WHAT is a Sufi? Strictly speaking, every seeker after
the ultimate truth is really a Sufi, whether he calls himself
that or not. But as he seeks truth according to his own
particular point of view, he often finds it difficult to
believe that others, from their different points of view,
are yet seeking the same truth, and always with success,
though to a varying degree. That is in fact the point of
view of the Sufi and it differs from others only in its
constant endeavor to comprehend all others as within itself.
It seeks to realize that every person, following his own
particular line in life, nevertheless fits into the scheme
of the whole and finally attains not only his own goal,
but the one final goal of all.
Hence every person can be called a Sufi either as long
as he is seeking to understand life, or as soon as he is
willing to believe that every other human being will also
find and touch the same ideal. When a person opposes or
hinders the expression of a great ideal, and is unwilling
to believe that he will meet his fellow men as soon as he
has penetrated deeply enough into every soul, he is preventing
himself from realizing the unlimited. All beliefs are simply
degrees of clearness of vision. All are part of one ocean
of truth. The more this is realized the easier is it to
see the true relationship between all beliefs, and the wider
does the vision of the one great ocean become.
Limitations and boundaries are inevitable in human life;
forms and conventions are natural and necessary; but they
none the less separate humanity. It is the wise who can
meet one another beyond these boundaries.
What is the Sufi's belief regarding the coming of a World
Teacher, or, as some speak if it, the 'Second Coming of
Christ?' The Sufi is free from beliefs and disbeliefs, and
yet gives every liberty to people to have their own opinion.
There is no doubt that if an individual or a multitude believe
that a teacher or a reformer will come, he will surely come
to them. Similarly, in the case of those who do not believe
that any teacher or reformer will come, to them he will
not come. To those who expect the Teacher to be a man, a
man will bring the message; to those who expect the Teacher
to be a woman, a woman must deliver it. To those who call
on God, God comes. To those who knock at the door of Satan,
Satan answers. There is an answer to every call. To a Sufi
the Teacher is never absent, whether he comes in one form
or in a thousand forms he is always one to him, and the
same One he recognizes to be in all, and all Teachers he
sees in his one Teacher alone. For a Sufi, the self within,
the self without, the kingdom of the earth, the kingdom
of heaven, the whole being is his teacher, and his every
moment is engaged in acquiring knowledge. For some, the
Teacher has already come and gone, for others the Teacher
may still come, but for a Sufi the Teacher has always been
and will remain with him forever.
What is the position of the Sufi with regard to Christ?
The question asked by Jesus Himself, 'What think ye of Christ?'
itself provides the answer. The emphasis is on the 'ye'.
There are as many thoughts of Him as there are people who
express them. The Sufi does not limit himself by expressing
them. Christ is the name of his ideal, or Rasul
as it is called in Arabic. All that centers on Rasul centers
in Christ. The two conceptions are one. All the names and
functions which have helped to form the conception of Christ,
Prophet, Priest, King, Savior, Bridegroom, Beloved, all
these are understood by the Sufi. By constant meditation
he realizes all these aspects of the One, and beyond that
Allah or God.
In considering the question of being initiated into the
Sufi Order. There is in the first place the inclination
to know something different from what is taught in the world.
One feels the desire to seek for something though one knows
not what. One feels that the opposite, good and evil, right
and wrong, friend and foe are not so far apart as one used
to think. At the same time the heart is felt to be more
sympathetic than ever before, and the sense of justice makes
one wish to judge oneself before judging others. This all
shows that one may look for a guide through these unknown
Then there is the feeling, especially after reading or
hearing something about Sufism that one is already really
a Sufi that one is at one with the circle of Sufis. One
may now feel drawn to the spirit of the Teacher from whose
hand initiation may be taken.
And thirdly there is the feeling, after studying the
books published by the movement, or after speaking with
the Pir-o-Murshid, that the message is genuine.
Then the question arises: what is meant by initiation?
Initiation, or in Sufi terms Bayat, first of all
has to do with the relationship between the pupil and the
Murshid. The Murshid is understood to be the counselor on
the spiritual path. He does not give anything to or teach
the pupil, the mureed, for he cannot give what the latter
already has; he cannot teach what his soul has always known.
