Friday, October 16, 2009

"The Way"

My visit to Syria had comforted me with regards to Sufism. Up until that point I would get wound up when the media mentioned it or when someone told me how much the postcard Rumi Sufism of the West is appealing to them. I am a very big fan of Imam al Ghazali and there is much I rediscover in his books each time I read them again (I am nowhere near completing the ones I have either) and there are faint trails left by this great man in his works to those with sharp eyes and an inquisitive mind. That is my belief anyhow.

This September I had wanted to discover more in Damascus than just the tourist whirling "dervishes" that grace the kitsch restaurants like the Damascene Gate and the Ali Baba style restaurant on the road to the airport. I would not be disappointed. Whilst I had always thought he was a religious nut, it turned out that my cousin's husband was actually himself a closet Sufi. His views had softened considerably in the last two years and I was to discover this was due to the soothing influence of his father, a bona fide Sufi Muslim and follower of 'the way'. M's father is a wonderful warm man with a kind and gentle face whom I was to meet once briefly as I passed by their shop. He had wanted me to sit and talk a while but I had errands to sort out that day. I wish I did now. M was surprised to see that I had actually bothered reading the works of Ibn Sina, and we had some good discussions on al Ghazali and his works and what he tried to achieve. He had promised to get me some booklets for Ibn Arabi but I had such little time and so much to do that we never got around to it. We were also going to visit a Sufi Hadra but that plan did not work out either. One of M's concerns was that I might feel uncomfortable with the way people would be swayed whilst remembering Allah, and I thought for a moment to tell him that I had seen people in the UK sway to the idiciocy of pills and alcohol in a far more disturbing way than anybody ecstatic with remembering Allah. I thought better of it but still I tried to allay his fears.

M discovered I wished to visit Ibn Arabi's mosque in Sheikh Muhyi al Din and we went there a few times to pray and hear some of the lessons. Sitting there and reading the Qur'an was uplifting to say the least, but in the cool interior of the mosque my mind was wondering to my visit last summer to the Mesquita in Cordoba. Ibn Arabi had walked there too and it was there that he had stood watching Averroes' burial procession before leaving Andalusia forever and returning to the Middle East. Here I was now, with his body buried only a few feet from me, having in the space of twelve months gone from his place of birth, the glory of al Hambra and the beauty of Spain to the Ummayad Mosque, where I sat at the famous Ghazalian corner, and then to the mosque of Ibn Arabi himself, where I read the Fatiha for his soul. For a brief few moments, torments, longing and regrets melted away into the peace I crave so much.


qunfuz said...

beautiful. The beauties of tasawuf must not be hidden from us either by the western de-islamisation of the tradition or by Sufi excesses and abuses. I also love the mosque of Shaikh Muhyideen.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post! I just googled Syria Sufism and Maysaloon; I have no idea why I wanted to see if you ever wrote about Sufism. Out of nowhere this idea bulb flickered in my head. The closing paragraph in your article moved me greatly. I learned and changed a lot just from spending hours of "Khalwa" (seclusion) at Ibn Arabi's tomb. I know exactly what you mean with torments and longings melting away in the presence of Ibn Arabi. May your journey be a blessed one.