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Australian Centre For Sufism

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Sufi Teachings:

On The Cosmology
of Dhikr

Ibn 'Arabi On
Proximity And Distance

Why Do Muslims Fast?

Knowledge of Reality and
Ignorance of Reality -
What is Knowledge
of Reality?

Knowledge of Reality and
Ignorance of Reality -
Seeing Versus
Not Seeing

Knowledge of Reality and
Ignorance of Reality -
Journeying In
The Spiritual Path

Book of Theophanies

The Month of Ramadhan

Sufi Psychology:
The Isolation and
of the Nafs

To Be Or Not To Be

Imposter Or
Mistaken Identity?

Moulana Rumi -
The Mirror of Divine Love

The Transformative Power
of the Fear of God

Test of the Hardship

The Theatre
of Life

Peace and the
Inner Jihad

Sufism and the
Paradox of Self


Faith and Action

What is Tasawwuf

Listening for God:
Prayer and the Heart


Bismillaah ir Rahmaan ir Rahiim
In the name of Allah, The Merciful, The Compassionate


This Sufi Teaching is an excerpt from a talk given by

Fatima Fleur Nassery Bonnin

at our Symposium held in Sydney to commemorate

the 800th anniversary of the birth of Moulana Rumi.

Moulana Jalaluddin Mowlawi, known to the West as Rumi, is known to be the messenger of love, the Divine love that pulsates in the vein of creation and created beings, the love that is the cause of creation according to the revelation from Allah. In the Hadith Qudsi known as the "Hidden Treasure", when Prophet David (pbuh) asks Allah about the purpose of the creation, Allah reveals this purpose saying, “I was a hidden treasure and I loved to be known, I created the creation in order to be known”. So according to this Hadith Qudsi the purpose of creation is to know God and love is the medium.

We hear a similar message to this in the first commandment of Christianity which, according to various Gospels, Jesus (pbuh) said is the highest law:
You shall love your Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with your entire mind.
It is this love that Sufi Masters experience, talk about and write about, of which Moulana reached the pinnacle, and became the loci and the reflection of it.

Abdul Rahman Jami the Persian Sufi poet of the 15th century has said about Moulana:

How do I describe that Excellency
          He is not a prophet yet he has the book

And another saying:

The book of Mathnawi of Moulana
          Is like the Qur’an in Persian language

Many such comparisons have been made between the Qur’an and the book of Mathnawi, such as the deeper understanding of the many layered stories and their format. It is also believed that in the same way that the opening 7 verses of the Qur’an, the Sura Fateha, encapsulates all the chapters of the Qur’an, the opening 18 verses of the Mathnawi also encompasses the roughly twenty five thousand verses that follow. These comparisons indicate the height of the station of Moulana’s words.

In order to serve the purpose of this article, I am using almost word by word translations of Moulana’s words, which have become hard to find, since the time of the late Nicholson, may he rest in peace. Unfortunately these days, the translations of Moulana Rumi’s poetry have a little of Moulana and a lot of the translators and the writers, and I think that people would be best served by the accuracy of Moulana Rumi’s own words and meanings. I may add that Moulana knew this would happen and has forewarned us in the 6th verse of the opening of the Mathnawi.

He opens the Mathnawi by saying:

Listen to this reed how it tells the tales
          Bemoaning its separation it wails

In this opening verse Moulana starts by likening himself to the reed that is going to tell us the stories of the pain of separation while playing the divine melody of love, the melody of “Alastu bi Rabbikum”.

Alastu bi Rabbikum comes from a verse in the Qur'an (7:172) where the commentary indicates that on the Primordial Day, before the advent of our earthly lives, when the soul of every human being was summoned into the Divine Presence, and God made Himself known to collective humanity and asked the question: “Alastu bi Rabbikum?”, which means "Am I not your Lord?" And they answered “Bala Shahidna”, “Yes, verily we testify to that”.
It seems that all of Moulana's poetry and its melody is about the remembrance and realisation of this original melody of Alastu bi Rabbikum.

As Moulana says:

Since He said in my soul’s ear the secret of the Alast
          The longing for Him does not leave my heart

But this realisation, which is the purpose of our life, is not an easy task and not easily accessible, therefore we make it to fit our own understanding and perception. As he says in the 6th verse of the opening of the Mathnawi:

Every one became my companion through his own perception
          None tried to know my inner secrets and notion

And immediately follows it with:

My secret is not distant from my outcry
          But eyes and ears do not possess the light

What is this light that the ordinary eyes and ears do not possess in order to find out the secrets? For the answer we go to Moulana himself, since he says he has revealed everything in this book, sometimes through explanation, sometimes through allusions, sometimes only hinting. Why so? He explains that by saying:

The secrets are hidden in between the lines
          If I say it any more clearly, it would disrupt the order of the world

In other words, if every one knew the truth, hardly anyone would go after the affairs of the world. This is why the enlightened people are always only a few, compared to the masses. The Qur’an also refers to this by repeatedly saying 'only a few would know', or ‘only a few would perceive’ or ‘only a few would think’ etc.

