THERE are ten principal Sufi thoughts, which comprise
all the important subjects with which the inner life of
man is concerned.
'There is One God, the Eternal, the Only Being; none
exists save He.'
The God of the Sufi is the God of every creed, and the
God of all. Names make no difference to him. Allah, God,
Gott, Dieu, Khuda, Brahma, or Bhagwan, all these names and
more are the names of his God; and yet to him God is beyond
the limitation of name. He sees his God in the sun, in the
fire, in the idol which diverse sects worship; and he recognizes
Him in all the forms of the universe, yet knowing Him to
be beyond all form; God in all, and all in God, He being
the Seen and the Unseen, the Only Being. God to the Sufi
is not only a religious belief, but also the highest ideal
the human mind can conceive.
The Sufi, forgetting the self and aiming at the attainment
of the divine ideal, walks constantly all through life in
the path of love and light. In God the Sufi sees the perfection
of all that is in the reach of man's perception and yet
he knows Him to be above human reach. He looks to Him as
the lover to his beloved, and takes all things in life as
coming from Him, with perfect resignation. The sacred name
of God is to him as medicine to the patient. The divine
thought is the compass by which he steers the ship to the
shores of immortality. The God-ideal is to the Sufi as a
lift by which he raises himself to the eternal goal, the
attainment of which is the only purpose of his life.
'There is One Master, the Guiding Spirit of all Souls,
Who constantly leads His followers towards the light.'
The Sufi understands that although God is the source
of all knowledge, inspiration, and guidance, yet man is
the medium through which God chooses to impart His knowledge
to the world. He imparts it through one who is a man in
the eyes of the world, but God in his consciousness. It
is the mature soul that draws blessings from the heavens,
and God speaks through that soul. Although the tongue of
God is busy speaking through all things, yet in order to
speak to the deaf ears of many among us, it is necessary
for Him to speak through the lips of man. He has done this
all through the history of man, every great teacher of the
past having been this Guiding Spirit living the life of
God in human guise. In other words, their human guise consists
of various coats worn by the same person, who appeared to
be different in each. Shiva, Buddha, Rama, Krishna on the
one side, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad on the other;
and many more, known or unknown to history, always one and
the same person.
Those who saw the person and knew Him recognized Him
in whatever form or guise; those who could only see the
coat went astray. To the Sufi therefore there is only one
Teacher, however differently He may be named at different
periods of history, and He comes constantly to awaken humanity
from the slumber of this life of illusion, and to guide
man onwards towards divine perfection. As the Sufi progresses
in this view he recognizes his Master, not only in the holy
ones, but in the wise, in the foolish, in the saint and
in the sinner, and has never allowed the Master who is One
alone, and the only One who can be and who ever will be,
to disappear from his sight.
The Persian word for Master is Murshid. The Sufi recognizes
the Murshid in all beings of the world, and is ready to
learn from young and old, educated and uneducated, rich
and poor, without questioning from whom he learns. Then
he begins to see the light of Risalat, the torch
of truth which shines before him in every being and thing
in the universe, thus he sees Rasul, his Divine Message
Bearer, a living identity before him. Thus the Sufi sees
the vision of God, the worshipped deity, in His immanence,
manifest in nature, and life now becomes for him a perfect
revelation both within and without.
It is often for no other reason than clinging to the
personality of their particular teacher, claiming for him
superiority over other teachers, and degrading a teacher
held in the same esteem by others, that people have separated
themselves from one another, and caused most of the wars
and factions and contentions which history records among
the children of God.
What the Spirit of Guidance is, can be further explained
as follows: as in man there is a faculty for art, music,
poetry and science, so in him is the faculty or spirit of
guidance. It is better to call it spirit because it is the
supreme faculty from which all the others originate. As
we see that in every person there is some artistic faculty,
but not everyone is an artist, as everyone can hum a tune
but only one in a thousand is a musician, so every person
possesses this faculty in some form and to a limited degree;
but the spirit of guidance is found among few indeed of
the human race.
