Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Female Sufi Mystics

All the ridicule being thrown Bushra Maneka( witch, magician, Melisandre) has made me realize how most Muslims remain unaware of female sufi mystics contribution to Sufism throughout Islamic history( full disclosure; I don't know her personally) The cliches thrown at Sufi women still sting me the same because they imply that its somehow transgressive for a woman to be a Sufi Pir and have male disciples or that women are incapable of spiritual enlightenment but nothing could be more historically inacuurate.

From the earliest days onward, women have played an important role in the development of Sufism, Though cultural manifestations have covered over some of the original purity of intention, the words of the Qur’an convey the equality of women and men before the eyes of God. 

Sufism berates egotism because it corrupts a person’s spiritual state, which allows its followers to challenge the idea that males are superior. One of the defining principles of Sufism was that the value of a human lay in the state of the soul, not in the appearence.

The qualities which Sufism seeks to teach; surrender, egolessness, mercy, acceptance of pain ----women being victims of a patriarchal society are usually more receptive to a Sufic teachings.

“Piro! I will not accept the companionship of a lie
Those that are separated will never meet, just like a broken thread
Nor family, nor your in-laws, not your age-mates, neither your friends
They disperse as people do when they disembark from a boat.”

All religions belonged to men as far as Piro Preman was concerned. She wrote:

“Making false religions and promises,
You make Turks by snipping the penis and the moustache;
Hindus are made with janeyu and chat,
Women cannot be made thus, they are both wrong.”

— (Translations by Anshu Malhotra)
Throughout the ages, we find names of pious women who pursued the mystical
path, either independently or as consorts or mothers of Sufis. 

Many of their names are noted in the hagiographical works, and the memory of many
saintly women is kept alive in small sanctuaries found in North Africa, Anatolia, and particularly in Muslim India. 

Women have been more involved in the Sufi movement than any other area of Islam (“Women in Islamic Society”). This is because Sufism is quite open to women’s’ public performance of worship. There are famous female Sufis, whose involvement dates back as early as the 8th and early 9th century C.E. 

In some Sufi circles, women and men participate in ceremonies together (Khalek). There are even orders of Sufism that are completely made up of women, with women teachers, called sheikhs (Khalek). They were religious teachers, counselors, and healers in Muslim society. Today, the Qubaysiyyat, located in Syria and Lebanon, is one of the most well-known and largest female orders in the Middle East.

This role of women is not astonishing since in the Islamic Middle Ages women participated in various aspects of social life.In the mystical life, women have played an important role to this day; even some successful leaders in the modern traditions have been women.


But they have been removed out of the historical narrative by the patriarchal “Wahhabi” stream, which inarguably positioned women as children makers with voices, bodies, hair, and existence the Devil likes to use to tempt men.

In the early years of this new revelation, Muhammad’s beloved wife, Khadija, filled a role of great importance. It was she who sustained, strengthened, and supported him against his own doubt and bewilderment. It was to Prophet Muhammad’s and Khadija’s daughter, Fatimah, to whom the deeper mystical understanding of Islam was first conveyed, and indeed she is often recognized as the first Muslim mystic. Her marriage with Ali bound this new manifestation of mysticism into this world, and the seeds of their union began to blossom. She was a keeper of occult mysteries and wrote a book called Book of Fatima.

As the mystical side of Islam developed, it was a woman, Rabi’a al-Adawiyya (717-801 A.D.), who first expressed the relationship with the divine in a language we have come to recognize as specifically Sufic by referring to God as the Beloved. As this story unfolds, we are discovering the lives and work of many Sufi sisters, they are hidden behind pages of history. Their stories are spread across the world and need to be documented. They are hidden in sufi books and poetry.

Ibn Arabi, the great “Pole of Knowledge” (1165-1240 A.D.), tells of time he spent with two elderly women mystics who had a profound influence on him: Shams of Marchena, one of the “sighing ones,” and Fatimah of Cordova. Of Fatimah, with whom he spent a great deal of time, he says:

“I served as a disciple one of the lovers of God, a gnostic, a lady of Seville called Fatimah bint Ibn al-Muthanna of Cordova. I served her for several years, she is over ninety-five years of age… She used to play on the tambourine and show great pleasure in it. When I spoke to her about it, she answered, ‘I take joy in Him Who has turned to me and made me one of His Friends (Saints), using me for His own purposes. Who am I that He should choose me among mankind?

He is jealous of me for, whenever I turn to something other than Him in heedlessness, He sends me some affliction concerning that thing.’… With my own hands, I built for her a hut of reeds as high as she, in which she lived until she died.

She used to say to me, ‘I am your spiritual mother and the light of your earthly mother.’ When my mother came to visit her, Fatimah said to her, ‘O light, this is my son and he is your father, so treat him filially and dislike him not.’

