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

Three ways toward God in Islam

While taking an Islamic history class--I wrote this metaphorical tale as an allegory for three ways to approach God in Islamic spiritual history
One is the way of the Philosopher, influenced by Greek thought and metaphysics.
The second is the Scholar,possessed by rituals and semantics of Religion.
And third is a soldier.
All three were travelling together
Together through a desert. When night fell, they pitched camp and set about preparing a meal. The soldier ate little, quickly washed up, and hastened to his ‘Isha [1] prayer – “For the night is beautiful, my Lord, and though the toil of the day and the heat of sun distracted me from Your remembrance, I long now to surrender to You in complete peace and oblivion.”
The scholar was still in the middle of his meal – traveling always made him hungry – but when he saw the soldier get up to pray he guiltily hurried to join him – for, “God is no doubt displeased with me, insolent carnal man that I am, and if I cannot be constant in even my daily prayers, what else is there to save me from Hell-fire?”
Meanwhile, the philosopher contentedly ate his fill as well as the scholar’s leftovers, ruminated to himself upon the restorative qualities of good food, and went straight to bed – for, “Food and sleep are truly bounties of Nature, the great restorers of man, and I would not disclaim Nature’s rights over my body as do these two simple fellows, who think a ritual prayer is something they owe to God. I owe God nothing, for God needs nothing, least of all a show of my gratitude, which I nonetheless feel for Him in my heart. Surely that is what He really looks for!”

The next day, some time in the afternoon, the three travelers were overcome by a violent sandstorm. As the winds whipped around them and the skies whirled with gold, the scholar fell on his knees and cried, “Ah, this is indeed the end of us! We are sinners, and wicked, and perverse, and God has finally decided to mete out His Justice. Pray for salvation!”

The philosopher looked amused, and remarked, “There’s no need for that, my good man. Do you honestly believe the Almighty is at all concerned with the lives and particulars of little people like you? I daresay He doesn’t even know you exist, or that this silly little storm in this obscure little desert is even taking place. So if you ask me, the most sensible thing to do, is nothing.” With that, he drained away the last drops of water in his drinking gourd, wrapped his cloak tightly around him, and settled down on the ground.
The soldier, meanwhile, closed his eyes and, and spoke softly to himself, “O Lord! If this be the end You have ordained for me, then let it come – I am not afraid, for I trust in Your Everlasting Mercy and Forgiveness. Yet my heart tells me this is not the end, and just as You brought this storm upon us, so will You see us through it. I trust You.” And he joined the scholar in prayer.
Soon enough, the storm passed, the skies cleared, and the three travelers could continue on their journey.
Unfortunately, they were lost. The storm had wholly altered the face of the desert, no landmark was familiar, and they had misplaced their only compass.
“Well, this is a pretty mess,” the philosopher grumbled. “Which way do you think we ought to go?”
The scholar was in agonies. “What does it matter now?” he moaned. “Our fate has been sealed. Curse the day I decided to embark on this insane trip! What am I doing here, in this wild Godforsaken place, when I should be sitting in my study in Baghdad finishing a treatise on Islamic Familial Law? The sultan expects to see it in a fortnight. What if I perish before that? Humiliation! God, You are cruel!” And he wept bitterly.
The scholar was a city-dweller, and had never before set foot in the desert. The fact is, he was mortally afraid.
It was left to the soldier to decide what they should do. He was accustomed to hardship, being accustomed to war, and he loved the desert. “I feel this is a sign,” he said to his companions. “We’ve been diverted from our original path for a purpose – I see in it God’s Will. We shall head in that direction,” he gestured East, “for the wind has carried to me the scent of smoke, and we may find there a village.”
The philosopher shrugged. He didn’t care one way or the other. His mind was too pre-occupied with Aristotle. “Really, I find this place rather distasteful,” he said to himself. “And the company! One cannot get a word of sense out of these two. Well, it is a test of my character, of my superior mind, and of course I shall endure it. But al-Farabi [2], you would be proud!”
They followed the soldier. By sunset, they had reached a small oasis. Their eyes sparkled at the sight of the rich green date palms, the fresh, clear water. It looked like Paradise.

