Sufis and Mystics of the World

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Rumi lived - , by the western calendar. A BBC "Culture" web page of April, said of him:- The ecstatic poems of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, a Persian poet and Sufi master born years ago in , have sold millions of copies in recent years, making him the most popular poet in the US. Globally, his fans are legion. One of the many significant quotes attributable to Jalaluddin Rumi being:- "Would he had been less full of borrowed knowledge! Then he would have accepted inspired knowledge from his father. When, with inspiration at hand, you seek book-learning, your heart, as if inspired, loads you with reproach.

Traditional knowledge, when inspiration is available, is like making ablutions in sand when water is near. Some scholars, such as Al-Ghazali, helped its propagation while other scholars opposed it. William Chittick explains the position of Sufism and Sufis this way:. In short, Muslim scholars who focused their energies on understanding the normative guidelines for the body came to be known as jurists, and those who held that the most important task was to train the mind in achieving correct understanding came to be divided into three main schools of thought: theology, philosophy, and Sufism.

This leaves us with the third domain of human existence, the spirit. Most Muslims who devoted their major efforts to developing the spiritual dimensions of the human person came to be known as Sufis. The term "neo-Sufism" was originally coined by Fazlur Rahman and used by other scholars to describe reformist currents among 18th century Sufi orders, whose goal was to remove some of the more ecstatic and pantheistic elements of the Sufi tradition and reassert the importance of Islamic law as the basis for inner spirituality and social activism.

Sufism Reoriented is an offshoot of it charted by the syncretistic teacher Meher Baba.

Sufi Mysticism

It was founded by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee to continue the work of his teacher Irina Tweedie , herself a practitioner of both Hinduism and neo-Sufism. Traditional Islamic scholars have recognized two major branches within the practice of Sufism, and use this as one key to differentiating among the approaches of different masters and devotional lineages. On the one hand there is the order from the signs to the Signifier or from the arts to the Artisan. In this branch, the seeker begins by purifying the lower self of every corrupting influence that stands in the way of recognizing all of creation as the work of God, as God's active Self-disclosure or theophany.

On the other hand, there is the order from the Signifier to His signs, from the Artisan to His works. In this branch the seeker experiences divine attraction jadhba , and is able to enter the order with a glimpse of its endpoint, of direct apprehension of the Divine Presence towards which all spiritual striving is directed.

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This does not replace the striving to purify the heart, as in the other branch; it simply stems from a different point of entry into the path. This is the way primarily of the masters of the Naqshbandi and Shadhili orders. Contemporary scholars may also recognize a third branch, attributed to the late Ottoman scholar Said Nursi and explicated in his vast Qur'an commentary called the Risale-i Nur.

This approach entails strict adherence to the way of Muhammad, in the understanding that this wont, or sunnah , proposes a complete devotional spirituality adequate to those without access to a master of the Sufi way. Sufism has contributed significantly to the elaboration of theoretical perspectives in many domains of intellectual endeavor. For instance, the doctrine of "subtle centers" or centers of subtle cognition known as Lataif-e-sitta addresses the matter of the awakening of spiritual intuition.

A concise and useful summary of this system from a living exponent of this tradition has been published by Muhammad Emin Er. Sufi psychology has influenced many areas of thinking both within and outside of Islam, drawing primarily upon three concepts. Ja'far al-Sadiq both an imam in the Shia tradition and a respected scholar and link in chains of Sufi transmission in all Islamic sects held that human beings are dominated by a lower self called the nafs self, ego, person , a faculty of spiritual intuition called the qalb heart , and ruh soul.

These interact in various ways, producing the spiritual types of the tyrant dominated by nafs , the person of faith and moderation dominated by the spiritual heart , and the person lost in love for God dominated by the ruh.

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Of note with regard to the spread of Sufi psychology in the West is Robert Frager , a Sufi teacher authorized in the Khalwati Jerrahi order. Frager was a trained psychologist, born in the United States, who converted to Islam in the course of his practice of Sufism and wrote extensively on Sufism and psychology. Sufi cosmology and Sufi metaphysics are also noteworthy areas of intellectual accomplishment. The devotional practices of Sufis vary widely. This is because an acknowledged and authorized master of the Sufi path is in effect a physician of the heart, able to diagnose the seeker's impediments to knowledge and pure intention in serving God, and to prescribe to the seeker a course of treatment appropriate to his or her maladies.

