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Abdul Rahman

Going Sufi

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So part of the initial tarbiyyah (nurturing) training which is apparently given to new students of a tareeqah is simply to pick off various aspects of character and spiritual development. So depending on what you are most personally in need of at a certain time, your Shaykh will "prescribe" something like "do not raise your voice for 40 days" or "pray all your prayers at their earliest times for 40 days"... At the end of which you check on with your progress. If you have "broken" your agreement, then you reset it again for 40 days.

 

Many people are actually able to do this on their own (using their own self discipline), but you can see how a Shaykh and personalised advice on those matters would be hugely useful too.

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You mean the high afterward when I double skipped into the wall, over the end table, then flat on my back spirituality? Or the steam engine sound of my breathing after two minutes spirituality? Those guys are in shape and have no inner ear bones.

LOL, you are so funny AR!

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So part of the initial tarbiyyah (nurturing) training which is apparently given to new students of a tareeqah is simply to pick off various aspects of character and spiritual development. So depending on what you are most personally in need of at a certain time, your Shaykh will "prescribe" something like "do not raise your voice for 40 days" or "pray all your prayers at their earliest times for 40 days"... At the end of which you check on with your progress. If you have "broken" your agreement, then you reset it again for 40 days.

 

Many people are actually able to do this on their own (using their own self discipline), but you can see how a Shaykh and personalised advice on those matters would be hugely useful too.

I like this practise. Easy goals to set and then become habit, hopefully, after the 40 days.

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Was it Sain zahour

I went to one of his 'concerts' in London and it was a wierd experience because so much of their poetry is focused around God but its such a different way of expressing it. The lyrical content is deeeeep.

 

But there was this dumb group who kept making loud noises like they were in a club on something, cheering him on - im assuming since they werent ethnic they were just there to enjoy the 'aesthetic' value rather than the instrumental value of the poetry but all that loudness really ruined the experience for me.

 

You a fanboy of SZ?

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So part of the initial tarbiyyah (nurturing) training which is apparently given to new students of a tareeqah is simply to pick off various aspects of character and spiritual development. So depending on what you are most personally in need of at a certain time, your Shaykh will "prescribe" something like "do not raise your voice for 40 days" or "pray all your prayers at their earliest times for 40 days"... At the end of which you check on with your progress. If you have "broken" your agreement, then you reset it again for 40 days.

 

Many people are actually able to do this on their own (using their own self discipline), but you can see how a Shaykh and personalised advice on those matters would be hugely useful too.

 

I've been thinking a bit about this, and I had this whole elaborate post I was going to write up, but have decided to scrap that (I'm sparing you all!). Instead, I'll say this: while I have found Sufi teachings (present and past) on tarbiyya very beneficial, I'm starting to realize it could also be lacking. For example, I personally think low self-esteem is a much greater plague of our modern condition than egotism, and yet the way in which the two display themselves can be easily mistaken for one another. Much Sufi literature is focused on battling the ego--and indeed the battle is a similar one--but I could see many people being tricked into thinking their problems stem from egotism and arrogance rather than low confidence and poor self-image (which seems to produce a level of self-fixation that can make true religiosity near-impossible).

 

Anyway, this example (low-confidence vs. egotism) is simply an example, and all that is to say, I really wonder whether a solid grounding in modern psychology and traditional Sufism could work wonders. At the end of the day, Sufism really is a form of pre-modern psychology. I really feel like there's something highly problematic to the field of psychology from a religious perspective--as in, dealing with one's internal state and priorities should be the domain of religion and spirituality, in my opinion. However, I'm not sure many Muslim theologians and thinkers have stepped up to the plate to fill a void, and I would say that is because they have spent most of their time studying spirituality on the ideas of traditional thinkers, and while they might try and adapt those ideas to the current context, they seem to carry actual identification of the ills of the nafs (which I think we are learning are not necessarily universally identical) from eras that were plagued by many of the same, but also different problems.

 

Thoughts?

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Sorry, that turned out a little longer than planned, but it was originally going to be really long lol.

 

Also, one more thing: I've really rethought my views of new-age and *feel good* religion as of late, whereas I used to be very dismissive. I think they're genuinely interested in seeing how religion can address some of the ills that people today face. And I think if someone were able to come at that from a more scholarly tradition--as I said before, blending Sufism & modern psychology--there could be something special there. Ideally, it would produce strong believers.

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Sorry Moose, I was going to respond to this yesterday, but decided to leave it 'til I had time to do it properly!

I've been thinking a bit about this, and I had this whole elaborate post I was going to write up, but have decided to scrap that (I'm sparing you all!). Instead, I'll say this: while I have found Sufi teachings (present and past) on tarbiyya very beneficial, I'm starting to realize it could also be lacking. For example, I personally think low self-esteem is a much greater plague of our modern condition than egotism, and yet the way in which the two display themselves can be easily mistaken for one another.



