Sunday, December 25, 2016

Ego Death in Sufism


If someone ever asked me what sufi path is about? I would say its about annhilation of your ego and its masks.

Sufi teachings tell us two seemingly contradictory things about the ego: In the first instance, the ego is the most dangerous trap in the path to God. It is the biggest obstacle, it is vile, it is beastly. It is only interested in the fulfilment of its animalistic and selfish desires. It is a veil to the Truth and Reality.

 It makes you believe things that are not true and makes you like things that are not good for you. It is difficult to recognize this because you have always lived this way and you are surrounded by people who live similarly. So, pay attention!

 These are the characteristics of Satan as described in the Qur’an. For example in Surah 15:39-40, Satan says:

O my sustainer! Since Thou hast thwarted me, I shall indeed make (all that is evil) on earth seem goodly to them, and shall most certainly beguile them into grievous error – save such of them as are truly Thy servants.”

At the same time, Sufism points to the other aspect of self, the high station of the self: spirit.
 Man is created in the image of God and is the height of creation. God created other creations for the sake of human beings and made man the master over other creations. He created everything for man and created man for Himself. He blew His spirit into man and gave man the ability to rise above angels. He did all of this so that man could know Him, worship Him and love Him.

There appears to be a paradox here and one may get confused or fall into the trap of taking himself to be the higher self without wanting to acknowledge the lower, animal self. It is important to recognise both aspects of self, the satan and the angel, the shadow and the light, the ignorance and the consciousness. 

 Within us are are both potentialities. In the heart of man is the treasure of knowing his Creator, but he is sent to this world of distraction through attraction to temporal pleasure. The part of the self that is in absolute darkness becomes consumed with this temporal pleasure and material engagement. Becoming totally conscious of self and preoccupied with the material world, man does not pause to look inside himself to find the treasure within his heart. 

The treasure of knowing his Creator marks the highest aspect of the self. This is the Self that is God-conscious, rather than self-conscious.

The purpose of man’s creation is to become close to God. In order to reach this destination of knowing his Creator, the traveller must travel a road of war with his ego until it is brought into submission. This is only possible by bringing the ego self to a place of servanthood. But modern man’s ego or self has a big problem with the idea of servanthood. The irony is that man is in the grip of his demanding self and a slave to the material world, but he is not aware of it. 

Modern society promotes ‘individuality’, which in reality is ‘slavery’ to materiality, yet ignores and/or shuns servanthood to God, which is the true purpose of creation. It is only through servanthood to God that man can actually be freed from servanthood to the material life. One cannot be a servant of God and a servant to oneself at the same time. All the Prophets have pointed this out to us.

Prophet Jesus (pbuh) says in the Gospel of Thomas, Verse 47:
“A person cannot mount two horses or bend two bows, and a servant cannot serve two masters.”

Moulana Rumi, from his treasure box of Mathnawi, brings out pearls and forms verses urging man to recognise both aspects of the self. He explains how this ‘donkey’ (or self) perpetually runs to the pasture for grazing and self-satisfaction, forcing you to continually run after him, unless you learn to break him in, mount him, and become his master. It is then that the ‘donkey’ becomes your transcended Self, the vehicle to take you to the Beloved.

Sell the donkey ears (these worldly ears) and buy another ear
          since the worldly ears cannot receive secret words of God”

“The way to become a king is through servanthood
          when you submit to be a slave of the Beloved, you become the beloved”

                                                                              Moulana Rumi

The ego self uses everything for its own benefit, including truth, justice, fairness and even God. It even worships God to get something in return. This is why the self needs to be dismantled.

A true believer and an infidel both say ‘God’
          but there is a difference between the two
The beggar (infidel) says ‘God’ for the sake of bread
          the true believer says ‘God’ in his very soul” 

                                                                              Moulana Rumi

In Sufism, dismantling and fighting the ego self is an essential part of the work. The degree of a man’s success depends on the degree of the man’s sincerity of effort.

We are being warned that the most important work of the salek is the difficult task of subduing the authority of the nafs, as it is our most dangerous enemy. One metaphor used to describe how one must deal with the self is:

Imprisoning it - killing it - burning it - and scattering its ashes.

Servanthood imprisons the self. Abstaining from passion kills it. Love of God burns it. Gnosis scatters the ashes of the self, eliminating all of its traces.

“Until one hair strand of your being you, remains
          the business of vanity and self-praise, remains
You said, ‘I broke the idol of my mind, therefore I am free’
          this idol ‘that you are free from your mind’, still remains”

                                                                              Moulana Rumi

The make up of the ego self is in stark contrast to serenity and peace, because peace and serenity are states that can only be experienced as a result of closeness to God (taqarob). The self requires constant movement and turmoil. If events and problems in life are not enough to keep the system going, it will create more. Therefore, one is in a constant state of busyness of the mind, of inner chatter, of existing in the past or future and in turmoil in order not to be present. 