“Well, if you two don’t mind, I’m going to take a dip in that lovely looking pool,” the philosopher announced. “I think we deserve some relief after such a dreadfully grueling day!” But his plans were rudely interrupted by three black forms that suddenly descended upon him from the darkness.
In a twinkling the scholar, philosopher and soldier found themselves bound behind their backs and confronted by three menacing bearded faces.
“Who are you? What are you doing in our oasis? Who sent you here? Speak!”
The philosopher was ready to fall upon the three men, outraged at the foregone dip. The scholar seemed to have fainted. But the soldier replied, in calm, firm tones, “We are travelers, and we lost our way in the storm. We come in peace, only to ask of a few provisions for our journey. We shall depart at daybreak.”
The three assailants seemed somewhat reassured. “Very well then – you look like a man of honor, and we take your word. But you must come now to see our Shaykh[3], who administers all the affairs of this village.  He will decide what is to be done with you.”
The Shaykh was an aged man, but his eyes shone with youth and wisdom. “We don’t often get strangers in this village,” he said, looking keenly at the three travelers, “so this is quite an event. However, I will let you go, as soon as you each answer three questions for me.”
“First,” the Shaykh began, “What is it, in one word, that you value most in this world?”
The scholar, who had just revived from his stupor, replied almost instantly: “Life!”
The philosopher, pondering a while, and wishing to appear the most intellectual, answered: “Knowledge!”
The soldier, warmly, said: “God”.
“Second,” said the Shaykh, “What is it, in one word, that you fear most in this world?”
“Death”, the scholar shuddered.
“Insanity”, the philosopher could not conceive of it.
“God”, the soldier, in a quiet voice.
“And lastly,” concluded the Shaykh, “If there was one thing you could attain in the world, anything at all, what would it be?”
This required some thinking. The scholar, feeling suddenly shameful that he had not mentioned the Almighty in any of his answers, declared: “I would like to be the greatest Islamic scholar in the world, and bring glories to my God and my religion through my works.”
The philosopher said, dreamily: “I would like to discover all those secrets of rationality and reason that even the Ancient Masters were unable to discover – to conclusively prove that there is nothing more powerful in this universe than the human mind!”
And the soldier, thoughtfully, and after a long time, said: “God”.
The philosopher and scholar gaped at him incredulously. They were both thinking – “This soldier really is mad. What in the world does he mean? How can he fear, love and desire all at once?”
And then the Shaykh finally spoke, addressing each of them in turn.
“He considers himself an authority on the Holy Book, an exemplar of the laws and letters of our great faith, yet never in my life have I met somebody as cowardly and ignorant as this scholar.
“He thinks he is above the worldly concerns of other human beings, and that that makes him privy with God, yet never in my life have I met somebody as conceited and covetous as this philosopher.
“And him? He considers himself an ordinary man, a man of faith but with weaknesses and faults like any other, yet never in my life have I met somebody as strong, brave and wise as this young soldier.
“For know this – true faith does not take root in a heart where lies fear, or greed, or pride, or any negative emotion. Only a heart that loves is the believing heart. Only a heart that loves will respect, and obey, and trust. Only a heart that loves is selfless, is humble, is brave – and is loved, in return, by the Originator of Love, by the Originator of Wisdom, Knowledge, Courage, and Justice – by Almighty God.
“You, scholar, are forbidden to leave this desert until such a time you are purged of your empty book knowledge, learn to listen to the universe, and find inner wisdom.

“You, philosopher, are commanded to a life of asceticism in our village seminary, where you will teach young students and live on bread and water till such a time your pride allows you to beg for your food.
“And you, O soldier, I need not counsel. You are free – you always were the closest to God .You are free to Go on God's earth.

