Letter of a Contemporary Sufi Mentor to his Disciple



I was pounced on by the deen in 1981 and right from the start had a curiosity about tasawwuf. I have had the good fortune to be associated with three shaykhs, all teachers in the Shadhili order. My own idhn is in the Darqawiyya, which is a latter branch of the Shadhiliyya. The Shadhilis are for Africa what the Chistis have been for the Indian subcontinent. They have been the people who have taken Islam to the remotest regions of the continent.

This matter of ours is about freedom. It is a freedom of such magnitude, that its price is everything in existence and its prize is the whole of existence. There is no higher aspiration and it is therefore worthy of utterly single-minded commitment. In the face of this quest all other pursuits are trivial.

By me having accepted this role the first thing you should understand is that there is very little I can do for you. There is also not a lot you can do for yourself, other than to cast yourself at practice with single-minded intent.

In this game you will discover that success lies on the other side of failure and is always brought to you by a design which is utterly inexplicable and completely outside of your ingenuity. You have to have expended your own resources first, though, before you can really say in you heart of hearts 'I give up. I submit'. In other words, 'I am in the state of Islam'.

To be graced by this patterning of intent is to encapsulate the whole of existence in the Totality of the Self. Not to discover this is to spend a life in terror from the inevitable crushing by the Totality of the Other.

This journey is about the cultivation and polishing of intent. In this process the first thing one needs to do is take the flying carpet called the musalla off the wall as an object of worship and to stand on it. The deen is a technology of transformation, and it gets ruined in the hands of the sanctimonious who seek to turn it into a cultural identity. As a technology of transformation it is staggeringly powerful. And so a good place to start is with the basics. If you are not praying regularly then do so. 5 times a day. Also keep up all 5 the pillars. Beyond this I recommend that you start keeping a daily journal or diary (any voyage of discovery has a ship's log).

Every week read the daily entries and summarise them. Every month read the weekly summaries and summarise them again. Every Quarter summarise the three months and every year summarise the quarters. The effect of this is to deliberately pull you out of the minutiae of day to day events and to see things from an increasingly higher perspective.

We need to govern our wayfaring with common sense. There are so many staggering excesses being committed in the name of tassawuf that we very often get lost in a maze of mystification and obscurantist nonsense.

I think the following rules of thumb are helpful:

1. If you can't translate something which is being said to you into plain English that makes a pragmatic contribution to the issue you are struggling with then be careful.

2. If someone claims that your progress on the path is dependent on your loyalty to them then be careful.

3. If a group claims to be somehow the chosen then be careful.

4. Accept help from wherever your Rabb sent it.

5. Be diligent in making your own consciousness and the quality of your perception the fundamental project of your day to day experience and see all the things that you do as a means to that end.

6. Commit to the five pillars and most particularly your salaat as a non-negotiable cornerstone of your practice.


~  A letter from Shaykh Ebrahim Etsko Schuitema

Courtesy Shaykha Shahbano Aliani via Sh. Harun's Facebook Post

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Technology of the Heart: Letter of a Contemporary Sufi Mentor to his Disciple
Letter of a Contemporary Sufi Mentor to his Disciple
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