Sufism

Sufism


It is a well known historical fact that in spreading the ethical and spiritual values of Islam, major and effective contributions have been Made by the Walis of ALLAH (saints). It was their humanistic position, and piety which won over the hearts of lacs of people. They made a direct contact with the masses served and loved them, lived with them in the realization of Eternal Truth. The proof of this is more than evident from the history of growth of Islam in India. Although Islam had penetrated in this subcontinent in the first century of Hijra, but the noble task of inspiring the people to its tenets and values in India was accomplished by Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishty (R.A.) popularly known as Khwaja Saheb and Khwaja Gharib Nawaz.
The word Sufi is derived from the Arabic word 'suf' which means ' wool ' and which refers to the coarse woolen robes that were worn by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and by his close companions. The goal of a Sufi is none other than God Himself. There are signs of God everywhere in the universe and in man himself.
The Sufis have pointed out useful things about Iblis. Let's continue with some of their teachings. Let us quote shaykh Fariduddin 'Attar who has written these lines in his "Mosibat Nama"(Book of Adversity), p. 63, for people looking for a Sufi teacher:
Gar to gu'i nist piri aashkaarTo talab kon dar hazaar andar hazaarZe aanke gar piri namaand dar jahaanNa zamin bar jaai maand na zamaanPir ham hast in zamaan penhaan shodaTang-e khalqaan dida dar kholqaan shoda
If you say: There is no pir openly to be seen,Then you should seek another thousand times.For if no pir would remain in the world,Then neither the earth nor time would remain in place.The pir exists even now, but he is hidden.Having seen the narrow-mindedness of the people,He is wearing worn-out clothes.
Shaykh 'Azizuddin Nasafi speaks about the role of Iblis in this respect: "O, dervish! You will not find this wise man or this verifier of thetruth in mosques, preaching from the pulpit or reciting dhikr. You will not find him in the religious schools giving lessons, and you will not find him among the people of high office among the bookish people or among the idol worshippers. You will not find him in the Sufi centre prostrating himself with the people of fantasy and self-worshippers.
Out of these three places for worshipping God, there may be one person out of a thousand working for the sake of God". " O dervish! The wise man and the verifier of the truth, and the men of God are hidden and this hiddenness is their guardian, their club, their fortress, and their weapon. This is the reason why they are clean and pure. He that is not hidden is a plot and a trick of Satan". O, dervish! Their exterior is like the exterior of the common people and their interior is like the interior of the elite. They don't give access to any leader or chief and they have no claim to be a leader…They spend most of their time in retreat and seclusion, and they don't enjoy interaction with this world. They are opposed to company with those of high position. If it is useful, they spend their time in association with the dear ones and the dervishes".
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Sufis Serving Love :- The truly virtuous are they who? give food — however great be their want of it — unto the needy, the orphan, and the captive, saying, in their hearts, "We feed you for the sake of God alone: we desire no recompense from you, nor thanks: behold, we stand in awe of our Sustainer..."
80:7-10


One of the traditional roles of the dervish lodge was as community kitchen and hostel, providing food and shelter for the poor and for travelers. Many early Sufis were "sons of the road," wandering during the warm season, and relying on the grace of God and the spontaneous generosity of fellow Sufis for shelter and sustenance. Followers of other faiths also could count on such generosity, with no questions asked about their religion.
One who entertains dervishes will be compensated in paradise. Uthman Haruni
A kitchen in which meals were cooking around the clock was the hallmark of many Sufi saints. The great Chishti Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya was known to entertain large groups of traveling dervishes — even thirty or more — for up to three days at a time. The three-day limit is in keeping with Muhammad's counsel: "Hospitality extends for three days, and anything beyond that is charity." Ibn Batuta enjoyed and documented such hospitality during his travels in the 14th century, as did Evliya Efendi in the 17th century.


The desire to share food was one basis for the development of communities — the Turkish word tekke referred to a refectory or dining hall long before it became exclusively identified with a Sufi establishment. With the development of orders and communities came a greater capacity to serve greater numbers; but no matter what its size, each Sufi center had lodgings reserved for guests, and a place of honor for them at the table.
The Persian word langar was synonymous with a soup kitchen and resting place for travelers, or a Sufi residence. Ahmed Uzgani's largely mythical "History of the Uwaysis," set in East Turkestan around 1600 CE, includes stories of Sufi saints who established langars and spent years in this way of service. Legend has it that the kitchen of one of them, Ghiyath al-Din of Shikarmat, was miraculously granted a limitless supply of fire and water. The many references to holy men and women engaged in such work reflect the great value attached to it, and the widespread presence of langars throughout Central Asia.

