The Circle Group > Readings > Sufism > Dhahir and Batin

Fourth in the series of Five Sundays on Tasawwuf (2009-2010) presented in Charlottesville on April 25th, both Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid and Shaykh Nooruddeen Durkee focus on The Dhaahir and the Baatin.

“Everything Allah (swt) has created apparently has two aspects, the Dhahir (outer) and the Batin (inner).   But in fact, the inner and the outer are really the same, it is our perception that makes us think that they are different.  Allah (swt) is ONE, AHAD. Look at the human body, outwardly it appears one way, while inwardly there are other “worlds.”  The actions of the body are totally different than the activities going on within the body.  Within our body there are hidden systems so alien to us that we would shudder to think we are hosting them, yet without their activity, we could not live.”

“Dhaahir and Batin” talk by Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid: audio file and pdf file and video file.

The transcript is below:


Allahumma salle ‘ala sayeddina Muhammed al fatih oghliq wa-al Hatim limaa-sabaq naser al haqq bil haqq wa-al haadi ila siratiqa-l-mustaqeem, wa ala alehi wa sahbehi haqq qadrihi wa miqdarihi al adheem.

O Allah shower your blessings upon our master Muhammad, The Opener of what has been closed and the seal of what has passed, the Champion of Truth by the Truth, and the Guide to Your straight path, and on his family and his companions with the equivalent to the greatness due to his exalted status.


Everything Allah (swt) has created apparently has two aspects, the Dhahir (outer) and the Batin (inner).   But in fact, the inner and the outer are really the same, it is our perception that makes us think that they are different.  Allah (swt) is ONE, ahad. Look at the human body, outwardly it appears one way, while inwardly there are other “worlds.”  The actions of the body are totally different than the activities going on within the body.  Within our body there are hidden systems so alien to us that we would shudder to think we are hosting them, yet without their activity, we could not live.

We make a distinction between the inner and the outer, a distinction made in Qur’an when it says:

Huwadh-Dhahir wal-Batin

He is the Outwardly Manifest and the Inwardly Hidden. [57:3]

But we should not forget that the dhahir and the batin are two parts of a singularity; a dynamic whole we call Allah (swt,) Unity unbounded and ever extending.

The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said:

O Allah, You are adh-Dhahir and there is nothing above You, and You are al-Batin and there is nothing beneath You.”

The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, also said: “Allah is eternally existent and nothing else is.”

Imam al-Bayhaqiyy elucidated the meaning of this Hadith in his book ‘Al-I’tiqad’ (The Creed), saying: “This indicates that eternally nothing existed other than Allah; no water, no ‘Arsh (Throne), and no other creation; they are all classified as other than Allah.”

So, for the purpose of this dars I will refer to the Dhahir and Batin but I ask you to think of it as two elements of One.  We can see that Islam doesn’t separate the inner from the outer; it is a total integrative system. This is reflected in the Dhahir, as emphasis on the community as a whole through repetitious patterns, such as of prayer in Jama’t, to underscore the inter-connected and inter-dependent relationship between ‘believers.’  While each member of the community is significantly different in the outer, we are uniquely similar in the physical system.

The systemic harmony that is inherent in this Creation, must be sought after consciously and sincerely, if we are to Understand the nearness of Allah:

Huwa ma’akum ‘ayna ma kuntum

He is with you, wherever you are [57:4]

Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid gives suhbat

Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid gives suhbat

To see the systemic harmony, the nearness of Allah, is the life challenge for one who is truly a humane human being; a seeker after knowledge and truth, a developer of character; not one motivated out of greed or power or fame or name. As we look at societies today, that deep yearning to see and understand seems to have been abandoned by the vast majority of people; who see this world as the only reality and, at best, see the next (if they believe at all in the hereafter) as merely the reward for existing, with little regard to the quality or principles governing goodness and evil.

In the comings and goings of daily life we forget that we are one tiny part of the greater whole of humanity, which is itself one piece in our planet’s ecosystem.  We forget that our planet is part of an integrative system of the solar system, which is part of the galaxy, which is part of the Universe, which is one of many Universes.  It is an endlessly integrated system, if you look at the floor, the wall; all reflect the same universal Reality.  If you could look at an electron microscope you would see the same system, the same internally consistent, ever-repeating system.

So, where is the dividing line between the inner and outer?  Is it what is seen only?  Is it what is known, only? Is there really a line, or as we gain knowledge, true knowledge (marifa), as we gain the capacity of basira, does that apparent line recede? How limited is this linear view? Is it not better to at least try to conceptualize it more like concentric circles emerging from one source, like ripples of waves when a stone is cast into still water…going out and returning only when meeting a barrier…but what if there is no barrier?