All of these are constructs of the personality to fog and blur one’s vision to what lies beneath - like waves on the surface of the ocean preventing one from seeing the depth of the water. One exists in this fallacy of distraction until one day, by the Grace of God, one wakes up just a little and realises the untruth of life’s predicament. When one makes the effort to quieten the mind and to negate the demands of the nafs then, little by little, one purifies the state of the self. Only when the self is transmuted is one able to experience serenity and peace and it is in that station that one can hear with the inner ear, the voice of his Creator.

Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) says:
“If you did not talk too much and if there were no turmoil in your heart, you could see what I see and hear what I hear.”

The paradox of self is that man has two aspects of the self in him, one hidden and one apparent. He needs to break away from the one to get to the other. If he spends his life busy with the little self, which is considered his lowest level of being, then that will be his predicament in this life and in the hereafter. It is man’s task in this life to break away from his habitual behaviour and his immediate gratification in order to become worthy of what he has been created for.

 If he breaks through the illusion of identifying with his self as the only reality and if he gets to know his self from his Self, then he moves ahead on the highway towards the Beloved.

Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) says:
“He who knows his self knows his Lord.”

Prophet Jesus (pbuh) says:
“One who knows all, but is lacking in oneself, is utterly lacking.” 

He also says:
“Whoever has found oneself, for that person the world is not worthy.”
“You know the price of every merchandise,
         but you are ignorant of knowing the value of your self”

                                                                              Moulana Rumi

In the Qur’an, this theme has been addressed many times by the Creator. For instance in Surah Al Asr, Allah (swt) says:
“Verily man is in loss (in his trades). Except the ones who attain to faith and do good work.”

Imam Ali (a.s.) says:
“It is a losing trade if you believe that this world is worthy of you.” 

In all the above quotes, the message is that when man sells his self to the goods of this life, he is a loser because what he is selling is far more precious than what he is buying.

The irony is that one does not know his own value and is not in touch with his Self. All he knows is the little self. Yet at the same time, there is no shortage of signs, teachings, prophets, saints and teachers from Allah (swt), to point out the truth, and the way to it.

Moulana Rumi remarks in the story of Moses and Pharaoh:
“Don’t look at that staff (Moses’ staff) and think of it as a piece of wood
         look at what is in it that could part the sea of Ahmar”

In a similar teaching, Prophet Jesus (pbuh) says:
“If two make peace with each other in a single house, they will say to the mountain, ‘Move from here,’ and it will move.”


“Nothing can kill the nafs like the shadow of the master
         hold tight to his skirt for he is a good killer of your self
Your lower self is after material affairs
         how long will you trade in unworthy affairs, give them up
Someone who says ‘I am thinking to deny my lower self’
         is still captive to the lower self
And he who says, ‘God is merciful and kind’
         is also being manipulated by that wretched self”
                                                  Moulana Rumi 

You can say very sincerely that you will control your selfish ego but it is not easy. Therefore, you need a sheikh to help you because your carnal desires will continue to trick you. In many cases you may think that God is Forgiving and Merciful and that He will forgive your sins. 

This idea is also put into your heart by your ego, which is in the command of Satan. Without doubt, God is Forgiving but there is a limit to that because He is Just at the same time. “We shall set up scales of justice for the day of judgment, so that not a single soul will be dealt with unjustly” Qur’an 21:47 and “God did not save angels who sinned” Bible 2 Peter 2:4. God is unlikely to place those who sacrifice their lower self for the love of God in the same scale with those who depend on God’s Mercy without deserving it.

You Worry Too Much by RUMI

I read this poem to myself whenever my monkey mind wanders and worries. 

Oh soul, 
you worry too much.
You say, 
I make you feel dizzy.
Of a little headache then,
why do you worry?    
You say, I am your moon-faced beauty.  

Of the cycles of the moon and 
passing of the years,
why do you worry? 
You say, I am your source of passion, 
I excite you.
Of playing into the Devils hand,
why do you worry?

Oh soul,
you worry too much.

Look at yourself, 
what you have become.
You are now a field of sugar canes,
why show that sour face to me?
You say that I keep you warm inside. 
Then why this cold sigh?
You have gone to the roof of heavens.
Of this world of dust, why do you worry?

Oh soul,
you worry too much.

Your arms are heavy 
with treasures of all kinds.

About poverty,
why do you worry? 
You are Joseph, 
beautiful, strong,
steadfast in your belief,
all of Egypt has become drunk
because of you.
Of those who are blind to your beauty,
and deaf to your songs,
why do you worry?

Oh soul, 
you worry too much.

