The Circle Group > Featured Article > “Travel” with a Sufi Guide

In the introduction to his talk entitled “Travel Both Outer and Inner: The Road to Fulfillment in Eternity”, Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid said,

“The subject of travel is one of deep significance to the Muslim and the Sufi.  In many ways, it is the subject that encompasses all subjects; it is the thread that can be found in every teaching, because it is the thread that can be found in every life.   Travel holds a place of significance in the collective history and the individual lives of all Muslims.   We are all enjoined to travel to Mecca at least once in our lifetime, to make Hajj.  It was the journey from Mecca to Medina, the hijra that established the Muslim community and marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. And there is the ultimate journey, taken by our Prophet (saaws), in the Isra Miraj.   As you can see, travel, both inner and outer, plays a pivotal role in our lives.

Travel symbolizes a turning point in a life, a community, a faith; from focus on the outer, to focus on the inner; travel in the outer, which leads to travel in the inner. Why would travel have such a central and symbolic role in the teachings and life of the Propeht (saaws) if it did not hold deep mysteries of creation and directions for our own life and purpose?

To an audience of varied backgrounds, ages, and professions, the Shaykh continued his dars saying,

” Our journey is to reach the pinnacle of awareness and of knowledge. For the spiritual seeker, this journey begins from some place deep inside of us, a yearning to know the answers to burning questions. Allah (swt) provides us the names and the meanings, the means and the guidance. Allah tells us that we are murīd and we are salik. We are seekers.  Here is the road, the tarīqah.  Here is the path, the suluk. The journey is progressive, from Shariah, to Tariqah, to Marifah to Haqiqah..more and more refinement. Step by step. This is the journey, and here is the fuel, the himma (yearning).  In addition to that, we need to have patience, trust, compassion, and mercy.

And Shaykh Rashid continued later in his talk:

The reality is, we are all travelers in time and space.  Each one of us is traveling each moment.  Every resident on this planet is traveling around the sun at a speed of 67,062 miles per hour.

Not only that, but hardly a moment passes when we are not travelling between two or more dimensions/worlds.  Neurologically, we are traveling every moment in thought, in quantum leaps, through corridors and tunnels of time and space. Hardly a moment passes when we are not simultaneously in the Dhahir and the Batin.  Yet rarely is the average person, or even the spiritual person, aware of that state and that journey.  We are all traveling; where our choice lies is in how we are traveling, with what intention, what we are seeing, perceiving; journeying towards.

We are told, again and again, about this in the Qur’an and in Hadith.  There are hundreds of references to the “seen” and the “hidden,” the Dhahir and the Batin; countless indicators in the outer life of it’s inner origin and inner correlative.  As Allah says in Sura Al-Hadid: He is the Outwardly Manifest and the Inwardly Hidden. [57:3]”

While the audience remained attentively listening, the Shaykh explained,

“What is important about this for today’s subject of “travel” is what it shows us about our own nature and our capacity.    It shows us that we are created for this bifurcated, dual capacity.   We are designed by Allah (swt) to be here and there, to be aware of both the outer and the inner dimensions of existences, through conscious choice.

It is this ability, one of the most defining abilities of the human being that allows us to turn from the world and the physical apparent reality and direct our attention to those other dimensions, utilizing our perceptive capacities, while continuing our duties in the physical world.   As the Prophet (saaws) reminded us, this world passes in the blink of an eye: What is the world to me? I am to the world like a rider who sleeps a little beneath a tree on a summer’s day, then departs and leaves it far behind. And he also said: Riches are not to be found in the transitory things of the world, but rather in contentment of the self.

This is part of our life and our purpose: to see beyond the exterior, the diversions of this world, into the inner meanings and messages.   Some of us choose to be aware of, and develop, such capabilities, recognizing and embracing this journey we are on, while others do not.  Why some do this, and others close their eyes to this reality is a very deep subject, which encompasses faith, submission, trust, and destiny.

As a brief answer to this question, let me at least posit that we are so sure of our point of view and the habitual patterns that govern our thoughts and actions that most people are oblivious to, or fearful of, looking with a new perspective.  Thus they deny the totality of other internal organs of perception (i.e. lataif) and their function. Spiritual journeying is not a ‘vacation’ or ‘pastime,’ it is a total commitment to inward refinement and reflection of that refinement in the outer. Turning toward Allah (swt) is not a religious formalism or customary act of apparent piety; it is refining seeing and hearing and feeling, without judgment, or preference, or fear, or ego gratification.”

Listeners were reflecting on the Shaykh’s words and he continued in this lengthy discourse fully elaborating the following:

  • Seeing the Unity of Inner and Outer
  • The Thread of Suluk
  • The story of the Zahid and the Traveler
  • Isra Miraj:The Ultimate Journey
  • Traveling in the System
  • Patterns of Sujuud
  • Our Destination: Seeing the Inner in Every Outer
  • Traveling in the Homeland
  • The Intuition Compass

“As we unveil the layers of self and become content within our self for where Allah has placed us and what He has given us, we see that the whole pattern is already there. The process of seeing and recognizing the patterns develops our intuition; the pattern becomes clear to we can intuit what is going to happen next. Intuition it is like a compass for the traveler. If you look at the compass all the time you would be walking into trees, but you check the compass periodically to see if you are going in the right direction.

If you don’t check that compass and you are off half a degree, over time we get further and further away from that path.  A ship traveling in the ocean that is off on its course by even one degree, can be off by fifty or sixty miles over night, depending on how fast you are going, and can miss its destination.  Take that as a metaphor and a reminder to keep looking at the compass.

And as the Shaykh came to the end of his dars,

In conclusion, let me remind you of this: travel in the physical world is often an opportunity to start things fresh, make new intentions, rid oneself of old habits, a time to get out of the confines of our outer environment and reflect on our inner.  I often tell my students to take the opportunity of travel to make changes in themselves and their lives.

So, we have all traveled here to the Center today; while we sat here our planet has traveled 402,375 miles through space (6 hrs at 67,062 miles/hour); our minds have travels in quantum episodes and hopefully our hearts too have traveled into inner meanings.

Let us take this opportunity to make new niyyat, to break old habits, to turn our attention more and more toward the inner in every moment.  Especially as we travel, through time, toward the month of Ramadan, let our path be straight, our hearts clear, and our minds open to seeing the inner message of Allah in everything.

The beauty of being a being that is always traveling is that we are never stagnant, there is always change; always another chance.  With repentance and the right intention, we can always start fresh:  As Rumi wrote:

Come, come, whoever you are.

Wanderer, worshipper, lover of living, it doesn’t matter

Ours is not a caravan of despair.

Come even if you have broken your vow a thousand times,

Come, yet again, come, come.

(As quoted in Rumi and His Sufi Path of Love (2007) by M Fatih Citlak and Huseyin Bingul, p. 81)

We invite you to watch the complete talk on video (below)  or download a the complete transcript : Travel Both Outer and Inner: The Road to Fulfillment in Eternity (pdf) by Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid.

Next Talk Series:  7 Sundays on the Seven Valleys as spoken of in “The Conference of the Birds” by Farid ad-Din Attar, begins in September. Sign up on our website  (top right) with your email to receive new postings via email.

“Travel both Outward and Inward”