Bismillah ar Rehman ir Rahim

New Year Message for 2014-15

The year of 2014 fades before our eyes. Once it was a future thought, now it vanishes again into
obscurity whence it came. It was an opportunity to grow and earn, through the favour of God,
imperishable treasures. Those treasures remain they do not fade into non-existence like the year.

The passing of the year is necessary to make way for a new year, new hopes and new opportunities to
seek the blessings of our Maker. Do not seek to measure the success of a year only by its material
advancements or losses, though these have their place and we should express our gratitude for them.
We should measure success by the advancement of spiritual growth; by the acquisition of qualities such
as a more charitable disposition, deeds of kindness and humanity, and by the love that grows inside us
and begins to flower. Real success is the increase of wisdom, peace of mind, and contentment. Count
as a favour from God any good you were able to do for others.

Time is like a revolving sphere, one portion of the sphere must move in order for the next part to take its
place. So lets give thanks for the spiritual and material advancements of last year and at the same time
look with optimism to the next year 2015.

A sunny optimistic outlook is a great asset – material hopes should not be unrealistic, but neither should
apprehension or pessimism be allowed to create a melancholy feeling – which becomes self fulfilling.
Whatever happened that was bad last year was the result of the Self. The Self is the source of all that is
evil in the world. Any victory we gain over the Self advances us spiritually, but also adds to the general
advancement of mankind, since the Self is both intrinsic to us individually but also universal affecting all
mankind. The Self is opposed to love, Where love rules the self has no place to lay its head. The
concentration on the importance of love is therefore axiomatic. What we concentrate our attention on
becomes integrated within us. When love comes to stay in the house of our life it should be treated as
an honoured guest and everything should be done to ensure it stays with us as a permanent resident. No
sacrifice is too great to keep love alive in our heart. What pain the poets and Sufis felt if love departed
for even a short while, how they wept and prayed!

Daily renew gratitude for love, its absence turns life into a kind of living death. What is love you ask? Its
signs and manifestations are many – its essential substance eludes our comprehension.

Its signs are acts of selflessness, charity of heart, joy that spreads through us irrespective of external
causes. Its greatest sign perhaps is that it replaces narrow minded prejudice and a tribal mentality with
an appreciation of our common humanity. For the Sufis the way of love is focused on the spiritual guide.
If we cannot become filled with love for the guide, who is our best well wisher and friend, then how can
we become full of love that is universal? Love is easy to talk about but much harder to realise. Perhaps  
billions of times or more everyday, in a vast number of languages, lips move to say – ‘I love you’ but how
many times do the lips of the heart move to utter those words with absolute sincerity.

Love requires sincerity, and sincerity is when our outer acts conform with our inner state. The one who is
seeking love first passes through the gate of Tauba – sincere and permanent repentance for
selfishness. This changes the life inwardly and outwardly. It is the true foundation for love. It is not just an
outward act in which we vow not to repeat a behaviour. It is to be filled from head to toe with recognition
of our own worthlessness. So much so that we become dead to the life we knew. This death however is
of a spiritual nature not of the body. How many who commit suicide physically have made the
fundamental error of identifying themselves with their body rather than with their soul. The repentance is
of heart mind and soul. We do not have to vow to change our behaviour and then struggle to keep the
vow – we simply lose any interest in the behaviours that before had fascinated us. When this happens it
is a sign Allah has sent us the gift of repentance. When this becomes deeply settled in our nature the
time comes when it secures for us God’s forgiveness for all our previous life – O what a glorious day.
Then we have lived really the saying of the holy Prophet (peace be upon him) to ‘die before you die’.

I wrote a song – the first lines are:
Love you cannot learn, love you cannot earn. All our work to purge
our selfishness does not of itself bring love - it lays the foundation to receive love but Hazrat Nawob
Khadim Hasan a saint of the Gudri Shah order tells us –
love is a gift of the guide. A gift is freely given
and is not the same as wages for work.

Service is the sure way to prepare ourself for love. Service has many implications – it can mean work;
physical, mental; or spiritual, whose purpose is focused on pleasing God and denying our Self. Zikr and
Fikr are forms of service. Changing the atmosphere around us from a negative one to a positive one is
also a form of service. When negative thoughts take hold of us we should do what we can to see them
for what they are – unwelcome visitors who will leave if we do not encourage them to stay. Thoughts can
be controlled, we do not have to be a slave to every passing mood or thought.

Love does not come easily to those who cut themselves off from the rest of humanity and live in
isolation. Solitude in doses is very beneficial, but one should not become addicted to the medicine.
When love comes it flows out to everyone we meet. It is generous by its very nature. Mevlana Rumi
amongst others speaks of love that flows into all around us – and yes it eventually suffers contamination
and requires re-purifying and renewing but that is its nature. Love comes to the one who is empty of Self.
One should aim to be an empty begging bowl. No one puts money in to begging bowl that is full. Whilst
we are full of Self how will God pour into us His infinite love. The Self in this sense is really the world. The
world as Abu Said Abil Khair tells us, is not money or possessions or cars or luxuries – it is
forgetfulness of God. Worldly things tend to cause us to forget God – it is for this reason they should be
kept within bounds not for any evil intrinsic in them.