You have seen your own strength.     
You have seen your own beauty.
You have seen your golden wings. 
Of anything less, 
why do you worry?
You are in truth 
the soul, of the soul, of the soul.
You are the security, 
the shelter of the spirit of Lovers. 
Oh the sultan of sultans, 
of any other king, 
why do you worry?

Be silent, like a fish, 
and go into that pleasant sea.
You are in deep waters now,
of life's blazing fire.
Why do you worry? 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Divine Feminine in Islam

The Polarity of Divine Majesty and Beauty

Perhaps because I didn't have a mother; it had always been primally important for me to find the feminine in God and think of Allah as a loving mother( I can see the Mullahs fainting now). I used to enviously watch the nuns in my convent, bow in front of Mary.

But the  Islam which came to me then--- was garbed in an exclusively masculine robe--it took a lot of years of reading to peel of its patriarchal layers and discover the mysteries and symbols of divine in sufi poems and tomes. 

The hidden side of Islam, little known to the outside world, lives and breathes the values of interiority, the loving, forgiving, merciful Divine Presence that draws hearts closer, the infinite jamâl aspects of Allah's Beauty.

One of the most outright declarations of the Divine Feminine in all Sufi literature is in Rumi's Masnavi. In a passage praising the feminine qualities of kindness and gentleness, a passage that is increasingly well-known in these days of the resurgent Feminine, he says:Woman is the radiance of God, she is not your beloved.
She is the Creator—you could say that she is not created.
(Masnavi, I:2437)

Some of the key terms associated with the Divine are in the feminine gender in Arabic. Three of them are essential to understand the feminine dimension in Islam. 

The Hidden Divine Feminine in Names of Allah

Allah's Essence transcends all duality, all rationality, so it is beyond male or female. But even on the level of the Divine Nature, there are the roots of the masculine and the feminine.

On the highest level, Allah is at once Absolute and Infinite.

 These two attributes are the supreme archetypes of the masculine and the feminine. "Masculine" and "feminine" are not simply equivalents of the human male and female, since all men and women have elements of both masculinity and femininity within them. 

That Allah is Absolute is the principle of masculinity, and that Allah is Infinite is the principle of femininity.

But sufi's always interpreted the Creator as a Mother.

The renowned Sufi master Najm al-Din Kubra wrote of the Dhât as the "Mother of the divine attributes." 

According to a commentary on Ibn al-‘Arabî's Fusûs al-hikam, a hadith of Prophet Muhammad "gave priority to the true femininity that belongs to the Essence." 

Ibn al-‘Arabî himself wrote that "I sometimes employ the feminine pronoun in addressing Allah, keeping in view the Essence."

Allah has revealed Himself in the Qur’ân in the names of rigor and mercy, known as the names of Majesty (jalâl) and Beauty (jamâl). The Generous, the Merciful, the Forgiving are names of mercy or Beauty, while the Enumerator and the Just are names of rigor or Majesty.

 On the level of the names are the principles of the masculine and the feminine: the names of Majesty are the prototype of masculinity, while the names of Beauty are the prototype of femininity.

One of Allah's names is al-Hakîm, the Wise; Wisdom is hikmah.

 In Arabic to say, for example, "Wisdom is precious," you could repeat the feminine pronoun: al-hikmah hiya thamînah, literally "Wisdom, she is precious."

There is a beautiful a hadith qudsi: "My mercy precedes My wrath" (rahmatî sabaqat ghadabî).

This has resonance with the forgotten Christian mystical tradition, in which Wisdom is personified as a woman, the divine Sophia, associated with the Virgin Mary.

The second term is rahmah (mercy), related to the most important name of God after Allâh: al-Rahmân, the All-Merciful, related to the word for 'womb', rahim, the source of life. The source of life is the Divine Mercy and the feminine aspect of it is very evident.

The third, the most remarkable of all, is the word for the Divine Essence itself: al-Dhât, which is also feminine. In that the Divine Essence is Beyond-Being, unmanifest and transcending all qualities, it may be understood as Feminine.

The Vision of God in Woman

Sufi poets ( heretically) wrote that you can see Allah in the eyes of a beloved.

In Tarjumân al-ashwâq, Ibn al-‘Arabî's collection of love poems composed after meeting the learned and beautiful Persian woman Nizam in Mecca, is filled with images pointing to the Divine Feminine.

The last chapter in his book Fusûs al-hikam relates that man's supreme witnessing of Allah is in the form of the woman during the act of sexual union;( yeah, he was close to being excommunicated quite a few times

For Ibn arabi contemplation of Allah in woman is the highest form of contemplation possible:

As the Divine Reality is inaccessible in respect of the Essence, and there is contemplation only in a substance, the contemplation of God in women is the most intense and the most perfect; and the union which is the most intense (in the sensible order, which serves as support for this contemplation) is the conjugal act.