What he does in the life of the mureed is to show him how
he can clear his path towards the light within by his own
self. This is the only purpose of man's life on earth. One
may attain the purpose of life without a personal guide,
but to try to do so is to be like a ship traversing the
ocean without a compass. To take initiation, then, means
entrusting one self in regard to spiritual matters to a
The next thing to be decided is, if I must have a personal
guide, whom shall I take as guide? There is no stamp of
spirituality, or seal of perfection marked upon any man's
forehead which enables one to say, 'This is the man from
whose hand to take the Bayat.' neither his appearance nor
his words can be relied on as evidence of his worth. The
only thing that can be relied upon is the appeal of his
soul in one's heart. Even so, one must satisfy oneself whether
it is evil appealing to the devil in one, or God appealing
to the good in one.
There are three ways in which people trust. One is not
to trust a person until he proves in time to be trustworthy.
To those who trust in this way there will be no satisfactory
gain on this path, for they will go on, like a spy, trying
and testing the Murshid with their eyes focused downward.
Hence they can only see the imperfect self of the teacher,
and will never be able to see the beauty of the perfect
self, above and beyond the limits of their view.
The second way of trusting is to trust and to continue
to do so until the person is proved unworthy of trust. Those
who trust in this way are better suited than the first,
for if their trust makes their sight keen they will have
every prospect of development, provided that intelligence
guides them all the way.
But the third way of trusting a person is to have an
absolute trust, and to continue until it be proved true.
This is the trust of devotees. It is these mureeds who make
the Murshid. It is such worshippers who made God. 'By faith,
a tongue is produced from the rock, and it speaks to us
as God, but when faith is lacking, even God, the Eternal
Being, is as dead as a rock.' The word of the Murshid is
as useless to the doubting mind as a remedy to the unbelieving
To become an initiate in the Sufi Order therefore implies
a willingness to agree with its teachings and objects; a
willingness to cease to attach importance to the differences
of the world's various faiths, and to see in all the Masters
only one embodiment of the divine Spirit, and thirdly it
implies that one is not already following another course
of spiritual training. In such a case, why go to another
kind of teacher as well? It would be like traveling in two
boats, one foot in each. When each boat goes its own way,
although they meet in the end at the same goal, yet the
traveler will sink in the sea. No one could seek guidance
under two teachers except out of lack of patience with the
one or lack of confidence in the other, making him still
cling to the first.
The objects one should have in taking initiation under
the Murshid are: to realize the self within and without;
to know and communicate with God, whom alone the world worships;
to kindle the fire of divine love, which alone has any value;
to be able the read nature's manuscript and to be able to
see in the world unseen; to learn how to control oneself;
to light the torch of the soul and to kindle the fire of
the heart; to journey through this positive existence and
arrive in this life at the goal at which every soul is bound
in the end to arrive. It is better to arrive in the light
than to be only transported through the dark. 'Who is blind
here will be blind in the hereafter.'
Therefore, one does not take initiation for the sake
of curiosity to see what is going on in a 'secret' Order.
Such a one will certainly not be able to see what he wishes
to, for only the eye of sincerity can see. The eye of curiosity
has the cataract of doubt, and is blind already. Neither
does one take initiation for the sake of gaining some material
advantage in one's occupation. Initiation is not a scientist's
process, or an engineer's invention, or a business enterprise;
it is not something that can be stolen, nor anything to
be bought. It is revelation, which has new offspring at
every moment, which can never be stolen by a thief. The
only process for gaining it is righteousness, and when its
light is covered under a bushel, even the Jam
of mystery stolen from Jamshed will serve no better
than an earthen bowl.
One does not take initiation for the sake of attaining
happiness. It is true that one cannot attain wisdom without
deriving a certain advantage from it, as it is more advantageous
to be wise than ignorant. But it is not for this that the
journey is entered upon. However, as he progresses on the
spiritual path the Sufi becomes aware of a wonderful peace
which inevitably comes from the constant presence of God.
Many people of various beliefs and faiths have written
about the practice of the presence of God, and all speak
of the happiness they receive from being in His presence.
