Tuesday, June 29, 2010

at any point of time

The sufi is the son of the Moment,
O companion! saying 'tomorrow' is not among the conditions
for (being on) the Path.
 - Rumi, Mathnawi 1:133

The Sufi is of the River, not of time, for ‘with God is neither morn nor eve’: there the past and the future and time without beginning and time without end do not existed … He (the Sufi) is son of that ‘moment’ by which is to be understood only a denial of the divisions of times, just as ‘God is One’ is to be understood only as a denial of duality, not as a description of the true nature of Unity.
- Annanda Coomaraswamy, Time and Eternity

At any point in time, if one focuses only in the moment (as the only time that exist for real is the moment, is now) - if one intends  to live with awareness, moment to moment (waqt in arabic, dam in persian): there are three mode of being that one can pursue. Or said in another way, there are three adabs (noble etiquette) with which one can engage with the moment:

1) Either one can be creative and create something - creativity being a Divine Quality, it is a holy participation in co-creation with the Divine. There are Divine qualities that human being share when he is creative. Such qualities of God are al-Khaliq: The Creator, the Planner; al-Musawwir: The Fashioner, The Bestower of Forms; az-Zahir: One Who make thing manifest.

When one is engaged on meaningful creation, when one create something which bring joy unto others be it a work of art or a beautiful piece of music - one is doing justice to one's existence.

2) One can be engaged in the moment at service or attend to one's responsibility. Life by design throw us many responsibilities. From managing our finance to taking care of our sub-ordinates, responsibilities at workplace, taking care of family and so on and so forth. The moment we come out of our childhood (which is the only time we are free from the bond of responsibility) we are given responsibilities to attend to.

Many responsibilities may seem to be of worldly nature (from purely spiritual perspective, but hey, what is spirituality and what is not, you may ask!), but they are extremely important in our journey  or passage of life because they all offer us something to learn from, and to know ourselves better through participation.

Someone may ask, what about enjoyment of life, entertainment, laughter, good times for the self? Some may complaint,where then in all of this 'everything spiritual business' the room for it if we are being so serious all the time? Of course there is room for that. Its also part of one's responsibility to give that food to the soul that nourishes it. The Prophet said, 'everything has a right, and your body also have a right over you that you should give it rest'. Similarly the spirit needs special nourishment like company of like hearted friends who make us happy, good music that elevate the soul, good laughter with dear ones - and attention should be given that we give that to ourselves. From that perspective Rumi said,

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

In the Last Testament its mentioned again and again that God loves those who are careful to their duties including the duty to our own selves. It doesn't say what kind of duty because truly there are no distinctions between responsibilities / duties. Thats why from Islamic perspective, any responsibility is seen as a sacred trust - be it taking care of children or safe keeping someone else's stuff. Everything that one engage and participate is sacred trust, including one's life because they are all given by the Sole Giver for an appointed time and all must return to Him at the end.

3) One can try to attain nearness to God through contemplation, silence, prayer and / meditation. While the first and second mode is in the arena of doing - the third is ideally in the arena of non-doing, and more of being. From one perspective it also need deliberate will power in the beginning to be in prayer and contemplation or even to intend to be still. Every time we enter into prayer, meditation in heart-centeredness - our spirit advances - so in that sense, some sufis call it walking, walking of the spirit towards divine proximity.

Our modern day life style often place disproportionate value on activity over non-doing. We have thus become conditioned to think that only being busy busy and busy is the mantra of life. Yet Christ, one of the greatest reformer for mankind, praised the tranquil Mary over the busy Martha:

"Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one this is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

In the context of this saying of Christ, Mary, was sitting at the feet of the noble teacher, Christ, and had chosen the "one thing needful," to be present, to be aware and she has chosen at that moment, contemplation over action. 

Apart from these three modes: creative, service and stillness, there is of course another by default mode, which is being in ghaflat or being in forgetfulness. Forgetfulness of what? Forgetfulness of our own self, forgetfulness of the Divine. It is by default because if we are not in awareness, not attentive - then we go back into this slumber of forgetfulness about who we are, why we are here and what is Real.

In the revelation the divine voice speaks, "Do not be like those who forgot GOD, so He made them forget themselves (anfusahum). These are the corrupt (fasiqun) (of heart)." [59:19]

There is a great mystery revealed: the mystery of how our being forgetful of God automatically makes us forgetful of who we are, make us forget our realness. There is this strange amnesia paradox where the forgetfulness of our own being is directly related to forgetfulness of the Divine.

For the advanced sufis, there is only one sin, only one error that the soul can commit - and that error / mistake / fall is forgetfulness.

    There is only one virtue     
              and only one sin
                    for a soul on the path:
    virtue when he is conscious of God          
              and sin when he is not.
- Abu Hashim Madani

The breath in which we forget God is a waste, the breath in which we are mindful of God is a breath well spent. And if you look out into the world, if you look to the people of the world (and also if you look at yourself, if we look at ourselves) we can see how much we are constantly living in forgetfulness.

A lover of God once said, "Sometime at the end of a day I suddenly remember how I've spent the whole day without remembering Him. How remorseful my heart becomes - because I haven't remembered the Beloved and the whole day is gone." We say, "tawba astaghfirullah", 'we turn (to The Center) and ask (His) forgiveness' for every occurrence of forgetfulness.

Just as when human lovers when they are freshly in love, they constantly remember each other, ceaselessly they speak to each other (for real or in their mind), constantly picks up the phone and simply want to be connected, wants to know how the beloved is doing in every moment - for the sufis the whole point of remembrance can be understood by that symptoms of human lover when they are newly in love. When one is  in love, the heart wishes only one thing, that is to remember the beloved - exactly in the same way, sufis remember God in every moment because of their love for God. Remembrance is the sure sign of love and its only more true in Divine Remembrance in response to Divine Love.

When the heart loves someone, the heart remembers. Its universal. Same applies for the human heart. Even the heart can be pregnant with divine love through remembrance. So this is a two way road.

From the moment of time’s first-drawn breath,
Love resides in us,
A treasure locked into the heart’s hidden vault;
Before the first seed broke open the rose bed of being,
An inner lark soared through your meadows,
Heading toward Home.
- Bibi Hayati

For some - the love affair happens first, then one continue to remember. And by remembrance, the love deepens. Again, through remembrance, the love also come into the heart because remembrance and love two being function of the heart, have direct relationship. So the sufis speak much about remembrance and sufi teachers in the beginning, in the middle and in the end of the Path, give their student the practice of remembrance so that the soul can be pregnant with Divine Love.

In the revelation thus we also find, the divine Beloved calls us, "remember Me and I will remember you." in other places It says, "remember much".

Remembrance also is reciprocated. God says: "I am with My slave, when he remembers Me within his nafs (self) I remember him within My Nafs (Divine Self)”

A Sufi tries his or her best not to waste my moment in which he or she is not remembering God. So for example when he walks down the street or wait in a traffic jam, if you are close to his heart, you will hear that its beating with His Name, 'Allah', 'Allah', 'Allah'. Its as if his soul is constantly whispering to the Only Beloved, "O Beloved I remember You! Hear how Your Name is upon my lips, Look  how Your Name is etched upon my heart and See how my soul longs for You!" Allah! Allah! Ya Allah!

All of the three modes are needed in life. Instead of heedlessness, a true seeker uses his moments and breath wisely. "O you who believe, keep your duty to GOD, and let every soul consider that which it sends forth for the morrow, and keep your duty to GOD. Surely GOD is Aware of what you do." [59:18] A true seeker is also mindful of his or her death, certain about the death that must and will come to each one of us. And a seeker know very well that a new reality awaits beyond death and death is just a stepping stone to a new reality. And since the seeker is mindful of death and doesn't delude himself or herself about this reality by denying or by being forgetful about it, it only gives the seeker more reason to be mindful of each moment. For sufis, death is something not to shun or not something to forget. For a true sufi, death, being the polar opposite of life, is exactly necessary as a reminder that life is precious, as a reminder to practice Carpe Diem! to seize the day and  Carpe Momentum! seize every moment. To say YES to Beloved in everything that comes from Him.