Allah as Mother

In contrast to Christianity, Islam has never depicted God as Father. Such a comparison is completely outside the boundaries of Islamic discourse. However, Muslims theologians have always found it easy and natural to speak of the maternal qualities of Allah.

Prophet Muhammad was the first to use the example of mothers to illustrate Allah's mercy. After a battle, the Prophet and his Companions came upon a group of women and children. One woman had lost her child and was going around looking for him, her breasts flowing with milk. When she found her child, she joyfully put him to her breast and nursed him. The Prophet asked his Companions, "Do you think that this woman could throw her son in the fire?" They answered "No." He then said: "Allah is more merciful to His servants than this woman to her son." 

Another al-Bukhari hadith describes how during the Muslim conquest of Mecca a woman was running about in the hot sun, searching for her child. She found him, and clutched him to her breast, saying, "My son, my son!" 

The Prophet's Companions saw this, and wept. 

The Prophet was delighted to see their mercy, and said, "Do you wonder at this woman's mercy (rahmah) for her child? By Him in Whose hand is my soul, on the Day of Judgment, Allah shall show more rahmah toward His believing servant than this woman has shown to her son."

The Prophet's Feminine Soul

Prophet Muhammad's soul had a deeply feminine nature within;there was a Jesus like tenderness within him. He forgave his enemies; prayed for his foes and loved his wives.

Once his Companions asked him whom he loved most in the whole world, he answered it was his wife, ‘Â’ishah. They were surprised to hear him announce love for a woman, as this was a new concept to them; they had been thinking in terms of the manly camaraderie between warriors. So they asked him which man he loved most. He answered Abû Bakr, ‘Â’ishah's father, a gentleman who was known for his sensitive personality. 

These answers confounded the Companions who until then had been brought up on patriarchal values. The Prophet was introducing reverence for the Feminine to them for the first time.

Surah 109 in the Qur’ân, al-Kawthar, gives an especially revealing look into the Prophet's feminine soul. It was revealed because his enemies had been taunting him that he had no sons, only daughters, while they had been given sons to perpetuate their patriarchal ways.

 Allah revealed this message of consolation to the Prophet: "We have given thee al-Kawthar ... surely the one who hates thee will be cut off (from progeny)."

What is al-Kawthar? 

A sacred pool of life-giving water in Paradise—a profoundly feminine symbol. It represents a heavenly exaltation of the Feminine over patriarchal society. The name of Kawthar is derived from the same root as kathîr' abundance', a quality of the supernal Infinite, the Divine Feminine--the ever-flowing water. 

A sufi master once told me that when I miss my mother ----I should pray to Allah and ask for divine love because He is the ultimate Mother. 

We have been taught to approach the divine fearfully, always afraid; always in trepidation but that's not the sufi way. 

The sufi way is to ask for Allah joyfully and with longing.So next time you pray rather being afraid, ask for love; ask for grace. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

MANSUR HALLAJ: a moth burned by the flame of divine love.

One spring morning in  tenth century Baghdad, a raggedly dressed man named Husyn Ibn Mansur al Hallj -a renowned Sufi- exclaimed  at the top of his voice, Ana al-Haqq " I am the truth".The religious authorities were
scandalized and he was imprisoned as a heretic.Given many chances to recant his proclamation of  union with divine...he refused, and finally under pressure from religous authorities, Abbasid Caliph  AlMuqatadir sentenced him to a demonstration of severity of his heresy;Al Hallaj was tortured, flogged,mutilated and crucified...his corpse decapitated and his remains burned and ashed scattered in Tigris river.
and the most famous though by no means the only SUFI MARTYR was born.

He is called a martyre and an apostate. A mystic and a sorcerer.Even the greatest admirers of Hallaj, the Sufis, are not agreed regarding him.Among other Sufis, Al-Hallaj was an anomaly.They feel, he spoke something in which lies greatest secret of the cosmos.Many Sufi masters felt that it was inappropriate to share mysticism with the masses, yet Al-Hallaj openly did so in his writings and through his teachings.

crucifixtion of Hallaj
Mansur Hallaj ("the cotton-comber"), a Persian, of pristly Zoroastrian lineage, was a pupil of Junaid of Bagdad, a more sober-minded Sufi than his contemporary Bayazid Bastami.
When he had grown up, he was two years in the service of Abd Allah Teshtari and became a disciple of Junaid Baghdadi. Afterwards He made the pilgrimage to Mecca,  where he stayed for one year, facing the mosque, in fasting and total silence. After his stay at the city, he traveled extensively and wrote and taught along the way. He traveled as far as India and Central Asia gaining many followers, many of whom accompanied him on his second and third trips to Mecca. He wore yellow robes of indian gurus. After this period of travel, he settled down in the Abbasid capital of Baghdad.

