Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sufism: Beyond Borders; Beyond Creed; Beyond Labels


Confronted by racial profiling, wars and bonfire of vanities, the ordinary humans relate to the subtext of a transcendent spiritual yearning regardless of their backgrounds and nationalities. Three strands of mystical poetry are clear: conflicts of identity wear people down; the illusions of adherence to creed at the end of the day does not solve anything; and overplay of the ritual and the formal is at the expense of inner peace.

Sufism is not a way of thinking but a way of life, a way of living; not a philosophy of life but a way of life.

There are religions and religions, but Sufism is THE religion - the very heart, the innermost core, the very soul.

In fact to call it ’Sufism’ is not right because it is not an ’ism’ at all.

Sufism is freedom. It does not create any system around you. It does not tell you to believe in a certain system. Yes, it talks about trust, but not of belief.Sufi philosophy preached in its essence ....a total Independence from sectarian religious groups and religious dogma.It abhorred ritual and orthodoxy.

You may not ever have heard of Sufism and you may be a Sufi .
 Krishna is a Sufi, and Christ too; Mahavir is a Sufi, and Buddha too - and they never heard about the word, and they never knew that anything like Sufism exists.

Not Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, any ism.





A punjabi poet sang this with abandon dancing in the dusty streets of  Punjab ..he said

Bulleh! to me,
I am not known
Not a believer inside the mosque, am I
Nor a pagan disciple of false rites
Not the pure amongst the impure
Neither Moses, nor the Pharoah
Bulleh! to me, I am not known
And the desire to be free of all trappings of identity, convention and routine:
In happiness nor in sorrow, am I
Neither clean, nor a filthy mire
Not from water, nor from earth
Neither fire, nor from air, is my birth
Bulleh! to me, I am not known
Not an Arab, nor Lahori
Neither Hindi, nor Nagauri
Hindu, Turk (Muslim), nor Peshawari
Nor do I live in Nadaun
Bulleh! to me, I am not known


This is the universality of Sufism and the universality of every mystical tradition in its essence.The religion itself is just God. God is the religion.

Sufis don’t call it ’Sufism’; it is the name given by the outsiders. They call their vision TASSAWURI, a love-vision, a loving approach towards reality.
 It is falling in love with existence

This sentiment is expressed in many Sufi teachings and most beautifully in Rumi's famous poem. Rumi has always been the most universal of Muslim thinkers.Rumi sang the story of abandon.
The poem below has not unsurprisingly proved to be much popular in the US:

What is to be done, O Moslems? for I do not recognize myself.
I am neither Christian, nor Jew, nor Gabr, nor Moslem.
I am not of the East, nor of the West, nor of the land, nor of the sea;
I am not of Nature’s mint, nor of the circling’ heaven.
I am not of earth, nor of water, nor of air, nor of fire;
I am not of the empyrean, nor of the dust, nor of existence, nor of entity.
I am not of India, nor of China, nor of Bulgaria, nor of Saqsin
I am not of the kingdom of ‘Iraqian, nor of the country of Khorasan
I am not of the this world, nor of the next, nor of Paradise, nor of Hell
I am not of Adam, nor of Eve, nor of Eden and Rizwan.
source:”Selected Poems from the Divani Shamsi Tabriz,” Edited and translated by R.A. Nicholson, Cambridge University Press, 1977

Rumi’s poetic question, “Where do I come from and what am I supposed to be doing?” speaks to countless Americans (including Madonna, Goldie Hawn, Donna Karan, Martin Sheen, Debra Winger, Rosa Parks the composer Philip Glass) who have strong spiritual yearnings.

The German poet Hans Meinke, remarked some years ago that Rumi’s poetry was “the only hope for the dark times in which we live.”

In all his writings you have this idea that as God is located in the human heart, you don’t need ritual to get to him, that he’s as accessible to Christians and Jews as he is to Muslims.


 These feelings were echoed by another great SUFI ....Shaykh al-Akbar Ibn al-‘Arabi......the Theorist of Sufism.. who says; Beware confining yourself to a particular conception and denying all else, for much good would elude you. Indeed the knowledge of reality would elude you. Be in yourself a substance for all forms, for God is too vast and tremendous to be restricted to one form of belief rather than another.”

That is a direct quote from Ibn al-‘Arabi from his Fusus al-Hikam and one that speaks in a very relevant and timely way in our time when humanity is struggling to find a common spiritual language that transcends the boundaries of difference.

Ibn Arabi developed the idea of unity of beings..he had a pre Spinozaist belief in the creator, being visible in different aspects of nature and the  human spirit.

Sufi mystics argued that Allah is present everywhere and in everything ...everything the good the bad the ugly is a manifestation of the divine.So the Sufi accepts all and rejects nothing.

Sufis say: We and the existence are one. All existence is the manifestation of the divine.Each believer could discover Allah in his or her own special way.


And to God belongs the East and the West. So whatever direction you turn there is the Face of God (wajh Allah). Indeed God is the Encompassing, the Knowing.
– Holy Qur’an 2:115
Sufism is freedom. It does not create any system around you. It does not tell you to believe in a certain system. Yes, it talks about trust, but not of belief.

Trust is a totally different thing. Allah Tawakul is complete radical submission to Allah and trust in Him.


“You’re sitting here with us, but you’re also out walking
in a field at dawn. You are yourself
the animal we hunt when you come with us on the hunt.
You’re in your body like a plant is solid in the ground,
yet you’re wind. You’re the diver’s clothes
lying empty on the beach. You’re the fish.
In the ocean are many bright strands
and many dark strands like veins that are seen
when a wing is lifted up.
Your hidden self is blood in those, those veins
that are lute strings that make ocean music,
not the sad edge of surf, but the sound of no shore.”
Rumi, “The Diver’s Clothes Lying Empty”

3 comments:

  1. I love this.....never have i heard sufi philopshy being xplained so beautifully.Great work sofi.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ms Khan.. Was lucky enough to come across your article while surfing. You are right. Allah is irrespective of religion. Spirituality is beyond the limits of structured dogmas and is universal. Ikhlas or sincerity is to seek God alone whichever way you choose to and that is Sufism in the conventional sense. Was moved and impressed by the way you explained it. Thank you.
    Ashfaq

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ms Khan.. Was lucky enough to come across your article while surfing. You are right. Allah is irrespective of religion. Spirituality is beyond the limits of structured dogmas and is universal. Ikhlas or sincerity is to seek God alone whichever way you choose to and that is Sufism in the conventional sense. Was moved and impressed by the way you explained it. Thank you.
    Ashfaq

    ReplyDelete