Spiritual Travel

It is not ethical to tell people that you are teaching Sufism when you are not. Sufism is the internal mystical dimension of ʾIslām, and not a catchall or generic term for any and all kinds of esotericism, gnosticism or mysticism. In the same way that Sufism exists at the very heart of ʾIslām, so too all of the earlier dispensations have had, and do have, their own unique mystical dimension. It is, however, a mistake to call the mystical dimension of another tradition or religion “Sufism”.

Just as Kabbala is a mystical dimension of Judaism, or Tantra is an esoteric dimension of Hinduism, or Zen is an esoteric dimension of Buddhism, Sufism is the mystical dimension of ʾIslām, and one cannot rightly say that it is the mystical, esoteric, gnostic dimension of any religion other than ʾIslām. Neither is Sufism something isolated unto itself nor is it a new religion. If one is a Dominican, one is by definition a Christian, just as if one is a Chassid, one cannot really be anything else but a Jew. Similarly it is not possible to be a Sufi unless one is a Muslim.

Allāh in His Mercy sent messages to the souls imprisoned in the body, inviting the people to Himself. He who is destined to be good in eternity hears and obeys the order and puts an end to his dependence on the body of earth. His love of transient being decreases; his love of his origins increases. See the stories of ʾIbrāhīm (alayhi-s-salām) and Mūsa (alayhi-s-salām). He does this through inclination, study, effort, turuq, and experience.

Muslims in every ṣalāt ask Allāh to keep us on the Straight Way, and yet everywhere in the world we find Muslims living under Allāh’s wrath, from the ravages of war and flood to the contempt and plundering of corrupt rulers whose ʾIslām is mainly for show. This essay explores the meaning of the straight way: sincerity, honesty, focus, and the honest examination of the self. It points out the counterpoint in the history of ʾIslām between the family of the Prophet ﷺ, specifically Ḥusayn ʾibn ʿAli (alayhi-s-salām), and those who sought and gained worldly power, specifically Yazīd. The two parallel paths, one straight and fraught with danger and the other crooked and surrounded by the temptations of the dunya, and one must choose the right path in his or her life.

Being a Muslim requires of people that they should discover the reality, essence and nature of this world the way it actually is. Whoever really discovers the nature of this world will never become infatuated or lose their heart for its sake. Neither will they be deceived with its power, its wealth and various allurements, nor will they become the slaves and prisoners of this world. Once a person reaches this understanding and seeks the help of Allāh by following His guidance, he or she further needs the guidance and direction of a true Sḫaykḫ to work on the weakness of the nafs and uncover the purity of the heart.

This essay explores the qualities of the Sḫaykḫ and his responsibilities to the murīd, the student, as well as the responsibilities of the murīd to the Sḫaykḫ. The result of this giving up of one's life to Allāh and surrender to the teaching and the teacher should produce a person of truly refined character, looking upon the whole creation, as ʿIbn-l-ʿArabi said, with good will – accepting, approving, forgiving, serving and loving.

Allāh says, "Oh you who believe! Obey Allāh and obey the Messenger, and those from among you who are invested with authority!" (Sūrah an-Nisāāʾ 4:59). Many Muslims understand "those ... invested with authority" (ʾūli-l-ʾamr) to be any king, ruler, or kḫalīfah who happened to be in power. But what if he or she is a despot and an oppressor? Moreover, the Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever of you sees an evil must change it with his hand. If he is not able to do so, then [he must change it] with his tongue. And if he is not able to do that, then [he must change it] with his heart. And that is the slightest [effect of] faith.” (at-Tirmidḫī, Abu Dāwūd, al-Nasāāʾı, ʾibn Majah and Muslim)

What do you do if you see evil and injustice? Who are those worthy to be obeyed as ʾūli-l-ʾamr?

History and Practice of Tariqat ash-Shadhuli

This is a reprint of a three-part article published in The Muslim Magazine. It covers the history and practices of the Sḫadḫdḫuliyyah tariqah, its early founders, how it developed and how it is alive today, from firsthand experience by Sḫaykḫ Nooruddeen Durkee.

A Muslim believes that perfection, in so far as it can be said to have manifested in finite and limited form, (and for that reason always understood to be relative to true Perfection, which can only be the domain of Allāh, all praise to Him) can only be found in the form of the Prophet ﷺ. He was the Seal of the Prophets ﷺ, and the unlettered narrator of the oral transmission of the Final Testament, the Generous Qurʾān, which has been and is being delivered to every soul who has ears to hear. This essay explores how the practice of the ancient rites which were enlivened and delivered by the Prophet ﷺ can possibly lead us through open doors to worlds in which one can humanly hope to relate and co-operate with others in attempting to erase disbelief and oppression.

From the book: “This can be understood by means of an example. A light bulb is connected by a network of wires linked by poles. The electricity that originates from the generator in the powerhouse is transmitted to the bulbs through the wires stretched between the various poles. By entering into the transaction of the bayʿah, a person links him or herself through the wires connecting one Sḫaykḫ to another Sḫaykḫ (the poles) all the way back to the Prophet ﷺ from whom all these teachings and blessings originate – the generator in the powerhouse. In this way the teachings of ʾIslām are kept forever green and alive in the most personal of ways – from human to human – across time…This is not ‘book learning’, though some things can be learned from books, but rather it is the teaching that reaches from heart to heart.”

May Allāh make us all to be receptors of this teaching.

In the Qurʾān, Allāh distinguishes between those He does not love: “Allāh does not love the aggressors” (2:190), “Allāh does not love corruption” (2:205), “Allāh does not love the ungrateful” (2:276), “He does not love the unbelievers” (30:45), and those whom He does love: “Allah loves those who work goodness” (2:195), “Allāh loves those who are patient” (3:146), “Allāh loves those who are just” (5:42), “Allāh loves those who struggle in this Way” (61:4).

In all the above cases the Arabic word that is used is derived from the root HaBaBa which means love, affection, effacement. It also means ‘to seed’. Implicit within that meaning is the development of the seed into a mature plant. Those who have deeply concerned themselves with the clarification and definition of the degrees and levels of this ‘love’, through direct experience, have enumerated certain distinct and precise phases in the progression from affection to annihilation. Each of these stages has been divided and delineated by the tracers of the ravished and broken hearted into minute subdivisions of refined meaning as a result of their own ecstatic joyful sufferings on the way to Allāh, from ‘compatibility’; through ‘intimacy’, ‘attachment’, ‘tenderness’; through ‘ecstasy’, ‘enslavement’, ‘effacement’ to, at last, communion and permanence.