by Azriel ReShel: Can these Teachings be a Sacred Guide in Troubled Times?
Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder. – Rumi
The ancient path of Sufism, or Tasawwuf as it is known in the Muslim world, is the inward dimension of Islam, essentially Islamic mysticism. Sufi practitioners seek to find the truth of divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of the Beloved. It is a rapturous, deeply devoted and often arduous path, but one with enormous rewards.
Sufism is the way to God via emotions and spirituality rather than through reason, and it celebrates the intimate relationship of the seeker with Allah. The ancient mystical teachings and practices of the Sufis have great relevance for seekers today, and can help you to deepen your spiritual practice or elevate it to a new level.
Igniting the Fervour
Some spiritual paths are very focused on the mind, with practices aimed to clear the mental state, tame thoughts and attain a calm equilibrium. These cooling, meditative practices bring equanimity, tranquility and clarity of mind. The mystical practices of Sufism are hot practices in that they are working with the heart, and igniting the fervour of passionate, wild love.
Rumi translator, and well-known spiritual teacher, scholar and mystic, Andrew Harvey, describes the Sufi path like this:
It is a way to the heart of hearts, to the utmost direct intense experience of one’s sacred identity.
Here is some wisdom from this ecstatic and beautiful path.
Love lies at the core of the Sufi tradition. Love is the reason we are all here. Really at its simplest, we are all on earth to learn about love. As we experience higher love and learn to open ourselves to giving and receiving love, it is said we see the ‘face of God’. We see the many faces of the Divine in all we meet and in ourselves. Ultimately, we reach a stage where we do not see the ‘many’ anymore, and instead, only see the ‘one’.
The Sufis say that the reason of the whole creation is that the perfect Being wished to know Himself, and did so by awakening the love of His nature and creating out of it His object of love, which is beauty. Dervishes, with this meaning, salute each other by saying, ‘Ishq Allah Ma’bud Allah’ – ‘God is love and God is the beloved’. – Volume V, Love, Human and Divine, p144
1. Surrender to Love
Sufis talk about annihilating themselves in the Beloved through the path of love. Dr. Javad Nurbankhsh of the Nimatullah Sufi Order says, in one of his discourses, that human love can be classified into three basic categories. The first form of love is friendship based on social conventions where two people behave in accordance with the principle:
I for myself, you for yourself; we love each other, but we have no expectations of each other.
This form of love is that of ordinary people, whose love relationships tend to be of this nature. The second form of love is based on a more solid foundation, and those who live together usually experience this kind of love:
I for you, you for me; we love each other, having mutual expectations of each other.
This form of love includes profound love, as well as the love found within most families, and involves emotional give and take on more or less equal footing.
The third kind of love transcends all conventions based on mutual expectations, being founded on the following principle:
I am for you, you are for whoever you choose; I accept whatever you want without any expectations whatsoever.
The Sufi responds with loving-kindness towards those who harm him, for he sees everything in himself and himself in everything, and because of this it is said that the highest form of human love is ‘Sufi love’.
2. Chant the Divine Name
Many spiritual traditions include the chanting of the divine name as part of spiritual practice, for attaining divine qualities and purifying the mind. In the Hindu religion, the practice of chanting the 108 names of the divine is hailed by ancient scriptures as the best way to deal with challenging times.
Hearts become tranquil through the remembrance of Allah. – Qur’an 13:28
Mantra chanting helps to focus and develop the mind. The practice of chanting is said to transform a person’s vibrations, energize their chakras, and raise their mind, body, and spirit to a higher state of consciousness.
Sufism takes this one step further, with more ecstatic chanting than most traditions, and also ritual dance. Devotees become absorbed in the rhythmic repetition of the name of God or his attributes. This remembrance of the Divine fills your life with sacredness and keeps the focus on higher wisdom, away from the small-minded concerns of the self. Some beautiful Sufi mantras are: La ilaha illa’llah and the mantra: God is love, lover and beloved: Ishq allah mahbud lillah.
Sufis practice Dikhr, the devotional practice of the remembrance of God. It is performed by the repeated invocation of the names and attributes of God, and is based on the Qur’anic verse in which God says: ‘Remember Me and I will remember you’. It is practiced either individually or in groups. God is love, lover and beloved. Ishq is the word for this fervent devotion and love that the seeker has for the Divine, and Sufis talk about becoming drunk on divine love.