And life being so precious one either engage in creation, in creativity, or do good to other, be in service or attend to one's responsibilities no matter how little or large they might be and thirdly to constantly strive towards Gnosis, towards knowing one's self and towards the intimacy of God.

The sufis say, everything in this world is a metaphor for the Beloved. May we be given the vision to recognize that. "And We set forth these metaphors to humanity that they may reflect." [59:21]

# Reference:
* The Bond with the Beloved - Mystical Relationship of the Lover and the Beloved by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
* Surah al-Hashr, translation by Maulana Muhammad Ali
* Self of Allah
* Breath of Divine Mercy Pin It Now!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sufi Wisdom from Zan-Noon al-Masri

On Sufism

Zan-noon Al-Masri was asked about the character of a Sufi and responded, “Sufi is the one that the ‘seeking’ (of the Lord) does not tire him and anything taken away from him does not faze him. They are a nation that chose the Lord above all and the Lord has chosen them above all”.

He has said in other occasions, “Sufi is the one whose words are the truth within him i.e. says nothing that is not within him and if he is silent the way of his dealings are indicative of what is within him and (his actions) speak of his cut-off desires.” (Source: Al-Lama’)

Zan-noon said, “The one who loves the Lord avoids lowering himself in front of others. The needlessness is the decisive sign of a friend of the Lord”. (Source: Helyatol Awlia)

Befriending the Lord

Yusuf Bin Hussein Razzi quoted Zan-noon saying, “If the Lord loves you, has Qayrat (Divine Sole Vigilance: wants no other than Itself around) for you and once you love It, brings you much fame and calls out the people to come to you”. (When Beloved loves and closeness of Qorb (Divine Nearness) is felt, then due to the nature of Tawhid (Oneness) less and less people are left (thus approaching 1) so your are betrayed, forgotten… But when you love the Beloved the perpetual force of Jazb (gravitation) between you & Beloved, pulls others in and many come to you…)

Moreover he said, “There is nothing more endearing than the love of Lord but within the heart fits not this Love and the love of something else”.

Sincerity in Friendship of the Lord

Zan-noon said, “Once I met an ailing person and in the midst of the discussion I said, “It is not sincere not being patient enduring Its (Lord’s) Dharb (beat or hit)” and he replied immediately, “It is not sincere to befriend It and not to revel within Its Dharb (beat or hit)”. (Dharb here means the beating or impact of the hardship and afflictions. When the hardships come your way and your heart is strained, you find the Beloved midst the troubles in close proximity)  (Source: Sharh Ta’r-rof)

The Goblet of Mahab-bat (Divine Love)

Zan-noon said, “The lover of the Divine Lord is not given the goblet of Mahab-bat (Divine Love) unless & until the blood within his heart is smoldered (sever heartbreak)”. (Source: Tazkeratol Awlia”, Attar)

And again said, “The lover of the Divine Lord tastes not the goblet of Mahab-bat (Divine Loving) until the Khawf (Affright) boils his heart (hurt his feelings)”. (Source: The Lantern of Guidance, Kashani)

Ons (Divine Intimacy) with the Lord

Zan-noon has said on Ons (Divine Intimacy), “If the Lord makes you intimate with people really means you are scared away from Itself, and if you are scared of the people then It has brought you to Its Ons (Divine Intimacy)”. (Source: Al-Lama’)

Zan-noon said, “Whoever is in Ons (Divine Intimacy) with the Lord, finds himself intimate and drawn to pleasant and beautiful things. But within this there are secrets for the Aref (Divine Cognoscenti) and they should not be divulged to people at large in fear of evil-end and afflictions”. (I guess he means to become intimate with beautiful things may misguide a person into lewdness or lusts)

Zan-noon said, “If you are intimate with people, if you are not greedy then you are becoming intimate with the Lord”. (Indeed it is the Ons the Divine feeling of intimacy that draws us to other people, as long as you do not abuse them with greed & lust, and then you are becoming more and more intimate with the Lord) (Source: Tazkeratol Awlia)

On Intimacy with People

Zan-noon said, “Whomsoever is intimate (Ons) with people shall reside upon the throne of Pharaoh, vice-a-versa if left people alone and contained his Self then resides upon Ikhlaas (Sincerity). Whomsoever receives his due portion and not more than what he needs fears nothing and if all is lost still has the Lord. Once the Divine Presence of the Lord is felt how can there be fear of loss (or poverty)?” (Source: Tazkeratol Awlia)

About Zan-Noon al-Masri, may Allah sanctify his soul

Sheikh Thawbaan Ibn Ibrahim a.k.a Zan-noon (Zun Nun or Dhun Nun) also known as Abul-Faydh or Abu-Abdullah - was one of the Sufi Sages of 3rd century of Islam around 800 (CE).

In the beginning of his life he was a slave but later on freed. He has been renowned amongst the Sufis as a pious, righteous, scholar and a literary figure. He also was an expert in Alchemy and medical sciences of the time. He was the student of the luminary Malek Bin Anas, the founder of the Maleki Mazhab of Islam and his name is mentioned in the Mowatta the guiding book of Maleki followers.

He is the founder of Sufism in Egypt and one the first preachers of the principles of Sufism in that country. Irts believed that Zan Nun was the first (or prominent pioneer) to use allegorical and symbolic language in sufi discourses.Some people hold that it was he who introduce Neo-Platonic philosophy in Islamic mysticism.

About his nickname Zan-noon

People said once Zan-noon was on a ship sailing with number of great wealthy people and a pearl was lost. He was accused of theft thus was humiliated and bothered a lot. Finally he raised his head to the skies and prayed, “Allah you are witness for me (my innocence)” when suddenly many fish put their heads out of the water with a pearl in their mouths. Zan-noon took the pearls and gave it back to the accusers. Therefore his nickname is Zan-noon from Koran [21:87]:

And remember Zan-noon, when he departed in wrath: He imagined that We had no power over him! But he cried through the depths of darkness (fish belly), "There is no god but thou: glory to thee: I was indeed wrong!"

In Arabic Noon means fish and Zan-noon means the possessor or owner of the fish.  (Source: Rayhaanatol Adab)

His Sufi Methodology

His words were all about Tawhid (Oneness) and Tajrid (Yearning closeness to the Divine without the hope for recompense & reward) and believed that secrets of Mahab-bat (Divine Love) should not be divulged to the public indiscriminately.

In meditation, solitude and Ibaadat (worship) he was unsurpassed. Once he was found kneeling by a wall for very long period of time and he was asked why? And responded, “In Moshaahedat (Divine Perception) I would like to be slave-like".  (Source: Safinatol-Awlia)

His Sufi Literary Innovation

He is acclaimed to be the first to take Sufism into Egypt. And all the entrances of phraseology of worldly love (beloved, love and yearning etc.) into Sufism are attributed to him. He made a glossary of such terminologies, which was spread around the Islamic world rapidly, and the Farsi speaking poets immediately employed these literary innovations with much skill.

The concept was not to allow the general public to understand the inner meanings of the poems e.g. wine, beloved except those with Sufi training.  (Source: Mulla Sadra, Henry Carbon)

His Reputation

Most of the Egyptians considered him a disbeliever and many were bewildered at his actions. While he was alive most people hated & denied him. After he died people uncovered what he was all about (a true believer) and this was due to his extreme secrecy about his righteousness.  (Source: Tazkertol Awlia) 

- Credit: Untired with Loving, Dara O Shayda, may Allah bless him for his wonderful and tireless contribution

That Taste

He who tasted the everlasting love
Shall be the sincere friend to all the slaves

He who tasted the everlasting love
Shall belittle himself to all the slaves

He who tasted the everlasting love
Shall be the solace on the paths of the slaves

He who tasted the everlasting love
Shall be intimate with the Lord of the slaves.

