Ethics Agreement

Background:

We are challenged morally and spiritually to make a clear ethical agreement with one another. We want to affirm:

1. our mutual respect and responsibility in spiritual community and in the student relationship;

2. the processes for resolving ethical dilemmas when they arise; and

3. ongoing notice of ethical responsibility for new and continuing Threshold Society members.

Definitions:

Group Leaders/Teachers: Anyone authorized by the Threshold Society to present classes, seminars, workshops, or in any other way represent the organization. Leaders have a function of advising students in both individual and group settings. The following ethical guidelines apply to anyone explicitly acting as a teacher as part of the Threshold Society.

Shaikh: A teacher authorized to initiate and guide individual students.

Student: Any participant in Threshold Society group activities.

Dual Relationship: Where the teacher/student link is combined with other forms of relationship (business/financial, counseling, personal/romantic, etc.).

Agreement:

1. In our effort to learn from Hazrati Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi and to increase our remembrance of God, each leader must adhere to a code of ethics that protects the students in their group, the families of those students, and the surrounding communities. Group leaders agree to hold in their trust the fulfillment of their student’s path in life. As a general principle, leaders are cognizant of their potentially influential position with respect to students who accept their guidance. Leaders, therefore, avoid exploiting the trust and dependency of students for personal advantage.

2. A leader cannot make claims of infallible spiritual authority, or make claims of a special charisma which places him or her above other prophets, saints, or teachers, living or dead. A leader cannot claim to be acting on behalf of other spiritual guides and their communities without obtaining their prior consent, or claim with authority to unilaterally represent their viewpoints.

3. A leader cannot demand complete and unquestioning obedience from a student, especially in ways which conflict with the student’s conscience or moral discrimination. Both group leaders and students agree to keep their relationship clear of sexual, emotional, or financial exploitation and/or abuse.

4. A leader should not counsel, nor attempt to diagnose, treat, nor advise, on problems outside the recognized boundaries of their competence.

5. Leaders agree not to engage in sexual activity with their students. A leader may not legitimately have as his or her student anyone with whom he or she has entered into conjugal relations, nor anyone with whom he or she seriously considers entering into such a relationship in the future. Conjugal relations may ensue between a former student and leader only if the following conditions have been established:

a. That neither party is presently coupled or married to another person who might protest such an arrangement. If the former condition exists for either or for both parties, an annulment or divorce must be properly completed (by one or both) before any other negotiations, such as those below, may take place.

b. Both parties must agree that the student will no longer take personal, spiritual counseling from the leader, but will seek spiritual guidance from another (possibly more senior) leader of the Threshold Society or from another leader of a different order or school.

c. Both parties must enter into an explicit verbal or written contract which establishes them in a committed relationship.

d. If the former student is a member of an ongoing group, both parties should have the above agreement witnessed by at least two other parties, and an announcement of the onset of such a relationship must be made at the next group meeting. A former student may then elect to partake in group meetings and classes, or not, as he or she sees fit, with the explicit proviso that the leader of that circle will no longer be serving as a personal spiritual guide to that person.

6. A leader does not enter into business ventures which may be reasonably expected to be unethical or exploitative of others with anyone at any time. A leader cannot knowingly accept or administer finances or goods obtained illegally or unethically.

7. Where dual relationship occurs, there is a potential for misunderstanding. Both leaders and students agree to use caution and discernment; seeking guidance with a third party is encouraged. Dual relationship cannot be a precondition to group membership or to continuing a student/teacher relationship.

8. A leader will not divulge the confidences of his or her spiritual student whether those confidences are spoken, written, or otherwise recorded without the prior approval of those students, except as follows: when mandated by law or in order to prevent a clear and immediate danger to the student in question or to another person, or when consulting with another spiritual leader who is similarly bound to confidentiality.

9. A leader cannot verbally or physically abuse or threaten a student with punishment of any sort, corporeal or spiritual. A leader cannot speak to a student or leader in a manner which is manifestly disrespectful or publicly humiliating. Individuals, men or women, students or leaders, have the right to refuse any request made by others if they feel such request or demands are immoral, unethical, unnecessary or against their will.

10. A leader is normally expected to conform to the laws of the country, state, and county which he or she presently inhabits, unless such laws directly contradict the leader’s deepest spiritual and moral values, in which case he or she may feel morally obligated to practice a form of non-violent civil disobedience.

