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Diary from Hajj Retreat | how does it feels to step into a sufi spiritual group?


. the pilgrimage .

Following some interesting "synchronicities" (on 18 dec 2007) when i finally found myself sitting at the car heading for the hajj retreat at Shadhiliyya Sufi Center in the heart of Napa Valley and spiraling our way to the hill top (where the sufi center is), everything including the narrow paths on the valley, the nature and the land was pregnant with symbolism of a pilgrimage. Interestingly it was the Hajj Retreat coinciding with Eid and Hajj is the sacred pilgrimage.

The sister with me, who has been to the firm before already declared her feelings while we were entering the Napa Valley. "It feels coming back to home"; she was feeling her homecoming as she has also been attracted to be in the presence of the teacher. And when we reached Shadhiliyya land at the evening twilight, we saw our beloved teacher sitting there in his familiar appearance. It was such a blessing to see him again, to be near him.

. meeting pure hearts .

When i first saw the people from Shadhiliyya group at Del Mar, San Diego i was amazed and touched by the sheer purity of the hearts. Almost all of them are born americans and their sincere quest for truth led them to the path which is truly amazing to observe. The reason i particularly make note of born american is because its not easy to transcend the barriers, stereotypes, social and set religious-cultural barriers. This alone speak a lot about their level of sincerity as a seeker which touch me always. Shadhiliyya is not a easy going, new age kind of path. It is very much rooted to islamic tradition and sharia (islamic sacred laws) which makes coming and being in the path more special and challenging for people who are from different faith and cultural background. Their sincere diligence when it comes to learning arabic, saying prayer on appointed times, doing zikr and salawat are something which would even make our beloved Prophet so joyous. All praise belongs to the One Who pulls with the call of love towards Him.

Being someone new to america and also coming from a muslim reigon and cultures it was easy for me to see the contrasts in all its freshness. The sincerity that i saw among the group i never saw before anywhere. And i noticed a lot of remarkable qualities in the people and the group. It also captured my attention to witness the unparalleled bond of bortherhood and sisterhood among the group. The sincerity and purity of the people present there reminded me of the first muslim community. That reminder from San Diego became even more stronger at the Hajj Retreat at Napa Valley.

. reminiscence of the first muslim community in medina .

Time and time again, the place, the people, the sincere hearts of the Shadhiliyya people in the land reminded me the first muslim community in medina. At the retreat, everyones time was spent mostly in the mosque. And the setup of the mosque there is truly humble devoid of unnecessary luxury reminds the first built mosque of islam. And like the first mosque, our mosque at the land was also the locus of our activity. It was the place of worship, place of dhikr and also the place of dining and Eid feast, place of education, place of discussion and also at times place of childrens play-ground. There was absolutely no discrimination among genders with the most perfect mix of modesty. We had people from Jewish faith, people from Christianity in our group and it was so wonderful to be together, to pray together. the atmosphere was pregnant with light and energy and peace.

As people finished prayer by saying greetings of peace on both sides, people embracing each other with pure brotherhood and sisterhood was something so special for me to be a witness to. It transcends the physical because its comes from deeper unity and from hearts which has opened. It felt like a true family. Like the first muslim community of medina i saw many special ones so dedicated to the cause of the path, sacrificing their own self and possessions.

God be my witness, in the hajj retreat i came across the most pure hearted, most beautiful human beings of light that i have came across in my life. I went there with almost no exposure to american sufi converts (reverts) to islam. It was truly an inspiring environment to see people responding to the call of Islam from so many diverse backgrounds. One can't help but be moved with the dynamism and charm of it all.

. the khalwa night .

One of the highlight of the Hajj Retreat was the all night long divine remembrance (Dhikr), sacred chanting by the guidance of our master, may God sanctify his illumination. The khalwa (a sufi practice) was held night before the Eid. The humble mosque as well as the adjacent kitchen of the mosque turned itself into places of universal praise and remembrance of the Divine in unison. With specific instruction for prayer, sacred names and chanting from the teacher we entered the blessed night of khalwa. Ceaselessly and collectively the whole night all prayed and chanted which intended for purification and opening of the heart. Being my first khalwa i truly truly enjoyed it and all praise be to God for this experience.

. reading recipe vs. tasting the food for real .

While as i was pondering about writing my experience both at San Diego where i first get to know Shadhiliyya sufi group directly and later in this Hajj Retreat at Pope Valley, the limitations of human language and its inability to express fully how our hearts feel, was becoming more and more apparent. On top of that, by nature, blog is a place where one can't write in details, it has to be short. So whatever i expressed here is like talking about a delicious food recipe. No matter how nicely one photograph the food, no matter how elaborately one list the ingredients and cooking method, there is nothing like tasting it for real. The experience of tasting the khalwa or dhikr in the presence of a realized sufi teacher or being with a spiritual group where hearts are opened, is like the tasting part. Words are not so reliable when heart-felt feelings are concerned.

SubhanAllah. to God alone belongs all Perfection.

. about Shadhiliyya Spiritual Retreat Center

# earlier post:
. Eid Mubarak from Hajj Retreat
. Sidi Shaykh Muhammad Sa'id al-Jamal's visit

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Technology of the Heart: Diary from Hajj Retreat | how does it feels to step into a sufi spiritual group?
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