A Sanskrit poet says, 'Jewels are stones, but cannot
be found everywhere; the sandal tree is a tree, but does
not grow in every forest; as there are many elephants, but
only one king elephant, so there are human beings all over
the world, but the real human being is rarely to be found.'
When we arise above faculty and consider the Spirit of
Guidance, we shall find that it is consummated in the Bodhisattva,
the spiritual teacher or divine messenger. There is a saying
that the reformer is the child of civilization, but the
prophet is its father. This spirit has always existed, and
must always exist; and in this way from time to time the
message of God has been given.
'There is One Holy Book, the sacred manuscript of
nature, the only scripture which can enlighten the reader.'
Most people consider as sacred scriptures only certain
books or scrolls written by the hand of man, and carefully
preserved as holy, to be handed down to posterity as divine
revelation. Men have fought and disputed over the authenticity
of these books, have refused to accept any other book of
similar character, and, clinging thus to the book and losing
the sense of it, have formed diverse sects. The Sufi has
in all ages respected all such books, and has traced in
the Vedanta, Zend-Avesta, Kabbala, Bible, Quran, and all
other sacred scriptures, the same truth which he reads in
the incorruptible manuscript of nature, the only Holy Book,
the perfect and living model that teaches the inner law
of life: all scriptures before nature's manuscript are as
little pools of water before the ocean.
To the eye of the seer every leaf of the tree is a page
of the holy book that contains divine revelation, and he
is inspired every moment of his life by constantly reading
and understanding the holy script of nature.
When man writes, he inscribes characters upon rock, leaf,
paper, wood, or steel. When God writes, the characters He
writes are living creatures.
It is when the eye of the soul is opened and the sight
is keen that the Sufi can read the divine law in the manuscript
of nature; and that which the teachers of humanity have
taught to their followers was derived by them from the same
source. They expressed what little it is possible to express
in words, and so they preserved the inner truth when they
themselves were no longer there to reveal it.
'There is One Religion, the unswerving progress in
the right direction towards the ideal, which fulfills the
life's purpose of every soul.'
Religion in the Sanskrit language is termed Dharma, which
means duty. The duty of every individual is religion. 'Every
soul is born for a certain purpose, and the light of that
purpose is kindled in his soul' says Sadi. This explains
why the Sufi in his tolerance allows everyone to have his
own path, and does not compare the principles of others
with his own, but allows freedom of thought to everyone,
since he himself is a freethinker.
Religion, in the conception of a Sufi, is the path that
leads man towards the attainment of his ideal, worldly as
well as heavenly. Sin and virtue, right and wrong, good
and bad are not the same in the case of every individual;
they are according to his grade of evolution and state of
life. Therefore the Sufi concerns himself little with the
name of the religion or the place of worship. All places
are sacred enough for his worship, and all religions convey
to him the religion of his soul. 'I saw Thee in the sacred
Kaba and in the temple of the idol also Thee I saw.'
'There is One Law, the law of reciprocity, which can
be observed by a selfless conscience, together with a sense
of awakened justice.'
Man spends his life in the pursuit of all that seems
to him to be profitable for himself and, when so absorbed
in self-interest, in time he even loses touch with his own
real interest. Man has made laws to suit himself, but they
are laws by which he can get the better of another. It is
this that he calls justice, and it is only that which is
done to him by another that he calls injustice. A peaceful
and harmonious life with his fellow men cannot be led until
the sense of justice has been awakened in him by a selfless
conscience. As the judicial authorities of the world intervene
between two persons who are at variance, knowing that they
have a right to intervene when the two parties in dispute
are blinded by personal interest, so the Almighty Power
intervenes in all disputes however small or great.
