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 My Journey from Salafi to Sufi

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PostSubject: My Journey from Salafi to Sufi   Mon Feb 25, 2013 4:17 am


IMPORTANT DEFINITION OF TERMS:

Likely, this will cause some controversy, so I hope my readers will forgive me if I try to ‘lessen the blow’ so to speak by clarifying the title of this blog. I want to do so because, on the one hand I want a ‘catchy’ title that will grab peoples’ attention, but on the other hand, I don’t want the article itself to come off as a diatribe or apologetic. The whole of what I’m about to write could be summed up by simply saying, “If someone wants to call himself Salafi, it’s fine, and if someone wants to call himself Sufi, it’s fine.” The terms I wish to clarify, firstly, are the words themselves, “Salafi” and Sufi, and each term has two definitions; the first being how it’s followers perceive it, and then how those who choose not to ascribe to themselves such title(s) see it.

Salafism according to it’s followers: Pure Islam as it was understood by the Apostle Muhammad (sallill’ahu ‘aleyhi wa salaam), his immediate followers, their students, and the students of their students (that is, the Salaf us-Saleh), with little interpolation. An attempt to revitalize the faith with pristine religion that is unadulterated by modernity.

Salafism according to non-Salafi’s: A Puritanical sect of Islam that has went against mainstream Islamic Orthodoxy on some issues, and which adheres, typically, to the strictest opinion that can be deciphered. Also, this particular brand of Islam is more focused on external religion (similar to Rabbinical Judaism) as opposed to internal religion, and may or may-not be the reason there are so many fanatical Muslims in the world.

Sufism according to it’s followers: Islamic Orthodoxy, that is, an Islam that is, aside from also being based on the Qu’ran, the sayings of the Apostle Muhammad (s), and the Salaf us-Saleh, also recognizes that Islamic scholarly opinions within the normative tradition have been vast, often times lenient, and that therefore there is ‘room for everyone’ within certain parameters. Also internal religion is not neglected, but considered a vital aspect of the religion, in addition to the Sacred Law.

Sufism according to non-Sufi’s: A group of heretical innovators who do strange things like dance in mosques, listen to musical instruments, pray to saints, and join little cults which they call ‘tariqas’ none of which has anything to do with ‘pure’ Islam.

So, with the terms defined according to their followers and detractors, let us move on to how this relates to my particular journey.

FIRST YEARS AS A MUSLIM: THE HOW AND WHY OF SALAFI INDOCTRINATION.

When I first became Muslim (12 years ago), the other Muslims in my area were an incredibly small minority and were meeting in an apartment building for Jummah (Friday congregational prayers). The community was mostly Jordanian and Syrian, with a few other ethnicities sprinkled in, and maybe one other white convert in his late 30′s. There was no local scholar, no Imam, no central figurehead that was ‘qualified’ so to speak, to guide the community correctly, and this meant that all of my knowledge at that time came from three primary sources: 1) Whatever I got from the lay Muslims of my community, 2) Whatever I read in books, and 3) Whatever I read online.

Now, this approach is problematic because, as it concerns my first ‘source’ many ‘average Muslims’ these days are religiously ignorant, and the extent of their knowledge is what they’ve seen some Islamic evangelist on T.V. say, or what they heard parroted in Mosques in their home countries, often by under-qualified and less-than-stellar (sometimes gov’t appointed) Imams; or what has been handed down from parents who were, possibly, even more ignorant of the religion than they are. As far as just ‘reading from books’ goes, there is the problem that anyone can write a book these days, and every person has his own ‘view’ which he is putting forth, and without a sound foundation, the new-Muslims can just drink it all up without questioning it, just because the author has an Arab name. And this is the same problem that occurs when getting ones’ information from online as well.

