A five year old, staring deep into the night sky, amazed by the heavenly lights, wondering about someone up there – a being full of love. This was me, and like every other child I too had an innocent heart, and my imagination knew no boundaries. Somehow I was sure that I didn’t belong to this world; I’d come here from the skies and would go back there in due time. But what was I doing here?
This was the question that kept me restless. My parents did not have an answer that could satisfy me. Soon I was taught about religion and my social and cultural conditioning began. I remember the only thing I enjoyed about religion were the stories that my father used to narrate from the lives of the prophets [as]
As I grew up I was introduced to the concept of heaven and hell, and with time I found myself doing all my religious practices, for the sake of being rewarded both in this world and the next. Although I was told that this worldly life is a test, still my heart was searching for something beyond this. As Rumi says; ‘Beyond the ideas of wrong doings and right doings, there is a field. I will meet you there.’
Life was blooming and my idea of that ‘field’ faded away. As an adored child of the family, I was always in the spotlight and thrived there. As a result my ego sky rocketed, until I took the decision to get married to a person of my choice. I was so confidant of my decisions at that time. I became so attached to my worldly life that I completely forgot the reality of it. One day the relationship collapsed and everything slipped from my hands like grains of sand.
Now looking back I can comprehend God’s beautiful plan, how he pulled me out from the illusion of this world and put me up on the path of truth.
Everyone had dispersed from me, leaving me baffled. I was frowned upon by society for the sole reason of being a single parent. But there was a blessing that kept me alive. A flickering light was there at the end of the tunnel, helping me trust my creator. Other than the love of God, every other love declines. He lets you have different experiences and then asks; ‘Now tell me who remains by your side other than your Lord.’
I came upon the realisation that one’s relationship with God is more than religion and duty. It is vaster than heaven or hell and it is certainly worth more than mortal love. It was at this state of soul-searching that my ‘dream world’ suddenly activated. A very prominent and unforgettable dream I had involved embarking on a journey with a Sufi master, whom at the time I wasn’t familiar with (only later did I realise it was Shaykh Hamid Hasan).
Years passed and one day while sitting at a relative’s place, I got hold of a book about Hazrat Shamsi Tabrizi. That was a turning point for me! His persona influenced me so much so that I started reading about the lives and teachings of Sufi saints. After few months I felt ready for the teacher to ‘appear’.
Eventually I stumbled up on the School of Sufi Teaching website, scrolled the pages and clicked the one with the picture of Hazrat Azad Rasool (r.a) holding a rose. I felt so drawn to it, as if he were reaching out personally to me. Soon afterwards I wrote to the school’s centre in Delhi and promptly received a reply. After a little introduction, I was given the first practice of meditation on the heart. My first few months were spotted with hurdles, but nonetheless blessed with internal purifications. It was a journey I had embarked on, no matter how turbulent the journey of turning towards your own heart can be, it is far more worthy than any other. This understanding strengthened my faith in the spiritual practices.
Soon I was put into direct contact with the shaykh. With every email, I developed a special bond with my teacher, which resulted in a feeling of closeness to God. I began to flow and accept, learn and unlearn. The default state of the soul, unworried and utterly alive. There was no guarantee of perfection, but a certitude of peace. Put simply I began to breathe!
My heart was now eager to meet my shaykh, as I had heard about his visits to different countries. That is how I managed to attend my first retreat. Students were gathering at a place from where we were supposed to set off to where the retreat had been organised. I was happy to meet fellow students and did not realise that shaykh was also among them. Then somebody asked me if I had greeted Shaykh Hamid and pointed towards him. To my surprise, he was the one I had met in my dreams years before joining the Sufi Order, but I could not recognise him instantly as he was wearing normal western clothes, whereas in my dreams I saw him wearing a long white robe with shoulder length hair.
I attended different retreats afterwards and felt the blessed company of my shaykh. Since then I have been keeping regular contact with Hazrat, and ask for his personal consent for all important matters. Despite the fact his personality seem quite serious, I have found him extremely kind and concerned about his students.
Initially I had expected some ‘out of this world’ solutions to my problems, but he always advised the simplest of things. In a way, he taught me how to simplify my life.
Over the years I have experienced Hazrat’s subtle transmissions seeping into my system, becoming a part of my being. Looking back you realise that you have become a far better version of yourself. Life flows easily through you. You are in this world but not of it. Your false ego is shattered to pieces.
Submission to God and His remembrance has resurrected me from my fallen state. Through the love of my shaykh I have realised the true love of God. The blessings of the practices are real. They do not assure a smooth life, but they definitely make you a better human being. You accept everything in life with gratitude, and you stop worrying about anything, as your trust in God increases. It is indeed a beautiful state that sets you free. I would also say that I read Hazrat’s father’s book ‘Turning Toward The Heart’ several years ago, and now I can confidently say that each and every word from him is true.
Before writing this piece I was skimming through my email communications with Shaykh Hamid over the past six years and I was stunned to see the changes. My emails that were once weighing me down with depression, and loaded with worldly issues, gradually became replaced with ones of gratitude and love.
I was in a constant battle with my ego, but a parallel process of awareness was also going on- awareness of the tricks of my nafs (ego). My ego seemed bigger than the devil itself. Hazrat kindly explained to me that awareness of the ego is the first step in the cleansing process. This awareness is important before one’s weaknesses are converted into strengths, just like one would not appreciate cleanliness without having seen the filth. This is a dynamic process and improvement comes with time. Hazrat said; ‘You just have to be patient and have total trust in Allah and the teachings.’
I trusted my Shaykh and now when I have started to reap the benefits I recall what he advised: ‘Intention is very important on Allah’s path. It takes time to do away with everything of the past and change yourself. As long as you have the right intention and can keep up with the practices consistently and patiently, your life will completely transform with time. My attention and prayers are always with you.’
Life is still happening with all its ups and down but simultaneously God’s mercy is boundless and His help reaches us in time. Those who have wronged me in the past, including close relatives and friends, I forgave a long way back, but somehow my heart was still not pure for them. Now the change I see in me is I have started praying for them. In the beginning it was very difficult because my ego did not like it at all, but with the spiritual practices I am seeing how my prayers are becoming purer and from the heart. My heart is becoming cleaner from those messy feelings that I had accumulated for others. This has made me understand that purity of heart is our default state and not difficult to achieve, but our false ego makes it difficult for us, however with Allah’s mercy we can purify it.
As a traveller on the path, I am now looking forward towards the next milestone up on the path. Hazrat once said, “The spiritual practices make you lose interest in unnecessary worldly activities, but please keep in mind that we can’t give up the worldly life and our role and responsibilities.
We have to follow ‘we are in the world but not of it’ in such a way that no one can find out from our outer behaviour. The greatness of people who are close to Allah is that people will think of them as normal ordinary people from their external appearance and behaviour.”
Over the years, I have found Hazrat as transparent as a glass who let the light of God passed through him. May Allah (swt) bless him and keep us under his guidance.