Ruminations of a Sufi Master

Sufism is a means of focussing away from the commonplace, and the temporal, and transcending oneself as a means of encountering unity with God.

The absolute otherness of God is central to the Sufi approach. While humankind may perceive, comprehend and aspire to the attributes of God; such as Justice, Truth, Love and Mercy, the Essence of God is unknowable through the usual human means of knowing. This unknowability is the realm which Sufis endeavour to inhabit; the way of mystery and wonder. For Sufis the material world is a manifestation of God therefore all nature is imbued with the Divine while having its own temporal existence. God is the Prime Mover, the Progenitor and yet transcends space and time.  This is far from being a cause for humanity feeling abandoned by God in creation, rather a spur to search for the means by which we may glimpse the essence of the Creator through devotional practice, study and opening the heart and mind to a higher level of enlightenment. Such a life committed to seeking God is of necessity all-consuming. Religious language, practice and ethics draw us near to the Divine but the way of the Sufi is beyond traditional confessional faith structures and institutions; it is the way of the mystic, the spiritual pilgrim who is longing and striving to experience God is a way beyond knowing.

This God, who is the beginning and the end of all existence, is also the author of all existence so we, as humankind, are ourselves manifestations of God. Such an elevated view of humanity is a source of hope for a human universalism; if all could recognise our essential oneness with each other all ethnic, gender, religious or ideological differences would melt away. The Sufi is in this sense the vanguard of a New Humanity.

All world religions are subject to the limitations of their projections of God and God’s purposes. These projections are often based upon fear rather than love hence the tendency to binary opposites: Heaven and Hell, Good and Evil, Sinner and Saved etc.  These are well meant but are misconceptions; they detract from the Ultimate search for God and leave us in half-way state of comprehension and understanding. The Sufi pursues the essence of God and conceives it obliquely through the Beautiful and the Good; all that is life giving and life enhancing in the world. The Sufi is a practitioner of love in this world as their identity rests not upon any human esteem but on the deep understanding that they are loved by God in a reciprocal relationship of lover and loved.

“Soul, if you want to learn secrets, your heart must forget about shame and dignity. You are God’s lover…” Rumi

The above reflections on Sufism were penned by Rev Larry Wright, Convenor of the Religious Affairs Advisory Group, following an evening in discussion with Ayatollah Safavi, a man who radiates the calm, intelligent, enlightened personae of a dedicated and seasoned devotee. As a Sufi master he commands the respect and admiration not only of his followers but of people of good will from other faiths and none. As an Iranian he embodies the traditions of Persian and Shia Islamic culture with their poetic imagination and natural wonder.

Safavi shared his discourse  on the Sufi approach to The Divine, the Ultimate Cause;  God for some, Allah for others.  He began with a meditative chant or mantra which is part of his daily practice for centring his being and mind upon God.  Such practice is indication of the highly prayerful and mystical nature of Sufism.

 

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بناء عالم أفضل

dap_20160526_induction_0013-xlالخنجر والرصاصة والقنبلة، لا يعرفون الأخلاق، غايتهم القتل وإنزال الضرر. ولكن من يملكون هذه الأسلحة، هم كائنات أخلاقية اختارت العنف. يستمدون هذا الاختيار من معتقداتهم، ومعتقداتهم مستمدة من القضايا او من الايديولوجيات التي اختاروها، او من الاثنين معاً.

إذا كان اختيارهم للعنف مستمد من التطرف الايديولوجي، ففي هذه الحالة هم يرون ان العالم منغلق وغير متسامح، بل ويجب ان يكون كذلك. فعليه، انه من الطبيعي بالنسبة لهم ان لا يبقون ولا يذرون كل من يقف في طريقهم لتحقيق غاياتهم. لذلك هم يتبنون مظهر القوة التي لا تقاوم.

ولكن، ماذا سيحدث عند تصادم القوة التي لا تقاوم بمجسم ثابت؟ في الواقع، لا يوجد شيء في الطبيعة لا يقاوم بشكل مطلق او ثابت بشكل مطلق. في واقع الصراعات على السلطة، الفعل وردة الفعل يحدثان بدرجات متفاوتة، وكلاهما يعكس الجانب الأسوأ من الآخر.