- Original: Zan-Noon al-Masri
English version by Dr. Javad Noorbakhsh

The haunt of the hearts of the gnostics

The haunt of the hearts of the gnostics is a mead
Celestial -- beyond it are the veils of the Lord.
His nearness their sole boundary from the world of the Secret --
Melt they would with love if their moment had come.
For their thirst is a cup purely filled from His love,
And the cool of a breeze beyond words to describe.
Hearts near the Throne-Lord -- they had sought to be near --
With what blessings the King in their nearness hath graced them!

Pleased with them, He hath pleased them unto ultimate pleasure:
The Beloved's welcome is the abode wherein they dwell,
Most penetrant their resolve; by it they have travelled,
By it their thoughts pierce to what is hidden by the Veils.
Their secret ever goeth between the Beloved and themselves,
From other than nearness by nearness made safe.

- Original: Zan-Noon al-Masri
English version by Martin Lings
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Sunday, June 27, 2010

In the Name of God | Sharifah Sazita

O Muhammad
You are the Perfume of God's Essence
The Rose of His Heart

Yet you were betrayed by your own people
Those who profess to follow you and to love you
Those who profess to believe you
Those who killed your family
Those who beheaded your grandson
Those who tortured and turned into captives and slaves
the women and children of your family

In your name
In the Name of God

O Isa
You are the Light of God
God's Love

Yet you were betrayed by your own people
Those who profess to follow you and to love you
Those who profess to believe in you
Those who pretended not to know you when you were taken away
To be tortured and killed

In the Name of God

O Musa
You are God's Wisdom
His Strength

Yet you were betrayed by your own people
Those who profess to follow you and to love you
Those who profess to believe in you
Those who made a golden cow into their god
the moment you turned your back
Those who have broken every single commandment God has given them
Those who think nothing of stealing land from the innocent
Those who humiliate, torture and kill the innocent

In the Name of God

I feel your great pain
I feel your deep sorrow
I weep endlessly from your pain and sorrow
I feel the agony of your betrayal
In the hands of those you trusted
Those you guided
Those you loved
The anguish in your hearts is also in mine

I have nothing to offer You except -
My heart
My faith
My love
My loyalty
My life

In the Name of God.

~ Sharifah Sazita ~
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Friday, June 25, 2010

Ishq Baazi Mein - Sufiana Kalaam by Abida Parveen

Ho, jee maula, maula, maula, maula, maula
Mera maula, maula

O my Master, O Master!
My Beloved Master, my Lord!

Mein hoon mashhoor ishq baazi mein
Khaasa dard-o-gham majaazi mein

Look how I'm all consumed in this divine love affair!
(For that love) sorrows and pain infinite have evanescent

Maula, maula…

My Master, O Master!

Woh meh dey dey, maula, jo pehlay Shibli aur Mansoor ko di thee
Toh baydam bhi, nisar-e-murshid-e-meh khana ho jaye

Give me that wine O my Master, that you've given to Shibli and Mansoor
So I (Bedam) may also become self-sacrificed in my Murshid

Mein hoon mashhoor ishq baazi mein

Look how I'm all consumed in this divine love affair!
Maqtab-e-ishq ka dastoor nirala dekha
Uss ko chutti na milli jis nay sabaq yaad kiya

The school of divine love is unique indeed!
He who has learnt it's lessons, has no leave of absence.

Mein hoon mashhoor ishq baazi mein

Look how I'm all consumed in this divine love affair!

Maqani hoon, Maqani hoon, kay azad-e-makaan hoon
Jahan mey hoon key khud saara jahan hoon

Free I'm, forever I'm in the station of liberation
Wherever I'm, there the whole universe is me!

Maula, Maula, meri murshid maula
Murshid maula, maula, maula
Mein hoon mashhoor ishq baazi mein

Master, O Master, my perfect Guide
my Murshid, my Lord
Look how I'm all consumed in this divine love affair!

Woh apni laa-maqani mein rahain mast
Mujhay itna bata dey mein kahan hoon

O You who abide blissfully in the place of placeless
Tell me only this, where is my place?

Arz-o-sama kahan teri wussat ko paa sakay
Mera hee dil hai jahan tu sama sakay

The heaven and earth can not fathom the boudlessness of Your being,
Only in my heart is Your abode.

Maula, maula, maula, meray maula, maula

O Master, master, master, my master, master

Mein hoon mashhoor ishq baazi mein
Khaasa dard-o-gham majaazi mein

Look how I'm all consumed in this divine love affair!
where all my sorrows and pain have evanescent

Yahan hona naa hona hai,
Jissay hona ho kuch khaati darri jaana ho jae

If you want to be here, be nothing
One who wants to be, let him become a pure speckle

Maula ali ali ali, maula ali, aali, aali,
Yaari yaari yaari, Yaari yaari yaari
Yaari yaari yaari

O Master Most High, Master, Majestic Master
O Intoxicating Beloved! my Friend!

- Original lyrics from Haji Bedam Warsi Ali Shah (1882-1956), a new rendition is done by Queen of Sufi Qawwali, Abida Parveen @ Coke Studio by the title, Ramooz-e-Ishq.

[>] You may listen, watch and download both audio and video from CokeStudio site.

Also the music video is available @ Vimeo and Youtube

Abida Parveen is well-known for her Sufi works and at Coke Studio she brings some never-before heard combination of Sufi kaafis and dohas. Unlike the rest of her repertoire, ‘Ramooz-e-Ishq’ is in Urdu (also popularly titled 'Mein Hun Mashhoor'), and dwells on the love man has for his Creator. The piece has beencomposed in such a way so that the emphasis remains on the Sufi message. So even as the entire Eastern-Western house band plays music – violin, bass, drums, keyboard et al – the sounds being produced are very subtle during her renditions. The focus is entirely on the singing and giving Parveen space to express herself. Abida Parveen is a very advanced seeker herself and what she sings, she sings from her heart.

In an short interview given for this song she spoke to Coke Studio:

Asal joh hei woh asal se juda hua hai, magar yeh hei ki usko doondhna hei, ki asal cheez hei kya. Talash to ussi ki hei sabhko, jahan sachai mil jaye bass usko chodna nahi chahie. Logon ko mast karna hei, ki sufi mausiqi se dargahi mausiqi se. Duniyavi cheezon se alag karna hei. Mausiqi eek hawa ka safar hei, bass meri tou lagan yehi hei, aur tou meri kohi duniya hei hi nahi. Eek mohabbat hi hei joh eek chamatkar taufa hei, yeh na dheko ki kaun hei, yeh dheko ki kya keh raha hei.

"Faqat nigah se hota hei faisla dil ka, na ho nigah mein shauqi tou dilbari hi kya hei"

The Reality is connected to the Real but one has to search for it and find out what is Reality. Everyone is seeking That (Reality / The One) only; and when one finds Truth one should not leave it / just hold on to it. Make people ecstatic through Sufi Mausiqi (Sufi Music), Dargahi Mausiqi (Holy Music). Take them away from worldly engrossment/ from materialism only. Mausiqi (Music) is the journey of divine breath, that is my only devotion, I have no other world than this. It is only Love which is a magical gift. Dont look for the identity or face or form, pay attention to what is conveyed.

The heart is judged by the glance of the Beloved (nigah-e-rahmat / glance, gaze of loving compassion),  If however, the eye does not carry passion/ yearning/longing then what remains the meaning of that Ishq / Love? If Beloved is not showering His glance of love upon us that means we don't have passion, thirst and longing worthy enough to love Him.

- My deep appreciation to Z. A., N. S.; N. Z and her friend for reworking with the translation

Among the Sufi Music that Abida Parveen sings, many of them are from Haji Bedam Warsi Ali Shah (1882-1956), may Allah bless his soul. Bedam Warsi is one of the most popular sufi lyricist whose songs are sung at sufi shrines and in households symbolizing devotion and love for God. In his spiritual life, Bedam Warsi was a great dervish poet & Murid of Haji Waris Sarkar.