It could be argued that low self-esteem comes under the bracket of tarbiyya. I can actually also see it having a relation to egotism because your study of the ego can address questions around self-worth, where we draw it from and whether low self-esteem is giving other people's opinions a misplaced emphasis in your life? When it comes to "root causes" of low self-esteem, I seem to be surrounded by people who reference the way they were made to feel by family (particularly parents) growing up. Their idea of who they are in the world and having validation for being an important and valuable human being can be greatly reinforced or hugely stunted by negative comments and attitudes in childhood- arguably the first home of tarbiyya for human beings.

Much Sufi literature is focused on battling the ego--and indeed the battle is a similar one--but I could see many people being tricked into thinking their problems stem from egotism and arrogance rather than low confidence and poor self-image (which seems to produce a level of self-fixation that can make true religiosity near-impossible).


I think the tarbiyya should come with a human guide/spiritual teacher. Knowing you well enough will help them prize out exactly where the cause of a person's issues are- the hope being they can be given a tailored "spiritual prescription" for their issues. But like you say, low self confidence is just one example, I can think of sooo many other problems relating to the self (nafs) which could be mistaken for egotism. However, I can also see if you peel back the implications of these problems- they are traced back to the ego. I say this because a carefully trained and self-aware ego would be able to identify and work on these inner issues with the help of a teacher.

I really wonder whether a solid grounding in modern psychology and traditional Sufism could work wonders. At the end of the day, Sufism really is a form of pre-modern psychology.


Yes, it depends really where you draw the circles between psychology, spirituality, self, etc. Tasawwuf, at it's core, emphasizes the integrated and holistic nature of the human being- where all faculties should be working in harmony towards a united purpose to produce a person at peace. I feel the calibre of the teachers is something which is a huge factor in the success and failure of the "spiritual wayfaring" of a student.

I really feel like there's something highly problematic to the field of psychology from a religious perspective--as in, dealing with one's internal state and priorities should be the domain of religion and spirituality, in my opinion. However, I'm not sure many Muslim theologians and thinkers have stepped up to the plate to fill a void, and I would say that is because they have spent most of their time studying spirituality on the ideas of traditional thinkers, and while they might try and adapt those ideas to the current context, they seem to carry actual identification of the ills of the nafs (which I think we are learning are not necessarily universally identical) from eras that were plagued by many of the same, but also different problems.



I think there's a two-fold almost dichotomy when it comes to the ills of the nafs. I feel like as time progresses we just have different (and often alarmingly extreme) manifestations of the same spiritual maladies. It seems a regular exasperated claim to think "we're at a unique juncture in history", "we have never been confronted with the kinds of problems we see today" or even basic claims like "the challenges of Muslims in the West is something never seen before". A cursory look at history will show that the same and often worse situations have played out and affected Muslims again and again throughout history. Even things like social media, may be unique in that we have never been able to communicate like this before, but the risks to the nafs (and everything else) that this medium affords is traced back to the same primal spiritual diseases which have always existed. I feel personally what is missing more than "bridging the gap" between spiritual thinkers of yesteryear and modern psychology is for people to have a clear understanding of the base nature of our nafs and the components which make us human. Then an idea of how to gain mastery over these things. And like my most favourite quote from Dr Zhivago, to be helped (by a human teacher) "to call each thing by it's right name and put each thing in it's right place".

On a slightly side point, I'm not sure if you've read (the translation of) Talbis Iblis - Deceptions of the Devil- by Ibn Jawzi? I find it sooo interesting because it is a classic text where he is narrating and then critiquing many of the Sufi practices he sees around him in his own age. And he spares no punches. For example, he writes in one section about the routine practice of the Sufis of his area to starve themselves of provision, but to cook really delicious-smelling food and leave it where people outside could see and smell it so they would think that the Sufis themselves were well-fed. The aim of this was apparently to rid the nafs of riyaa and to purify the person who is voluntarily hungry from being praised for his ascetism. Ibn Jawzi says however, that not only is this practice antithetical to the Sunnah and an extremism- but also, it doesn't actually aid them in their fight against riyaa....since they KNOW they are making others believe they are well fed when they aren't, and this knowledge creeps into their ego and amplifies their self-appraisal as people who have fought arrogance. It was an interesting read.

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Sorry, that turned out a little longer than planned, but it was originally going to be really long lol.

 

Also, one more thing: I've really rethought my views of new-age and *feel good* religion as of late, whereas I used to be very dismissive. I think they're genuinely interested in seeing how religion can address some of the ills that people today face. And I think if someone were able to come at that from a more scholarly tradition--as I said before, blending Sufism & modern psychology--there could be something special there. Ideally, it would produce strong believers.

 

Yes, but they're not designed to produce strong believers. They're designed to produce "happy" or contented human beings without the commitment of orthodox religion and the heaviness which that carries. They don't want to branch out into scholarly traditions because that eliminates the "feel good" (nafs) and adds a discipline which the untrained nafs would shy away from.

