Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations From Sufi Wisdom
Andrew Harvey and Eryk Hanut

“… once you have smelled that perfume, your life is ruined because nothing else will ever be as fragrant and your whole body becomes longing.” p. XI

“… the word for mystic path in Sufism – tariqah – means the path in the desert that the Bedouin takes to travel from oasis to oasis.” p. XIV

“… but the majority of the greatest Sufis have been men and women who lived in the world and who used its frictions, terrors and tensions as ways of deepening their practice of presence…” p. XVI

“… the Pact of Alast.” p. 3

“Dhu al-Nun, a great Sufi saint, defined the perfect person as one who is as he was before he was as he was.” p. 3

“To begin what the Sufis call the first journey – the journey to God – you have to take the summons seriously, recognize its sacred demand on you to transform your life and being, and turn your heart wholly towards the Beloved. No can begin to do this powerfully without constant, daily practice – of prayer, of meditation and contemplation, of loving service. For only practice can start to wear down the seventy-thousand veils between the self and the Self, between human and divine consciousness.” p. 4

From the consequences of what I have done,
From the dangers of the future,
I see no way out.
Lord, I am terrified of the evil in me.
Teach me how to save myself
From the traps of self.
Take me by the hand –
Without Your mercy
I have nothing to turn to.
– Sheikh Anasari p. 9

“Do not waste your time in grief and regret; opportunity is precious and time is a sword.” – Sadi p. 14

“Be in this world as if you are a traveler, a passerby, with your clothes and shoes full of dust. Sometimes you will sit under the shade of a tree, sometimes you will walk in the desert. Be a passerby always, for this world is not your home.” A Hadith (saying) of the Prophet p. 15

“Wanting is what stands between human beings and the Path of Truth.” Dhu al-Nun p. 16

“Of course, I will save you. But first, let go of the branch!” Traditional Sufi story. p. 18

“Do like me; dive headfirst into the Sea. If you wait patiently, you will obtain your Pearl.” Junayad p. 19

“Only he will stand the test who, alive, knows how to die.” Kabir p. 22

Now See The Sea

How, after all, could foam fly without a wave?
How could dust swirl upwards without the wind?
You have seen the dust, now dare see the wind;
You have seen the foam, now see the Sea of Creative Energy.
– Rumi p. 23

“Jesus asked them, What has made you so joyful?
“They smiled, The Spirit of Truth itself. We have seen Reality, and turned away from all lesser goals.
“Jesus said, People like these are the ones who attain the One. On the Day of Reckoning, it will be people like these who stand in the presence of God.” Ghazali p. 25-6

“A very solid cup has to be prepared to hold the increasingly burning wine of gnosis, and this solid cup can only be created in us by a desire to purify ourselves of every habit, disordered appetite and fantasy that keeps us slaves to ourselves…. Longing is both the anguish that burns away the veils of separation between the soul and God and the thread that guides us deeper and deeper within ourselves to where love is waiting, always, to take us further into its mystery.” Ibn Arabi p. 34

“They are wide awake and see the reality of things.” Lahiji p. 40

“In my knowing Him, I create Him.” Ibn Arabi p. 44

The People Of The Hidden Letter

[Compare to the 23rd letter in Kushner”s The Book of Letters. JH]

He said to me, Who are the people of the fire?
I said, The people of the exterior letter.
He said, Who are the people of the garden?
I said, The people of the hidden letter.
He said, What is the exterior letter?
I said, Knowledge that does not lead to action.
He said, What is the hidden letter?
I said, Knowledge that leads to reality.
He said, What is the action?
I said, Sincerity.
He said, What is reality?
I said, That through which you reveal yourself.
He said to me, What is sincerity?
I said, Turning towards your face.
He said, What is self-revelation?
I said, What you meet in the heart of your lovers.
– Niffari p. 46-7

Four Things To Know

Hatim al-Asamm said, “I have chosen four things to know and discarded all other kinds of knowledge.

“The first is this: I know that my daily bread is apportioned to me and will neither be increased or decreased, so I have stopped trying to add to it.

“Secondly, I know I owe to God a debt which no one else can pay for me, so I am busy about paying it.”

“Thirdly, I know that there is someone pursuing me – Death – whom I cannot escape from, so I have prepared myself to meet him.

“Fourth, I know that God is observing me, so I am ashamed to do what I should not.”

– Attar p. 50

Why get caught in empty formalities?

I sing the glory of my love.
I sing of what I have seen myself.
The one who reaches the rank of Lover
Is the Lord”s true worshipper.
– Kabir p. 77

“Generosity is to worship Him for love of Himself alone, and not for any benefit or reward.” Rabia p. 78

[Rabi’a al ‘Adawiyya (717 – 801 CE) was born in Basra. As a child, after the death of her parents, Rabi’a was sold into slavery. After years of service to her slave master, Rabi’a began to serve only the Beloved with her actions and thoughts. Since she was no longer useful to the slave owner, Rabi’a was then set free to continue her devotion to the Beloved.]

