THRESHOLD SOCIETY NEWSLETTER ~ APR 2023
The Qur'an Volume 1: Surahs 1-3
~ translation by Camille Adams Helminski, available now
Camille Adams Helminski’s The Qur’an Volume 1: Surahs 1-3 is a beauty-full, light-full rendering of the word of God. It is filled with so many insightful choices drawn from the heart of the Islamic tradition. Two examples will suffice: In the translation of the Fatiha, the phrase “ghayr al-maghdub ‘alayhim” is (accurately) rendered as “not the path of those who have brought stringency upon themselves.” In other words, the ghadab (wrath/anger/stringency) is the result not of God having wrath on us, but a consequence of our own choices. Also, translating Allah not merely as “God” but also as “Divine Reality” conveys a sense of the grandeur and majesty of the Divine. Insights like this abound in Helminski’s wonderful volume. Highly recommended for Muslims seeking to go deeper into the mysteries of the Qur’an, and spiritually seeking friends seeking to explore the Qur’anic roots of the Sufi path.
~ Omid Safi (Founder, Illuminated Tours and Courses)
It is not easy to put into words the effect Sheikha Camille’s translation of the Quran has upon hearts. Tears flow. Hearts open, and inner meanings are revealed. Her translation is deeply felt and carries within it the vibrational quality of the Arabic words. If each letter of the Quran has an angel that is responsible for that letter, that light has also been suffused into her writing. Her exquisite work and translation of the Holy Quran is indeed a blessed gift to humanity. Her carefully chosen words mirror the Arabic meanings in such a way that it assists the seeker in entering a relationship with the Quran and in doing so finding a means to strive for alignment with Divine Presence. Her semantic choices for words open up new meanings to the inflowing of the Quranic wisdom, for example, "With the Name of God" for Bismillah instead of "In the Name", as it’s so often translated, helps foster a heartfelt intimacy with the Friend. Using "Continuously Merciful" for Ar-Raheem, helps the seeker feel the encompassing mercy that continues to flow through us and around us. As we travel with her through the Quran, the clear path of as-sirrat al mustaqueem, she encourages us to pause for prayer and reflect on certain Quranic supplications, Divine Names, and to recite these words in the innermost chambers of our heart, in both Arabic and English.
If the Quran is an Ocean of Wisdom filled with pearls, then Shaikha Camille’s English version is the most crystal-clear reflection of this Ocean. May the portal that has opened for her continue to be blessed, may the meanings flow through her heart as it was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). May her Pen of Haqq and ink of Nur be abundantly blessed.
Ya Shakur, Ya Raheem, Ya Hakim. Thanks be to Allah the Inspirer of Gratitude, the Continuously Merciful One, and Most Wise. Hu...
~ Donia Fahim
Numerous keys are available to us to open the deeper meaning that lives within us; the words of the Holy Qur’an are such keys. Camille Adams Helminski offers in this Volume I, a fresh English translation of the first three surahs of the Quran—Surah al-Fatiha, Surah al-Baqarah, and Surah Al-‘Imran, which convey the principles of human ethics, encouraging us to turn again and again to realignment with our Source. Occasional transliterations of the original Arabic are also included to remind us of the beauty of the original revelation.
Through the heart of Prophet Muhammad, may great peace and blessing be upon him, this intensive communication opened while in retreat he sought to connect more and more deeply with the Source of Being. Through Its guidance, respect for the natural world, for women, for orphans, for every human being, was encouraged. The original Arabic resonances bestow grace through portals of expansive meaning, and even in translation some of the inherent blessing can be known. We offer here a journey with these meanings, that assist us in coming to know the Truth of Compassion and Mercy and in becoming Its true khalifas (representative care-takers of this creation), guardians of the trust of Being, bringing others into that Radiance, sharing love, and the fruition of Love with God’s grace. So much needs rebalancing in our world. Yet we are reminded by the Qur’an that always the Infinite Mercy of Forgiveness, the possibility of realignment with our Source, is waiting. And surely, the more we participate in that flow, the more intimacy with the Beloved is granted, and that which is within the Presence of God is the most beautiful [Qur’an, Surah Al-‘Imran 3:195]. As Shams of Tabriz, the beloved mentor of the mystic poet Jalaluddin Rumi has said, “the Qur’an is a love-letter.” May it continue to be, as it has been for many centuries, of blessed companionship, an opening towards Divine Reality, for all who approach it with an open heart.