The consensus among Sufi scholars is that the seeker cannot self-diagnose, and that it can be extremely harmful to undertake any of these practices alone and without formal authorization. Prerequisites to practice include rigorous adherence to Islamic norms ritual prayer in its five prescribed times each day, the fast of Ramadan, and so forth. Additionally, the seeker ought to be firmly grounded in supererogatory practices known from the life of Muhammad such as the "sunnah prayers". This is in accordance with the words, attributed to God, of the following, a famous Hadith Qudsi :.

My servant draws near to Me through nothing I love more than that which I have made obligatory for him.

Sufi Mysticism

My servant never ceases drawing near to Me through supererogatory works until I love him. Then, when I love him, I am his hearing through which he hears, his sight through which he sees, his hand through which he grasps, and his foot through which he walks. It is also necessary for the seeker to have a correct creed aqidah , [] and to embrace with certainty its tenets.

The way in which this purification of the heart is achieved is outlined in certain books, but must be prescribed in detail by a Sufi master. The seeker must also be trained to prevent the corruption of those good deeds which have accrued to his or her credit by overcoming the traps of ostentation, pride, arrogance, envy, and long hopes meaning the hope for a long life allowing us to mend our ways later, rather than immediately, here and now. Sufi practices, while attractive to some, are not a means for gaining knowledge.

The traditional scholars of Sufism hold it as absolutely axiomatic that knowledge of God is not a psychological state generated through breath control. Thus, practice of "techniques" is not the cause, but instead the occasion for such knowledge to be obtained if at all , given proper prerequisites and proper guidance by a master of the way. Furthermore, the emphasis on practices may obscure a far more important fact: The seeker is, in a sense, to become a broken person, stripped of all habits through the practice of in the words of Imam Al-Ghazali solitude, silence, sleeplessness, and hunger.

Magic may have also been a part of some Sufi practices, notably in India. Dhikr is the remembrance of Allah commanded in the Qur'an for all Muslims through a specific devotional act, such as the repetition of divine names, supplications and aphorisms from hadith literature and the Quran. More generally, dhikr takes a wide range and various layers of meaning. To engage in dhikr is to practice consciousness of the Divine Presence and love , or "to seek a state of godwariness". The Quran refers to Muhammad as the very embodiment of dhikr of Allah — Some types of dhikr are prescribed for all Muslims and do not require Sufi initiation or the prescription of a Sufi master because they are deemed to be good for every seeker under every circumstance.

The dhikr may slightly vary among each order.

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Some Sufi orders [] engage in ritualized dhikr ceremonies, or sema. Sema includes various forms of worship such as recitation , singing the most well known being the Qawwali music of the Indian subcontinent , instrumental music , dance most famously the Sufi whirling of the Mevlevi order , incense , meditation , ecstasy , and trance. Some Sufi orders stress and place extensive reliance upon dhikr. This practice of dhikr is called Dhikr-e-Qulb invocation of Allah within the heartbeats.

The basic idea in this practice is to visualize the Allah as having been written on the disciple's heart. The practice of muraqaba can be likened to the practices of meditation attested in many faith communities. While variation exists, one description of the practice within a Naqshbandi lineage reads as follows:.

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He is to collect all of his bodily senses in concentration, and to cut himself off from all preoccupation and notions that inflict themselves upon the heart. The seeker remains aware that He is Present, Watchful, Encompassing of all, thereby exemplifying the meaning of his saying may God bless him and grant him peace : "Worship God as though you see Him, for if you do not see Him, He sees you". And likewise the prophetic tradition: "The most favored level of faith is to know that God is witness over you, wherever you may be".


Sufi whirling or Sufi spinning is a form of Sama or physically active meditation which originated among Sufis, and which is still practised by the Sufi Dervishes of the Mevlevi order. This is sought through abandoning one's nafs , egos or personal desires, by listening to the music, focusing on God , and spinning one's body in repetitive circles, which has been seen as a symbolic imitation of planets in the Solar System orbiting the sun. As explained by Sufis: []. In the symbolism of the Sema ritual, the semazen's camel's hair hat sikke represents the tombstone of the ego; his wide, white skirt tennure represents the ego's shroud.

At the beginning of the Sema, by holding his arms crosswise, the semazen appears to represent the number one, thus testifying to God's unity. While whirling, his arms are open: his right arm is directed to the sky, ready to receive God's beneficence; his left hand, upon which his eyes are fastened, is turned toward the earth.

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