THE SUFI APPROACH TO ISLAM -
Finding Spiritual Healing and World Peace in these Troubled Times

EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW WITH ALI

Q. What do you mean when you say "We really choose our own time"?

A. Even though all souls are manifest on this plane right now, each will carefully pick its own path through the maze of the life it was born into, and emerges only when it is ready, and has determined that it is safe to do so. That is one reason why we have so few emerged souls on the planet at the time. It's been tested and determined to be, by and large, an unsafe place for truth and soul quality. One of the purposes of the Sufi way is to create an environment in which such emergence is expected.

The perceived need for such an environment is also the root 'spiritual' motivation in the drive for material security and stability, without which it is doubly difficult for the true human or "soul" qualities to emerge. 

The birth of children more or less 'forces' the qualities of compassion and love to come out of us, and that is why we love them so much. But the contemporary battle is now between Time and Love, by that I mean between time for love, and the struggle for financial 'survival'. So the children suffer and deem the world an unsafe place for their soulful emergence, and in anger seek to destroy that which they recognize as a prison, maybe even as the prison of their parents. 

But this was not always the case and need not be even now. In the West, as a more correct belief system is discovered through the "scientific" approach of exploration and experimentation, more and more souls will be "coming out" of hiding and taking their rightful places in the legions of right, religious and spiritual-minded people, past and present. This is my definition of religion, the "re-legioning", or re-aligning of popular focus. Pointing in the right direction. Telling it like it is. 

A good religion will have all of the requisite teachings to provide for the safety, reform and 'realignment' of human energy that is necessary to contribute to a proper environment for the emergence of the true human, or "soul" qualities of peace, mercy, wisdom and justice for all. This emergence, in some cultures, is considered simply "maturation". 

Take a look into world history and at the incredible civilizations built upon the peace established by the religion of Islam. You will see world environments in which the magnificent qualities of peace and soulful patience emerged in the form of unsurpassed achievement in the fields of architecture, agriculture, hygiene, etiquette, medicine, philosophy, psychology, literature, poetry, art and calligraphy, to mention only a few. And all of this without the oil cartels and the frenetic waste of human energy and natural resources.

Where are the socially accessible benefits of these qualities being manifested now? Only within small, well defined, "experimental" spiritual communities. But creating an arena for the manifestation of these qualities is exactly the purpose of the Islamic revelation.
 

Q. How is it that the "Islamic revelation", as you call it, creates the environment for the manifestation of these deeply human "soul" qualities?

A. Islam brings to us, humanity, a certain knowledge of the true qualities of God, a sense of divine certainty that answers all questions, and upon which personal lives and civilizations can be built. For example, the concept of eternity breeds patience, with oneself and with others. The concept of Grace, Mercy and Forgiveness breed lack of fear and anxiety, the concept of personal responsibility for the soul allows for freedom from less benevolently inclined spiritual, religious or even secular controls, basically from unwitting manipulation by others. The concept of salvation, that God did not create to punish, offers freedom of mind. This knowledge is that "salvation" is a gift, and cannot be earned, but maintained by gratitude and remembrance.
 

Q. What is the "key to salvation" in Islam?

A. Salvation and spiritual liberation are the same thing, the saving of the soul. The only difference is that Salvation is considered to be in the "afterlife" or Hereafter, and spiritual liberation, or the "realization" of salvation, is considered to be attainable while still in this world. In Sufism, which is the study of reality and the essence of Islam, spiritual liberation and salvation may be attained by recognizing our identity with True Love. I hasten to add that this is not easy, because it implies recognizing and transcending all loves that are false, that are not the true, ultimate love. This recognition and identification with the True Love is one of the essential "personalized" meanings, well documented in Islamic psychology, to be gained from the phrase "la ilaha illa llah", and the discipline of coming to truly understand its meaning. There is no love but True Love - the True Love, in this case, being Al-llah!, the Compassionate, the Merciful, the very Source and Author of all true love.

In Islam and Sufism, this recognition is aided by the teachings of true love for the Prophet and his family. He himself is reported to have said, "I ask no recompense from you except that you love my family". It doesn't take long for a student of Islam, under Sufi tutelage, to realize why true love for the Prophet and his family is due, and the self reflection that one receives from this endeavor is more than satisfying. Islamic Revelation categorically states that Muhammad was the last and final prophet. Sufis derive from their investigation of the revealed facts that he (Muhammad) is the "Qutub of the Universe" or, the central soul, the very reason why Allah created, sustains and will bring to a close, this Universe as a whole. 

There have been volumes and eulogies written in praise of Muhammad, whose name in fact means the Most Praiseworthy. As stated in Qur`an, Allah Himself as well as His angels, sends his blessings upon the Prophet, and the believers are encouraged to do the same. It is stated that when a believer asks for Allah's blessings upon the Prophet and his family, that the Prophet and his family, from their places in the unseen, return the request by asking for Allah's blessings upon the believer. Muhammad asked of us nothing but to love him and his family. How do we go about loving him and his family? Simply by bearing witness to the truth of the message of the Unity of God (Allah) and the prophecy of Muhammad. In Islam, recognition of and honoring the truth of this message is the key to "salvation", or the "liberation" of the "soul" qualities. 

So love for Muhammad and his family is the key to the liberation of all the unseen virtues of the human soul. This is the reason why the Sufis are so unrivaled in their exuberant praises of God, and why their writings and poetry are so exhilarating, because they represent the heights of liberation attainable by the human soul, and resonate with that potential within our selves. 
 

Q. What does it mean when you say (in other writings) "The Death in Allah is the Life in Him", or "Die before you die"?

A. "Die before you die" is a statement attributed to the prophet himself. It is the quintessential statement of the 'method' for knowing God and has been used in Sufi practices for ages. 

Being a "child of the bomb" - meaning being born in the atomic age where a very realistic and completely total annihilation to the point of total evaporation of all the physical qualities which give me form and life and make me human and present - has allowed me a more dramatic and "first-hand" opportunity to imagine such annihilation, and then to imagine what would be left. And there is a subtle sense of immortality that with a little patience and training can be picked up on. According to the masters, this is the only thing that is really "real" about us, and we can really only barely perceive it, although it is rich, strong and powerful. It is spoken of much in Sufism and referred to as the "true" self, or soul.

And that's only from the physiological standpoint. Also, from the psychological standpoint of the ego, all must perish. This is stated in other ways in other traditions. The Buddhists see it and say - as do the Taoists and Vedantists, the "Gnostics" (in the revealed religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam) and modern "soul" psychologists focusing on the emergence of the "Authentic Self" - it is the point of life. This is major movement in personal and social life, as well as in healing, and all resistances to it are futile and seem to end in tragedy. 

However, from the standpoint of the emerged self, as stated in religions and spiritual paths, nothing perishes, for the soul, manifesting as true self by the will of its source, is immortal, by the very nature of its createdness and its sustenance in and by divine will. 

So when we let go of our "mortal" concerns, and "trust", the heart is immediately enlivened and the body leaps for joy. We are in actuality letting go, in a small way, of our "mortality", and allowing our comparative "immortality" to influence us. It is much the same as when we sleep. There are traditions within some Buddhist teachings that compare the "awakened" being to being as "asleep" to the world of illusion. The tarot shows him in the referred form, meaning: as he is seen by "normal" people, as the "fool on the hill", impractical, a mere dreamer. But modern research is proving it to be quite another case indeed. A wonderful book has been written on this subject by Robert Rabbin called "Invisible Leadership". (robrabbin.com)

A willingness to "let go" of life itself will show you that it is not at all dependent upon you and your efforts to ward off your fears. Life has a benevolence all its own that can only be experienced by letting it. Continued practice coupled with a spiritual discipline can lead to complete liberation. 
 

Q. What, to your thinking, is the significance of these "troubled times"?

A. Soul is very persistent. It is truly our benefactor and will only allow us so much foolhardiness before it starts to manifest in seriously "troubling" ways. Kids think of themselves "in trouble" when parents intervene. This is the theme of my own breakthrough discoveries in "soul psychology", and the key to my personal liberation.

It's only when we are able to accept and investigate the motivations behind the parts of ourselves that we have learned to think of as "negative", and investigate the causes of such thinking, that we come to realize the nature of our true self, or soul, and its qualities, its own motivation and its means of expression. It's important to listen to and understand the roots of our "No!" as well as our "Yes!", and to understand what it is exactly that we are saying "Yes!" and "No!" to. 

This is the form of healing that comes from and leads to spiritual liberation. It is currently on the vanguard of the movements in health and medicine, from commercially viable treatments of lesser quality to the absolutely non-profitable methods of self-responsibility and self-education led by the spiritual and energy healers, as well as at the leading edge of truly investigative psychologists and psychiatrists. Spiritual liberation has proven to be the root and motivation of all the healing arts, for when the mind and body/heart are truly synchronous and free of the enslaving ideologies and incorrect belief systems, all choices become available and true health has a chance to dominate.

There is no doubt that spiritual liberation and education is not just desirable, but altogether necessary. But liberation is from what? Only our fears! And the Sufis maintain that a true knowledge of Islam would go a long way toward ameliorating our fears and dispelling our doubts. It might be that our greatest collective fear at the moment is Islam. Of everything that we are getting from and seeing in the media there is only one true statement: "That is not the real Islam". 
 

Q. So what is Islam, and what are we afraid of? 

A. My point exactly. I might answer that by saying that we are afraid of our fear, and that the true Islam is a perfect means of dispelling it. Fear is always based on Ignorance, and knowledge is always a liberation, ("The truth shall set you free") so the purpose of knowledge is to liberate us from ignorance. And what true knowledge of Islam do we have in the West? As long as we are ignorant, we can be manipulated by fear. But what if we had nothing to be afraid of? What then? Can anybody in the West explain why Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world? I can. It's simply because it is supposed to be. It was created to capture and hold our interest, and it has done a very good job. So what is the truth of Islam? As an accepted religion, it is the most recent and final manifestation of Divine will and knowledge to come to us through a long line of accepted prophets. 

It is becoming increasingly obvious what certain Islamic Scholars have been saying all along - "Islam IS the Issue". We are more motivated and governed by our ignorance and fear of Islam than we would like to think, but what IS Islam? It's nothing, really. By that I mean that it can be for most of us nothing greater than a simple shift in understanding. For example, accepting the Name of Allah as the Name of God is one increasingly popular thing we can do that immediately shifts the energy and releases the tensions of a perceived incompatibility. 

"Islam" means "Surrender!" It is the command form of the root Arabic word for "Peace". It simply means, in a commanding way, "Be peaceful!" It is a clearly stated message of Truth and Reality from God, and has been accepted as such by fourteen hundred years of human society and approximately one-quarter of today's world population.

Understanding Islam to mean the simple Surrender that most of do or attempt to do even in the bustle of our daily lives is another of the simple shifts in understanding.  Everyone practices Islam in one form or another, and all religions teach it as surrender to Divine will, or giving up the fight within ourselves. We practice in our daily lives so much that we don't even notice it any more. 

Each of us has a part of us that is Muslim. Understanding the word "Muslim" to mean simply "Surrendered", or "Surrendering" to Divine Will. Often referred to in western Spirituality as "Letting God do it", or just "letting go". That is Surrender, and that's the meaning of "Islam", to simply Surrender. This is the Surrender that is the root and beginning of all successful healing. It is the release of duality and the acceptance of Unity. 

Islam has nothing to do with surrendering to the will of "another". That is the religion of fear, submission and obedience instilled in us by dominating father figures. But that is not from the Love, Gratitude and Freewill Service offered by a truly liberated and self-responsible soul. For each individual, in the personal life of each soul, there is no possibility of some "other", there IS only the One true God (called "Allah!" in Arabic), and it is to this LOVE that we are responsible, and to no other authority. 

And it's everything. Asking "What is Islam, is like asking, "What is God?" Islam is a religion for people who are surrendered to their existence in God and concerned about their lives and the salvation of their souls. It is becoming increasingly necessary that the public be offered authentic information concerning the practicalities of Islam, and its goals, means and purposes. So I am offering a series of articles and inviting the questions of readership as fuel for more dissertations on the true meanings of Islam, the reasons for its historical and contemporary benefit to human society, and the personal application of its tenets in the pathway of spiritual liberation, know as Sufism.
 

Q. Why do we in the West, not choose Islam? 

A. Common sense. Not only are people drawn to the familiar, they are also averse to the strange. And if we do not know about something, only a few of us will find the time, the interest, or the urgency, to go exploring. The rest of us will stay at home and wait for it to be delivered in the evening news. But Islam is now in the evening news, and every evening, also. So people want to know what it is. And in the Sufi view, it is inevitable that the future, if there is one, will be in Islam in its most liberal and all inclusive sense, i.e. Surrender to Peace and the way of Peace. So if that's the future, why not practice it now?
 

Q. What do you mean, "in its most liberal and all-inclusive sense". 

A. Well it's a cinch that if totalitarianism is to exist as the dominant form of society on the planet, it will certainly not be "Islamic" totalitarianism, for there is in fact no such thing and the very concept is objectionable to Allah Himself. Allah is the liberator, not the enslaver. And Totalitarianism in any form is objectionable to the human spirit and eventually will be eradicated, but religions and unity will endure forever for they are endearing to the human heart, and from and about Allah, the Divine, and Peace. Love, Mercy and Justice for all. This is true in all religions and Oriental Philosophies. So they are concepts and movements that will endure, and totalitarianism, and especially Islamic totalitarianism, is not. 

But there are today many terrified people who believe themselves free and liberated by their religion, but who also believe that it is their religious duty to inflict their religion upon other with punishment as a consequence. This is true of fundamentalism in all beliefs and is a result of having their religion and their salvation inflicted upon them, and believing it to be in their own best interests. In other words, they were never free or liberated spiritually to make their own choices and believe that what happened to them is the benevolent will of God. They are therefore willing, even eager, to pass it on to others in like manner. 

It becomes the duty and privilege of enlightened people the world over to learn the true principles of Islamic Social Liberation and point out the salient and forgotten points of their religion to the world, Muslims included. This effort toward world peace will satisfy all involved. It will illumine the truths of the faith to the world at large, and correct the errors of reasoning and education to the frustrated Muslims who feel that war is the only way to get their point across. 

Everyone id thinking of war as the means to peace. "Win first. Then we can be at peace. Defeat the enemy is a valid strategy, but the enemy is raging within us and unless the effort is expended to discover peace within us, it will never reign in the world. For the world is an exact reflection of how we see ourselves in it. 
 

Q. What would you consider to be, in a word, a major identifiable problem in western thinking.

A. Competitiveness. Not competition, for there are competitions that are healthy and stimulating, but competitiveness is a pervasive, yet easily identifiable manifestation of deep of chronic concern. Competitiveness keeps people from taking their own time. It keeps them always making comparison to see if their outward lives are keeping up with someone else's. And the major "sub-conscious" cause of this is what I call "fighting with ghosts", or setting ourselves up to be just like or better than, or not at all like, someone who is not there, and mainly, one or another of our parents. The competitiveness of which I speak is born of an instilled fear inherited from generation of Anglo-Saxon heritage, and has never existed as such in Islamic society. It is considered to be a manifestation of unhealthy self-concern and the antithesis of Surrender. And Surrender is known to be the key to personal prosperity and social success. 

Undoing the residue effects of competitiveness is the healing work of the Sufis in Islam. Soothing the frightened nerves and welcoming the newcomers into the gardens of peace and prosperity is the manifestation of world-famous Islamic hospitality. It is the work of liberating the soul from the shackles of its acquired fears. Self-realization is the process of totally finishing individuation, or the realization and manifestation of divine entity-ship. It is a complete separation from all sub-conscious attachments, thereby ending the powers they have over you and freeing your true reality and personal resources to accomplish your true mission on earth, whatever that may be. In a word, the annihilation of the ego. 
 

Q. What do you mean by "Real Islam Exists only in the hearts of Sufi Masters"?

A. If people only knew that there was nothing to fear, there would be no fear and there would be no people to be manipulated by fear, nor would there be any fearful people to be doing the manipulation. Now wouldn't that be "Heaven on Earth"? 

The thing about Sufi masters is that they know this. And how do they know this? Through study and practice of the Sufi way - understanding Islam in the light of Reality, rather than in the light of personality. Identifying and transcending personality for the very purpose of understanding Reality. And this Reality is mentioned over and over again in Qur`an, but always in terms of "Would that you knew it". "Al Haaqah! Wa maa al Haaqah." "Wa maa adraka al Haaqah." "The Reality! And what is the Reality?" "And what will convey to you this Reality?" So even though it may not be immediately obvious, it is knowable, and the way to knowing is an article of faith and the purpose and the goal of the guided practice of the religion of Islam. But I say guided, because if the intention is lost, or deferred to the afterlife, then the practices become pointless exercises in belief. 

But the people of fear, both the manipulators and the manipulated are very attached to their fears and object strenuously to any teaching that their fears do not, in reality, exist. But the truth is, in Reality, they do not exist. And should the people of truth simply lie down and surrender to the fears of the fearful? Of course not. So the struggle for knowledge of truth continues. 

The struggle against our fears, which is the struggle to overcome them and know the Reality and the Truth of Allah, is the Greatest Jihad. It is incumbent upon us all from the cradle to the grave. All struggles, greater and lesser, are struggles against oppression, and the greatest and most important of these is the struggle against self-oppression, or the struggle for self- or spiritual liberation. It is attainable. Allah would not give us an impossible obligation. And it is the people who are doing the work of liberation who are the real Sufis. And the people whoever is truly practicing Surrender to the Real (God-Allah) is a Muslim. And it matters not where they live or what language they speak.
 

Q. Why do you consider Self-liberation to be the primary obligation? 

Several reasons. But the first is Trust - Allah wants us to trust Him - to know first hand His love peace mercy and forgiveness. Liberation from the limiting confines of ourselves is clearly stated to be the Jihad Al-Akbar, or Greater Jihad, and is of equal or greater importance to us than the lesser one of staving off enemies. But they are related, for they both relate to the subduing of enemies, outer and inner. The difference with the inner work, and the quality that makes it the "greater" Jihad, is that it is with us all the time while the struggle in self-defense will come and go. Another quality that makes it the "Greater" Jihad is that the fears that we carry within our selves are much harder to identify, much more hidden, and to each person, much scarier. 

People actually grow very attached to their fears and will reject vehemently any idea of the possibility or desirability of letting them go. This is the very reason for the fundamental reaction from a large group of Muslims to the concept of Sufism and spiritual Healing. They simply claims that it does not exist, or is not a part of the Islam that they were taught, and dismiss and reject it. For all the beliefs, incorrect or otherwise, they may have about it, the deep fundamental effect of their belief and education is that the work will not be done. They will claim happiness and contentment with Allah, while in fact they are living in fear of the real love, and are dedicated to self repression in the name of self-control and discipline. And, they will call this discipline, the Jihad al-Akbar.

So what can we do? Qur`an does not argue with these people and tells us to consider them the people of the right hand and wish them peace. Such is the attitude of the majority of the Muslims today toward Sufism and the work of Spiritual Healing and Purification, which is the meaning of thew word "Tasawwuf" from which the Sufis derive. 

But still, in not doing the work and in not completing their education in Islam at the hands of the true Sufi Masters, they do not only a disservice to themselves but to the actual face of Islam itself. For they all represent Islam to the degree of their knowledge, and since the outward practices of Islam are so simple to learn and can go to some pretty deep levels, each of the Muslims is more than pleased with himself and very ready to step into the role of teacher. 

This gives, for the most part, a very dogmatic, fundamentalist and doctrinairian view of Islam which is palatable to only a few westerners looking for a religious escape that tells them all they have to do is this now, and they will attain heaven later. But even a cursory glance at the psychology of this situation will show that the "Heaven" that this seeker seeks is simply escape from some perceived form of persecution, and most always, by now, self imposed. 

Islam, in the Sufi view means "Surrender", but surrender to what? It is held that the true love is identified by keeping company with it, and by shunning the company of any lesser love. This is the primary tenet of Islam and is expressed on the tongue by saying, "la ilaha illa llah" "There is no God but Allah". But western-educated Muslims fall easy prey to the limiting and "definitive" qualities of the English language. I've often said that English is an investigative and defining language, inquisitive and growing, but seeking explanation and seeking to provide it within its own limits. Whereas Arabic, as the language of Qur`an, is an explanatory and liberating language. It is the language of Revelation, in which answers are to be found. It is said in Sufi lore that "Arabic is the language of Paradise". 

When we try to translate "la ilaha illa llah" into English, the brevity of the language is intensely self-limiting. "There is no god but Allah" does not even begin to explain the deeper meanings of "la ilaha illa llah". Literally volumes have been written on this phrase alone since it is the basis and key to all pertinent Islamic theological exposition. This phrase is so meaningful that it is said in a direct revelation from God to the Prophet that the words "la ilaha illa llah, Muhammadun Rasulullah" are written on the throne of God, and that the throne of God is to be found in the heart of every true believer.

Now does that sound like a religious study that can be easily "summed up", in a simple translation, or even worse, dismissed?  And, in light of that simple understanding, how pertinent is the real study of Sufism to the knowledge of Islam, and to the advancement of Western Spiritual Psychology, and to the healing of personal and social wounds, and to the establishment of world peace?


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