Islamic Garden

Islamic Garden
Islamic Garden in Lausanne, Switzerland

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Sufi Story from Turkey

"Once, a Sufi saint known as Somonju-baba was lecturing on the sura Fatiha, the opening sura of the Koran. He pointed out that each line has at least seven levels of meaning. The first level is the most basic, literal meaning and is understood by anyone who knows the words. The second level can be understood by those who have reflected on the meaning of the words. The third level is understood only by scholars who have studied still more deeply, and so on.

When Somonju-baba came to the sixth level, he said, "Besides me, the only one in the room who understands this level is a man sitting in the back behind a pillar." The man behind the pillar was the grand mufti, the religious advisor to the sultan, considered one of the greatest scholars in the Ottoman Empire. Somonju-baba said that he himself was the only one in the room who truly understood the seventh level.

The grand mufti was seized with the desire to learn this seventh level of interpretation, and so he went to the Sufi master's lodge. After greeting the saint, the grand mufti said that he had come to learn the final level of meaning of the sura Fatiha. The master thought for a moment and then replied, "No, I'm afraid that you are not able to learn this final level of meaning."

The grand mufti said, "Please try me. I am considered a fairly accomplished scholar, and I am sure I will manage to learn what you have to teach." After all, he had been the best student of the finest, most accomplished scholars and was now the religious authority for the whole empire.

The saint replied, "All right. The first step will be for you to ride my donkey into town in your formal robes. Tie the donkey's feed bag around your neck, fill it with walnuts and give them to all the children on the street."

The grand mufti thought long and hard. "I have consulted my nafs (ego), and I must admit that I cannot carry out this first step."

The scholar's pride prevented him from penetrating fully the depths of wisdom of the Koran, but at least he was honest about his limitations.

Then Somonju-baba said, "Because you have been so kind to come here and honor us with your presence, even sitting in the straw with my dervishes, I want you to make an interpretation of the sura Fatiha for us."

The grand mufti began to interpret the sura and was amazed to hear the new depths of understanding coming from his own mouth. Later, he wrote a manuscript on the sura Fatiha and told this story in the introduction. The manuscript can still be found in some of the great libraries in Istanbul today. How much more might he have understood had he been able to ride the saint's donkey!"

From "Heart, Self and Soul - The Sufi Psychology of Growth, Balance and Harmony" by Robert Frager, Ph.D, co-founder of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and also known to some of us as Sheikh Ragip of the Jerrahi Order

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