In the Name of God the Merciful and Compassionate
It is customary and right to precede every communication by expressing a wish for
peace and security to the recipient of our communication. Thus it is that we say Salaam
Aleikum to all friends and readers of this New Year message. Salaam aleikum means
“Peace and Security be yours”.
We can say these words in different ways - just with our lips, or with both lips and
heart. It is also possible that our soul may be in tune with the soul of the expression. In that
case the actual words become very secondary. We may not even use the words but still
express the feeling in the soul. Sometimes people say ‘Salaam’ with the lip when their real
intention is the opposite. At other times silence, or even words like Hello or Hi, may carry
the implication of “Salaam” if the person’s soul is in tune with essence of ‘Salaam’.
Sometimes just a hug may be enough to convey the feeling of Peace and Security to
Peace implies an absence of doubts, anxiety, confusion, hostility and turmoil – but it is
not just the negation of negativity, it is a positive feeling. Perhaps we can call it a ‘shining
We always hope every year for a better year with less human-made conflict, turmoil and
oppression in the world around us; with less prejudice, narrow mindedness, bitterness and
futile anger. Less bombs and bombast; more compassion and kindness.
Yet every year brings a fresh crop of inhumanity. The world is a sad and sorry place yet
we cannot hope to escape it by retreating to some cave or hideaway. The way of escape
from the world is to enter in to the life of the heart. The heart is our real cave of retreat.
The modern mystic unlike his forbears does not retreat to the wilderness but to the cave of
the heart whilst functioning in the world according to the requirements of the time.
Some people, wiser than others, find an escape from the world in religious practices
such as prescribed prayer, charity, pilgrimage and fasting and so on. These are valuable
and if practised sincerely they will help the person escape the worst effects of the world
and lead them a brighter after-life. If they are not sincere they will be of little value.
The mystics follow these practices too, but they have a different purpose than most
people. Not only do they wish to escape this world, they are also not interested in the life
hereafter, and wish to escape from that also, to reach the direct and sincere love of the
Eternal Truth, The Essence, Allah. Our good deeds will provide us with a better afterlife –
but Love of Allah is eternal and enables us to live in Him forever. This is the mystic’s
A personal spiritual goal is of the utmost importance, but where does that leave the poor
struggling humanity. Should our personal spiritual quest be merely to escape from the world?
I don’t think so! The fact is that service of God, of Allah, requires that we serve mankind.
Allah has no needs but mankind is bound by needs. To help people to have a better life must
be our main way of pleasing God and reaching to the love of God we desire. To Live a better
life implies being aware of God’s love every moment. This is what the Sufis call “Fikr”. It
goes hand in hand with “Zikr” which is the conscious remembrance of God through
meditating on His qualities or reciting repeatedly one of His Names. Even better than that is
to become absorbed in His qualities ourselves in our behaviour and manners.
One of the qualities of God is generosity but we cannot give what we do not ourselves
possess. Our first task therefore is to seek to have a living, awakened heart so full of Love
that we cannot refrain from distributing it to all and sundry. Love is a game changer. When
Love enters our heart everything changes.
Perhaps the most common malady of the modern world is the tendency to think too much;
to analyse things too much. The cleverer we are at thinking the more we fall into this trap
from which it is hard to escape. Rudyard Kipling in his poem IF says;
To dream and not make dreams our master,
To think, but not make thought our aim.
Thought is a valuable tool, if rightly used but it is a menace if we allow it to become our
master. The sign that this is the case is that we are unable to stop thought or focus it as we
want. The Buddha spoke of “Right Thought” and then “Right Action”. The fact is that
thought precedes action, but it not always apparent how this happens. A person may think
one thing then do another and opposite thing immediately. In fact however that thought will
have an effect over time – it will emerge as an action eventually. Zahurmian’s well known
dictum was “As you think, so you act, as you act, that you become.”
The future will be the fulfilment of the present,
The present, the actuality of what the past sent.
If you do not wish to repeat yourself, however,
To change the future is presently in your power.
The thoughts you have now you need to control,
The borders of your mind you must try to patrol.