We can understand that the dhahir and batin are not only two aspects of the same whole, but also two faces of each moment.  Our challenge, if we are seekers, is to seize the moment (Waqt) through remembrance of the Divine Presence. In doing that we are finding harmony (Mizan) we are present in The Presence. Insh’Allah. That process itself is endless but to be conscious, truly conscious, it demands constant vigilance, constant attentiveness, and continuous remembrance, dikr.

According to Bukhari, Abu Musa al-Ashcari related that the Prophet (s) said, “The difference between the one who makes dhikr and the one who doesn’t make dhikr is like the difference between the living and the dead.”

Through remembrance we are linked with the events of the past and it is upon remembrance we build our futures. By remembering Allah (swt) the Creator, the essential Truth, we are remembering our origin, understanding our place and creating what appears to be our future. Yet who are we in the inner. Are we to gauge our being by our age, by our physical appearance or by our state, our knowledge our character? Our bodies may tell us one thing but our mind and heart another. I am constantly surprised by the discrepancy between my inner state and mind and the limitations of this body. Is that not the narrative we see everywhere, spoken in nature and all life, the eternal internal potential against the apparent reality of the outer cycles of birth and life and death?

I was on a train recently and an older man walked past me and said; “Excuse me young man.”  I said, “thank you for the compliment.” And he said, “it’s true, we are young because we once were young and we experienced youth, so we are still young and more than that we are also aged.”

ALHamdullah. If we are the sum total of what we always were and the future is ‘more’ than that, it is truly a reflection of the sifat, the asma ul husna that is Allah (swt). But Allah (swt) is More than that, in time and before time. Allahu-Akbar.  (Allah is Greater). Whatever is, Allah is Greater than that.

Why is this important to our understanding of dhahir and batin?  As I speak today about on this subject, I ask you to keep this perspective in mind. Dhahir and Batin are part of every aspect of our creation, from our physical bodies, to our individual characters (akhlaq), but do not forget that in some ways, it is all a metaphor, a corridor (majaz), to help us move from one place in our understanding to another, and find the balance between the inner and outer.   I will return to these idea majaz, as it relates to the outer and inner, but first let me speak about how we perceive the dhahir and batin.


The things we encounter in our day-to-day life with our five senses (which correlate to the four elements: Earth Air Fire Water), and with our cognitive capability are dhahir.   The things that are hidden from the sense are the batin; that which is unseen. But the batin can be sensed with our unique cognitive and intuitive senses. We sense the batin through the organs of perception of the lataif: qalb, ruh , sirr, kafi, akhfa, nafs.  Part of the challenge of life is learning how to see and understand these two aspects that Allah has created.

As I mentioned in my introduction, to try to grasp what we call the “Unicity” of Allah, or the diversity within the Unity, we must see and interact with both the outer and the inner. We might ask, why are we ‘structured’ in such a way that we live or act in a dualistic system, when we are spiritually seeking the resolution of that apparent duality into Unity?

If we look around us, we see that the dynamics of life are reflected in this constant change or movement between the awareness of the outer and inner: it is the dynamic of life itself. We are surrounded by dualities that make up a whole: sleep and wakefulness, dreams and reality, life and death, male and female, up and down, sky and earth, day and night, positive and negative, attraction and repulsion:  these are the most basic building blocks of our universe… Allah speaks to us repeatedly about “pairs” in Qur’an:

Wa min kulli shay’in khalaqana zowjayni la’allakum takhakkarun.

And All things We have created in pairs in order that you might reflect. [51:47-49]

Guest Speaker: Mi’raj Ahmad Riccio speaks with Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid

Guest Speaker: Mi’raj Ahmad Riccio speaks with Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid

We have the ability taste these different aspects of Reality; to simultaneously recognize the duality and wholeness. As in the dream state we can be in the dream and yet also aware of the fact that we are dreaming.  But most people are content to stay asleep, letting the “dream” be their reality.  Some of us, though, are deeply and profoundly motivated to move through the corridor (majaz) between theses apparent realities; not automatically, as in sleep, but consciously and by choice, through meditation, dhikr, and contemplation.  This allows us greater understanding and vision, but also can heal the body, sustain the viability of the mind, and give us insight (basira) into a timeless, non-linear dimension that transcends the limitations of mere worldly assumptions and knowledge (information). The track through this majaz is tawwujoh and dhikr, attentiveness and remembrance. But each of us must adjust the lens through which we ‘see,’ by directing our attention progressively through the lenses we are provided with–  The lataif, subtle organs of perception.

