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QUESTIONS - ANSWERS 
SUFI PRACTICES

Updated on 29.10.2007


 

Q: How should I worship Allah? What are the various ways of worship?
Ans.: Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya says thus:
There are two types of worship – laazim (intransitive or mandatory) and muta`addi (transitive). Mandatory worship such as namaaz, fasting etc. benefits ones self but transitive worship is that which benefits others too.
Q: What is the Great Name (ism-e-aazam)? I want to recite it.
Ans.: Hazrat Ibrahim bin Adham says thus:
“If you keep yourself away from unlawful bread (lukma-e-haram) and free from all love for this world, then whatsoever you will recite that will be ism-e-aazam.”
Q: What will I need to do after joining an Order?
Ans.: Immerse yourself in the Contemplation of the Spiritual Guide (tasawuur-e-murshid).

The Lights (Anwar) of God are hidden in the murshid.

Q: How will I learn to reach the various stations that you have mentioned?
Ans.: The Contemplation of the Spiritual Guide begins with image of the murshid appearing before the eyes. It then reaches the heart and then the soul, where it stays. When the image of the murshid is permanently in the soul, the manifestations (tajalliyat) of the murshid appear in different forms. 
Q: What is important for meditation?
Ans.: Presence of the Heart (Dil ki Hizoori).
Q: Which is the best Zikr (recitation) among Sufis?
Ans.: Zikr – Allah.
Q: What is the best and an easy practice for controlling the Self?
Ans.: In the darkness of the night, with open eyes, try to visualise the Arabic form of the word “Allah” in wheatish colour (the golden-yellowish colour of whole wheat) for a little while. Gradually, Allah will enter the heart and the Self will be ousted. And in this manner, the veil of duality will continue to be removed. 
Q: While repeating zikr with eyes open, it is expected to reach a stage where one will visualise his Master. I am trying to visualise my master but all I can hear is sound and all I can see is Light. Why do I not see my Master?
Ans.: Your Master is somewhere in the light. In patience your object is hidden.
Q: As a beginner, how should I begin with the Visualisation of the Spiritual Guide (tasawwur-e-murshid)? What is the best way for the contemplation of the spiritual guide?
Ans.: You may begin to visualise the spiritual guide in the same way as an artist makes a picture. First, imagine the basic form, then make the outlines, and thereafter give a complete shape to the picture. Add details to the surroundings, decorate the image and then draw it in your heart. But it is essential that this image be seen with the eye of the heart.
Q: What do you mean by the eye of the heart?
Ans.: Implies that you should be able to see the image of the spiritual guide both with your eyes closed and open. The eye of the heart belongs to the inner consciousness (Malkuti). The inner consciousness arises from The Realm of Angels (Alam-e-Malakut) which is a stable and steady state. In this state, forms don’t change. However, the apparent eyes belong to the material world. In The Realm of the Material World (Alam-e-Nasut), every thing is temporary and ever changing. For instance, childhood leads to youth, which leads to old age. 

Those who travel upon the spiritual path, take advantage of the ability of things to transform and change in The Realm of the Material World and by raising their inner consciousness, they are able to reach The Realm of Angels. 

Visualisation of the Spiritual Guide is a powerful medium to raise the inner consciousness and thus reach from one realm to another.

Q: What is a rosary and how is it used?
Ans.: A rosary is called a Tasbi and it has 100 beads. After every 33 beads there is an interval. There is a long bead from where you start counting, and after every 33 beads there is an interval defined by a smaller bead. The long bead is called Imam and the two smaller beads are called Muqtadi. A rosary (tasbi) can be called the instrument for the counting of recitation.

For the sake of convenience, there are two other types of rosaries.

One is made of 1000 beads and after every 33 beads there is a muqtadi (interval). It is called hazara tasbi (hazar means one thousand). This tasbi is especially useful for long recitations.

The other rosary is called the Tasbi-e-Fatima, which is made of a total of 33 beads only.

In the tasbi-e-fatima, the muqtadi beads appear after an interval of 11 regular beads. It is the type of tasbi used by Hazrat Bibi Fatima (d.633), the mother of all Sufis. She is the daughter of the Holy Prophet, the wife of Hazrat Ali (d.661), the mother of Hasan (d.669) and Husain (d.680). She is called the Khatoon-e-Jannat (the lady of Paradise) and Syeda-tun-nisa (The mistress of women). God had sent this rosary through Jibril (angel Gabriel) to the Holy Prophet for Bibi Fatima as she had to work very hard in the house and would feel extremely tired. The Holy Prophet prescribed her to recite this Tasbi as follows, before going to bed:

33 times Subhan Allah (Glory be to God)

33 times Al-hamd-o-lillah (Praise be to God)

33 times Allah-ho-Akbar. (God is the Greatest)

The Holy Prophet also explained to her the importance of this recitation and said that it is very good for happiness, prosperity and strength

Q: Is it important for the members of the Chishti order to perform salat and zikr?
Ans.: Chishti order is connected spiritually to the Holy Prophet just as other orders are. So the Chishti order is also bound by Shari’at (Religious laws).
Q: I am a mureed in a sufi order in which the practice of sama (qawwali - devotional music) is not customary. May I listen to sama?
Ans.: Only he has a right to listen to sama who has heard Sout-e-Sarmadi, the eternal sound - that sound which is the Real Root of all sounds and from which all the sounds have been born.