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good points, thanks. I got a little lost in my idea and unknowingly moved the purpose, from thinking about how moderm psych could help sufism (as the goal) to how sufism could help psych (as the goal)!

I do think theyre tied- in that knowing the nafs well might require understanding the mind's workings, and both, really are, about attaining contentment- but yeah, i went off track and have to think through better! I agree that the conditions are not totally novel, but I do think they look differently, and can be confused by people who look toward old books (and I'm pretty sure I've seen this).

 

I haven't read Talbis Iblis but will check it out!

 

thanks, ustadha.

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Also I found this, "Sufi Psychology" (wikipedia page), which is interesting as I hadn't heard it worded like this (and not sayimg it's all a logical comparison...not sure)

 

"In traditional psychology, Ego psychology deals with the animal soul, Behavioral psychology focuses on the conditioned functioning of the vegetable and animal soul, Cognitive psychology deals with the mental functions of the personal soul, Humanistic psychology deals with the activities of the human soul and Transpersonal psychology deals with ego-transcending consciousness of the secret soul and the secret of secret souls."

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I went to one of his 'concerts' in London and it was a wierd experience because so much of their poetry is focused around God but its such a different way of expressing it. The lyrical content is deeeeep.

But there was this dumb group who kept making loud noises like they were in a club on something, cheering him on - im assuming since they werent ethnic they were just there to enjoy the 'aesthetic' value rather than the instrumental value of the poetry but all that loudness really ruined the experience for me.

You a fanboy of SZ?

I like him but his super Sufi Punjabi poetry goes over my head

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Moose, our interactions:

 

Moose: Blurts long rambling dialogue with some question phrases thrown in sporadically. Solicits opinions

 

Queen Zimbabwe: blurts out a counter ramble, vaguely - but not entirely related to the first. End on a new random tangent

 

Moose: Hmmm yes, I think my first ramble was quite ramble-y. I realise that reading your counter-blurt. Thanks!

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I've been thinking a bit about this, and I had this whole elaborate post I was going to write up, but have decided to scrap that (I'm sparing you all!). Instead, I'll say this: while I have found Sufi teachings (present and past) on tarbiyya very beneficial, I'm starting to realize it could also be lacking. For example, I personally think low self-esteem is a much greater plague of our modern condition than egotism, and yet the way in which the two display themselves can be easily mistaken for one another. Much Sufi literature is focused on battling the ego--and indeed the battle is a similar one--but I could see many people being tricked into thinking their problems stem from egotism and arrogance rather than low confidence and poor self-image (which seems to produce a level of self-fixation that can make true religiosity near-impossible).

 

Anyway, this example (low-confidence vs. egotism) is simply an example, and all that is to say, I really wonder whether a solid grounding in modern psychology and traditional Sufism could work wonders. At the end of the day, Sufism really is a form of pre-modern psychology. I really feel like there's something highly problematic to the field of psychology from a religious perspective--as in, dealing with one's internal state and priorities should be the domain of religion and spirituality, in my opinion. However, I'm not sure many Muslim theologians and thinkers have stepped up to the plate to fill a void, and I would say that is because they have spent most of their time studying spirituality on the ideas of traditional thinkers, and while they might try and adapt those ideas to the current context, they seem to carry actual identification of the ills of the nafs (which I think we are learning are not necessarily universally identical) from eras that were plagued by many of the same, but also different problems.

 

Thoughts?

 

tasawwuf (practice of sufi) does address low self esteem, but first we need to understand what low self esteem is. It's a fear or cowardice at its roots. Also, egoism and low self confidence goes hand it hand. Low self esteemed people often delude them selves of being superior to others by some external means. So a person with low self esteem at work, might start becoming henchman of the boss and because of the association with the boss, he deems superior to co-workers. shallow people try to define them selves by their possessions because they are afraid (usually of scorn) and once they delude themselves to see themselves as worthy, they start looking down upon those who don't have the possession.

 

Basic tasawwuf addresses "diseases" of the heart including cowardice and related issues.

A list of "diseases" from HY's book on purification of heart

 

Miserliness
Wantonness
Hatred
Iniquity
Love of the World
Envy
Blameworthy Modesty
Fantasizing
Fear of Poverty
Ostentation
Relying on Other than God
Displeasure with Divine Decree
Seeking Reputation
False Hope
Negative Thoughts
Vanity
Fraud
Anger

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Yes, but they're not designed to produce strong believers. They're designed to produce "happy" or contented human beings without the commitment of orthodox religion and the heaviness which that carries. They don't want to branch out into scholarly traditions because that eliminates the "feel good" (nafs) and adds a discipline which the untrained nafs would shy away from.

sufi practices would create strong believers. partly because they train to see things more clearly, they experience blessings and openings, they become closer to Allah through sunnah.

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