufi is to reach East and West in the blink of an eye; To hence care for all people and offer them shelter.

Being a Sufi is to witness the Lord’s presence in every particle, To hence be a sun shining upon all creation.

Being a Sufi is to understand the languages of all creation; To assume to role of Solomon in the realm of intellect.

Being a Sufi is to seize the firmest handle, to burden the greatest duty; To hence reflect on the Quran and convey the news of Divine Mercy.

Being a Sufi is to treat all beings through the secret name of the Lord; The ability to absorb the commands of the Quran.

Being a Sufi is to seek the Lord in every gaze thrown,
To hence turn difficulty into ease for the fellow human being.

Being a Sufi is to turn the heart into a depository of Divine knowledge To lead a drop, the human being is, into the vast ocean.

Being a Sufi is to burn entire existence in the fire of negation; And then to revive through the light of affirmation”.

Being a Sufi is to call to the path, to say “sufficient is the Lord” (ar-Rad, 43), To nurture delight for the inevitable “return”. (al-Ghashiyah, 28)

Being a Sufi is to return to life after dying a thousand times each day, To act as a reviver for corpses from all creation.

Being a Sufi is to annihilate existence into the existence Divine,
To conceal oneself in the intimacy of being “even nearer”. (an-Najm, 9)

Being a Sufi is to surrender the soul to the beloved and become free; To remain with the beloved forever more.

Being a Sufi, Ibrahim, is to become a real servant of the Lord; To embrace and remain loyal to the Law of Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him).

Adab of the Sunnah: The Fiqh of Islamic Behavior and Character

By Shaikh Nuh Ha Mim Keller

1. It is of the sunnah to be afraid for one’s past, one’s state at death, for calamities, and for treachery and disgrace. It is of the sunnah to be patient and steadfast in worship, in blessings, in tribulations, and in divine punishments in one’s body, reputation, family, or money. It is of the sunnah to have firm patience in avoiding sins, and to make up for one’s past misdeeds.

2. It is of the sunnah to intend worship and obedience to Allah by one’s intention, deeds, words, and one’s every movement and rest; and to be indifferent to this world and desirous of the next, and to reflect carefully upon how one is now, and shall be then, and upon one’s being mustered on the Last Day, being raised from the dead, and questioned. It is sunnah to hope that one’s obedience will be accepted, as well as one’s repentance from disobedience, and to be satisfied with what one has, and be contented with what is generally considered enough for a person, without extravagance and without penury.

3. It is obligatory to be contented with what Allah Most High has destined when it is of His acts, such as illness, disease, poverty, malady, loss of intellect, and so forth; though some say it is but the sunnah to be contented with such things, and that what is obligatory is that one have patience with them. As for acts of human beings that Allah has forbidden, such as unbelief and misguidance, contentment with them is unlawful by consensus (ijma‘) of all scholars, for contentment with unbelief and acts of disobedience is itself unbelief and disobedience.

4. It is permissible to weep for the dead provided one does not commit unlawful things such as calling out to the deceased in lamentation as if he were alive and enumerating his great qualities, or wailing, or bitterness a what Allah has destined and necessarily appointed, or despair which contravenes one’s servitude and submission to Him. It is praiseworthy to weep for the deceased out of mercy for him, as the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said of weeping when he wept for the dead, “This is a mercy Allah has placed in the hearts of His servants”—for it does not negate being content with Allah’s destiny—as opposed to weeping over him because of one’s own loss at no longer having him, which is unpraiseworthy. Al-Fudayl, when his son died, laughed. He said, “I saw that Allah had destined it, and I wished to be pleased with what Allah had destined.” And this is a good state in relation to those who despair. As for mercy towards the deceased, satisfaction with destiny, and praising Allah, which was the state of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), it is more perfect.

5. Patience with one’s personal trials is obligatory by consensus of all the intelligent. As for acceptance of them, it is spiritually higher and closer to Allah to have contentment with them, though not obligatory. Even higher than contentment is to give thanks to Allah for them because of the divine blessing in them, in view of the reward and spiritual ascent in them if one has patience with them. It is unlawful for someone in disobedience to accept his remoteness from Allah. And it is not obligatory for someone being punished by Allah to have contentment with it.