Lost & Found





Bismillahi rahmani r-rahim
(In the Name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Munificent)

La hawla wa la quwatta illa billah il aliyy il adhim
(There is no strength and no power save that of Allah, Most High, and Majestic)

Rabbi yassir, wa la ta’ssir.  Rabbi tamim bi-l khayr.
(O Lord, make it easy, and do not make it difficult.  O Lord, make it end well.)

  Tariqatuna as-sohba wa-l khayru fi-l jama‘iia
(Our path consists in association and the blessing or goodness which is to be found in connecting).

Some people think that they will not find any evil, or conflict in places like holy Mecca and that you will not witness such things in front of the Kaaba. However, anyone and everyone who has visited these holy places can easily know that it is not the case at all that nothing of that sort happens in such holy places. Maybe such holy places, even more than other places, are bringing out these things that are belonging to a different world, not to the world of spirits and angels, but to the world of animals.
So when you enter, or are intending to begin to walk on such a path, it does not matter, that difficulties and problems occur. It only matters that maybe for the first time you can know why it occurs and for what purpose. That is the difference.  People are usually not suffering from what comes to them but they are suffering mostly from not understanding why what comes to them happens to them, and for what purpose.
One of the things that is important to know about is what happens, and may happen, and comes to those people who are counting themselves as belonging and trying to follow such a spiritual path.  It is also not the case that when there is such a group of people that they are safe from each other, because we know that one of Allah’s ways, Exalted be He, and one of his most famous ways of testing his servants, is to test them by putting them against each other.  That happens in tariqa as well as outside but maybe in a way within tariqa that is quite noticeable because one doesn’t expect it.  At the same time, one must understand it and learn to deal with it.  Again, what happens within tariqa is only an example for what happens everywhere, but it is clearer there, because supposedly we should be awake and not sleeping when we are following a spiritual path. If we don’t want to follow, we may sleep.  Then it doesn’t matter.  But if we are trying to follow such a path, we should not sleep.  It is something that is not permitted.  If it happens we should quickly hope to wake up.
Sometimes when we are speaking here, we are speaking in general concerning all people, coming from anywhere, going anywhere.  Sometimes it is something important that needs to be said about particular events, particular things happening but what is said must be useful and helpful. We are not speaking here in such a way that we need to impress people with knowledge.  The purpose of ‘sohba’ (association) or speaking in sohba is two things.  One is to say something of benefit for people and that may be helpful for a particular situation for them and helpful in general, at the same time.  The second purpose of speaking in sohba is to ask Allah to bring about in those people who are truly listening and are awake and not sleeping, an opening in their heart, such that blessings may come upon them.  That they may leave such a meeting with blessings from Allah, and his Prophet, peace be upon him, and the Guides of the tariqatu n-Naqshbandiyya (Naqshbandi path). That this blessing may come into their heart and it may help them in this way.
Now, we would like to say something about what it means to be in sohba and what it means to leave it, or to violate those rules of sohba.  This is advice for everyone, in general, and some people in particular.  I am going to read to you something about this.  This is taken from a book by Sheikh Umar al-Suhrawardi Awarif al Ma‘arif,  and it is speaking about something like sohba.  He is speaking about what it means to say ‘I am a Sufi.’  Many people in our days do not understand this anymore and so many people, without understanding anything about it, are judging and criticising and condemning and so on, and so on.  It doesn’t concern these people.  This is important for those people who claim, or are intending to follow a spiritual, Sufi path, so that they know and they understand about it.
He is speaking about certain Sufis.  Some of you may know, there have been in the tradition of Sufism, places where those people who said they were Sufis, lived.  If you go to Konya, in Turkey, and visit the tomb of Mawlana Jalaludin Rumi, may Allah sanctify his blessed secret,  you will see that around it there is a big house with many, many, many rooms.  In those rooms his disciples and the disciples of other Sheikhs of the Mevlevi tariqa were living.  That happened in other turuq (paths), but not in all.  In the Naqshbandi tariqa, we are told by our Sheikhs that it is not the principle of this tariqa to build such houses. Why not?  What is the wisdom behind this?  What does this house stand for?  It means that those people who are following a spiritual path they are living together in a house.  They are following particular rules which are the rules of this house.  