O our Sustainer, do not let our hearts swerve from the Truth, after You have guided us, and from Your Presence, gift us with compassion. Truly, You are the Giver of Gifts! [Rabbana, la tuzhigh quloobana ba’ada izh hadaytana wahab lana min ladunka rahmatan innaka anta al-Wahhab.]
[Qur’an, Surah Al-‘Imran 3:8]
News of Our Earthquake Relief in Turkiye and Syria
One of the family tents in Hatay provided with recent donations
Many people in the extended Threshold community have been very generous, rising to the call for earthquake relief in Turkiye. Thanks be to God, substantial funds for earthquake relief are now being forwarded in installments as specific local needs are identified and able to be addressed. For further donations we can suggest the following organizations which we have researched and have been recommended as trustworthy organizations working in the area.
World Central Kitchen
An article about their work
Save the Children
Doctors without Borders
It seems they are serving the Idlib area
Report from our Turkish friends doing relief in Hatay
We are in touch with Cem Baba, who the day after the earthquake loaded his truck with a water tank and 500 gallons of clean water and drove to Samandag followed by a number of his mureeds.
Some Sufi mureeds who have relocated to Hatay for earthquake relief, including creating a safe space for children
They’re in Hatay province and next to Antakya. Cem says, “In every wounding there is pain, most heal in a short time. This wounding is deep, like the rift in the earth if you have seen the pictures from the media. It will take years to return to a semblance of normal.” It is also a time for miracles and he relates several. [Read more]
Rumi: A Culture of Love & Care of the Soul
UK Retreat Aug 18-21, 2023
Join us for 3-4 days of zikr, meditation, worship, music, conversation, and community in the beautiful natural environment of Broughton Sanctuary in the North Yorkshire Dales.
A retreat is an opportunity to put aside distractions, awaken to our true yearning, and deepen our remembrance (zikr). It is also a time to deepen our understanding of the spiritual path.
How do we discover and develop our true humanness in today’s world? What sources of knowledge should we trust and rely on? How is sincerity maintained? How are human beings transformed, and what would transformation look like?
Sufism is a culture of love in which knowledge, spiritual practice, and community are all essential. At the heart of Sufi life is adab, which we might translate as “spiritual courtesy.” Adab is an ideal of respectful awareness, humility, and affection which has been embodied by those who walk the path of Sufism.
Enriched and guided by the beautiful wisdom of Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, our spiritual path is one of creativity, joy, community, worship, and love.
*** Discounted early bird registrations open May 1st ***
MON (extra day)
Please note these are early bird rates discounted by £50 for registrations received before June 1st.
Wherever You Turn Is the Face of God
Talk by Camille Helminski from the 2011 Baraka Retreat. The unfolding of Revelation, moments of the Quran, Hadith, Mevlana and Shams, and Ramadan, many gifts of our Beloved are all interwoven, Ya Nur.
Join us for a monthly online meditation and sohbet with Shaikh Kabir and Camille, and special guests from the Threshold community. Held on the 1st Sunday of every month at 12pm Eastern Time (5pm UK).
Zoom meeting: https://zoom.us/j/435138208
Zoom passcode: threshold
Watch last month's meeting below and see all our videos here.
Let your soul take on the work, and stop your mind from bragging.
~ Shaikh Kabir Helminski
We welcome your reflections on this theme.