When Bayazid Bestami (d. 874), another well-known master, was asked who his master was, he said it was an old woman whom he had met in the desert. This woman had called him a vain tyrant and showed him why: by requiring a lion to carry a sack of flour, he was oppressing a creature God himself had left unburdened, and by wanting recognition for such miracles, he was showing his vanity. Her words gave him spiritual guidance for some time.

Another woman for whom Bestami had great regard was Fatimah Nishapuri (d. 838), of whom he said, “There was no station (on the Way) about which I told her that she had not already undergone.” Someone once asked the great Egyptian Sufi master Dho’n-Nun Mesri, “Who, in your opinion, is the highest among the Sufis?”

He replied, “A lady in Mecca, called Fatimah Nishapuri, whose discourse displayed a profound apprehension of the inner meanings of the Qur’an.” Further pressed to comment on Fatimah, he added, “She is of the saints of God, and my teacher.” She once counseled him, “In all your actions, watch that you act with sincerity and in opposition to your lower self (nafs).”

She also said: “Whoever doesn’t have God in his consciousness is erring and in delusion, whatever language he speaks, whatever company he keeps. Yet whoever holds God’s company never speaks except with sincerity and assiduously adheres to a humble reserve and earnest devotion in his conduct.”

The wife of the ninth-century Sufi Al-Hakim at-Tirmidhi was a mystic in her own right. She used to dream for her husband as well as for herself. Khidr, the mysterious one, would appear to her in her dreams.

One night he told her to tell her husband to guard the purity of his house. Concerned that perhaps Khidr was referring to the lack of cleanliness that sometimes occurred because of their young children, she questioned him in her dream. He responded by pointing to his tongue: she was to tell her husband to be mindful of the purity of his speech.

Among the women who followed the Way of Love and Truth, there were some who rejoiced and some who continually wept. Sha’wana, a Persian, was one of those who wept. Men and women gathered around her to hear her songs and discourses. She used to say, “The eyes which are prevented from beholding the Beloved, and yet are desirous of looking upon Him, cannot be fit for that vision without weeping.”

Sha’wana was not only “blinded by tears of penitence, but dazzled by the radiant glory of the Beloved.”

During her life she experienced intimate closeness with Friend, or God. This profoundly influenced her devout husband and her son (who became a saint himself). She became one of the best-known teachers of her time.

One of those who rejoiced was Fedha, who was also a married woman. She taught that “joy of heart should be happiness based on what we inwardly sense; therefore we should always strive to rejoice within our heart, till everyone around us also rejoices.”4

Among these was Fatimah or Jahan-Ara, the favorite daughter of Shah Jahan, the Mogul emperor of India (1592-1666). Fatimah wrote an account of her initiation called Risala-i Sahibiyya, which is known as a beautiful and erudite exposition of the flowering of Sufism within her heart.

Aisha of Damascus was one of the well-known mystics of the fifteenth century. She wrote a famous commentary of Khwaja ‘Abdo’llah Ansari’s Stations on the Way (Manazel as-sa’erin) entitled Veiled Hints within the stations of the Saints (Al-esharat al-khafiys fi’l-manazel al-auliya’).

Bib Hayati Kermani belonged to a family immersed in the Sufi tradition. Her brother was a shaikh of the Nimatullahi Order, and she became the wife of the master of the order. After her marriage, she composed a divan (collection of poems) that revealed her integration of both the outer and the inner knowledge of Sufism.

In Pakistan, there is shrine of Bibi Pak Daman where women from Imam Hussain's family are buried. Women throng the shrine, believing it has healing effects.

"Aaiye haath uthaayein hum bhi 
Hum jinhen rasm-e-dua yaad nahin 
(Come, let us raise our hands as well 
We, the ones who do not remember the ritual of prayer)

Hum jinhen soz-e-mohabbat ke siwa
Koyee but koyee khudaa yaad nahin
(We, the ones who do not remember anything other than the 
warmth of love, do not know of any idol, nor any God.)

Aaiye arz guzaarein keh nigaar-e-hasti
Zehr-e-imroz mein sheereeni-e-fardaa bhar de!
(Come, let us beseech that the Creator of existence may 
fill sweetness in the morrow from the poison of today)"

~ Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Rumi’s family itself had a long tradition of recognizing the spiritual beauty and wisdom of women. It was his grandmother, the princess of Khorasan, who first lit the spark of inquiry in Rumi’s father, Bahaeddin Weled. Under her care, he grew to be the “sultan of the learned” and a great spiritual light in his time. Rumi’s mother, Mu’mine Hatun, a devout and saintly lady, was very dear to him. She died shortly after Rumi’s own marriage to Gevher Hatun, the daughter of one of Bahaeddin’s closest disciples. Gevher Hatun had grown up beside Rumi, listening to his father’s discourses. This beautiful woman, who was known to have the heart of an angel, was the mother of Sultan Weled, to whom Rumi’s own teacher, Shams-i-tabriz, conveyed many mysteries. In his Conversations (Maqalat), Shams himself stressed the equal capacity of women to be intimate with the Ineffable and to “die before death.”

