THRESHOLD SOCIETY NEWSLETTER ~ JUL 2021
Postponing the UK Annual Threshold Retreat
Gaunts 2019, photo by David John Ward
We will be postponing the Annual Threshold Retreat at Gaunts House that was scheduled for August 2021, but we intend to reserve a long weekend in August 2022. The uncertainties involved in traveling from the US to the UK, as well as the UK’s own ever-changing policies, contributed to our decision. Inshallah, we will find a safe and appropriate way to come together by next year. Sufism is more than a practice and a teaching; it is also a culture. All the ways we relate to each other in the tangible world—audible zhikr, salaat, music, sema, sohbet—are essential to that culture. Let us be hopeful that we will find ways to plan residential retreats, and return to the friendships and way of life we love so much.
Kabir & Camille
The Way of Mary, Maryam, Beloved of God
With joy we announce in this month—when for centuries the moment of the Magnificat has been celebrated, the beautiful song of praise of Beloved Mary in response to Saint Elizabeth’s recognition of her being with child, glorifying God— the forthcoming volume of The Way of Mary, Maryam, Beloved of God, expected, God willing with God’s abundant grace, in November 2021.
The Way of Mary, Maryam, Beloved of God, is a weaving of strands from ancient sources, traditional stories, poetry and prayers of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism (and beyond) to reveal through the illuminated being and life stations of Beloved Mary, the palpable Oneness of all Creation, our Oneness in Spirit.
This is a remarkable book, both a scholarly investigation and a treasure of meditative devotion. Camille Helminski moves back and forth between the differing but related stories of Maryam in the Quran, and Mary in the Christian New Testament, considering both texts in sensitive scholarly detail, from her conception to the end of Beloved Maryam's life. But the spirit of the book is a loving tribute to Maryam/Mary, evoking the perfume of this Blessed Mother through Camille's deep devotion and love. As a longtime lover of Sufism and now Christian Catholicism, I marvel at Camille's capacity to consider Maryam/Mary in such depth with honor to both these rich streams of wisdom.
~ Sara Winter, PhD, Former Faculty member, Antioch University Los Angeles
The Ecstasy of Recognition, Day of Arafat
The Day of Arafat falls on the ninth day of the month of Dhul-Hijjah of the Islamic calendar, from sundown July 18th until sundown July 19th, 2021.
(The Rituals of Hajj are anticipated to begin the evening of Saturday, July 17th, 2021 and continue until the evening of Thursday, July 22, 2021 with the ‘Eid al-Adha.)
~ Shaikh Kabir Helminski
On the day of Arafat some millions of pilgrims gather on Mount Arafat outside Mecca. It is a reminder of the Day of Reckoning—or the Day of Recognition, as we sometimes call it. It is a very cosmic moment.
Imagine yourself standing with millions of other human beings at Arafat, stripped down to bare essentials, wearing a simple sheet of white cloth, all distinctions of wealth, position, and national identity erased. All you have is the sum of your life’s thoughts, feelings, and deeds, the net result of your relationships, your loves and hates—all these things that have shaped your soul, what you are. The people on Hajj are experiencing that today. We all will experience it one day, on the day of conscious recognition.
We are reminded that true spirituality, true surrender, is about awakening to what is real and true. The Day of Judgment should not be something that we fear, but a reminder of the preciousness of this life on earth as an opportunity to penetrate the veils and come to the deepest reality.
When we come to that deepest reality, we will discover the pure ecstasy of being, the ecstasy of infinite compassion and love, the ecstasy of infinite intelligence and beauty. True spirituality is nothing less than this. It is amazing, even confounding, that some representatives of religion espouse a religion of fear, a religion of difficulties, and in some cases a religion of tyranny. Some people even fear the spiritual path, imagining that it is all about sacrificing what we love, what we enjoy, what is precious to us. But this is only the perspective of the false self that needs the support of false pleasures, attachments, and defenses, and fears losing whatever threatens its imaginary security and comfort.
If we analyze where the false self gets its satisfactions and its illusory sense of security, we will see how shallow and unreal are the things it depends on. The part of ourselves that is primarily focused on appearances, possessions, and entertainments will never be satisfied nor secure.
At the heart of spiritual experience is the ecstasy of being that we only know when we have been faithfully focused on what is most real. The human heart has the capacity to know this, to experience this, and, in fact, we are created and designed to experience the immense dimensions of divine love and beauty. What we have to sacrifice is our trivial distractions and superficial desires—nothing very important or real. We have a right to our humanness, to certain healthy pleasures and satisfactions—as long as we remember that we are servants, as long as we are conscious of our need for our divine Friend, as long as we are grateful for everything.