Hazrat Ali, the head of the Sufi Orders has spoken of the wealth of contentment. The self has thousands
of unfulfilled desires and thus keeps us chained in greed. Greed can never be satisfied so we are
enslaved by it unless we free ourselves from its grip. The spiritual guide comes to free us from this and
other evils. Greed turned towards spiritual ends can be a great boon.

The love that is restrained by time and circumstance and space is not the real love, but love has its ways
of bringing circumstances under its sway. Khwaja Muinuddin Hasan Chishti was one of the great
advocates of the importance of love. Like his predecessor Khawaja Uthman Harooni he saw love as
synonymous with Life. Living is not just breathing or surviving – it is feeling the presence of love day by
day, hour by hour, minute by minute. He was enabled to bring to a divided tribalistic and caste bound
society a doctrine that transcended the outer forms of worship. That replaced sectarianism with a
universal regard for our common humanity. For Khwaja Saheb the power of love was so great that
whatever came into it was consumed in the way a fire consumes rubbish.

For me personally 2014 was the year of Hafiz. He is a mystic with a divinely given gift of poetry. Hafiz’s  
poems conceal, beneath the beauty of their language and symbolism, profound spiritual messages.
Many love their beauty; few see behind that veil the deep mystical meanings. Beauty in art and music
and literature may be a fine thing but the true sighted one seeks the divinity that external beauty

With the help of some Irani murids, especially Maryam Moghadam, we have produced a translation of
the first 150 ghazals of Hafiz’s famous Divan which by God's grace we hope will be out in the near future
published by Beacon Books. For me this was an inheritance from Zahurmian, my spiritual guide whose
version of Hafiz's Rubaiyat Sharib Press published earlier. Work continues on the remainder of the

We also celebrated in Southampton a number of ‘Urs (death anniversaries) including Khawaja Saheb,
Zahurmian, Nuri Baba and so on. Martin, Riaz, Husam, Mikail, Zulfikar and Taira, Baby Khalida and Asif
were just a few of the people who attended during the year. Adam was constrained by domestic
circumstances but was always with us in spirit. Some others from abroad attended at times via Skype
but we have some technical problems with this that we are trying to resolve.

In December I visited Ajmer, Delhi and Konya. The ‘Urs in Konya gave the opportunity to meet the Irani
murids, two Maryams, Yasmin, Sahar, and Samineh and the lovely Maideh from Konya. I could also
meet again Ali Baba and the lovely murids of the Dergah,  and new friends too – many pleasant
memories linger in my heart from all of this. Abdullah, Tahir and Dr Narami I could also meet again. I was
delighted when Riaz Sharif and brothers and son Ishmail turned up towards the end of Mevlana’s ‘Urs
and we able to attend zikr and perform ziarat together. Our friend Ibrahim Gammard was a joy to meet

With Hafiz especially but also with the murids from Iran and their friends I  found myself often drunk on
the finest spiritual Persian wines. It is a country that has made such a strong contribution to Sufism.
Before Konya I had visited  India and had the pleasure to meet Inam Hasan, the present Sajjadanashin
of the Gudri Shah Order his lovely wife Amina, his son Ikram  and his sister Meher who I was relieved to
find was in recovery from a serious illness (may Allah grant her full and sustained recovery).

Our regular weekly Zikr continued in Zahuri Manzil. We have also begun the process of enlarging the
building adding a 'Nuri Baba' annexe that we hope will enable people to attend the Urs in more comfort.
We have also begun some music making sessions which help to build a team sense that is so much a
part of a sufi order. Visits by a relatively new murid – Bahar, and her family has been another high point.

As ever my lovely wife Farhana's loyal support was freely given and gratefully received throughout. So
many hours of cooking and such hard and patient work done with love – may the saints reward her.

Now we turn to the future. What does it hold for us. Some ease we hope, but also difficulties of course.
Some people are inclined to a fatalistic view of life as if they have no control over circumstances. The
truth is however that our mental approach to difficulties can turn them into opportunities and where that is
not possible then we can use those difficulties to grow spiritually within. Allah does not turn to a people
who do not turn to Him. Let us make a New Year resolution to try to turn always to Him both in hardship
and also in ease. He hears prayers that are uttered from the heart with sincerity and He answers prayers.

For the Muslims the remembrance of Allah can be done with recitation of His Names but this is not the
only way to remember Him. The Holy Qur’an says that whenever we are engrossed in a task, or if we are
reading any portion of the holy Qur’an, then Allah is our witness. So to do our tasks with real attention
and to feel re-assured that Allah is with us while we do it is itself a remembrance of Allah.

For those who are not Muslims the same basically applies – to work with the sense that God is watching
us every moment is a prayer in itself. Our short life is an opportunity to secure eternal benefits; let us not
waste it in self pity and complaint about our lot in life. Let us make the firm intention that the New Year
will be the year we turn our life around.

May the All-mighty grant you opportunities in abundance to make your life richer in every respect and
may He grant you the wisdom to take those opportunities. Above all may He, who is the source of love,
let love flow into our daily lives so that they become transformed, the way spring transforms a desolate
winter garden into a feast of perfume, colour and joy.

We are in Your Hands, we know its true,
You who colour every day, colour us too.
We work by Your grace and in You trust,
To remove from us all doubt and daily rust,
So that in our heart’s mirror we may see,
In each hue and shade Your unique  beauty.
Independent of all need we know You to be,
Dependent ones on You alone, help us to be.

May the smile of the All-mighty and All-Merciful fill the new year with its Grace.