A Message for The New Year – 2016.
We pause at this time of the year to look back on the distance travelled over the last year
and forward to the journey awaiting us in the new year of 2016.
When the heart is full of love it sometimes feels as if words are not enough. That is the
feeling we get after returning from the ‘Urs of Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi in Konya in
December; as we have done every year for the past nineteen years.
When love enters the heart it is too much for the heart or the mind or the body to contain
– it is a delicious problem to have of course, and one more than worth seeking out. The
solution is simple too. It is to let the love energy that flows from God through His
Prophets and saints into our heart, flow out to each and everyone we have contact with.
Thus love is not something to be held in or contained in some way. If we try to do this we
will surely explode. We must let it flow through us and give it as freely as possible to
everyone without discrimination. The irony of course is that this love energy is then
increased. The whirling Dervishes of Konya show this in the posture they adopt whilst
turning. One hand held up to receive blessings from heaven and one hand downward to
distribute to the earth. This is not a matter purely of generosity but almost one may say of
survival so that the love energy does not destroy us completely.
People use the word ‘Duniya’ or ‘World’ as if it refers to material possessions. Hazrat Abu
Said A’bil Khayr the great Persian mystic says otherwise – he says it is rather the
forgetfulness of God. That forgetfulness is like a kind of hidden weight on the heart – not
usually noticed because we learn to accept it as if it is normal. Conventionally we take the
heart to refer to the organ located in a specific place near the centre of the body. Really it
encompasses the whole body. Indeed the place we are most likely to experience it is in
the forehead. Forgetfulness is almost like a headache that we have had so long and we
have got used to it so that we no longer notice it.
Love softens the heart, for it is remembrance of God – or maybe we can say it is more
than that since remembrance implies there is the possibility of forgetting. Khawaja
Muinuddin Hasan Chishti says that the lover has passed beyond remembrance, outwardly
or inwardly. He experiences Fikr in which the awareness of God is constant. The
‘headache’ of forgetfulness is lifted. The holy Qur’an says; “After hardship comes ease”.
In a practical sense when we enter an environment we taste for a moment the
forgetfulness as if it hangs in the air. It clears, lifting like a fog when love is present in our
heart. Love pours in by the Grace of God like sunlight and dissipates the fog of
forgetfulness. The ‘headache’ lifts as if we had taken some relieving medicine. We take
forgetfulness as if it is the norm but really remembrance is our true natural state. The holy
Qur’an says “Man was created in the best of moulds then he became the lowest”. So we
can say remembrance or awareness, love in fact, is our natural state and forgetfulness or
heedlessness is an illness.
The receiving and giving of love was one way Zahur Mian described as the Sufi way. It
means many things but one way to understand it is the receiving of divine love and
distribution of it to whomsoever we may meet. How to get love of course your mind says?
The rational mind is enamoured with ‘how’ and ‘why’. The saints tell us the answer – ‘It
comes as a gift from the spiritual guide.’ Service cleans the heart and prepares it to
receive that love. That is as much as we can do by effort.
This talk of love is inevitable after spending two weeks in Konya at the time of Mevlana’s
‘Urs. Let me recall some of the moments and people I met. All the good things there come
from Mevlana but he acts through people so I must recall with gratitude Abdullah and his
family – especially his son Halit. Halit had stayed with me and my wife Farhana in
Southampton during the summer whilst he learnt English. It was my hope to repay thereby
a little of his many kindnesses over the 19 years I have been visiting Konya. Abdullah
however heaped kindness after kindness on me yet again, arranging a fine hotel to stay
in and refusing any payments whatsoever; inviting me and the murids there to lavish
dinners at his beautiful house in Mehram. Halit was often with me.
Most of my evenings were spent at the Dergah of Ali Baba, the successor to Nuri Baba,
participating in Zikr, the vocal recollection of Allah. There I felt the usual warm welcome
and joy at meeting well remembered travellers on the Sufi path. I was given an
unexpected and blessed gift of photos of beloved Nuri Baba.
Meeting the murids from Iran was particularly pleasing. Maryam Moghadam and her lovely
mother Shahla were there from Shiraz.
Maryam and I are on Skype almost every day sometimes for hours together as we work
on completing translations of the Divan of Hafiz. She and Shahla completed Haj this year.