Friday, December 2, 2016

A Poem by Bulleh Shah

My maternal family has a citrus farm in Punjab, where my grandmother would take me there sometimes during wheat harvest, and this wandering dervaish would come to our haunted haveli and sing this song. 

My grandmother had buried adult children in their prime( including my mother) and patronized a lot of dervishes and fakirs. 

So this rockstar would come and sing a very sad lament by Bulleh Shah.  I have tried to translate the poem from its original Punjabi to English.  

The blossoming of love is strange and wondrous
When I acquired the knowledge of love,
I dreaded the mosque.
I fled to my Lords dwelling,
Where a thousand sounds reverberate.

When love revealed its mystery to me,
The parroted words vanished.
Inside and out, I was cleansed.
I saw my Beloved wherever I looked.

Heer and Ranjha are already one.
But Heer, deluded, still searches the woods.
Here Ranjha is with her,
And she does not even know it.

I am tired of reading the Vedas and the Koran!
Obeisance has only abraded my forehead.
God was not in Mecca, nor any holy place.
But whoever finds Him becomes brightly illuminated.

Burn the prayer rug, break the clay pot,
Divest yourself of rosary, bowl and staff.
Those who love - proclaim repeatedly and loudly,
‘Eat the forbidden! Forsake halaal!’(a lawful diet)

You have spent your life in the mosque,
Yet your heart is filled with filth.
Not once did you discern that God is One!
What is your point in making this racket now?

Your devotion was loveless.
Now your protestations are worthless.
Bulleh says, I would have remained silent,
It is love that compels me to speak forcefully.

Identification is Misery

In my childhood ...My grandfather-- who initiated me into Sufism,--always used to say "Identification is misery and Non identification is freedom".

And he told me the following story. 

I thought I understood but I didn't!!

It's only now when I have accumulated my own attachments and felt imprisoned by them that I have understood the story.

A great emperor asks his wise men to give him a mantra of such a type that it can be used in any dangerous, fatal situation – Any Advice is always particular, and he wants a mantra, an advice, the essence of all wisdom, so that it can be used in any situation whatsoever, whenever there is danger. The wise men are very confused, very disturbed, and in a deep anguish. They cannot find such an essence of all wisdom.
Then they go to a Sufi mystic and he gives a piece of paper and says, ”This should not be opened unless there is Really danger! And then the advice will be there.” So the king put the piece of paper under the diamond of his ring. There are many moments when the danger approaches, but the Sufi has emphatically said, ”Unless you feel this is really the last hope – that nothing can be more dangerous – only then open it!” Many dangers come and go, and the king always feels this is not the last; something more can still happen.

Even death approaches, and the king is just on his deathbed, but still he cannot open it, because he remembers still more is possible. But his wise men say, ”Now please open it. We want to see what is there.” But the king says, ”The promise must be fulfilled. Really, now it is irrelevant what is there; the mantra has worked upon me. Since having this mantra with me, I have not felt any danger at all. Whatsoever the danger was, I have felt still more was possible, and I have remained the host. I was never identified.”

Danger can never become the ultimate unless you are identified with it, and then anything can become the ultimate – just anything! Just anything ordinary can become the ultimate, and you are disturbed.All that you identify with .becomes you.

And the king said, ”Now I am not worried at all, whatsoever. The man is wise; the Sufi knows – I am not concerned about what he has written.”

Then, the king died without opening the ring. The moment he died, the first thing his wise men did was to open the ring. There was nothing; it was just a piece of paper... just a piece of paper – not a word, not a single word of advice. But the advice worked; the mantra worked.

So be centered in your host, and remember nothing is happening to you. All that is happening is just the guests, visitors; they will come and go. And it is good that they come and go; it enriches you, you become more mature.

But don’t follow them, don’t be involved with them. Don’t become one with them. Don’t fall in love and hate; don’t fall into identification.many seasons would come and go on your soul..they are not us.They are just circumstances..external circumstances.

They are not our identity.

One day we will all disappear in death-- just into nothingness, as smoke. Don't get attached to anything. This attachment takes you away from your real being; you become focused on the thing to which you are attached.