The sufis believe with certainty that when there was no existence in the world, the very first sound that was born was the sound of soft footsteps indicating the arrival of the Holy Prophet Muhammed.

He who has heard this sound may listen to sama and also only he is a person who belongs to sama.

Amongst the sufis, there is a practice to hear this sound which is known as Shaghl-e-Sultan-ul-Azkar (The practice of the King of all Zikrs). To practice it, during the stillness of night, shut the orifices of both the ears with the thumb or with cotton soaked in perfumed oil and try to listen to the sound. To begin with, the sound is faint and gradually it becomes clearer, till a stage is reached when it can be heard without effort.

This sound brings various different messages and also warns against forthcoming eventualities.

Q: While practising Shaghl-e-Sultan-ul-Azkar, should the eyes be open or closed?
Ans.: Whereas the eyes and the ears should be open, the mouth should be closed. This is the key to success on the Sufi path.
Q: When you talk about "the heart", you do not mean the anatomical heart do you?
Ans.: Yes, I do not mean the anatomical heart. In Sufism, one keeps an eye on internal feelings.
Q: What is muraqba?
Ans.: It is famous among sufis that concentration (Fikr) is better than recitation (Zikr). This very concentration is called Muraqba (observation). The journey of observation (muraqba) begins from recognising our self. As the Prophet has said:

"He who knows himself knows his lord."

Sufis believe that to collect the ocean of wandering thoughts in an earthen pot is muraqba. Three things are very important for the muraqba:

Imagination of God - that God is before you. He is watching;

He is awwal (first) & He is akhir (last), He is zahir (outward) & He is batin (inward);

Every thing is Fani (mortal) except God. He is the only One whose name will remain.

In short

whithersoever you turn, there is the Face of God.

- {Quran 2:115} 

 

Q: When I practice Muraqba (observation) then my heart and mind are unable to concentrate. Please tell me what to do.
Ans.:

There are several veils (Hijab) in front of the eyes of a seeker. It takes time for them to be removed. Sometimes the seeker becomes tired and gets disappointed. The Peer (spiritual guide) lives in the world of evidence (Alam-e-Shahadat). So concentrate upon your Peer. Inshallah (God Willing), you will get your goal soon. 

 

Q: Through muraqaba (observation), how can one come to know of the condition and affairs of others?
Ans.: To remove all stray thoughts from within ones self and to allow only Allah to enter within is muraqaba. For sufis, this is one superior way of self cleansing. Often, to know of the condition and affairs of others is considered muraqaba, whereas in truth, the road to muraqaba starts with Allah and ends with Allah alone. Sufis do not desire any news or knowledge other than Allah. For Sufis, the knowledge of the affairs of others or any news from here and there is like an error on a computer whereas muraqaba is that software which cleanses the computer of all errors.
Q: Should one recite any wazeefa (holy verse) while practicing muraqaba?
Ans.: Hazrat Khadim Hasan, Gudri Shah Baba III, says so in his book ‘Rah-e-Haqnuma’:
In a small, dark room, stay with your eyes open in such a way that you do not blink, and say ‘Allah’ and draw your breath in and then wait patiently for the gift of Allah.
Q: Please advice some recitation (wazeefa) to improve livelihood.
Ans.:

Every morning, recite one tasbi (a rosary of 100 beads) of:
Ya Al Baasit
Or
Ya Wahaabo
Or
Ya Razzaak
Or
Ya Musabbubul Asbaab

 

Q: There is no love between our family members. Please suggest a wazeefa (recitation) to increase love amongst us.
Ans.: For love, ‘Al Wudoodo’ is like an arrow that always gets its mark (teer-e-hadaf). Recite on a 100 beads of the rosary every morning.

