Unpublished papers from the Nekbakht Foundation Archives
As published in "The Sufi", 1920
The word “Sufi” is from a Persian word, meaning wisdom. From the original root many derivations can be traced. The Greek “sophia” is a striking instance.
Wisdom is the ultimate power. In wisdom is rooted religion, which connotes law and inspiration. But the point of view of the wise differs from that of the simple followers of a religious faith. Whatever their faith, the wise have always been able to meet each other beyond those boundaries of external forms and conventions, which are natural and necessary to human life, but which none the less separate humanity.
People of the same thought and point of view are drawn to each other with a tendency to form an exclusive circle. A minority is apt to fence itself off from the majority, from the crowd. So it has been with the mystics. Mystical ideas are un-intelligible to the many. The mystics have therefore usually imparted their ideas to a chosen few only, to a picked band whom they could trust and who were ready for initiation and discipleship. Thus, great Sufis have appeared at different times, and founded schools of thought. Their expression of wisdom has differed to suit their environments; but their understanding of life has been one and the same. The same herb planted in various atmospheric conditions, will vary in form accordingly, but retain its characteristics.
The European historian sometimes traces the history of Sufism by noticing the actual occurrence of this word and by referring only to those schools of thought which have definitely wished to be known by this name. Some European scholars find the origin of this philosophy in the teaching of Islam; others connect it with Buddhism; others do not reject as incredible the Semitic tradition, that its foundation is to be attributed to the teachings of Abraham; but the greater number consider that it arose contemporary to the teaching of Zoroaster. Every age of the world has seen awakened souls. And as it is impossible to limit wisdom to any one period or place, so it is impossible to date the origin of Sufism.
Not only have there been illuminated souls in all times; but there have been periods when a wave of illumination passed over humanity as a whole. We believe that such a period is at hand. The calamity through which the world has lately passed, and the problems of the present difficult situations are due to the existence of boundaries; this fact is already clear to many. Sufism takes away the barriers which divide different faiths, by bringing into full light the underlying wisdom in which they are all united.
Though our numbers in England are still few, we are encouraged by the strength of the idea; and we recognize as Sufis all those groups who are working with the aim of uniting humanity. We welcome any who sympathize with this object; and if many of these souls have limited ideals, our ideal does not oppose or attempt to break down the ideals of others; for we believe that our ideal is in the depth of every soul, and sooner or later we must touch that depth in many. Although man is easily influenced by emotions of hatred or prejudice, and can be quickly stirred to rebellion and bloodshed, yet the love of amity and harmony is more infectious still. Through all periods of tyranny and oppression, of injustice and revolution, what the world really seeks in peace.
It is true that not everyone knows for what he is really looking. He waits to be told. But when the truth is told him, he has little difficulty in recognizing it. Every soul has a definite task, and the fulfillment of this individual purpose can alone lead him aright. Illumination comes to him through the medium of his own talent. By taking his particular line in life, he fits into the scheme of the whole, and thus attains his own goal.
He must first create peace in himself, if he desires to see peace in the world; for lacking the peace within, no effort of his can bring any result. Now it is the knowledge of the self, of the ego, that gives knowledge of humanity; and in the understanding of the human being lies that understanding of nature, which reveals the law of the whole creation. The knowledge of the self is therefore the essential. This cannot, however, be attained by study alone, although study is important. It is by following the path of meditation that the initiate arrives at the realization of self. In this state he does not regard another as friend or foe, but as himself. He is then able to hold the reins of self in his hand. He has the mastery of his own life, a control which develops in time into a hold upon life in general.
The Sufi teachings were brought to the West in 1910, when a start was made in America, where the work is still being carried on. During the last eight years, interest to a small extent has been kindled in different parts of Europe. Today by the grace of God, after many difficulties, we inaugurate the headquarters of our movement. Through the generosity of one devoted heart in providing us with a house, it has been possible to establish the Khankah or headquarters of the Order in England.
From the Nekbakht Foundation Archives, courtesy of Sharif Munawwir Graham