To Want Or To Be?

The question is, is it better to want to be a Sufi, or to be a Sufi?

The Sufi is the 'wool-wearer', the renunciate, the freely impoverished one, choosing material poverty and spiritual riches. The Sufi is one who, having undergone submission (Islam) to the divine revelation, and developed clear understanding (Iman) of it, then seeks to bring added depth to the spiritual life that results by practicing Ihsan, literally 'doing what is beautiful' - through mundane detachment, constant prayer and introspection, recollection of God and the cultivation of spiritual longing.


There is a lot to be desired here. That is, if you are so inclined - maybe most would prefer to avoid the renunciation part, or the submitting-to-religion part, and just enjoy a life of modest liberty. But those of us who from an early age crave something more intense, more palpably meaningful, there is certainly much to be desired in the lives of the Sufis. It could be the sheer romanticism of the path of striving, the longing and hoping, the mysterious 'burden' that Dhu 'l-Nun writes about, or the poetic separation of Rumi's reed; or it could be the awesome realisation reported by those who reached the summit--the 'ocean without a shore' of ibn 'Arabi, or the recognition of the self as the seat of the Truth, à la al-Hallaj.


I desired these things, encountering them in books, reciting the verses in low tones, and later hearing them whispered back from the stirring trees. Immersed in a coke-and-fries world of rushing convenience, each time I came up for air I found myself filled with desire; before sleep, waking up, and in fleeting moments of solitude, from the serenity I would hear the whisper. There is more to being than meets the eye, there is a more fulfilling way to live than we do, and there is a long-lost Beloved that can truly be known - deep down we understand this already, which is why there is a glimmer of attraction when we hear a line of Rumi or some other passing reference.


Those who choose to follow that attraction have chosen to remember the inner certainty that rests beyond the outer turmoil - to retire from worldly attachments and see with the eyes of Heaven (to use a metaphor). If you are reading this, then perhaps you have already made that choice, consciously or subconsciously. I made that choice, and it manifested as desire, longing, for a different way of life, for the admirable salience of striving on the divine path (al-jihad fi sabil Allah). But after several years of wanting and striving, I finally understand that this is not the way. I recognise that wanting to be is the veil that obscures being.


They say that there are many stages of the path, but I wonder if they aren't just different perspectives of the same thing. For a while I wanted to be a Sufi; then I thought that I probably was a Sufi; then I recognised myself and agreed that I am not Sufi (partly because I'm not a Muslim, but I'll leave that discussion aside for now); then I began to understand that I am essentially the same as all Sufis, in heart boundless, limitless behind the veil, yet also insignificant, ephemeral as visage, a paradox.

noxlucida noxlucida
5 Responses Mar 2, 2010

This is a song about being in the "accusing nafs", that stratum of experience where you compare your inner life to the rigors of the Path and feel the guilt and incapacity and remorse - but while also feeling the first stirrings of contact with Spirit. When I first heard this, I was completely puzzled by it, but later it proved to be quite explicit in describing the emotions and realizations in the early stages of the Path.

Is not the desire to be a Sufi, at the core, the desire to become closer to God? To live simply in an effort to rid one's self from material distraction? The communion with nature and simplicity and the joy of being alive? In that sense, I too desire to be a sufi. But this desire conflicts with my desire to learn and better myself. See, I will go to college to learn, and grow strong, and then, I will think of Sufi and whether it is time for me to abandon unnecessary things. The question to be asked is, "On what road ought I to travel in order to travel to the place closer to Love?" Sometimes, that is Sufi, at other times it is business, or being a chef, a dancer, a teacher, or a father. <br />
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Whatever that road may be, Sufi is a beautiful dream that one day you or I may be lead to fulfill.

You wrote very well, broodingfire. With such a clarify of thought, what did you decide to be at this point? I do want to know out of curiosity, but whatever God wills must be good if you did submit to His will and not self-ego. Sufism has caused a lot of division within the Muslim community due to its diverse meanings, manifestations and orientations. <br />
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My answer to your question: To want to be or to Be? <br />
It is obviously dangerous to say that one IS a sufi, for it implies an acknowledgement that one has ALREADY arrived - which in itself is a statement of inflated ego.<br />
To Want to be a Sufi, is good or not good depending on who one's role model of Sufism is. If one's model is a fake Sufi, then it is a futile effort. A Sufi should have the perfect man as his/her role model. He is the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him.

I believe most of us who already 'connect' with the One Being whether you are already a Muslim or otherwise is a sufi. It is not being a Muslim or otherwise. It is what you are 'within' but then, I believe only Islam will help us to 'connect' and 'communicate' better with the Supreme Oneness and about discovering who we really are.<br />
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Maybe it is difficult for me to express myself, but then again, only a Sufi will be able to comprehend.

Nice Post! I hope you don't mind my making some comments <br />
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The want to be a Sufi is as much a barrier to being a Sufi as one can think. Our wants and desires are a projection of what we think or expect a Sufi to be. Actually one of the main purposes of 'seeking after the Truth is to expose our inner expectations and wants for what they are.<br />
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One of the 'pillars of Sufism" for the sake of talking is the unity of being wahdat al wujud. It is to experience the Friend in all that we do and are doing, there is no monasticism in Sufism, so I wonder what are we renunciating, unless it is the dictates and prodding of our nafs [ego and material nature] <br />
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I also am not sure Sufism involves submitting to religion. Rumi had disciples of all religions and nationalities. A common analogy in Sufism is that of butter and milk. You cannot know the sweetness of the milk [ experience of the divine] through tasting butter [religion]. <br />
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Look at these word from Ibn Arabi , the Polestar of Knowledge in Sufi tradition<br />
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A garden among the flames!<br />
My heart can take on<br />
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Any form:<br />
A meadow for gazelles,<br />
A cloister for monks,<br />
For the idols, sacred ground,<br />
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Ka’ba for the circling pilgrim,<br />
the tables for the Torah,<br />
the scrolls of the Qur’an.<br />
My creed is love;<br />
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Wherever its caravan turns along the way,<br />
That is my belief,<br />
My faith.<br />
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– Ibn Arabi<br />
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I think I said enough. I have studied Sufism for many years, and I have been a dervish in a Sufi order for 2 years. I remember being up late many times reading books on Sufism and wanting to be a Sufi. Reading your post reminded me of those nights.<br />
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Best wishes for you<br />