Mystical Orders of this type lay down rigid rules in a set pattern for aspirants to Sufi power. Apart from those who pursue the cult alone, all new recruits must be accepted according to a formula by a Pir, or teacher. Sons follow in their fathers' footsteps in entering the Order to which their parent belonged; and only those who have been recommended by certain sponsors may be accepted as disciples into the first degree of'Salik': Seeker.
Orders, which are named after their founder (Naqshbandiyya, Chishtiyya, Qidriyya, etc.) are organized in groups studying under acknowledged masters. Promotion from one degree to the next is through a patent or declaration by the master of the group to which the the fakirs and their uolitkinbs oj acolyte belongs. In order to study a particular branch of the art, students may travel from Morocco to Java, or from as far afield as China to Libya, to join the Halka (circle) of a celebrated teacher. Then, if the latter agrees, the candidate will be placed on probation for some months. Living a life of poverty, dressed perhaps in saffron robes and performing menial tasks, the seeker during the period of his studies must remain attached to his master with a devotion which far exceeds even the most rigorous discipline of any military force.
He must take part in the ritual recitations of certain holy and secret scripts, must observe the Five Ritual Prayers and ablutions, the annual month of fasting from dawn to sunset, and read the works of the masters.
Several distinct Orders or Tariqas ('Pathways') of Sufism are known. All trace their origins to Mohammed himself, and also to his companions. It has been asserted that they originated in a mystical fraternity among the Prophet's immediate followers—the Asbdb-Us-Safd, or Companions of the Bench. These men, about whom very little is definitely known, immersed themselves in good works, contemplation, fasting and prayer. Even the derivation of their name is shrouded in mystery (64). The widest held theories, however, state that they are either named after their woollen robes (Souif, wool, in Arabic), or from 'Safd', purity.
The main orders; today are the Naqshbandlyya, Chishtiyya, Qadriyya and Suharwardiyya. Each is self-contained in itself; none is inimical to the others: saints and practices are sometimes held in common; the objectives of mankind, and particularly of the Sufis, are almost identical in each.
There are a number of other Orders, scattered from Morocco to Java, through India, Afghanistan—anywhere, in fact, that Islam has spread. In all cases, rites and writings are highly symbolistic.
In every case admission to an Order depends upon sponsorship and initiation.
Sufis traditionally hold an important, if undefined, place both in society and history. The Dervishes of the Sudan were—and still are— a Sufi Order, organized as a militant and nowadays philanthropic entity. In the days of the Ottoman Empire, the greatly feared Jannis-sary* shock-troops were a military Sufi fraternity, connected with what are today known as the Naqshbandlyya. The present King of Libya, Sayed Idris, is the Chief of a Sufi order, and most, if not all,
* From Persian Jdn-nisar, 'Life-scatterer'.
f of his subjects consider themselves Sufis. The Fakir of Ipi—that 'Firebrand of the North-West Frontier of India'—is a Sufi leader. These brief facts may tend to give the impression that there is much militarism in the different Orders: perhaps the explanation may be that other aspects of the cult are less well known in the West; reference to them out of context would serve only to confuse the reader.
The theory of Sufism is that man, in his ordinary state as part-animal, part-spirit, is incomplete. All Sufi doctrine and ritual is dedicated towards making the Seeker (Sdlik) pure, and therefore Insan-i-Kdmil—a Perfect Man, or Complete Man. It is envisaged that a person may be able to achieve this state of Completeness by himself, or even through means other than Sufism. Yet it is contended that Sufism is the established way, with its prescribed method and the guidance of the Masters who have already trod the Path.
When the aspirant has attained the state of completeness which is the goal of the cult, he is then in tune with the Infinite; and those strivings and uncertainties to which he, as a mere imperfect mortal, has been subjected, are no more. This ultimate stage of achievement is known as Wasl, 'Union'.
The monastic life, however, is strongly eschewed by all Sufi thinkers. They reason that if a man deprives society of his service and activity, he is being anti-social. Being anti-social is against the Divine Plan. Hence he must, in the words of the First Principle of Sufism, 'Be in the world but not of the world !'*
The hierarchy of Moslem Sufi saints, therefore, are known by their occupations as well as by their titles. Hence, one (Attar) was a chemist; another (Hadrat Bahauddin Naqshband) was a painter, and so on. Certain kings of India and Persia, upon becoming Sufis, took up some extra occupation to pay for their own upkeep, while still remaining rulers and taking nothing from the treasury on their own account.
