Ritual Practice of Sufism & mind over matter

When the subject of mind over matter is ever brought up, the first thought that comes to the mind for those who have read about it is the name of the famed Uri Geller & his claims of spoon bending ability by using just the powers of the mind. There are critics who claim that it is mere trickery. But mind over matter, apart from bending spoons or forks also relates to Psychokinesis ability, that is moving objects by using the force of the mind. Further speaking on the same light, mind over matter in a narrow context, is the ability of one to overcome any sensation of pain when the body is subjected to any forms piercing invasion whether done in normal consciousness, meditative state, hypnotic state or in trance.

Today, I would like to bring to your attention, the mind-baffling Sufi ritual practices that is beyond rational explanation or mind over matter. This special ritual is carried out by the Sufis at the height of their devotion to God. Some Sufis explain that during the height of their conviction, they enter into a state of "wajd" or "haal" which means that ecstacy. They further explain that this state of mind is not accessible to lay persons but only to those at the height of their passion can tread.

Who are these Sufis or why do they indulge in such a practice? When did this start? Who started it? What brings rise to such practice? Are such practices accepted by Muslims in all parts of the world? Some of the answers to these questions are given & some are contained in the video clip below.

Sufism started after the demise of Prophet Muhammad at 632AD. It started as an organised movement among various Muslim groups who felt that orthodox Islam to be Spiritually stifling & wanted more from what they believe Islam could offer. The objective is basically aimed to seek divine love, gain the wisdom of the world & knowledge through direct personal experience of God. Their practice consist of a variety of mystical paths designed to bring mankind closer to nature & God. In my earlier posting, I introduced the Sufi dance & now to these rituals which shows of the variety of paths within Sufism. There exists 2 central Sufi concepts, which are "tawakkal" meaning the total reliance of God & "dhikr" which means perpetual remembrance of God.

The philosophers, Al-Ghazali & Al-Farabi practiced Sufism & contributed to it's mystical doctrines. Meanwhile, among the lady practitioner, stands out Rabia al-Adawiya that dates back to the 8th Century. She lived in Basra, Iraq and rejected worship that is motivated by the desire for Heavenly Rewards or Fear of Punishments. Instead, she insisted on the Love of God as the sole valid form of adoration.

While all this are being said, Sufism also faces growing opposition from the orthodox clerics. In 874AD, al-Bistami advocated a concept called fana (the dissolution into the divine). This concept was later used & propagated by Hallaj "in the declaration of his unity with God". And this declaration by Hallaj got him into grave trouble where he was executed in 922AD.

The practice of contemporary Sufi orders & sub-orders vary but most include the recitation of the name of God or of certain phrases from the Quran as a way to overcome the pull of the lower-self, enabling the soul to experience the higher reality which the soul naturally seeks. Within Sufism, there is a complex system of initiation & progression towards the divine.

Sufism had made a significant contributions to the spread of Islam & the development of various aspects of Islam civilization such as literature & calligraphy. Still, many conservative Muslims don't agree with many popular Sufi practices especially Saint worshiping, visiting the tombs of the Saints and it's incorporation of non-Islamic customs.

Image above: Sufism - Prayers at the tomb

Piercing the nostrils, forearms, cheeks & tongues with sharp needles are normally done. In the following video, you will witness knives that are hammered deep into the skull. What is strange is that not a single drop oozes out from the insertion point. They are seen aware of their total surrounding & they remain unperturbed by the foreign object in their body. You cannot find any trace of pain reflected in their eyes. Normally, when the ritual is over, there won't be any puncture marks or scars left after the removal of the foreign object from their body.

Viewers discretion necessary. The following images may be gory or uncomfortable for viewing by those not accustomed to seeing foreign objects inserted to body & are adviced not to view them. Otherwise, this can be a good learning experience of the diverse culture, practice & faith of the inhabitants of our mother earth.

Image above: This Kurdish Muslim says when I enter a heightened state of mind, I can see and hear everything as if I am guided by my master's spirit.

Image above: This man was trained for 22 years. After he had a dream of the ability to pierce instruments into his skin he was ready for the sufi ritual at age 38.

Image above: Sufi Muslims are dancing to the beat of instruments

Image above: Sufism practised by the Kurdish Muslims minority in Iran. A Dervish is an Islamic mystic seeking enlightenment. They are seen here dancing themselves into a trance.
Image above: Sufi - Knifes are being hammered into the skull of this Muslim.