Then there was the lovely Jasmine (Yasi), from Kirman, with her charming smile and
enthusiasm for the spiritual path. We discovered she was a very good dancer.
Maryam from Tehran, who has been so close to me for three years now, soon joined us.
So we were a nice little family – but that family was soon to expand as we were joined by
Fariba from Tabriz, who joined the order. Fariba is particularly good at the practice of Zikr
and puts her whole heart into it. Our family was even further enlarged when we were
joined by the delightful Nargis who, at the tender age of eighteen was clearly much
moved by the love she felt from Mevlana. Would that I had had such sensibility at that
age. Her lovely sisters too kept company with us at times as did others.
We, of course, completed Ziarat (the visiting of the shrines) first to Shemsuddin Tabrizi
and then to Mevlana – after which we visited Bey Hakim Effendi, the doctor of Mevlana;
Hazrat Kazeruni; Hazrat Sadreduddin Konevi; Hazrat Ateshbaz Velli – the cook of
Mevlana; Tavus Baba in Mehram;and Jamel Ali Dede nearby. We also visited the grave
of Nuri Baba of course in the large graveyard near Mevlana’s shrine. We were able to
meet Essin Chelebi at the foundation of the Mevlevi order in Konya. A brief meeting with
her respected brother who is the head of the Mevlevi order ocurred during the Seb-i-Urus
ceremony in the shrine of Mevlana on the 17th.
We were invited as a group to have another meal at Abdullah’s lovely house. On this
occasion Sheikh Ibrahim Gammard from the USA joined us. We were also honoured to
visit Ali Baba in his lovely old Turkish house on the way back to central Konya. I did not
want to disturb him – the ten days of Zikr can be exhausting to the body – but when I said
we were only paying a short visit he said – “Your coming was in your hands, but your
departure is in mine”.
One by one the visitors departed from Konya, though in some cases journeys were
altered to stay on longer - so much was Mevlana’s attraction felt. Hafiz Shirazi has a line
that says; “The musicians left, but the Sufis lingered on.”
We visited the main Sema one afternoon held in the large auditorium. We had no tickets
but somehow Mevlana contrived to give us seats. Its beauty is astonishing – always the
same and every time somehow new.
Those are just a few of the things that come to mind about Konya but the whole year was
an important and busy one for both me and my ever supportive loving wife Farhana. As
well as enjoying immensely the company of Halit for a couple of months,Jasmine came all
the way from Kirman to see us. We also went to her London flat and together four of us
visited museums in London and even Buckingham Palace.
There were also visits by relatives and murids. As a birthday present my wife helped by
an English murid, Bahar, presented me with a small publication of some of my early
poems – wonderfully produced. I am very grateful to them both for the work they put in -
and for their efforts to keep it a secret from me.
We celebrated the ‘Urs of Khawaja Saheb of course in April/May and Zahurmian’s ‘Urs on
the 8th and 9th of April. The new extension to Zahuri Manzil was completed due to the
untiring efforts of Riaz Sharif. We called the extension 'The Nuri Baba Annexe’. We
celebrated for the first time the ‘Urs of Nuri Baba in October. The Zikr sessions on
Sundays continue and slowly we are getting the technology better so that people from far
across the globe can participate via Skype. We sometimes perform zikr or songs of mine,
with musical accompaniment by Mikail on guitar. In some sessions we felt quite inspired –
Husam and Riaz provide the drumming for zikr and Asif recites Humd and Nath
beautifully. Sometimes he brings his son Hamad. It is difficult for Adam to attend Zikr but
he comes to Zahuri Manzil every workday to read Namaz and is always offering help in
any way he can. Martin produced a wonderful professional calendar with his photographs
from the ‘Urs. Before you ask he made only one copy so I can’t send one to you. Riaz's
son Ishmail is also a regular attender of the sessions and helps with drumming - we are
always pleased to see him and he keeps us up to date with football news from his
extensive knowledge of the game. Michael from Southampton also attends at times and
takes a great interest.
Of course the year had its hard moments too. Husamuddin Dyson, a long time murid, had
a heart attack – but we were relieved and thankful when he made a good and swift
recovery. He devotedly cares for his elderly mother every day. One of Farhana’s relatives
suffered a bad fall leaving him severely injured and unable to walk and our prayers are
with him and his wife and children. For the first time in many, many years I was not able to
visit Ajmer Sharif or indeed India this year. May Allah make it possible again soon.