Chief of the entire Sufi system is the Qutub: he is the most enlightened of all Sufis, has attained the degree of Wasl (Union with the Infinite) and holds power over, according to some, the entire Sufi organism. Others say that the Qutub has considerable political or temporal power as well. In any case, his identity is known to very few. He maintains communication only with the Leaders of the Orders. * "Dar Dunya Bdsb: As> Dunya Mabdsbl"
the fakirs and their doctrines 6$
Conferences are held telepathically, or else by means of 'time and space annihilation'. The latter phenomenon is said to mean that Sufis of the degree of Wasl are able to transport themselves anywhere instantaneously, in physical form, by a process of decorporealization.
The Qutub is attended by four deputies—the Awtad, or Pillars, whose function is to maintain knowledge of, and power over, the four corners of the earth, and to report to him constantly the state of affairs in every country. Subservient to the Awtdd are the forty Abdal ('those who have become spiritually changed'), and under them, in turn, seventy Nobles, who in their turn command three hundred Lords. Sufi saints who do not hold an actual office in this hierarchy are termed Saint: Walt.
Entry into an Order is made through one of the many hundreds of branches (Halka)—also known as Circles—which flourish throughout the East. Although explanations of the more esoteric aspects of the cult are not forthcoming to any but initiates, it is important to note that his membership of an Order is usually not kept a secret by an initiate.
In some places men take their young sons to be present at the rites of the Order; hence many grow up with a curiosity about Sufism; and it may be said to be unusual for the son of a Sufi not to join the Order himself.
When a candidate for the lowest degree (that of Saltk—seeker) is presented, he may be allowed to attend meetings for some time before being presented formally by his sponsors for enrolment. Acceptance by a Chief, or Pir, does not necessarily mean that promotion is likely to follow. This is one of the truly extraordinary facets of Sufism, as opposed to other mystical or secret fraternities. Promotion or elevation in the Order, or even the passing of secret knowledge, come to a person automatically as soon as he is ready for it.
Unless the aspirant is 'Mature' (Pukbta) for enlightenment, he will never progress. Once he has been initiated, however, he will most probably be on the Road to Success, and if he adheres rigidly to the rites and practices of the Order, he will be able to benefit from them. In other words, if—as sometimes happens—a person other than an initiated Sufi attends a Sufi Halka, he may hear all that is being said, he may take part in all the repetitions of sacred formulae, he may even join in the ritual circumambulations: but he will derive no enlightenment, no benefit, no understanding therefrom.
A striking example of this is the Monastery of the Maulavi Order in Cyprus, where anyone at all may attend the strange ceremonies of the 'Dancing Dervishes'—and the latter are in no way put out by the presence of infidels, uninitiates or even detractors. It is their unshakeable belief that their ceremonies and repetitions of formulae (Dhikr) are efficacious only for those who are initiated.
Newcomers, having been introduced into the circle of Sufis, generally attend for several sessions of recitation, repetition of holy phrases, singing or dancing, depending upon the Order in question. In relation to music, some Orders employ music, others do not even permit recitations, except sotto voce.
At a convenient moment in the proceedings, the candidate is presented to the Chief of the Circle. He may then be asked certain questions to determine his suitability. If he is accepted, the Chief takes him by the hands and whispers to this effect in his ears. The recruit is then known as a Seeker, and the only remaining rite to be performed to complete his enrolment in the Order is the Great Oath. In this the Salik undertakes to obey his Pir, absolutely and without reservation.
While nearly every Sufi following the Path is a properly coached and entered Member of his Order, one other form of Sufism is known. This, called IJwaysi, is practised by those who, while following established Sufi patterns of discipline and thought, are yet affiliated to no Order. The name is derived from one Uways ul Qarani, of Yaman, a contemporary of Mohammed, who is said to have been in spiritual contact with the Prophet in spite of never having met him.