So going back to    

My secret is not distant from my outcry
          But eyes and ears do not possess the light

Wanting to know what is veiling us from the light of hearing and seeing, we go to Moulana again. He says:

The blinkers covering people’s eyes are nothing but the secondaries
          Who ever did not go beyond the secondary is not one of the companions

So the eyes which Moulana is talking about are the eyes that could see the Reality and not be veiled by people, the material world, and above all by the self, which is the biggest obstacle. We need to acquire the eyes that could see the primary beyond the secondaries. He says:

I want the eyes that would know the King
          So that it could recognise Him in every different clothing

How does one acquire these eyes? He guides us to journey on the Sufi path.

Sufis possess a Surmeh, go and seek that
          So that your eyes of narrow stream become an ocean

What is this veil that is with us all the time and gives us a different account of the reality? An account that we believe is true. What is self, and how does it prevent us from realising the Truth and the Reality?

Sufi Psychology can help us to tap into this. We know from psychology that people who fall within the standard of abnormality, psychotic or neurotic, their concept of reality is quite distorted and unreal compared to normal people. But psychology stops there, whereas Sufi psychology goes further and expands it, so that we realise that similarly, the concept of reality of so called normal people is considered quite limited and distorted by the people who have gone through the journey of spiritual awakening.

When Moulana tells us to go and take the journey of the Sufi path, so that our power of seeing widens, he is pointing to this widening of sight and insight, since an enlightened person could see and perceive things that are not available to most people. Enlightened people, are capable of seeing the unseen, in various degrees, according to the level of their enlightenment.

Therefore we need to understand there are different kinds of seeing, and realise how limited our ego-senses are and not take that for the absolute reality. We need to be mindful that what we think and see is not all that there is, and there is another kind of seeing which requires journeying on the Sufi path and going beyond the senses of the self.

I would like to look at this subject of the eyes, the sight and insight from another angle, since in the ocean of the Mathnawi which ever way we search we discover different pearls. It is only when we put the pearls together that we can see the whole of the necklace.

Let’s now choose one of Moulana's most famous and loved poems, “ghazals” from the Divani Shamsi Tabriz. The opening verse is:

I was dead, I became alive, I was tears, I became laughter
          The sovereignty of love appeared, and I became ever lasting sovereign

It is as if with such a start, from being dead and becoming alive, being tears and becoming laughter, reaching the sovereignty of love and transforming to everlasting sovereign - all in one verse - he is telling us; Now do you want to take this journey with me? And since the real source who is inviting us is He, the Hu, Hazrate Haqq Himself who speaks through the tongue of Moulana; we say “Yes”. And when we ask how? We hear the same answer that Ibn Arabi heard in one of his intimate conversations, when he asked Allah “How could one get close to You?” And Allah responded, “Through an attribute that I do not possess”, meaning ubudiyyat, which means servant-hood.

This is why Moulana spends the next ten verses of the poem, from verses 3 to 12, describing and painting pictures of various aspects of the stages of his servant-hood that he went through. He points to the steps of the Sufi path in general and his path with Shams in particular, interwoven together, displaying the willingness in carrying out orders, putting one’s head on the altar, the ubudiyyat and the servant-hood that is necessary in order to open the way for the majesty and sovereignty of love to enter.

As we read these verses, it is important to keep in mind what a high status Moulana had in the community when he met Shams and took on this journey. He was a revered Islamic scholar, theologian and jurist, to name just a few, and people would travel from all over to hear his teachings. We need to keep in mind how much he stood to lose.

I will quote only a few verses of this section to give you a taste.

He said, you are not mad enough, you are not suited for this house
          I went and became mad, I became bound in shackles

He said you are not slain, not drenched with joy
          Before his life-giving face, I became slain and cast myself down

He said you are a sheikh and headman, you are a leader and guide
          I am not a sheikh, I am not a leader, I have become slave to your command

These are only a few of the many verses where, in each of them, he describes a different aspect of his ubudiyyat and servant-hood.

It is only through paying close attention that we can realise what he is teaching us by his example. Just enjoying the beauty of the poetry is not enough, as that is not the true purpose of his work and his being here. Having gone through these stages of crushing his nafs, he then comes to the next stage and he explains that in verse 13, as he says:

My heart felt the glow of the soul, my heart opened up and split
          My heart weaved a new satin, I became enemy of this old ragged one

This is a very important verse. After submitting the ego-self willingly, comes this crucial point that the light of the soul splits open his heart and weaves a new fabric made of atlas, which is soft silky satin. It is at this point that he realises or sees what a shabby fabric the old one was, and becomes the enemy of the old ragged one.