Your awareness gets lost in things, in money, in people, in power. And there are a thousand and one things, the whole thick jungle around you, to be lost in. Remember, non-attachment is the secret of finding yourself, then awareness can turn inwards because you don't have anything outside to catch hold of. It is free, and in this freedom you can know your self-nature.

So always Remain the host...welcome these guests but remember they would leave.And then the ultimate happening happens. Then the ultimate explosion becomes possible. Once the witnessing soul is known, you will never be the same again.

This is the whole secret of non-attachment: live in the world, but don't be of the world. Love people, but don't create attachments.

Know, but don't create knowledge. Love, but don't create desire. Live, live beautifully, live utterly, abandon yourself in the moment. But don't look back. This is the art of non-attachment

When you live like this... whole world disappears and you are transmuted into a new dimension of bliss. There is no BAD or GOOD....there is only events and you remain an entity separated from them.You don't have a story.You have no labels to define yourself.

This is the heart of Sufism.Non-identification is bliss. To fall in love and hate with the guest is misery. To transcend them, and to be centered in oneself, is bliss.

Identification is misery!


Rumi was dancing the dance of life. He knew it, and so did his listeners, which is why the line between poet, saint, and lover became quite blurry in his case.
No poet is more intimate than Rumi, no lover more crazed, no saint more innocent.

An air of the supernatural gathered around him because he never lost this wild, extreme state of ecstasy. Somehow the deepest lovers don't have to fear time. Their intoxication is permanent, even though the divine beloved is invisible, remote, and never touched physically.

His tavern attracted a gathering of intoxicated lovers, people committed to going directly to the source, as fearlessly as the moth who flies straight into the candle flame. In his passion for union with the Beloved, Rumi attracted not just Muslims, but also Jews and Christians, not just men but also many women who heard the echo of their true nature in Rumi's voice:

A lover asked his beloved,
Do you love yourself more
than you love me?
The beloved replied,
I have died to myself
and I live for you.   

I’ve disappeared from myself
and my attributes.
I am present only for you.
I have forgotten all my learning,
but from knowing you
I have become a scholar.
I have lost all my strength,
but from your power
I am able.
If I love myself
I love you.
If I love you
I love myself.
I’m drenched
in the flood
which has yet to come
I’m tied up
in the prison
which has yet to exist
Not having played
the game of chess
I’m already the checkmate
Not having tasted
a single cup of your wine
I’m already drunk
Not having entered
the battlefield
I’m already wounded and slain
I no longer
know the difference
between image and reality
Like the shadow
I am And I am not

Sunday, July 31, 2016

FANAA or EGO DEATH ( (fana fi 'Allah')

Enlightenment equals ego death.

For millennia this equation has held true. While the term "ego," meaning "I" in Latin, is obviously a relatively recent addition to the English lexicon, just about every major enlightenment teaching in the world has long held that the highest goal of spiritual and indeed human life lies in the renunciation, rejection and, ultimately, the death of the need to hold on to a separate, self-centered existence.

From Shankara's rantings against the ego as a "strong and deadly serpent" to Prophet Muhammad's declaration of a "holy war against the nafs [ego]" to the Zen masters' fierce determination to use any means necessary to break the ego's grip on their students.

In sufi path Bayazid Bastami was one of the first to speak of "annihilation of the self in God" (fana fi 'Allah') and "subsistence through God" (baqa' bi 'Allah).


Fanaa is the Sufi term for extinction. It means to annihilate the self, while remaining physically alive. Persons having entered this state are said to have no existence outside of, and be in complete unity with, Allah. Fanaa is equivalent to the concept of nirvana in Buddhism and Hinduism or moksha inHinduism which also aim for annihilation of the self.

Abu Yazid al-Bistami approached the Divine Presence and “knocked on the gate”. He was asked, “Who is there?” “I have come, Oh my Lord”, replied Abu Yazid. He was told: “There isn’t any place here for two. Leave your ego behind and come”. When Abu Yazid once again approached the Divine Presence and was asked who it was, he said: “You, oh Lord”.

