THE SUFI PROBLEM: Separation of Spirituality and State
After the 19th century, with the help of the Western world, Sufism has been taking very strong punishment. In the year 2001, in my country in Turkey, I was in jail for 6 months because I was a Sufi. Because I was sitting in my own apartment and I have ten people, we were practicing, we were sitting, remembering God, saying “Allah, Allah.” So the police came, they broke the door, they took us and they put me in jail for six months.
They tried to do so many things, to scare us. And because of this turban, this turban is forbidden also in Turkey, and this cloth is forbidden. Because these are, they said these are religious identity. You cannot wear that to walk in the street. It is not only in Turkey, it is likewise in Egypt where big saints were coming, in Uzbekistan, and all that parts of the world where Sufism is strong and is spreading everywhere. It is banned.
Throughout history, you can never find that the Sufis they did something wrong. Or they ran attacking other Sufis. But you will find people whom you call radical Islamist, they go and attacking others, and they kill and they destroy. We are finding today’s Saudi Arabia is the one who is representing radical Islam, which you called wahabism. They are completely against to Sufism. And we are finding that the West is supporting them. But the West is not supporting Sufism. Sufism, it is not supported. Instead it’s banned. People cannot live Sufism openly. So all they have to do, they have to go under the ground. They have to hide themselves. Which in today’s Turkey, Sufism is still very strong, but they are under the ground. They cannot come above, because they will be jailed for practicing Sufism.
When you are finding that one side the government they are forcing you to live the way they want you to live, and you are finding in your heart, your Prophet is saying, “live like this,” you cannot be both. The Prophet is saying to us “as long as you are living in their country, you must obey their
The mosques are supported by the government. Mosques they are official places. Official places where they only speak official words. When you go to a mosque, the Imam is over there, he is a paid man. He speaks based on whatever the paper they give to him. He cannot speak whatever every word that the Quran is saying.
There is the paper you are going to read. You cannot speak your own mind to these people, or your understanding of Islam. You have to speak what he gives to you.
So if the rulers, especially, I’m giving, an example from Turkey, if the ruler they are communist idea people, which is not believing in God, then I’m not accepting. They know they cannot remove the religion, but they have religion under their control. They are teaching people whatever they want. They give you a monthly salary saying, “you are in the payroll, you are going to speak this, you cannot speak anything else.”
So that time, we cannot collect the fruits of Sufism now, in these days, it is not possible because it is banned. Likewise in this country (in America), that up to my house, which I called it Dergah, a place where people are coming and worshipping, up to now, so many times, FBI is coming non-stop going back and forth saying, “We are coming to see if everything is alright.” So I said, “this is America, take the gun, take the coffee and tea.” (Shaykh Efendi laughs.)
Of course, we are not dummy or stupid. We know why they are coming but we have no problem with the government. We have no problem with the law. We have no problem because we will learn and we will find a way to live according to those laws. Today’s government, they don’t like communities. And in Sufism, there is a very high respect to a Shaykh. Individual who is following the Shaykh, the master, they must consult with that Shaykh. What they have to do in their worldly life, and especially when it comes to working. In democracy, you go to the government, you go to the different parties. So now the government they are seeing those figure, those spiritual figures, they take threat with them. Because now there are 100,000 people following me. And they come to me and they said, “Shaykh, there is an election. Which party should we give our vote?”
I said to them, “give it to that party.”
So they know the party that I’m going to choose. It’s going to be at least the party that believes in God some way, somehow, they know. I am not going to say to my people to go give the vote to the communist party. So they are finding that time, these are threat to us, because we are not going to come to power. That’s what they did in Russia. They banned everything, which is what the people they called the birthplace of Sufism. It is not the birthplace but it is where the high saints come out from that part. Until today, the Russia is gone, but it is still banned. Because they know that, when it comes to vote, because you are building bridge now between the spirituality, religion and the politics, coming together now.
So the Shaykh must be a wise man. To understand not only know the worldly matters, but to be able to understand how the politics is taking direction, and how to direct people in spirituality, spiritual way. To go and say to a person, “ok, you worked enough, now don’t work anymore, sit here and make zikr. Don’t go, because you have enough money.” How to be able say to other beloved, “honey, don’t sit here, go and work.” So the Shaykh he is not only a community leader, he is like a master, a guide to the people. When the government they are looking, saying, “these sheykhs, they are not letting people to give us the vote, so we must bring them down.” Bringing them down, the whole world is watching. If they are taking you as an individual, the world is watching. They find it easier to say “ban Sufism.” When you say ban Sufism, automatically the sheykhs is banned, everything is banned.
So you want to learn your religion? Go to a church, or go to a mosque and learn it from the person that I (the government) appointed for you. Like I said, if the person is in the payroll he is going to speak what they say to him. I am not in their payroll, I have no fear from anyone. My fear is not the world, I m not expecting anything from you to give me something. I am speaking for my God. And what is my need? My need is one piece of bread for today, I have a cloth, I have a shelter, that is what really my need is. That is what really the community leader, the Shaykh, has to worry. But the other ones, they should worry, what they have to do, how they are going to live, how they are going to pay their mortgage, this and that. But the Shaykh shouldn’t worry with himself, with this kind of things. He should be worry with his people’s problem, to try to solve their problem, if it’s spiritually, if it’s worldly, if it’s mentally, if it’s materialistically, if you are poor,
Shaykh knows the management, saying to him, “give that much money to this person,” that man must follow, because he has to reach to other. So the Shaykh knows, in Turkish we said, “the Shaykh is the hand that is taking from.” Mawlana Jelaluddin Rumi, turning like this, they put their hand like that, and their feet like this, one hand is like this, and they are turning like this. It’s turning and it’s building relationship from earth to the paradise. As you know, everything is circling in their own orbit. When man learns how to circle in his own orbit, he will be able to reach to station. So when Mawlana was holding his hand like that, and putting his hand down, saying, “I’m taking from my Lord, and I’m giving it to mankind. I’m a mediator between that One and you.”