When this new fabric was put on him, he realised how bad the other one was that he was holding on to. Here he is pointing to the stages of transcendence, since only after arriving at each level of the ladder of transcendence, one gets to see the reality of the level before, through the light that is given accordingly. Again that light that Moulana is after and everything is dependent on that light.

The stages of the spiritual journey are to prepare us to become what Moulana calls “noor pazir”, meaning receptive to the light. The light is not absent, that we would need to find it in order to reach the Reality. The Reality, the Light, has always been there, but our eyes can not see because we are veiled from it. This is why Moulana, as some one who has gone through these stages, says in a prayer to God:

From now on we only ask You for the eyes and nothing else
          So that sticks and straws may not conceal the sea from us

And later in the 20th verse of this poem he reaches a further stage and says:

I am from you O illustrious moon, look at me and yourself
          Because of your laughter, I became a flower field of laughter

The verse reflects the station of the soul that has become the mirror of God, and the more clear the mirror is, the more true the reflection of the one who is looking in the mirror. We know that the highest level of transformation of the self (nafs) is to become cleared of our distortions of the Commanding self, and the Blaming self and to reach the stage of self at Peace and become that mirror which reflects Allah. Moulana comes out of the heart of Islam. The path of Sufism is based on the transformation of the self. So Moulana says in this verse;

Looking at me is looking at Yourself. I am that mirror. You looked at me (pleased) with laughter, and I became the whole flower field of laughter.

This verse correlates with the Qur’anic verse when Allah is pleased with His servant and says:
"O you human being that has attained to inner peace! Return to your Sustainer, well pleased and pleasing Him. Enter with My true servants. Enter My paradise." 89:27-30

Now we put these esoteric descriptions of poetry together. When the heart splits open and puts on this new fabric of satin, and looks in the mirror, who is the one who is looking in the mirror? This is when the one who is looking in the mirror, laughing with satisfaction at what he sees, says (to use the language of the Qur’an) "Return to My paradise", not the paradise but My paradise, and it is that laughter of satisfaction that resonates in his entire being.

I think one of the reasons that Moulana’s words and poetry are so alive after 800 years and will continue to be so - if the authenticity of them is protected and not compromised - is because they transmit the message of Divine love and servant-hood, the inner and the outer, the apparent and the hidden aspect of the rope which takes man to God.

As Moulana foretold 800 years ago:

Why is it that the resting place of my body has become the place of worship by people of the world?
          Because day and night, every where in this place is filled with His presence.

This message of love and servant-hood or abd-hood is like a two pronged sword that cuts through the obstacle of nafs or ego/self, and opens the way for Love, and has the force and will of Allah behind it. And He has given Moulana the words for it, as he says:

I am the word of Haqq and subsistent through Him
          I am the food of the soul of the soul, and the ruby of purity
I am the light of the sun, fallen upon you
          Yet I am not separated from the sun

Looking at Moulana’s life from beginning to end and particularly his relationship with Shams, it would be difficult not to see how he was chosen, prepared and delivered for this purpose. Other Sufi Masters and Poets have also walked this path, but it seems that Allah has made such a display of Moulana’s personal journey for us, so that we can relate to it, in order to be able to see and hear from Moulana himself, what happens when one walks on the path of Shari’ah and Tariqah and reaches Haqiqah and dissolves the old shabby fabric of self.

The mesmerising quality of his words, that moves people and that talks to their inner hearts, is only due to the scent of the Beloved.

I am His cup and His wine jug, I am the dispenser of the scent of His perfume
          Come to me so that you could receive the scent of His perfumed quality

What ever you have heard from us, you have heard it from God
          Since all that we are saying is His sayings.

To Top


Sufi Teachings:

On The Cosmology of Dhikr

Ibn 'Arabi On Proximity And Distance

Why Do Muslims Fast?

Knowledge of Reality and Ignorance of Reality - What is Knowledge of Reality?

Knowledge of Reality and Ignorance of Reality - Seeing Versus Not Seeing

Knowledge of Reality and Ignorance of Reality - Journeying In The Spiritual Path

Book of Theophanies

The Month of Ramadhan

Sufi Psychology: The Isolation and Transformation of the Nafs

To Be Or Not To Be

Imposter Or Mistaken Identity?

Moulana Rumi - The Mirror of Divine Love

The Transformative Power of the Fear of God

Test of the Hardship

The Theatre of Life

Peace and the Inner Jihad

Sufism and the Paradox of Self


Faith and Action

What is Tasawwuf (Sufism)?

Listening for God: Prayer and the Heart

To Top


For further information contact the
Australian Centre for Sufism and Irfanic Studies (ACSIS)
Phone: (02) 9955 SUFI (7834)
or email: acs@australiansuficentre.org

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