They are under the guidance of the master of the house.  That house may have walls and a roof and floor like this room but it is not necessary.  It is only for people who need such walls and need such a roof, and need such stones in order to know where they are.  Such houses were built and may have to be built.  However, for those people who know what it means to live in a house,  and to stay together, and to follow the rules of the house in order to walk on that spiritual path under the guidance of the owner of the house, they don’t necessarily need such walls.  That is for those who can understand.  Now in the Naqshbandi tariqa, where we don’t have such houses, or are not encouraged to have them, it does not mean that there are no houses.  It means, and this is the honour of this tariqa, that its Sheikhs and its murids (disciples) know, that they are living in such a house.  Our house, it is this tariqa.  That house has rules for living with each other.  If someone does not go by the rules of the house something is going to happen.  Maybe they put him outside, maybe they put him in a different room, or they say, “Go outside until you are permitted to come back,” if they are violating the rules of the house.  There is no household without rules.  One must know them and go by them.  The house of the Naqshbandiyya is called sohba.  That is its house.  If you are in sohba you are in the Naqshbandiyya tariqa.  If you are accepting the rules of sohba, you are living in this house, under the eye and supervision of the Sheikh.  If you are violating those rules, you are violating the rules of the house.  We must therefore know what they are.  It does not matter, therefore, whether the house is a material thing or not.  They are only necessary for people who need to understand through such things but not everybody needs it.  The level of the Naqshbandi tariqa is so high that we do not need such things. We should understand without them.   The requirements are therefore quite severe, for that reason.
Sometimes when we visit Mawlana Sheikh in Lefke, Cyprus, we see the guest house and the Sheikh’s house.  But don’t think that when you leave Cyprus that you are not in that house anymore, in the Sheikh’s house. It doesn’t matter where you are. It applies everywhere, if you say I belong to the Naqshbandi tariqa.
We are saying that that is one of the meanings of Sufi and what is said here in Sheikh Umar Suhrawardi’s book, is about such people living in such houses. Now you know one of the meanings of the word tasawwuf  or Sufism, is coming from wool, or Ahl as-Suffa (the people of the platform).  There are many of these origins but everyone of them has a particular meaning.  Everyone of those origins.  Sheikh Umar Suhrawardi is saying here that the name comes from Ahl as-Suffa, as one possibility, but when one says so one must understand what it means.   Who were the Ahl as-Suffa and what does it mean for someone who is claiming to be a Sufi, and who is living under the name of those people?  He is saying here that there is a hadith of the Prophet, peace be upon him, which according to its meaning says:   the souls are like armies gathered together, those who know each other, agree with each other.  Those who do not know each other, disagree.
We heard recently a statement by Sayyidina Ali, karama Allah wajhu, that said something similar:   What you know, you love and what you are ignorant of, you hate (or is your enemy).  That hadith says something similar here.  Those who know each other, agree with each other, they are coming together, they are meeting, are in sohba.  Those who do not know each other, disagree.
He is saying,“Through sohba the Sufis’ inner lives are brought together and their souls (anfaas) are kept in limits.”  Why?  For they are then looking at each other, gazing at each other, in accordance with the hadith that the believer is the mirror to the believer.  When in sohba those people’s eyes are upon each other.  Everyone is the mirror of the other one and thereby their souls are kept in limits, through sohba.  Mawlana Sheikh Nazim said one day that the reason we are sitting together is that it is a training of our ego, our nafs.  Usually what our nafs likes most is to be noticed, to stand out, to be different, to be someone, to be more than others.  However, because we are always sitting together, nobody is anything more than the other.  We are only something together here in this place.   It keeps the nafs in limits.  Of course, it happens sometimes that it becomes too difficult for one, and then s/he or must ‘appear’ even in such a sohba, he must stand out.  The purpose of sohba is to keep the nafs in its limits. Why?  Because everyone is the mirror of the other.  Whenever one of those people who is sitting in sohba shows a trace of appearing, of wanting to appear, of wanting to stand out, they criticise him.  For, standing out or wanting to appear occurs when the nafs wants to come out.  The standing out comes from losing the ‘now’, hudur or presence. Thus, we are losing that presence,  (presence here meaning to be in Divine Presence, to be present).   To be in Divine Presence does not mean to be somewhere else, on the moon. It means to be:  Now. Here. That must be learned, and it must be kept, and it must be practiced, to always be now, in presence.  