O Lord,
If I worship You
From fear of Hell, burn me in Hell.
If I worship you
For hope of Paradise, bar me from its gates.
But if I worship you for Yourself alone
Then grace me forever with the splendor of Your Face.
– Rabia p. 79

All sailors totter on planks of fear and hope –
But when “planks” and “sailor” have vanished,
What remains but drowning?
– Rumi p 81

Between me and You, there is only me.
Take away the me, so only You remain.
– Hallaj p. 85

“Then the Lord of Power will summon all those who sacrificed their lives in Holy Wars. He will ask them, And how did you spend your life?

“They will reply, We gave our life in your Way.

“The Lord of Power and the angels will laugh and call them liars and say, You sacrificed your lives only so people could call you courageous and dub you martyrs.”

Ghazali p. 90

“Suffering has great redeeming quality. As a drop of water falling in the desert sand is sucked up immediately, so we must become nothing and nowhere… and disappear.” Bhai Shaib p. 110

A man who does not know mystical suffering
is not really alive –
He is like ice.
Suffering in the soul is a sign of life;
It shows submission to God…
Sufferings are wings for the bird of the soul;
A bird without wings cannot take flight.
So weep and groan and lament, my friend,
So you can free yourself from this prison
And fly to that placeless place where you will be
Free forever in the boundless sky of God.
– Sultan Valad p. 114

Do Not Fight Against God”s Will

[I have a REAL tough time with this one. JH]

I went with Sofyan Thawri to pay Rabia a visit while she was sick. Her presence so overwhelmed us with awe, however, that neither of us could say a word.

“Say something,” I said to Sofyan at last.

“Why don”t you ask God to lighten your pain?” he asked Rabia.

“He Himself wills that I suffer, isn”t that evident to you?” she replied.

“Yes,” I said.

“You say yes,” Rabia went on, “but you still urge me to pursue my own desire against his, although it is wrong to fight against the Beloved”s will.”

– Abdul Wahed Ebn Aer

Why so restless, so impatient, my heart?
He watches over birds, animals, the tiniest insect –
He loved you even when you were in your mother”s belly.
Do you seriously imagine
He will not look after you
Now that you are here?
Oh my heart, how could you bear
To turn from his smile
And stray so far from Him?
You have abandoned your true Beloved
And are hankering after others –
That is why ally your works are useless.
– Kabir p. 121

“The real work is beyond either of our tricks. The only thing necessary is to do the real work.” Rabia p. 122

I am just like those in hell-fire:
Their skin is roasted to a crisp
But they go on making for misery
Fresh skin
– Qushayri p. 123

“Rabia said, The sincere person forgets the wound of any blow in the vision of the Lord. Why should this strike anyone as absurd? Didn”t the Egyptian women forget they were cutting their own hands as they gazed, stupefied, at Joseph”s beauty? Rabia p. 124

“One day, Nasrudin was sitting drinking tea with a group of seekers. One of them (who believed he knew everything) stood up and said, My master taught me that humanity can never evolve as it must until the person who has not been wronged is as indignant about a wrong as the one who has been.

“The group gasped with admiration at what they thought to be the profundity of this statement. Then Nasrudin said, My master taught me that no one should become angry about anything until he is sure that what he believes to be a wrong is one – and not a blessing in disguise.” Nasrudin p. 127

“The perfect mystic is not an ecstatic devote lost in contemplation of Oneness, nor a saintly recluse shunning all commerce with mankind; but the true saint is goes in and out amongst the people and eats and sleeps with them and buys and sells in the market and takes part in social intercourse and never forgets God for a single moment.” Abu Sa”id, 8th century, CE p. 140
“The realized Sufi is one whose heart keeps pace with her foot. She is entirely present; her soul is where her body is, and her body is where her soul is, and her soul where her foot is.” Junayd p. 140

“Those who live the Life of Union pray with each breath the prayer of Sheikh Ansari:

Give me life
So I can spend it
Working for the salvation of the world.
p. 141

Fana is the loss of self in God; Baqa is remaining in communion with God in the midst of worldly activity and Sufi (perhaps from sûf, wool) is? p. 143

Whoever draws near will never fall asleep
And the rays of sublime heartbreak will engulf him.
– Hayyunah p. 147

“If you see someone who has been graced with the such divine favors that he can fly up into the air, do not be deceived. Watch and see how you find him with the command and the prohibition, the guarding of boundaries and the carrying out of the Law.” Bayazid Bistami p. 153

“Religion consists in the service of the people; you do not need accessories like a rosary, or prayer rug, or tattered robe. Be a king in power and a devotee in purity of morals. Action, not words, are demanded by true religion; words without action are hollow.” Sadi p. 163

Leave a Reply

To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture. Click on the picture to hear an audio file of the word.
Anti-spam image