After his return to Bagdad, the number of his followers largely increased, and he gave utterance to many strange sayings which excited the suspicions of the orthodox.He was called  Nourisher by his disciples.The orthodox ulema  regarded him chiefly as a sorcerer in league with supernatural powers, whether celestial or infernal, for he caused, it is said, summer fruits to appear in winter and vice versa. He could reveal in open day what had been done in secret, knew everyone's most private thoughts, and when he extended his empty hand in the air he drew it back full of coins bearing the inscription, "Say: God is One."
The common people of Bagdad were circulating reports that Hallaj could raise the dead, and that the Jinn were his slaves, and brought him whatever he desired.He furthre alienated the Ulema by basing his teaching on Christ, whom he considered to be a sufi and revered him.He was condemned a fanatic and a secret Christian.

POLITICAL REASONS: Hallaj was a sufi,and love of humanity is the essence of Sufism along with the concepts of a ‘holistic religion’ (Deen-e-Kull) and pantheism (Wahdat ul Wujood). Secondly, Hallaj was also known for his radical political beliefs. Most of his approximately thirty books listed in Nadeem’s Al Fehris are about politics rather than anything else. Contrary to popular belief, I think he was executed for the political threat that he had become for the Abbassid rulers.By some  The charge on him that he declared himself to be the Lord by saying ‘Ana al haq’ was merely a cover.  Hallaj would never have been taken to the gallows if he had not desired certain political changes contrary to the interests of the rulers of his time. My interest in this great mystic was mainly due to his political activities and beliefs


Fariduddin Attar  gives the account of his death in his book ; ; That As he walked  toward his death,  lightly and alertly, though loaded with many chains, they asked him the reason of his confident bearing. "It is," he said, "because I am going to the presence of the King."
And while on the cross, a dervish asked him, "What is love?" "Thou shalt see," Mansur replied, "to-day and to-morrow and the day after." And, as it happened, that day he was put to death, the next day his body was burnt, and on the third his ashes were scattered to the winds.
When he reached the scaffold, he turned his face towards the western gate of Bagdad, and set his foot on the first rung of the ladder, "the first step heaven-*ward," as he said. Then he girded himself with a girdle, and, lifting up his hands towards heaven, turned towards Mecca, and said exultantly, "Let it be as He has willed."
And when his hands were cut off he paints his face with his own blood, when asked why, he says: "I have lost a lot of blood, and I know my face has turned yellow, I don't want to look pale-faced (as of fear)...

FANNA: Sacred Ego Annihilation:

When Mansoor attained Fanna he declared, “Ana’l Haq! am God!”  Arabic: أنا الحق‎ Anā l-Ḥaqq "I am The Truth," which was taken to mean that he was claiming to be God, since al-Ḥaqq "the Truth" is one of the Ninety Nine Names of Allah. In another controversial statement, al-Hallaj claimed "There is nothing wrapped in my turban but God," and similarly he would point to his cloak and say, ما في جبتي إلا الله Mā fī jubbatī illā l-Lāh "There is nothing in my cloak but God."
what did hallaj mean? was he actually claiming to be God? If so how can he say that within the confines of a radically monotheistic and  fervently iconoclastic religion as Islam.To understand what Hallaj meant..we need to understand FANAA or Ego Death.
Sufi's seek to eliminate the dichotomy between subject and object.They believe in loving God to theextent that self annihilation or Fanna occurs......once the ego has been obliterated ..the Roh is allwoed to absorb the Qulb and the disciple achieves Fanna as the nafs and identity is gone and only the divine remains.Hedoesnt BECOME fana is so commonly misunderstood..he is DROWNED in GOD so that the creator and creation become one.The goals is to create an inseparable union between individual and divine.

In the doctrine of Hallaj, which he had also practised himself, meant that by using abstinence, by refusing pleasure and by chastising the flesh, man can lift himself gradually to the height of the elect and even of angels. If he perseveres in this path he is gradually purged from everything human, he receives the spirit of God as Jesus did, and all that he does is done by God

Al Hallaj wrote of his experience of unity with divine

RUMI explained the fanna of Hallaj like this;
Pharaoh said 'I am the Truth,'30 and was laid low. Mansur Hallaj said 'I am the Truth,' and escaped free. Pharaoh's 'I' was followed by the curse of God. Mansur's 'I' was followed by the mercies of God. Because Pharaoh was a stone, Mansur a ruby, Pharaoh an enemy of light, Mansur a friend. Mansur's 'I am He,' was a deep mystic saying, Expressing union with the light, not mere incarnation.according to Rumi, his statement as meaning, "God has emptied me of everything but Himself." According to him, Mansur never denied God's Oneness and was a strict monotheist.

