Sufism is one of the four main branches of Islam and what sets it apart the most is its mysticism. I learned about it when I studied Islam after my trip to Egypt. I was fascinated by how the Egyptian culture was laced with religion, much more so than I’ve seen in the western world.
Although some of the other schools of thought deny it, the Sufis are deeply devoted to god, but with what seems to me to be an inner focus on personal exploration, instead of strictly following rigid rules and interpretations.
I think this approach is what led to amazing poets and philosophers who greatly enhanced the spread of Islam in Anatolia, Central Asia and South Asia, and you quickly see why. They are devout to god, and they convey this deep love in a light, accessible and touching way – and with a great sense of humor. If you want to call it propaganda, it is one that is very attractive – in great contrast with the heaviness of the more fundamentalist interpretations.
They write with incredibly simplicity yet with immense depth. When you read their poetry, you feel like you could be great friends – never mind that they lived centuries ago.
“When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you’re not here, I can’t go to sleep.
Praise God for those two insomnias!
And the difference between them.”
The piece above is a beautiful love poem. Being deeply religious doesn’t mean that you have to be overly dry and platonic, use subtle hints and a great sense of humor.
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”
“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”
The two preceding poems contain universal truths that are as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago. Many recent books, like Thrive by Ariana Huffington or Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg are conveying a similar message, but centuries later.
“silence is the language of god,
all else is poor translation.”
This poem is one of my favorites. If you look at organized religions around the world today, and listen to many of their leaders, you realize this is more relevant than ever.
“Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”
One short sentence – it says it all.
“Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.”
“Either give me more wine or leave me alone.”
This is when you know you could be great friends.
“In Silence there is eloquence. Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves.”
“Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’
doesn’t make sense any more.”
“Bring the pure wine of
love and freedom.
But sir, a tornado is coming.
More wine, we’ll teach this storm
A thing or two about whirling.”
“When the light returns to its source, it takes nothing of what it has illuminated.”
Just like in giving love or sharing knowledge, the giver is not losing anything in the process.
“With passion pray.
With passion make love.
With passion eat and drink and dance and play.
Why look like a dead fish
in this ocean of God?”
You can be devout, and live life fully – one does not need to exclude the other. So many people don’t get this, and yet force their narrow views on others.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
You know, all those glass walls and ceiling we [still] build ourselves.
“The heart is a
The thousand-stringed instrument
That can only be tuned with Love.”
“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.”
“This place where you are right now,
God circled on a map for you.”
“This is the kind of Friend You are –
Without making me realize
My soul’s anguished history,
You slip into my house at night,
And while I am sleeping,
You silently carry off
All my suffering and sordid past
In Your beautiful
Beautiful, isn’t it? These last four poems talk about a love so deep that I am moved every time I read them.
I want friends like that.
Now go, explore, you’ll find treasures, I promise. Don’t forget to come back and share them with us.