Little did I know that most of the ‘Islam’ that was presented to me online in the early years of my conversion was in reality Salafism. (This isn’t ‘as true’ today, but you have to think about the early days of the internet, and the organization and oil-money-funding of the Salafi movement overseas, etc. Aside from maybe Islamonline, the Salafi websites were dominating the scene in the late 90′s early 2000′s, usually by individual efforts. Allaahuakbar.net and islamweb.net are pretty big examples of ‘early’ Salafi websites).

Also, most of what I was getting from practicing Muslims in my area was Salafi-oriented, even though these particular Muslims did not call themselves Salafi. And this is an issue that really needs to be addressed. I think a huge part of the ignorance of the modern Muslim is that he thinks, simply, ‘Hey, I don’t have a beard! I wear a suit and tie to work! I’m not a Salafi!’ In my experience, this is a statement that, in one way is true, and in one way is false. It is true in the sense that they don’t ONLY take from Salafi’s. They may accidentally have stumbled across some lectures by Habib Ali Jifri or Sh. Ramadan Al-Bouti, or perhaps been involved with some Ikhwani brothers and the like. But the way that it is false is that Salafi thought has dominated the media and print in most of the middle east (Again, think: Oil-Funding), and therefore they are influenced by the Salafi Manhaj, knowingly or unknowingly. I guarantee you more Muslims on the streets of Egypt will know who Muhammad Hassan is (The Salafi preacher that appears on Egypts Rahma T.V.) than who Sh. Saleh Al-Jafari is, even though the later was a great scholar from just 40 years ago, and the head of Al-Azhar (and consequently founded the Jaf’ari Sufi Tariqa in Egypt). So, even if a Muslim insists he isn’t Salafi, and he doesn’t look like a Salafi, I guarantee you when you investigate his beliefs, you will find that they align 75% or more with modern Salafi thought (and even HE probably isn’t aware of it).

MIDDLE YEARS OF MY ISLAM: FIRST WARNING SIGNS

So, this is how things were for a while. I assumed Islam was something 90% agreed on, and if only the Shi’a would jump on the Sunni bandwagon, the ummah would be united. And, to be honest, before about 200 years ago when the Salafi movement began, that was probably the case. But things as they were are not things as they are, and for everything Allah (swt) has a purpose.

Probably the first warning sign that made me start thinking outside the manhaj-box was a discussion I got in with a rather young Muslim (He was probably about 16 years old), who seemed to have an adamant dislike of a particular medieval scholar, one of the Salafi favorites, Sh. Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullah). His issue was on something that I thought, up until that point, was agreed upon, which was ‘aqeedah (Islamic theology). He said that he believed that Ibn Taymiyyah was an anthropomorphist, and that he had departed from traditional Islamic scholarship on the issue of some of God’s Names and Attributes. -I, having been influenced unknowingly by Salafi thought, defended Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullah) from this Muslim youth, to the best of my limited ability. But it left me a bit curious and confused because I had just ‘assumed’ that everyone agreed that Ibn Taymiyyah was the ‘Shaykh Al-Islam’ as the Salafi’s called him. So, to see another Sunni Muslim who didn’t seem to be a fan was something that seemed a bit odd, and left me thinking.

Now, before I move on, I must say that I don’t particularly have a problem with Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullah) and I have found some benefit in his teachings and in the teachings of his students. I am not one to jump on any bandwagon, and I feel that denouncing him, saying he isn’t Sunni, that he is a heretic, and all of the other calumnies that some reactionary Sufi’s have heaped upon him are a bit unfair. Even Dr. ‘Umar Faruq Abd’Allah, a well known Sufi who doesn’t hide his dislike of the Salafi sect has said that Ibn Taymiyyah is one of the great wonders of the Islamic tradition. I think at issue here for the more reasonable Sufi’s is how much we are willing to give one scholar in preference to others, and why do we take his fatawa (opinions) over earlier scholars closer to the sources of the religion? Why, when there is ikhtilaaf (difference of opinion amongst the scholars) MUST Ibn Taymiyyah’s fatawa be given precedence? (But, insha’Allah, more on this later).