+ Kalaam e Bedam
+ Songs of Abida Parveen
+ Abida Parveen sings Bulleh Shah
+ Bhala Hua Meri Matki
+ Listening 360 | connecting with Divine
+ Tere Ishq Nachayaan Kar Ke Thaiyya Thaiyya Pin It Now!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hu is with them wheresoever they are | meditative Quranic verses

Nowhere is there a private conference
between three persons 
but Hu (IT) is the fourth of them, 
nor (between) five 
but Hu is the sixth of them, 
nor less than that nor more 
but Hu is (united) with them wheresoever they are;

- The Final Revelations, 58:7 -

* Hu is the Divine Pronoun that points to Undivided and Uniquely One Divine Being
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Conversation between Traveler and Master about the Sufi Path

By Dr. Stewart Bitkoff & David Paquoit

Traveler: When friends ask me what I study, and I try to explain, I find it hard to put into words, what is Sufism? Help me understand so I can give a clearer answer?

Master: One of the great teachers offered, ‘long before there was a name (Sufism) there was a reality. Now there is a name without a reality.’ What is meant by this is that there has always been a way to connect with and experience ultimate Truth; this spiritual path of learning existed long before travelers, in the late 1800’s,  gave this way of learning its present name- Sufism (in the west, but in the east the history is older than that). At the time, local ascetics wore a distinctive woolen (Soof) robe and became known for this. Now this name, or spiritual form, for many followers exists without a corresponding inner reality. Often today, what you see in the world represented as Sufism is an empty shell of its former self.

Fools gold exists because there is real gold.
- Rumi

This ancient Path of spiritual development is based upon connection with and experience of the Divine. It involves study with a teacher and the awakening, through direct contact with Truth of latent spiritual capacity; this is done so the traveler can help others. This Truth or universal essence, the spiritual traveler seeks and experiences, is the underlying energy or fabric of created forms.

If I had known of any science greater than Sufism
I would have gone to it, even on my hands and knees.
- Junaid 

The Sufi’s task is to recognize the end at the Beginning.
He has gone beyond. He has rolled up the cosmos
In its turn and obliterated it.
He has reduced and then eliminated the marks
Of selfhood to allow a clear view of Cosmic Reality.
- Junaid

This Path, existed long before there were religions; this way of learning is at the heart of the great religions; it is the underlying spiritual energy that gives everything in the universe its form and substance. Inside each of us is an aspect of this wondrous element. Through preparation, practice developing our inner spiritual awareness, and Grace we unite with and serve Ultimate Reality every day.

For so long did the Beloved
Face my open heart
That except for His Attributes and Nature
Nothing remained of that heart.
- Maghribi

My teacher called this Path - the Superhighway to God. For those who wish to connect with Truth and use their inner spiritual capacity to help others; this form of learning is available in every town and city.

Worshipping God is not done with
Rosary beads, prayer carpet, or robe.
Worshipping God is serving others.
- Saadi

Sufism is not something talked about or described in written words; it is a universal essence that is experienced and known through inner spiritual contact. Much like love; no matter how many words you use- the description is not the same as the actual experience. And like love which ebbs and flows, Sufism changes to fit the learner, time and place.

"Sufism is a school of spiritual state, not discourse, and a Sufi is something to become, not something to merely read about. Since spiritual states cannot be expressed in words, Sufi sheikhs have declared, “Whatever can be expressed in words isn’t Sufism.” As Rumi has stated, “When I came to love, I was ashamed of all I have ever said about love.”

Whatever great Sufis have said in explanation of Sufism was the result of and appropriate to their particular situation and states. Such explanation, therefore do not constitute general definitions of Sufism. Rather they refer to some of its characteristics." - Javad Nurbakhsh

Traveler: This helps a little. Sufism is difficult to put into words because it is a spiritual experience and changes with each person. Yet, I have been in love and know there are different forms of love with many peaks and valleys that are impossible to describe; and no matter how pretty a poem or love song, I know it is not the experience of love itself.

Master: Remember, everyone is a spiritual traveler and in their long journey through this universe, experiences many wondrous things. Countless experiences go beyond words and cannot be written down- changing with each moment and person. This dimension is one of the elements that make life multi-level and beautiful. If this is too difficult for those who ask about us to grasp, ask them to define love or even life itself. As they ponder all the possibilities, then, they will begin to understand.

"Although Sufis live outwardly among people, inwardly they are constantly occupied with God. Their bodies and mind exist with others, whereas their hearts are far from them. Externally, they are congenial with everyone. Inwardly, however, they themselves are strangers to all. They are at peace with all people, yet within them selves tranquility is to be found only in Divine Love. Though they live among people they are truly alone." - Javad Nurbakhsh 


Thanks to David Paquoit for supplying the different quotes of the great Sufi Masters. To reach David go to: Caravan of Dreams

Also by Dr. Bitkoff, A Commuter’s Guide to Enlightenment (Llewellyn, 2008) and Journey of Light:Trilogy (Authorhouse, 2004); these books are available on Amazon.com or from the publisher. To contact author go to www.stewartbitkoff.com.

# References:
1. Idries Shah, Learning How to Learn: Psychology and Spirituality in the Sufi Way, Penguin Compass, 1978.
2. Fadhalla Haeri, The Elements of Sufism, Barnes and Noble, 1999.
3. Shaiykh A. Al-Murabit, The Hundred Steps, Madinah Press, 2nd edition, 1998.
4. Sufi Path from Nimatullahi.org website
5. Javad Nurbakhsh, The Path: Sufi Practices, Nimattullahi Publications, 2003. Pin It Now!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rumi on Adab, Spiritual Courtesy and Respect

(About) requesting from God, the Protecting Lord of Grace,
the favor of observing (spiritual) courtesy and respect in every
situation, and explaining the harmfulness and losses (which
result) from rudeness

We should seek from God the favor of [behaving with]
(spiritual) courtesy and respect, (since) the rude person is
excluded from the grace of the Lord.

The rude person doesn't keep himself in (a state of) affliction
alone, but sets fire to all the regions (of the world).

A table was arriving from Heaven without (any effort of)
buying and selling and talking and listening.

(But then), in the midst of the people of Moses, some persons
spoke rudely: "Where (are) garlic and lentils?"

The table and bread from Heaven was ended [immediately], (and)
there remained for us the painful toil of farming with shovel [for
planting] and scythe [for reaping].

Again, when Jesus interceded (with prayers), God sent a table
with an abundance (of food) on trays.

(Yet) again, (those) insolent ones ones abandoned courtesy and
respect, (and) took the food [home with them] like beggars.

Jesus asked them earnestly [to be respectful], saying, "(But) this
(food) is enduring and won't be decreased from the earth."

Acting suspiciously and bringing greed to the table of (Divine)
Grandeur is rejection and ingratitude.

(And so), because of those people, with faces like beggars and
blinded by greed, that gate of (Divine) Mercy became shut for

After the refusal of (paying) charity (for the poor), the (rain)
clouds do not come. And when unlawful sex occurs, the plague
(spreads) to (all) directions.

Whatever gloom and grief comes to you is because of reckless
impudence and also insolence.

Whoever acts with bold impudence in the path of the Beloved is
a highway robber of the (true) men [of the spiritual Way] and is
not a man.

By means of (spiritual) courtesy and respect, the Heavens became
full of light, and by means of (such) respect the angels became
innocent and pure.

(But) the sun became eclipsed because of insolence. (And)
because of rashness, an (angel such as) Azazeel was turned away
from the gate [to the angelic realm].

-- From "The Mathnawî-yé Ma`nawî" [Rhymed Couplets of Deep Spiritual Meaning] of Jalaluddin Rumi. Translated from the Persian by Ibrahim Gamard (Credit: Darul Masnavi) Pin It Now!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Akhlaq: Sacred Teachings of Islam on Character

And whoever purifies one's self, 
purifies only for one's own good. 
And to Allah is the eventual Home coming. 
- The Divine Recital 35:18

In search of unity within our selves

We are indeed living in an interesting time when proliferation, convergence and ease of access to spiritual knowledge have often time make us forget that:
- to learn about spirituality, and
- to practice that or to embody that in our day to day living are two quite different matters.

