Dust, Despair, Cats and Flying Carpets: 

 

Seyh Lokman Efendi’s HZ sohbets have given me countless words of wisdom, hope, and strength. One of the most powerful reminders he often gives is that “hopelessness and despair are from shaytan”. I often repeat this to myself as someone who struggles with feeling despair and weakness. It can be very hard to remember when you have made a mistake and it feels too big to grapple with and you become lost in a conversation with your shaytan instead of consulting with your Murshid. Acknowledging and admitting our mistakes can be a way to avoid despair. In America we are taught by the conventional tarbiyah methods en vogue today,  that we are trying to be perfect Muslims, or at least aiming for that “achievable goal”. Before I learned of tarikat this was a double edged sword for me: I knew that I could never be perfect and yet the arrogant and tough side of me expected perfection from myself and others in ways that were harmful and unrealistic. I knew I was not perfect and made excuses for myself (and others too) while simultaneously holding the delusional thought that I could reach the station of the Holy Prophet AS or the Sahabi ikram (hasha Estagfirullah). This misguided “reminder” is to stop us from “praising the Holy Prophet AS too much, because he was “just a man” while also trying to make us equally accountable to being perfect Muslims, because apparently any “regular man” can do it. (Estagfirullah) 

This is, of course, all contrived nonsense which goes away from traditional teachings of Islam. The nature of the Holy Prophet AS as our intercessor inshaAllah is that he, AS, is essentially very different from us. We should aim to mimic the Holy Prophet AS and his Sahabi Ikram but with the understanding that we will never reach their stations: we should instead aim for the perfection of our own stations, as servants, with limitations and flaws. Similarly, our Seyh is acting as the representative of the Holy Prophet AS and we should also firmly know our place and station according to this sunnat and always behave with the proper edep. As murids we must feel blessed to know our station and the work that is given to us, according to the permission of our Seyh.  A barn cat will never be a lion, but at least it can do its job well, and keep the mice at bay. 

Knowing ourselves and being honest about our limitations, flaws and mistakes is actually part of building a strong faith. One of the many jewels that being in tarikat reveals is the idea that you will fail, you will make mistakes, you will be washed up, and yes it is painful and regrettable, BUT it is entirely necessary for your progress as a murid. Seyh Lokman Efendi Hazretleri often reminds us that we shouldn’t be afraid to act for fear of being washed up; that paralysis and inaction is worse than making a mistake and having to start again, or face scrutiny from our Seyh. Being washed up should not be more frightening to us than being stagnant and stale. As Seyh Efendi so often quotes our beloved master, Mevlana Jelalluddin Rumi Hazretleri: “When someone beats a rug with a stick, he is not beating the rug – his aim is to get rid of the dust. Your inward is full of dust from the veil of ‘I’-ness, and that dust will not leave all at once.” The rug must be cleaned regularly if we are to make progress in cleaning our hearts. This genius analogy becomes even more rich when you realize that a rug only has to do its job to accumulate dust: in living its humble life, dust settles upon it, just like humans who may be fooled into thinking they don’t have egos because they had simple lives. Still, the flat lying rug, collects dust, simply living and serving its purpose; so does man collect mistakes and flaws in going through his life, regardless of his own judgment of his actions, or inaction. Fortunately, however dusty we are when we start on this way, or however dusty we become rolling in the barnyard of our nefs and egos, know that it is a part of the journey and do not despair. The rug’s owner can remove the dust and find the weak strands of the rug, strengthening the worn seams and stitches. Just like an efficient barn cat, playing his role, the humble rug fulfills its purpose in submission to its owner and the threads show its true colors. In the right owner’s hands, a filthy rug may become a flying carpet: cleaned of dust and stains and with the knowledge that falling is simply training for flying. 

 

Biography of Hazrati Selman-i Farisi

Part 1:

 

Introduction

Our Jemaat follows the Naksibendi Tarikat, or Way. The Naksibendi Tarikat has a Golden Chain of 40 Grandseyhs. The first Pir, or head, of the Naksibendi Tarikat, was the great Sahabi beloved to the Holy Prophet AS, Hz. Abu Bakr Siddiq RA. Before Hz. Abu Bakr RA was veiled, he passed his spiritual knowledge to another great Sahabi, also very beloved to the Holy Prophet AS, and the second of the great 40 Grandseyhs, Hz. Selman-i Farisi. Hz. Selman-i Farisi was from Persia.

