hik_095_ed-640x889If anybody asks you, “What is Sufism? What religion is it?“, you may answer, “Sufism is the religion of the heart, the religion in which the most important thing is to seek God in the heart of mankind.

There are three ways of seeking God in the human heart. The first way is to recognize God the divine in every person, and to care for every person with whom we come in contact, in our thought, speech, and action. Human personality is very delicate. The more living the heart the more sensitive it is; that which causes sensitivity is the love element in the heart, and love is God. The person whose heart is not sensitive is without feeling; his heart is not living, but dead. In that case the divine spirit is buried in his heart.

A person who is always concerned with his own feelings is so absorbed in himself that he has no time to think of another. His whole attention is taken up with his own feelings: he pities himself, worries about his own pain, and is never open to sympathize with others. He who takes notice of the feeling of another person with whom he comes in contact practices the first essential moral of Sufism.

The next way of practicing this religion is to think of the feeling of the person who is not at the moment before us. One feels for a person who is present, but one often neglects to feel for someone who is out of sight. One speaks well of someone to his face, but if one speaks well of someone when he is absent, that is greater. One sympathizes with the trouble of someone who is before one at the moment, but it is greater to sympathize with one who is far away.

The third way of realizing the Sufi principle is to recognize in one’s own feeling the feeling of God, and to realize every impulse that rises in one’s heart as a direction from God. Realizing that love is a divine spark in one’s heart, one blows that spark until a flame may rise to illuminate the path of one’s life.

Art by Fatima Lassar, ya shakur

The symbol of the Sufi Order, which is a heart with wings, is symbolic of its ideal. The heart is both earthly and heavenly. The heart is a receptacle on earth of the divine spirit, and when it holds the divine spirit it soars heavenward; the wings picture its rising. The crescent in the heart symbolizes responsiveness; it is the heart that responds to the spirit of God that rises. The crescent is a symbol of responsiveness because it grows fuller by responding more and more to the sun as it progresses. The light one sees in the crescent is the light of the sun. It gets more light with increasing response, so it becomes fuller of the light of the sun. The star in the heart of the crescent represents the divine spark reflected in the human heart as love, which helps the crescent toward its fullness.

The Sufi Message is the message of the day. It does not bring theories or doctrines to add to those already existing, which puzzle the human mind. What the world needs today is the message of love, harmony, and beauty, the absence of which is the only tragedy of life. The Sufi Message does not give a new law. It wakens in humanity the spirit of brotherhood, with tolerance on the part of each for the religion of the other, and with forgiveness from each for the fault of the other. It teaches thoughtfulness and consideration, so as to create and maintain harmony in life; it teaches service and usefulness, which alone can make life in the world fruitful and in which lies the satisfaction of every soul.

from The Religious Gathekas
Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan

Hazrat Inayat Khan was a successful and widely honored musician in India, who together with his extended family did much to preserve and advance the traditional raga music of his country.In 1910, at the urging of his Sufi teacher, he made the formidable journey to the West, and for the rest of his life he offered Sufi teachings like the above. His talks were transcribed in shorthand by his students, edited personally by him, and published in some sixteen volumes as the Sufi Message. Many other books about Inayat and his teachings have been published. For any – regardless of religious or spiritual background – who wish to experience more of his words, one suggested volume (in print or e-book) is The Heart of Sufism, edited by H.J. Witteveen (Shambala Pub, 1999), which excerpts many of his teachings on an amazing variety of topics both human and divine.

The Story of Inayat Khan, presented by sufi raconteur/storyteller/historian/archivist Sharif Donald Graham, is a fascinating series of nine recorded talks about Murshid Inayat’s life and teachings. Listen online or download gratis, learn about the remarkable teacher who brought the Sufi message to the West in 1910.