What is Sufism?
An interview conducted at Zorba the Buddha
Delhi, India. February 2016
It is such a pleasure to be interviewed by someone who is really seeking to understand, who is openhearted, intelligent, and receptive. This occasion allowed me to describe in about 25 minutes some of the principles and values of the Sufi path. I think we can recommend this as an introduction to Sufism for sincere seekers, and a refresher for those who are already on the path.
~ Shaikh Kabir
Reflection on May’s theme: The Eye of the Heart is a seeker of Beauty.
~ Yasmin Babikir (Manchester, UK)
My I have always been attracted to beauty. As a child I was mesmerised by the swirling colours and intricate detailing of my mother’s toabs as they were carefully laid out ready to be worn during summers spent in Khartoum. I enjoyed the sensual sounds of saxophones and guitars played in jazz cafes. I was obsessed with photographing beautiful scenes which I would revisit whenever I felt overwhelmed or sad. I found that what was beautiful had the ability to capture my attention in ways I didn’t quite understand or articulate. Poetry, a painting, a cool breeze, the deepening of the lines around someone’s eyes when they laughed; they spoke to a deeper fragment of my being. Where there was beauty there was hope, there was joy, there was life.
I know that I am not alone in this. A few weeks ago I was helping a friend to sell honey at a local organic food market. We spread a mint green and white chequered tablecloth and on it placed some vibrant flowers next to the jars of honey. I noticed how groups were drawn to our table; they would stand around it talking and laughing. Countless people asked where the flowers were from or commented on the way it was set up. Its simple beauty had a captivating charm and seemed to attract beautiful and charming individuals as a result. It seems that a particular arrangement of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form has the ability to please and entice quite profoundly.
Beauty in itself is a difficult concept to define. What is it that makes people, places and experiences beautiful? And why are we so drawn in by them? Do beautiful objects exist to be useful or simply to bring beauty as their sole function and purpose? I remember hearing about a Syrian man who was a piano player. Not bearing to part with his beloved instrument he played his piano in the middle of the refugee camps. People gathered around him and danced and clapped despite their adverse condition, or maybe because of them. They were attracted to the beautiful sounds and found joy no matter the prevailing external circumstances.
When I read that the Prophet SAW had said, “Allah is beautiful and loves beauty”,
As I progress in this path I have started to perceive beauty in more personal and sometimes unusual things. I see it in my own and other’s pain and torment: In the overcoming of struggles and growth of character as a result. Humans are flawed and therein lays their unique splendour. I see beauty in life’s mundane moments as well and this helps me to practise gratitude and compassion. This is the beauty that the eye of my heart has always been seeking and this is the beauty that brings us closer to The Divine.
Beauty then is not something defined by mathematical equations or abstract concepts. It cannot be bottled or sold. It is something that only the heart truly comprehends leaving the intellect grappling for clues. It speaks in another language entirely and has the supremacy to transform our perception and can give commonplace moments purpose. Beauty is not seen, felt or experienced through our worldly senses alone. Its power lies in something outside of this, alien to the human tongue but beloved to our heart and souls.
As Shaikha Camille Helminski says in The Book of Nature: “If we look, how can we not witness the beauty and magnificence of this creation — and who could have made it, but our Sustainer — the Unknowable and Infinite and Sublimely Skilful and Beneficent Source of Being? Surely it was not man that made it thus — in shapely proportion and without any flaw [Surah Qaf 50:6]”
This is why I think beauty is vital in the contemplation of God. Once we begin to see the beauty in His creation, His plan and His way, we begin to see it in ourselves. As the awareness expands it spreads and encourages others to unveil their hearts in the same way. St Augustine said, “The whole purpose of life is to restore to health the eye of the heart by which God can be seen.”
Yasmin Babiker is a psychiatrist and poet, and can be found reciting her work at spoken word art festivals around the UK.
The wealth of the seeker is emptiness (fakr, poverty).