So it is no wonder that the Sufi also, should he wish to
speak of it, should testify to similar happiness. He does
not claim to a greater happiness than his fellow men because
he is a human being and subject to all the shortcomings
of mankind. But at the same time others can decide about
his happiness better even than his words can tell it. The
happiness which is experienced in God has no equal in anything
in the world, however precious it may be, and everyone who
experiences it will realize the same.
One should not seek initiation if one has set before
oneself certain principles one does not wish to abandon.
One might find that the foundation one has built does not
correspond with the building now to be erected upon it.
Such is the person who goes from one teacher to another,
from one method to another, and is never able to gain that
which is only to be obtained through steadfastness. Those
who have a desire to teach while coming to learn should
not pose as disciples; they must come as teachers.
Are there any conditions imposed in a would-be initiate?
No one need fear taking initiation from the idea that he
undertakes something he may not be able to fulfill. If he
does not wish to progress beyond a certain point, that is
only for himself to say. The only thing that happens when
a person is initiated, is that from the hour of initiation
one is the brother of all in the Sufi Movement, of all other
Sufis outside the Sufi Movement, of all knowers of truth,
whether they call themselves Sufi or not, and of every human
being, without distinction of caste, creed, race, nation,
or religion. One is the companion of the illuminated souls
of the Sufis living on earth and of those who have passed
to the other side of life. Thus one is linked with the chain
of Murshids and Prophets, and so enabled to receive the
light running through this current, through the chain of
masters. And one is the confidant to the Murshid and of
the Order. Therefore the initiate takes a vow in his heart
to make use to the best of his ability of all he receives
from the Sufi teaching and practices, not using any parts
for selfish purposes. These teachings have been kept secret
for thousands of years, so why should they go out of the
Order without the Pir-o-Murshid's authorization?
One may ask why there is any secrecy about the teaching.
If true, why should it not be scattered broadcast? This
implies that secrecy is objectionable. The answer however
is quite easy. A certain secrecy is necessary in that some
of the Sufi conceptions might easily be misunderstood and
misused, were they exposed to the general public. The earnest
pupil will not speak of them without due consideration of
his audience. A further point is that when a teacher is
not absolutely dependent on his pupils, he will prefer to
select his pupils. If a person wished to go to the very
best master of the violin, he would seek out a virtuoso
of fame. But the latter might not care to spend time upon
him; he would if he were sure that the pupil would faithfully
do all he was asked to do and attain to something like
the standard of the virtuoso himself.
Whatever instruction he gives his pupil is naturally
'secret'; it is a personal matter; the pupil may hand it
on to his own pupils later, but he does not have it printed
and circulated indiscriminately. The secrecy is no more
than this. It may also be said that every school which gives
the initiate special personal instruction trusts that respect
shall be paid to that which it teaches. All teaching can
be misconstrued and perverted and made to appear ridiculous.
To do this with Sufi teachings, consciously or inadvertently,
will not help the pupil. A certain medicine may be good
for a sick person at a certain time, but this does not mean
it should be used by every sick person in the world. Nor
would it be any advantage to anyone, if the exact medicine
were to be published indiscriminately. It there should arise
need to say what it was, the doctor would not withhold the
Where there is a need to explain the Sufi teachings,
the Murshid will explain them. The books published by the
Sufi Movement set forth many of the teachings, so that it
cannot be said that they are kept rigidly secret. But the
very intimate thoughts, to which the Sufi is accustomed,
are naturally not uttered indiscriminately, any more than
an ordinary person will speak of his private affairs to
The fruit must be of a certain degree of ripeness before
its taste becomes sweet. So the soul must be of a certain
development before it will handle wisdom with wisdom. The
developed soul shows his fragrance in his atmosphere, color,
the expression of his countenance, and sweetness of his
personality, as a flower spreads its fragrance around, and
as a fruit when ripe changes its color and becomes sweet.
