If I adore You out of fear of Hell, burn me in Hell!
If I adore you out of desire for Paradise,
Lock me out of Paradise.
But if I adore you for Yourself alone,
Do not deny to me Your eternal beauty.
Rabia al Basri
Religion without spirituality is just simple rituals. Striking our head either in the temple or mosque or church gets us nowhere unless we look deep inside us and discover our spiritual side. It just hardens our hearts and an excess of it makes our actions rigid causing inconvenience and grief to those near us.
That is why Sufism is very important in today’s world. Sufism is the mystical or spiritual aspect of Islam
The word Sufi from suf or coarse woolen cloaks worn by the early Sufis. In fact
Three major orders of the Sufis, that is Chistiya, Qadriya and Suharwardi claim descent from Ali ibn Abu Talib, the cousin and son in law of Prophet Mohammad.
A famous anecdote related to Ali is that once he was about to embark on a journey and a man came running to him and said, “O Ali what is the essence of Islam?”
Ali had one foot in the stirrup and was about to swing the other over the horse and he replied, “Believe in the Oneness of God and serve his creation.”
That in a nutshell is the essence of Sufism, service of mankind. For them Allah is Rab-ul Alaameen or God of the Universe as stated in the first Surah of the Quran and not the narrow definition of Rab-ul-Muslimeen or God of Muslims.
A famous saying of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti is
He indeed is a true devotee, blessed with the love of God, who is gifted with the following three attributes:
1. River-like charity, i.e. his sense of charity has no limits and is equally beneficial to all the creatures of God who approach him,
2. Sun like affection, i.e. his affection may be extended indiscriminately to all like sunlight and
3. Earth-like hospitality, i.e. his loving embrace may be open to all like that of the earth.
The most important principle of Sufism is that to love one’s fellow men is to love God. Once we believe in this narrow perceptions of faith are meaningless.
Sufis place great emphasis on ihsan, which literally means benevolent action but according to the Prophet where we should worship Him as If we can see Him and even if we can’t see him to know that God can see our actions at all times.
The Prophet was famous for his gentle behavior and courteous dealings with everyone. Prophet Mohammad is said to be the first Sufi and Sufis take their inspiration from his behavior or ikhlaq.
There is a famous story of an old woman who threw garbage on him daily as he passed under her window. He did not react or change his route but would calmly continue on his way.
One day she did not appear at her window to throw the garbage. The Prophet climbed up her stairs to enquire after her.
“Who is it?” asked a feeble voice when he knocked on her door.
“Mohammad bin Abdullah,” was the reply, “can I come in?”
The woman feared, “I am sick, and too weak to fight or talk back, therefore Mohammad has come to take revenge for what I have been doing to him.” But the permission to enter her house was in such a gentle voice that she allowed him in.
Mohammad told he was worried as he did not find her at the window that day and had come to inquire about her health. He asked if he could help her in any way and she forgot her hate and insecurities and asked for water. On being asked to forgive her for her bad behaviour he readily did and prayed for her health.
And it is this Prophet in whose name we perpetuate violence because someone says or draws something adverse?
God doesn’t need our help to protect his image. What is hurt is our ego and our insecure minds.
This security comes from spirituality taught by Sufi masters and not from practicing rituals.
Sufis teach us inclusiveness, humanity and the quality of mercy.
“The saints will cast away both worldly and religious blessings to give a piece of bread or a drink of water to someone in need. This state is something one cannot obtain by one hundred thousand fasts and prayers.”
Baba Farid had said, that we Sufis are not knives which cut and divide but needles which darn and join two different ends to each other.
Today we need needles to darn our torn social fabric more than ever.
Their khanqahs or hospice was a place of refuge for all irrespective of race, religion or class. Even gender diffrenciation was not made. Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya had said for Bibi Fatima bin Sam, also called Delhi’s Rabia, “When the lion has come out of the forest, nobody asks if it is male or female.”
We need that healing touch in religion once more so that we can give up the extreme positions that so many are taking up in their lives.
The Prophet had warned “And beware of going to extremes in religious matters, for those who came before you were destroyed because of going to extremes in religious matters.” (Sahih)