The lataif are the lenses to focus our sight and understanding of the batin, they are tracks through the corridor that allow us to be here in this world and aware of the Infinite at the same time.  This conscious back and forth movement between two apparent worlds, or rather two aspects of one reality, create a rhythm in life that provides consonance and balance, which, in turn maximizes our human and our spiritual potential. Rhis rhythm is characterized in the dhahir by the 5 prayers each day.


There are certain concepts and realities that can only be seen vis a vis majāz (metaphor). A metaphor is a word or phrase that exists and changes as it travels from one linguistic, semiotic, state to another.   What is ‘seen’ in  the final  state or stage of development,   will, over time, be the basis of change that allows us to see into the unseen; facilitating changes in cultural orientation,  mentality, even our language.

There are spiritual realities or concepts that are inaccessible directly, but for the interface of majāz. Without metaphor, those spiritual realities won’t be revealed. Just like when you hear a poem, you hear words, they are images of reality, but in some way there is a non-spoken, spiritual experience that is taking place that uplifts you and deepens your knowledge. Knowledge from the batin is travelling through the metaphorical corridor, the majaz, to the dhahir.  It has been transformed. Words that independently have one meaning, in combination take on or imply a totally different meaning or concept. In the dhāhir, things are actualized.  In the bātin, things are compressed and condensed, even time.  For example, the Prophet (sal) stated that, “An hour’s contemplation is better than seventy years of worship.” And some traditions and fuqaha’ have even mentioned it as being better than a thousand years of worship.

In the dhāhir things are only nominally connected and require developing to connect the elements of events or elements in creation, while in the bātin things are obviously connected and reflective of the Unity. In the bātin, everything is One and unending…infinite.  So every little thing affirms the infinite. The dhāhir is the emergent abstraction. The bātin is the innermost concealed essence or core.

Ibn Araby said,

When the spirit descends upon the heart of the servant, through the sending down of the angel and casting of the revelation of Allah, the heart of one to whom it is sent down becomes alive.

The heart he is talking about is not just this thing that is beating in our chest.

But there is a relationship between the physical heart and the spiritual heart, or latifa “Qalb,” because analogically or metaphorically what takes place in the heart in human life is transformational and filled with many meanings and knowledge that come to us, unplanned and unprepared.  Like love or grief, loss, sorrow, fear; things that are bestowed upon us by life, just as Allah bestows upon us his tajalli, and cause changes in our spiritual heart/qalb.

The subtlety of that latifa qalb, the heart, is the most important subtlety.  Consequently, our heart is referred to as the most important centers of the spiritual body and the most important of the lataa’if.  When the eye of the heart opens, it transforms us spiritually and gives the potential, to see what is Real.  When it is operating properly and functionally, it is able to distinguish between what is real and what is an illusion; what is good and bad, right and wrong; true and false.

If it is not functioning properly, just like the physical heart, it loses its rhythm and capability.  Since the heart’s purpose is an extension, or an aggregator of the revelatory organ based on the other senses of perception or capabilities of the lataa’if, a person’s heart which is oriented toward the divine presence leads a person to this receptivity of the tajalli and knowledge.


If we understand this interconnected system of inner and outer, in which individual balance and the balance of our environment is linked, I think we will also begin to understand that destructive human forces, environmentally and socially are less a problem of resources and resource utilization than they are a result of attitude and character, and ultimately manifestations of disbelief, arrogance, and shirk. Because we are all part of the same unified system, our attitudes effect our environment, and, in turn, the destruction of natural resources, through war or economic exploitation, has profound results on human psychology, health, relationships, and well-being. Hence the need for a spiritually alive, spiritually based value system that resonates with the human soul and with the Divine Commands emerging from the Alam ul Amr…world of command.

Acting in Harmony with our Creation is acting in harmony with our Creator. Hence the necessity for responsible behavior, intellectual astuteness, humility and obedience to the Will of Allah (swt); awareness of that Divine Presence with Taqwa (pious respect). What we see can and should be ayah (signs) and reflections for us to contemplate–doorways to the Infinite.

