Sunday, June 24, 2007


I read the following quote in a book I am reading and wanted to share it with you. It is from a chapter in the book titled "How Sufi's account for their being called Sufi's"

Yusuf ibn al-Husayn tells us that he asked Dhu'l-Nun: "With whom shall I associate?" He answered: "With him who possesses nothing, and does not disapprove of any state thou happenest to be in; who does no change when thou changest, even though that change be great: for the more violently thou changest, the greater is thy need of him."

(The Doctrine of the Sufis – Abu Bakr al-Kalabadhi – trans. Arther Johan Arberry
Kitab Bhavan,
New Delhi, India 2000 from page7)

One of the things that we strive for when treading the spiritual path is unconditional acceptance of the state of the person before us. But, Oh man is that hard. What the author of this piece, which was written around 960 CE, is pointing out is who a person should seek as a guide and with whom such a seeker should associate. One can assume that, in finding such a person, the people around him/her will be in various stages of understanding unconditional acceptance. They will therefore provide support for the one who is struggling to understand; which is the whole point. I am tempted to think that we have an intrinsic emotion that urges us to seek out such people. The knowledge may be intrinsic but if you think about it, it is obvious that there is also fear and a tendency to reject such people as unworldly, or strange, or damaging to our culture, etc. It is the reason that prophets almost always come to a bad end. The problem is that such people do not see the universe in the same way that the rest of us see it. This is a good thing since hanging with such people will expand our point of view. It is also challenging since hanging with such people will question our point of view. Not that such people will confront you deliberately but you cannot help but notice that your personal point of view is askew from theirs. At this stage a couple of things will happen. One, obviously, is admiration or even deep devotion to the one who is the exemplar of that which you desire to understand and perhaps become a bit of yourself. Another is resentment which can come out in all sorts of ways. Another is fear which I already mentioned.

There is a really interesting aspect to this fear that has intrigued me ever since I figured it out; it is the fear of change. I first noticed this phenomenon in myself not long after I joined the Sufi Order. I realized that there was a part of my personality that was seriously resisting the normal progression of spirituality in my being because it was terrified of having to change the personality. I was afraid because I had no references for how my personality should be if I were to suddenly become somehow more spiritual or something. How do you act when everything, all of your ideas about how the world works, suddenly changes? I think that one of the current difficulties in what we call the New Age movement, which subscribes to much of what Eastern spirituality has to teach, is that - when we are confused over just how to act - we tend to pretend. In a simple world, one without mass communication, no phones, etc., there is ample room for the inner work and for repose and, one assumes, for communing with nature. Our world is not simple, it is far from simple. Yet I notice that there is a kind of imperative that insists that simplicity should rule. In fact, I suspect that in that a simpler universe that we assume existed, things were just as complex though they may have been quite a bit slower. Humans seem to have a talent for making things complex, no matter what the condition is.

It is possible to imagine what it might be like to be that person who is possession-less and is endlessly tolerant of every person that appears before him. What is their inner life like? Can you emulate their calm accepting demeanor? Can you imagine yourself with such attributes? If you have such attributes how will it change you? Being in the presence of people who can do all of this can be a great blessing or at least it can give you hints as to how you might become who you really are.

"That purpose is accomplished when a person has risen above all these things. It is that person then, who will tolerate all, who will understand all, who will assimilate all things, who will not feel disturbed by things which are not in accordance with his own nature or the way which is not his way. He will not look at them with contempt, but he will see that in the depth of every being there is a divine spark which is trying to raise its flame toward the purpose." Hazrat Inayat Khan

One of the people I guide once said something to me that really struck me as quite profound. She told me that she had been puzzling over this guide business. She had been trying to figure just what it meant to have a guide and she told me she had finally figured it out. She said that the guide holds the being of the student in trust until the student can manifest it themselves: which is a pretty good retelling of that 1100 year old statement above.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir


Anonymous said...

What often happens with a lot of spiritual transformations, I think, is that the big "event" occurs, the commitment is made, the path is set and then suddenly the individual finds him or herself alone to face the enormous consequences of what is, essential, an internal shift. Sufism recognizes the need for constant support, hence the emphasis on choosing the right guide to help one deal with the consequences of the initial commitment, and then to negotiate the twists and turns of the chosen path. I am not saying I could not make the journey alone; I am simply saying I am glad I do not have to. Even at my moments of greatest despair (because despite the understanding, despite the study, despite the practices, these moments still occur), I know that I am not alone. That is very important I think. No matter how lost I get trying to figure out the "why" of it all, there is always someone to guide me back to the path, to comfort me, or, as often as not, tell me to get over it and on with it. For all of these things I am extremely grateful. And the wonder of it all, there is nothing asked in plate passed around at the end of a sermon. No demands, no expectations. Pretty cool I think. Sabura

Shazia said...


What to comment about the struggles of Mureed and Murshid! Undoubtedly the most unconditional association of all! In this ever changing, complex world we crave to have someone in our lives that stay the same. Murshid is that constant in our lives whom we can find standing right behind us whenever we look back. I believe Sufism is all about accomplishing the very constant within oneself. Rising above from the mundane, unstable aspect of life and reaching an inner bliss! The accomplishing of “That Purpose” as Pir o’ Murshid said. “For the more violently thou changest, the greater is thy need of him”… And every time thou change, one more small piece of thee starts to fall back into place. Thus piece by piece the process of mending continues.