Poetry by the blessings of the saints continued to flow from the pen (perhaps I should say
keyboard but the metaphor doesn’t quite work). They are available on the website.
The work on Hafiz’s Divan has continued apace with Maryam Moghadam on Skype, often
for many hours a day. I am grateful and impressed by Maryam’s unflagging enthusiasm.
The result of this is that we are now on the fourth and final volume, thanks be to Allah and
the blessings of Hafiz Saheb. God willing we hope for publication in the coming year. I
have spent some time also working on illustrations.
The readings in English of Nicholson’s translation of the entire Mathnavi of Mevlana
Rumi, which I made over a ten year period, have been put on the internet along with the
written text. Thanks for this go to Ibrahim Gamard and the technical wizardry from Firat
I am sure there is much I have missed from a crowded year but it is time to look forward to
the future. Allah writes our destiny just as the pattern set in our genes determines how our
body and brain develops; but he includes in what He determines for us the obligation of
responsibility for our own actions. It is a responsibility on us to unite as far as possible our
will with His Great Will and Wish. If we seek His pleasure by being in accord with His
Wish we are benefited, whether or not our actions have the results we hope for.
When we encounter a difficulty we should look to Him for the solution to our difficulty. By
this means as well as by recitations and so on we become habituated to remembering
Him and we turn a difficulty into an opportunity.
The world is passing through troubled times. The rise of global terrorism has followed the
rise of global communications. Allah gives us all these gifts but how often does man turn
them into something bad. Terror tactics have no scent of divinity in them. Sectarianism
like caste-ism, class-ism, racism or nationalism are without doubt evils of the world around
us. We should look to constantly clean our own minds of their pernicious influence. If a
thought comes into the mind that has any flavour of these things we should root it out
immediately. We may not have power to alter global events but we do have power to alter
our own mind by training our thoughts. Our thoughts affect others perhaps as much or
even more than our speech or even our actions, so let us accept the responsibility to
ensure they are good thoughts.
Humanity itself has a soul. One that is not static but evolving as Shah Wali Ullah of Delhi
says. The rigorous asceticism this soul required at the time of the desert fathers before
the advent of historical Islam is not what it requires now. Now we must learn to discipline
ourselves in a different way. To ‘take arms against a sea of torment’ within us without
either destroying our body or retreating to utter isolation. We are as Shakespeare says
‘Warriors for the working day’. That is we must take on the responsibility of training our
minds within the framework of life as we find it today. Spiritual development in the
individual is not completely separate from the social environment. The work we do to
purify ourselves is constantly eroded by our environment but this is not a negative thing if
we choose to look at it in a different way. The truth is we are really purifying our social
environment by accepting to live and function within it. When it becomes too much we
retreat for a while to the sanctuary in our hearts – but once restored we again engage
That retreat can be daily as when we pray at some fixed time or meditate or meet with the
one we are guided by (inwardly or outwardly). At the end of the day Marcus Aurelias the
Roman emperor and philosopher would take stock of his thoughts and actions critically
and resolve to make them better the next day.
The retreat may involve reading some beneficial book. Generally it is advisable to read
mystical books of established authority such as the Masnevi rather than modern books
about mysticism but there are some good self help books. Walks alone or in company are
another good way of temporary retreat. Do not however neglect news of the ever
Prayer and meditation in the early quiet hours of the morning are particularly beneficial.
Some people find they cannot switch off the mind whatever they do. The same thoughts
go round and round. There are a number of helpful ways to resolve this situation. One is
to sit quietly on your prayer mat, complete whatever prayers you may normally offer then
take a piece of paper and pen and fill a glass with water. Now write a letter to God
describing the worries and anxieties you have, in as much detail as possible. At the end
ask for His help. You do not need to specify the form that help should take. Just ask for
help. Put your forehead to the ground and beg for His help if your plight is very bad. Then
fold up the letter and dip it into the glass of water. Drink the water. Keep the paper in a
secret place where no one else can read it.
Moderate your eating, sleeping and talking. When you eat give attention to the meal
rather than having half a mind on some TV programme.
Count your blessings. That is to say sit down and offer thanks to God for each of them.