Q: What is the way to perform a chilla (spiritual retreat) according to the Chishti order?
Ans.: The way to undertake a spiritual retreat (chilla) according to the principles of Chishti order is as follows:

1. The chilla should never be performed without the permission of the spiritual guide (murshid).
2. Normally the chilla is performed for forty days, but sometimes it is advised for 21 – 11 days or even 7 days.
3. During the chilla, one should maintain ablutions (wuzoo).
4. To keep a fast (roza).
5. When eating after the period of fast, to eat less.
6. To sleep less.
7. Not to meet any person at all, in fact, there should be not even be any external sound and in case any sound is heard, one should not pay any attention to it.
8. At all times to remember the spiritual guide (pir) and the spiritual guides of the order (silsila) and to constantly focus one’s attention and heart towards their remembrance.
9. The place chosen for the chilla should be isolated, small, not very open and with very little light.
10. In case there is a need to go out to use any facilities (like toilet etc.), to cover the face with a piece of cloth or a handkerchief so that one’s gaze may not fall directly on anyone.
11. To sit on the prayer carpet (jaa-namaaz) facing the Ka’ba.
12. Rest little.
13. The use of fragrance and perfume is recommended.
14. If possible, use three pieces of unstitched cloth to cover one’s body – one piece wrapped below the waist as a loin cloth (lungi), another piece of cloth wrapped around the chest and the third piece wrapped around the head – in such a way that they resemble a pilgrim robe (ehram). To safeguard against cold weather, it is permissible to wear lose woollen garments on top or to wrap a shawl. There is no restriction of colour.
15. Do not look in a mirror.
16. Avoid shaving or trimming the beard, hair or nails etc.
17. Be mindful of cleanliness and purity at all times.
18. In case of an unavoidable need for something, write it down on a small slip of paper in minimum words and slip it out to someone outside, but do not talk or speak and do not look at the person.
19. The chilla commences in the morning at the time of sehri (the time before the morning prayers after which it is not permissible to eat anything during a fast) and is concluded in the evening at the time of iftaar (the time of breaking the fast in the evening).
20. When eating, eat vegetarian light food, which is non-spicy and non-oily. The food should not be very rich or tasty and should not contain onion, garlic, ginger or any other ingredient that has a strong odour.
21. There should be no picture or image at the place chosen for the chilla.
22. If time is available apart from one’s prescribed prayers and worship, it is permissible to study mystical and spiritual books.
23. On the first day, while entering the chosen place for the chilla, enter in such a way that one is facing the Ka’ba. During the chilla, one must be steadfast and punctual with all five times of namaaz.
24. Stand on the prayer carpet (jaa namaaz) and begin with two rakat of namaaz.

25. Recite
Au zo billahi min shaitaa nir rajeem
Bismilla hir rahma nir rahim
Now sit down on the prayer carpet.

26. Recite Surah-an-nas1 once
Qul au_zu birab bina_s
Malikin na_s
Ila_hin na_s
Min syaril waswa_sil hana_s
Alazi yuwas wisu fi sudu_rin na_si
Minal jinati wan na_s

27. Recite Ayat-ul-kursi2once and perform a hisaar (a process of fortification of the chosen place by mentally or physically circumambulating it and then blowing your breath out after the recitation of the verse).
Alla_hu la_ ila_ha illa_ huw(a), al hayyul qayyu_m(u), la_ ta'khuzuhu_ sinatuw wa la_ naum(un), lahu_ ma_ fis sama_wa_ti wa ma_ fil ard(i), man zal lazi yasyfa'un 'indahu_ illa_ bi iznih(i), ya'lamu ma_ baina aidihim wa ma_ khalfahum wa la_ yuhitu_na bi syai'im min'ilmihi illa_ bima_ sya_'(a), wasi'a kursiyyuhus sama_wa_ti wal ard(a), wa la_ ya'u_duhu_ hifzuhuma_, wa huwal 'aliyyul 'azim(u).

28. Recite Ya Fattaho3 (The Opener) at least 500 times everyday.
29. Spend some time in the practise of zikr-e-jali (such verse which is recited aloud). Even while sitting or moving about, keep reciting “Allah-Allah.”
30. Spend some time in the practise of pas-i-anfas (commemoratio cordis).
31. Spend some time in muraqaba (observation).
32. Apart from the above-mentioned practices, practise that which is suggested by the spiritual guide (pir).
33. Recite Durood sharief (blessings upon the Prophet) 4.
34. Thereafter, recite the prescribed wazeefa (holy verse) 1,25,000 times.

Note: If the spiritual guide (pir) considers it appropriate, some liberties may be allowed for the chilla. The pir evaluates the needs of the seeker (mureed) and accordingly recommends the restrictions and recitations.


Footnotes:
1. This prayer is a cure for difficulties, problems and the effect of magic.
2. This verse is known as the Throne of the Quran.
3. This prayer helps to get rid of obstacles.
4. There is a tradition (hadith) of the Holy Prophet thus: “He who sends Durood for me one time, Allah sends for him blessings ten times.” –‘Bukhari’ & ‘Muslim’

 
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