The "annihilation of the self" (fana fi 'Allah') refers to disregarding everything in this world because of one's love towards God. When a person enters the state of fana it is believed that one is closest to God.

The Qalaba( heart) is sandwiched between the nafs( EGO) and the Rooh(SOUL) The entire objective of annihilation is to destroy the nafs to that Heart can recognise the soul.Sudi's say soul has the spark of divine as in Quran, its mentioned" all souls come from God".

The nature of fanaa consists of the elimination of evil deeds and lowly attributes of the flesh. In other words, fanaa is abstention from sin and the expulsion from the heart of all love other than the Divine Love; expulsion of greed, lust, desire, vanity, show, etc. In the state of fanaa the reality of the true and only relationship asserts itself in the mind. 

One realizes and feeds that the only real relationship is with Allah Ta'ala fanaa means to destroy your self. if you destroy your self in the love of Allah then that fanaa will convert into entire life means abdi zindgi. and for that one you have to destroy your will and yourself on the will of Allah.

In the death of the ego love is born, God is born, light is born. In the death of the ego you are transformed; all misery disappears as if it had never existed. Your life right now is a nightmare. When the ego dies nightmares disappear and a great sweetness arises in your being, and a subtle joy, for no reason at all. Beyond this is the stage of intimacy (uns) at which the immanence of the Lord is perceived:

And I am closer to man than his jugular vein” QURAN;

On the path of ego annhilation; Bayazid said:

I became like an iron master for twelve years. I put my nafs and ego in the stove of discipline, and prepare it with the fire of striving, mold it on the platform of remorse, hammer it with regret until my nafs became my mirror. I was my own mirror for five years. Until one day when I thought I was the greatest among great learned. As soon as this thought came to my mind, I packed up and went to Khorasan. I stayed in a shelter and promised myself that I would not leave this place unless I receive a message from Allah. On the fourth day I saw a camel rider coming towards me. A thought passed my mind that I could stop that camel right there. The rider looked at me and said: Do not make me to destroy Bastam and Bayazid altogether. I lost my senses. When my senses came back to me I asked him: Where are you coming from? he said: From the side where your promise is kept. The he said: Bayazid, keep and protect your heart; then he left. It is said after this incident whatever passed through Bayazid ’s mind would appear in front of him.

What Bayazid is explaining in this story is that;

He who recognizes himself.. recognizes GOD;

In Bayazidian Sufism, one has to get rid of the pseudo-personality that one has created for oneself. We all want to be accepted and respected by others. Most of the time we are led by society and our own cultural norms to create a false sense of ourselves.

Whenever you are now and here, there is no ego to be found. You are a pure silence. Ego is the center of the false mind.

Your ego is your hell, your ego is your misery, your ego is the cancer of your soul.

When desiring ceases, the other world opens. The other world is hidden in this world. But because your eyes are full of desire, full of the ego, you cannot see it.

This was the lost secret of the ages..the divine lies within you, if only you would listen to it.all mystical paths really aim to remove ego from the self so only name of God remains.

God tells Bayazid that He doesn't care if he sees the world or not. He only cares if Bayazid doesn't see himself. And it's only when he ceases to see himself that Bayazid can truly say that he has seen God.

This is when Bayazid says ;
The final clue is buried in your stare:
So long as 'I' continues to exist
The sun I seek is shrouded in "I's" mist 

Bayazid repents first from thinking he has seen God, and second he repents from that repentance for this is just another manifestation of his being; finally, he repents from seeing his own existence altogether.

He addresses GOD;"Oh, Allah, this is how I see myself. I am not offering You my life's mortification, my constant prayers, my day and night fasting, You know that nothing will take me from You. I confess that I am shameful, I have nothing, You are the One who has given me all this fortune. I witness that there is no god but You. Your have accepted me. Purify me from my errors, forgive my faults, wash away my shortcomings.