Two important facts about Sufism are exemplified in this Uwaysi doctrine. First, it shows the spiritual or telepathic link which forms a significant part of the cult. Just as time has no established meaning to the Sufi, so it is possible for one of their number to be in communication with another who may be far away—or may even be dead. Hence we find important Sufi saints claiming inspiration and co-operation with others whom they may never have met; or else from the spirit of one long dead. Secondly, it is acknowledged by Sufism that progress may be made in the Path by one who is not under direct or constant instruction from his Pir or master. At the same time it is emphasized that such cases are rare.
Following his acceptance by the Chief of the Halka, the Seeker gains the title of Murid: disciple, and must then embark upon the rigorous preparation which will lead him to Stage Two: that of Tariqat, or potentiality. This latter forms the first real degree of Sufism, and denotes spiritual progress.
Between the First and Second Degrees, in addition to obeying every instruction of the Master, the disciple must not omit any point of the ritual observance of formal Islam. In addition to reading certain prescribed books, he spends as much time as he can on the recitation of dhikrs (65). These formulae are designed to remedy any defect in belief or ability that may have been discerned by the Pir. This is considered to be the period of «dedication to the theme of "Be in the world, yet not of the world". The intention and aim of every Seeker at this stage is to concentrate upon the thoughts and personality of the Pir. In his turn, the Pir turns his thoughts regularly towards those of the disciple, sending him vital spiritual energy, to fortify him in the battle against the 'Self'. By the Self is meant the things of the flesh which detract from true spiritual progress.
In the stage of Muridi, too, the Seeker may take part in the nightly meetings of lie Dervishes (Sufis), in their halka, or monastery. Present at such meetings, and repeating the same dhikrs, may be Sufis in several different stages of advancement. But this will not affect the potency of the dhikrs or the progress of individuals, because it is held that the same dhikr may be of great value in any one of the stages. This is, of course, determined by the Pir.
When the disciple merits the title of Tariqat—either because his Pir decides so or because he himself has reached the stage of knowing that he has progressed—he transfers his attention from the thoughts of his Leader to those of the actual Founder of the particular Order. At this time, however, the Leader keeps his own thoughts focused upon the disciple, to reinforce his spiritual powers.
It is at this stage that the disciple may be allowed to pursue certain thaumaturgic practices, if his Pir decides that it be permissible. His abilities in occult knowledge and actual magical phenomena are great: but he may employ them only with consent.
These Sufis are now in the Stage of Safar-ullah'. the Journey to Knowledge. They must concentrate upon the achievement of one-ness with the spirit of the Founder of the Order, whom they now call Pir, in place of the Leader whose disciple they are. The Leader himself is now known as Sheikh, or Murshid.
They travel, often to far countries, at the behest of the Murshid. Preaching the cult is not allowed, unless they are asked about it, and unless they feel that their questioners may be able to profit by such knowledge. Pilgrimages to Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem and to other shrines are undertaken. This stage generally takes far longer of attainment than the previous one.
It is known and recorded, however, that promotions from a low stage to one of the highest may take place without the intervention of the Murshid.
After Tariqat comes Stage Three: Arij\ the Knower. At this point the Seeker dedicates himself to the attainment of unity with the thoughts of Mohammed, and has graduated beyond the mind of the founder of the Order. This part of the road is known as Safar ti-Allah-. the Journey Away from Neglectfulness.
Occult and all supernatural powers are very marked in the Stage of Arif. The spirit has been all but purged of the detrimental physical aspects and lusts. The 'Self' is well under control. All that remains is the Summit—the Degree of Fana, or Annihilation. This means the total destruction of all thoughts which separate the Seeker from the full knowledge of all things. Farther than this he cannot go—except to Stage Five; which involves a return to the baser life, in order to purify others.
Kamiluddin, one of the most important of the Sufi historians, gives a typical example of raising of the dead, as familiar to students of the Naqshbandi Order.
Qaiyiim, a Naqshbandi leader, is stated to have revived his granddaughter, even though her death had been certified three days before. The saint maintained that she was still alive. It was only when the body was actually showing signs of decomposition (of rapid onset in the Indian climate) that he simply called to her . . . and she is claimed to have sat up immediately.
A large number of miracles are reported of the best known woman Sufi, Rabii'a al-Adawiya, in the eighth century.
Her main teaching, as expounded to the few who know her well, was that prayer and the recitation of formulae were the Gateway to Knowledge and hence to power. She was disinclined to concentrate upon the generally accepted use of prayer as a means towards forgiveness and salvation.
Using the formula La-illahd-illa-alldh ('There is no God save Allah, the One'), she is reputed to have made fires without wood, obtained food without leaving her house, and been supernaturally supplied with sufficient gold for her needs.
She was sold as a slave early in her life. One day her master said that he once noticed that a lamp seemed suspended above her, yet without support of any kind. This experience so troubled him that he immediately set her free, without saying anything to anyone.
Sufi miracle-workers, in addition to the observance of the ritual prayers and ablutions, employ several principal dhikrs which induce the concentration of mind that enables occult phenomena of almost the fakirs and their doctrines every type to be produced. Among these achievements are the ability to relieve pain and destroy disease, transportation anywhere in the twinkling of an eye, knowledge of future events and also of what anyone is thinking, even though that person may not he present.
All recitations are performed in a state of ritual purity. The face, arms, feet and mouth are washed. If the Seeker has slept since his last dhikr, he must have a bath. Any other pollution must also be removed by complete immersion.
Dhikrs are generally said during the hours of darkness. When a supernatural result is desired, the dhikr must dwell upon some facet of the Divine power allied to the effect to be accomplished. Thus, when a Sufi wishes to cure illness, he prepares himself by repeating a dhikr consisting of the Name of God which denotes healing. By this means the Sufi intends to collect in his mind a tremendous potential of mental force associated with healing. This he projects towards the object of his attentions, at the same time concentrating upon the desired result.
When a Sufi's aid is invoked to ensure, for example, success in any venture, he will purify himself and spend three nights, culminating on a Thursday, reciting the simple formula Ya Fatih ('O Victor')— one of the Attributes of the Ail-Powerful. On Thursday (the 'powerful' night of the week) the full quote of power will have been built up in his mind: this, at any event, is the theory. He may also give the person a talisman or amulet with the dhikr written on it, to wear on his arm. Even today, these dhikr amulets are widely worn among all classes in the Moslem East. It is not uncommon for Sufis to receive a visitation from some important member of the Order—perhaps long dead— advising them as to the best course to take in any matter upon which they are uncertain.
At the outset of his training the more esoteric aspects of Sufism are of less concern to the Seeker than the attainment of progress through implicit obedience to the formulae of the cult. The root of all such progress is Dhikr. Having either been given a set dhikr to repeat (if he is under the direct guidance of a Sheikh), or having selected one himself (if he is an Uwaysi working towards the goal alone), his task is to repeat it with meticulous regard for the times and frequency of its saying.
If the formula is said under the breath ('Dhikr khafi'), a rosary with ninety-nine beads is used, one bead being told after each repetition. In the case of the 'Dhikr Jali' (loud repetition) the rosary is often not used. When not attending an actual halka ('circle') meeting, the Seeker generally goes to some quiet place, or spends his contemplation-time in a room set aside for the purpose.
There is, too, the exercise known as Ftkr, which consists of meditation: concentration upon some power that is desired, or upon the immensity of the Universe. When Dhikr and Fikr have been indulged in to such an extent that they become second nature, the Superior Form of Dhikr becomes necessary. This is the control and concentration of breath: the mind is concentrated upon a single idea, and the original Dhikr formula or another one is recited, this time in set rhythm corresponding to the breathing.
When the Dhikr has so sunk into the mind that it is being automatically repeated without conscious effort—then the 'Superior Form' is used. According to Sufi doctrine, mastery of the thought processes and their linking with the body have been achieved.
The purpose of this Superior Form is the production of the next— and highly important—phenomenon: ecstasy. While it is conceded that ecstasy can come without the Dhikrs, yet it is claimed that it cannot be induced so readily by other means. In the state of ecstasy, which may be followed by unconsciousness, the mind undergoes a transformation whose nature is not described. True ecstasy is known by the technical term wajd, and paves the way to Khatrat—^illumination. Here the mind and soul are liberated from the body, and knowledge and power take the place of the base thoughts of which the mind has been purified. In the Chishti Order, music is used to induce the ecstatic state; some orders claim that their members fall into a trance after looking into the eyes of their Sheikh. The so-called Dancing Dervishes accomplish trance and ecstatic phenomena through monotonous circumambulations; and this is most marked in the Maulavi Order, most popular in Turkey. In the ecstatic state Sufis are believed to be able to overcome all barriers of time, space and thought. They are able to cause apparently impossible things to happen merely because they no are longer confined by the barriers which exist for more ordinary people. Certain it is that some of their supernatural activities are difficult, at the present stage of knowledge, to account for. It will be observed that the general principles to be found in very many systems of religious and occult practice are strangely similar. The principles of leadership, discipleship and discipline, contemplation and monoideism can be found in the secret and not so secret rites of nearly every people.
If the wonder-workings of the Sufis and Hindu gurus, the African witch-doctors and the Amazonian medicine-men are to be investigated in a spirit of true science, there can be no question of belief or dis belief. We must admit that we have not conclusively shown that secret esoteric lore does not exist. Neither can we explain the similarities on a basis of psychology: that these rites are only symbolic of man's limited and natural strivings for superiority alone. The scope for investigation is extraordinarily wide.
(Sufi poem of Mirzd Khdn, Ansdri)
How shall I define what thing I am?
Wholly existent, and yet non-existent, through Him, I am.
Whatever becometh naught out of entity, The signification of that nothingness am I.
Sometimes a mote on the disc of the sun; At others, a ripple on the water's surface.
Now I fly about in the wind of association: Now I am a bird of the incorporeal world.
By the name of ice I also style myself: Congealed in the winter season am I.
I have enveloped myself in the four elements; I am the cloud on the face of the sky.
From unity I have come into infinity: Indeed, nothing existeth, that I am not.
My vitality is from life's source itself; And I am the speech, every mouth within.
I am the hearing-sense with every ear; And also the sight of every eye am I.
I am the potentiality of every thing: I am the perception every one within.
My will and inclination are with all; With mine own acts, also, satisfied am I.
Unto the sinful and vicious, I am evil; But unto the good beneficent am I.
Diagrammatic Representation of The Sufi Path ' (Tariqa-sufiyya)
Occult phenomena associated with degrees of the Sufi Path:
Performed only by prophets.
—Baqa Degree of Wali Known as the / (Saintship). State Safer - Billah: / of Masaviut-Tarafain, or 'Equiposed between the Two Forces'.
Sufi returns to the ways of man to guide men.
2. Karamat (Wonders). E.g.: walking on water, prediction of the future.
Stage 4 / —Fana. Annihilation. The Known as the / Summit. Truth is reached and Safarli-Allah: / Fana achieved in strict solitude the travel / and concentrated meditation, away from / Seeker achieving spiritual one-neglectfulness. / ness with the Spirit of the Prophet.
Mu'awanat Stage 3 / —Arif (Knowledge). Attainment of
(Super- Stage of Safar- / spiritual and occult powers, natural ullah: the
Thauma- Journey to / Seeker achieving unity with the spirit of turgy). knowledge. / the Pir (founder of the Order).
annihilation / Spiritual power projected into Seeker's mind of space. / by his Sheikh (leader).
Stage 2 / —Tariqat (Potentiality). The first real stage of Sihr (Lawful or / Sufism. Dedicated to one-ness with the spirit of the 'white' magic; / Sheikh or Murshid (spiritual leader), performed by permission of / During this period the Seeker follows his Sheikh in all the Sheikh). / things, blindly adopting certain recitations and spiritual exercises.
Period of rededication to the theme of 'Be in the world, but not of the world'.
Stage i / —Muridi (Discipleship). Accepted by master as suitable candidate for the Sufi Path.
Salik: Lit. 'Seeker'—generic term for Sufi in the Sufi Path.
KHATRAT ('Illumination'—Power, knowledge)
DHIKR-I-DAM ('Breath and Concentration drill')
DHIKR-I-DAM ('Breath and Concentration drill')
(Representation of the steps to Illumination through Dhikr (Repetition) of the three types, according to the secret lore of Sufism.)
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