It is the law of reciprocity which saves man from being
exposed to the higher powers, as a considerate man has less
chance of being brought before the court. The sense of justice
is awakened in a perfectly sober mind; that is, one which
is free from the intoxication of youth, strength, power,
possession, command, birth, or rank. It seems a net profit
when one does not give but takes, or when one gives less
and takes more; but in either case there is really a greater
loss than profit. For every such profit spreads a cover
over the sense of justice within, and when many such covers
have veiled the sight, man becomes blind even to his own
profit. It is like standing in one's own light. 'Blind here
remains blind in the hereafter.'
Although the different religions, in teaching man how
to act harmoniously and peacefully with his fellow men,
have given out different laws, they all meet in this one
truth: do unto others as thou wouldst they should do unto
thee. The Sufi, in taking a favor from another, enhances
its value, and in accepting what another does to him he
'There is One Brotherhood, the human brotherhood which
unites the children of earth indiscriminately in the Fatherhood
The Sufi understands that the one life emanating from
the inner Being is manifested on the surface as the life
of variety; and in this world of variety man is the finest
manifestation, for he can realize in his evolution the oneness
of the inner being even in the external existence of variety.
But he evolves to this ideal, which is the only purpose
of his coming on earth, by uniting himself with another.
Man unites with others in the family tie, which is the
first step in his evolution, and yet families in the past
have fought with each other, and have taken vengeance upon
one another for generations, each considering his cause
to be the only true and righteous one. Today man shows his
evolution in uniting with his neighbors and fellow-citizens,
and even developing within himself the spirit of patriotism
for his nation. He is greater in this respect than those
in the past; and yet men so united nationally have caused
the catastrophe of the modern wars, which will be regarded
by the coming generations in the same light in which we
now regard the family feuds of the past.
There are racial bonds which widen the circle of unity
still more, but it has always happened that one race has
looked down on the other.
The religious bond shows a still higher ideal. But it
has caused diverse sects, which have opposed and despised
each other for thousands of years, and have caused endless
splits and divisions among men. The germ of separation exists
even in such a wide scope for brotherhood, and however widespread
the brotherhood may be; it cannot be a perfect one as long
as it separates man from man.
The Sufi, realizing this, frees himself from national,
racial, and religious boundaries, uniting himself in the
human brotherhood, which is devoid of the differences and
distinctions of class, caste, creed, race, nation, or religion,
and unites mankind in the universal brotherhood.
'There is One Moral, the love which springs forth
from self-denial and blooms in deeds of beneficence.'
There are moral principles taught to mankind by various
teachers, by many traditions, one differing from the other,
which are like separate drops coming out of the fountain.
But when we look at the stream, we find there is but one
stream, although it turns into several drops on falling.
There are many moral principles, just as many drops fall
from one fountain; but there is one stream that is at the
source of all, and that is love. It is love that gives birth
to hope, patience, endurance, forgiveness, tolerance, and
to all moral principles. All deeds of kindness and beneficence
take root in the soil of the loving heart. Generosity, charity,
adaptability, an accommodating nature, even renunciation,
are the offspring of love alone. The great, rare and chosen
beings, who for ages have been looked up to as ideal in
the world, are the possessors of hearts kindled with love.
All evil and sin come from the lack of love.
People call love blind, but love in reality is the
light of the sight. The eye can only see the surface;
love can see much deeper. All ignorance is the lack of
love. As fire when not kindled gives only smoke, but
when kindled, the illuminating flame springs forth, so it is with love. It
is blind when undeveloped, but, when its fire is kindled,
the flame that lights the path of the traveler from mortality
to everlasting life springs forth. The secrets of earth
and heaven are revealed to the possessor of the loving heart,
the lover has gained mastery over himself and others, and
he not only communes with God but also unites with Him.
'Hail to thee, then, O love, sweet madness! Thou who
healest all our infirmities! Who art the physician of our
pride and self-conceit! Who art our Plato and our Galen!'
'There is One Object of Praise, the beauty which uplifts
the heart of its worshippers through all aspects from the
seen to the unseen.'