Women have always been more receptive to the Sufi message than men because of their inherent occult nature and imagination. Its not odd for a woman to be a Sufi;its natural.

As Rabi’a says:

In love, nothing exists between breast and Breast.
Speech is born out of longing,
True description from the real taste.
The one who tastes, knows;
The one who explains, lies.
How can you describe the true form of Something
In whose presence you are blotted out?
And in whose being you still exist?
And who lives as a sign for your journey?

Monday, January 8, 2018

From East to West: Rumi

Rumi, the mystic who was born 1207 in Vakhshoutside Balkh in present day Afghanistan, and is arguably the most widely read poet in translation today.RUMI is ranked as America’s best-selling poet,while musical interpretations of Rumi's poetry, composed by Deepak Chopra played in the background. Philip Glass and Robert Wilson have written an opera that includes 114 of Rumi’s poems in the libretto. And back in the 19th century, he was mentioned extensively by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was at one time a Unitarian minister, as well as by the enormously significant German philosopher Hegel.

Any poet from the 13th century who has such unique and lasting credits has to have something going on in his life and work to be taken so seriously. I would like to suggest that he has a lot of relevance to whom and where we are, anytime we begin to take seriously what, if any, our relation to the cosmos should be.

In his poems, Rumi does not talk about himself, his family or his past. This should not come as a surprise. He was first and foremost a deeply spiritual person living life “here and now.”   Rumi’s poetry (like his life) expanses love from something abstract in our prayers and metaphysics into our life and world-encompassing our interpersonal, international and interfaith relations. In this sense,he is universal
Don’t seek me in this or that world
Both worlds have vanished in the world I am.

-- -- Rumi

When I read Rumi's poetry it resonated with the feeling of emptiness and the search for the beloved within me.He was a divine messenger from GOD..able to invoke the thirst from within us.

Rumi recognized that we can have an instinctive and mystical response to the ordinary events of life. We can have a more joyful daily existence. And he couched that in the faith of Islam, in the language of poetry, and in the joy of the whirling dervish and dance.
When one of his young disciples died, he turned his funeral procession into a whirling dance. For him, joy was primary and joining the kaleidoscopic dance of colors, which made up our lively universe, was the way to feel this transforming joy. For his part, he wrote thousands of ghazals, each a kaleidoscope of moving colors and shapes in its own right.
Oh Beloved,
take me.
Liberate my soul.
Fill me with your love and 

release me from the two worlds.
If I set my heart on anything but you
let fire burn me from inside.
Oh Beloved,
take away what I want
Take away what I do.
Take away what I need.
Take away everything
that takes me from you

The mesmerising quality of his words, that moves people and that talks to their inner hearts, is only due to the scent of the Beloved.

I am His cup and His wine jug, I am the dispenser of the scent of His perfume
Come to me so that you could receive the scent of His perfumed quality

What ever you have heard from us, you have heard it from God
Since all that we are saying is His sayings.

Despite his initial portrayal as an all-out mystic and a reluctant poet, Rumi had always enjoyed poetry for the sake of its poetic fun. His master Shams once admonished him for reading too much Arabic love poetry . Rumi loved the genre of ghazal so much that he turned it on its head by re-imagining its most basic conventions. His major poetic composition, the Divan-e Shams, contains over 35,000 lines of lyric poetry. He wrote unconventional ghazals as short as three and as long as fifty lines, abandoned slow meters and reached for meters that echoed whirling, child play, or drunken unruly behavior. More notoriously, he got tired of gazelles, roses, and nightingales and opened the door for donkeys, grasshoppers, flies and camels to re-populate the poetic space. Most ordinary topics made into his ghazals:
It is the rainy season, I dig a canal;
In the hope of union I clap my hands.
The clouds are pregnant with drops from the sea of love;
I am pregnant with those clouds.
Don't say you are not a musician, clap your hands!
Come I will teach you how to become one.
So bright! Will you tell me whose house is that?
I love bright houses so!
Alas! I hide my own water of life
As oil drops cover the surface of water

Nobody can tell you how to interpret RUMI....he himself has not prisoned his poetry in any religous or cultural cages.. neither should you.He belongs to the world and that is why he is so popular all over the world. Rumi integrated in his life the learning of a scholar, the insight of a sage, and literary gem of a poet. 

He is foremost  global citizen and speaks about the human experience and yeraning of love and the emptiness within. Somehow we sense that he belongs to noone and everyone

I will quote only a few verses of this section to give you a taste.

