Wednesday, March 16, 2011


"If a person has learnt the manner of friendship he need not learn anything more; he knows everything. He has learnt the greatest religion, for it is in this same way that one will make a way to God." Hazrat Inayat Khan
'Friendship in the path of God, friendship in the path of truth is greater than any friendship in life.' Abu Hashim Midani

I wrote about this theme four years ago. Reading back over it, it seems rather self-serving and ego centric. Oh well, we all move along at our own pace and mine seems to be that of a moderately self-aware snail. So, moving on

In the past few months I have given five or six radio interviews about my book, Practical Sufism. The interviewers always begin by asking what Sufism is. My answer always is, "It depends on who you ask." I go on to say that Sufism is different things to different people but to me it is about understanding friendship. In this manner I make it clear that anything else I say is my idea and not any kind of doctrinaire expression. I also present the thought that understanding friendship is the foremost ideal to foster in this age of confusion and contention. But what is this friendship of which I speak and which seems to be so very important for the coming age?

First of all, let's establish that what we normally call friendship is really acquaintance. Acquaintances are people you know, in one way or another, whom you may or may not like. If you like them, you might think of them in various ways, often you will think if them as friends but you will also be thinking .what does this person do for me? How does this person enhance my own version of myself? As long as they are doing that for you, and you are doing it for them, you will remain friends. But, let that ideal slip in even the slightest way and then what happens? I had a hypnosis client the other day who firmly stated that she would be friends with a person right up until the moment that they hurt her. Then they were summarily ejected from her life with no more chances possible. That's it, done, never darken my door ever again. Because she has a lot of issues I did not point out that this might be a symptom of something deeper. But I think that it points out a fairly common way of thinking. Friendship is temporary, disappointment is always lurking, waiting to pounce. And then, when the expected disappointment appears, the only recourse is to defend and protect yourself. This is about as far from friendship as it is possible to get but it is our norm.

Friendship starts, must start, with being friends with yourself. That means knowing your flaws but still seeing that you are much more than your flaws, that you are a wonderful person who is living their life. Only then can you look to others and be their friend, unconditionally. The most important part of being a friend is overlooking the flaws of another. Knowing your own flaws you can easily see that the person before you is living their life, doing what they can and slowly understanding, just like everyone.

In Sufism God or Allah is often thought of as The Friend. Isn’t that a wonderful thought? Most of mankind’s religions create an image of a remote, judgmental, more or less arbitrary God that might or might not deign to grant a wish or interfere in affairs. For God to be The Friend however is a whole different way of feeling. A friend is someone who is always there, supportive, happy to be with you, unconcerned with your many faults. The Friend is with you regardless. It is natural to want to please your friend but what can you do to please The Friend, even though The Friend is unconcerned with being pleased? . In this case the pleasure of The Friend is gained by becoming your true self. And what does that mean? Among the many aspects of becoming the true self, perhaps the most important, as noted by Pir O Murshid above, is the development of friendship, for yourself and for others

So, if your closest friend is God, how could you possibly feel that another person, also part of God, is anything less than your friend as well? See how this works? It isn’t hard at all but it does require some commitment on your part. Commitment you ask? Yes, commitment to The Friend.
Maybe commitment isn’t quite right. How about acknowledgment? Or, how about being friends with yourself? Since you are part of God, acknowledging God as The Friend is really acknowledging being friends with your own self. To acknowledge that God is your friend might seem like a stretch. But it isn’t really. If you already feel that you are part of the Universe and can see that your participation in the Universe is a worthy endeavor then it is not so very hard to see that the Universe or God likes you. How about that? You have already been told that God loves you, kind of like a parent loving an unruly child but God likes you and is happy that you exist? Think about that for a while and then let me know how that feels.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir


Sarala said...

I read a book recently that lists these aspects of love/friendship:
Allowing (allowing the other person to live their path)

As you say, it can be difficult to maintain these when I am disappointed by some words or action, or inaction by the other (or by myself). So what I am working on is increasing my capacity to hold the '5 A-s' - both for myself and for my friends.

Rahima said...

This is a timely reminder for me. Thank you Musawwir. (a phrase I used as a mantra at work for a while was "a kinder, gentler OR" this points to this missing attitude in so many workplaces)