These translations can encourage us to see the qualities of the One as always outside of us, which suggests that we need to ingest them like vitamins. Devotion is an important fuel for the path, but mandatory reverence is not. We have a very different relation to "religion" today than did our ancestors, who mostly lived in societies where behavior was dictated from above.
When we only use the language of transcendence, we receive the impression that these practices are magic formulas by which we can compel the divine to fulfill our wishes. Such language, whatever its intent, encourages us to see prayer and spiritual practice as a type of bargaining. The modern Sufi M. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen comments on this tendency: For what purpose are we supposed to recite these names? For what purpose do they tell us to shout in the supermarket?
You may recite His names times for this, times for that, and times for the other, but even if you recite it 50, times you will not receive anything. Because God has already given everything to you. You have only to open that treasury within your qalbs hearts and take out what has already been given. A man goes to a barber and says, "I have to go for a job interview. Can you cut all of these white hairs out of my beard? You can sort out the white hairs for yourself. Notes Farzan, Massud. The Tale of the Reed Pipe. New York: Dutton, p. Khan, Hazrat Inayat.
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In this view, shared by Rumi, Ibn Arabi and many others and justified by a reading of the Quran itself , the whole creation came into existence to express the unlimited, sacred qualities through all beings. In particular, God created the human being as a mirror capable of holding and expressing the totality of the divine reflection, including the whole consciousness of nature and the universe.
This is what, in the Sufi view, being fully human means. In this sense, as Bawa Muhaiyaddeen notes, we already have all the pathways of the heart within us. Despite the emphasis on the unity of being, devotional practice, phrased in an I-Thou manner, is essential on the Sufi path. It teaches us to let go of our own limiting concepts and helps open our hearts to a wider dimension of feeling. Just as in the step programs, we do not really have the impetus to change until life becomes unmanageable, and we decide to let go and try another way.
This development of devotion in what the Sufis call the path of effacement fana presents, however, only one side of the picture. We also find a parallel development in the evolution of the self or nafs. The latter word is often mistranslated in versions of Sufi poetry as the "animal self. This includes what modern psychology calls the "subconscious. From this view, we have an inner community of evolving voices within us, some of which contradict each other. Similarly, some modern psychologies work with a male and female inner self, or an inner judge or child.
Sufi psychology expands this inner community to include a whole ecosystem including non-human voices like plants and animals. These "basic selves" are here to be transformed, to realize their unity of "one to the One.
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This new translation therefore approaches these pathways as though they are all already within us, waiting to be recognized and reunited in the circle of the heart's unity with the divine Beloved. Perhaps this made it easier to work with foreign languages later. In addition, even though my brothers and I were raised outwardly as protestant Christians, my parents were both interested in spirituality, ecology and holistic healing. When I went on my own spiritual search in my 20's, I felt I needed to find something that would include everything I had already experienced and allow me to continue to explore the depth of my being.
Because Sufism honored all the prophets and messengers who had preceded Muhammad, I found that I could include my deep love for Jesus in my own developing way of spiritual practice. Frida Waterouse, the Rev. Lewis, d. My teacher exemplified a complete approach to spiritual practice in his work with students. He realized that an unbalanced emphasis on transcendence in spiritual practice delayed spiritual growth. He built upon the work of another one of his teachers, Frida Waterhouse, and developed what he called "Soulwork,"a new way to do psychospiritual counseling based on the ancient path of Sufism.
Although I have written a number of other books on Middle Eastern spirituality and an Aramaic approach to the words of Jesus over the past 15 years, I didn't feel that it was appropriate to write a book on Sufism while my own teacher was still around in the body. When Moineddin left his body behind in , my inner life shifted. He had encouraged me in all of my translation work, and it then seemed time to reap the harvest of the work I had done on the pathways of the heart since Through his friendship, counseling and wisdom, Moineddin showed me a way to live an ordinary human life, unaffected by the world of "hype" that today surrounds even spirituality and spiritual teachers.
In many ways, he saved my life, and I have dedicated this book to him. The translation work in this book is also inspired by Hazrat Haji Shemsuddin Ahmed, my Pakistani Quran teacher, who passed away about 20 years ago. A friend of Samuel Lewis, Shemsuddin taught traditional methods of interpreting and translating the Quran on various levels of meaning. Because Semitic languages like Arabic use a root-and-pattern system, one can literally--that is, by the letters--translate various words in a number of different ways. In addition, through these roots, sacred words like those in the pathways of the heart show their affinity to each other through families of meaning.
