….Sufism is a religious movement that can only be described; it cannot be defined. Consider the following parable originally composed by the greatest of all Sufi poets, Jalal ad-Din Rumi (d. 1273) and recounted by Idris Shah, the Grand Shaykh of Sardana:
A Persian, a Turk, an Arab, and a Greek were traveling to a distant land when they began arguing over how to spend the single coin they possessed among themselves. All four craved food, but the Persian wanted to spend the coin on “angur”; the Turk, on “uzum”; the Arab, on “inab”; and the Greek, on “stafil”. The argument became heated as each man insisted on having what he desired. A linguist passing by overheard their quarrel. “Give the coin to me,” he said. “I undertake to satisfy the desires of all of you.” Taking the coin, the linguist went to a nearby shop and bought four small bunches of grapes. He then
returned to the men and gave them each a bunch.
“This is my angur!” cried the Persian.
“But this is what I call uzum,” replied the Turk.
“You have brought me my inab,” the Arab said.
“No! This in my language is stafil.”
All of a sudden, the men realized that what each of them had desired was in fact the same thing, only they did not know how to express themselves to each other. The four travelers represent humanity in its search for an inner spiritual need it cannot define and which it expresses in different ways. The linguist is the Sufi, who enlightens humanity to the fact that what it seeks (its religions), though called by different names, are in reality one identical thing. However—and this is the most important aspect of the parable—the linguist can offer the travelers only the grapes and nothing more. He cannot offer them wine, which is “the essence of the fruit.” In other words, human beings cannot be given the secret of ultimate reality, for such knowledge cannot be shared, but must be experienced
through an arduous inner journey toward self-annihilation.
Reza Aslan, No God but God (via solipsistictendencies)
lol truuuuuuuue, but a lot of this esoteric “we can’t give you the secret! we can’t share the knowledge!” was, in middle persia, due to persecution by the orthodox clergy. particularly after that Mansour Al-Hallaj affair…
in fact hafez wrote a poem to this effect: why teach the truth openly when a) you’ll get executed for heresy, b) sharing isn’t the same as experiencing, and c) all humans have the ability to find this truth within themselves, anyways, if they really wanted to find it? (i’m not 100% satisfied with my interpretation of this poem, so beware.)
also, from what i’ve read (which wouldn’t be nearly as much as what mr aslan has read), sufis believe that technically all religions can unite a person with god, but islam is the best religion for the job. whether they said this because they actually believed it (as i’m sure many did, since sufis were pretty much all educated under islam and used almost exclusively islamic concepts and ideas to express themselves) or whether they said this to avoid persecution from the orthodox clergy (which i’m sure many people did, too, since anyone who wanted access to a good education needed to at least pay lip service to the religion) is somewhat iffy. sufis in middle persia were a very varied bunch who had widely varying beliefs about the best way to do it, partly due to the fact that sufism is all about ~*following your heeeeeeart*~.
since i’ve bad-mouthed the orthodox islamic clergy already, i may as well say something to the credit of orthodox islam. the prophet did make it clear that he wanted muslims to support and participate in their ummah and make their community strong, rather than become hermit ascetics who refuse to work and would rather devote their entire life to obsessing about prayer and god on their own while their family starved. islam has always been a practical religion about taking care of yourself and serving god in this life (and reuniting with god after you die)—there is no need to try and completely annihilate the self to reunite with god while you’re alive. just live a just life.
at some point in history, some dude decided to (among other things—like destroying the proliferation of science in persia) reconcile orthodox islam with sufism. for the most part, it worked, so now sufism is basically synonymous with islamic mysticism.
feel free to contradict me, i just really love persian poetry and the history surrounding it (you literally cannot shut me up about it) and i love learning, especially from people who know more about a topic than i do. ^_^
افسوس، ما خوشبخت و آرامیم
افسوس، ما دلتنگ و خاموشیم
خوشبخت، زیرا دوست می داریم
دلتنگ، زیرا عشق نفرینیست
Forough Farrokhzad - در آبهای سبز تابستان - In the Green Waters of Summer
afsoos, maa khoshbakht o aaraamim
afsoos, maa deltang o khaamooshim
khoshbakht, ziraa doost midaarim
deltang, ziraa eshgh nafarinist
Alas, we are fortunate and tranquil
Alas, we are forlorn and still
Fortunate, because we love
Forlorn, because love is a curse.
چو خود را قوی حال بینی و خوش
به شکرانه بار ضعیفان بکش
Sa’di - Bustan - Ch4 V12
cho khod raa ghavi haal bini o khosh
be shekaraaneh baare za’ifaan bekosh
When you yourself are at your peak
Bear happily the burdens of the weak
سگی پای صحرا نشینی گزید
به خشمی که زهرش ز دندان چکید
شب از درد بیچاره خوابش نبرد
به خیل اندرش دختری بود خرد
پدر را جفا کرد و تندی نمود
که آخر تو را نیز دندان نبود؟
پس از گریه مرد پراگنده روز
بخندید کای مامک دلفروز
مرا گر چه هم سلطنت بود و بیش
دریغ آمدم کام و دندان خویش
محال است اگر تیغ بر سر خورم
که دندان به پای سگ اندر برم
توان کرد با ناکسان بدرگی
ولیکن نیاید ز مردم سگی
Sa’di - Bustan - Ch4 V10
A dog bit off a hermit’s foot
So violently that its teeth dripped with venom
The night was spent in a battle of pain
His daughter nagged him on and on
Anguished her father harshly saying:
"And in the end, you yourself had no teeth?"