If an evil intent in yourself you happen to detect,
Arrest it and examine it closely and then reject.
Search your heart for something much better,
And fill the vacancy left, with something sweeter.
The first practice of the would-be modern mystic therefore is to gain control over their
thought. This requires that we become aware of our thoughts as objective entities rather
than assuming they are part of us. It is a trick of our lower nature to see thought as
inevitable and continuous and natural to the extent we believe that we are our thoughts and
can never escape from thought. “I think therefore I am” is the declaration of a prisoner of a
limited philosophy. This thought itself imprisons us and it is simply a lie. If this thought
dominates, just say as Mevlana Rumi does – “I heard that lie”.
A thought enters our conscious mind – we have the choice to accept or reject it. If we
accept it then it becomes part of us. If we reject it then it does not. The mechanism for
rejection of a thought is to consciously replace it with an opposite thought or to use some
formula such as “I take refuge with Allah from the evil in that thought”.
To decide which thoughts we should reject and which thoughts we should accept we
need to establish some criterion. This need not be complicated. Those thoughts which tend
towards unity, altruism and Love (which are really the same thing) are acceptable – those
thoughts which tend towards hatred, mischief and selfishness should be rejected.
We can also develop the habit of positive thought, not just trying to avoid negative
thought. Thus if we focus our thought consciously on the positive qualities such as love,
patience, humility, generosity, contentment, peace, faith, toleration etc then there will be no
room for other kinds of thoughts. Self pity is an example of a mode of thought to be avoided.
Poor old self pity sought me out and said,
“By me to destruction many have been led”,
“To the one who sent you please return” I said,
“And say by me you were well treated and fed,
But wherever gratitude and love have their bed,
Old self pity finds no place to lay his head”.
Why not take a positive ‘thought for the day’? Say to yourself – today I will focus on
patience, or on love, or on toleration or on whichever you choose. When your daily tasks
permit return to thinking about that quality throughout the day. Maybe go further and try to
see how you can put that thought into action.
Now there is another issue with thought. This is the tendency to find plausible
explanations for our behaviours and accept them as true. By this means we build up a
picture of our self – a sort of self image – which is often founded only on plausibility not on
reality or self knowledge. We create a kind of personal mythology. The language of people
in this situation is “That’s who I am” “That’s just me”. These myths may have no substance
in reality but we accept them as if they were true and unchangeable.
In the famous first lines of the Masnevi of Hazrat Jalaluddin Rumi, the reed flute makes
I consorted with the sorrowful ones and with those that feel happy,
All sought me from his own opinion, none sought the truth from within me.
We should not hesitate to challenge our self about the truth of our assumptions. The
most dangerous of which is that we can never change our self because “That is who we
are”. It is a lie, and it is keeping you imprisoned in repeating the past again and again.
Everyday becomes a kind of “Groundhog Day”.
The mystic tears up every assumption about their own nature or personality and starts
again – but this time seeking not merely plausible stories about themselves but the truth.
This is part of what Lord Jesus means when he says – “The Truth can make you free” and
part of what the holy Qur’an means when it says; “Truth has come and falsehood has
This process of re-evaluating our own life is the basis for Tauba or Repentance – the
first step on the mystic path. Every assumption about our self we must challenge and
investigate. It requires utmost sincerity. This is the constructive use of thought. To destroy
the idols or myths we have lived by in our personal ‘age of ignorance’ and to learn to “Know
You will say – “Yes, but what is the Truth?” That is indeed the question we should be
asking our self every time. The most straightforward answer is, “It is how God sees us”. So
seeking to know our self is in many respects the same as seeking to know God, who is the
very core and essence of our being. Where do you expect to find God – if not in yourself?
So begin by removing the veils of false thought that you have covered up the truth about
yourself with. It is said if we make one step towards God He makes a thousand towards us.
As we begin to remove false notions about our self so He begins uncovering Himself to us.