After this, things were relatively smooth sailing in Salafi-waters for several years. I parroted the usual Salafi taglines: Mawlid is Bid’ah, following a Madhab is not from the sunnah, waseela is shirk, tariqa is bid’ah, etc. etc. And, I think part of this came from a little bit of ‘white privilege’ that Caucasian converts are given in Mosques. (We are always told “Oh the Converts/Reverts are always better than born Muslims!” which isn’t always true… And, apparently, rather than BEING good, the immigrant community prefers to have an inferiority complex, pinning their hopes on ‘white Muslims’ to effect change FOR them). So, I was feeling ‘high and mighty’ and I had found an Islam that was free of culture, free of sectarianism, and was the true path! And I was gonna show all these ignorant Mawlid-celebrating, bid’ah-making, mushrik Immigrant Muslims what was what! I was gonna show them the ‘Saved Sect!’

HOW TO DO ‘SALAFI DAWAH’ 101.

I want to take a bit of a turn here for a moment and discuss what was happening with my non-Muslim family at this time in my journey. To the Salafi, more often than not the only real relationship you can have with non-Muslims is brief interactions to do dawah (evangelism). Many of the hardcore Salafi’s (and there ARE some moderate Salafi’s out there, and we’ll talk about them later insha’Allah) cut themselves off from family and friends, often referring to them as ‘kufaar’ (which is the modern equivalent of calling someone an ‘infidel’ in my opinion), judging them for their ‘non-Muslim lifestyle’ (as if everyone should suddenly quit eating pork and drinking alcohol just because YOU’VE found the truth), and talking to them like Ahmed Deedat used to talk to people he was debating on stage in the 80′s (in other words, talking down to them).

I was no different. I’d often go to my parents house, not out of love and respect for them as parents, nor with humility as the Qu’ran commands, but with arrogance and anger, a Bible in one hand and a Qu’ran in the other, ready to stir up some drama and show them how *stupid* Christianity was, and if they didn’t accept the truth, hey, that was their problem, right?! I was on the right path, a modern-day ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab (so I thought…as if), and I was ready to throw down some knowledge on these ignorant, misguided family and friends!

Surprise, surprise, they didn’t become Muslim. After a year or so of doing this, the relationships I had soured. My mother and I, who were once very close, weren’t, anymore (And that was a real heartbreaker for me, even if I didn’t show it… had to keep my ‘Salafi-Game-Face’ on). After a while, there were less and less pictures of me around my parents house, and virtually none of my hijab-claded wife. We didn’t call each other very often. I didn’t stop by for any of their holidays, secular or religious (“I ain’t celebratin’ no kafir holiday!” I said). They refused to let me pray any of my daily prayers in their house, and I later found out someone in my family, in reaction to a religious argument that we had, actually burned a Qu’ran I had given them in the yard. True.friggin.story. It was that bad.

And, my non-Muslim friends that I had before my conversion had a similar reaction. I imagine they got tired of being judged by me every time they wanted to have a beer or eat some ham, and before I knew it they were making fun of Islam behind my back, and for a little while they even all stopped talking to me over a summer, and I had to go to great lengths just to salvage the already-hanging-by-a-thread friendships.

WHY HARDCORE SALAFISM IS TO BLAME

The important thing here that I want my readers to realize is that these people that were/are so against Islam, THEY are not the badguys. I don’t want anyone to come away with the wrong impression here. They were reacting negatively to very rigorous attempts to convert them, out of the blue, by an arrogant, stubborn, foolhardy Salafi that they, just months before, knew and loved. And I think this story highlights the problem with the approach of the Salafi methodology, and one of the reasons why I had to ultimately embrace Sufism as the ‘true Islam.’ The more extreme elements of the Salafi ideaology often times neglect, completely, the science of tazkiyyah (spiritual purification), which many scholars consider just another word for Sufism. And those Salafi groups that do not completely throw it out nevertheless do not emphasize it. They pretty much have one go-to scholar for tazkiyyah, the student of the aforementioned Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullah), which is Ibnul Qayyim Al-Jawzi (rahimahullah), who himself had Sufi influences. Aside from him, they can only throw together little scraps here and there of their short list of ‘acceptable scholars’ that may have said something in the neighborhood of soul-purification.