Hallaj himself beautifully explains.
Separation is for the realization.
Realization to the true way of love.
The love that wants nothing,
The love that needs none,
Not even the beloved.
Because in such a state of reality
lover and beloved is not two,
Separate? Never!
but two becomes one.
Together, ever!
Behold! that is the secret of sufi
Mansur al Hallaj's saying,
'Anal Haqq',
Lo! A true lover in total submission and annihilation.
Merged in Divine Love of the ultimate Beloved

The mysteries of Sufism are not for the uninitiated;
Those theologian who sentenced him to death (initially they all refused to even judge on him) on the charge of heresy even accepted that Mansur was right from the knowledge of Hidden (ilmul Ghayeb) perspective. But he spoke something which was not meant to be spoken in public, the collective consciousness of human race was not yet ready for it.

HALLAJ's offence was to reveal this secret to the uninitiated, His Master, Junaid, used to caution him , “Keep quiet. I know, you know, that’s enough. No need to tell it to anybody — otherwise you will be in danger and you will create danger for me and for other disciples also. Yes, I accept,” said Junaid, “I can see you have attained. But let it be a secret between me and you.”

But Mansoor could not keep it a secret; it is very difficult to keep it a secret. Nobody has ever been able to keep it a secret. There would be moments when he was in deep ecstasy and he would start shouting again “I am God!” These words were repeated to the Caliph, and many persons renounced Mansur as a religious leader and appeared as witnesses against him. Among these was Junaid, to whom the Caliph said, "O Junaid, what is the meaning of this saying of Mansur?" "O Caliph," answered Junaid, "this man should be put to death, for such a saying cannot be reasonably explained.In sufi literaure ..its a matter of utmost irony that Junaid  Baghdadi had to  sign the death sentence of his won disciple to  keep appearances.

One day, when Mansur was plying him with questions on certain obscure and difficult points, Junaid said, "O Mansur, before very long you will redden the head of the stake." "The day when I redden the head of the stake," rejoined Mansur, "you will cast away the garment of the dervish and assume that of ordinary men." It is related that on the day when Mansur was taken to execution all the Ulama signed the sentence of death. "Junaid also must sign," said the Caliph. Junaid accordingly repaired to the college of the Ulama, where, after putting on a mullah's robe and turban, he recorded in writing his opinion that "though apparently Mansur deserved death, inwardly he possessed the knowledge of the Most High."
Hallaj was crucified because he embodied the secret.. a secret gnostic mystics knew .The secret that was once open to mankind through Upanishd, Gita but made apparently hidden in the middle, but again will made manifest in final days..Hints was always there hidden in Prophet Muhammad's mystical saying that,

"He who know himself, knows Allah."

Also, "God says, man is my secret and I am his secret."

Jesus said, "Behold, the kingdom of God is within you"

Perhaps the secret can also be found if we see why God often speaks in terms of 'We' in Quran, not 'I'.

Also we find in Quran, And be ye not like those who forgot God; and He made them forget their own souls! (The Quran, 59:19)



My grandfather used to tell me Sarmad's tale as a cautionary note against challenging orthodoxy and patriarchy. He had correctly guessed that I possessed germs of rebellion-- and thought by recounting the cautionary tale of  sufi who lives his life defying the social norms and paid the ultimate price with his head--he could dissuade me instead I became fascinated with sufi rebels and religious iconoclasts and there is no figure more iconoclastic than that of Sarmad. 

Sarmad was a Sufi, and he was murdered in a mosque by order of the Muslim king for heresy and accused of being an apostate.

Sarmad’s story and his eventual martyrdom reflect his rebellion against the shariah and orthodoxy and his imposing stand on the simple message of love that he represented.

His stature as a poet is often mentioned along with Ferdosi, Nizami, Saadi, Hafez, Jami and Omar Khayyam. Yet we know so little of this great Armenian who became a Sufi saint, and walked stark naked initially in the streets of Lahore, and then moved to Delhi, where he taunted the emperor Aurangzeb for his “murderous acts in the name of religion.”

The great mosque in Delhi, Jama Masjid, where Sarmad was killed, is still standing, a monument to this great man. He was killed in a very inhuman way: just his head was cut off. His head rolled down the steps of the Jama mosque.

Some Sufis  run around naked and break the rules of shariah,as a means to rebel against the strict rules and dogmas of ulama. Most of these Sufis are known as the “Malamatiyas” or the blameworthy who discard shariah laws and show their own liberalized way of achieving union with God.For them, love was the ultimate means of achieving this.

Perhaps, Sarmad is the most famous Malamatiya Sufi saint of his time.

Who was Sarmad?

Very little is known about his early life. Some say that he was an Armenian while some claim that he was a Jew who later converted to Islam.We know that he dwelled in an open space just next to where today stands the Badshahi Mosque. 
Many years later the great Ustad Daman was to also live there, and often, in a lighter mood, would claim that he slept where Sarmad used to sleep.

