About Islam from an esoteric point of view
By F.A. Murshid Ali ElSenossi
Sufism is the esoteric teaching of Islam. We are living in the 21st Century, the age of mass communications and the internet and so would hope by now that Sufism
does not require too much explanation. This teaching has been made more accessible around the world by means of Sufi Books, Sufi music (qawwali), and Sufi poetry. We are not surprised when we discover that the best-selling
books on poetry in the USA are by the great Sufi mystical poet, Jalaluddin Rumi. For the sake of clarification and explanation, and as an introduction to our web site, we will give details of this teaching.
It has been said
that Sufism or Tasawwuf has taken its name from many different sources. One is "suf" – wool. It has been said in the Traditions of the Holy Prophet that the Prophet Musa (Moses) was wearing wool when he went to speak
with God on Mount Sinai . In the early days wool was a very cheap commodity, worn by ascetics as a sign of humility and detachment. Wool is the opposite of silk. In some Traditions the Sufis are connected with the Companions of
the Holy Prophet. There was a group of very highly devoted and sincere seekers of God named Ahl as-Suffa, the People of the Bench. They spent their lives in a state of remembrance of God and complete detachment from this world.
"The goal of self-transformation is to remove all the veils between us and God. The final veil is the "I", the sense of separateness we each carry. To remove this is far from easy. Ask yourself,
"How can I take the "I" out of me?"
It has also been said, that Sufism is related to the root of the word "safa" – to purify – here meaning to purify the heart of other-than-God. There
are many names attached to this particular teaching. The Sufis nonetheless say: "If one says he is a Sufi, he is not a Sufi". To be a Sufi is to be in a state of complete awareness of the self and complete awareness
of the Divinity.
The Sufis take as their starting point the Unity of God – Laa ilaha illa’Allah – There is no god but One God; There is no reality but One Reality. It is not that we have to acknowledge the Unity of God.
God does not need our confirmations. It is for our own benefit. When one starts with Unity it is easy to integrate all the different "I’s" which have no function except to confuse and mislead us. For this reason the
Sufis use the remembrance of Allah (Dhikr) and His Names, in various forms, to awaken the subtle centres of the self.
In Sufism there are seven states of consciousness. When we progress through them we will reach the
Ultimate Truth and the Ultimate Unity of Realization of God. It is hard; and at the same time it is easy. If we are sincere and if we desire and really wish to be with God then, as Allah says in the Holy Qur’an, He is closer to
us than our jugular vein.
"The Sufis are people who prefer God to everything and God prefers them to everything else."
So the first step, as we mentioned, is the acknowledgment of God, which includes
the acceptance of 124,000 prophets and messengers of God who have been sent to humanity and to the entire creation at large.
The last Prophet and Messenger of God is the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may the Peace and Blessings of
Allah be upon him). If we acknowledge this then the second step is to worship, because there is no point in acknowledging God if we do not obey Him. As a Sufi poet said: "You disobey Allah and you claim His Love. That is
indeed a very strange kind of love!" If you are truly a lover of God you will obey Him because the lover is in a state of total surrender to his Beloved. So – worship you must! However, worship is not just the movements of
the body. It is a state of knowledge, because in the true sense you cannot worship something that you do not know. So, the Sufis say: "Worship!" Worship in the Arabic traditions is called ibadat. Ibadat should take us
to ubudiyya meaning slavehood. If worship does not produce this result then it has not been done properly. The highest state of consciousness is to be completely and totally submitted to our Beloved, Allah.
There are four stages of practice and understanding in Sufism -
Shariah (religious law), Tariqah (the mystical path),
Haqiqah (Truth), and Marifah (Gnosis).
Each is built upon the stages that go before.
There are other steps. It is highly recommended to observe the one month of fasting every year (the Holy month of Ramadaan) in order to experience something of
hunger and to tame the animal self. The Murshid, or Teacher, of a Sufi order or school to whom one attaches oneself, may recommend other fasts if they are required.
There is also zakat, which deals with material wealth.
When we practise zakat, which requires 2.5% of our wealth to be given to the needy, then, according to the esoteric Teaching, we are learning detachment and generosity and many other qualities. We must know that the best gift
one can give to others is a heart full of love and respect for all the creations of God.
Additionally there is the Haj or pilgrimage. The Holy Prophet said: "Whoever dies without the intention to go on the
Pilgrimage, may die on a different faith than that of surrender to Allah".
One must strive to perform pilgrimage to the House of Allah once in a lifetime. However, the real pilgrimage is to travel to one’s heart because
it is the Real House of Allah.
Die before you die.
The Sufis use all of these methods and more to transform the self. It is common knowledge that the ego-self cannot surrender to itself. From day one we are
learning from our parents, our peers, schoolteachers, our university lecturers, and the masters of whatever trade we undertake. There is always someone at the beginning who must show us how to learn. The Sufi is no exception.
In Tasawwuf there is something called Spiritual Genealogy. In some parts of the world it is called Mukafaf – People of the hand. That is, you must take the hand of the one nearest to you to link you to the chain which goes back
to the First Teacher who brought this Teaching to us, the Holy Prophet Muhammad, who links us to the Archangel Gabriel, who links us to God Himself. It is like a magnetic circle. The one who attaches himself becomes like a
magnet, receiving the barakah, spiritual blessings , and participating in the Universal Remembrance of God, because this Teaching is for all humanity. It is Universal. It is fresh and unadulterated and it gives you access to
everything that your heart desires.
You may want to have a look at a book called Islam and World Peace