Image above: Sufism - Knife hammered into the skull of this Muslim



Anonymous said…
"Rabia al-Adawiya"
Yes,Swami Sivananda mentioned this very famous sufi mystic/yogin in his book.
Anonymous said…
Not Christian or Jew or Muslim,
not Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi or Zen.
Not any religion, or cultural system.
I am not from the East or the West,
nor out of the ocean or up
from the ground, not natural or ethereal,
not composed of elements at all.
I do not exist, am not an entity in this world
or the next,
did not descend from Adam and Eve
or any origin story.
My place is placeless, a trace of the traceless.
Neither body nor soul.
I belong to the beloved
have seen the two worlds as one
and that one call to and know,
First, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human

—Jalaluddin Rumi, 'Only Breath'
Anonymous said…
Islamic Saint Saw Upanishads as Secret Book of Quran


By Shweta Austin

Prince Muhammad Dara Shikoh (1627-1658 AD)
"...there is his Persian version of the Upanishads and Bhagvad Gita.
While many are familiar with Dara Shikoh's translation of the
Upanishads, few know that in the preface to the translation, he
speculates that the Upanishads may well have been the secret book
mentioned in the Quran. It was for this reason that he called the
Upanishads, The Great Secret."

Prince Muhammad Dara Shikoh (1627-1658 AD) the
favorite Sufi son of Moghul emperor, Shah Jehan.
Known the world over for his unorthodox and liberal
views. He was a mystic and a free thinker.

Dara Shikoh, wrote in his Persian
translation of the Upanishads.

"After gradual research; I have come to
the conclusion that long before all heavenly books,
God had revealed to the Hindus, through the Rishis
of yore, of whom Brahma was the Chief, His four books
of knowledge, the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sama
Veda and the Atharva Veda."

He had learned Sanskrit and studied the Hindu
scriptures in the original.

He translated the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and
Yoga - Vashishta into Persian directly from
Sanskrit and called it Sirr-e-Akbar (The Great Mystery).
Titled "The Upanishads: God's Most Perfect Revelation"
and then into Latin by Anquetil Duperron (1801 and 1802)
under the title Oupnekhat, contained about fifty.
The Quran itself, he said, made veiled references
to the Upanishads as the "first heavenly book and
the fountainhead of the ocean of monotheism."

In his Majma al-Bahrain, he sought to reconcile
the Sufi theory with the Vedanta.

He was able to affirm that Sufism and
Advaita Vedantism (Hinduism) are
essentially the same, with a surface
difference of terminology.”

And in introduction to this work he says
that one finds in Upanishads the concept of
tawhid (the doctrine of Unity of God, the
most fundamental doctrine of Islam) after the
Qur'an and perhaps the Qur'an refers to Upanishad
when it refers to Kitab al-Maknun (The Hidden Book).
His work Majma`ul Bahrayn (Mingling of the Two Oceans i.e.
Hinduism and Islam) is very seminal work in the history of
composite culture of India.

Two years after the completion of the
Sirr-i-Akbar, Dara was executed on the
orders of his brother - Aurangazeb.

It's a strange feeling to feel lost in your own city. It happened
after spending hours trying to locate what was once considered the
pantheon of all knowledge and the glory of Shahjahanabad, the
library of Dara Shikoh, Shah Jahan's eldest son. After hovering near
the Kashmiri Gate area in the scorching heat for hours my efforts
finally paid off as I entered the huge colonial bunglow which is now
the office of the Archeological Department of the Delhi government.

With little idea of what the century-old library would look like, I
was nevertheless somewhat taken aback to find the entire complex
surrounded by jamun trees, huge white pillars, speaking of British
architecture, and wooden blinds covering the verandahs. The only
remnant of Mughal architecture could be seen in the basement.