He said, you are not mad enough, you are not suited for this house
I went and became mad, I became bound in shackles

These lines are as intimidating as they are alluring. What is such a love, and why do certain people fall so deeply under its spell?
He said you are not slain, not drenched with joy
Before his life-giving face, I became slain and cast myself down

He said you are a sheikh and headman, you are a leader and guide
I am not a sheikh, I am not a leader, I have become slave to your command

For Rumi, love was a kind of eventful flight, a journey heavenward. But we are not given the nature of the journey nor the location of the heavens. Indeed, the journey could entail discovering an inner seed that swallows the entire universe -- as in this quatrain:

I melted in the sea of purity like salt
belief and infidelity vanished as did certainty and doubt
A star rose in the center of my chest
the seven heavens disappeared in that single star
Hence love declares:
I am Joseph! My proof is my moonlike face
Did anyone ever ask the Sun to prove its presence?
I am a tall cypress, directing you right to your destination
There is nothing more reliable than a guide from heaven.

We are gazing at the heavenly beauty of Prophet Joseph as he merges with the Sun and the Moon descending from there to the earthly greenness in the upright figure of a cypress tree. So we discover the dazzling poetic vista he has opened before us, Rumi appeals to our sense of play:

O, flowers on flowerbeds! Where is your proof of your existence?
And the flowers answer: "Our delicious scent in your head! Our beautiful colors in your eyes!"
We are now in the field of flowers: colorful, fragrant, self-aware and able to voice their thoughts. Just in case our intellect disbelieves the sentience of the flowers or any other part of the story.

I desire you more than food or drink
My body, my senses, my mind,
Hunger for your taste
I can sense your presence in my heart
Although you belong to all the world
I wait with silent passion for one gesture,
One glance from you…

Rumi reminds us of the confusion of the intellect in the domain of love. With rationality disarmed, love in control and beauty all around us, comes another kaleidoscopic scene:

You wish to have proof of a world beyond this one?
See how the old leaves and makes room for the new
A new day, a new night, a new garden, even a new trap to fall into
A new thought in each breath. Newness is a wonder. It surely is a treasure.
Did you ever wonder where the new comes from?
Where the old disappears to?
If beyond what the eyes see there are not endless universes.
The world is a flowing stream, it looks enclosed and unchanging
But the old flows away and the new arrives. God knows where from

In this poem, we are standing on the edge of the stream that is life, our heads giddy with the colors and scents all around us. What will be the next images moving through our kaleidoscope?

Rumi will not limit our imagination by listing the wonders to come. Poetry is action. We will know only by becoming one with that which we wish to know.

Here comes the next scene, an encounter, an opportunity for action! Rumi is standing on the stage:

Love is calling me every moment from every direction
I am heading for the heavens. Anybody wants to watch?
We have all been there before, with angles on our side
I say let us go back where we belong.
Indeed we are higher than the heavens, and much more than angels
Why not transcend these two to reach our home in God's magnificence.

The moon that embodied Joseph's beauty is now cleft asunder giddy with fragrant breeze coming from the abode of Prophet Mohammad. Now turn your kaleidoscope toward the heart to gaze at your personal moon! We are seabirds born in the ocean of the soul. 

Rumi appeals because, as he believed, each one of us carries a memory (no matter how faint) of our Divine home and each one of us (no matter how often) hears echoes of the celestial bird’s song hidden in the garden of our heart.
He isn't just a Sufi poet.
He is a poet of the world.

The wave from pre-eternity came and built our bodies into a ship [able to sale on its waves] / When the ship breaks, it is time for the joy of unio
It is time for the joy of union, it is time for coming to life, for living forever
it is the season of kindness and generosity, the sea is brimming with pure waves

And from this point on, the poem, like the sea itself, brims with wave after wave of joy as brilliant images 
emerge from its waves culminating in the ultimate brightness, God's light:

The jewel box of generosity has opened, the roaring sea has arrived the
dawn of happiness has broken. What morning? It is God's light

Rumi died on 17 December 1273, aged 67. People from diverse religions and ethnicities -- Muslims, Christians, Jews, Persians, Turks, Arabs and Greek, the rich, the poor, the elite and the illiterate, women and men -- all came to his funeral and mourned the loss of their great sage and poet. Buried in Konya, Rumi's tomb (the Green Dome, called called "Ghobat al-Khidhra," in Arabic and "Yashil Turbe" in Turkish) has become a shrine for thousands of his lovers, tourists and pilgrims each year. 
His poetry is infused with the divine message.As Moulana foretold 800 years ago:

Why is it that the resting place of my body has become the place of worship by people of the world?
Because day and night, everywhere in this place is filled with His presence.