11. The student accepts responsibility for bringing ethical concerns or ambiguities, perceptions of moral inadequacies, or issues that need attention, to the leader, leaders guide, Students Advocate, or Ethics Committee of the Threshold Society. No member of the Threshold Society is exempted from this review.

12. The ongoing work within the Mevlevi tradition is a non-commercial, God-given spiritual path. Freely we receive and freely we give. Thus the regular gatherings of Sufis are offered without charge. Groups may ask for donations to cover the expenses of the group, including rent, food, and other expenses such as communication. Shaikhs, khalifas, and circle leaders are not paid for their teaching within the Mevlevi tradition. If someone is invited to a conference, or travels a significant distance to offer a public event, payment may be accepted. If an introductory course is offered for a limited time on a Sufi literature or knowledge, a fee is also acceptable. To summarize, the week to week, year to year teaching of the tradition is a non-commercial, free offering.

13. Teachers and circle leaders cannot demand or exert pressure on their students to contribute money that will personally benefit the teachers or leaders.

14. Teachers and circle leaders cannot force students to hold secrets, or to make decisions in peoples lives, such as who they will marry, where they will live, who their friends will be, or who they should associate with.

Resolution Process:

1. Students and group leaders share responsibility for keeping the teacher/student relationship free of abuse or exploitation.

2. Whenever possible, issues will be resolved by those involved, with or without a mutually agreed-upon mediator. Immediate, local resolution is encouraged; it is recommended that local communities develop their own resolution/mediation processes.

3. Where resolution is not forthcoming, parties may request mediation assistance from the leader’s supervising guide or Students Advocate. Either party may request the assistance of the Ethics Committee.

4. An Ethics Committee, composed of three elders /leaders, at least one of whom shall be a trustee, will be elected by the membership. Terms shall be for three years, commencing at election. Current committee: Mahmoud Mostafa, Khadim Chisti, Rahima McCullough.

This committee shall

(A) hear and make recommendations on all ethical issues referred to it, and

(B) coordinate subsequent revisions of this document with the membership.

5. While this code of ethics is meant to establish general criteria for the specific activity of spiritual guidance, it is not the moral or legal responsibility of the Threshold Society to directly enforce this code. This code is not intended to be legally binding on members or any other persons. No person shall be deemed authorized by the Threshold Society, expressly or implicitly, to maintain any legal or regulatory claim, cause of action, or lawsuit against any other person based upon or related to the guidelines and principles set forth herein. Complaints can and should be directed to the Threshold Society Ethics Committee.

6. Copies of this agreement, along with names and addresses of members of the ethics committee and the current Student’s Advocate, shall be published in the Threshold Society bulletin “Eye of the Heart,” distributed to all students.

We stand at the beginning rather than at the end of our exploration of ethics.

“The Sufi’s book (of ethics) is not of ink and letters;
it’s nothing but a heart white as snow.”

(Hazrati Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi)

“Sufism means scrupulously maintained moral behavior
which one must observe toward all of God’s creatures”

(Hazrat Kwaja Moineddin Chisti)

Here are some aspects of adab we will attempt to follow:

  • To be straightforward with sincerity and truthfulness.
  • To be aware of and have regret for our own faults, rather than finding fault with others.
  • To do what one does for Allah’s sake not the desire for reward or the fear of punishment.
  • To serve the good of one’s brothers and sisters with all one’s physical and other resources.
  • To seek to heal any wound you may have caused to another, and to correct any misunderstanding within three days if possible.
  • To be patient with difficulties.
  • To realize that one’s teacher is a human being with his or her own limitations; he or she has some states that are inspired and some states that are not. Yet if there is enough love between student and teacher, the limitations of personality will be gracefully overcome.

Disclaimer: None of the activities of the Threshold Society are intended to be “psychotherapeutic” or to treat active or latent emotional, physical, or mental disease. Members participating in the activities of the Threshold Society should be aware that they do so as fully responsible adults for the sole purpose of spiritual development.

Co-authorship: The Threshold Society has drawn from several ethics agreements of other Sufi organizations, especially that of ITLAQ, formulated by Dr. Yannis Toussulis.