One may ask why the awakened ones do not awaken people
in the world from the sleep of confusion. The answer is
that it is not to be advised that little children, whose
only happiness is slumber, should be awakened. Their growth
depends on their sleep. If they are kept up late they become
ill, and will not be so useful in the affairs of life when
they are grown up. Childhood needs more sleep, and the children
must sleep. Such is the nature of immature souls. They are
children, however old their bodies may appear. Their fancies,
their joys, their delights are for unimportant things in
life, as the life of children is absorbed in sweets and
toys. Therefore those who are awakened walk slowly and gently,
lest their footsteps may disturb the slumber of the sleeping
ones. They only awaken on their way those whom they find
tossing in their beds. They are the ones to whom the travelers
on the spiritual path give their hand quietly. It is for
this reason that the spiritual path is called the mystical
way. It is not unkind to awaken a few and to let many sleep,
but on the other hand it is great kindness to let those
slumber who require sleep.
During his mureedship the initiate should avoid wonder-working;
claiming to know or possess something unfamiliar to one's
fellow men; casting out devils; communication with spirits;
character-reading; fortune-telling; appearing otherwise
in conversation with others about spiritual things, and
looking to others for approbation. Also sanctimoniousness,
over-righteousness, and teaching and advising others before
having learnt one's own self, which is as dangerous as giving
the same medicine to another that the doctor has prescribed
During discipleship, the habit of discipline should be
adopted which makes the ideal mureed. Self-denial is the
chief religion, and this can only be learnt by discipline.
It is as necessary in the path of discipleship as for a
soldier on the battlefield; in the absence of it the mureed
holds fast the very thing which he wishes to crush by taking
the initiation. 'Mastery is in service, and it is the servant
who alone can be master.'
One should also have a respectful attitude to the Murshid.
This is not to raise the honor of the teacher in his own
eyes, or in the eyes of others. It is to learn a respectful
attitude by first having it towards one who deserves it.
The mureed may then be able to develop in his nature the
same respect for all, as a little girl by playing with a
doll learns the lesson of motherhood. To respect another
means to deduct that much vanity from ourselves, the vanity
which is only the veil between man and God.
During the period of mureedship sobriety, and equable
mind, and serious habit, regularity in all things, diligence,
a desire for solitude, a reserved demeanor, and unassuming
manner, a pure life, and uninterrupted daily spiritual meditations,
The Sufi is the student of two worlds, the world within
and the world without. The world within is equivalent to
what is popularly named 'the next world', because of the
widespread belief that time is the all-important factor;
that we have a life now, and another life at another time.
The Sufi knows otherwise. The world without has two aspects,
the social world in which we are placed, and the greater
world which is the topic of history, past, present, or prophetic.
The world within can be entered only by the student himself,
though he may learn about it as 'esotericism', a subject
which also has two aspects, that of the forces in the mind
and that of the divine light. The latter is the real goal
of the Sufi's inquiry, it is his Shekinah, and it is his
Holy of Holies.
Is Sufism a religion? It should be clear from the above
explanation that the religion of the Sufi is not separate
from the religions of the world. People have fought in vain
about the names and lives of their saviors, and have named
their religions after the name of their savior, instead
of uniting with each other in the truth that is taught.
This truth can be traced in all religions, whether one community
calls another pagan or infidel or heathen. Such persons
claim that theirs is the only scripture, and their place
of worship the only abode of God. Sufism is a name applied
to a certain philosophy by those who do not accept the philosophy;
hence it cannot really be described as a religion; it contains
a religion but is not itself a religion. Sufism is a religion
if one wishes to learn religion from it. But it is beyond
religion, for it is the light, the sustenance of every soul,
raising the mortal being to immortality.
As matters stand today, each one claims his own religion
to be the best, and he has his own religion. The Sufi tolerates
all, and considers them all his; therefore he does not belong
to a religion but all religions belong to him. He can see
all the religions like so many forms in a school: some are
in one, others are in higher forms, that is, some study
life more deeply. And in each class in the school there
are pupils who like to play.
To say, 'You are not of my religion; my religion alone
is true,' is as reasonable as to say, 'You are not a lawyer,
a merchant, a scholar; your way of carrying on life is false;
you must become as I.'
To say, 'All who are in my religion are saved' is as
reasonable as to say, 'Every lawyer, merchant, scholar (as
the case may be) is earnest, and performs his work perfectly.'
Some speak of 'nominal' Christians, and 'true' Christians;
this is only another way of saying that some persons are
earnest about their work and others play.