Practical Spirituality is a term coined to mean the practice and embodiment of all that is spiritual. It is the harmonious convergence of spiritual knowledge (‘ilm) with its appropriate application in our life. One of the reasons why the organized religions in the world today have been losing its value to its followers is because of the gross failure on part of its people who are vanguard of the individual traditions, to embody what they know, teach or preach. The great illuminated beings were exactly the opposite. They embodied the spirituality in their core of their being first, and others were attracted to that light naturally. Now a days the religious and spiritual knowledge are more confined to the black inks of the pages and hence in the intellectual mind than in the heart of people and in their character.

Its really wonderful that spiritual knowledge is really easy to access now a days. Any bookstore will have section of spiritual classics, modern day spiritual book, self-help type of books. But do we see really that knowledge transformed into practical living? Not really. Head knowledge is quite different than personality perfumed in spirituality. Infact those who go around with only head-knowledge without any reflection of that in their character, in their generosity to others, in their loving-kindness to others are like donkey loaded with books (62:05) which they grow so habituated to carry around without realizing that at the end none of these knowledge will benefit them unless their quality of their heart and spirit is transformed.

The great gnostic, Imam Jafar Sadiq narrates that, "Anyone who is devoid of knowledge (‘Ilm) and Noble Character (Akhlaq) is like an orphan who has lost both his parents."

What is the most intimate place where we can practice our spiritual knowledge? It is within our self, within our characters, within the fibers of our being. Leaving aside all flowery talks about God, Divine, Love – if we are unable to see our spiritual bankruptcy and do something about it, we would certainly not be immune from hypocrisy and that indeed is a grave danger.

O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do?
Grievously odious is it in the sight of Allah that ye say that which ye do not. - The Final Testament 61:2-3

In his zen like wise teachings Christ spoke of the need for the unity within ourselves when he said: "But let your ‘Yes' simply be ‘Yes,' and your ‘No,' ‘No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one." (Matthew 5:37).

For unity of our own being, for harmony of our outer and inner we must efface all conflicts within. And to do that, the most necessary place where a reflection of our head knowledge must merge is our character, in our interaction with the world of appearances, with our mingling with people, how we relate with each other and how we conduct our actions, our responsibilities. And its our character, our embodiment of our personality is what is most important when it comes to  our  actions, interactions and our presence in the world. After all what is the point of knowing about love and speaking about love if we fail to give love to others, what is it the point of memorizing discourses after discourses on patience and forgiveness if we fail to show patience and forgive when its demanded of us in our life.

The pious tongue without the pious heart is sinfulness and a straying from the Truth. The pious heart without the pious tongue is completion without completeness, and a pious heart and a pious tongue is a completion above all completion. - Ahmad ibn Ujaba al-Maghribi

Foundation of the Way of Divine Surrender (Islam) is upon Knowledge and Noble Character

‘Ilm and Akhlaq - approximately translated in English as ‘sacred knowledge’ and ‘noble characters’ are two basic foundations of Islam. Just as knowledge is necessary to efface ignorance, aviddya (veils that keep our soul from recognizing the Real), it is equally important to strive towards perfecting our character by adorning the selfhood with noble qualities. Lots of head-knowledge without embodiment in character (hence a mismatch in what is outside and what is inside) is exactly the attitude labeled as munafiq (hypocrisy) and condemned in the most harsh terms in the Quran. It was the same kind of attitude that Christ, the immediately earlier divine messenger in the chain of prophetic brotherhood before Muhammad, was extremely vocal against which he found among the Pharisees in his time.

Islam places great emphasis on embodying noble characters (akhlaq), so much so that when a man came to the Last Messenger and asked, “O messenger of Allah, what is religion?”

The holy one summed it up by replying: “Good Conduct.”
Then the man came to his front and asked: “O Messenger of Allah, what is religion?” He again replied: “Good Conduct.”

Then he came to his left side and asked: “what is religion?”Again reply was given: “Good Conduct.”

Then he came to his back side and asked the same question: “what is religion?” The Holy Prophet Muhammad replied once again with his sincere tongue: “Good Conduct.”

The Last Messenger, Muhammad Mustafa, for humanity is the example par excellence, specially when it comes to human character. Since very young age he was known as al-amin (faithful, sincere) to his town-folks, ages before he was mantled with the mantle of Prophethood. About whom God bear witness that, "And most certainly you (O Muhammad, my Messenger of Love, Beauty and Harmony) are on sublime morality (exalted standard of character)." (68:4)

In other places the Prophet goes on to transmit:

'I have been sent (by God to mankind) is to perfect good manners.'

'The most beloved of you to me is he who is the best of you in Akhlaq.'

Thus to be come beloved of the Messenger, the vicegerent of Godon earth, and hence beloved of God - its imperative to have a beautified character.

'There is not anything that will be placed on the divine scale weightier than good Akhlaq, and, certainly, the one who has good Akhlaq reaches by it the rank of one who continuously observes Saum (Fasts) and performs abundant (Nafl) Salah.'

'The most (important) things that cause people to reach Heaven (Divine Proximity in the Hereafter) are divine piety and a good temper.'

'Verily, a servant of the Most High can gain the rank of him who both fasts during the day and keeps vigil at night, keeping up prayers, through his good disposition.'

'Ilm al-Akhlaq

In the domain of sacred knowledge of Islam, Akhlaq is an the term referring to the practice of virtue, morality and manners. This arabic word is most commonly translated in english dictionaries as; disposition, nature, temper, ethics, morals or character (of a person).

Akhlaq is the plural of the word khulq which means disposition. "Disposition" is a faculty (malakah) of the psyche (nafs) which unconsciously inspires activities. Malakah comes into existence through repetitive practice and is not easily destroyed. A particular malakah may appear because of one of the following reasons:

a) Fitrah (natural state): The original state in which humans are created by Allah. The Creator for example determined certain aspects of their lives for which they are not accountable (e.g., their place of birth and physical appearance)
b) 'ada (Habit): Formed by continual repetition of certain acts and creates a certain disposition.
c) Practice and conscious effort: Which if persistent will eventually produce a disposition or character trait.

Akhlaq or good character is emphasized on a number of occasions in the Noble Quran. The Divine voice speaks about the importance of beautified character in the Final Revelation, where its read:

Akhlaq in speech: And say to My servants (that) they speak that which is best. (17:53)

Akhlaq in worshipful service and interaction in the world: Worship Allah, and do not associate partners with him. And be good to your parents, and the relatives, and to the orphans, and to the poor people, and the neighbor that is close to you and the neighbor that is not close to you, and your companion on the journey. (4:36)

The level of human perfection is determined by discipline and effort. Man stands between two extremes, the lowest is below beasts and the highest surpasses even the angels. The movement between these extremes is discussed by `ilm al-akhlaq or the science of ethics. Traditional Muslim philosophers believed that without ethics and purification (tazkiyah), mastery over other sciences is not only devoid of value, but would obstruct insight. That is why it has been said that, `knowledge is the thickest of veils', which prevents man from seeing reality (haqiqah).

Moral virtues bring eternal happiness, while moral corruption leads to everlasting wretchedness. Man must purge blameworthy traits (akhlāq madhmūma) before he can integrate ethical and moral virtues. Anas Karzoon has offered the following definition of tazkiyah al-nafs, "It is the purification of the soul from inclination towards evils and sins, and the development of its fitrah towards goodness, which leads to its uprightness and its reaching ihsaan." Attempts to obey God's commands are successful only when one is purified; then the soul can receive God's unlimited grace.

The hadith of the Islamic prophet Muhammad: ("My religion is based on cleanliness"), does not refer to outward cleanliness alone; it also alludes to the psyche's inner purity. To attain perfection, it is necessary to struggle against lusts and immoral tendencies, and prepare the soul to receive God's grace. If man travels the path of purification, God will aid and guide him. As the Quran says: 'And [as for] those who struggle in Our cause, surely We guide them in Our ways.'