هل انا أصف داعش؟ قد اكون أصف نموذج كرومويل للجيش الانجليزي في فترة ما بعد ١٦٤٠ ميلادي. او قد اكون أصف الأنظمة الفاشية الأوروبية في الفترة ما بين ١٩٣٠ – ١٩٥٠ ميلادي. كلهم كانوا يعتقدون بأنهم بقوة لا تقاوم، ولكنهم كلهم قد هُزٍموا في نهاية المطاف. إرثهم الذي خلفوه كان ومازال هو العنف.

مقولة أفلاطون الشهرية، “وحدهم الأموات شهدوا نهاية الحرب”.

العنف يولد العنف، وأشقائه هم: العقاب والثأر والهجوم المضاد. الحكومات، بل وحتى الأفراد، يتبنون هؤلاء الأشقاء ويطلقونهم كيفما شاءوا وقتما شاءوا. ولكي نكسر دائرة العنف، يجب علينا ان نقاوم قوى العنف والانتقام من جذورها.

كل الحروب والصراعات تنتهي، وذلك يكون عن طريق إنهاك الأطراف المتنازعة او استسلامها او التدخل الخارجي او العملية الدبلوماسية. ولكن نهاية الصراع نادراً ما يكون بداية السلام المستدام، غالباً ما يكون توقف القتال مجرد انطباع بالسلام، وفي حين انه مجرد هدنة مستقبلها غير واضح.

لسنوات عديدة، لَبٍسَت امريكا وبريطانيا وحلفاؤهم عباءة الأخلاق التدخلية بالشؤون العالمية. وقد رأى الكثيرون ان هذه السياسة جاءت متأخرة جداً او على الأسوأ انها كارثة لكل من يعنيهم الأمر. ولأول مرة في التاريخ المعاصر، نتيجة للبس عباءة الأخلاق الغير صادقة في جوهرها، قد جلبت السياسة التدخلية العديد من ضحاياها الى شواطئ وشوارع الدول المتبنية لهذه السياسة. معاناة الصدمة واليأس والجوع والجرح الجسدي والنفسي لهؤلاء الضحايا تمثل خسارة للغرب، بقدر الخسارة التي يمثلها قتلى وجرحى جنود الغرب وحلفاؤه في الحروب الأخيرة.

وهناك رد فعل عنيف جديد يتجسد في عودة القوى السياسية الرجعية الشعبوية في امريكا واوروبا واماكن اخرى. الشعارات الشعبوية التي ينادون بها تنبذ ما يسمى بالقيم الليبرالية والديموقراطية التي هيمنت على الخطاب الدولي منذ عام ١٩٨٩ ميلادي. هذه القوى الجديد غير متحيزة الى، او تعارض، فكرة الأخلاق الدولية. وسيستخدمون العنف (الخطابي والفعلي) لتأمين حدود بلادهم، وسيولدون عقلية الحصار الوطني، وسيمارسون العزلة عن التدخل في الشأن العالمي، بدلاً من محاولة القيام بالتدخل بشكل أفضل.

لقد تضائل النفوذ الغربي في بلاد الشام، بل وينظر اليه كأمر غير مرغوب فيه. وفي الوقت حينه، قد ملئت قوى إقليمية أخرى الفراغ، ولكن هذه القوى تملك أجندة تاريخية وايديولوجية معادية للغرب. وفي الوقت نفسه، يشهد الغرب افلاسا اقتصاديا؛ فإن منظمة الأمم المتحدة تواجه نقص في الدعم المالي وفي حالة من التحفظ على مجلس الأمن للأمم المتحدة، والنظام الأمريكي الجديد عديم الخبرة ويفتقر الى المصداقية، واوروبا تتفكك كمشروع سياسي. يبدو انه قد تم حصر التدخل الغربي الى جانبين: ضربات عسكرية مستهدفة في بلاد الشام ومن جانب أخر الى القلق بشأن الاتفاقات التجارية في مناطق أخرى. يبدو ان الغرب يعاني من الجمود او التعطيل الأخلاقي.

