Friday, December 21, 2012

Love wheresoever it may be found: Solving the dissonance of a Christian heart falling in love with the Sufis


I have long been attracted to Sufism, but as a Christian (not a good one) I have wanted to be faithful to Jesus.The arguments between Christians and Muslims go on and on in terms of theology and what the Qur'an says and what the New Testament says.

Could it be that Jesus is a Sufi who appeared to Ibn Arabi? It would be my hearts desire if that were so as I love both Ibn Arabi and Jesus. How can I KNOW? (NOT MERELY BELIEVE) My interest in Sufis, as a Christian, has made me feel torn and suffer cognitive dissonance, as if I am trying to have a foot in both camps.

- A Reader's Comment on the post, Sufi Reading of Jesus' Teaching Parables


Reality of Attraction


Attraction is a function of the Heart. When we are attracted to something, it is only because our Heart feels attracted to the person or the object or the phenomenon. It happens without us thinking about it, it happens almost timelessly in an instant sometime without the intellect getting a chance to get entangled with the object of attraction in that moment or in the process. Thus attraction is not a function of logical mind, but that of the spiritual Heart.

He makes a mirror in our hearts -- look there
To see Him, search your hearts with anxious care.
~ Attar

In the language of the Sufis, attraction is called Jadhb. Majdhoub is the person who is attracted by divine attraction. Spiritual attraction, in all its diversities and various disguises, is attraction towards truth and light, that is, attraction towards the Real. Attraction of the Heart can be called as a Call of the Divine. It is through attractions that God draw His servants towards Him so that the servant may be given a taste of deeper mercy, higher frequency of love and progressive gnosis of God.

Thus congratulations to those who are attracted to Sufism because it is the essence of all true religion, sincere surrender, learning of spiritual etiquette befitting to enter the court of the King and the highest expression of spirituality. It is the continuous transmission from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Moses to David to Jesus to Muhammad and their successor saints and friends of God. Sufi Maters are masters of an ancient tradition of inner teaching, unbound by culture, free-moving, finding those who truly seek, wherever and whenever they are. If one intend to witness the piety and surrender of Abraham, the yearning of Moses, the sanctity of Jesus and the perfect harmony of what it means to be human of Muhammad - then one needs to sit with the Sufis. The attraction to the Ways of the Sufis is a sign of ripe spirituality because Sufism is the very last of surviving flowers carrying within it the timeless fragrance in every age including ours when all other gardens along with their flowers are in desolation.

Our desire for God is fanned by His love:
it is His attraction that draws all wayfarers along the path.
~ Rumi, the Venerable Master ~


Now when the heart is attracted to this strange thing called Sufi Way, the way of the strangers, the way of the lovers - does it mean that we have to abandon our loves already implanted in the garden of Heart? Certainly not.

It is narrated in the Sacred Tradition: Allah declares, "Neither My heaven nor My earth can contain Me, but the soft humble heart of my believing servant can contain Me"

"The vessels of your Lord are the hearts of the righteous servants, and the most beloved to Him are the softest and most tender ones"

"Truly, Allaah has vessels from amongst the people of the earth, and the vessels of your Lord are the hearts of his righteous slaves, and the Most beloved of them to Him are the softest and most tender ones."

The Sufi, by definition is one whose heart is soft as wool and warm as wool, thus having the characteristics of such Heart which is the abode of the Lord, the vessel of God's remembrance, of God's gnosis and God's obedience.

The Heart of the Sufi is the Throne of God which is as expansive as the vastness of God and His Throne, else how could it accommodate Hu Who is Infinite. And it is precisely because of it expansiveness that the Heart of the Sufi ever goes on expanding (like the expanding cosmos).

That is why, when one is attracted to the Sufi Path, one already enters the stream that has already began to grow until it meets the Ocean, until it meets the field of Infinite Kingdom. The Sufi's spiritual journey is like a river where more and more streams continue to join along the path and increase its water of mercy until it meets the Ocean.

 Inside this river there is a moon
which is not a reflection.

From the river bottom the moon speaks.
I travel in continuous conversation
with the river as it goes.

Whatever is above
and seemingly outside this river
is actually in it.

Merge with it, in here or out there,
as you please.

This is the river of rivers
and the beautiful silence of endless talking.

~ Rumi, Coleman Barks


Faith of the Sufi


Let us look at the what constitute the faith and beliefs of a Sufi (or Muslim) and we shall come to know how this can only include the love for the lovers of God without excluding any one of the illuminating ambassadors of the Beloved.

The Sufis believe in Oneness of God. For the Sufi, God is the Beloved. Can a true and sincere lover love two at the same time? That is why Sufis understand deeply the first of the Commandments which says, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God." When the Sufis call God as Beloved, it is simply because God in Reality is the Singular Lover Who wishes no one to associate / share reverence, love, devotion which in highest of form is due to Him alone. When the Sufis chant "La ilaha illa Allah" it is the sanctified seed of truth to remind the reality that there is no other gods, no other lovers, no other worthy to bow down to but the One.