Now, for those un-affiliated, when I refer to soul purification, or tazkiyyah, I am referring to the religious or “soft” science of purifying ones inner self of all things sinful, of obfuscations about God and the reality of your place in the world, cleansing oneself of doubt by encountering what Imam Al-Ghazaali (-A great Sufi theologian of the Shafi’i school of Sacred Law) called ‘experiential knowledge’ of God… -Not that Sufi’s believe God literally indwells within us (despite what some Salafi’s claim we mean by ‘oneness with Allah’), but rather we experience what can only be described as ‘nearness’ or ‘presence’ (hadra). It is an internal ‘knowing’ -what Imam Malik (A scholar from the actual Salaf, that is, the first 3 generations of Muslims) called a ‘Light (Noor) in the heart of the believer.’ The science of tazkiyyah actually is, in a sense, a manual on how to battle the ego, as codified and organized by scholar upon scholar of the Islamic tradition (most of whom are now criticized or downplayed by the Salafi movement). Tazkiyyah deals with topics such as how to get rid of pride, of anger, of envy, how to devote oneself to God alone, to rid yourself of pessimism, showing off, and derision, etc. -and in so doing, bringing oneself into a state of nearness to the Creator, and in harmony with the workings of the universe.

So, this is really the point, isn’t it? Are these things not what religion is about, at it’s core? And yet, I had missed it. I didn’t know how to battle the nafs (ego), I didn’t know how to deal with my pride, my anger at having been misguided for so many years, or my dislike of the sin that I saw around me. All I knew was that I had discovered some little parcel of truth, that there was no god but God Alone, and that Muhammad was His servant and messenger, but I didn’t know what to DO with that truth. I was still so spiritually diseased (and didn’t even know it, and, naturally I didn’t know that I even had to learn anything about spiritual purification)! And this is because many Salafi’s claim, such as the well known Salafi writer and evangelist Jamal Zarabozo, that ‘Knowledge of Tawhid (Islamic Theology) purifies the heart’, not tazkiyyah. -Well, I had pretty sound knowledge and acceptance of God’s Unicity, and yet I was still self-righteous, full of pride and anger, judgemental, and ruining relationships left and right… so, so much for that claim.

MAKING ‘HIJRA’

All of this manhaj-madness came to a head when, after about 8 and a half years being unknowingly Salafi (remember, I didn’t KNOW I had been indoctrinated with Salafi thought… See part 1 for clarification), and suddenly finding myself abandoned by family and friends (And, kudos to them, I would have abandoned me too), I decided that the best thing for me was to ‘make hijra’ from the ‘land of the kufaar’ and go to dar-al-Islam (The land of Islam), namely, Egypt. My wife and I planned everything in secret (fear of the ‘evil-eye’ man. I had a lot of enemies at that time, naturally), and then, after the tickets were bought and the temporary apartment was set up in Cairo, I sent out a text to all my friends and called my parents and told them that in a month I would be in Egypt. I honestly expected most of them to be like, “Good.” -To my surprise, they weren’t. They actually wanted me to stay. For some reason I thought back to a religious argument I had two years prior with my best friend who was a nominal Christian at the time, whose only response after all of the drama that our ‘debate’ caused, was to post a picture of a younger, beardless me on his myspace (back when that website was relevant) from just after graduating highschool, and he wrote a caption underneath that said, only, “I miss this guy.” I mention that only because people need to understand how everyone around me felt. They felt like a friend and loved one had died, and was replaced by an uber self-righteous facsimile who was out to make their lives miserable. They wanted me to stay in the states only out of sheer hope that ‘I’ would come back, and this Salafi dude would go away.