According to the eminent Persian scholar and historian Henry George Keene: “Sarmad was the poetical name of an Armenian merchant who came to India in the reign of the Emperor Shah Jehan. In one of his journeys towards Thatta, he fell so passionately in love with a Hindu boy that he became ‘distracted and would go about the stress naked’.

At Thatta in a musical concert, Sarmad happened to see the youthful Abhay Chand, who was the son of a rich Hindu trader. It was love at first sight for Sarmad and Abhay. Abhay Chand’s melodious voice that he rendered at a ghazal pierced the tender heart of Sarmad so much that he never recovered from the feeling of love. Sarmad began to attend the concert daily not caring that the ship on which he came had sailed away.

Abhay Chand also responded to his love with equal devotion and soon, the two began to live together at Sarmad’s place. Soon gossips started to abound in Thatta about the two men living in unnatural conditions. When this gossips spread, Abhay Chand’s parents took him away and confined him in his house. The pain of separation was too much for Sarmad who tore of his cloths and began to roam the streets of Thatta in a state of frenzy seeking his beloved Abhay Chand. Following the incident, he was to live in a state of total nudity for the rest of his life.

Meanwhile, Abhay Chand’s conditions were no better and at last, his parents gave in to their sons wish and let him reunite with Sarmad. But they were ostracized by the people of Thatta and so they moved to Lahore. Here they stayed for 13 years where Sarmad composed some of his most moving verses on love and God. 
Abhay Chand would sing these verses in his melodious voice and Sarmad would break into a dance of ecstasy. For Sarmad, his love for Abhay Chand was a means to realize God, for Sarmad believed that God manifested in all his living beings and so he could not be separated from his beloved. Sarmad’s search for God in all of his creations blurred the lines of caste and creeds drawn by the society. This he clearly explains in this beautiful verse:

Who is the lover, beloved, idol and idol-maker but You?
Who is the beloved of the Kaaba, the temple and the mosque?
Come to the garden and see the unity in the array of colours.
In all of this, who is the lover, the beloved, the flower and the thorn?

From Lahore, the couple migrated to Golcunda in South from where, after a few years, they migrated to Agra in the North. In 1657, they came to Delhi and settled down at the Dargah of Khwaja Harey Bharey. Here Sarmad began to have a large following and the whole city of Shahjahanabad would move at his single instruction.

Sarmad was anti-orthodoxy and taunted the Mullahs.It was him who said:
                     ‘In the shadow of great mosques does evil propser.’”

People flocked round Sarmad and many found him to be a man of great sanctity and supernatural powers. It was Dara Shikoh who brought the miraculous powers of Sarmad to the notice of his father, Emperor Shah Jehan.The following letter which Prince Dara Shikoh had addressed to Sarmad shows the high regard the royal pupil had for his saintly master:

"My Pir and Preceptor, Everyday I resolve to pay my respects to you. It remains unaccomplished. If I be I, wherefore is my intention of no account? If I be not, what is my fault? Though the murder of Imam Hussein was the will of God: Who is (then) Yazid between (them). If it is not the Divine Will, then what is the meaning of “God does whatever He wills and commands whatever He intends”? The most excellent Prophet used to go to fight the unbelievers, defeat was inflicted on the army of Islam. The exoteric scholars say it was an education in resignation. For the Perfect what education was necessary?"

Sarmad’s reply to the above epistle consisted of two lines, in verse, which when translated says:
My dear Prince, What we have read, we have forgotten
 Save the discourse of the friend which we reiterate.

In the beginning of the reign of Aurangzeb, he was put to death outside the Jamia Masjid Delhi on account of his disobeying the orders of that emperor, who had commanded him not to go about naked. This event took place in the year 1661. 
After Dara was killed and Aurangzeb usurped the throne, he set about killing all of Dara’s close associates and soon, his attention turned towards Sarmad. Sarmad’s popularity disturbed him and he feared Sarmad might someday incite the people to rebel against him.
When Aurangzeb had usurped the throne, he taunted Sarmad about the succession of his favourite disciple, Dara Shikoh, to the throne, which he had promised him.
Sarmad calmly replied: “God has given him eternal sovereignty and my promise is not falsified.” The supreme moment had at last arrived for Aurangzeb to wreak his vengeance on the harmless naked saint and scholar, and he immediately ordered his execution.

Once as Aurangzeb went to Jama Masjid to offer Friday prayers, he spotted Sarmad sitting nude in the street. When he rebuked Sarmad for violating shariah by being naked, Sarmad asked him to cover him with a blanket lying nearby. 
When Aurangzeb picked up the blanket, the story goes that the heads of all he had killed during his ascent to the throne rolled out of it. 
To this, Sarmad told the emperor, “Should I hide your sins or my nakedness?” Sarmad’s fearless attitude was too much for Aurangzeb who soon called on his chief Qazi, Mullah Qawi, and plotted to do away with Sarmad.