What is unreal will fall away in the presence of what is Real. The discipline that is required is the discipline of faithfulness to this truth, of being true to our yearning. That is why it is recommended on this day of Arafat, and every day, to frequently say: God is great (Allahu akbar), thanks be to God (alhamdulillah), and glory be to God who is subtle beyond all knowing (subhanallah).
July 4th & 18th
Join us for an online meditation with Shaikh Kabir Helminski, Camille, and other members of the Threshold community. Held on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month at 11am Eastern Time (4pm UK).
Zoom meeting: https://zoom.us/j/435138208
Zoom passcode: threshold
Watch the previous meditations here.
Would you have me tell you about actions that are better than fasting, prayer, and charity? Bring goodness and high principles between people.
We welcome your reflections on this theme.
Reflections on the June theme: The first stage of worship is silence. ~Muhammad (a.s.)
~ Abdur-Ra’uf Gharib [Louisville, USA]
Consider the meanings of the words “worship” and “silence.” For many of us, worshiping the Divine is a high priority in life, occupying a significant portion of each day. Allah has said:
I did not create jinn and mankind, save to worship Me.
Mevlana (may Allah sanctify his secret) says:
I did not create the Jinn and Mankind save that they might serve Me. Recite this text.
The final object of the world is naught but Divine worship.
Though the final object of a book is the science which it contains,
yet if you make it a pillow to rest on, it will serve as that, too;
But this function of being a pillow was not its final object: the final object was learning and knowledge and right guidance and profit.
[Masnavi III, 2988–90]
This ayat illuminates, and is illuminated by, this Hadith Qudsi: “I was a hidden treasure, and I loved to be known, so I created creation in order to be known.”
The importance of worship cannot be overstated. But what is worship? We understand it in terms of reverence and adoration, and we are well familiar with many of the outward forms worship can take, such as salat, fasting, or charity. We also know that these outward forms have inner dimensions, and anything performed with the appropriate intention and presence can be worship. Many volumes have been written over the centuries on this subject, and we study it, and practice it. Still, as we recite near the beginning of the Mevlevi Wird:
Limitless are You in Your Glory. We could not worship You as You truly ought to be worshipped, O You who are worshipped.
Subtle are You beyond all knowing. We could not know You as You truly ought to be known, O You who are the object of knowledge.
For the intellect, this could seem to be somewhat of a puzzle. We were created to worship, and know Allah, yet we are unable to do so in a way that properly honors Divine Grace. This is not to suggest our worship is worthless, just that Allah is beyond our limited capabilities. Thankfully, on this path, in the dimensionless point of the Heart, we are not confined to the possible. But how do we get to the realm of the impossible? Or better yet, beyond the realm of possibility and impossibility?
The first stage is silence.
Usually, on the surface level, references to silence in this context have to do with controlling our speech. Being aware of and controlling our speech is a very effective and fundamental exercise that can go a long way in helping us to develop presence. The Qur'an implores us to refrain from “idle talk”.
Truly the believers have prospered,
who are humble in their prayers,
and who turn away from idle talk.
The opening of this surah reflects the hadith in that the second ayat refers to worship and the third ayat refers to silence. The Arabic word for “idle talk” is laghw, which means any speech that is evil, forbidden, vain, false, nonsensical, meaningless, undesirable or even just unnecessary. The absence of laghw is also cited as one of the joys of paradise:
Gardens of Eden, those of which the Compassionate promised His servants in the Unseen. Verily His promise shall come to pass. They shall hear no idle talk therein, but only ''Peace!” And therein they shall have their provision, morning and evening.
The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said:
Most of the sins of the children of Adam are from the tongue.
The iman of Allah’s servant will not be upright until his heart is upright and his heart will not be upright until his tongue is upright.
Mevlana tells us:
Silence is the sea, and speech is like the river. The sea is seeking thee: do not seek the river.
[Masnavi IV, 2062]
Patience and silence attract the Divine mercy, whereas to seek evidence is a sign of infirmity.
Accept the Divine command, “Be ye silent,” in order that the recompense of “Be ye silent” may come to your soul from the Beloved.
[Masnavi III, 2725–26]
An anthropologist friend once taught me that in some traditional cultures it is considered rude to point at anything beautiful. The idea is not just the act of pointing, but even to in any way draw attention to beauty is to somewhat diminish it. By consuming the beauty from a place of greed, seeking to own it, making it part of our egos is to take away from the beauty. For me, it seems Mevlana practices this principle when in the Masnavi we are brought to the place of silence. Often the Masnavi leads us to where words become useless, and even counterproductive. It's not just that this Reality is beyond explanation with words, but this silence is Divine Love on a level of such a profoundly Subtle (al-Latif), delicate Beauty, so sublime that to even directly refer to it is, in a way, to disrespect it. In my experience, to attempt approaching this silence with the “I” is to immediately dissipate it with the incessant noise of my mind.
