How could Sufism contribute to a better living together in the Western world?
Firstly, what is Sufism?
Definition of Sufism depends upon the angle through which you look at it:
If one perceives Sufism as a tradition that takes the guise of tariqas or brotherhood organized around a spiritual master and dedicated to spiritual practices, one could say that it started in the context of the Islamic tradition.
It is meant for all men and women that have an inextinguishable thirst for divine Love, who search to perceive the mysteries of the divine Creation, who want to live the deep dimensions of the Revelation, and who cannot find satisfaction only with the external practice of the religion.
Under a wider angle, the quest for the Oneness, the merger with the One is perennial. This spiritual quest is common to some men and women through centuries back to the earliest times of humanity.
Based on this definition, Sufism is the quest for a deep meaning, for a more genuine commitment to Life. Henceforth, Sufism is absolutely universal. It is the essence of the Messages of Muhammad, Jesus, Moses, Abraham, all the Messengers and the wise philosophers of Antique Greece.
Sufism is the inner dimension, the life of Islam. It is like the bone marrow in the bones of the body. It is in the bone marrow that the red cells are formed which carry the nutrients and the oxygen to the bones and the whole body. Life comes from the inside to the outside, for the hidden to the apparent.
Sufism is the inner dimension of Islam, which is composed of the Imân of faith and the Ihsân, the excellence, also translated as the good-acting. And the Ihsân is an order according the following hadith : “ God has prescribed the excellence, or the good-acting, in everything ” (Sahih Muslim, N° 1955)
" ان الله كتب ألاحسان على كل شيىء "
And the good-acting or excellence goes into the slightest details of our worship – “ and call upon Him, making yourselves sincere towards Him in religion ” (Chapter 7, Al-A’raf, verse 30) as it is demanded in the Qur’an, and it reflects in our daily life. It goes from the simple smile, from the kind words to generous deed.
The good-acting characterizes itself by the practice of human values and qualities appreciated by the Almighty : genuine words, generosity, mercifulness, forgiveness, justice, righteousness in the behavior, the gift of oneself and assistance to one’s fellow brother of sister by going beyond our wishes. It is a
school where we are educated to live in the respect of the earth that carries us, to live a relation of justice with our fellow men and harmony with our Creator.
And there is a great Grace and promise: “Is the reward of goodness anything but goodness? ” (Chapter 55, The Compassionate, verse 60).
" هل جزاء الاحسان الا الاحسان "
These values and acts are fed with dhikr or remembrance which is like the bone marrow of the spiritual life. And the spiritual life must be fed sufficiently and with daily regularity.
If one does not feed the body, it weakens and dies. It is violent and visible.
If one does not feed its spiritual life, the spirit withers and dies out. It is less visible, but the neglected spirit is like extinct.
A hadith of saying of the Prophet Muhammad goes as follow: “The difference between the one who does remembrance of the Almighty and the one who does not emembrance of the Almighty is like the difference between the living and the dead” (Sahih Al-Bukhari).
" مثل الذي يذكر ربه و الذي لا يذكر ربه, مثل الحي و الميت "
And whenever you remember his Name, the Almighty is next to you. God says in a sanctified saying or hadith Qodsi: “Allah says, I am just as My slave thinks I am, and I am with him if he remembers Me. If he remembers Me in himself, I too, remember him in Myself; and if he remembers Me in a group of
people, I remember him in a group that is better than them.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, N° 502)
أنا عند ظن عبدي بي , و انا معه اذا ذكرني, فان ذكرني في نفسه ذكرته في نفسي, وان ذكرني في ملأ, ذكرته في ملأ خير منه
The spiritual master is another essential dimension in the Sufi path. Through his guidance and teaching, he helps us to educate our earthly soul, our ego, which is created and naturally inclined to earthly goods and pleasures. Our divine spirit must educate our earthly soul to appreciate holiness through the path of living spirituality and the good deeds – as it is frequently referred to in the Qur’an – “Those who believe and do good works” (Chapter 103 Al-‘Asr, Verse 4).
" الذين آمنوا و عملوا الصالحات "
The Arabic word for the education of our earthly soul is “Tarbiyyah” where one founds the root “rabb”, which means to raise to noble rank, to ennoble, this soul in a way that when the spirit goes back to its original world, it does not carry any strange smell and is not hindered with earthly burdens. It goes back to the world of the spirits as if it had never left it. Besides, it brings with him human energy that has become divine.