Most upset, however, was my mother, who called me just a few weeks before our flight left. Her request that I stay in America quickly turned into a religious debate, which turned into a very heated argument. In the course of this argument I only remember two things: I told her to ‘watch what you say’ because ‘I love him (The Prophet Muhammad) more than you’ and ‘I have heard it (the message of the gospel) and I hate it!’ -Now, think about this from the perspective of a sincere Christian mother. Your son just yelled at you at the top of his lungs that he loves a Prophet you don’t believe in more than you, and that he ‘hates’ the gospel. Now, I didn’t mean it as she understood it. What I meant was, simply, ‘I want you to take my religious beliefs seriously!’ and ‘I hate the idolatrous teachings of modern Christianity because I feel they are opposed to the true message of Christ, whom I love.’ But a distraught mother being yelled at didn’t hear that. She heard ‘I don’t love you’ and ‘I hate Jesus.’ The conversation ended right after that, and all I could hear were her gut-wrenching sobs through the phone before she hung up on me (something she had never done before). My dad called after that and told me never to talk to my mother again (a conversation which also turned into a religious debate, but, thankfully, gave me the opportunity to clarify what I meant and to ask him to apologize to my mother on my behalf).

And, of course, none of this deterred me from going to Egypt. Two months later I was on a plane, soon to be working for the Salafi Dawah full time, for a well-known English language ‘Islamic’ satellite T.V. channel. But something happened before I went to Egypt that, for the first time, perked my serious interest in Sufism… and it was life changing.

HAMZA YUSUF, OR, HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND THINK OUTSIDE THE SALAFI BOX:

One thing about the more extreme branches of the Salafi movement (And when I refer to ‘extremist Salafi’s’ I am referring to Madkhali’s, Dawud Adib and his minions, or the goobers at SalafiTalk.net, Bidah.com, and Allaahuakbar.net. Also, this new brat on the corner, Abu Musab Wajdi Akkari, and Laila Nasheeba of the ‘sunnahfollowers’ website are in this same ilk) is that they love tearing down non-Salafi Sunni Muslim scholars under the guise of ‘warning the ummah against deviation.’ They have a whole list of ‘off the manhaj’ sheyookh that, if you listen to them, you might as well go ahead and declare yourself an apostate as far as they’re concerned.

They attempt to drown out moderates who call to unity, such as Suhaib Webb, Zaid Shakir, and others. And if you are one of the ‘out’ Sufi’s (that is, one of those uppity Sufi’s who proudly declares your Sufism and defend it with textual proofs) you are on their top ten ‘most wanted’ list (Most wanted as in, ‘These are the sheyookh we “most want” to accuse of bid’ah behind their backs, make takfir on, etc.’)… I mean the well known Sufi’s such as Sh. Faraz Rabbani and Imam Afroz Ali, Sh. Nuh Ha Mim Keller, Sh. Habib Ali Jifri, and others.

Ironically though, the number 1 scholar on their ’10 most wanted’ character-assassination hit-list is a scholar who has never claimed to be Sufi (And in fact has denied it in several lectures). Of course I am speaking of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. They are very direct in their attacks on this man who has studied traditional Islam here and abroad for over 30 years now in as many as 6 different Muslim countries (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, U.A.E, Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania). Now, how this relates to me is, basically, as corrupted as I was by the Salafi methodology, I still was open enough to listen to scholars who were outside of the little box that the ‘real scholars’ (according to them) were kept in.