Without directly pointing it out, Mevlana leads us to where we can perceive this Reality, if we are present.
Ultimately, the essence of Masnavi is not what it is saying, but what is not being said. Mevlana is offering us to draw from the same Source he is drawing from. So how could we possibly be present with such a Reality without the destructive effect of ourselves, and all we have acquired? Allah is the Most Gracious and Most Merciful, and will always protect us, and that Beauty. Keeping in mind it is not actually us, but the false self that's the problem, we are being invited to go within “Be ye silent,” leave our false selves behind, and actually be the silence itself. This is in fact who we really are. This is what we are reconnecting with when we make silent zhikr with the breath. So it seems to me. This is but one way to see an aspect of it. Allah knows best. Please forgive me for any mistakes. May we all become the silence together, and begin to worship.
~ Ra'uf is a friend of the Threshold Society who lives in Louisville, Ky. and enjoys gardening.
Silence in a City in Constant Motion
~ Amira Abd-El Khalek [Ankara, Turkey]
This past May, I was blessed to spend the last few days of Ramadan and Eid in Cairo with my family. Ankara was going through various lockdowns, and because I live in a relatively quiet neighbourhood it seemed that silence was the way of life here. It was easy to be in zhikr, to pray, to fast. There were few distractions, most communication was done online, and I was reminded of something Kabir Dede mentioned in one of the Sunday meditations, that during Ramadan, even silence is worship. Indeed, it seemed so.
When I went to Cairo, the reality was quite different. Cairo is a city in constant motion. You can hear the voices of people chatting, laughing, arguing, car horns, street sellers, children playing, the sound of airplanes passing overhead, motorbikes, doorbells, alarm clocks, mobile phones ringing, televisions and radios, the regular never-ending din of air conditioning units. There is continuous commotion throughout the day and long into the night. The city is an intricate network of humans, creatures and machines interlaced in motion and sound. It rarely rests.
I grew up in that environment and learnt to navigate my way through it. One becomes accustomed to sound and learns to find one’s space within it. Yet, in those first days of my visit, I wondered how, in a place where it was difficult to hear one’s own thoughts, one could even begin to draw within and find that silence that one needs to be in alignment with the Divine. It occurred to me that an effort had to be exerted. It wasn’t something one took for granted. It was almost as if there was a ‘jihad’ in being in a city like Cairo and finding the quiet space to contemplate and worship
During that week, I visited the newly renovated turbe of Imam Al-Shafie, one of the four major figures of Islamic jurisprudence, located in the centre of the city. I remember stepping into that sacred space and experiencing only silence. A deep sense of presence; even though there was a regular flow of people going in and out. The place was so quiet, the silence was almost tangible. I also recalled other sites in Cairo that I return to often on my visits: the top of the minaret of Ibn Tulun, the vast open area of Sultan Hassan, the Mevlevi sem’ahana; these places of worship, located within the throbbing heart of a city that is forever alive. Throughout the years, these pockets of silence were to me a haven. They are sanctuaries for those who seek.
Mevlana Rumi says:
What a pity if you don’t know inner silence.
Polish your heart for a day or two
Make that mirror your book of contemplation.
[Mathnawi VI, 1286–87]
I found that silence, or the notion of silence, is present not only in space as in these sanctuaries, but also at certain times of the day. In the early hours of the morning, there is a momentary silence that descends on the city as the call for prayer reverberates throughout. During Ramadan, there is a quiet stillness that envelopes the city during the call for maghreb prayer. That too is a pause from the commotion, a time of collective worship, gratitude for the day and the gift of water and food after the fast.
What is truly remarkable, however, is that even in the busiest of streets, in the market places, as people are commuting, and in the midst of the worst traffic jams, there are always those who are sitting in quiet contemplation. Either in front of a shop or a building, or in an alleyway, by the banks of the Nile, in a crowded bus, or on a balcony looking down at the street below. You notice fingers gently moving prayer beads, a person standing on a prayer mat, hands clasped close to their heart, someone stroking a cat, or listening to the Quran on the radio.