But the effort must come from us initially. The Qur’an speaks of the necessity for a people to
make the effort to change themselves so that God will then change them. In truth we make
that effort of change only by His inspiration, but if we listen to our deceiving nature it will say
“It’s hopeless – obviously God is not inspiring us”. Your thought about making the effort is
the inspiration from God, listen to it!
It is like the Masnevi story of the man who was reciting the Name of Allah continuously –
then the devil appeared and asked – “Has God ever answered you?” Doubt entered the
man’s mind and he stopped. An angel appeared in a dream and said – “God want to know
why you stopped calling His Name”. The man replied – “Because I got no answer”. The
angel said – “Do you not realise that your saying Allah was itself the answer”.
Repeated effort is also required – failure in this process of thought management cannot
be allowed as an option. The thought will come to you – “I have tried this before, it’s no
good, it doesn’t work” Recognise this thought as a false thought, and take refuge from it or
replace it immediately with a new determination – say “Even though I have failed many times
before does it mean I will always fail – May God help me this time”. Hazrat Abdul Qadir al-
Jillani was once going to read the holy Qur’an. A thought came to him that he was too tired.
Immediately he made himself do extra reading for a whole year just to punish himself for
allowing such a thought to come into his mind.
Then there are thoughts of a cynical nature or just frank disbelief. This kind of thought
say things like, – “Where is the proof of God?” This is the unbeliever in our self speaking.
We all have an unbeliever in our self. There is no proof of God only evidences that point to
Him. Say to that thought there are so many evidences in the natural world and inner life that
it is unreasonable to deny God when there is so much evidence. Say to that thought, I have
heard what you say but I prefer to follow the way of faith and belief – may Allah help me
against you. If you are a Muslim there are the two verses at the end of Sura Baqara that can
be recited. They begin “Amanar...”
Another thought may be – what is love? Does it exist or is it just a myth? Is it just a word
without a reality? Mevlana asks in the Ney Nama, “How can the unripe grape expect to
know the state of the ripe?” When we read or hear the words of those who knew God’s Love
we can take this as evidence – since those people had nothing to gain by expressing that
love both in actions and words. We cannot expect to know Love till we earnestly seek it.
Love waits to be discovered by you why do you not seek it? Even suppose you do not find it
– will the search have done you any harm? In fact the old dictum often quoted by Zahurmian
holds true: “Search is never in vain”. The truth is that Love is a Gift given by the guide to the
sincere seeker – it is not the result of seeking itself.
There is also the kind of thought that we can call analytic thought. Analytic thought learns
to make ever finer distinctions between things. This kind of thought used in its proper place
can be of value but it also loses sight of the unity of the whole too easily. We say “It can’t see
the forest for the trees”. The other kind of thought is synthetic it sees the relationships
between things rather than their differences. This too is valuable and can also be called
creative thought. According to Shah Wali Ullah an intelligent person is one who can think in
both modes at the same time.
There is another kind of thought which is a deception too. It is the thought that always
defers things to some future date. Yes, it says, “I will seek for God or for Love when I have
time; when I am not so busy; when I am ready; at some point of time in the future.” That
future of course is a mirage and that search for God will become harder the longer you delay.
The future starts right here and right now! By all means have patience, it is the key to
success, but patience and delay are not the same thing.
There are also two modes of thought which need to be carefully differentiated. One
comes from heavenly inspiration and the other comes from the impulses of our lower nature.
The real meaning of Trust in God (Tawakul) in our view is that we learn to place our trust in
divine inspirations and to ignore the base impulses from our lower nature. This takes some
practice and requires that we have sufficiently refined our sensitivity to distinguish between
the two – in practice they tend to be intertwined. The best way to be sure is to follow a
practice Zahurmian suggested. If you are not sure whether the thought regarding an action
is an angelic one or from your lower nature – delay in responding. An impulse will eventually
fade but an inspiration will continue. This is a really good application of patience. Patience
is hated by our animal or lower instincts but as Mevlana Rumi and many others have said –
“Patience is the key to success”.
Now perhaps you understand when I tell you how important it is to take control of one’s
own thoughts. They are the workshop in which your future is created. Make it a bright future.
