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The Sufi Garden | Place of Many Meanings

Come to the garden in spring.

There is light and wine
And sweethearts
In the pomegranate blossoms.

If you do not come,
These do not matter.

If you do come,
These do not matter.

- Mevlana Rumi, 
Coleman Barks (Recitation via Youtube)

For the Sufi the garden had many meanings. It was a place of repose, a centrally located space which allowed one to enter any number of buildings, a place of beauty and meditation, a horizon where Allah had indicated the signs of life and a place where one could find the Gardener.

Every tekke, or prayer lodge, of the dervishes (sufis) had a garden which was shielded from the outside by exterior walls. The garden was a heart to the many buildings which, like the projecting wings of a great bird, would make up the tekke. The semahane, (for the Mevlevis the place for turning and for other dervish orders the place for their ceremony of the remembrance of Allah), the majlis (the room for spiritual conversation), the women’s quarters, the kitchen, library, ablution fountain, the sheikh’s residence and the mosque could all be accessed from the garden.

The garden court in the Konya Mevlevi tekke is spacious and in the interior space below below the conical tower, blue-green tiled and fluted with a pointed roof, rests the tomb of Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi. On special occasions a sema would be performed in this garden under a sky dotted with birds and billowing clouds.

        Rumi said: “I am a bird of the heavenly garden,
        I belong not to the earthly sphere.
        They have made for two or three days,
        A cage of my body.”

During these two or three days the dervish remains hidden, his concealment a protection, like the beautiful rose protected by the thorn. He is disguised by clothing or a mental attitude. Many sheikhs wrote verses about love. Like Rumi they were writing of metaphysical love, that which was beyond the physical, but not everyone understood this. Farid ud-Din Attar engaged in the trade of a chemist and had a shop in the bazaar. Others wrote on literary matters, were booksellers, poets, or pursued other callings. They concealed who they really were so as to avoid the “pestering” of worldly persons.

The Prophet Muhammad said: “Allah has hidden the true men of piety.”

Mevlana once said in such a discourse that God had a collyrium which, when applied to one’s eyes, opens the inner eyes, and one is able to see the mystery of existence and know the meaning of hidden things. One can be illuminated by the gaze of a sheikh.

Rumi reminds us that when the inward eye is opened one sees that the flowers that grow from plants are living but a moment, while the flowers that grow from reason are ever fresh. The flowers that bloom from earth become faded while the flowers that bloom from the heart produce a joy. Know that all the delightful sciences known to us are only two or three bunches of flowers from that Garden. We are devoted to these two or three bunches of flowers because we have shut the Garden-door on ourselves. “Behold our words!” Rumi said, “They are the fragrance of those roses - we are the rosebush of certainty’s rosegarden.” The fragrance of the rose can lead one to the rose and even the Rose-seller.

But sometimes Mevlana was anxious that time not be wasted, as he indicates in this poem.

    My poetry resembles Egyptian bread;
    When a night passes over it you cannot eat it anymore.
    Eat it at this point when it is fresh,
    Before dust settles upon it.

For Mevlana the sema was an emotional relationship between man and God. In his Divan he states:

Sema is only for the restless spirit - so jump up quickly, why do you wait? Do not sit here with your own thoughts - if you are human, go to the Beloved. Do not say, “Perhaps He does not want me.”
What business has a thirsty man with such words?
Does the moth think about the flames?
For Love’s spirit, thought is a disgrace.
When the warrior hears the sound of the drum, at once he is worth ten thousand men.

The sema has become a window towards Thy rosegarden; the ears and hearts of the lovers peer through the window.

Several kilometers outside of Konya, sitting peacefully on a hilltop in Meram was the house of Husamuddin, Rumi’s khalifa and confidant. The wooden house was spacious with a generous garden and an orchard. Mevlana often came to this garden to meditate, give spiritual discourse and make a sema where he was joined by many of his disciples. Mevlana turned internally, his arms close to his body holding his robe; not like the turn we see today from the Whirling Dervishes which was created by Rumi’s son Sultan Veled. Mevlana’s nature was filled with kindness and so he allowed his disciples to gently embrace him as he turned and for a short time to turn with him.

A similar movement to this can be seen in the Bedevi Topu as done by the Halveti dervishes. The sheikh breaks the turning zikr circle and holds the hands, crossed at the wrists, of one of his dervishes as they slowly turn together repeating the Name of Allah. The other dervishes form concentric circles around them with the baraka of the inner reaching the outmost circle.

It was on such a summer evening in the garden of Husamuddin that Mevlana began to speak of the Prophet Muhammad. “The Prophet is not called unlettered because he was unable to write. He was called that because his letters, his knowledge and wisdom, were innate, not acquired. Is a person who made inscriptions on the moon unable to write? What is there in the world that such a person does not know, when all learn from him? What can partial intellect have that the Universal Intellect has not? The partial intellect is not capable of inventing anything it has not seen before. Remember the story of the raven: when Cain killed Abel and stood not knowing what to do with the body, one raven killed another, dug out the earth, buried the dead raven and scratched the dirt over the body. From this Cain learned how to make a grave and bury a body. All trades are like this. The possessor of partial intellect needs instruction. Those who have united the partial with the Universal Intellect and become one are prophets and saints.”

Rumi says :

    The one who sleeps in the midst of a garden wants to be
awakened. But the one who sleeps in a prison, to be awakened
is a nuisance.

A hadith of the Prophet Muhammad states: When you pass by the meadows of the Garden, graze! They asked: O Messenger of God, What are the meadows of the Garden? And he replied: The circles of remembrance.

For the Muslim the greatest of all gardens is Paradise. Rumi expresses this with a concise verse:

    The gardens may flow with beauty
    But let us go to the Gardener Himself.

- by Shems Friedlander (credit)

In Quranic spiritual landscape and discourse, Heaven - the Final Place of Bliss for the Returned Soul to their Source is often and repeatedly called as 'Garden' (Jannat). And the Garden of Divine Presence and Bliss is often mentioned as the final abode and reward for the devotees. Manifesting 'the Garden' is also symbolized for opening the Judgment.

And when the Garden is brought near -
(Then) shall each soul know what it has put forward.
- The Quran, 18:13-14

Wa ama man khafa maqama Rabbihi 
wa naha an nafsa AAani al hawa
Fa-inna al jannata hiya alma'wa.

And as for one who fears to stand in the presence of his Lord 
and forbids the soul from low desires,
Lo! the Garden - that is the abode.
- The Quran, 79:40-41

Ya ayyatuha an nafsu al mutma-innatu
IrjiAAee ila Rabbiki radiyatan mardiyyatan
Faod khulee fee AAibadee
Waodkhulee Jannatee.

(To the righteous soul will be said:) "O soul, in (complete) rest and satisfaction!
Come back thou to thy Lord, well pleased (with Him),
and well-pleasing (unto Him)
Enter thou, then, among My devotees!
Enter thou My Garden!"
- The Quran, 89:27-30


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Technology of the Heart: The Sufi Garden | Place of Many Meanings
The Sufi Garden | Place of Many Meanings
Technology of the Heart
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