Reflections on the March theme: This thirst in our souls is the magnetism of the Water
~ Fohzia Ahmed [London/Florence]
As a young child I was excruciatingly shy and had a secret invisible friend, the one that I whispered my heart out to; my best friend in the whole world, in whose company my shyness would dissolve. Somehow my little child heart knew exactly where to turn to and this special friend always made me feel safe and loved.
As an 11-year-old I travelled to Mecca for the first time with my parents where I caught a glimpse of something special. I remember the walk towards the sacred house, the colours appeared as if in 3D, so vivid and surreal. The air itself felt like it was parting, a shimmering forcefield that was embracing me. It felt very dreamlike. My parents were prostrating next to me, feeling inspired I did the same; to this day I can still feel the cool kiss of the tiled marble as I pressed my forehead in prostration and felt myself sinking through the thick layers of shimmering light. I was light as a feather and remember a warm feeling spreading right through me.
Over the years I have discovered places and gatherings where the veils have felt thinner and an amplified energy has poured in like a humming forcefield, especially within the company of beloved hearts in zikr or amongst nature.
One of my favourite church’s is San Miniato al Monte that lies on the hills overlooking the city of Florence. A portal that lies on special meridian lines that have been carefully constructed with specific sacred geometries and symbols. There is a subtle hum that pervades the space, inviting all to listen and see with the eye and ear of their hearts. A harmonic resonance is felt, especially through the wonderful hearts of the monks that invite all that pass through to share a blissful moment with The Beloved Creator.
are of You –
there is no way
have so intricately
with the music
of the spheres
[Ramadan Love Songs, "Bird Wings Singing," Camille Helminski]
Every particle of our being appears to carry a magnetic trace and in fact some scientific research suggests the human body is indeed magnetic. I imagine the Divine names surging up within us as our thirst and curiosity meets in unison with each trace, activating us layer upon layer, propelling us towards a field of coherency that has a perfect heart hertz frequency.
We are composed of up to 90% water; vibrations travel through us. There is in fact a science called Cymatics that studies the geometric patterns appearing in water or matter when subject to vibration. It seems we are constantly in conversation with the Force, our very particles imprinted to a special melody.
This Sea of Love is surging,
and we, these little drops,
are swirled together
by the Force of Your Loving.
[Ninety Names of the Beloved, "Al Malik – The Sovereign," Camille Helminski]
My nieces and nephews are such wise little teachers; I call them my little tribe of Yoda’s; lots of pure unfiltered joy, love and curiosity. Over breakfast one morning my 5-year-old niece was sharing how much she was enjoying science at school. I asked her if she knew what a magnet was? Without missing a beat, she replied:
“A magnet grabs things, Phupo Foz” (phupo means aunty in Urdu).
We used ‘guru’ Google to search random facts about magnets and earth. Amongst the pages of facts, one that stood out was if the Earth lost its magnetic field, there would be no magnetosphere - and no line of defence.
This led me to ponder our sublime human design, the Divine Mercy and Love that grabs us and has placed a protection within the magnetism in simultaneous beats. There is a huge part of me that wants to lose myself in this feeling of possession that also pulls me in a tight protection. I am deeply comforted by this.
Your Love, for You
all that I
for without You,
would not exist.
[Ramadan Love Songs, "Ya Wasi, Ya Nur, Ya Wadud," Camille Helminski]
This month’s theme has served as a beautiful reminder with clear signs; the magnetism of the Water is quite simply in everything. The hypnotic chants of the monks at San Miniato, the thick haze of sage incense, my 3-year-old nephew’s pure giggles. The white butterfly dancing across the lemon bushes wrapped in an invisible melody, the surging perfume of Spring, the long tight embraces, the smoky firewood smells trapped in my hair. Love notes pinned by The Beloved, pulling me into every moment to be with You from You. Oh, Beautiful Beloved! Let our thirst increase for "we are Its, and It is ours (Rumi's Mathnawi III, 4399, Jewels of Remembrance).
increase Your Light
in this vessel of Your being.
The cells that have come together
to express this form
yearn only for You.
If there is yearning,
it is only from You
in the path
of Your Knowing
and Your Love.