Abdul Qadir Gilani, pir of the Qadiri Order, was known as Ghauth al-'Azam, "The Great Helper," and was renowned for his charity. According to the Qadiris, he was 'born of love, lived in a perfect way, and died having achieved the perfection of love." One of his characteristics was generosity, and the tradition which he started of feeding the poor is perpetuated every year by his followers on his urs, the anniversary of his death. On the 11th day of Rabi'al-Thani, at his shrine in Baghdad and throughout the Muslim world, thousands of people gather at meetings and festivals to recite Qur'an, to honor the memory of Abdul Qadir Gilani, and to partake of the large quantities of food cooked and distributed in his honor.
Following the example of their founder, Muinuddin Chishti, Chishti khanqahs have always kept open kitchens and have provided vital services in public emergencies. In 1976, when monsoon floods destroyed many houses in Ajmer, India, the Chishti khanqah there fed and housed many of the homeless. For centuries the Ajmer Langar Khana has cooked and distributed twice daily a barley porridge, itself known as langar. In 1904 the Rajputana District Gazetteer reported:
Two maunds and six seers of grain (178 lbs.) with six seers of salt (13 lbs.) are cooked and distributed to all comers before daybreak in the morning, and the same quantity before five o'clock in the evening... Besides the 1,570 maunds of grain (65 tons) which are thus yearly consumed, 644 maunds (27 tons) are annually distributed to infirm women, widows, and other deserving persons at their own houses.
Rajputana District Gazetteer
From the 15th to the 19th centuries CE, the Ansari caretakers of the shrine of Ali in Balkh (now Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan) offered to all comers a meal of bread and soup every Friday and Monday evening; and when they could afford it, sweets and fruit were set out after Friday and Monday evening prayers. The 16th Century Helveti Shaikh Ibrahim ibn Muhammad Gulshani established a dergah in Cairo which became widely known for its public offerings of food; its staff included a baker, a cook, and a "tablesetter for the poor."


In Ottoman lands, the imaret was a public institution serving travelers, the needy, dervishes, and the keepers of the mosques. The public kitchens of the imarets and many of the Sufi tekkes and zawiyas (all of which had open kitchens) were supported by waqf, charitable foundations established by government, and by wealthy and prominent men and women. Support also came from private donations and from the dervish orders' agricultural activities and industries. (For instance, for centuries the Bektashi Order controlled the most productive salt mines in the Ottoman Empire; the salt from those mines was called Hajji Bektash salt.) In the 16th century, the Istanbul imaret of Sultan Mehmed II Fatih prepared meals for over 1,100 people every day; its guest house accommodated up to 160 visitors at a time. Stores of cheese, cream and honey were earmarked for guests, and those fortunate enough to attend a banquet there were served special rice dishes such as dane and zerde.
Sufis have carried this tradition of service into modern times. Although Kemal Ataturk outlawed the Turkish dervish orders in 1925, in the 1930's Mevlevi Shaikh Suleyman Loras was permitted to open the kitchen of a Mevlevi tekke in order to feed the poor. Three evenings a week the Karagumruk Helveti-Jerrahi dergah, located in a poor section of Istanbul, accommodates 500 or more diners. Many local community residents come for dinner and leave after the meal, to be replaced by others who come to participate in dhikr. The Jerrahi dergah in Spring Valley, New York, serves 125 or more diners every Saturday night, and even more — and more frequently — during the month of Ramadan. Once a month, community members directly distribute cooked meals, person to person, to local families in need.
In Rufai dergahs throughout Turkey, tables are routinely set for 200-250 people. During Muharram, the Tirana, Albania, Bektashi tekke prepares ashura, a pudding of legumes and dried fruits, for 600 people. Throughout the year at the Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship in Philadelphia, 50 to 200 people take their evening meal together every night.

In modern Egypt, offerings of food and hospitality are central to Sufi life. The Sufi center or saha offers meals and lodging to guests; some have enormous concrete tables accommodating one hundred of more diners at a sitting. At annual moulid observances honoring the anniversary of the death of Sufi saints, khidamat — hospitality stations — are set up in tents, at nearby buildings, or on simple cloths laid out upon the ground. Guests are offered food and drink, called nafha — a word with the dual meaning of "gift" and "fragrance." Nafha must be accepted, for not only is it a gift of the heart, but it carries with it the baraka of the saint being honored. Poor people partake of nafha for its nourishment; poor and rich alike partake of nafha for its baraka.
Dervish hospitality in the grand manner was described by an American guest of the Shaikh of the Tripoli Mevlevi tekke in the 1920's:

[The Shaikh] shouted welcome in French and Arabic as he came, embraced Dr. Dray like a grizzly bear, shook hands with me, deplored the hot weather, and led us to a terrace where he hoped there would be a little breeze...
We found ourselves[...] sipping a delicious pale-green liquid, mixed from freshly crushed white grapes and lime juice... The luncheon was an Arabian Nights feast of more than twenty courses and lasted for two hours. Whole roasted chickens, and chicken pilaf with rice, almonds, and raisins; lamb on skewers; lamb wrapped in grape leaves and cooked in olive oil, lamb stewed with eggplant; lamb cooked with peppercorns; delicious salads; cucumbers peeled at the table and eaten as we eat fruit; no less than six desserts, beginning with a great pan of custard, running the gamut of pastries with ground-up nuts and honey, to end at last with watermelons cooled in the fountain.
[...] through all the exuberance of his welcome, through the elaborate material luxury of our entertainment and his obvious whole-hearted enjoyment of the delicious food, I sensed continually that there was another side to this man and felt that his abundant physical vitality was not incompatible, perhaps, with powers which might be equally unusual in other directions. I had been told that he was a great mystic, and I was not prepared to doubt it on the superficial evidence.
William Seabrook
Six hundred years earlier, that Shaikh's Pir had written:

Sufis waits for the fulfillment of their desires —
that's why they eat so much!
But the Sufi who takes nourishment from the light of God
is free from the shame of begging.
Such Sufis are one in a thousand,
the rest live under their protection.
Rumi

Both guest and host stand at the threshold between the known and the unknown worlds, between the mundane and the sacred. Whether the material setting be opulent or simple, the ultimate value of the relationship lies in the degree to which both are willing to reflect the divine qualities. The offering and acceptance of an invitation reflect the willingness of guest and host to render service and honor, to identify with each other, and to acknowledge that, in fact, there is no other. Knocking at the door, opening it in welcome, sharing company at the hearth, breaking bread in fellowship — these actions mirror the inner capacity for unconditional acceptance of the hospitality and sustenance God offers to all creatures. The epitome of such openness was depicted by the Hungarian traveler Arminius Vambery, who in 1862 was a guest in the tent of Allah Nazr, on the plateau to the north of Gomushtepe, Anatolia:

This old Turkoman was beside himself from joy that heaven had sent him guests; the recollection of that scene will never pass from my mind. In spite of our protestations to the contrary, he killed a goat, the only one which he possessed, to contribute to our entertainment. At a second meal, which we partook with him the next day, he found means to procure bread also, an article that had not been seen for weeks in his dwelling. While we attacked the dish of meat, he seated himself opposite to us, and wept, in the exactest sense of the expression, tears of joy. Allah Nazr would not retain any part of the goat he had killed in honor of us. The horns and hoofs, which were burned to ashes, and were to be employed for the galled places on the camels, he gave to Ilias; but the skin, stripped off in one piece, he destined to serve as my water-vessel, and after having well rubbed it with salt, and dried it in the sun, he handed it over to me.
Arminius Vambery
Whether he wore the robes of a Bektashi or not, it is clear that Allah Nazr understood the words of Hajji Bektash:

This is the state of the world: those who come shall pass away. Serve thou also. Lay out the meal. If you need help, seek it in generosity. When the people wanted courage and a miracle from 'Ali, he commanded Kanbar, saying, "Lay on the meal." Let all who would enter the tariqat and wear its dress seek out a traveler and serve him.
Hajji Bektash Veli

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The origin and essence of man
Man is the mystery of God. For a mysterious purpose, man was outwardly created of clay and God breathed life into him, and all of the angels were commanded to prostrate themselves before him. As the Qur'an, which we believe is the highest form of revelation, declares:
"And remember when thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo I am creating a mortal out of potter's clay. So when I have made him and shaped him and have breathed into him of My Spirit, do ye fall down prostrating yourself unto him."


Sufism is a mystic tradition of Islam encompassing a diverse range of beliefs and practices dedicated to Allah/God, divine love and sometimes to helping fellow man. Tariqas (Sufi orders) may be associated with Shi'a Islam, Sunni Islam, other currents of Islam, or a combination of multiple traditions. It has been suggested that Sufi thought emerged from the Middle East in the eighth century, but adherents are now found around the world. Some Sufis have also claimed that Sufism pre-dates Islam and some groups operate with only very tenuous links to Islam.
The Qur'anic roots of Sufism
Sufism really has its roots in the Qur'an itself and in the religious experience of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The preliminary signs of revelation were given to the Prophet (pbuh) in the form of visions and the Prophet (pbuh) deliberately sought solitude until the book of his heart, which was pure and unspoiled by schoolmen, was opened and the Divine Pen engraved upon it the revelation, the Qur'an.

The Sufi's knowledge of God comes from the Qur'an directly. And in spite of the Sufi's proximity to God, the undisputed basis of their direct experience of God has always been the Qur'an. The Qur'an contains instructions suitable to man with varying levels of spirituality. It satisfies those who are content with merely exoteric practices, but also contains the deepest and most profound esoteric meaning for those who desire a closer, more mystical relationship with God.
The Qur'anic verses which are the favourites of the Sufis include:
"We [God] are closer to him [man] than his jugular vein." "Say, surely we belong to God and to Him do we return." "He is the First and the Last and the Manifest and the Hidden." "God is the light of the heavens and the earth."
Such verses are limitless in their depth, scope and meaning, and man may draw from them as much mystical meaning as he has the capacity to understand.

God says in the Qur'an that God sent His Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) first and foremost as a Mercy unto all peoples. And men of different levels of spiritual understanding may avail themselves of this Mercy according to their various capacities.
The Prophet (pbuh) and his close associates never stopped at merely observing the minimum requirement in regard to prayer and devotional practices. All through his life, the Prophet (pbuh) kept long night vigils and practised voluntary fasts during most days. He never ate barley bread (the staple food of his day) on three consecutive days, and he never even touched a loaf of wheat bread -- which was a luxury. One of his favourite sayings was "Poverty is my pride," and this saying came to be quoted in every manual of Sufi doctrine, making the rule of poverty a basic characteristic of Sufi life.