Do you have two legs? Two eyes? Hearing? A roof over your head? Money in your bank?
A car? Furniture in your house? A spouse? Children? Do you have electricity in your
house, or gas? Food? A computer? Did you ever thank God for them? Don’t just say
“thanks to God for everything”, actually start listing in detail the many blessings you
actually have, point by point. That new kettle, new dress, or the old things you have that
you have never thanked Allah for. The car that works, the doors that don’t creak, and the
ones that do.
The suffering and poverty of many should be seen as a sign – a reminder to be thankful
for what we have. But we should not stop at material things, God has also given us a
positive outlook, periods of happiness, spiritual states and so on.
If you follow this advice you will become spiritually wealthy. The list, however, is endless
you will tire before you complete the task.
Someone came to Bibi Rabia of Basra and complained of a headache. She asked that
man if he had ever had one before. He said he had not. She told him to tie the bandage of
gratitude on his head.
If you concentrate on what you should be grateful for your complaints will be put in
perspective and you are likely to receive more of what you are grateful for.
Sympathy and practical help for the destitute, oppressed, ill or needy should be part of
our inward make up.
There are many more pieces of general advice but ask your spiritual guide for those that
are best suited to you personally. No two persons are exactly alike.
The year ahead will not be devoid of difficulty, nor, we pray, of periods of ease. There will
be successes and there will be failures. Hazrat Ali said that he came to know God’s will by
the things he failed at. Kipling says – “Treat those two imposters (failure and success) the
The important thing is to gain a sense of perspective. We should make a plan for our life
not based on our selfish desires but based on the desire to serve others. To serve others
is to serve God and to serve God is to serve our own best interests. Charity may be no
more than an opportune smile or a sympathetic ear, but to give we must have something
to give. So try to be cheerful even when circumstances are against you. Morbid thoughts
should and must be overcome – the saying is 'charity begins at home' – but our real home
is our heart, make your heart pure and full of light then give it freely without stint or
regard. Give with gratitude that you have the means of giving, not as if it is something
noble or good in you. God is the real Giver, be grateful to be his tool.
Humility is a great thing – it brings blessings from a circle of great souls known as ‘the
holy fold’ by the mystics. The key to get these blessings is to constantly educate yourself
to think – ‘everyone is better than me’.
The next year can change your life for the better if you start to rule over the unruly self.
Make it your deeply felt intention to do so, and do not ask how or why. The ‘how’ will be
revealed in the heart, the ‘why’ is unnecessary.
Zahur Mian had a vision – I don’t mean just seeing something with the eye of the heart as
mystics do often. His vision was that the message of the supreme importance of love in
our life that was preached by the Great Souls such as Khawaja Muinuddin Hasan Chishti,
Mevlana Rumi and Hazrat Abdul Qadir al-Jillani, can be adapted and realised in the fast
changing world we live in. For this vision to be realised we are not required to be religious
fanatics or even extremely pious but to transform our ordinary daily lives into something
special by high thinking and simple living. Our mysticism should be quiet and not flaunted
before others for the sake of appearances. Some unusual behaviours do occur when on
the mystic path – there is no great harm if we do not go to excess but they are the signs
of our immaturity rather than our maturity. We should ‘hide what God would have us
We are a community within our different communities. The time of ‘Urs and other special
occasions such as the birthday of the holy Prophet (pbuh) brings focus and renewal of
our inner intent. There is an increase of spiritual energy, but during the rest of the year
we must aim to keep that spiritual flow alive. Mevlana prays ‘O Lord keep me alive with
love”. We may say amin to that every day. Khawaja Uthman Harooni tells us life is not
merely breathing and eating.
People often say to me - 'pray for me' - here is that prayer;
O lord make love our prayer, every day
O Lord make love our work and our pay,
O Lord at times of leisure in love let us stay,
O Lord in hardships let love show us the way.
Love does not change our personality but it does bring out our potential.
Love is not sentimentality but it is true and refined sentiment.
Zahur Mian said it so well; “Take love as best and leave the rest”.
It remains only to wish each and every one of you a truly prosperous and happy New
Jamiluddin Morris Zahuri
Dec 2015 Southampton.
At Ali Baba's house:. Ibrahim Gammard, Jamil, Nargis, Maryam Moghadam and Jasmine.
photo courtesy of Maryam Nazari