How could we be
without the kiss
of Your Presence?
We would not exist,
for You are all there is,
the Eternally Pure,
[Ramadan Love Songs, "Al Ihklas," Camille Helminski]
~ Fohzia Ahmed is a wandering dervish currently residing between Florence and London. Her favourite role in the entire world is being an aunty to her 8 nieces and nephews. She is co-founder of Alchemy Heart Academy, life coach, mentor and consultant with a deep love for transformational heart-based work with women. Picture: Ramadan 2022, breaking our fast outside San Miniato church.
Understanding Ramadan Anew: Taken Apart, Put Back Together Again
Each year we discover new meanings and experiences during Ramadan. It seems that in Ramadan we are more open to be infused by new understandings. What was once merely a stretch of time, a challenging 30 days in which I faced my own attachments and weaknesses, has deepened into a new sense of relationship with Allah. The catalyst for this was my discovery of a Prophetic prayer, known to many Muslim children, but new to me:
It is for You that I have fasted,
and in You that I have faith,
and on You that I have relied,
and with Your provision that I have broken my fast.*
Previously I had considered how Ramadan helps to develop will and discernment. In a culture where we are encouraged to fulfill our desires, and abstaining from desires is usually conceived in terms of self-improvement or some long-term gain, doing something simply for the sake of God is a foreign notion. To be relieved of the strategies of the self, to acknowledge fasting is pure offering, opens up a more pure-hearted relationship to the Divine.
But there’s something even deeper. Whereas before I thought I would rely on my own will and willpower to accomplish the fast, I would struggle with myself to accomplish this most difficult obligation. I come to experience that Allah not only gives me the strength needed, but certain peace as well.
I am simply amazed at how the example of the Prophet opens us to new dimensions of experience and understanding. Through his example we are guided to an appreciation of Divine grace and beauty. And it is only when we have experienced this grace and beauty that we come to recognize our true need for Allah.
Consider the wisdom in, He knows all that lies open before human beings and all that is hidden from them, whereas they cannot encompass Him with their knowledge (Surah Ta Ha 20:110). This verse helps to explain my own discovery of the deeper levels of fasting. There is a knowledge that comes from outside our limited human experience, and infused understanding that comes from a higher level of reality.
In Surah al Furqan 25:32 we read: The Qur’an has been revealed in this manner [in a series of contextual revelations rather than in one single revelation] so that we might strengthen your heart thereby – for We have so arranged its component parts that they form one consistent whole… Just as the Quran was revealed in stages to the Prophet Muhammad, we are also undergoing an experience of incremental understanding, opening into deeper and wider dimensions of experience.
Returning again to Surah Ta Ha 20:114: God is sublimely exalted, the Ultimate Sovereign, the Ultimate Truth: and so do not approach the Qur’an in haste, before it has been revealed unto you in full, but say,"O my Sustainer, cause me to grow in knowledge!” [Rabbi zidni ilmin].
As Muhammad Asad puts it in a footnote to this verse, “Since the Word of God, all its component parts – phrases, sentences, verses, and surahs – form one integral, coordinated whole, … one must beware of a ‘hasty approach’ – that is to say, of drawing hasty conclusions from isolated verses or sentences taken out of their context – but should, rather, allow the whole of the Qur’an to be revealed to one’s mind before attempting to interpret single aspects of its message.”
Bukhari relates the famous statement of the Prophet Muhammad, salah Allahu ‘alayhi wa salam, “My analogy in comparison with the other prophets before me is that of a man who has built a house nicely and beautifully, except for a place of one brick in a corner. The people go about it and wonder at its beauty, but say, ‘Would that this last brick be put in place!’ So I am that brick, and I am the last of the Prophets.”