The nafs or self employs the body to attain its goals. The primary faculties of the self are:

a) Intelligence (al-quwwah al-aqliyyah)- angelic.
b) Anger (al-quwwah al-ghadabiyyah)- ferocious.
c) Desire / Craving (al-quwwah al-shahwiyyah)- animalistic.
d) (False) Imagination (al-quwwah al-wahmiyyah)- demoniac.

The value of these forces is obvious. Reason distinguishes good and evil: ghadab (anger) helps defend against aggression: sexual attraction maintains the survival of the human species; and imagination allows visualization of universals or particulars. Reason is man's guiding angel. Anger brings violence; passions (hawā) encourage immorality; and imagination provides material to formulate demoniac plots and machinations. If reason controls the other faculties, it moderates excesses and ensures useful performance. Allah says in surat Ash-Shams: And by nafs, and Him Who perfected him in proportion; Then He inspired him corruption and its righteousness; Indeed he succeed who chooses to purify his ownself; and indeed he fails who corrupts his ownself. The psyche is in a continuous jihad (struggle) between these four powers for domination. The victorious trait determines the soul's inclination.

In a hadith from Imam Ali, he is related as saying: Surely God has characterized the angels by intellect without sexual desire and anger, and the animals with anger and desire without reason. He exalted man by bestowing upon him all of these qualities. Accordingly, if man's reason dominates his desire and ferocity, he rises to a station above that of the angels; because this station is attained by man in spite of the existence of hurdles which do not vex the angels.

The completion for those who claim faith, claim belief is testified by good character

The most complete of believers in Imaan (faith) are those who are best in character. - Saying of the Holy Prophet

What is within and function of our consciousness, our intelligence - that which we claim that we know, if not practiced in our interaction – then this life of ours falls into the trap of hypocrisy. Those who fell along the way, those who claimed to be doctors of the religion or knower of spiritual knowledge eventually perished because what they knew, they didnt even strove to practice in their life. Any authentic religious / spiritual path never ever ignores the practice that takes one from knowledge to application.

In the chapter of the Hypocrites in the Quran the Divine voice transmits:

"When the hypocrites come to thee, they say: We bear witness that thou art indeed Allah's Messenger. And Allah knows thou art indeed His Messenger. And Allah bears witness that the hypocrites are surely liars. They take shelter under their oaths, thus turning (men) from Allah's way. Surely evil is that which they do. That is because they believed, then disbelieved; thus their hearts are sealed, so they understand not. And when thou seest them, their persons please thee; and if they speak, thou listenest to their speech. They are like pieces of hollow wood, clad with colorful garments. They think every cry to be against them. They are the enemy, so beware of them ... and when it is said to them ‘Come, the Messenger of Allah will ask forgiveness for you’, they turn away their heads and thou seest them hindering (others), and they are big with arrogance."

These verses from the Quran, if contemplated deeply provides multi-dimensional messages. First, bearing witness and conforming to the outerwardness of religion (even when its the highest reality) without sincerity of the heart and sincerity of action is null and void. Such people through their hypocrisy, even if they be men of religion they end up turning people from the Path of God. There are no short of such bishops, priest, imams and mullahs whose behavior only make people feel averse and horror about religion and anything to do with religion. How grevious end awaits for them! One of their characteristic is their hanging on perpetual belief and disbelief, they dont have inner conviction and harmony, hence continue to traverse into faithlessness even if they are sitting at he highest seat of religious chair. Another important message is that they are often pleasing to the common folk in their outwardness, when they speak they speak with artificial sweetness, they wear pompous (religious) dress to impress people but this makes them nothing but like hollow piece of wood (worthless in the Kingdom of the Eternal Father).

This reminds of a sufi tale of donkey and firewood.

Once upon a time a donkey walked in front of a blacksmith shop. Fate had it carrying much firewood when suddenly a flare fell upon its load. Flames consumed the firewood and finally midst the fire the donkey was charred.

The foul of the character
            Fire of yours
The deeds of that foulness
            Firewood of yours

Once loaded with firewood and passing over the hell
Amazing if you could pass unharmed alive and well

Lo! You shall not pass! This too heavy a-load
Trapped underneath the heaviness’s hold

After all your habits if to eat or to sleep
What a fortune! This is indeed your (all) bliss!?

Every soul shall have a taste of death: And only on the Day of Judgment shall you be paid your full recompense. Only he who is saved far from the Fire and admitted to the Garden will have attained the object (of Life): For the life of this world is but goods and chattels of deception. - Q 3:185

In this world of duality the hypocrites are labeled as enemy of the spiritually evolved people and people of truth. And men of real knowledge are instructed to be aware of them, to shun and avoid them. And last but not least is to take note of their arrogance and what is more dangerous than spiritual and religious arrogance. This also is Sign for us to get rid of every trace of arrogance and pride from our own characteristics if we are to progress in the Path of Truth.

May God protect us from such beings of low and negative energy and people who cover the truth of their true self. Just today a friend of the Path shared something which is worth sharing here on the need to avoid the company of such people. I quote my friend, may Allah exalt her station:

I can't stand having lots of people around me. I instantly feel my energy draining out. Most people are pretty toxic. And with all my meditation, cleansing and detoxing during weekends, the last thing I need is for these corporate vampires to suck my energy out. I take great heed of Shaykh al Jilani's words - stay away from ignorant people, stay away from people whose energy is lower than yours. My Sufi guide told me that our energy is like water. If your energy is high and you spend time with someone of lower energy, your energy will flow downwards to the other person so that your energies will balance. That's why you always feel tired when you spend time with people who have low energy levels and they feel rejuvenated when they are with you. Stay away from toxic people. They are energy spongers.

That is also the spiritual significance why a mu'min is instructed in the Revelation to be cautious of whom they chose as friend in life and to take only mu'min  or mu'mina (person of awakened faith) as friends and companions in life journey (with exceptions to the spiritual rule).

A person is upon the (level / station of) faith of his friend. So everyone of you should see whom you are befriending. - Hadith

Recommended readings, contemplation and task

People of the Path will tell you with certitude and proven knowledge that akhlaq or noble characters are best learned from the people of noble character. What it means is that to sit with the fuqara (seekers of truth who are empty of the worldly attachments) and who are people of ihsan (excellent) is the best approach to learn and train the personality. What is learned in the company of true pious men of God in one week, takes years and years of self-seeking in the wonderland of self's landscape which keeps us happy with our lowly condition and keep us blind from its blameworthy traits. The best approach, regardless of age or place or circumstances is learning from heart to heart (sina be sina) from men of purified heart. Thus a spiritual guide and his or her company is the best to improve noble character. The next and complementary way is to learn from the writings and teachings of such men of true piety who spoke from realization and sincere travels to their Lord.

In the wonderfully resourceful website maintained by Dara O. Shayda , may Allah bless him and his service, Untired with Loving, a very important manual “The Defects of The Nafs (Self)” by Sheikh Abdur-Rahman Sullami is shared which enlists the defects and short-coming of the human self as well as spiritual therapy against each of them are mentioned. When one become vigilant against such defects and are able to avoid them in their disposition, by God’s grace, will ascend in their spiritual station. Removing that which are blameworthy in character: the filth, is the first step towards purification and adornment of self, without which there is neither any major evolution of the soul nor significant mystical opening given to us.

> Visit the site and may this be helpful resource: Defects of Nafs for your spiritual journey.

Also you may download Husn-e-Akhlaq (Beautiful Character) which is a compilation of blessed sayings of Last Messenger, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him. Its in urdu and corresponding english translation, encompassing the noble qualities necessary and to be bloomed with care in a beautified character.

. In this article materials are cited from Wikipedia entry of Akhlaq.

:: Further
+ Blameworthy traits of the self
+ Shadows of the ego-self (nafs)

Tawba Astaghfirullah wa tubuilaih: We turn to the Divine and seek His forgiveness for all our shortcomings and our hidden and outward hyprocisy. Indeed He is Knower of our real self, its conditions and truly the Divine is ever forgiving to His servant who turn to Him and repent sincerely.

When the Prophet used to see the reflection of his noble and radiant face, this was his supplication:  'Allahumma anta hassanta khalqi, fahassan khulqi' - "O Allah, just as You have made my external features beautiful, make my character beautiful as well".