إذاً من أين ستنشأ طاقة جديدة للتوفيق والتقارب العالمي؟ هل من روسيا او الصين او تركيا او الهند؟ هل نحن في فصل الشتاء الدبلوماسي؟

(لا خير في كثير من نجواهم إلا من أمر بصدقة أو معروف أو إصلاح بين الناس ومن يفعل ذلك ابتغاء مرضات الله فسوف نؤتيه أجرا عظيما) – الآية ١١٤ سورة النساء.

(طوبى لصانعي السلام) – انجيل متى ٩:٥

اذا كان الأجر العظيم لمن يصلحون بين الناس فنحن نحتاج ثورة من صانعي السلام وجيش من المصلحين. (اراميا فاونديشن؟ نكست سينتوري فاونديشن؟ انيشيتف اوف شينج؟) نحتاج تحالف بين الذين يعملون بلا كلل ولا ملل ويضحون من أجل السلام؛ مطالبين بتجديد السياسات الخارجية القائمة على الأخلاق، وتجديد النزعة الدولية، ومد اليد الى الأعداء ووهب شيئا من النور الى أظلم الاماكن.

كشخص متديّن، انا اتفهم نقاط ضعف التديّن، ولكن في الوقت ذاته اعرف قدرة الدين على الإلهام وتغيير حياة الكثيرين وإضفاء الرؤية الطموحة والأمل للبشرية في أيام الظلام.

يجب ان يلعب الايمان والتدين دورا هاما في سوريا والعراق في مرحلة ما بعد الصراع. ستحتاج سوريا والعراق الى كل النوايا الحسنة التي يمكن حشدها، والى مشروع اقتصادي واجتماعي غير مسبوق مثل مشروع مارشال. هذه تكلفة ذنوب الغرب وعناد الشرق وعدم ترابط الشرق الاوسط.

في إطار اي خطط مستقبلية للمناطق التي مزقتها الحرب في بلاد الشام، يجب ان تحظى القدس على مكانها في هذه الخطط، تلك المدينة في أعلى التل، التي تمثل نقطة يتجه اليها الكثير من البشر الذين يتوقون للرب.

نتمنى ان نجد الأمل والرؤية والعزم لبناء مستقبل حيث يرى الأحياء فيه نهاية الحرب.

 

The Khawatir Movement: Rejecting extremism in all of its forms

The Khawatir Movement is a movement for those of all faiths and none which wishes to include all of good heart, Gay or Straight, Black or White, Muslim or Christian, Rich or Poor, Young or Old, Male or Female. We believe we each have a dark side and a light. Cleave to the light always. Even when you live in the darkness. There is space to light the flame of wisdom on the altar of your heart as you walk through the valleys. We also place great emphasis on human dignity and freedom from fear, in placing an equal value on all, and in one world without frontiers.

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The Khawatir Movement is opposed to extremism in all of its forms. Hatred should not earn its label according to the race or religion of the perpetrator, but rather by its impact on humans as individuals. Racially motivated violence against ethnic minorities in the West, and the devastating rampage of so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, regardless of their respective scales, are both undeniably rooted in extremist ideologies, which to a large extent have been mutually dependent for their continued existence. Our movement aims to tackle the root causes of extremist views, whatever their origins and motivations, by advocating Five Positives: Compassion, Virtue, Sincerity, Sacrifice and Integrity. We believe that governments in the West have failed in their attempts to counter extremism because they have demonised entire communities and fostered an ‘us against them’ mindset in society which has only deepened divisions. We recognise that extremism cannot be defeated without identifying the complex social factors that give rise to organised hatred that assumes validity through ideology.

Add to this the fact that our highly materialistic society has over the years neglected the study of the soul. Many of the most economically developed countries in the world also have the highest suicide rates. What is clear is that humankind is not content with material wealth alone, and that the Western World’s philosophy of consuming all that you can afford in order to achieve happiness is in dire need of re-evaluation. In the Khawatir Movement, we place great emphasis on contemplation and reflection to re-connect the mind with the heart’s purest desires.