What is the Western word nowadays?
The Western world has become the synonym of a pattern of thinking and education, a way of life that absorbs us completely in worldly and professional constraints, unbridled consumption, an ego that fights for its existence on the social media. All this to such an extent that it has left no space for worshiping the Almighty.
Spiritual life has lost its place in the daily life and the values that go along have disappeared in the same time. Generosity has given way to jungle individualism or totalitarianism of a termite nest, kindness has given way to easy anger, genuine words to empty palabra. And it is a desperate and dreadful rush for
the instant, towards a futureless life because one has forgotten its past. We lose our life to earn it.
In the Qur’an it is said: “Satan has taken hold of them, and has made them forget the remembrance of
God” (Chapter 58, al-Moujadala, Verse 19).
"استحوذ عليهم الشيطان فأنساهم ذكر الله"
It is a society that goes on aimlessly, which is moved forward by its own inertia, like a rolling ball.
Beyond the visible technological achievements and the material comfort it bring in our individual life, it is a way of life and a relation to nature that generate worrying imbalances for our own survival. Recent global studies highlight increasing pressure on the planet’s ecosystem because of human abuse of the planet’s ecosystem, e.g. the report of the United Nations’ intergovernmental panel on the climate change1, which deals with the dramatic consequences for the environment, the fauna, nature and
population of each incremental increase of one-half a degree centigrade. Let us also refer to the findings of a collective of scientists that recorded a worrying decrease of a large quantity of vertebrae species and come to the conclusion that the “sixth mass extinction” in under way2. The collapse of biodiversity does not spare the insects. A recent study in Germany shows that the mass of insects, including pollinizing insects, has dropped by 75% in less than three decennia and on a large scale and even in
protected area3. The same has been noticed in the disappearance of multiple plant and animal species at an accelerated pace never recorded in known history and its consequences for the other living organisms4.
And the dynamic of the economic model of globalized capitalism which is characterized by the search for individual profit is as foreseen by Karl Marx. A dynamic that “leads necessarily to an increase in wage inequalities on the one hand and to financial crisis”. These findings come from the chief economist of a French bank5 and one notes an increase in the interest for those theories by others economists who try to find an explanation for the current world economic imbalances.
Many people in the Western nowadays wonder about their life and look for something else for themselves and their family, often without knowing precisely what they are looking for. The most apparent signs of this quest is the wave of mental depression which is treated with cigarettes, antidepressant and Xanax during the day and wine with sleeping pills at night. One has lost the meaning of life, the magic of the sacred life.
For those ones who do not go for medicines, substitutes of spirituality are served. There is a flourishing market for Buddhism, Hinduism, spiritualist and other devitalized spiritual products, adapted to the modern mentality. It is like a vaccine that the modern society inoculates itself in order to protect itself and the image of Islam is daily misrepresented.
For those of you who have been gratified with the Sirr, the Light of the Prophet that the Almighty has bestowed upon you in order to vivify your life, you can carry this message to the Western world and elsewhere, and be ambassadors of the Almighty with your radiance and your actions. It starts with a smile, helping your neighbor, being examples in the daily life, to explain the Sufi path, the spread it and to reinforce it.
And the heart of genuine people will perceive the perfume that you exhale, the Secret and the values of the Tariqa. Those whom the spirit is not extinct could come closer to you by natural attraction or you could be a milestone in their life. You act on behalf of the Almighty, to the implementation of his Plan for his Creation.
One has to remember that relation to the Almighty is a two-way street. Too many people regard of the Almighty as an ATM, a bank-note dispenser. We ask: “Give me this, give me that”. We behave like consumers. But the real question is: “How could I be of your service?” If we can do something to act for the Almighty, we contribute to make this world a better place, like paradise on earth, to implement his Plan for his Creation. Our needs become henceforth less important.
And we can serve the Almighty when we are alive, not when we are dead.
Madagh, 1st June 2019
Translated to English by: A. Bousmar from Brussels
1 Report of the UN Panel on Climate Change – IPCC, adopted in Incheon in October 2018.
2 « Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signalled by vertebrate population losses and
declines » in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of American, publ. July 25, 2017.
3 « More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas », Radboud
University, plus German and British entomologists, in Plos One, October 18, 2017.
4 « Global datase shows geography and life form predict modern plant extinction and rediscovery » in Nature
Ecology and Evolution, June 2019.
5 Flash Economique – banque Natixis, de Patrick Artus, n° 130, 2 février 2018.