Also another dua of the Prophet to be used as seed to grow awareness:
"Guide me to the best character
for no one can guide to best (character) except You,
and turn away bad conduct from me
for no one can turn it away from me except You."
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

When love comes with a knife | on soul-mate and broken heartedness

In the Name of the Loving One, The Majestic, The Glorious
may all songs of praise be unto Him, for allowing the lovers simply to be, and further celestial praise be unto Him - for He, out of His Love allows the love-intoxicated 'fools of God' to taste paradise-bliss here on this very earth

Call of Love

Those whom Love has not chosen as followers,
do not hear when Love calls.
- Khalil Gibran, Broken Wings

"Man's proclivity towards his primordial nature - that is true love,
And when Love calls, we shall hear..." - ABNIZAR

Love comes with a knife,
not some shy question
and not with fears for its reputation!

Love is a madman, working his wild schemes, tearing off his clothes,
running through the mountains, drinking poison,
and now quietly choosing annihilation.
- Rumi

First of all, contrary to popular belief that love is all about romanticism, elated feelings and happy emotion - love often comes so violently and sweeps our heart chamber - emptying everything, sparing nothing and leaving our heart and mind in total ruin. As some poet who knew well such effect said, "stay away, stay away, stay away from the lane of love." This is because love is not always about what we desire or whom we want, but often it is about an all transforming experience of the heart, a revolution which once we experience, we never remain the same person as before. It changes the whole quality of our being.The more deep the experience of love is, the more of the fiber of our being is affected.

Echoing the truth, the great beings who were real lovers taught: "The quest for Love changes us. There is no seeker among those who search for Love who has not matured on the way. The moment you start looking for Love, you start to change within and without."

In human sense, love, even though whirls around someone, even though as human being we can only experience love in its basic level by falling in or feeling the magnetism of love for someone - after all, the other person in this case is not the end or the final goal, but a mean or a vehicle. The purpose remains as the transformation of our being and the goal is the process itself, which is love.

Khalil Gibran offer us the following wisdom on the way and goal of love:

And think not you can direct the course of love,
for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.

For many this is very hard to understand and even for the mind to accept when all it sees when in love is the beloved. But please know that in human experience of love, the other person's role is to holding a form. We are soul-beings who are shaped in form and hence need other forms for our engagement. Even the form of this planet earth is made so that we, humanity can bear the beams of love - according to William Blake. In the dualistic love affair the other person is the vehicle through which the experience of attraction is given. Harsh as it might sound, but infact it would not be wrong to say that compared to the gift of the experience of love (the experience itself is a function of the heart and formless), whereas the vehicle, the other person is like an idol. To understand the truth in it, observe the human predicament of immature love. The moment the lover is disappointed, the same very idol which was idealized, fantasized and worshiped becomes the idol to be hated, cursed and to be forgotten.

The predicament

Psychoanalysts and psychologists will tell us that all too often when we love somebody - we don't accept him or her as what the person effectively is. We accept him or her in so far as this person fits the coordinates of our fantasy. We mis-identify, wrongly identity him or her, which is why when we discover that we were wrong, love can quickly turn bitter; the same person we think we love become the most hated person and even can turn into violence. Some even goes on to saying that there is nothing more dangerous, more lethal for the beloved person than to be loved as it were for not what he or she is, but for fitting the ideas / ideal of the person who claim love. In this case love is always mortifying love: love destroyed and void of its  organic texture and vital quality. But sadly the whole world knows more about this kind of love, not its transcendent edition: the love of Divine Fire.

The Fire of Love

The heart is where man's connection with the Divine lies. When man ignores his soul's desires and he lives solely through his head, his intellect and his physical being, he does not truly live. Because to ignore one's soul is to ignore one's very reason for being. But there are many who live this way. Many who think that intellectual superiority is an achievement. That a life dedicated to intellectual enlightenment is much better than a path dedicated to spiritual elevation. Oh what folly. Humans fall for the trap they set themselves. Whether they bask in intellectual glory or swim in an abundance of spiritual enlightenment, they have fallen into a deep hole filled with self glorification. A hole which they have dug up themselves.

For life, my friends, is quite difficult for most of us, too complex for the complex mind but yet it is so extremely simple it defies reason. Love is the key to everything. I know the word Love has been much abused, maligned beyond recognition, commercialised to the extreme, bandied about by careless utterances of "I love you" by people who have no idea what "to love" means. Only one love is true - that is unconditional love. That is the love that God shows us. There are many who argue that God loves us with conditions:-

* that we are faithful to Him;
* that we pray 5 times a day;
* fast during Ramadan;
* go to Church regularly;
* slaughter cows;
* don't slaughter cows; etc.

Why do we place these human thoughts onto God and attribute human feelings onto Him? Is it because we cannot understand Him, grasp even the concept of God, unless he is similar to us? Human. Should it not be us who should strive to be more like Him? And that is why I say that the closest thing you can experience with the Divine is through unconditional love.

Unconditional love does not mean self sacrificing, abuse-me-all-you-want kind of love. It is a strong love. A brave and courageous love which says:

I love you - as you are. You don't have to love me back. And I love you enough not to let you abuse me.

You are only capable of achieving this kind of love if you love yourself. So that is why we love falling in love. That feeling of euphoria, the breathlessness, the whole magical experience that makes one feel special. But then suddenly you find yourself tortured, all your insecurities raise their ugly heads, surfacing at this inconvenient time, exposing your flaws to your loved one. Will he still love me once he sees me like this? Once he knows me as the person I really am? Warts et al.

Do we show our ugly side just to test the other's love or does it surface in order to allow the love you feel for each other to heal them? It is a mixture of both. The love you feel makes you more confident to allow the "ugly" side of you to surface as you trust the other person to love you no matter what. Unfortunately this is the time and part where it gets too hard for both parties to continue on. The euphoria is gone. There is an element of unpleasantness. Hard issues to deal with. All is not honky dory. It feels like hard work. Those afraid to carry on are afraid of deeper feelings. Its too scary for them. Uncharted territory. Dare they venture into the dark beyond? Where will it lead them? Are they strong enough to survive this journey? Together? Will they still be together at the end of the journey?

Well let me tell you this. Your soul made you fall in love. You, the physical and thinking side of you, enjoy these feelings up to a point. Its like a drug that makes you happy - until... it starts making you miserable and you decide to amputate your feelings like a gangrenous limb and cut the source out of your life. And this is where you fail to listen to your soul... You go on seeking the initial euphoria of falling in love, not understanding that the feeling will not last - it is whimsical and fleeting, its purpose is just to attract you and lead you to real love - the love which will lead you to Divine Being. That, one day you will wake up and realise you cannot even remember the name of the person you so obsessed over when you realise whom your soul was really searching for. A return to Divine Being.

So do not be fooled by this intoxicating spell of being in love. It is God's way of attracting your attention, lulling you with the ebbs and flow of the tides of Love, then thrashing you against the rocks till your bones have splintered to many thousand pieces and your flesh has smashed to pulp ... and all that remains is your stubborn heart, still beating, lying on the rocks, unrestrained by the complicated web of your thoughts and unshackled from the chains of your intellect.

That, my friends, is how you will feel, at the end of this journey. You, the physical self, would have died, before the hour of your death is due, and all that remains is your soul, shining in its true beauty. By then it does not matter if your are still together with the initial object of your desires, of your love. You understand that what is most important is the Journey. And that you fell in love with Love in the first place.

You can argue with me till your face turns blue. And I will say to you - the only union that is sacred is your union with God. You belong to no one and no one belongs to you. The only unfaithfulness is your unfaithfulness to God. And your only binding vows are to Him, your Creator. There are no conditions attached to His Love for you. There are no obligations attached to Divine Love. We have created all this to measure our worthiness and yet God measures not our love. God loves us is the only true statement. We love Him may not be a true statement as we may not have the capacity nor have we evolved enough to have the true knowledge and understanding of how to love Him. Those who say they love God have made an untrue and arrogant claim. Only God knows, who truly loves Him. It is in His Mercy that He allows us to experience this state of being. The state of being in love with each other. The state of loving each other.

