spirituality consists of both exoteric and esoteric dimensions. Within esoteric Islam, Sufism is a
journey from the outward to the inward—a journey between transcendence and
immanence in which the Sufis become the personification of the ideal condition of
and outer harmony. This harmony is
sought through knowledge and practices common to many spiritual traditions.
like its religious tradition Islam, shares its universalism with Christianity
through similarities in contradistinction. Christianity anthropomorphically
applies human characteristics to god while Islam and Sufism elevate humanity
theomorphically to reach God by means of acquiring the essence of God’s
potentiality of ascension, Sufism become like Zen Buddhism in that it strives
to attain spiritual union with the Beloved through hal, a state much like nirvana. While the essence of Zen is in the being, Sufism’s essence is in the
tension between the being and the becoming—the Sufis cease to “be,” in order
Sufi, the divine is simultaneously the impersonal universal unconscious as it
is the personal intimate Beloved.
In this perpetually transformation the Sufi spins with the cosmic whirl
that personifies the visible shape of most everything in the universe from the
electron and proton within an atom to the galactic spirals for which the
enormity of our ‘universe,’ is but a speck of dust.
universal Judaism, the mystical traditions of the two religions, Sufism and
Kabala, have much in common as they keep the realm of the divine out of the
reach of humanity. In Kabala the
divine has a name too sacred to be spoken while in Sufism the closest thing to
a perception of the divine is that ‘there is nothing like His like.’
to the many polytheistic traditions of the world like Shinto and Hinduism by
attributing the characteristics of their pantheons as the 99 names to the one
and only God. In the same vein
Sufism takes the dualism of Zoroastrianism back to its original interpretation
in that the darkness of the Ahriman is but the shadow side of the self that must be tamed in
order for the light to shine through.
gamut of theosophical precepts makes Islam very inclusive and turns Sufism into
a confluence of reason and faith that is unique and universal at the same time.
While, through an illusion of superiority, some create an otherness in others
and look for differences, Sufis emphasize the similarities among the various
mystical traditions through which humanity bonds in harmony. That sameness becomes more evident as
we leave the outer shell of socially identifiable religions and immerse in the
beauty of their spiritual cores.
5-year-old Sara was once trying to convince her 2-year-old sister, Nadia, that the
blue balloon, which neither of them wanted, was as good as the red balloon that
they both liked, by telling her: “Nadia, look! It’s the same difference.” I
marvel at the beauty and simplicity of childhood wisdom and how it stands in
stark contrast to the mind-numbing entangled syllogisms of adult language that
marginalizes thought and meaning.
It seems like we lose a lot more than innocence as we (supposedly)
balloon analogy does apply to our religious identities. The outer shells of our
traditions are like inflated balloons. Regardless of color, their smooth and
shining surface reflects our warped egos. In ‘actual’ size, they are manageably
harmless, yet when full of hot air, they can blow up on our face. But when filled with the spirit of Ellahi or Elohim, often misspelled as helium,
these balloons rise to a higher realm and where they realize that the
devastating divisive differences, that some promote, disappear in the oneness
such oneness, universality, and inclusion the Sufis strive to self-actualize in
being in this world, but not of this world. They deny such worldliness with all its trappings. Rumi whose spirit cannot be contained
in a particular religious, political, or national identity, defies the claim of
being an Afghan, an Iranian, or a Turk and in a prophetic vision denying
otherness in countless ways as this abbreviated translation of his thought
tadbir ay musalmanan ke man khud ra namidanam
tarsa na yahudam man na gabram na muslamanam
be done, O believers, as I don’t recognize myself?
neither a Christian nor Jew, Magian nor Muslim.
of the East or West, neither land nor sea;
of the kingdom of Iraq, nor Khorasan.
is in the placeless, my trace in the traceless;
neither body nor soul, as I belong to the soul of the Beloved….
that the visible reality is defined by the limits of our sense perception, the
Sufis attempt to know the unknowable through a re-absorption into transcendent
reality beyond the realm of reason and the fascination of faith. They realize that beauty is not in the
eyes of the beholder, but in the tension between the drawing power of beauty
and the throbbing of the human heart in a blissful suspense of love and longing
where the divine and the human consistently go through a role reversal, as they
reciprocally become the Lover and Beloved. Losing oneself in such a perplexity transforms us from being
to becoming. The 17th
century Afghan Sufi Rahman Baba speaks of the joy of such loss of the self:
har dam le xpala dzana gurizan em
da laka daryab de duro kan em
river I relentlessly escape from my self
myself a treasure trove of pearls, like a river….
spiritual reflective reciprocity the divine and human mirror each other in
awareness where the presence of one defines the existence and presence of the
other reciprocally. The 16th
century Indian mystic Abul-Ma’ani Bydil voices this notion:
iqbali huzurat sad gulistan aysh
ghayeb ke chun ayyna az rukh mayparad rangam….
the beauty of a hundred rose gardens to greet Thy presence.
I beg of
Thee not to leave, for like a mirror, your reflection would disappear from my
Bydil sees the reflection of the Beloved in serenity, Hallaj’s pleading with
the divine for a sign is answered through the echo of a resonance: