The Sufi Approach to Learning and Teaching Islam
We all have the deep yearning to know ourselves. This yearning exists because it is God's purpose through His creation to manifest Himself. We are created for this purpose. Whether or not this seed, our innate desire for deep knowing, grows to fruition depends upon the strength of our individual inclination (called "Himmah", or ”Willingness") to listen to it - and nurture it. This is your Voice. It is also the Voice of God. We have all heard it but our minds are unprepared or distracted so we don't know what to do with it or we feel ashamed of it due to the influences of peer pressure (often parental) upon us.
Very few of us come to know that it is our Truth calling and our Fountain of Healing and Wisdom Guidance, and fewer yet seek to discover the way to know it fully. Fortunately for us, the ones who choose the search, the Sufis have gone before and have discovered (and taught) the ways to successfully realize and actualize the blessings of this existence.
Sufism is now a time honored and proven way to understand the Psychology of Self through the Knowledge from God.
It is stated in the Holy Qur`an that "Religion in the Sight/Presence of God is Surrender." ("Inna Deena `inda 'llahi l-Islam.") The use of the word "submission" is popular among the people for whom the way is a matter of obligation and obedience. They take their rebellious self (a part of the 'nafs") seriously and feel as though, were they not compelled (by God) to submission, they might not do it. And grateful they are to God for impressing upon them the necessity for submission. For they do indeed see the rightness of their way.
But in the Sufi way, which was also taught by the Holy Prophet, Surrender is to Love, and the knowers have learned that Love is really all there is or can be. This is not mere meaningless fancy. This is the Knowledge the Source, which the seekers seek and the servants serve, and to Whom the Lovers simply Surrender.
The word "Islam" in Arabic, is the command form, from The Divine, to "come peacefully," (as little children, not kicking and screaming - for all that is unnecessary), in a word, to simply Surrender. Real Obedience to this command is our primary obligation, and the foundation of all success.
Real Surrender is in fact the first act of worship (and obedience) and the only true doorway to increase one's direct awareness of Divine Will. (The Holy Prophet said on more than one occasion, "I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its gate." And Ali was nothing if not a surrendered soul.) There is a direct relationship between awareness (true knowledge and Love of the Divine) and Surrender. The more one surrenders, the more one knows and loves, and the more one knows and loves, the more one surrenders. Such is the relationship between Lovers and the Beloved. It is only from the standpoint of this total Surrender to Divine Will that the inspirational, brilliant and Divine nature of the revealed Faith and Practices appears clearly, and can enter the heart in a peaceful and sublime manner.
This book could well be titled "the Psychology of Surrender", ant it is completely in the context of this simple meaning that I will present the Sufi way of learning and teaching from Surrender as the "Psychology of Islam".
Religion, Surrender, Islam, is a very personal thing. "Inna deena `inda'llahi-l Islam." "Verily, Religion (Lit: "the right thing to do") in the Sight/Presence of God is Surrender". It is true that there are as many ways to know God as there are seekers, but it is also true that there is only one way for each seeker, and that is the "straight" way, or the "direct" way. And the first step is always Surrender.
Surrender, and the results thereof, is a deeply personal experience. It is not always easy and requires the deepest dedication and sincerity. It will quickly filter the true from the false, and show you where your choices are. That’s why the mystics enjoy their solitude whenever they can find it. The secrets one discovers in true Surrender and contemplation of the Divine can only best be written about in the poetry of the Lovers of God, for it dearly does not fit into the teaching of practice.
It saddens my heart that the great majority of muslims in the world today do not understand and appreciate the Divine Reality of the word "Islam" and have relegated its explanation to volumes of books and therefore to a category in their minds. It is no longer a Divine experience, but has become a social phenomenon, a way of life, and rife with conformity issues and peer pressure. It is now a teaching to be studied and taught only from books and followed desperately at the peril of hellfire and with the hope of salvation, to be obeyed outwardly at the risk of at least social disapproval and at most severe physical punishment. And the "overseers" are numerous. It has become the playground of the "super-ego" which I strongly suspect is the "Shaytan" that the Prophet said most of us still carry within us.
Since the matters of the heart have been severely curtailed, personal situation and real understanding, let alone the concept of healing (which will be addressed at length later on) are no longer of serious concern. It is only the status of the judge and his supposed fearlessness in meting out what he believes, from his distorted third or fourth-hand education, to be the proper "Islamic" justice, that is now truly of concern. Truly the way of the heart has been lost to the majority of humanity, and no less so in any religion. And all the while our True Reality, HE, is closer to us than our jugular vein. What keeps us from experiencing His Reality? The Qur`an repeatedly mentions this Reality as being an inevitable, and highly desirable event. It describes also the catastrophe that will occur if it is overlooked.
Also, as it is believed with all teachings, it is in the" best interest" of the students and teachers to make the teachings as simple as possible, to condense them, to "codify" them, as it were. This is by definition a "selective" process, and the quality and aim of the work depends entirely upon the purpose and intent, the "mindset", of the "teacher". And now even more so, with enough generations working on codification, it changes form and comes to be interpreted as a simple (but Divine) "obedience" program. It becomes, rather than the complete understanding of the liberation process that the Sufis understand it to be, a tool for the establishment of social order and the self in a competitive position of "authority" over others.
At this level it is only a shade more desirable than any other hierarchical religion, and maybe less, for it rapidly degenerates into a tool for the oppression and control of others, which is the basic aim of the lower "fearful" self. The oppressors take on a convenient "Who, me?" façade and claim that they are "only making peace”. When indeed it is the worst kind of mischief, for it not only misuses and distorts the teaching and purpose of the Divine Revelation and oppresses those who would surrender and learn, but it turns away the truly thoughtful and observant people and forces them to look elsewhere for knowledge.
The Prophet said (something to the effect) that he had in his heart two bodies of knowledge. One that he was commanded to deliver to the people and another for which, were he to reveal it, the people would seek his death. But he did not keep it secret, and passed it on to those who were close, and trusted. Hence the meaning of the ayat of Qur`an (in sura 56 "Al Waqi`a" - The Great Event), "wa Sabiquna Sabiqun", "and the near ones are truly near."
It is for this reason that I write this book. I wish to present to the thoughtful reader "The Other Essence" of the Divine teachings from our Beloved Master, the Holy Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be Allah's Peace and Blessings. That we may know his, (and our own) Essential Character and enough of the convincing excerpts from the Holy Qur`an to make the reading of it in its entirety not only desirable, but the truly enjoyable experience that it is to the millions of Muslims all over this world. Granted, it is meant to be read in Arabic.
There is a well known hadith in which the Prophet (SAS) said, "By pious zealotry my back hath been broken." I will be tempted to explore the relationship in meaning between "overzealous" and "narrow-minded", and feel it necessary to show the origins, signs, dangers, foolishness and disobedience of the very narrow-mindedness that is the hallmark of certain groups of "Islamic" fundamentalists. I will make this comparison only to claim loudly and strongly that the kind of behavior that causes us to fear, and which keeps us away from any study or interest in Muslims and Muslim Culture, has nothing to do with the Holy Truth, nothing to do with the Holy Surrender (Islam), and nothing to do with exemplary Muslim behavior. Muslims are commanded to teach with reasoning and kindness, and anyone who does that is a better Muslim that anyone who does not. The Prophet also said that the best man among us is the one who is kindest to his wife. So please, do not mistake the misdeeds of men for the teachings of the religion, even though they would have you believe that it is so.
There is also a very famous tradition that the "Last Day" will not arrive until the "Sun" has "Risen" in the "West". So I implore the readers and students of peace in Western Society, to BE the Sunrise in the West. Muslims of birth often say that the westerners converted to Islam have a degree of quality rarely to be found in the old country. And that was simply that they had accepted Islam as a matter of reasoning and choice, whereas those born into it did not have that option. Hopefully this new presentation of the realities of Islam as the way of Surrender to God will show the people of the West how really close we all are, and to be a source and new example to the people who believe differently. After all, the Muslims are emulating everything else the West has to offer, why not our healing psychology and our patterns of peace.
I also wish to point out that the cure for all the illnesses of the heart is in Surrender to Allah, the One Ever-transcendent Reality, and not in submission to minds that fear and seek to control. Surrender and control cannot exist together in one heart, and such is the cause of the hearts (and houses) divided.