Allah created this earth and created us in a beautiful form:


Truly we created the human being in the best form [95:4]

And He also tells us in Qur’an, “Do what is beautiful [kind], as Allah has done what is beautiful [kind] to you.” [28:77]

He has made us beautiful in form. And it is why we are so aware of the foundation (Ihsan) why we are created to give praise (tahsin)  to Allah (swt).  Because of this, we have an obligation to behave in a beautiful way; to reflect on the Divine Presence and see it’s reflection in us.  In our lives, in our relationship to the world, to the planet, to one another, and by doing this, we will be acting in accordance with the form and nature that Allah (swt) created us with.  When someone behaves in this way, there is a harmonization with what was created, our actions, and the depths of our understanding; a harmonization of the inner and the outer; the dhahir and the batin.

This harmony of the batin, the apparent outer,  is called akhlaq. Akhlaq (أخلاق) refers to the practice of virtue, morality and manners and the consequent aspect of the unseen ( aqeeda -beliefs). The essence of Akhlaq is to act from our spiritual character (or ruh, sirr, kafi, akhfa) rather than acting out of our nafs amarra and lower aspects of our human nature. The word akhlaq is the plural for the word khulq which means disposition. “Disposition” is a property of the soul that comes into existence (from the batin, it is manifest in the dhahir) through exercise and repetitive practice.

Al-Ghazali encouraged his students to reflect on the external and internal forms of beauty, saying,   “There are three kinds of beauty; the first is external physical beauty (dhahir) that he regards as the most debased form.”

In al Kimya al-Sa’adaa (The Alchemy of Happiness) he writes,  ” . . . as to [mans’] beauty, he is little more than nauseous matter covered with a fair skin. Without frequent washing he becomes utterly repulsive and disgraceful.”

The second type is moral beauty (batin) that he relates to a persons character:

“The former kind of man [a man who is only acquainted with sensuous delights] will say that beauty resides in red-and-white complexions, well-proportioned limbs, and so forth, but he will be blind to moral beauty, such as men refer to when they speak of such and such a man as possessing a beautiful character. But those possessed of inner perception find it quite possible to love the departed great, such as the Caliphs Omar and Abu Bakr, on account of their noble qualities, through their bodies have long been mingled with the dust. Such love is directed not towards any outward form, but towards the inner character. Even when we wish to excite love in a child towards anyone, we do not describe their outward beauty or form, etc . . . , but their inner excellences.”

(We know from reports of the remains of some awliya that their bodies remain uncorrupted even after centuries of internment. It seems as a testimonial to true hassana, goodness of the being.)

The third type of beauty that al-Ghazali describes is the spiritual; it is the most sublime, because it is directly connected to the of the Almighty:

“The heart of man has been so constituted by the Almighty that, like a flint, it contains a hidden fire which is evoked by music and harmony, and renders man beside himself with ecstasy. These harmonies are echoes of that higher world of beauty which we call the world of spirits; they remind man of his relationship to that world, and produce in him an emotion so deep and strange that he himself is powerless to explain it.”

To be in harmony with ones environment, with others, and with ones inner and outer self facilitates the gaining of insight (basira) and brings one nearer to awareness of Divine Presence.  As Sufis, we are seeking to rend the veils that hide that third type of beauty, the beauty of balance; the dynamic movement between the apparent inner an outer.  More precisely, we are seeking clear discernment (firasa) in the moment (waqt) of our zaman and makan (time and place), out of which conscious decision, action and response will arise. We will at will have free access, through the Majaz .

As Allah says to us in Surah Ar-Rahman:

Wa-s-samaa’a rafa’aha wa wada’aa-l-mizan

alla tataghow fi-l-mizan

And He has raised up the sky and set the balance—

That you might not transgress the balance. [55:7-8]

When you look at the perfection of creation and the beauty of the Creator, and the essence of the Creator. The dhahir leads you to the batin.

Even though my initial statement was that there is truly no duality, we also know that the experience of daily life presents opposites to us and we make choices moment to moment where we turn our attention. We are constantly seeking out the balance.  Only when we arrive at the maqam (station) that we ‘see’ the outer as an expression of the inner can we truly understand.  Until we achieve that understanding we must act by choosing, balancing, turning, intending, and attending to life ‘as if’ it was dual.

The Shaykh Mohammad ibn Ali said:

“Then wrap yourself in patience and wind on the turban of self-renewal.  You need the shirt of doing-without, and you should wear yourself out in it.”

The Shaykh also tells us:

The murid desires to travel on the spiritual path from the ‘presence of creation and beings, to the presence of the Reality and direct seeing  (basira) as a compensation for his reparation, his service and longing and his love.  The end is in your Lord who is endless; union to Allah is awareness of His Presence and gnosis and only the patient achieve this station.


