January 19, 2019

We all have psychological blind spots, aspects of our personalities that are hidden from our view. My own tend to boil down to fears that feel too threatening to acknowledge, and so are easier to tuck away. This is why I’m deeply grateful for Sufi practices that bring these distortions into conscious awareness through zikr, the repetition of Divine Attributes. I often linger on the line in the Mevlevi Wird that offers an antidote for approaching my phobias: “Facing all… Read more

January 5, 2019

Sitting in a Quaker meeting recently, it occurred to me that if Muhammad (peace be upon him) were alive today he would feel very comfortable worshipping with these Christian friends. He was, after all, a man who had a daily practice of meditating in silence, and this is exactly what occurs in a Quaker meeting. There are no hellfire sermons and you won’t hear so many sentimental platitudes at a Quaker meeting. The Friends (as Quakers like to be known)… Read more

December 28, 2018

Lately I’ve been haunted by some lines from a poem called “The Testing-Tree”: In a murderous time the heart breaks and breaks and lives by breaking. It is necessary to go Through the dark and deeper dark And not to turn. Working for a humanitarian news service has forced me to learn about distant conflicts and crises. In parallel, I find myself becoming more aware of the injustices faced by marginalized people in my own city and country. Looking at… Read more

December 4, 2018

A transcribed sohbet of Shaikh Kabir, from the forthcoming book The Living Tradition, Discourses on the Sufi Path The Qur’an says: In His causes you ought to strive. The Arabic word jihada could be translated as “strive.” The real jihada, the real spiritual striving, is awakening the energy or force from which we gain a new relationship with the struggle between intention and resistance, between striving and whatever opposes our spiritual striving. The “causes” refer to Divine causes, spiritual matters… Read more

November 16, 2018

Once upon a time, I was terrified of views – distant hills, valleys, woodlands seen from a distance – all would make me feel like I was falling, unanchored and without gravity. As a young child living with my grandmother in a Yorkshire town full of green landscapes and a plethora of rolling hills and valleys, this was particularly difficult. My errands to the local grocery shop were fraught – the road I had to traverse had open views on… Read more

November 6, 2018

Through the tears welling up in my eyes, I looked down at the opening and closing of my hand. First I wrapped my four right fingers over my thumb and pressed them against the centre of my palm into a fist. I examined it for several seconds, then slowly released the fist until my fingers were outstretched. For a few moments more, I gazed at my open hand, before closing it again. After several minutes I started to sync the… Read more

October 23, 2018

Back when I was a punk rock teenager, I learned there was a way to be even more rebellious than shaving your head or tearing holes in your clothes: it was called being “straight edge”. Symbolized by a big black X (often drawn in marker on the back of the hand), kids who were straight edge didn’t drink, do drugs or smoke. Most of them were vegetarian or vegan. Often politically active or at least outspoken, they were always deadly… Read more

October 12, 2018

I have often wondered why the Beautiful and the Joyful do not usually appear in Islam’s traditional lists of Divine Names. Most of the listed Names are in the Quran, and these two are not. So it might at first seem that God does not wish to be seen as beautiful or joyful. However, the Quran does refer to the Divine Names as a whole as al-Asma ul-Husna, meaning “the Beautiful Names”. For example: To Hu belong the Most Beautiful… Read more

September 26, 2018

  In a previous article we mentioned how the Prophet (PUH) had a deep capacity for Munajaat, that is the secret discourse between lovers, which involves openly pouring our hearts out to our Rabb (our Sustainer, our Lord, our inmost Self), with openness, vulnerability, and longing for nearness to Him. There is an extensive and rich recorded tradition of the Prophet’s prayers that can help us understand and guide us to what is possible for us in our relationship with… Read more

September 5, 2018

The porter runs to the heavy load and takes it from others, knowing burdens are the foundation of ease and bitter things the forerunners of pleasure. See the porters struggle over the load! It’s the way of those who see the truth of things. [Mathnawi II: 1834-6] Every year these words preface our message to the team of bashis (helpers) that come together to manage the organisation of our annual UK retreat. The words are like a galvanising rod that… Read more

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