Then the man, shaking and in tears
Then gave a small, delightful smile:
"Even if I were greater than a sultan
I’d still hold back my tongue and teeth
Even if you struck a blade over my head
I’d never let my teeth touch the foot of a dog.” (1)
One can seek vengeance upon the ignoble
But do not lower yourself to the level of a dog.
My Shirin Neshat obsession continues..
The calligraphy in the background says:
شهید؛ تو بالا رفته ای من در زمینم
برادر رو سیاهم شرمگینم
مرا اسب سفیدی بود روزی
شهادت را امیدی بود روزی
Martyr: You have gone up, I stay on Earth
O Brother, my name is black and shameful
A white destiny it was, one day
That I could have been martyred too, one day.
به آفتاب سلامی دوباره خواهم داد
به جویبار که در من جاری بود
به ابرها که فکرهای طویلم بودند
به رشد دردناک سپیدارهای باغ که با من
از فصل های خشک گذر میکردند
به دسته های کلاغان
که عطر مزرعه های شبانه را
برای من به هدیه میآورند
به مادرم که در آینه زندگی میکرد
و شکل پیری من بود
و به زمین ، که شهوت تکرار من ، درون ملتهبش را
از تخمه های سبز میانباشت - سلامی ، دوباره خواهم داد
میآیم ، میآیم ، میآیم
با گیسویم : ادامهء بوهای زیر خاک
با چشمهام : تجربه های غلیظ تاریکی
با بوته ها که چیده ام از بیشه های آنسوی دیوار
میآیم ، میآیم ، میآیم
و آستانه پر از عشق میشود
و من در آستانه به آنها که دوست میدارند
و دختری که هنوز آنجا ،
در آستانهء پر عشق ایستاده ، سلامی دوباره خواهم داد
Forough Farrokhzad - به آفتاب سلامی دوباره خواهم داد - I will greet the sunshine again
I will once again send my greetings to the sunshine
To the stream that flows within me
To the clouds that were my daydreams
To the sore growth of garden cedars that walked me through the dry seasons
To the murder of crows
That brought the aroma of nightly fields to me as gifts
To my mother who’d live in the mirror and was shaped like my aging self
And to the Earth who, echoing my lust, fills its fiery insides with green seeds
I’m coming, I’m coming, I’m coming
With my flowing hair: carrying the smell of wet soil
With my eyes: thick with dark experiences
With the plants I have picked from the forest beyond the wall
I’m coming, I’m coming, I’m coming
And the entrance will be full of love
And to those who love,
And to a girl still there
Standing at the love-filled entrance, I will once again send my greetings.
This is a photo by Shirin Neshat. It’s part of an old series called Women of Allah. The script says something like: “خاموش ویرانه ها زیباست” or “The silence of ruins is beautiful.”
It comes from a Farrokzad poem called “در آبهای سبز تابستان” or “In the Green Waters of Summer”. The excerpt says:
«در اضطراب دستهای پر،
آرامش دستان خالی نیست
خاموشی ویرانه ها زیباست»
این را زنی در آبها می خواند
در آبهای سبز تابستان
گوئی که در ویرانه ها می زیست
"The serenity of empty hands is not
In the anxiety of full hands
The silence of ruins is beautiful.”
This a woman sings in the waters
In the green waters of Summer
As if she lived in ruins.
sa’di’s fables are as contradictory as all hell.
one chapter he’s like DO GOOD TO EVIL PEOPLE (re: the “wheat” seller who actually sold barley) and the next chapter he’s like DON’T WASTE YOUR GOOD DEEDS ON EVIL PEOPLE (re: the chick who wanted to save the bees).
whatevs man. i won’t even pretend to understand.
دل آزرده را سخت باشد سخن
چو خصمت بیفتاد سستی مکن
چو دستت رسد مغز دشمن برآر
که فرصت فرو شوید از دل غبار
Sa’di - Bustan - Ch4 V6
del aazorde raa sakht baashad sokhan
cho khasmat biyoftaad sosti makon
cho dastet resad maghze doshman baraar
ke forsat foroo shooyad az del ghobaar
The words of the wounded harshly hit
The fallen villain—so sit not idle!
With his brains in your hand, swiftly crush it!
For chances lost flush the fuming mind.
مرا بار لطفش دو تا کرد پشت
به شمشیر احسان و فضلم بکشت
Sa’di - Bustan - Ch2 V20
maraa baare lotfesh do taa kard posht
be shamshire ehsaan o fazlam bekosht
Under the load of his kindness, he bent me
With the sword of love and grace, he killed me