When we hear and think about the dhahir and batin, as I have spoken about it today, there is a tendency to segregate these two aspects, in our thinking and in our lives.  We divide our “private self” and our “public self;” our “work life” and our “spiritual life;” our “secular friends” and our “religious friends”…  But my point today is they are not separate, Allah is AHAD, so we cannot, and should not separate the two aspects of the whole in our own lives.  As Allah says in Qur’an:

Do not those who cover up the Truth see that the heavens and the earth were of one piece and We parted them? [21:30]

Shaykh Abu Madyan (ra) focusing his teaching on this point; encouraging his students to treat life as a whole; to look at relationships, ethics, and codes (akhlaq), as well as, amal, work and social action.  This outward focus was a focus of the spiritual expressions, spiritual experiences in life. Until his time, the internalization of spiritual life had always been regarded as the most essential life for the Sufi, the pious life.   He said that the inner comprised only part of the work, of the amal.  He made a distinction between the dhahir the outer, and the batin, the inner aspects of reality, to the point where he said that these two aspects were not understood to mean that the interior was more real than the exterior, but the application and the concerns that arise or the insights that arise from the interior are the criteria for meaningfulness in the outer.

In a way we could say that he focused on the Ummah ta wasita, the people of the center or the middle path.  The spiritual method has to be outer and inner, public and private, worldly and spiritual, but they have to complement each other as though they are a single reality.  The foundation has to be in the spiritual, inner practice and its application manifest in the outer.  To maintain mizan, nothing one does in the outer should be far from the reality of the inner; nothing one does in the outer should be far from your own consciousness of the inner. The best way to accomplish that, of course, is to be so cognizant of the Divine Presence; everything reminds you of Allah (swt), such that with every action we take, we are in consonance with the presence or attributes of Allah: The Hazari.

There cannot be a conflict between our outer work and our inner knowledge, or between our outer work and our inner intention. Just as people who put all their attention on the outer are unbalanced, the Sufis who put all their emphasis on only the inner and removed themselves from society and became outwardly pious did not have a balanced, spiritual experience. Spiritual growth requires balance.  Most people want to start with the outer and work toward the inner, but in fact one needs to start with the Batin and the Dhahir together. A point counterpoint.

There have always been Sufis who were very deeply, profoundly spiritual people whose life was and is focused on the inner. Their outer work is the teaching. Of course, that is a great blessing to be focused almost exclusively on the evident and clearly spiritual aspects of life, but do not think it makes it any easier.  Because when your outer work is teaching, it does not mean that you are spending enough time in the inner. And in addition, some of them also had more visibly “outer” work as well, some were shopkeepers, or farmers; some were even, at times, in the court of the king, or the emir or the Sultan.  These people, like Ibn Araby, wrote a lot, they spoke a lot, they did a lot in the outer.   Many of them were qadis, judges and advocates and teachers.  That was their outer work and their inner practices were strong.


We must work to develop our inner self and strive to be a person with an open door between the outer and inner, a person whose inner knowledge allows them to understand their outer circumstances.  That person comes to a state of mind of believing that Allah is playing a major role in their life and accepts what that role was without craving or yearning too many other things.  One of the ways, in the early days of Sufism, that people would accomplish awareness of the importance of such an attitude, was through sawm, fasting.

Shaykh Abdu Madyan would have his students fast for forty days, only on water for forty days, leaving their khilwa, only to answer the call of nature and to pray and to attend the Dhikr. They would, of course, fast at Rajab.  They would fast at Shaban.  They would do the fast three days a month, every month.  It was done at a person’s own discretion. Like the Prophet (sal) in the cave in Hira, the person who performed that salm al wasl, would repent and bathe and do two rakha and then they would do their forty days of seclusion.  What they would do during that time is repeat, “La illah ha illah la, la illah ha illah la” until they developed a strong Tawakkul, a strong reliance and trust in Allah.

Understand that the foundational principle of this type of practices is to develop awareness of the inner.   For the outer to be in consonance with the inner, one must develop tawakkul, trust, and khumul, quiescence, and suqun, acquiescence.  What did that mean?  Complete quiescence meant the cessation of the ego-motivated thoughts and desires.  This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have thoughts or desires.   It means ego-motivated thoughts or desires. Rumi said,

External enemies are nothing.  What could they be? Don’t you see how many thousands of unbelievers are prisoners of an unbeliever?  Who is their leader?  That one unbeliever is a prisoner of thought.  We realize thus, and the thoughts are to be reckoned with since by means of one feeble mean thought, so many thousands of people are held captive.