Dara, a professed Muslim, was known the world over for his
unorthodox and liberal views and was deeply imbued with the
heretical mysticism of the Sufis. He mixed freely with philosophers
and scholars of other religions. In fact, due to his relations with
priests like Father Buseo, there were even rumours at one time about
his embracing Christianity. During the autumn of 1657, after endless
intrigues, when Aurangzeb finally ascended the throne, Dara fled

The Rajputs were the main supporters of Dara Shikoh and if Jaswant
Singh of Marwar had not behaved treacherously, he might have won.
Later, he was betrayed by his Afghan host, Malik Jeewan, a person
whose life he had once saved from the wrath of Shah Jahan. The court
theologians readily humoured Aurangzeb's penchant for legal
proceedings and passed the death sentence against Dara Shikoh. Dara
was beheaded and his corpse paraded through the city and buried
without ceremony in a vault near Humayun's Tomb.

The death of Dara also meant the destruction of his library. Dara's
estate, comprising the palace, library and garden were given to the
subedar of Lahore, Ali Mardan Khan, and later taken over by Wazir
Safdarjung, before being captured by the British. According to the
records at the Archeological Department the building changed hands
at least seven times, each time being modified by its owners.

The first to do so was the Viceroy of Punjab, Ali Mardan Khan
Mohammad, around 1639. Then came Sir David Ochterlony Bart around
1803, after which it was taken over by the government college
between 1804 to 1877 and later by the the District College in 1877
to 1886 until the Municipal Board School took it till 1904. It
finally came to the Delhi College of Engineering till recently when
it came under the Delhi government.

This perhaps explains why nothing typically Mughal in style or
architecture is visible here, asserts Nita Bali, the secretary of
Art and Culture, Delhi government. The guiding force behind the
renovation of the Ghalib Manzil, Nita observes, "It has not been
easy for us to restore the 'original' touch to the library since no
original plan has been recovered. On our part, we have tried to
preserve whatever traces of Mughal architecture that still existed."

Referring to the inaction of the government in preserving the
monument till now, Bali's opinion is to let the past rest and
concentrate on doing some good work in the present. She has come up
with a Citizen's Charter aiming at the digitisation and upgradation
of the archaeological museum set up on the premises, besides an
advisory committe chaired by her which will be responsible for
ensuring conservation.

At present, the departmant is also planning to extend its
conseration activities to the Mutiny Memorial near GTK Depot,
Baradari at Sadhana Enclave, Zail at Bawana and Lodi period tomb at
Katwaria Sarai, all within a budget of Rs 50 lakh. However, Bali
maintains that "till the Delhi Ancient and Historical Monuments and
Sites and Remains Bill awaits the assent of the President of India,
we are not equipped to effectively preserve monuments of local

Also commendable is the fact that the basement of the monument
(Dara's library), known to be the only original portion of the
library which still exists, has been preserved. Dr B S R Babu the
deputy director of the archaeology department who showed me around
the basement with its typically Mughal pillars, cleaned and carved
out after the debris from the structure was cleared, says the
conservation work was started in February in phases.

The first phase is complete and a feast awaits lovers of history.
The first task it faced was having to tear down the encroachments
that had come up in all these years before beginning renovaitons in
keeping with whatever records and references they could lay their
hands on.

However, it remains to be seen how the department approaches the
issue of Dara's original manuscripts which have been missing since
the time of his death. For instance, there is his Persian version of
the Upanishads and Bhagvad Gita. While many are familiar with Dara
Shikoh's translation of the Upanishads, few know that in the preface
to the translation, he speculates that the Upanishads may well have
been the secret book mentioned in the Quran. It was for this reason
that he called the Upanishads, The Great Secret. Among his literary
works is his book Majmua-ul-Baharain which aims at bringing Islam
and Hinduism closer. While it is said that Dara's passion for books
saw him spend most of his time in the library, which was close to
his living apartments and contained a valuable collection of works
brought from Turkey, Persia, Greece, Egypt and various parts of
India, apart from his own scholarly works. Sadly enough, the library
stands empty today.

Interestingly, some see it as part of Aurangzeb's plan to blot out
every memory of Dara, his 'infidel' brother whose work he considered
heretical. Others say these works found their way to auction houses
and private collectors of England. Dr Babu says the works may be in
Lahore, the Royal Asiatic Society Bengal, Asfiya Library in Hydrabad
and the Punjab University according to references. "We will try to
locate these," he says. As to how he plans to do this, it's
anybody's guess!
Anonymous said…


Asghar Ali, Engineer

Dara Shikoh has made seminal contribution to the
composite culture of India. He was appointed heir apparent by Shah
Jahan and had he become emperor of India it would have certainly
made much difference to religio-cultural scene in India. Dara Shikoh
had learnt Sanskrit and studied the Hindu scripture in original. He
translated Upanishads into Persian directly from Sanskrit and called
it Sirr-e-Akbar (The Great Mystery). And in introduction to this
work he says that one finds in Upanishads the concept of tawhid (the
doctrine of Unity of God, the most fundamental doctrine of Islam)
after the Qur'an and perhaps the Qur'an refers to Upanishad when it
refers to Kitab al-Maknun (The Hidden Book). His work Majma`ul
Bahrayn (Mingling of the Two Oceans i.e. Hinduism and Islam) is very
seminal work in the history of composite culture of India.