Is Sufism a belief? What do we mean by the word 'belief?'
It is the nature of mind to believe, and disbelief comes
after. No unbeliever was born an unbeliever; for if a soul
disbelieved from childhood he would never learn to speak.
All the knowledge that man possesses he has acquired by
belief. When he strengthens his belief by knowledge then
comes disbelief in things that his knowledge cannot cope
with, and in things that his reason cannot justify. He then
disbelieves things that he once believed in. An unbeliever
is one who has changed his belief to disbelief; disbelief
often darkens the soul, but sometimes it illuminates it.
There is a Persian saying, 'Until belief has changed to
disbelief, and, again, the disbelief into a belief, a man
does not become a real Muslim.' But when disbelief becomes
a wall and stands against the further penetration of mind
into life, then it darkens the soul, for there is no chance
of further progress, and man's pride and satisfaction in
what he knows limit the scope of his vision.
A constant 'why' arises in the minds of the intelligent,
and when this 'why' is answered by life to man's satisfaction,
he goes on further and further, penetrating through all
different planes of life. When this 'why' does not get a
satisfactory answer from life, the doubt, dismay, and dissatisfaction
arise and result in confusion, bewilderment, and despair.
Sometimes belief proves to be worse than disbelief. This
is when a person, set in his belief, hinders his own progress
not allowing his mind to go further into the research of
life, refusing guidance and advice from another, in order
that he may preserve his own belief. Thus a belief which
is preserved as a virtue becomes the greatest sin. Both
belief and disbelief, by practice, in time become natural
tendencies; the person who is inclined to believe gets into
a habit of believing all things and everything, and an unbeliever
in time comes to disbelieve everything whether right or
wrong. The optimistic temperament is the temperament of
the believer, and pessimism is as a rule the nature of the
unbeliever. The prophets have always promised a reward for
the believer, and have threatened the unbeliever with punishment,
because the chance for spiritual enlightenment is only in
the life of the believer, while the unbeliever covers his
soul by his own disbelief.
Sufis are inclined to recognize four stages of belief:
Iman-i Muhmil, when someone believes in a thing
which others believe in, but no matter how strong his belief
may be, when those in his surroundings change their belief,
he will likewise change his.
Iman-i Kamil, the next stage of belief, is the
belief of the idealist who has faith in his scripture and
savior. He believes because it is written in the scripture,
or taught by the savior. His belief, of course, will not
change with the weather, but still it may waver, if by any
means reason were awakened in his soul. At least it would
be dimmed just as the light of a candle would become dimmed
by the rising sun. When the sun of the intelligence rises,
it would break through and scatter the clouds of emotion
and devotion made by this belief.
Haqq al-Iman, the third stage of belief, when
man believes because his reason allows him to believe. Such
a man is journeying through life with a torch in his hand.
His belief is based on reason, and cannot be broken except
by a still greater reason, for it is the diamond that alone
can cut the diamond, and reason alone can break reason.
'Ain al-Iman, the fourth stage of belief is
a belief of conviction; not only reason, but every part
of one's being is convinced and assured of the truth of
things, and nothing on earth can change it. If a person
were to say to him, 'Do not cross over this place, there
is water here,' he will say, 'No, it is land. I can see
for myself.' It is just like seeing with the eyes all that
one believes. This belief is the belief of the seer whose
knowledge is his eyewitness, and therefore his belief will
last forever and ever. Of course, as a soul evolves from
stage to stage, it must break the former belief on order
to establish the later, and this breaking of the belief
is called by Sufis Tark, which means abandonment;
the abandoning of the worldly ideal, the abandonment of
the heavenly ideal, the abandoning of the divine ideal,
and even the abandoning of abandonment. This brings the
seer to the shores of the ultimate truth.
'Truth is that which cannot be fully spoken, and that
which can be spoken is not necessarily the truth.'
Is Sufism Muslim? Is a Sufi a Muhammadan? In joining
a Sufi community, is one associating with Muslims? Is a
Sufi a follower of Islam? The word Islam means
'peace'; this is the Arabic word. The Hebrew word is
Salem (Jeru-salem). Peace and its attainment in all
directions is the goal of the world.