When you lose, the first thing that happens is that you must appear. “I am here.  You see me.  Is everybody noticing me? Yes? Is everybody noticing what I am saying, and how I look?”  I try to stand out.  When does that happen?   Whenever we are losing that presence that we are practicing to arrive at through dhikr, and some other practices.  To always be in presence, which means to be in sohba.   When one moment one loses this, immediately the ego jumps up and wants to stand out.  Therefore sohba is a training to always keep it down.  This standing out, the desire for standing out comes from losing the now, presence.  Whenever  the nafs of one of those people wants to be noticed, the others know that he has stepped out of circle of sohba.  That means, at any moment, when he or she speaks, or acts in such a way as to be noticed through their words, through their actions, through their looks, they are leaving the circle of sohba and they must be pulled back.  That is difficult.  That is hard on our ego, not to be something particular, just to be one of many, and all of them are only someone else.  That is difficult but that is the main principle.  When this happens, when anyone wants to be noticed, they know that he has stepped out of the circle of sohba and has neglected the requirement of ‘now’, of the presence, and has neglected discipline and wakefulness, which comes from sleeping.   The nafs is waiting for someone to lose that wakefulness so that it can quickly can jump and appear.   Then he has to be led back into the circle of sohba.
When the nafs of the Sufi steps into the foreground and wants to be noticed through anger and enmity towards a brother or a sister, which happens all the time, in such a meeting, in dhikr, after dhikr, before dhikr, now,  maybe later on,  somebody, s/he thinks that they have to say something, have to act in a way so that they are noticed.  Never be too sure about yourself, that you are not doing things in order to be noticed.  Who doesn’t?  How many of the things that we say or do are not for that purpose?  One, two? How many?  Most of these things we do are for that purpose.  We are saying things, they may be clothed or dressed in some ‘deeper’ interest, but ask yourself, or ask your heart why you are saying what you are saying or acting the way you are acting.  Sheikh Suhrawardi  is saying, very clearly and simply, whenever you are motivated by egotism, the nafs, you are leaving the circle of sohba because all you want is to appear, to be noticed.  So what should we do when that happens?  Nobody is safe from their egos until they have reached that station of safety.  We don’t have to think that one is more safe or protected than the other.  We are always in this situation where that may happen any moment and in much less than one second, faster than you think.  That’s why thinking is too slow to catch oneself in the act.  The ego travels faster than thought!  Then we are trying to understand when it has already happened.  Therefore, more important than thinking is to be awake because that happens too fast.  Sometimes we are even surprised by ourselves, to find ourselves speaking and acting in such a way.  We are saying,“Why am I doing that? Why am talking like this?”  The others must understand what has happened here..
But what are we going to do?  When the nafs of the Sufi steps into the foreground, wants to be noticed through anger and enmity towards a brother or a sister,  being angry at another one, attacking someone (that is the most famous way of being noticed by critcizing, blaming, being angry),  when that happens, when that nafs wants to be noticed, the duty of the accused or criticized brother, or sister, is to meet the soul of first one who opposes him with his heart.  That is very important.  When somebody attacks you or criticizes you from his selfish self, his ego, his nafs, do not oppose from your nafs, because when that happens you are at war.  It is just going to burn. What we are told here is a rule that everyone should listen to because you can use it anytime.  When someone is criticizing or attacking another one, from their nafs, you must meet that one from your heart, not from your ego.  Don’t shout back, criticize back.  That does not help anything.  It just throws both of you out of sohba.
When you are saying you are part of this sohba, and as we were saying it does not need such buildings, as long as you are in the house of sohba, and you are counting yourself as a follower of that spiritual path, that house has its rules.   And whenever you meet a brother, or wherever you meet  him,  whenever that happens, first watch yourself.  Do not try to jump at or attack someone from there.  When you are attacked or criticized by someone, by brothers or by sisters,  do not attack back from your ego.  You must meet the ego from your heart.  Why? When you meet the nafs with the heart then it loses its ground under its feet.  It doesn’t know what to do anymore.  It can’t stand any more.  But if you counter nafs with nafs, then war begins and protection from evil disappears, there is no more safety from each other and from evil.  Allah says,