All shaykhs are suppose to be like that. But all shaykhs are not like that. So then, we have problems. The communities,they got into trouble. And the government, of course they are never going to like. If you take that videocassette (the recording of this sohbet) to a Turkish ambassador, and saying, look what this Turkish guy is saying, they will put an arrest warrant on me when I enter to Turkey (Shaykh smiles). They say, “you going over there to fool Americans with this?” They put me in jail. But we are not expecting anything from them. We are not expecting anything from others. We are just trying to sincerely, believing in my heart trying to find ways to learn from each other and to love each other, to respect each other. That is the way we are going to practice.This is the way we have been practicing. You cannot tell me,’you are wrong.’ I cannot tell you,’you are wrong.’ But I can tell you, when you are bankrupt with this, and you are finding no more peace, nothing else is coming to you. Then come to me, I have something to give to you that time (Shaykh smiles).
The person who comes to a Shaykh, he comes with his own intelligence, with his own mind. You already reach to certain stations, you already knows certain secrets of this world, you cannot figure out certain things, so he comes to a Shaykh. So he sits in the association of the Shaykh, and he listened. He has the right to accept or not accept. He doesn’t have the right to fight about it. But he has the right to question. Until he realized, “that is a master. That is my guide. I can trust that one.” When you trust that one, you go and said, “I’ m submitting, initiating to you.” Meaning, I’m accepting what you are going to tell me, what I have to do. So that time, he looks at you, he sees, ok the world or the benefit of this world, or the worldly matter that has been holding you from one angle.
Someone once stood up, he looked at Isa (as), he loved him, he loved his companion, he said to him, “what should I do, to enter to paradise?” He looked at him, he saw clearly the matter right a way, what he loves. He said to him, “for you to enter into the paradise, go set everything that you own, take all that money, go and distribute it to the poor people. Then come back and follow me. Live like me.”
He said, “You mean all my wealth? All my wealth that belongs to me from my father, from my forefathers, set it to give to the strangers I don’t know? ” “Did you ask me the entrance to paradise? For you, that is what it is, because you want paradise from one side, but you don’t want to give up from this world.” So when Isa (a.s) looked at him, he saw that he was in love with this world. So he hit him from that angle saying, “first, get rid of that love. When you get rid of that love from your heart, you find space to put other loves, you find space to put really your Lord’s love in it. Otherwise when that love is occupying your heart, you will not be able to find space to put that, then you are not going to be successful in that work that you are doing.
On our door (at the dergah), it says, ‘All are welcome. Doesn’t matter what your faith is. doesn’t matter what your fear is. Come, learn how to sit with each other, to eat together, to first enjoy the meal that the Lord is giving to us. Learn how to be thankful for that. Then you will not fight that time. Then you will find the way to say, you cannot be fighting, you have so much space, you have so much time, what are we going to do with it?’ We have to progress the spiritual way, we have to turn to spiritual world.
SPIRIT MATTERS: Divine Message of the Sufi
Islam is two principles, sitting on two principles, one is to learn how to worship your Lord. Second, learn to help and to reach his creations. If the person does these two things, then he will reach to the highest stations. Without separating, saying “this is Jew, this is Christian, this is black, this is white, this is green, this is yellow.” In originally, we are all created from the same thing, we have the same material, same creation material.
So Allah saying to us in the Holy Quran, “we have separate you in different nations, in different tribes, to go find one and each other, to learn from each other, to exchange, to learn, to improve yourself, to become better ones. To become better ones to the Divine service.”
In reality, we are all for Divine service. We are not for our own service, our own ego’s service, but for the greater service. We have to be in His service, when we are in His service, that time, we will be able to look at His creatures, saying “this is His creature, my duty is to serve that creature. If I’m serving my Lord, my duty is to serve that creature.”
So this is the name, the faith I believe every one of us here we are sharing. I don’t think anyone here finding the separation here. Our duty is to love each other as a man, and to respect each other, respect each other’s rights. And learn how to know, how to communicate, how to love each other.
When we learn how to love each other, then we will be able to reach to our Creator. One of the Hadith, the relating Hadith meaning the words of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, Alayhi salam wa tu Salaam saying to us, “ The one who doesn’t says la ilaha illallah, Meaning la ilaha illallah, there is no God but only one who created all. Because the people they have invented Gods to themselves. They built idols and they did so many things. They started worship to those things, and they said, ‘this is our God.’”
So the Holy Prophet Muhammad (asws) is saying, “la ilaha illallah, there is no Gods man can created, but illallah, that One who have created everyone.” Anyone who says these words and they believe, they are entering into paradise. That means that one has a faith. He says, “but if you don’t love each other, if you don’t learn how to love each other, even if you are saying that word, you are not really reaching to the main roots of the faith .”
Bihurmatil Habib, Bihurmatil Fatiha
Sohbet given by Sheykh Abd Kerim Effendi
February 27, 2004 (Muharram 6, 1425)