The Sufi have faith in the unseen reality which is part of the Kingdom of God including the Angels, the invisible agency of God's command, the intermediary world after death and the Day of Resurrection when all human souls shall be resurrected to meet the appointed meeting with their Lord. They believe that in the revelation of God in every age through His servants who are the Prophets and the Messengers, some of whom we know, many remains hidden and unknown to rest of humanity, outside of their space-time.

The Messengers and Prophets are true human beings who mastered their self and hence were rewarded with the heavy responsibility to guide others. Since the Adamic age, God has promised two things for the children of Adam who were created weak, that God will guide them towards Him and also God promises forgiveness. SO those who seek guidance, it is given to them and the renewal of this guidance from God is through the Messengers and Prophets in every age. And whenever children of Adam fall from his, her mark, God promises forgiveness.

"Verily, Allah forgives not the setting up of partners with Him, but He forgives whom He pleases whatever is less than that. And whoever sets up partners with Allah has indeed strayed far away (from truth)." (4:116);

"Will they not repent to Allah and ask His forgiveness? For Allah is the Forgiving, the Merciful". (5:74);

"O son of Adam, as long as you call upon Me and put your hope in Me, I have forgiven you for what you have done and I do not mind. O son of Adam, if your sins were to reach the clouds of the sky and then you would seek My forgiveness, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, if you were to come to Me with sins that are close to filling the earth and then you would meet Me without ascribing any partners with Me, I would certainly bring to you forgiveness close to filling it." ~ Hadith Qudsi

Since all the Messengers and Prophets are sent by the Almighty Creator, the Sufis with their universal exclusivity do not make any discrimination between any one of them, for discriminating between Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad would be discriminating God for all of them were sent by Him for the sole purpose of guiding humanity back to Him, His commandments, His guidance and His reality.

Thus the creed of the Sufis is this:

"We have believed in Allah and what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendants and what was given to Moses and Jesus and what was given to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him." - Qur'an, The Final Testament 2:136

The Messengers and the believers have faith in what was revealed to them from their Lord. Everyone of them believed in God, His angels, His Books, and His Messengers, saying, "We make no difference among the Messengers of God." They also have said, "We heard God's commands and obeyed them. Lord, we need Your forgiveness and to You we shall return." - 2:285

Each Messenger were sent to their time and people, but increasingly their scope became larger and larger. Thus Abraham was sent to his small community but he remains as the exemplar unitarian. Moses were sent to the Children of Israel, so was Jesus who were sent to the lost Children of Israel and his apostles reached out to gentiles (non-Israelites) and finally the Last Prophet Muhammad was sent to the Arabs yet his mission was for all of humanity, his Way is a mercy of all world.

Thus a Sufi do not reject Abraham, Moses or Jesus because of his allegiance to Muhammad, the Last Prophet for he, she understand that all of these Messengers had a role to play and their final culmination is with Prophet Muhammad.

That is why, love for the Sufi Way NEVER ever means being unfaithful to Jesus. Rather it is the Sufi Way which may help rediscover and enter deeply into the blessed teaching of Jesus Christ, the archetypal Spiritual Master and Saint for humanity.


 Who Jesus was and who Jesus still is and will remain


The reader said, "The arguments between Christians and Muslims go on and on in terms of theology and what the Qur'an says and what the New Testament says."

Those who busy themselves with forms, phantom pictures, appearance that is disappearing the next moment and layers of social conditioning and prejudices - it is their way to argue, to divide, to claim 'my way is better than yours' because all such characteristics come from division, not from unity. Sufis are the people of unity, thus for them uniting all differences is the work of the Path. And this is not different than any previous Messengers including that of Jesus who said, "Let thine eye be single." (Matt 6:22)

On unity his surviving teachings are: "that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us..." (John 17: 21)

"Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand" (Matt. 12: 25)

The teachings of Higher Masters like Jesus teaches about unity to the extent that the selfhood is extinguished in the Being of God, that is why He says, "Father in Me, I in Thee." This is the same teachings that Sufis carry even until today in the teachings of Fana and Baqa, the annihilation in God and subsisiting in God. These deeper teachings of Jesus survives in the Heart of the Sufis in the same manner as Jesus passed on his inner teachings, from his sacred heart to the heart of his immediate followers, his lovers, the apostles and the early Christians.

Thus the attraction and delving in the Sufi Way do not take one away from Jesus, but rather bring him close to not only what Jesus taught, but also teachings his ways of being, through the Sufi practices of Spiritual Poverty (zuhd), his dependence on God (tawakkul) as Christ taught, so did Muhammad, the prayer with prostration (sujud), just as Jesus did, so did Muhammad and did the Biblical Prophets. Thus if someone walks in the Sufi Path, he or she is walking the Path of Jesus, walking the Path of Moses, of Abraham and of Muhammad - for they all were Teachers from God to humanity.