So this type of translation is not simply a matter of looking a word up in a dictionary. It is both sacred science and art. The translations here result from three decades of practice and more than 15 years of conscious work, in which the author has experienced all the pathways many times and worked to refine translations from the roots. The main difference between these translations and previous ones is that they presume that the names describe living spiritual experiences rather than simply metaphysical categories of a thought-form called "God.
For instance, even though the Arabic word Allah is usually gendered masculine, both the words sifat referring to each divine quality of the One and dhat the divine essence, a sort of homeopathic combination of all possible qualities receive the feminine gender. A number of classical Sufi writers have commented on this gender play in the Arabic of the Quran, which is virtually impossible to translate, given that English tends to make qualities and concepts grammatically neuter and only gender "persons.
Likewise, no one translation in any other language can hold all of the meaning of the pathways of the heart in Arabic. These translations are also limited by my own experience. They do offer the benefit of being internally consistent the same roots are translated the same way and linguistically sound different Arabic words are not translated using the same English word as they are in some previous translations. When you use this book with an attitude of devotion, you benefit from a very strong line of transmission for these practices.
In many of these sacred names, we see forms of phrases used for thousands of years in the Middle East, including by the Hebrew Prophets and Jesus.
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According to one scholar, early Middle Eastern Christians used as a similar practice different names or attributes of Jesus in Syriac Aramaic, a language related to Arabic. Normally, lists of the pathways of the heart are limited to 99 qualities. Because the Quran contains more than 99 such qualities of names of the One, different lists vary. This collection uses one of the most common lists as a basis.
In addition, I have added chapters for the Arabic name of unity itself Allah and for the traditional phrase with which one begins an endeavor bismillah. By one tradition, the names of Reality are countless, but starting with 99 different ways of knowing yourself makes a good beginning. Do I Need a Teacher? The book intends to serve as both a handbook for those on the path and a way to begin for those who are not. The effects of a spiritual practice vary according to whether it is intoned, spoken, sung, chanted or breathed; whether it is done sitting, standing, walking or lying; with a definite rhythm or tempo or without.
The best way to do a spiritual practice is the way in which one's spiritual guide has given it, and in no way is this book meant to be a substitute for seeking this personal guidance. The relationship with a teacher and the blessing or baraka created by two people in a spiritual relationship remain the most active forces on the Sufi path.
In the form we have them, the direct transmission of the Arabic sacred names that appear in the Quran is through the Prophet Muhammad. This provides both a blessing and a protection, and some Sufis believe that one can directly receive a transmission from a teacher whom one has never met in the flesh. Many different Sufi teachers and groups now reside in the West. In one appendix, I have listed brief biographies of all the Sufis mentioned in the book. In another, I have detailed some of those Sufi groups, with which I am personally familiar, that carry on the transmission of these teachers today.
In addition, the bibliography mentions a few of the many books on the various viewpoints on the background of Sufism. If this book is your first exposure to Sufi practice and you find some affinity with it, then I would recommend going further. If you are already a practitioner, haven't been put off by what I have said so far, and want to renew your practice, you are welcome- marhaba! If you come with an eye to criticize, you will no doubt find many deficiencies, all of which are due to my limitations and not those of my teachers.
How does one go about looking for a teacher? First, do not imagine that a Sufi teacher will "fix" all your problems. A Sufi teacher does not operate the same way that a psychotherapist would although many teachers today are also trained in some form of Western therapy. Rumi illustrates the way of the Sufi teacher in the following story: A man goes to a barber and says, "I have to go for a job interview.
In this regard, I usually tell people, "Go as far as you can on your own. Screen Savers. New Members. Your Account. WW Book Club. Online Library of Articles.
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Links to us. Desk Copies. Bookseller Locator. Bookseller Trade. Click cover for larger image. At the very heart of Islam, Sufism focuses on returning humanity to unity with God, and is rooted in the ideas of peace, love, beauty, and wisdom. You may also be interested in. About the Editor, and the Contributor of the Foreword. Peter Samsel. Click here for more information.