A prayer remained from Bayazid:

Oh, Allah, how long this “you” and “I” remain between You and I. Take this “I” from me so all that remains is “You”.
Oh, Allah, when I am with You I am greater than all; when I am without You I am nothing.
Oh, Allah, my poverty took me to you and Your blessings protected my poverty.


How, though, does one go about doing such things?

The goal is part of the desiring mind and bliss is a state of no-mind. Desiring is a barrier: non-desiring is the bridge. And all goals are egoistic because they are ambitions. Ambitions are shadows of the ego, and wherever ego is bliss is not. When the ego completely disappears, when not even a trace is left behind, bliss is found.

In Bayazidian sufism,from the stories about him, one can gather that there are two ways of going against the ego, though they are not separate but rather very much intertwined.

These are

  1. selfless service 
  2. kindness to others
  3. attracting the blame of others on the other. 
Consider the following story concerning the meaning of selfless service in Bayazidian Sufism. Again, this story happens in the context of yet another pilgrimage to Mecca. This is no accident, as Bayazidian Sufism is always a reaction to conventional ritualistic practices:


In one of his pilgrimages to Mecca there was such a shortage of water that people were dying of thirst. Bayazid came across a place where people were gathered around a well, so thirsty that they were fighting among one another. In the middle of all this commotion he saw a wretched dog that was clearly dying of thirst. The dog looked at Bayazid and somehow conveyed to him that Bayazid's real mission should be getting water for the dog. He came up with a plan and began announcing, "Does anyone want to buy the merit of a hajj pilgrimage in exchange for some water?" Not receiving any response from people, he began to increase his part of the bargain, raising his hajj journeys to five, six, seven and finally to seventy in exchange for some water. 

At last, someone said that he was willing, giving Bayazid the water in exchange for the merits of seventy hajj journeys. It is at this point in the story that Bayazid's ego gets him into trouble. Right after the transaction took place, he began to feel proud of his action and pleased with himself for doing such a noble act of selflessness. Full of himself and proud of his action, Bayazid put the bowl of water in front of the dog, but the dog did not accept the water and turned away.

Now a man of Bayazid's caliber looks for the divine message even from a dog, and Bayazid felt sorely ashamed of himself for his pride. 

At this point, he heard a message from God, "How long are you going to say I have done this and I have done that? Don't you see that even a dog does not accept your charitable act?" At once, Bayazid repented of his act of self-seeing (Adapted from Aflaki 1983, vol. II, p. 671).
The selfless service alluded to here is not just a charitable act. It is not on a par with giving money to a charity or doing volunteer work for the poor and the needy. It is far more subtle and difficult than that. True selfless service begins when one does not feel proud of one's act of charity and is complete when one is not conscious of oneself as the agent of that charitable act. True selfless service as it was realized by Bayazid is a major way to get rid of the ego.

Bayazid is not saying that a person should drop out of society  for him that is the easy way out. On the contrary, he is asking people to continue doing whatever they are doing and do it to the best of their ability. 'Seeing the world' is nothing other than enjoying the world, appreciating the beauty of the world. God doesn't want Bayazid to be an ascetic. "See the whole world, but don't see yourself," was what God told Bayazid. And here we see a profound ethical principle: Do what you may, but do it selflessly.

In the following story, we get yet another example of how Bayazid goes against his ego by means of a simple act of kindness:

One night Bayazid was passing through a cemetery in Bastam when he came across a young nobleman playing a lute. Upon seeing the youth, Bayazid exclaimed, "There is no power and force in the world other than God's." 

Thinking that Bayazid was criticizing him for playing music in the cemetery, the young man hit Bayazid on the head with his lute thereby breaking both Bayazid's head and his own musical instrument. Upon returning to his quarters, Bayazid summoned one of his disciples and gave him some money and sweets and told him to go to the young man's house and tell him tile following: "Bayazid asks your forgiveness for what happened last night and requests that you use this money to buy another lute and then eat this sweet to remove from your heart the sorrow over the lute's being broken.