When I see distinctively that a hundred thousand forms without bound and hosts without end, multitude upon multitude are held captive by a person who is held captive in turn by a miserable thought, then all these are prisoners of one thought.  How would it be if the thoughts were great, endless, holy, sublime? We realize then, therefore, that thoughts matter. Forms are secondary, mere instruments.

How many of us are prisoners of our thoughts?  Isn’t that what has happened to us?  So the pain and the misery, the outward forms of inward anger and arrogance, misery and selfish ambition and cruelty to others. The way to overcome them is on the level of the inner, the way to overcome them is in where we direct our heart.

Abu Madyan said, “The heart has no more than one aspect at a time such that when it is occupied by a certain thing, it is veiled from another.  Take care that you are not attracted to anything but Allah lest He deprive you of the delights of intimate converse with Him.”


In conclusion, I will return to the concept of unity. As I quoted earlier: Allah says in Qur’an:

Do not those who cover up the Truth see that the heavens and the earth were of one piece and We parted them? [21:30]

We were one piece before we were born and were split into two: the physical and spiritual, dhahir and batin. The key to returning to “whole-ness” lies in the heart; the only organ that exists both in the dhahir (through the physical organ) and the batin (lataif Qalb).

The expressions of Allah are reflected, like in a mirror, in the heart of a human. The secret hidden power of the heart is called al himma (yearning). It is a secret power or energy, quwatta kaffiyeh; a force of the batin, the hidden.   Himma is a quality of the heart and an intention of the soul, so strong and powerful that it can, in and of itself, bring into existence that which is only a possibility among the possibilities of the un-manifest divine.

If you analyze the concept of himma, you see that it is a dynamic capability/creativity of the heart that we all have to project onto an external plane (the dhahir), what is conceived by the heart (the batin).  Everything exists as potential, but infinitesimally small, the heart can project the potential of the batin onto the outer. It is this ability of the heart that gives the Seeker the cability to perceive the Divine consciousness.

It is this perceptive capability of the heart that allowed for the Prophet Mohammed (sal) to experience the highest spiritual state, and say, I have seen my Lord in the most beautiful of forms.

This vision of Allah, Ya Rabb, through the power of himma is not just the power of yearning. Remember; it is this secret force, quwatta kafiyyeh.  That experience has a Dhawq/taste, just like a taste, it pervades the being. That dhawq takes you to a state so high where Allah’s divine presence is the only thing in your consciousness.  That is that union with the Divine Beloved;  that state of all- pervasiveness.

The perception becomes such that it pierces the veils, and the incredible power to penetrate the dhahir, to see behind it the secret; everything that lies past the grasp of logic, reason, and physical perception. As shaykh al Akbar says in The Wisdom of the Prophets,

Who is here and what is there?  Who is here is what is there.   He who is universal is particular, and he who is particular is universal. There is but one essence, the light of the essence also being darkness. He who heeds these words will not fall into confusion.  In truth, only he knows what we say who is possessed of al himma.”

Sufism is not just observing rules nor does it just tell you the different stages and degrees of a person’s growth, but it is living a life fulfilling the potential of the heart: personal integrity, generosity, compassion, patience…. The person, who follows the true path of Tasawwuf, is not just an ascetic who focuses only on their development, ignoring the injustices that are plaguing the world, the poverty, the illness, the wars, the starvation….  The Sufi is someone who has a full engaged life, the Sufi is the person who uses discipline and uses vigilance and uses one’s own self in the best way possible to serve one’s brother and sister and one’s neighbor.

Abu Madyan said, “The true Sufi must not be jealous, egotistical or arrogant with his knowledge, nor miserly with his money.  Rather he must act as a guide, not confused, but merciful of heart and compassionate with all of creation.  To him every person is as useful as one of his hands.  He is an ascetic, everything equal to him whether it be praise or blame, receiving or giving, acceptance or rejection, wealth or poverty.  He is neither joyful about what comes to him or sad about what has been lost.” That is the Sufi.

Let us remember, the life of the Sufi is one of Mizan, balance between life, inner and outer; constant vigilance; and detachment from the world while at the same time fully participating in it.

There is a time for inward practices, and a time for out activities.  The Sufi seeks to see beyond the outer and inner, into the whole; to see the integrated system and to integrate the outer and inner in his/her life.


From the Lecture series , “Five Sundays”, at the zawiyya of Shaykh Nooruddeen Durkee, harlottesville, Virginia,    25 April 2010

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