Fa idfa‘b illati hiyya ahsanu, fa idha alladhi baynaka wa baynahu ‘adawatun ka anhu waliyun hamim.  Wa ma yulaqaha illathiniina sabaru wa ma yulaqha illa dhu hadhin athim.” (...repel thou [evil] with something that is better - and lo! he between whom and thyself was enmity [may then become] as though he had [always] been close [unto thee], a true friend!  Yet [to achieve] this is not given to any but those who are wont to be patient in adversity:  it is not given to any but those endowed with the greatest good fortune!)  Saddaqa Allahu l-adhim. (Qur’an Sura 41, verses 33-34)

That is the meaning of this verse.  That is for such people. If you are not following tariqa and someone is doing something bad to you, you may hit back.  But you are not such people. You are not allowed to do this, there is no permission for this.  When you are saying that I am from Sufi people, then this verse applies to you.  All of you or most of you who know Sheikh Nazim, do you realize how often he recites this verse?  It is difficult but this is the necessity.  You push back something bad by something better. What is better?  The heart is better than the nafs.
If one of the two now complains to the Sheikh about the other.  If they have been shooting at each other for some time and one of them says, “Now we have to talk to Sheikh about it,” then the Sheikh has to admonish one of them, but it really does not matter which one of them.  Why?  Because both are wrong.  The Sheikh must admonish one of the two but he could choose either one of them, because it doesn’t really matter.  Both have broken the circle of sohba.  One by attacking in order to be appearing by standing out and the other one by answering to that attack from his ego, from his nafs.  Both have broken that circle of sohba.  Therefore, both must be admonished.  But he may only choose to admonish one of them which doesn’t mean the other one is any better.
This is a practical advice which is very important in general and in particular for some of us here.
Those are the two main rules of sohba. Why is that so? Tariqatuna s-sohba.  Those are the rules of the followers of this tariqa. Those are the rules of all genuine and true Sufi people.  Those people who are modeling their lives on Ahl as-Suffa. What is this example or model?  The Sufis ar living in sohba. They all have the same goal.  This here too is a sohba but we could sit here and not be in sohba.  Just the fact that we are sitting here does not mean we are in sohba.   In order to be in sohba you must fulfil those rules for sohba.  You could sit here and in reality be outside. The point is to sit here and be here with each other in sohba. That is sohba.  Not only sitting here, waiting, or thinking, listening.  To be here with your complete attention and awake.  The Sufis are living in sohba. Their life consists of sohba.  They all have the same goal, the same intention but they are in various states. Everybody is in different states but their states are ‘tuned’ to each other.   When we are in sohba don’t say  that I have different problems than that one, my character is different than that other one, and I have come with different ideas from this one, that, therefore, you think you are something by yourself. No.  Everyone who is coming together in that sohba, whatever their differences are, is tuned to each other.
The purpose of sohba is to be with each other as Allah, Exalted be He, has described it,  “Wa naz’ana ma fi sudurihim min ghillin ikhwaanan ‘ala sururin mutaqaabiliina”  (We shall strip away all rancour that is in their breasts, as brothers they shall be upon couches set face to face.)  That is the purpose of sohba.  We shall strip away all rancour, all bad underground feeling that is in their breasts and as brothers they shall be sitting upon couches face to face.
Sheikh Umar Suhrawardi comments, “The face to face occurs when the hidden, inner side and outer, apparent side, they are the same, in someone.”  This means, that everyone looks at the other and they have an appearance but that appearance, is it the same as what you are keeping inside?   Or are you keeping something else inside?  Is it different or is it the same?  What he is saying here, when you sit with someone, anywhere, particularly in sohba, and you have one side outside which is saying one thing and your inside is saying another thing, are you in sohba?  No.  Or as he is saying, you are not sitting face to face because you have another face.  One face turned here, another face turned somewhere else.  One face turned friendly and another face which is in enmity.  That is not sohba.  You are sitting face to face when the inner side, that which is hidden from the common people’s view, is the same or alike to what is outside.  There is no difference.  Not two people sitting in front of me, one person only.  Then I am sitting face to face, and then we are in sohba.  When that doesn’t happen, then that sohba is broken. If, however, someone keeps in his breast a hidden feeling against a brother or a sister, then there is no face to face even when his face is turned towards the other.  One face in this direction and another face in another direction and sitting in front of each other and talking about religion, sufism, and tariqa and I don’t know what. You must understand and must not take these things too lightly and just play around with them. Tariqatuna s-sohba.  What does that mean? You must be with each other, facing each other.  Your inside like your outside, toward your brother or your sister.
  “The Ahl as-Suffa, however, as the Qur’an says, were like this”  That is one of the meanings of Ahl as-Suffa.“For rancour and anger are brought about through love of dunya (this world)...”  Rancour and anger toward each other are brought about by love of dunya, even amongst Sufi people.  Tariqa people are not excluded from this.  However, if it occurs between them there is no other reason for that occurring but love of dunya, not love of tariqa, or love of religion.  It doesn’t matter what words are used. We are talking about realities.  If you are sitting in sohba and this happens, that you want to appear in front of the other one, that comes from love of dunya.  Or you feel anger, or some rancour against another one this is from love of dunya.  This is not permitted for Sufi people, especially not Naqshbandi people .  “For rancour and anger are brought about through love of dunya, and love of dunya is the origin and source of all evil.  Therefore, the Ahl as-Suffa neither engaged in being peasants nor in raising cattle.  That is why anger and rancour left them.  Thus, the people of sohba are face to face with their inside and their outside, together in familiarity and love. They meet to speak together and to eat together, and in this way they receive the blessing of sohba.”  If they are following its rules.  If they are not following its rules, no blessing.