Moulana says:
I am the word of Haqq and subsistent through Him
I am the food of the soul of the soul, and the ruby of purity

I am the light of the sun, fallen upon you

What can I do, Submitters to God? I do not know myself.
I am neither Christian nor Jew, neither Zoroastrian nor Muslim,
I am not from east or west, not from land or sea,
not from the shafts of nature nor from the spheres of the firmament,
not of the earth, not of water, not of air, not of fire.
I am not from the highest heaven, not from this world,
not from existence, not from being.
I am not from India, not from China, not from Bulgar, not from Saqsin,
not from the realm of the two Iraqs, not from the land of Khurasan
I am not from the world, not from beyond,
not from heaven and not from hell.
I am not from Adam, not from Eve, not from paradise and not from Ridwan.
My place is placeless, my trace is traceless,
no body, no soul, I am from the soul of souls.
I have chased out duality, lived the two worlds as one.
One I seek, one I know, one I see, one I call.
He is the first, he is the last, he is the outer, he is the inner.
Beyond "He" and "He is" I know no other.
I am drunk from the cup of love, the two worlds have escaped me.
I have no concern but carouse and rapture.
If one day in my life I spend a moment without you
from that hour and that time I would repent my life.
If one day I am given a moment in solitude with you
I will trample the two worlds underfoot and dance forever.
O Sun of Tabriz (Shams Tabrizi), I am so tipsy here in this world,
I have no tale to tell but tipsiness and rapture.
The religion of love is separate from all forms of religions
 Lovers are of one nation and one religion - love

       And that is God.

Yet I am not separated from the sun

Thursday, December 21, 2017

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.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

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. 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 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”


SWhen I was first exposed to Molânâ Jalâleddin Mohammad-e Rumi’s poetry I had been puzzled about the phenomenon of how an ordinary clergy, a jurist at best, Rumi, meets with a wanderer, a revolutionary of his time, Shams-e Tabrizi, for 30 or 45 days in seclusion and thereafter becomes the most prolific renowned poet in Persian literature. .

Until 1244, Rumi led a typically normal life for a religious scholar of that era. It was in the late Fall of that year that he met the man who was to change his life forever.

 In 1244, a man in black suit from head to toe came to the famous inn of Sugar Merchants of Konya. His name was Shams Tabrizi. He was claiming to be a travelling merchant. As it was said in Haji Bektash Veli's book, "Makalat", he was looking for something. Which he was going to find in Konya.

Eventually, he found Rumi riding a horse.One day Rumi was reading next to a large stack of books. Shams Tabriz, passing by, asked him, "What are you doing?" Rumi scoffingly replied, "Something you cannot understand." On hearing this, Shams threw the stack of books into a nearby pool of water. Rumi hastily rescued the books and to his surprise, they were all dry. Rumi then asked Shams, "What is this?" To which Shams replied, "Mowlana, this is what you cannot understand."

In another version of the meeting, Rumi was riding his donkey through the marketplace, when a man stepped in front of him and shouted, “Who is greater – Muhammad or Bestami?”Without hesitation, Rumi answered, "of course, the prophet Mohammed."Shams had to see what Rumi was made of, so he took his questioning one step further. "Betsami, the distinguished teacher, said 'I am great because God is within me,' whereas Mohammed said, 'God is great in His infinite mercy.' How would you explain this?"

When Rumi regained his composure he answered Shams saying, "Betsami limited his understanding to one aspect of God's greatness. He was secure in what he knew and sought no further. Mohammed, on the other hand, was a seeker who recognized the vast infiniteness of the Creator. His perception of God was not limited to one idea or ideal. The more he knew God the more he recognized he did not know, and so he kept seeking. Mohammed said of God, 'We do not know you as we should.'"

In the exchange that followed Rumi became so overwhelmed by the presence before him that he fainted and fell from his donkey.As the relationship matured between Shams and Rumi, they became inseparable, spending months together beyond human needs, relating together in mystical conversation – called “sobhet”.

This meeting, according to various sources, consisted of 30 or 45 days in seclusion. Also, although we know that there were not substantial changes in Shams’ thoughts after this meeting, there were revolutionary—almost unbelievable changes in Rumi that have been referred to as the, “Rebirth of Rumi.

Suddenly, in the sky at dawn, a moon appeared,
Descended from the sky
Turned its burning gaze on me,
Like a hawk during the hunt seizing a bird,
Grabbed me and flew with me high into heaven.
When I looked at myself, I could not see myself
For in this moon, my body, by grace, had become soul.
And when I traveled in this soul, I saw nothing but moon,
Until the mystery of eternal theophany lay open to me.
All the nine heavenly spheres were drowned in this moon.
The skiff of my being drowned, dissolved, entirely, in that Sea.
Then, that Sea broke up into waves, Intelligence danced back,
And launched its song,
And the Sea covered over with foam,
And from each bubble of foam, something sprang, clothed in form,
Something sprang from each light-bubble, clothed in a body.
Then each bubble of body-foam received a sign from the Sea,
Melted immediately and followed the flow of its waves.
Without the saving, redeeming help of my Lord,
Shams-ul-Haqq of Tabriz,
No one can contemplate the moon, no one can become the Sea.