It is said in the Hadith, 'God is beautiful, and He loves
This expresses the truth that man, who inherits the Spirit
of God, has beauty in him and loves beauty, although that
which is beautiful to one is not beautiful to another. Man
cultivates the sense of beauty as he evolves, and prefers
the higher aspect of beauty to the lower. But when he has
observed the highest vision of beauty in the Unseen by a
gradual evolution from praising the beauty in the seen world,
then the entire existence becomes to him one single vision
Man has worshipped God, beholding the beauty of sun,
moon, stars, and planets. He has worshipped God in plants,
in animals. He has recognized God in the beautiful merits
of man, and he has with his perfect view of beauty found
the source of all beauty in the Unseen, from whence all
this springs, and in Whom all is merged.
The Sufi, realizing this, worships beauty in all its
aspects, and sees the face of the Beloved in all that is
seen and the Beloved's spirit in the Unseen. So wherever
he looks his ideal of worship is before him. 'Everywhere
I look, I see Thy winning face; everywhere I go, I arrive
at Thy dwelling-place.'
'There is One Truth, the true knowledge of our being,
within and without, which is the essence of all wisdom.'
Hazrat Ali says, 'Know thyself, and thou shalt know God.'
It is the knowledge of self which blooms into the knowledge
of God. Self-knowledge answers such problems as: whence
have I come? Did I exist before I became conscious of my
present existence? If I existed, as what did I exist? As
an individual such as I now am, or as a multitude, or as
an insect, bird, animal, spirit, jinn, or angel? What happens
at death, the change to which every creature is subject?
Why do I tarry here awhile? What purpose have I to accomplish
here? What is my duty in life? In what does my happiness
consist, and what is it that makes my life miserable?
Those whose hearts have been kindled by the light from
above, begin to ponder such questions but those whose souls
are already illumined by the knowledge of the self understand
them. It is they who give to individuals or to the multitudes
the benefit of their knowledge, so that even men whose hearts
are not yet kindled, and whose souls are not illuminated,
may be able to walk on the right path that leads to perfection.
This is why people are taught in various languages, in
various forms of worship, in various tenets in different
parts of the world. It is one and the same truth; it is
only seen in diverse aspects appropriate to the people and
the time. It is only those who do not understand this who
can mock at the faith of another, condemning to hell or
destruction those who do not consider their faith to be
the only true faith.
The Sufi recognizes the knowledge of self as the essence
of all religions; he traces it in every religion, he sees
the same truth in each, and therefore he regards all as
one. Hence he can realize the saying of Jesus; 'I and my
Father are one.' The difference between creature and Creator
remains on his lips, not in his soul. This is what is meant
by union with God. It is in reality the dissolving of the
false self in the knowledge of the true self, which is divine,
eternal, and all pervading. 'He who attaineth union with
God, his very self must lose,' said Amir.
'There is One Path, the annihilation of the false
ego in the real, which raises the mortal to immortality,
in which resides all perfection.'
'I passed away into nothingness – I vanished; and lo!
I was all living.' All who have realized the secret of life
understand that life is one, but that it exists in two aspects.
First as immortal, all-pervading and silent; and secondly
as mortal, active, and manifest in variety. The soul being
of the first aspect becomes deluded, helpless, and captive
by experiencing life in contact with the mind and body,
which is of the next aspect. The gratification of the desires
of the body and fancies of the mind do not suffice for the
purpose of the soul, which is undoubtedly to experience
its own phenomena in the seen and the unseen, though its
inclination is to be itself and not anything else. When
delusion makes it feel that it is helpless, mortal and captive,
it finds itself out of place. This is the tragedy of life,
which keeps the strong and the weak, the rich and poor,
all dissatisfied, constantly looking for something they
do not know. The Sufi, realizing this, takes the path of
annihilation, and, by the guidance of a teacher on the path,
finds at the end of this journey that the destination was
he. As Iqbal says:
I wandered in the pursuit of my own self;
I was the traveler,
and I am the destination.