The Khawatir Movement is based in part on the principles of the mediaeval Sufi movement Al Khawatir which believed that, “The victory of the seekers is dependent upon victory over themselves. When you have victory over yourself you have arrived.” It is similarly based on a number of other traditions and ideas including the principles of Moral Re-Armament, first espoused by Frank Buchman in 1938, which is in turn based on the following ‘four absolutes’:

  1. Absolute Love
  2. Absolute Purity
  3. Absolute Honesty
  4. Absolute Selflessness

If you would like join the Khawatir Movement in its quest for a more harmonious, virtuous society, please like our Facebook page, and feel free to contact us at khawatirmovement@gmail.com  or if you feel really moved to do so then join our facebook group and become one of us.

Seeking Purity

At the outset, it should be clear that purity has nothing to do with piety, though the two are not mutually exclusive. Nor is purity some virginal quality denied to the worldly wise.

For me the word “purity” has five key elements. They shine like beacons. For you the definition of purity may have other elements, or perhaps you would restrict purity to some state of sexual abstinence, of non-exploitation of the other. We make choices here. The following list is inevitably subjective

  1. LISTENING: The first key element, or perhaps pre-requisite, in any state of purity is the ability to listen. That means finding the space and time in the hubbub that is modern life to commune with the inner voice. For the religious that may mean communing with their God. But the still small voice deep within can be accessed by all, saint, sinner and atheist alike. There is a paradox in that. You do not have to be good to be pure. Goodness may be valuable, indeed is valuable, but it is not the quality we speak of here per se. Those who are pure subject themselves to guidance. They listen. They are capable of being still.
  2. RESPECT FOR LIFE: An absolute respect for life is the second great requirement, or pre-requisite, for those that wish to attain purity. A practice that is common to many primitive societies, is that of thanking the animal you kill for surrendering its life to feed you, that of treating your prey with respect. Similarly in the Muslim tradition it is written that to save one life is as if you had saved the world, and to kill one human being is as if you had killed all, so great the error. And perhaps the defining quality of modern humanism is respect for life. Without respect for life we are inevitably less than completely pure.
  3. NONVIOLENCE: Is nonviolence a prerequisite for purity? Not pacifism. Pacifism is a potential excuse for cowardice. Nonviolence is proactive and involves putting yourself at risk if necessary. Martin Luther King Jr believed that it was wrong to defend yourself but right to defend the other. For some nonviolence is conditional on the nature of your opponent. The adage “Do not hurt or fight with gentle people”, being one way of putting the concept being advocated here. Could the soldier who lays down his life for a cause greater than himself or herself be pure in heart? Yes. But not the soldier who accepts collateral damage, or the collective punishment of a people for the sins of the few. The pure in heart could never, would never, harm a non-combatant.
  4. SEXUAL PURITY: The line from ‘The King and I’ is à propos: It is natural for the bee to go from flower, to flower, to flower; not for the flower to go from bee, to bee, to bee. Banish such disparity of thought. What applies to the male applies to the female. Are we talking of Bible Belt purity, whereby the homosexual is condemned? What then? Our sexuality is primal. So wherein lies sexual purity? Sexual purity involves the abnegation of the predator within. Sexual predation is fundamentally impure. The sexual betrayal of the other to whom your commitment was absolute is impure. Taking without giving, the exploitation of the other, is impure. Divorce, at the expense of children, is almost always impure. ‘Almost always’ because to remain trapped in an abusive relationship is an abnegation of honesty out of mere moral cowardice. Sexual purity means valuing the other. Sexual purity is an attitude of mind.
  5. THE AVOIDANCE OF MATERIALISM: Curious is it not, that there is no obvious word to describe the opposite of materialism. Our world is supremely materialistic. The acquisition of wealth and its trappings consumes the energy of fully half the world. We are too often like magpies, salting away treasures we do not need, or even truly want, for mere gratification. It is understandable. It is an easy measure by which to gauge our self-worth in comparison to that of the next man or woman. We enjoy luxury and comfort. Can that be wrong? The acquisition of wealth is dangerous, most particularly when that acquisition means the accrual of more than we need. The pursuit of wealth for wealth’s sake is impure. It is honorable to pursue a credible goal and to accrue material wealth in order to facilitate that work. It is dishonorable to make mere financial gain our ultimate objective.