During this period Rumi’s disciples were all but forgotten by their teacher. They became deeply displeased and extremely jealous. Shams sensed trouble from this quarter, and felt that he needed to disappear from time to time – for his own safety and Rumi’s too. It is reported that during one of these disappearances, Rumi’s poetry writing and mystic whirling began.

It is your turn now,
you waited, you were patient.
The time has come,
for us to polish you.
We will transform your inner pearl
into a house of fire.
You're a gold mine.
Did you know that,
hidden in the dirt of the earth?
It is your turn now,
to be placed in fire.
Let us cremate your impurities.

Then the attempt to unravel the apparent dialogue between those two men that convinced Rumi to abandon his previous approach to religion and spirituality and instead follow Shams became closer to acceptable reality than just mere assumption. It is during this intense and grueling sohbat, private conversation, that Rumi develops an eshgh-o mohebat, love and affection, for Shams that it is unprecedented in the history of mankind, and that does not fit any modern psychological definition.

After things would cool down, Shams would reappear and the episodes of being lost in each other’s company would resume. Rumi attributed more and more of his own poetry to Shams as a sign of love for his departed friend and master. In Rumi's poetry Shams becomes a symbol of God's love for mankind; Shams was a sun ("Shams" means "Sun" in Arabic) shining the Light of God on Rumi

Love came,
and became like blood in my body.
It rushed through my veins and
encircled my heart.
Everywhere I looked,
I saw one thing.
Love's name written
on my limbs,
on my left palm,
on my forehead,
on the back of my neck,
on my right big toe…
Oh, my friend,
all that you see of me
is just a shell,
and the rest belongs to love.

On one of these reappearances, Shams and Rumi fell at each other’s feet upon seeing each other.
This was a telling moment in their relationship – remembering that the first time they met; Rumi fell in a faint at Shams feet. 
This time they bowed down to each other. What had begun as a master/disciple relationship had dissolved into pure loving friendship.

The legend goes on to say that Rumi and Shams became so inseparable that jealousy grew among Rumi's already considerable followers. Ultimately they acted, murdering Shams and leaving Rumi alone again, the one true and irreplaceable soul companion of his life gone.One winter night Shams, who was living with Rumi and his household, answered a knock at the back door. Shams disappeared, never to be seen again.

This disappearance caused in Rumi what may be called a spiritual implosion, an event in which, in the absence of the beloved, the lover falls “into himself” and disappears into his own emptiness. 

Shattered by the event, Rumi is said to have undergone a period of profound mourning. Then, at a point of near-total hopelessness and emotional desolation, he experienced another mystical intuition. Though physically dead, Shams was in fact not gone from his life at all but more present than ever on an inner, spiritual plane.

Love came, 
and became like blood in my body. 

It rushed through my veins and 

encircled my heart.
Everywhere I looked, 
I saw one thing.
Love's name written
on my limbs, 
on my left palm, 
on my forehead, 
on the back of my neck, 
on my right big toe…
Oh, my friend,
all that you see of me
is just a shell,
and the rest belongs to love

"Shams" means sun in Arabic, and in the words of Rumi scholar Annemarie Schimmel: "He who had searched for Shams, the 'Sun of Truth,' in vain, discovered that he was united with him in himself."

It was in the wake of this experience that Rumi's formidable output of poetry began: a catalog that in its surviving form runs to a dozen thick volumes. Rumi's masterpiece, the Mathnawi, is a fantastical, oceanic mishmash of folktales, philosophical speculation and lyric ebullience in which the worldly and the otherworldly, the secular and the sacred, blend constantly.

For Rumi, the universe is like a tavern where people, drunk with desire and longing, collect and carouse until they finally remember their true calling: return to God whose all-encompassing love is the core of every earthly love from the most trifling to the deepest and most passionate.

 "Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?" Rumi had asked.

 "I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that, and I intend to end up there."
This world is no match for your Love.
Being away from you
is death aiming to take my soul away.
My heart, so precious,
I won't trade for a hundred thousand souls.
Your one smile takes it for free.

It is from this oceanic emptiness that the drop that was Rumi became the ocean – and his poetry a reflection within it.An excerpt from one of his poems perfectly expresses this state:

“Why should I seek? I am the same as he.
His essence speaks through me.
I have been looking for myself.”

The union became complete. Rumi fell into the ocean that was Shams. Out of that experience came a huge wave of poetry that Rumi called, The Works of Shams of Tabriz.
Rumi and Shams had merged!!!