 

Early Life

Hz. Selman-i Farisi was one of the few of the early Sahabis who were not Arabs. He was originally from Persia, in an area which today is known as the country of Iran. 

 

He was from a region called Isfahan and his village was called Jayaan. His father was the leader of the village and they were a very wealthy and important family, so Hz. Selman-i Farisi was considered to be like a prince. They owned a lot of land and crops and helped to support the village they governed. From a young age, Hz. Selman-i Farisi felt a strong connection to Allah SWT; his family belonged to a religion which believed in One Creator, but they wrongly worshiped fire. Allah SWT mentions the Magians, (known as Majoos in Arabic), in the Quran Kerim which says, “Indeed, those who have believed and those who were Jews and the Sabeans and the Christians and the Magians and those who associated with Allah – Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection. Indeed Allah is, over all things, Witness”. 

 

Hz. Selman-i Farisi’s desire to serve Allah SWT and be connected to Him led him to become dedicated to serving at the temple of the Magians (also known as Zoroastrians in today’s modern language). He (HZ) mentions this in his own autobiography: “I became devoted to the Magian religion so much so that I attained the position of custodian of the fire which we worshiped. My duty was to see that the flames of the fire remained burning and that it did not go out for a single hour, day or night.”

Still, even with his high position at the Magian temple, he did not feel satisfaction in his heart, and he was always longing for Allah SWT. `       

              

 

Search for Truth

 

Hazrati Salman continued living his life and performing the daily work given to him by his father which included going into the fields and harvesting crops. One day as he was on his way to the fields, he passed by a Christian church and heard the singing and prayers of the people inside. He was attracted to this new religion and felt it to be more close to Haqq than the Magian fire worship that he was raised with. After the church service finished he returned home and was confronted by his father. In his own words, Hazrati Salman Al Farisi describes what happened next:

 “My father met me and asked what I had done. I told him about my meeting with the Christians and how I was impressed by their religion. He was dismayed and said:

“My son, there is nothing good in that religion. Your religion and the religion of your forefathers is better.”

“No, their religion is better than ours,” I insisted.

 My father became upset and afraid that I would leave our religion. So he kept me locked up in the house and put a chain on my feet. I managed however to send a message to the Christians asking them to inform me of any caravan going to Syria. Before long they got in touch with me and told me that a caravan was headed for Syria. I managed to unfetter myself and in disguise accompanied the caravan to Syria. There, I asked who was the leading person in the Christian religion and was directed to the bishop of the church. I went up to him and said:

“I want to become a Christian and would like to attach myself to your service, learn from you and pray with you.”  

 

Salman spent the next year of his life learning from the Chrisitan Bishop about Christianity and watching his behavior. Salman found him to be a corrupt man who stole charity donations from the people and kept it for himself. After the Bishop’s death, Salman revealed his corruption to the other followers there who were shocked by the bishop’s crimes. Fortunately, the man who replaced the dead Bishop was an “ascetic” or a person who does not desire the dunya and the riches of the world but rather the hereafter, so he was truthful in how he dealt with the charity donations of the people and how he wanted to please God almighty. Salman was happy with this new teacher and continued serving him until he also died. After that, he traveled to far away lands, each time going to a new Christian teacher who would guide him in seeking the pleasure of Allah SWT and whom Salman Hazretleri would serve. The last Christian teacher he served told him a secret of a new Prophet that would be coming soon to the land of the Arabs, to a city of palm trees and who would be known as a truthful and just Prophet (this man was telling him about the coming of Holy Prophet AS). This Prophet would not accept charity for himself, and he would have a “seal of Prophethood”, like a birthmark, between his shoulder blades. Salman, who always wanted to come closer and closer to Allah SWT, decided after the death of this last teacher that he needed to seek out this new Prophet and serve and learn from him. He made an agreement with some traders to ride with them to the land of the Arabs; at first they agreed, but then they broke their contract before reaching Arabia and sold him into slavery to a Jewish man. Salman Al Farisi who had once been a prince and held a high station in his town, was now an ordinary slave, owned by cruel men, in a place far away from his homeland.   