Sarmad was dragged to the Qazi’s court where he was accused of defying the shariah by living naked. Sarmad had befitting replies to all of the Qazi’s accusations, and this frustrated him even more. 
To make him relent, the Qazi had Abhay Chand flogged in front of Sarmad. The whip lashed Abhay Chand’s body, but miraculously, the pain was inflicted on Sarmad.
 Sarmad cried out, “GOD who does not let me see my beloved is like an iron cage that smothers the spirit and bruises the heart.”

For the Qazi, Islam was a set of stern and inflexible laws.
For Sarmad, it was nothing but a message of love. 
The Qazi demanded that Sarmad recite the kalimah shahada (acceptance of oneness of God), which “La Ilaha Illallah, Muhammad-ur Rasul Allah” (there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad SWT is the messenger of Allah), in order to prove that he was a true Muslim.

Sarmad refused to go beyond “La Ilaha,” which means there is no God, as he had still not found the end of his search for God. This enraged the Qazi who awarded him death sentence. And so Sarmad was dragged through the streets of Delhi and promptly beheaded for being an apostate.

But as the story goes, he emerged victorious in death. Sarmad picked up his severed head much to the fright of his executioners. He started climbing the stairs of the Jama Masjid, while mocking the emperor and his false men of God all the while. 
In death, Sarmad had found God, testifying to the truth of his own understanding of Islam. 
Just as he was about to enter the mosque, a voice called him out from the grave of Harey Bharey and asked him to relent as he had reached the end of his journey and had united with God at last. 
Sarmad turned round and went to Harey Bharey’s tomb. There he was buried by the side of Harey Bharey, where they share a common dargah today. And the curse of Sarmad fell on Aurangzeb as the Mughal Empire gradually crumbled in front of his very eyes.

It is said that when the condemned man was being led away from the tribunal to the place of execution, he uttered, extempore, a long poem of immense beauty, the last lines of which are:

There was an uproar and we opened our eyes from eternal sleep 
Saw that the night of wickedness endured, so we slept again 

Aqil Khan Razi, the court chronicler of Aurangzeb, writes that when the executioner was about to inflict the fatal blow, Sarmad uttered:

The nakedness of the body was the dust of the road to the friend
That too was severed, with the sword, from our head.

According to another popular version Sarmad uttered:
My head was severed from the body by that flirt, who was my companion
The story was shortened, otherwise the headache would have been too severe


is Situated in front of the imposing Jama Masjid near the Meena Bazar, the small shrine largely remains unnoticed by many visitors who visit the great mosque daily. The shrine in the vicinity where Sarmad shares his resting with another famous Sufi saint Khwaja Harey Bharey (the evergreen one). Harey Bharey was Sarmad’s preceptor and his tomb was where Sarmad had settled down when he first came to Delhi.

The unique feature of this dargah, which is a dual shrine of Sarmad and Harey Bharey, is the colour of the wall which is green on Harey Bharey’s side and blood red on Sarmad’s side. This is to depict Sarmad’s martyrdom because of which he has been given the title of “Shaheed” (martyr). Red ceramic tiles lined his side of the flooring and red threads hung by his grave’s railings by devotees hoping for their wishes to be granted. Incense sticks and candles continuously burn on the side while qawwali singers vent out numbers in praise of their Pir as the evening sets in.

As I left the shrine of Sarmad Shaheed and reflected on this story, I realized that Sarmad’s homosexuality and rebellion was not the main fact that made him unique---what was unique about him was that he had dared to understand God in his own way against the established norms: he exhibited the intellect God has bestowed upon mankind.

There are a lot of stories of Sarmad about his life --I don′t know whether all the legends are true or not, but they must be: they have to be!

Even truth has to compromise with a man like Sarmad!

I love Sarmad because he died for his beliefs ---because he challenged the hypocrisy and those who kill in the name of Religion---they killed him too but it doesn't matter; because he still lives while nobody visits their graves.

Sarmad had made love( of a pagan man) the transformative experience and finally, achieved God through this mean.

Orthodoxy and laws of love be damned!

He had just one message for all of us: God is the only God, there is no one between you and God. There is no mediator, God is immediately available. Just all that is needed is a little madness and a lot of meditation.

For Sarmad, God manifested in the persona of Abhay Chand.He didnot believe in walls of cast and the demarcation lines between faiths---for him, all roads led to the Almighty.

For us, it can be anybody or anything. If God is love, it is everywhere-- that is the message of Sufism.

Here what has etched in my mind is a verse of the holy Qura’an, which is written on a signboard on the outer wall of the shrine.

It read, “And call not those who are slain in the way of Allah ‘dead.’ Nay, they are living, only ye perceive not.” I think nothing sums up Sarmad’s life better than this. He still lives on as a messenger of love and finding your own path to God and those who killed him ---they were just merchants of hate, now withering away in pages of histo