This year we again went to Konya for the Urs of Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi. On this
occasion, instead of travelling alone as usual, I was accompanied from Southampton by Asif
and also Ali Iqbal. Later we were joined by Husamuddin Dyson, also from Southampton. We
were met at the end of the bus journey from Istanbul to Konya by Hallit and his father
Abdullah. What generous natured and good people, and what an example of the Turkish
tradition of hospitality! Hallit and his brother Halim was often with us during the following
Once we were established in our respective hotels we began to meet the murids from
Iran. Maryam and her mother Shahla were there of course. During the stay Shahla was like
a recording angel always nearby to write down whatever I might say. Maryam was
extraordinary – translating from my English into Farsi as quickly as I spoke throughout the
whole trip. Nargis from Kirman arrived early with Maryam from Tehran. Nargis was so keen
to get to Konya that she left her house without her passport. Thankfully the problem was
resolved. Nargis is very devoted. Despite freezing cold weather she sat outside my hotel
entrance at 6 am in the morning waiting for me. A passerby took her for a beggar and gave
her ten Turkish Lira!
Of course there was an underlying note of
sadness to the trip this year – since less than a
month before, Ali Baba, the head of the Dergah we
attend in Konya, had passed away. In performing
our visits to the graves of the saints (Ziarat) we did
not neglect to visit his fresh grave immediately next
to Nuri Baba’s grave. Later we also visited his
widow at his house. Nowadays the leader of the
order in the Dergah is Muharram Kuchukiplikji. He
is the grandson of Nuri Baba. We had the chance
to give our commiserations to the people in the
15th November 2016
I heard the news today, this very day,
That Allah’s love took Ali Baba away.
What can I say? Tell me what can I do?
O Lord, now for sure he dwells with You.
Now myriad roses bloom in his garden,
For a saint laying down his body's burden;
A bloom for each loving smile he gave.
Ah, it’s only his dust that is in the grave.
For Ziarat, (which means visiting tombs), we somehow
managed to get everyone in to Abdullah’s apparently
“stretchable” taxi. We visited not only Shems Tabrizi and
Mevlana of course but also Nuri Baba’s grave and Ali
Baba’s grave. Later we went to visit the tomb of Bey
Hekim Effendi – the doctor of Mevlana and nearby Hazrat
Kazeruni’s tomb. Then we went to visit Sadeedudin
Konevi and Hazrat Atesh Baz Veli. Finally we went to
Tavus Baba and Jamel Ali Dede in Mehram. On a second
farewell ziarat we also visited the grave of the first
Murideen of Mevlana, Bibi Haytun Nissa.
Of course we visited Shems and Mevlana every day. On one occasion at Shems we
were surprised to see Hazrat Faroukh Chelebi Effendi the head of the Mevlevi Dervishes,
and a number of the Mevlevi dignitaries. They performed a ceremony there replacing the
traditional turban on the shrine with a copy of the Shems Turban that is to be seen in the
Mevlana museum. The photograph below is by Maryam Nazari and shows the shrine
before the turban was replaced.
The weather was exceptionally cold for much of our stay in Konya and we had a little
snow too. Our hearts nevertheless were always warm with Mevlana’s endless blessings. I
had a touch of bronchitis during the stay but the love in the heart of the murids and their
attention to our needs made it seem of no importance. It was like being in the heart of a
loving family. They were always with me. On one occasion, after returning from Zikr and
talking for a while I decided to retire to my hotel for some rest. I lay on my bed and closed
my eyes only to see with the eye of the heart that all the murids were standing round the
bed! They are my family – even closer and more important to me than my physical family.
To know that Love, whilst invisible, is nevertheless tangible one only needs to be in
Konya at a time like this, with an open heart. You could never again doubt that Love is a
reality – whatever word you may use for it. It is said that Sufism used to be a reality without
a name and now it is a name without a reality. In Konya an open heart can know something
of what that reality is.
Of course we attended once the grand ‘Sema’ of the Mevlevi Order in the huge
auditorium of the Culture Centre. Nargis Ilkhani took the magnificent picture below – a true
gift from Mevlana since she did not intend any ‘special effects’.