True, if I needed a fatwa on some personal matter I was going to get it from a Saudi website, but for general knowledge I didn’t have a problem floating outside of the parameters. This was particularly accurate as it related to Hamza Yusuf because I listened to some of his talks before being ‘warned against listening to him’ by the Salafi’s, and thus knew that, Salafi or not, the man definitely had some knowledge. I mostly liked his deep understanding of the etymology of Arabic words, and his philosophical approach which appealed to my ‘seeking’ nature (I mean, if I wasn’t a ‘seeker’ I never would have found Islam in the first place).

THE DOLDRUMS OF THE SALAFI EXPERIENCE:

But I also don’t want to give the impression that I was a Salafi who was secretly spending all of his time listening to Hamza Yusuf lectures. He was just someone I would listen to from time to time, here and there. I didn’t have any books by him, didn’t own any of his cd’s, nothing like that. (My ‘dawah money’ went mostly to Anwar Al-Awlaqi, Ahmed Deedat, and Dawud Adib, if you can believe that). But how he was instrumental in my ‘conversion’ to Sufism was, a few months before leaving for Egypt, due to being caught up only in the externals of the religion such as fiqh, learning why “deviants” are wrong, learning about the Islamic legal punishments and why they are better than kafr laws, learning the “Prophets Prayer” (Or, more factually, “Salafi Scholar Nasrudeen Albaani’s understanding of what the Prophets’ Prayer was”), etc., I realized I had never actually ‘internalized’ the religion.

My heart never felt peace or closeness to Allah (swt). I was always on edge. I was always upset or angry about something. I was always outraged at some new perceived slight, or busy judging people. It wasn’t easy for me to avoid sins when I was alone, even though as far as everyone else was concerned I was a ‘good Muslim’ who prayed and fasted (apparently to modern Muslims, that is considered ‘enough’ -which is quite an unorthodox way of thinking, Islamically speaking).

In a word, I was unhappy. And everyone knew it. I knew it. My parents knew it. My non-Muslim friends knew it. My wife knew it. Probably the only people who didn’t seem to notice, oddly enough, were the Muslims. To them, because I simply prayed the 5 daily prayers, did dawah, and listened to the ‘right scholars’ I was a good Muslim and naturally must be happy, right? But I wasn’t happy. Truth be told I was depressed and/or pissed off most of the time, and the rest of the time I was being a hypocrite. I felt like I was pretending. Hardships started to fall on me that didn’t feel like tests, but more like punishments. And I started to supplicate to God from the depths of my very soul. On one occasion while praying, I even asked that “If this is all there is in this world for me…” (meaning, the spiritual and material state I was in), “…then just let me die.” -And I started to cry.



WHAT LIGHT THROUGH YONDER WINDOW BREAKS MY PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS ABOUT SUFISM?

But God didn’t let me die. No, instead, late one night, while perusing the internet, I came across a forum that had one of Hamza Yusuf’s books (Or, more accurately, a book by another scholar translated by him into English) abridged for micro lessons during Ramadan. The book was ‘Matharaat Al-Quluub’ or ‘Purification of the Heart.’ It was a poem used for teaching purposes, composed by West African Sufi scholar Imam Mawlud Al-Mauritani. Within the poem was a list of the 25 spiritual diseases that the author felt were most prevalent in his time, as well as the method(s) to struggle against and remove all of them. Sh. Hamza Yusuf, in addition to translating it, provided an introduction to the science of purification, and a commentary on certain excerpts of the work.

The person who prepared the lessons had actually written out all of the 25 spiritual diseases that Imam Mawlud categorized into a single post on the forum, and as looked at the names of these diseases I realized something profound… I had every single one of them. For the first time in my 9 years as a Muslim, I was finally being told why I was unhappy. Why Islam had, as of yet, not been able to rid me of my hypocrisy, my feelings of distance from God, or my anxiety, anger, and depression. It was like I had been a sick man going to general practitioners for 9 years, and had finally gotten in to see a renowned specialist. I just sat there and stared at the list of spiritual diseases according to Imam Mawlud, reflecting on them all one by one, and how they pertained to me:

1 Miserliness
2 Wantonness (extravagance)
3 Hatred
4 Iniquity (Willingness to trample others for fame, prestige, money, position, etc.)
5 Love of the World
6 Envy
7 Blameworthy Modesty (Being shy to say that wrong is wrong)
8 Fantasizing (About sinful things, such reminiscing about sins, or desiring someone of the opposite sex)
9 Fear of Poverty
10 Ostentation
11 Relying on Other Than God
12 Displeasure with the Divine Decree
13 Seeking Reputation
14 False Hopes (Excessive reliance on God’s Mercy)
15 Negative Thoughts (Pessimism)
16 Vanity
17 Fraud (A desire to conceal the faults of something/someone in order to benefit your own self)
18 Anger
19 Heedlessness (not reflecting on your death, Judgement Day, Hell, the purpose of life, etc.)
20 Rancor
21 Boasting and Arrogance
22 Displeasure with Blame (Meaning, an inability to accept critique or criticism)
23 Antipathy Toward Death
24 Obliviousness to Blessings
25 Derision (lampooning other people)

Now, as I said, the lessons were abridged online… But I was thoroughly convicted to my very core. I immediately purchased the book so as to obtain the full text, and read the entire thing in two days. My initial thoughts were, “WHY HAS NO ONE EVER TOLD ME ANY OF THIS?” but this was a fleeting thought. My next order of business was to get even more information on this topic. It turns out that Sh. Hamza had actually written this book after giving a series of lessons on Sh. Mawlud’s poem back in the 90′s. At the urgent and insistent request of students and fellow scholars, he was convinced to put that lesson into book form.

But the book wasn’t enough for me. This was some life-changing information as far as I was concerned, and I wanted every single detail I could get. I found audio recordings of the lessons he gave in the 90′s on the topic and listened to them. It was the only time in my life that I ever found myself sitting at a computer desk hand-writing notes from a lecture that I was listening to online.



A TIME OF SIGNS FOR ME…

The real kicker was, the wife and I didn’t have internet in our apartment at the time, but we were heavily involved with a local Masjid and we had a key to the building. I got off work at midnight, and typically went straight to the Masjid, unlocked the office, and listened to the lectures on the computer there. And, really, I feel like this was the Qadr (Pre-ordainment) of Allah Almighty, because as I began to internalize this religion with the help of Imam Mawlud and Sh. Hamza, I also found myself wanting to do *more*… I don’t mean more study (although that was a part of it), but more acts of worship; and what better place to worship than in the Masjid?

So, for the months leading up to my exodus to Egypt, my time consisted of listening to Sh. Hamza Yusuf explain the tenants of Sufism (i.e. internal religion, tazkiyyah, that is, purification of the heart), and then going into the Masjid to pray nawafil and do zikr (zikr being a highly praised act of worship in Sufi thought consisting of various litanies taught by the Apostle Muhammad, and other great sages of the Islamic tradition). I mention this because, according to the scholars, a sign that your good deeds are being accepted by Allah is that they lead to more good deeds. So, for 9 years, making no spiritual progress, I wonder how much I was truly benefiting myself… Yet, after simply studying one small part of Sufism, after reading one book by a ‘deviant’ (according to the Salafi’s), suddenly the floodgates to worship were opened for me. It was only then that signs that my worship of God was even being accepted began to manifest.

But the story doesn’t end there. In a way, that is just the beginning. I did not identify as Sufi yet. All I could say was that my respect for Sufism increased. I still was due to go to Egypt. I still would find myself, in about three months, working for a Salafi Dawah T.V. channel, surrounded by key Salafi scholars and figures. And I was going to see, hear, and read things that ultimately were to lead to me not only affiliating myself with Sufism, but declaring my affiliation openly, consequences be damned. …And there were consequences…

To be continued ..

http://theletteredwayfarer.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/my-journey-from-salafi-to-sufi-coming-out-part-1/

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