The fourth-century mystic from Alexandria, Amma Syncletica, said:
It is possible to be a solitary in one’s mind while living in a crowd. And it is possible for those who are solitaries to live in the crowd of their thoughts.*
Cairo, Al-Qahira, this “City Victorious,” is a city of sound and motion and struggle. It is also a city of deep humility. Despite the seeming chaos, there is a presence of the Divine in one’s consciousness that allows one to move continuously in-between those states of presence and dunya. The constant strife for people to make a living, to feed their children, to care for their elders, to celebrate their small joys, but also to experience illness with all its toils, and the rituals of death; the daily struggle to go from one place to another, to navigate the power structures and the bureaucracy, and always to be present to the Divine makes that presence, those moments of silence, that worship, all the more precious.
This past year or so in Ankara has enabled me to attune my senses more towards nature, to see, hear and witness the changing of the seasons with all its gifts. There is a worship in that quiet witnessing. There is contemplation. There is space for reflection. In Cairo, as I reflect upon that vibrant city with everything it holds, I am reminded of another thing Dede mentioned in a Sunday meditation. “Silence is not the absence of words; it is a state of being.”
* From In the Heart of the Desert: the Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers by John Chryssavigis, World Wisdom (rev.ed.), p. 30, as quoted in The Way of Mary, Maryam, Beloved of God, by Camille Helminski, forthcoming from Sweet Lady Press in November, inshallah.
~ Amira is a seeker on the Mevlevi Path. She longs to find that balance between life, with all its exciting commotion, and quietness within.
Truly we belong to God and Truly to God we return.
Death awaits us all. Some friends have been pondering how we can facilitate a conversation around the spiritual and practical elements of preparing for our death.
Some of us may have our funeral plans already made, others may not have yet thought through the practicalities. For those who may be interested, we are looking to create a group to support:
- Being available to attend funerals to perform the ritual ablution, lead the prayer, and support families
- Training in the ritual ablution
- Sharing specific Mevlevi prayers and traditions.
We hope to create an international group that can support regional needs. We will initially begin with a community call to discuss the practicalities around such a group.
If you would like to know more about this as we develop our resources, to offer your services, or to receive the support, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or reply to this newsletter to be added to the contact list.
Mahmoud & Khadim
Archive: How to be Rumi without a Cultural Identity
Shaikh Kabir at the Academy of Self Knowledge 2013 Annual Conference.
Listen to the talk below.
Pre-recorded video course (3 sessions, approx. 2 hours each)
At Threshold we are continually looking for effective ways to share the beauties of the Sufi path.
Kabir Helminski has selected some of Rumi’s most beautiful and inspiring words to present an overview of the spiritual journey: from mindfulness and presence, to heartfulness, to intimacy with the Divine.
Threshold's collaborative blog channel The Living Tradition on Patheos.com has been reaching new audiences and sharing the experiences of our community in a unique and vibrant way for nearly four years. We are now transitioning over to Medium in the coming months, and will be writing under our new publication, Awakening with Rumi.
Beyond Gain and Loss by Anna Rohleder
Threshold Books COVID-19 Care Package
Choose any three items from this list of paperback books and CD’s
and receive all three at the discounted price of $25 including shipping.
Or choose one hardcover book and two of any of the others for $30 including shipping.
Ship to yourself or to cheer a friend.
(See our bookstore pages for item descriptions)
Jewels of Remembrance; The Rumi Collection.
Paperback book options:
Unseen Rain; Love Is a Stranger; The Light of Dawn; Inspirations on the Path of Blame; Happiness without Death.
Praise by Ahmet Tijani and friends; Embracing Both Worlds (Music of Sema)
The Threshold Society, rooted within the traditions of Sufism and inspired by the life and work of Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi, is a non-profit educational foundation with the purpose of facilitating the experience of Divine Unity, Love, and Truth in the world. Sufism is a living tradition of human transformation through love and higher consciousness. Our fundamental framework is classical Sufism and the Qur’an as it has been understood over the centuries by the great Sufis. The Society is affiliated with the Mevlevi Order, and offers training programs, seminars and retreats around the world.
Each month we intend to highlight an article about our lineage and its principles. This month we offer: Practical Aspects of Dervishood by Mahmoud Mostafa.
For me, dervishhood is a total commitment to follow in the footsteps of the Prophet, Mevlana Rumi, Shams, and all the blessed ones who traveled the way of love. There are many aspects to this following and over the years it has been shown to me that the sincerity of commitment to this path is manifest in knowing that one is a servant and living one’s life in this truth. What are the practical aspects of this way of living? For me there are several dimensions, there is a state of being, an active practice, a quality of self-reflection and self-knowing, and a way of conduct in daily life.
1st & 3rd Sunday: Online Meditation, more details (KC)
Jul 19: Eid al-Adha
Events with Kabir (K) & Camille (C)
1288 Cherokee Rd Louisville, KY 40204
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