|The New Year 2005 and the 'Urs of Dr Sharib.
Because of the differences between the lunar and solar calenders this year the
occasion of the solar New Year is a doubly joyful occasion for those associated with
the founder of this site - Dr Zahurul Hasan Sharib. His death anniversary this year
falls on New Years Day. Its seems like yesterday that the long vigil in Ajmer and
later in the hospital in Jaipur came to an end and we watched as the shrouded body
of our 'friend, philosopher, and guide' was lowered into a deep hole in the earth
adjacent to the shrine of his own guide Nawob Saheb. I have described the events in
more detail elsewhere on the web site so let us rather concentrate on his legacy or
at least on one aspect of his legacy - that is the awakening of the spirit. To awaken
the spirit - which lies deeper than the heart, intellect or bodily souls is the hallmark of
a true Sufi Sheykh. It is no easy task to bring the errant, wilful disciple to such a
state of grace.
It was his way and custom to deliver short 'lectures' for the society of mystics, at the
turn of the year - so as an expression of the gratitude and love which eternally binds
us I have tried to emulate this in my own way. I dedicate this not to his memory but
to his continued living presence not in hope of the blessings that flow therefrom but of
increased awareness of that presence.
The New Year looms large in front of us – and the old year begins to fade. Some
hopes and aspirations have been realised and some disappointments have also
occurred. There have been triumphs and disasters but it is better to 'treat those two
impostors just the same'. It is the way of things. Hazrat Ali said he came to know
God’s Will by the things in which he did not succeed. Let us take heart from this and
renew our aspirations for a better world – in which justice and peace prevail, in
which the meek and humble are given the respect they deserve and the help they
need, in which hard hearts become softened by thoughts and feelings of amity and
goodwill to all irrespective of caste, colour, or creed. In which the subtlety of good
human relationships triumph over brute force and ignorance.
This year, that is now passing, I was granted the gift to attend the death anniversary
of Khawaja Muinuddin Hasan Chishti in Ajmer and then later that of Mevlana Rumi in
Konya. These occasions lighten the load and cause the heart to be revived anew –
indeed cause it to dance with joy. In the case of Mevlana Rumi I attended the joyful
occasion following on from attending a large Indian family wedding. Both were
celebrations of weddings. The first was a conventionally happy occasion the second
celebrated a union of a different kind - the union of the soul of the saint to his
There is a famous verse of Khawaja Uthman Harooni translated by Zahurmian – it
I do not know why at last to have a longing look I dance,
But I feel proud of the fondness that before the Friend I dance.
Thou strike the musical instrument and lo every time I dance,
In whatever way Thou cause me to dance, O Friend, I dance.
Come, O Beloved! See the spectacle that in the crowd of the intrepid and daring,
With a hundred ignominies, in the heart of the market I dance.
Blessed is recklessness, that I trample underfoot the very many acts of virtue.
Hail to piety that with the robe and the turban I dance!
I am Uthman–i-Haruni and a friend of Sheikh Mansur,
They revile and rebuke and on the gallows I dance.
Both weddings provoked feelings of elation which were in some way expressed
through dance. But whilst the one was a conventional celebration of happiness the
other was due to the awakening of the spirit. As Mevlana Rumi puts it – ‘the earthly
body soared to the skies’.
The bride and groom are sincerely wished happiness and prosperity but if it lasts for
seventy years, still it will be a transient thing. The other has about it the flavour of
It is the eternal joy of the saints in union with the Beloved that inspires in us the
recollection of God - that enlivens the heart and brings the transient into alignment
with the eternal. The spirits of Sheikh Mansur and Khawaja Uthman Haruni may be
said to dance in eternity to the divine music of Life. It is an expression in a different
mode of the simple philosophy of Khawaja Uthman that we should not consider life
as merely breathing in the conventional sense but as being responsive to the spirit
I think very few people will be granted so full a sense of Life as such saints, but still
from their joyful union with the Divine comes inspiration for us all in our everyday life.
May it be granted to us all in the New Year to find in our every day toil some flavour
of that divine joy that we may catch something of the hidden music of life and dance,
inwardly at least, to the subtle rhythms of existence.
Al-Latif is one of the beautiful names of God. It means subtlety. To detect the subtle
nuances of the Divine in the mundane is indeed a fine gift to which we should aspire
that our spirit may soar. That we may share with Shelley in his ‘Ode to the Skylark’:
Hail to thee, blithe spirit,
Bird thou never wert,
That from heaven or near it,
Pourest thy full heart,
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
Words that inspire inevitably evoke a dual response; whilst they speak to our spirit
they also bring a reaction of our lower nature that says in effect ‘this is all very well
but the realities of everyday life how they press upon us – these sentiments may be
very fine in their place but really they are so much hot air and romantic nonsense
compared with the struggle for daily survival’. Let us acknowledge such a response,
it is part of our nature. It is the same response we may have to Lord Jesus when he
‘Observe the birds in the air they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet
your heavenly father feeds them.’
If we identify with the grumbling of our ‘human nature’ rather than our humanity, which
is the elevation of our nature to the divine; if we ignore the call of the spirit; then we
are destined to remain bound within the temporal prison we call life; but which is
really merely existing. If we listen to the call of the spirit and respond – putting aside
our worries and woes – then we may hear the divine music and participate in the
divine dance of life and may realise the eternal in the temporal. At all events our
grumbling nature does not require reinforcement from our paying it attention – it will
continue to grumble on. Whilst our goal must remain to make ‘the earthly body soar’
our attention must be on the potential of the spirit within to soar for it is the
awakening of this that so enlivens us within that even the body responds.
The Whirling Dervishes of Konya first remove their black cloaks and then having
received the blessing of the Sheikh they begin to turn in their long white dresses. Like
spirits soaring they turn and turn in patterns of breathtaking beauty – however the
Sheikh remains quite still. It is only at the last that he moves slowly forward and he
himself turns – but very slowly and with great dignity – not at all in the relatively rapid
motions of the dancers. It appears as if, finally the earthly body has become inspired
and moved. From this we take the lesson that by concentrating our attention on the
call of our spirit at last even our bodily nature participates in the divine dance. They
bring the occasion to a close with a beautiful recital of a sura of the holy Qur'an and
blessings on the holy Prophet.
In Ajmer at the 'Urs of Khawaja Muinuddin Hasan Chishti, the same principle is seen.
There the musicians reach great heights of inspirational singing but the Sufis remain
resolutely still in body allowing only the spirit or heart (there is a difference) to soar
with the musicians until at last someone becomes so overwhelmed that the spirit
grabs his body and turns him, helplessly around until, as Mevlana Rumi puts it,
‘Moses fell in a swoon’. Here too the exaltation is rounded out with Qur'an recitation.
The application of this to our daily lives may not at first seem too evident but think it
over. To dance around our office or work place ‘moved by the spirit’ in the sense
described would be a nonsense but to deny the spirit within would be a kind of death.
To sense even in apparently mundane activity the breathing of the spirit is to Live.
Let us aspire to it. But God knows best.
I wish you a Happy New Year. May it fulfil the best of your hopes and aspirations.
May the mercy of Allah be ever upon Hazrat Dr Zahurul Hasan Sharib Gudri Shah
Jamiluddin Morris Zahuri