But if the following of Islam is understood to mean the
obligatory adherence to a certain rite; if being a Muslim
means conforming to certain restrictions, how can the Sufi
be placed in that category, seeing that the Sufi is beyond
all limitations of this kind? So, far from not accepting
the Quran, the Sufi recognizes scriptures which others disregard.
But the Sufi does not follow any special book. The shining
ones, such as 'Attar, Shams-i Tabriz, Rumi, Sadi, and Hafiz,
have expressed their free thought with a complete liberty
of language. To a Sufi, revelation is the inherent property
of every soul. There is an unceasing flow of the divine
stream, which has neither beginning nor end.
What is the position of Sufism with regard to Christianity?
There is a place in the Sufi understanding for all the teachings
contained in that Faith, and there can be no antagonism
in the mind of him who understands. The writings of the
Christian mystics evidence the intensity of their pursuit
and devotion to the Beloved – and there is only one Beloved.
The devotion to the Sacred Heart will be found to be a link
with the Sufi philosophy, which recognizes and practices
it in the truest sense.
Is Sufism mysticism? As green is considered to be the
color of Ireland, yet it cannot be said to belong exclusively
to the Irish people, for anybody can wear green, and green
is found all over the world, so mystics in Islam have been
called Sufis. Sufism, divine wisdom, is for all, and is
not limited to a certain people. It has existed from the
first day of creation, and will continue to spread and to
exist until the end of the world. Sufism is a mysticism
of one wishes to be guided by it in the unfoldment of the
soul. Yet it is beyond mysticism.
Is Sufism theosophy? Sufis have no set belief or disbelief.
Divine light is the only sustenance of their soul, and through
this light they see their path clear, and what they see
in this light they believe, and what they do not see they
do not blindly believe. Yet they do not interfere with another
person's belief or disbelief, thinking that perhaps a greater
portion of light has kindled his heart, and so he sees and
believes that the Sufi cannot see or believe. Or, perhaps
a lesser portion of light has kept his sight dim and he
cannot see and believe as the Sufi believes. Therefore Sufis
leave belief and disbelief to the grade of evolution of
every individual soul. The Murshid's work is to kindle the
fire of the heart, and to light the torch of the soul of
his mureed, and to let the mureed believe and disbelieve
as he chooses, while journeying through the path of evolution.
But in the end all culminates in one belief, Huma man
am, that is, 'I am all that exists'; and all other
beliefs are preparatory for this final conviction, which
is called Haqq al-Iman in the Sufi terminology.
As soon as the word 'theosophy' is taken to mean certain
fixed beliefs or disbeliefs, there is a difference from
Sufism. Beliefs and disbeliefs are the cause of sects, each
of these being blinded from the vision of the singleness
of the whole of existence. As soon as thought is restricted,
it ceases to be Sufism.
Is Sufism a school of thought? Wisdom is not restricted
to one geographical spot such as a country, a city, a building
or meeting place. Sufism cannot be correctly described as
a school of thought, if by that is meant the instruction
of a certain doctrine. It might be correct to speak of it
as a school of thought in the sense that through Sufism
one learns wisdom, just as in a school one learns wisdom
of a certain kind. Sufism is beyond philosophy.
In regard to the Sufi's attitude towards right and wrong
– that these are man-made – one may ask how then it can
matter what a person does.
The answer is, it matters to those to whom it matters,
and it does not matter to those whom it does not matter.
In this respect, if the Sufi has to say anything to his
follower, it is this: refraining from doing that which hinders
you from accomplishing the purpose in your inner and your
external life. Do not act against you ideal, for it will
never be satisfactory to you; you will not be pleased with
yourself, and this inharmony in your inner and your external
self will prevent peace, which is your life's craving, without
which life becomes unhappy. 'Right' is the straight path
which the soul is inclined to take in life, but when one
walks astray, leaving the straight path in life owing either
to negligence or ignorance, or by reason of weakness, or
by the attraction of some temptation on the way, one can
say that is wrong.