We welcome your reflections on this theme.
Threshold’s collaborative blog channel The Living Tradition on Patheos.com is reaching new audiences and sharing the experiences of our community in a unique and vibrant way. Let us know what you think by commenting on the posts — join the discussion at www.patheos.com/blogs/livingtradition and “follow” The Living Tradition.
Baraka and Transformation
The Annual Threshold Society UK Retreat, Gaunts House, Dorset, England
with Shaikh Kabir, Selcuk Gurez & Jeremy Henzell-Thomas
August 26-29, 2016
What is the Sufi path? How has it changed over time? Why do we need it?
The conditions for spiritual wayfaring change with the times: teacher-student relationship; the opportunity for community; the evolving pedagogy; the availability of information; the cultural conditions under which we practice; the prejudices and misunderstandings we encounter.
At the same time, the nature of the relationship with the divine remains the same. Whatever our starting point may be, whatever cultural or ethnic background, the realization of Truth, that intimate Union, remains the same.
All the challenges, distractions, and conditions of contemporary, technologized life notwithstanding, the community of seekers is strengthened and uplifted when we come together in friendship for the sake of knowledge, personal reflection, spiritual practice, and communion with the divine.
Selcuk Gurez, Master Mevlevi Musician, will be the Guest Artist at this year’s retreat. Accomplished in the entire field of Mevlevi music (voice, ney, kudum, sema), we are honored to have him with us to instruct us in many aspects of Mevlevi culture and practice.
Jeremy Henzell-Thomas, a Cambridge scholar and one of the most sought after public speakers in England, will be with us once again.
More information and registration details will be posted soon on the website events page and in the next newsletter.
Women of Sufism study group
Friends of the Threshold community are invited to a study group to read and discuss Women of Sufism: A Hidden Treasure, Writings and Stories of Mystic Poets, Scholars, and Saints by Shaikha Camille Helminski.
The book has been split into segments to be studied over six months. At the start of each month we will post an invitation for you to offer reflections. See the website for more details, guidelines and access to the monthly discussion posts.
The password to access the discussion posts is khadija.
See the Resource page for the recording of the community call last month and an excerpt from Shaikha Camille’s poetry collection Words from the East.
Join the discussion: womenofsufism.com
Wishing you a blessed and joyful Ramadan!
Jun 3-5: Whistler, British Columbia. Vancouver Retreat, more details. (KC)
Jun 5: Hale Barns, UK. Ruminations: Spiritual Practice, more details.
Jun 7: Ramadan starts
Jul 7: Eid al-Fitr
Jul 9: Manchester, UK: Healing Srebrenica. Prayers and remembrance, more details.
Aug 26-29: Dorset, UK. Annual UK Retreat at Gaunts House, more details soon. (K)
Oct 14-16: Kendal, UK. Unveiling the Divine: Honouring the Sacred Feminine. With Elizabeth Hin, more details soon.
Events with Sh. Kabir and Sh. Camille marked (KC)
Bradford Literature Festival reflections
Rumi’s Circle presented whirling workshops, poetry and sema at the Bradford Literature Festival this last weekend. It was a beautiful experience with many sincere seekers who joined in the practice session of whirling — adults and children.
All events were beautifully received and we felt so blessed to be able to share our tradition in this way, and for the guidance and support of our beloved teachers, alhamdulillah!
~ Fatimah, Noor, Daniel, Saimma, Uzma, Siema, Sadat, Amnah & Mona
Words from the East
~ Shaikha Camille Adams Helminski ~
New Life comes
as a surprise
and we change with them.
The seasons run their course
and in spring we wake up
filled with our own beauty,
blossoming through the touch
of His Hand.
May God bless our new life
and make it fruitful
that our fruit may bear new trees
to give shade to others
who stand parched in the sun.
For His Mercy and Generosity
are alive forever
and come readily to us
when we open to Him.
We’d love to hear from you – get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org