Love is best when mixed with anguish.
In our town,
we won't call you a Lover
if you escape the pain.
Look for Love in this way,
welcome it to your soul,
Lover you, cave you,
Shams protect me.
Noah you, soul you,
conqueror and the conquered you
the awakened heart you.
Why hold me at that gate of your secret?
Light you, celebration you,
the victorious land you
the bird of Mount Sinai you.
You carry me on your tired beak.
Drop you, ocean you,
compassion and rage you, 

sugar you, poison you.
Please don't continue to hurt me.
The orb of the Sun you,
the house of Venus you,
the sliver of hope you.
Open up the way for me
Day you, night you,
fasting and the crumbs of a beggar you,
water and a pitcher you.
Quench my thirst, Beloved.
Bait you, trap you,
wine you, cup you,

Besides the two collections of Rumi’s poetry, the “Maghâlât-e Shams,” there are only four other sources of information available about the lives and works of Rumi and Shams. These four books are by Bahâeddin Valad (1226-1312), the oldest son of Rumi, and three historians—Freydoun-Ebn Sepahsâlâr, who lived in the same period Rumi and Shams were alive, and Shamsoddin Ahmad Aflâki, who wrote his accounts forty years (1318) after Rumi’s death, and Abdul Rahmận Jậmi (1438-1519

To read Rumi's poems on Shams ..you can go to   http://www.rumionfire.com/shams/index.htmother works are based on theses sources.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Fanaa is the Sufi term for extinction. It means to annihilate the self, while remaining physically alive.Persons having entered this state are said to have no existence outside of, and be in complete unity with, Allah. Fanaa is equivalent to the concept of nirvana in Buddhism and Hinduism or moksha inHinduism which also aim for annihilation of the self.

The nature of fanaa consists of the elimination of evil deeds and lowly attributes of the flesh. In other words, fanaa is abstention from sin and the expulsion from the heart of all love other than the Divine Love; expulsion of greed, lust, desire, vanity, show, etc. In the state of fanaa the reality of the true and only relationship asserts itself in the mind. One realizes and feeds that the only real relationship is with Allah Ta'ala fanaa means to destroy your self. if you destroy your self in the love of Allah then that fanaa will convert into entire life means abdi zindgi. and for that one you have to destroy your will and yourself on the will of Allah.

A sufi is who has died before death; Prophet Muhammad(PBUH)

Enlightenment equals ego death;
For millennia this equation has held true:from Shankara's rantings against the ego as a "strong and deadly serpent" to Prophet Muhammad's declaration of a "holy war against the nafs [ego]" to the Zen masters' fierce determination to use any means necessary to break the ego's grip on their students.While the term "ego," meaning "I" in Latin, is obviously a relatively recent addition to the English lexicon, just about every major enlightenment teaching in the world has long held that the highest goal of spiritual and indeed human life lies in the renunciation, rejection and, ultimately, the death of the need to hold on to a separate, self-centered existence. 

My interest in Sufism was prompted by a childhood and adulthood surrounded by malignant narcissists who only thought about themselves whether it was my father who abandoned me so he could drink and get married three/four times whether it was millionaire relatives in States who defrauded me in joint ventures and tried to marry me off to rich businessmen as I was chattel or my step-siblings who took my inheritance -----I have been a witness to humanity's ugliset face and the more I thought about evil, the more I traced its roots to selfhood and EGO. 

Human beings commit acts of evil and exploitation when they put their and their children's wellbeing ahead of others as Allah has asked us to in every scripture.  Sin originates from selfhood while spirituality originates from the negation of selfhood. 

According to an esoteric Sufi tradition, the word Allâh is composed of the article al, and lâh, one of the interpretations of which is “nothing.” Thus the actual word Allâh means “the Nothing.” 

For the Sufi the fact that His greatest name means “the Nothing” has great significance, because Truth, or God, is experienced as the NothingnessThus, the name Allâh contains the essence of all Sufi teaching: to become nothing, to become annihilated in Him, so that all that remains is His Infinite Emptiness. This is the path of love, it is the cup of wine which is drunk by His lovers.

That selfishness is the Gollum of our soul, so occupied with the “my precious” that it will literally jump into hellfire after it. That Gollum, and the ring, has to vanish before we can have the Return of the King — living a human life full and beautiful as is our destiny.

 In the words of Rûmî:
I drained this cup:
there is nothing, now,
but ecstatic annihilation
The mystic quest is none other than the realisation of this state, which is also union with God, for the universal man is the mirror in which are reflected all the divine names and qualities.”

Sufi Scholar lee Vaughn described Fana as "This is one of the cornerstones of the Sufi path, and is encapsulated in the saying attributed to the prophet Mohammad, "To die before you die." You see, most people wait until they physically die to go back home to God. But the Sufi, driven by the soul's homesickness, wants to experience going back to God consciously, in this life. And for this you have to go beyond your ego. This is what it means to die before you die"

Fana is about the annihilation of the ego. One great Sufi said, "Between You and me there lingers an 'It is I.' Oh God, through Thy mercy lift this 'It is I' from between us both." 

Fana means cessation of existence– the total destruction of the individual ego in becoming one with Allah; khud’a means deceit or trick, as the description of the material world.