What is good and what is evil? There are two answers
to this question. First it may be said: good is that which
you consider to be good, and the effect of which is agreeable
to you both in its beginning and end. Evil is that which
you consider to be evil and the effect of which is disagreeable
in the beginning as well as in the end. If good and evil
have no agreeable or disagreeable affect at first, or have
a contrary effect at the beginning, whether they are really
agreeable or disagreeable will appear in the end. The second
answer is that all things that seem good and evil are the
opposite ends of one line, and it is difficult to say where
evil ends and good begins, for these are comparative terms.
A lesser good would seem evil when compared with a greater
good, and the lesser evil in comparison with the greater
evil would appear good. If there were no evil, good would
not have been valued. Without injustice, justice would not
have been appreciated. Therefore the whole of life's joy
is expressed in duality.
Why is there so much suffering in life, when God is described
as merciful? If God were a separate being from man, and
if He rejoiced in the suffering of man, then He could be
blamed. But He, as the Sufi realizes, is the sufferer and
the suffering; yet He is beyond all suffering. This fact
can be understood, not merely by believing in God, but in
knowing Him. Suppose your hands dropped a heavy weight upon
your feet and hurt them, are your hands to be blamed? No,
for they share the pain with the feet, and although the
feet seem to have been hurt, yet the one that feels hurt
is your absolute being. In reality that being feels hurt,
and therefore the hand shares the hurt of the foot. So it
is with God. Our very life is His, and He is not void of
the feeling of joy or of pain which we feel. In reality,
He feels what we imagine we feel, yet at the same time His
perfect Being keeps Him above all earthly joys and pains;
and our imperfection limits us, so that we become subject
to all joys and pains, however small they may be.
According to the Sufi the difference between sin and
virtue is like the difference between good and evil. They
are comparative terms. Lesser virtue compared with greater
sin is considered virtue. The inclination of the soul is
towards good; it is only when the soul is helpless in the
hands of the lower self that it is inclined towards evil.
Again, it may be said: sin and virtue are the standards
of good and evil made by the teachers of religion. It is
the standards of morals that keep the world in order, and
it is the breaking of this order that causes the decline
of religion, with the effect of wars, famines, and disaster.
In order to uphold this order, messengers are sent from
time to time, and spiritual controllers are appointed in
every part of the earth. One might ask, 'Why tread the path
of righteousness and piety; why spend your life in teaching
and preaching to humanity?' It is natural. Every loving
and illuminated heart has a desire to see others partake
in its vision of glory. On the other hand, it seems that
some persons are quite happy in committing sin. Is there
then no restriction to be imposed on sin? The answer is:
sin can never make one happy. Even were there pleasure in
it for the time being, it would re-echo, and the re-echo
of a false note is never pleasing to the musical ear. If
a person were really happy in his 'sin', one might be satisfied
that it was really his virtue, and that it is only to us,
from our point of view, that his action is sinful. Therefore
the Sufi attends to his own journey, and does not judge
It there is only a comparative difference between good
and evil, sin and virtue, why should there be punishment
for evil and reward for good? The effect of good itself
is a reward for good, and the effect of evil is itself a
punishment. From our limited view, perhaps, we attribute
these effects to a third person, to a divine ideal. But
what then of the belief of the orthodox, that if anybody
asks forgiveness before his death, his sins would be forgiven
by God? It seems hard to believe that a person who has sinned
all through life could be forgiven at a simple request made
at the hour of death. The answer is, that it is absolutely
true that the whole of life's sins may be forgiven by divine
mercy in one moment, just as a chemical solution may wash
away the stains of years from the surface of a rock in a
moment. The real question is, is the request earnest enough?
It is not so easy as it seems, for this is a matter of divine
mercy; and if a person has continued to commit sins, at
every sin he has lost his belief in the judgment of the
divine Being and in His power. Therefore he has sown the
seed of disbelief in his heart and has reared this plant
by his sins. That being so, how can he in the end develop
sufficient faith in a moment to believe in divine mercy?
The simplest thing becomes the most difficult for him.
For this reason, the teachers of humanity have taught
man faith as the first lesson in religion. Those are forgiven
the sins of their whole life, who have always believed that
any moment death might come and have safeguarded themselves
against doing anything that does not meet with the pleasure
of their Lord, and whenever, owing to human imperfection,
they have failed in doing right, they most earnestly have