Ibn Arabi who was one of the greatest of mystics and intellectual giant of humanity, his introduction to the reality of Jesus Christ is an invaluable treasure for both Muslims and Christians alike. His early initiation on the Sufi Path was deeply influenced by the personality of Christ. The special role of Jesus in the beginning of Ibn 'Arabi's own spiritual path is alluded to repeatedly in his work, Meccan Revelation: "He was looking after us when we entered upon this Path we are following today" (I, 15.26); "I returned (to God) at the hands of Jesus" (IV, 77.30); "Our return to this path was through good tidings (mubashshira) at the hand of Jesus, Moses and Muhammad" (IV, 172.13); and "we found that station (of immediate spiritual 'feeding') within ourselves and had the immediate experience (dhawq) of it at the beginning of our journeying, with the spiritual reality (ruhaniya) of Jesus" (III, 43.20-21). In addition to the chapters of the Futuhat (ch. 20, 35-36, 195, etc.) and the Fusus (ch. 15) specifically devoted to Jesus, particularly the sections concerning Ibn 'Arabi's conception of Jesus' perennial spiritual function as the "Seal of Universal Sainthood," mirroring the Shaykh's own role as "the Seal of Muhammadan Sainthood."

Ibn Arabi Society has a great resource on the writings of Shaykh Ibn Arabi and the following resources hopefully will prove very beneficial for those who wish to understand the spiritual station of Jesus Christ as well as Ibn Arabi's connection with the Messiah and as a Spiritual Pole.

+ Jesus in the Quran: an Akbari Perspective

+ The Mi'raj and Ibn 'Arabi's Own Spiritual Ascension (PDF)

+ Ibn ‘Arabi: Spiritual Practice and Other Translations (PDF)

+ iTunes has some beautiful audio lectures

There is a rare book called Jesus the Sufi: The Lost Dimension of Christianity by Max Gorman is a recommended reading for those who come from a Christian background and wish to understand this enigmatic human being and why he can be called as a Sufi, if we may borrow that term. A comment on Amazon reads about the book: "Max leaves us in no doubt at all that Jesus followed a long line of Teachers that taught the Ancient Wisdom, later to be known as Sufism. Sufism is just the current name for the form of teaching and understanding that has existed from time immemorial."

The Book, Jesus in the Eyes of the Sufis by Dr. Javad Nurbaksh is another valuable resource. I quote from there: 
Jesus as Prophet of God, manifested the human qualities of sincerity purity love and charity. Despite the fact that the Prophet Mohammad always referred to him as a brother and that the Quran makes repeated mention of him with the highest praise, Moslem and Christian leaders has, or political reasons or out o sheer prejudice, forever striven to pass over this brotherly pledge and have it conveniently forgotten.
Only the Sufis because of their lack of prejudice and their inner purity, have managed to avoid being influenced by what fanatical and extremist clerics have tried to inculcate. It is the Sufis who have attempted to preserve the memory of Jesus as he really was, alive in their minds and in the minds of other, and to keep him in their hearts in Sufi literature Jesus is the paragon of a perfect human being and the example par excellence of  a true master. In throughout the centuries, in all their “Moselem-ness”, the masters of Sufism, out of purity sincerity and love have had nothing but praise for Jesus, resenting him as a perfect Sufi.


"Love one another as I have loved you." ~ Commandment of Jesus


If we may aspire to love the One Beloved who was the locus of love for both Ibn Arabi and Jesus, then loving all lovers of God will be a natural state. For those who claim Abraham was a Jew or a Christian should know that he was neither. He was a pure lover of God. Likewise may we also rise above the divisions. This is also, by God's will, is the cure for every cognitive dissonance. When we reach there, we will see that there are no separate camps but it has always been the single arena of seekers and servants of God.

Let this be our Heart's invocation:

O my God, reveal and make known to me and enlighten me by Thy power and grant me the Grace of Thy Goodness so that I may be able to recognize and not misunderstand Thy Will and so be able to fulfill what Thou hast prepared for me. Glory be to God and praise to God alone, there is none to be obeyed save God the Most High and peace and blessings be upon all of God's Messengers.


I hope and pray that the resources shared here from Ibn Arabi Society and more resources shared below will help the Heart open to the reality of Jesus and to help us realize that there is but only One Path, One Beloved and all of humanity are but on a single journey to know God, through many names, many guises and through many guides including Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. May we recognize Love wheresoever it may be found.



# Further:
* Jesus, the Sufi Master
* Jesus in the Eyes of the Sufis
* The Significance of Restoration of True Image of Christ
* Final Testament, Quran on Jesus Christ (Isa Masih)
* The Circle of Inclusion
* Do Muslims Respect 10 Commandments?
* Talking about Jesus with a Sufi Mystic- with Neil Douglas-Klotz (video interview via Youtube)
* “Neither My Earth nor My Heavens can contain Me, but the heart of a Believing Servant, contains Me.
* Ten Sufi Thoughts by Hazrat Inayat Khan
* A Catholic Among the Sufis
* Sufi Reading of Jesus' Teaching Parables 
* What does the Quran say about Jesus?
* The Muslim Jesus Documentary via Youtube
Pin It Now!

LinkWithin