Abu Yazid al-Bistami approached the Divine Presence and “knocked on the gate”. He was asked, “Who is there?” “I have come, Oh my Lord”, replied Abu Yazid. He was told: “There isn’t any place here for two. Leave your ego behind and come”. When Abu Yazid once again approached the Divine Presence and was asked who it was, he said: “You, oh Lord”.

The "annihilation of the self" (fana fi 'Allah') refers to disregarding everything in this world because of one's love towards God. When a person enters the state of fana it is believed that one is closest to God. 

The Qalaba( heart) is sandwiched between the nafs( EGO) and the Rooh(SOUL) The entire objective of annihilation is to destroy the nafs to that Heart can recognize the soul and stop committng sins for the nafs.

Sudi's say soul has the spark of the divine as in Quran, its mentioned" all souls come from God".

What has to "die" is this "I" which separates us from God. This is the painful part of the path, because it requires that we surrender our ego and learn to give yourself totally to love. 

Fana is a long, slow process—it takes time for the ego to surrender, to step aside, to become annihilated.A parallel concept can also be found in Hinduism's identification of Atman (human soul) with Brahman (the impersonal Absolute), the realization of which is the ultimate goal or release from existence and rebirth. 

Just as the ultimate goal of the Hindu was unity with the world soul and of the Christian mystic union with God; the ultimate goal of this movement became Fanaa, the dissolution of the ego, and Wusul the meeting and unification of the human soul with Allah in this life.

The nature of fanaa consists of the elimination of evil deeds and lowly attributes of the flesh. In other words, fanaa is abstention from sin and the expulsion from the heart of all love other than the Divine Love; expulsion of greed, lust, desire, vanity, show, etc. 

Rumi talks about this “dying” to our selfishness followed by a resurrection here and now to a life of love and compassion:

Die now! die now! 
In this Love, die; 
when you have died in this Love, 
you will all receive new life.

Die now, die now, 
and do not fear this death, 
for you will come forth from this earth 

and seize the heavens.

Die now, die now, 
and break away from this carnal soul, 
for this carnal soul is as a chain 
and you are as prisoners.

Take an axe to dig through the prison; 
when you have broken the prison 
you will all be kings and princes.

Die now, die now before the beauteous King; 
when you have died before the King, 
you will all be kings and renowned.

There are two deaths, and the second death (the end of life physical death) is guaranteed for all. But there is a first death: the dying of the ego. The dying of the selfishness. The dying of the “me, me, me,” “mine, mine, mine,” “my people over every other people,” “my truth over your truth,” “my religion over your religion” and “my nation over your nation.” That selfishness has to vanish.

In the state of fanaa the reality of the true and only relationship asserts itself in the mind. One realizes and feeds that the only real relationship is with Allah Ta'ala fanaa means to destroy your self. if you destroy your self in the love of Allah then that fanaa will convert into entire life means abdi zindgi. and for that one you have to destroy your will and yourself on the will of Allah.

In mystical teaching the deconstruction of the ego does not result in complete and unreconstructed obliteration. According to both eastern and western mystical traditions, the deconstructive and reconstructive processes operate upon separative ego-consciousness so that as the old “self ” is abolished, a new Self is reconstituted allowing it to participate in a greater fullness. 

It is precisely this process which (in the hands of a Master such as Rumi—or the Master of the story) is the power of initiatic grace. Within the Islamic tradition at the heart of Rumi’s teaching, the deconstruction of the ego and the reconstruction of the Self is expressed through the traditional terms fana’ (the extinction of the social and cultural self as ego-construct) andbaqa’ (entry into divine subsistence or abundance). 

One example In sufi literature, is a rose bush. If you imagine the growth of divine consciousness as being like the growth of a rose, then a cutting from the original rose would have to be placed in the earth. It has to be watered by prayer and by devotion and by meditation. But something else has to happen for the open rose to be created. The bud has to be broken. Jesus said if the grain does not die, then the corn will not spring up. If the bud isn't broken, the full rose will not open. That breaking of the bud is annihilation and crucifixion of the false self. 

I have abandoned travel, 
I have come to dwell with the Friend,

I have become secure from death
because that long life has come.

All of us will die.
May we all live like this: a life of compassion and love.

Many seek the meaning of life.
Perhaps we first have to seek the meaning of death.

May we live like this.
May we “die” like this.

May we be born again into a life of love like this.

In the death of the ego love is born, God is born, light is born. In the death of the ego you are transformed; all misery disappears as if it had never existed. Your life right now is a nightmare. When the ego dies nightmares disappear and a great sweetness arises in your being, and a subtle joy, for no reason at all. Beyond this is the stage of intimacy (uns) at which the immanence of the Lord is perceived:

And I am closer to man than his jugular vein” QURAN;

May we all push back against the tyranny of egoic thinking; Greed, Lust, Exploitation of the Other and start living not as " I" but as " We" The future of humanity depends on it otherwise we would just descend into a wolfpack tearing each other apart!