To be continued inshAllah…

Wintertime: The Season of the Believer 

Destur Medat Sheykh Lokman Efendi HZ

As I am writing this, snow is falling outside my window in large cotton wool clumps, slowly covering the streets and the cars, and weighing down pine tree branches with layer upon layer of pure white. Upstate New York still feels like a foreign place for me, a transplanted Californian, who now calls the Dergah and this way home, more than any specific state or country. I’ve been here a little over a year and a half and been through one winter, which was long, but relatively painless except for one freak snowstorm in May that left us without power or heat for a couple of days. Sheykh Lokman Efendi HZ said it was good practice for hard times that may come when we least expect it, and I echoed that to myself, as I worried about when the house would be warm again. With our Sheykh’s himmet, it wasn’t long before the wires were all repaired and summer finally showed up fashionably late, yet beautiful.   

Where I come from, it doesn’t snow, except very lightly in some eastern mountains, about an hour outside of the city. In fact, the region is (like all of Southern California) a desert, though the people who settled and developed it would have you believe otherwise. They transformed it into a “Mediterranean” paradise on earth; a place that has come to signify wealth, beauty, gratuity, and desire. They did the landscaping to match all that: palm trees, luxurious flowering plants, exotic tropicals, and lots of green grass, all impostors sucking up the scarce imported water to maintain an elaborate mirage. As a person who has worked with plants for years and always loved them, this constructed “Eden” had its benefits, however like all fake and contrived things, the image cracks up close. It turns out that all those exotic species need even more water to thrive in a desert environment and this particular desert is prone to catching fire on a regular basis. This forces the inhabitants to rebuild the mirage, which they do vigorously, while also never learning their lesson: that you can’t make a lasting paradise on earth to suit your whims, there’s larger divine laws ruling over mankind’s eager construction. Perhaps one of the most poignant realizations I had living there was that some plants actually need to freeze, to thrive. The fake desert paradise couldn’t even live up to its own hype, some things just simply wouldn’t grow there despite all their claims to the contrary. Yes friends, the cold is like a secret key to some of the most beautiful trees and bountiful crops that cover our tables in the height of summer; no buds set to make flowers and then form fruit without a biting cold that puts all warmth in its grave.     

Sheyhk Efendi always reminds us that the cold and snow bring their own gifts to the believer. Just as we revel in the spring and summer and the visible, dramatic color changes of fall, the winter is something we must come to value as an opportunity to make teffekur. He tells us it is a mercy that humans are compelled to cover themselves in the cold. It’s a simple and natural way to run away from sin: from showing too much and seeing too much in these times when the entire world seems to want to flaunt all of their secrets. Everyone happily wears a burka when it’s 10 below zero. It’s a time to stay inside and not be busy with the outside world and the traps of dunya more than what is absolutely necessary. The cold has a way of ordering your priorities and reminding you of your smallness and weakness, two things which are essential to the perspective of a believer. The warmth of anger, of ego and nafs are not enough to survive a snowstorm and the freezing wind laughs at your stubbornness. The cold demands you break your addiction to control and false power; that you admit your own vulnerability and dependence upon Allah SWT for every facet of your existence and comfort.  

Sheykh Efendi also tells how Sahib el- Seyf (KS) used to say the snow is the shroud that covers the earth: an icy keffin reminding us to reflect on death, to slow down, to contemplate by the wood stove, or the tea kettle, the impermanence of our mortal lives and the certainty of their end. How beyond this great sign is Allah SWT’s power to raise everything from that stiff cold into a burst of  rapturous spring. That with this great power, Allah SWT will raise ALL things again. The very absence of green life becomes a reminder of it, of Allah’s promise to raise everyone and everything again on judgment day, so that we might complete the seasons of our journey back to Him SWT. May our graves be gardens upon our deaths and a restful place until that day when there is no shade. May we all be the thinking believers that reflect on such great signs given by our Sheykhs and may their stations be raised higher and higher, amin.   

 

With the blessings and permission of our Sheyhh we end with the dua of the Holy Prophet AS: 

اللَّهُمَّ اغْسِلْ خَطَايَاىَ بِمَاءِ الثَّلْجِ وَالْبَرَدِ، وَنَقِّ قَلْبِي مِنَ الْخَطَايَا، كَمَا يُنَقَّى الثَّوْبُ الأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الدَّنَسِ، وَبَاعِدْ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَ خَطَايَاىَ كَمَا بَاعَدْتَ بَيْنَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ

“O Allah! Wash away my sins with the water of snow and hail, and cleanse my heart from the sins as a white garment is cleansed of filth, and let there be a far away distance between me and my sins as You have set far away the East and the West from each other.”

 

Amin Allahuma Amin, Fatiha