An Introduction to Spirituality and Sufism

Spirituality or Sufism is concerned with the human spirit or the soul. Spirituality gives us the concepts of immortality & selflessness. Belief & religion prepare us for our spirituality journey.

Mindfulness is when our mind becomes quiet and peaceful. With constant regular practice we start feeling relaxed and stress free and reach a blissful state. Mindfulness is one of the many milestones on the path to spiritualism.

The final goal of spiritual practice is union with God and the great Sufi masters say that this is what bring true and lasting happiness.

What is the state of enlightenment? The Sufis have written that the state of enlightenment can not be fully described in words and can only be experienced by the seeker. Many Sufis like Bayazid Bastami have given detailed accounts of their dialogue with God and have related some of their experiences when they reached the state of nearness to God. Bayazid Bastami said, ‘All the trials and tribulations melt away. There is only peace there.”

How can we start on a spiritual journey? Religion provides us a proven step-by-step path for success in our spiritual journey. The great Sufi masters such as Mevlana Rumi and Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani diligently followed the core religious percepts. In addition to the mandatory Farz salah prayers, they performed additional devotional acts which they have described in their autobiographies. As an example, Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani describes how he would recite the entire Quran every night after Isha prayer.

Humility is considered to be one of the most important attributes of a Sufi. The opposite of humility is ego, also known as nafs in Sufism. Ego is said to be one of the biggest barriers in the spiritual journey. Bayazid Bastami explained: “Sufis and saints keep on fighting with their ego until they kill it and then they become nothing.”

Our mind is very cunning. Our ego confuses us even in our effort to suppress it. It is easy to feel proud in our efforts to become humble and God fearing. When Sufis pray they humbly ask God to make their prayers correct and accept their faults.

Tawakkul means trust. Trust in God does not preclude us from putting in our best efforts towards the goal we desire. Nonetheless, our life is so much more peaceful when we become aware that our Compassionate Creator is always watching over us.

Kindness is encouraged by the great Sufi masters. Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani taught that we should not seek revenge on those who have done us harm. I got a lesson in kindheartedness recently, when through a momentary lapse of concentration, I nearly hit another car while turning. The other driver came out of his car, rushed towards me, and his first words were, “Are you ok?”

Sufis and saints yearn for just one thing – nearness to God. As Rabia al-Basri once said, that, “I do not pray to God in expectation of anything, save being close to Him.” Following is a poem ascribed to her:

“O Allah! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell,
and if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise.
But if I worship You for Your Own sake,
grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.”

Rabia died in her eighties, and by then, she was continually united with God. As she told her disciples, “My Beloved is always with me.”

Instead of merely focusing on fear Rabia taught her disciples to love God. She writes about her love for God in this beautiful poem:

“Have wings that feared ever
touched the Sun?
I was born when all I once
feared – I could
love.”

Spiritualism is the striving to become aware of God’s presence. It’s a deep yearning for nearness to God.

Spiritualism and religion are interwoven concepts. The great Sufi masters believed that an understanding of the religious percepts is key to unlocking the door to peace and happiness. They taught that the path to spiritual development is open to all. God promises to listen to us when we pray and prayers are a way to connect with Him every day.

 451