“It is reported that someone said to the Prophet, peace be upon him, ‘Rasul-allah, we eat but our hunger is never stilled.’  He answered, ‘Maybe you eat separately. Come together, and remember Allah, and you will be blessed.’ ”

(After Abdul Jelil’s sohba, someone asked the following questions):

S.M.  You said,“A believer (mu’min) is a mirror to his brother.”  In the path this is very important .  It should be that I see myself through you. You see me...
S. A.J.  When you look at me, do you see yourself?
S.M. Well, that is what I was wondering about.  And also, ...
S. A.J. Or do you see me?
S.M.  I see you!! (laughter)
S. A. J. But you shouldn’t see, because I am just a mirror!
S.M. That’s what I want to say.  To tell someone else what is wrong in him is part of being a mirror.
S.A.J. No!  You don’t have to say anything. You just have to look. You have to look. Or I have to look.  A mirror doesn’t speak.  It just mirrors. Yes.  I don’t have to tell you anything.  You just have to look at me to see yourself, and so with everybody else.  If I start to talk, and to say things to you, then you will get too interested in me... You are not seeing yourself anymore.  If I am a mirror, and the hadith says, the “believers” are mirrors.  Not anybody.  We are imperfect mirrors. The sheikhs and the saints, they are true mirrors.  They are perfect mirrors.  Why?  Because they are selfless.  When you look at them, you only see yourself.  If you are a believer.  If you don’t believe enough, you may even look at Mawlana Sheikh and not see yourself. Heh, heh. That is the difference. The mirror does not have to criticize, to say something, or whatever.  It must just be there, clean, and reflect.  Everybody knows themselves, we know what we are doing,  but we are too easily distracted and looking at other things, and they make us forget ourselves.  But when you look at a believer, you cannot escape from yourself.  He is just in front of you, because as Suhrawardi was saying, because his inside is like his outside. He doesn’t try to hide. He is just still, in front of you, and you look and see.  You see yourself. That’s very important.  You must also learn that what you see is not the other one, it is yourself.  You may that what you see in the other one is yourself.  So, again, don’t criticize!  Look at yourself.
S.M.  The faults that you see in the other are actually yours...
S.A.J. Of course, even in a distorted mirror.

Wa min Allah at-tawfiq
(And from Allah comes success)

Bi hurmati l-Habibi, bi hurmatil Fatiha.