In Ramadan the heart is capable of receiving inspiration (ilham), an infused knowledge, that begins to show us the deeper coherence of this Path. The word for this deeper coherence is nazm, which refers to the inimitable truth we gradually find both in the revelation and the Muhammad’s example. Gradually, too, the deeper coherence of this Path has its influence on our own souls. It is something alchemical, realigning and transforming the very substance of our souls. Human beings are brought into the world incomplete and can only be completed under the influence of heaven. It is during Ramadan that we are disassembled and reassembled along lines more true to our innate nature, and through this process come to humbly accept our need for the Divine.
* Allahumma: laka sumtu, wa-bika amantu, wa-`alayka tawakkaltu, wa-`ala rizqika aftartu
Shaikha Nur Artiran with Shadab Zeest Hashmi
Before I met Hayat Nur Artiran, I had only had a raw understanding of what female selfhood may look like, a notion I have been attempting to refine in my writings over many years. Here, at the Mevlevi Sufi lodge in Istanbul, I received a lifetime’s worth of illumination about the power of the spirit in the company of Nur Hanim, beloved Sufi Hodja and the President of the Sefik Can International Mevlana Education and Culture Foundation. A researcher, author and spiritual leader on the Sufi path known as the Mevlevi order (based on the teachings of Maulana Jalaluddin Muhammad Balkhi Rumi, known in the West simply as the poet Rumi), Nur Hanim’s accomplishments shine a light on an ethos that has transformed hearts for nearly a millennium. More instrumental than personal achievement in this case, is the Sufi substance and finesse that Nur Hanim has nurtured in the running of this Mevlevi lodge. Spending a day here, on my most recent visit to Istanbul, I came to experience what I had thought possible, based on my Muslim faith, but had never witnessed before: men and women coexisting, learning, working and serving in harmony, a place where one forgets the ceaseless tensions between genders, generations, ethnicity, or those caused by differences in religious beliefs or the self-worshipping individualism that has become the insignia of modernity.
Within moments of entering the leafy, fragrant porch, the dervishes made us feel at home, offering us fur slippers for indoor use, bringing us tea. Selcuk bey, who introduced himself as Nur Hanim’s student, served as an excellent interpreter and host, along with the other dervishes—all well-spoken, educated women and men whose refinement and graceful attentiveness are a manifestation of their Sufi discipline based on “heech.” The legendary richness and depth of Maulana Rumi’s work is summed up in the concept of “heech” (or “nothingness”), the art of attaining closeness to God via the annihilation of the ego which includes not only the base self but also the (often) self-serving intellect. Maulana seeks to become all praise: “My turban and gown and (even) my head– all three together were valued at a penny, or something (less). Have you not heard my name in the world? I am nobody, I’m nobody, I’m nobody.”
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: Lessons in the School of Love: The Adab of Sacred Space
Sufi training is accomplished, above all, in the Sufi lodge and the network of relationships cultivated there. Sometimes the Sufi lodge is an actual tekkye or dergah, a private home, a rented hall, and sometimes it may even be a “tekkye on wheels,” as when we travel to a foreign country together. What is most important is the intention and an understanding of why we come together. We are seeking to create and sustain an environment where spiritual realization can be optimized, where the influence of egoism can be minimized, and where the values and knowledge of the tradition can be preserved.
When we step over the threshold of the Sufi tekkye (lodge) we are leaving one world and entering another. We are leaving the environment of the mundane and entering sacred space. We do this, above all, with our intention. Our intention is to be present, courteous, and aware of our own self (nafs).
1st Sunday of every month: Online Meditation, more details (KC)
Ramadan: Mar 22 - Apr 21
Eid al-Fitr: Apr 22
May 6: Healing for the Heart, Courage for the Soul: an afternoon of conversation and spiritual practice with Shaikh Kabir Helminski. Sat May 6th, 1:30-5:30 pm, SufiCorner Arts, Books & Café, 202 Bellevue Ave., Montclair, New Jersey. To learn more about SufiCorner, see suficorner.org and @suficorner (K)
Aug 18-21: UK Annual Retreat at Broughton Sanctuary, more details soon (K)
Events with Kabir (K) & Camille (C)
1288 Cherokee Rd Louisville, KY 40204
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