" When he heard this message, the young man realized what he had done and went to Bayazid to apologize (Adapted from 'Attar 1976, p. 117).
To return an act of aggression with kindness is to go against the ego. Our ego wants revenge or at least some kind of compensation when we are wronged. But for Bayazid, to seek compensation is to play into the hands of the ego, thereby becoming further removed from God.

This is why Jesus also asked his disciples to turn the other cheek, so that  EGO may go unsatisfied.

The second major way to overcome the ego for Bayazid is to attract other people's blame and to disgrace oneself in the eyes of society. This may sound pretty silly to us now. 
Why would anyone want to disgrace himself?
 In our contemporary western influence  culture, the emphasis is on the promotion and glorification of the ego, not its demise. 
But first, let's examine an example of what Bayazid means by attracting the blame of others:
In the city of Bastam where Bayazid made his home, there lived a very respected and venerable ascetic. He enjoyed Bayazid's circle, though he never became one of his disciples. One day he said to Bayazid, "0 master! For the last thirty years I have been fasting from the world and keeping vigils at night, but I have to be honest with you: I do not find in myself that knowledge you have been talking about, though I acknowledge your wisdom and I would like to understand it." 

Bayazid replied, "O Sheikh, even if you continue your ritual prayer and fasting for the next three hundred years, you would still not be able to understand the smallest portion of this wisdom." "Why?" asked the ascetic. "Because you are a prisoner of your own ego," responded Bayazid. "Is there any remedy for my condition?" asked the ascetic. "There is, but you won't be able to do it," replied Bayazid. "I promise I will accept whatever you suggest, for I have been seeking this knowledge for years," insisted the ascetic. "Then," continued Bayazid, "You must first take off your ascetic clothes and wear rags instead; let down your hair and go sit with a bag full of walnuts in a neighborhood where people know you best. Then call all the children around you and tell them, I will give a walnut to whoever smacks me on the face, two walnuts for two smacks and so on'. After you finish with that neighborhood, go to other neighborhoods until you have covered the whole town. This is your remedy." Completely bewildered and shocked the ascetic cried, "Glory be to God! There is no god but God," which was a way of expressing amazement in those days. "If an unbeliever had uttered these words," Bayazid declared, "he would have become a Moslem, but by uttering such words you have become an unbeliever!" "But why?" asked the ascetic. "Because in saying those words, you worship yourself not God," replied Bayazid. "Please give me some other counsel, Bayazid," pleaded the ascetic. "This is your only remedy, and as I said, you would not be able to do it," responded Bayazid (Adapted from 'Attar 1976, pp. 112-113).


Bayazid felt that  religious life lived for public purposes  was far too superficial and hypocritical, for it was all geared towards the salvation of the individual in this world and the hereafter. For Bayazid, the conventional religious attitude is tainted with self-interest and ego, for it is ultimately construed for the sake of one's ego. But, according to Bayazid, the realm of the ego is the opposite of that of God.

Bayazid is warning us here about the dangers of identifying with what we do or what we project about ourselves. He is asking us to let go of the story our ego has created about it , of it being righteous and good and virtuous.Only when you would let go the story of your ego , would you witness the divine Or you will always be busy pleasing your ego and its needs.Our sense of self occupies all the space inside of us.

The only way we can make sure we are not attached to the sense of self that we have created for ourselves is to attract other people's blame, to make ourselves disgraceful.That way our ego takes  a beating and the shell breaks a little.
 According to Bayazid, if it is the Truth we are after, then we should let others shatter this false image ..this shell....we have created for ourselves.The ego must be starved of praise and identification.
To follow Bayazid in his search for the Truth, we have to demolish this pseudo-personality, and his way of demolishing it is by means of public disgrace. 
Everyone should judge you a madman, phony, or hypocrite. 
This is the price one has to pay for the Bayazidian Truth.
This is the price he paid himself.