And so, here is the dilemma many of us have been through. The thrill of falling in love, the anguish of loving a person you cannot have, the pain of acknowledging to yourself that you love this person and the fear that you may never feel this way about another person again ... that one day, because of this fear, you will settle for something less. Something and someone who will not make you feel like you are being thrashed mercilessly by powerful, angry waves of love against jagged rocks. One day you will settle for less. Maybe that is why people call it "settling down". What they mean is that you have settled for less.

- Sharifah Sazita

Disappointment in one way love?

The kind of love in which the love is not reciprocated by the other, or sometime which is coined as 'one way love' - even then love does its work as it should. It transforms the heart, it transforms the being of the lover. If the lover, when the other person is not reciprocating or not acknowledging or not conforming to the expectation of the lover - and immediately if that turns the feeling towards that person bitter, sour or if a sense of disappointment engulfs the heart - then know that this love is actually is still at a very immature level than transcendent love.

So instead of focusing and worshiping the idol, which in this case is the other person, love should be freed from its lesser reality. Yes the human partner is wonderful to hold, to sing to, to love, to embrace, to rest on his or her bosom, to dance with, to walk hand in hand - but after all, even that will come to an end, but love will remain. The kind of love which loves the person this moment, and the next moment hates the same person with all its might - is exactly the kind of disappointment and suffering that goes on mostly in the world in the name of love.

Someone asked, "Can you define what is one sided love? If anyone love any human being from all soul, his/her every desire, every feeling is for the other, then how the other person never understand the love? How is it possible?

One sided love is love which flows from one heart and the reciprocation might not be visible or one person loves another person - but that love is not acknowledged from the other end. One may wonder, why we fall in such embrace in the first place? Why such fuss?

"The true purpose of rain clouds is not just to give rain, but to give birth to flowers and fruits in you garden of delight." Yes even though the first thing you see from rain clouds are rain coming down, yet what you do not see are far more magical. The whole feast in the garden of delight where all the plants and trees takes in the water drops, mixes with divine elixir and produce such alchemical transfusion to produce the varying hued flowers, fragrance and fruits of sweetness - which ultimately is the destiny of the rain cloud and all the drops that it carry in its pregnant state.

Like that you may only see and feel the broken-heartedness when the so called "one sided love" happens. You may only see the object of this love not responding or turn away from you, but in reality the alchemical has process already started when that love energy arose in your heart and that is much much more important than being together with the person, and as it happens in many cases, everyday getting disappointed and eventually love turning into sour after-taste since the other person can not keep up with the fantasies and loaded expectations. And also the interesting paradox is that we only grow in our pain and in denial of what our ego demands and in separation in far greater degree than its opposite. 

Its inevitable from our every day reality that in every human love affair that if the transcendence of the purpose of love is not made aware (and if ego is not under good management), no matter how much deeply two persons fall in love, when they are together, often time the disappointment, the bitterness, the idealize picture gets shattered and no time in human history we are seeing this more pronounced than our time. There are no short of real life stories when there is a love affair that goes on for 2-3 years or 5 years and when the two are together, living under the same roof, they get a divorce or separation in one month or in weeks or even days. Why is that so? Didn't they think they love each other so much?

So when there is one sided love and your ego is telling you cant live without this person, o how wonderful really it would be to be with this person; and if life's unfolding leads you otherwise, don't punish your mind by feeling betrayed. Trust in the wisdom of life and know that you are given what is best for you. Know this with certitude because that is a token of your faith in the unfolding of the divine hand.

Always be grateful for the love and do not complaint in the one-sidedness of the love or when the person of love is not making life journey with you. "Everyone has a direction to which he or she turns to" - says the revelation, and the directions of the lover and the form around which the love came,  the beloved might have very different directions in life individually. One should remain grateful for love, only for love itself because its a gift and extremely helpful in human being's growth. Regardless how we perceive the end result of the love through our short-sightedness, love alone is reason enough to be thankful. And one must not feel bitter if the person loved is not to become a life-partner because that's the destiny and the life does what is best for us. Have patience in face of such moments.

"Patience does not mean to passively endure. It means to be farsighted enough to trust the end result of a process. What does patience mean? It means to look at the thorn and see the rose, to look at the night and see the dawn. Impatience means to be so shortsighted as to not be able to see the outcome. The lovers of God never run out of patience, for they know that time is needed for the crescent moon to become full.

Whatever happens in your life, no matter how troubling things might seem, do not enter the neighborhood of despair. Even when all doors remain closed, God will open up a new path only for you. Be thankful! It is easy to be thankful when all is well. A Sufi is thankful for not only what he has been given but also for all that he has been denied.

Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to, is better than the one to come?" - Elif Shafak

Even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you:
The broken-heartedness

"The midwife knows that when there is no pain, the way for the baby cannot be opened and the mother cannot give birth. Likewise, for a new Self to be born, hardship is necessary. Just as clay needs to go through intense heat to become strong, Love can only be perfected in pain." - Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love

In human love affair, the pain of separation in love, the feeling of betrayal and disappointed in the so called "one sided love" is like the pain of child-birth. That pain, the fire of love burns away our old self and gives birth to a new being with more pristine vision, wider view on life and expansive capacity of the heart. Infact the heart is given wing with love.

Broken-heartedness is nothing uncommon for the heart to experience. For people of the Path, the experience of broken-heartedness is all too familiar. Many are actually whirled into the vortex of divine love from the height of their broken-heartedness in human love affair. The paradox is quite common that God will give the love for a human being, then the human being (who was the locus of love) is withdrawn, the union is made impossible and through all of this drama, the lover is drawn more close to the Real Beloved while made to journey into the arid desert of broken-heartedness.

"Even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secret of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart."
- Khalil Gibran

Only Hu knows the Secret of His doing and what gift He hides behind after He takes away the loved person. But know that He is al-Karim, the Generous Giver and He is always giving. All our experiences in life are His gifts that evolve us. Broken heartedness is nothing uncommon to those who come to Love Him and seek Him, because in the pain of separation from temporal, Hu gives us an opportunity to know again and to realize the truth that 'inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un.' - 'truly we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return'. Undertsand this statemetn with all your heart that 'we belong to the Divine' (li-llahi), which is saying, we are His beloved, thats why  in reality we only belong to Him and to no other, and our soul's return to the Real Home is also He.

Trust your life and His unveiling of your self, 
and His mysterious way of giving your soul wings

"God is busy with the completion of your work, both outwardly and inwardly. He is fully occupied with you. Every human being is a work in progress that is slowly but inexorably moving toward perfection. We are each an unfinished work of art both waiting and striving to be completed. God deals with each of us separately because humanity is a fine art of skilled penmanship where every single dot is equally important for the entire picture." - Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love

The way of love is not a subtle argument.
The door there is devastation.
Birds make great sky-circles of their freedom.
How do they learn it?
They fall, and falling, they're given wings.
- Rumi

The Enclosed Circle of Love

Shaykh Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee of Golden Sufi writes in this book, Circle of Love, "The mystical path is a journey from duality back to unity, back to the pre-eternal oneness that is hidden within the heart. For the Sufi this journey is a love affair that begins on the level of the soul and is brought into consciousness through the grace of the Beloved. Sufis are those who love Him for His sake, and who have come to taste the sweet oneness of this love in the very substance of their being. This love draws us back to Him, back to what always is, to the eternal moment which does not belong to time.

Walking the path of love is a circular journey in which we discover what was always here but hidden under the veils of illusion, under the coverings of the ego and the mind. Stepping onto the path is stepping into the closed circle of love in which "the end is present at the beginning."

May all our soul-calls to our soul-mates, may all our blessed heart-aches and broken-heartedness help us realize the greater truths in life and to reach us more close to the Station of all stations, the Real, the Beloved ItSelf.

- Sadiq Muhammad Alam

# Recommended Readings & Download Link:
1. Paradoxes of Love by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
2. Circle of Love by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
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