There were many memorable moments during out stay; listening to Nargis recite the ney
Nama (the first 18 verses of the Masnevi) must be included as one, along with her playing a
three stringed Persian instrument. Maryam’s translating into Farsi of my impromptu words
was outstanding. Asif’s constant cheerfulness kept everyone amused. Hallit could not have
been more helpful in every way with organising hotel rooms, translating etc. Yasi was
always near and such attentive company. It was also good to get to know a little better
Nargis’s sisters and cousins. Such a warm and friendly family. The meal so generously
provided to so many of us by Abdullah and Hallit’s family in their lovely home in Mehram
must also be mentioned with gratitude. The concluding Fatiha for Seb-i-Urus in the chamber
of Presence was of course profoundly moving.
Unusually, I did manage to visit Istanbul on my return and to spend one night there with
Ali and Asif. We went to the usual tourist sites of Haghia Sophia, The blue Mosque, and the
Topkapi Museum with its collection of holy relices. More memorable for me was a visit to the
shrine of Ayub Ansari – a companion of the holy Prophet. It was such a powerful and
beautiful place to visit. We were fortunate to be there just as a Qur’an recital was being
given. It was a grand way to complete our visit to Mevlana who hospitality was as ever
Some people were visiting Konya for the first time. They were astonished. I often say
that the only way to really get a taste of the Sufi Way of Love is to visit holy places like
Konya or Ajmer during the ‘Urs. No matter how I try to describe it – I fall short of doing it
justice. Tasting is the only way to grasp the sweetness of sugar.
Now we come to a final issue that will have been felt by most people visiting the Seb-i-
Urus. It is usually presented in this way; “Now that we have felt and experienced how rich
and beautiful life lived with Love can be, how can we keep that spirit alive after we return to
our humdrum lives?”
Yes, it is a struggle to do so. Now, however, you have in your mind now the memory of
how life can be.
Going to the ‘Urs
I used to dream of you the whole year long,
Until I learned from you to sing love’s song,
Only with you would I wake and look around;
Away from you there was no music, only sound.
Now there is no parting from your company;
That feast of love and love's wine held annually,
Has become my daily fare and my morning prayer.
For now I have found that you are always there;
Now I know that you are the pearl and I the shell,
You're always in my head and in my heart as well.
Though I will not deny the increase of love's delight,
When your grand shrine comes again into my sight.
Here are some pointers that will help.
Try to pray early in the morning before sunrise and give thanks to God for His holy
Prophets and Saints. Then recalling the names of those saints say Salaam to each. For
example if you have the time you can mentally perform the Ziarat of Konya and other holy
places you may be familiar with. This will help you to maintain the connection fresh in your
mind and it will give you renewed energy. If you are a Muslim this is best done after Farj
prayers are completed.
Realise that the difficulties of daily life are given by God to help us purify our own nature.
The more pure our nature is the more benefit we will get next time we visit the Saints
physically – so face up to those difficulties with a more positive mental attitude. Take control
of your thoughts and of your life.
Do not hesitate to call on the guide and saints in moments of difficulty. To call on them is
not other than to call on God since they are united with Him.
Try to keep good company – especially of those who have tasted of the love of the saints
There is no harm in hiding from strangers your feelings of love for the saints or the guide.
It’s a kind of secret that is good to keep in your own heart or share only with those who are
sympathetic. To hide love outwardly is not to deny love to others – that will flow from your
heart whether you like it or not. Bear in mind that the way of love and the Sufi path is not for
everyone – indeed it is for the few that God chooses.
Keep close to the spiritual guide – he is there for you, do not allow distance to come
between you mentally or emotionally or spiritually.
Aside from Konya the old year brought many blessings with it.
Farhana’s magical rose garden once again provided a magnificent display of many kinds of
beautiful flowers as a back drop for the gatherings in the Manzil. She often graces the Zikr
too when free and works incredibly hard for the various ‘Urs. Farhana and I were also able to
make a visit to Konya in May – when the spring weather is more inviting. We spent a
memorable week staying in the house of Abdullah.