Dara Shikoh who was the disciple of the disciple of
Mian Mir, the great Sufi saint who had laid the foundation stone of
the Har Mandir in Amritsar at the instance of the Sikh Guru shows in
this book that there is great deal of similarities between these two
great religions Hinduism and Islam. He divides his tract into twenty
sections like The Elements, The Senses, The Religious Exercises, The
Attributes, the Great Resurrection and so on. In each section he
discusses similarities between Hinduism and Islam.

For example, in the first section "Discourse on the
Elements" he compares the concept of these elements in Islam and
Hinduism. They are five in umber i.e. Arsh-i-Azam (The Great
Throne); secondly the wind, thirdly the Fire; Fourthly the water and
Fifthly the Dust. In the Indian language these are called Panch Bhut
namely akas, vayu, tejas, jala and prithvi. He then discusses these
elements and their similarities in both the traditions. Dara Shikoh
for example compares Ruhi-i-Azam with Jivatma.

Then coming to Sifat-I-Allah Ta`ala i.e. Divine
Attributes he says in Islamic Sufi tradition there are two Beauty
(Jamal) and Majesty (Jamal) while in Indian tradition it is three
called Triguna called Sattva, Rajas and tamas which mean Creation,
Duration and Destruction. Then he goes on to compare Brahma, Vishnu
and Mahishvara with Jibrail, Mika'il and Israfil. He says that
Brahma or Jibra'il is the (Superintending angel) of Creation; Vishnu
or Mika'il is the angel of Duration (or Existence) and Mahishwara or
Israfil is the angel of Destruction. Dara Shikoh further says that
water, wind and fire are also allied with these angels. Thus water
goes with Jibra'il, fire with Mika'il and air with Israfil.
Similarly Brahma is water, Vishnu is fire and Maheshwara is air.

In all these 20 sections in Majma`ul Bahrayn Dara Shikoh
finds similarities between both Hindu and Islamic (particularly
Sufi) traditions. The fanatics and fundamentalists in both the
traditions denounce each other and try to prove the truth of their
own religion. In such circumstances it is highly necessary to
popularise writings of persons like Dara Shikoh who uphold the truth
of all religious traditions. The Sufi Islam has been a bridge
between Hindus and Muslims in India. The very fundamental doctrine
of Sufism has been sulh-i-kula i.e. peace with all.

The Sufis go with essence, not with phraseology or
terminology. The Sufis studied the local traditions and adopted many
of them. Even in the Qur'an one finds remarkable similarities
between some of the Hindu traditions and Islamic tradition. For
example in Indian tradition we find Stayam, Shivam and Sundaram for
God. One finds in the Qur'an Huwa'l Haq (He is Truth ), Jamil
(Sundaram) and Jabbar (Shivam). All three Attributes are there in
the Qur'an.

Also, the often quoted saying that Vasudhaiv Kutumbakum
(entire universe is a family) finds its reflection in the Holy
Prophet's saying Al-khalqu `Ayalullah i.e. entire creation is
Allah's family. These are remarkable similarities between these two
traditions. It is on these similarities that the Sufis and others
built the bridges between the two communities. However, it is some
political interests, which selectively and superficially use some
traditions to divide Hindus and Muslims. Thus one can easily say
that while religions unite the politics divide.

Among the `Ulama persons like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
came out with the doctrine of unity of religion (wahdat-i-din) which
is also very constructive approach. There have been many Sufi saints
in India like Mazhar Jan-i-Janan who accept Ram and Krishna as the
Prophets of God as Allah has stated in the Qur'an that He has sent
prophets to all nations. Thus we must promote similarities between
Hindus and Muslims and there are abundant examples of these
similarities in our scriptures.

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