The ‘Urs of Zahurmian and of Khwaja Saheb and also of Nawob Saheb and Qazi Saheb
were held in Zahuri Manzil. There are reports on these on the web site. For the first time we
held the ‘Urs of Nuri Baba too.
The weekly Zikr on Sundays continues with increased numbers both in person and on
line. Some new murids joined the order in England; Abbas and his wife Humaira, Ali Iqbal,
and Arshad the brother of Riaz. There is also regular attendance by Hussain who is only ten
years old yet makes a cake for us for each session. He comes with his grandfather Sardar
who despite no longer being ten years old performs Zikr with great gusto. Riaz has virtually
completed turning a shop into a hall – to be called ...Better Living – a favourite phrase of
Zahurmian. Along with being let out for functions that will offer opportunities for exercises
such as Yoga, Tai Chi, and various therapies there is the hope we will b able to offer
functions such as poetry reading, Masnevi and other functions allied to the concept of ‘better
living’ as taught by Zahurmian. Riaz has worked extremely hard to bring this project
physically near to fruition. The building is there; now we need to fill it with good thoughts and
Siraj’s biography on Zahurmian has now come out, and thanks to the efforts of Maryam
Moghadam who visited Ajmer, we have some copies now available on a loan basis.
Meanwhile the website continues to grow, especially with more and more poetry.
Bahar has moved to Manchester but has shown determination to keep up her close
contact with Zahuri Manzil and the Order. She is currently working hard on completing a
small book of my poetry and some prose essays. She has already managed some visits from
Manchester at great personal cost and difficulty. The hope continues that she will continue to
make sweet music with us in one way or another.
Maryam Moghadam and I have now completed most of the work needed for the four
volumes of the poetry of Hafiz Shirazi. We are in hope of an early publication. It is a big
Yasi visited us again in England all the way from Kirman. Farhana and I attended the
House of Lords with her and I recited the poem “Let it Be”. This was on the invitation of
Bahar who is engaged in a multi faith project.
Ali Iqbal has not only provided a lot of good service in helping maintain Farhana’s garden but
now spends one night a week in the Manzil in retreat. Abbas and Humaira provided a smart
new carpet for the Manzil. It has been a great pleasure to see that Adam has begun to be
able to attend Zikr. He is always willing to serve. We also had a visit from a new Murid from
India, Zaria. This was a great pleasure and we spent some good times together.
For all of these and so many other other blessings our thanks are due to All-mighty Allah
and His Prophets, Friends and Saints.
The New Year is waiting in the wings to make its entrance on to the stage of life. It will
bring a mixture of what appears to us as good and bad. Open your skirt to its blessings and
pass by as best you can whatever misfortunes fate may bring. As Hafiz says – we cannot rely
on the turning of the wheel of fortune. Let us instead place our firm trust in the All-mighty, His
Prophets and His Saints.
In religion find Unity, in the spiritual life find Love. They are essentially one and the same.
Life can be prosaic or it can be pure poetry. Seek the latter and escape the former.
May Allah make your life sweeter day by day in the New Year of 2017. May He continue to
provide the help on which we all depend. May no day pass without us feeling His love and
Mercy touching us. Amin.
Salaam, in silence can everywhere be heard,
Beneath the spiralling swoop of every bird,
Beneath the whorls and eddies of every stream,
Beneath the metaphorical maze of every dream;
Beneath the roar and cries of the ceaseless daily fight,
Beneath the crickets’ chattering in an oriental night,
Beneath the groans of this rotating rock,
Beneath the tick of life’s untiring clock;
Beneath the hopeless whimper of the poor,
Beneath the last breath of one at death’s door,
Beneath the cry of every infant just newly born,
Beneath the rustle of silk gowns elegantly worn;
Beneath the cry of the starving to be fed,
Beneath the prayer of the pure to be led.
Beneath this, and all the rest, Salaam is quietly hid,
To find its solace, listen, as before you never did.