ISHMAEL MOHAMMED Mahmud had been staying in Colonel Gadaffi's Tripoli tent for a month when Gabriel appeared before him. The Fatimids had been lying low after their EgyptAir attack, enjoying all the leisures and pleasures of the Socialist Jamahiriya. Well, Mustafa and MK and the others had been lying low, permanently stoned on drugs and Berber sex. Ishmael had been thinking about the future. It had become clear to him that plain terrorism wasn't enough to win this jihad.

There was a sandstorm one night and Ishmael retired to his room to meditate. He must have dozed off, because next thing he was walking through the Sahara on an eerily misty day. The desert was strewn with relics from the various wars: tanks which dated from the days of Rommel, half-buried fighter jets adorned with the tri-colour Arabian flag, in the distance the massive bulk of a beached ocean liner.

Looking at the ocean liner, Ishmael noticed a shimmering of the air in between, a distortion which could not have been caused by heat. Shuddering, Ishmael watched the shimmering coalesce, take on human form... <<Oh God!>> he cried, throwing himself to the sand.

<<Don't be so afraid, sweet Spirit Spark, illusions only possess the power you give them>> the angel said. The voice was rumbling and resonant, like some Old Testament deity from the pagan movies, or classical Koran. <<Look up, my humble servant, I have an important message to bestow.>>

Ishmael slowly rose his head above the sand, found the desert had been transformed - he was lying on the floor of an alabaster temple. In the centre a crystal lotus blossom blazed in magnificent white flame, a madonna blue aura shimmering in the fractal air.

The flame said: <<You know how the Christians have the Ten Commandments, which I handed to Moses in the Sinai? It was too complicated for them. So for the New Age I am giving Humanity just One Commandment, and I want you to receive it.>>

<<Triumphant flame, blazing miracle...>> Ishmael stammered. <<0 Crimson Youth, more beautiful than the sun itself -- where do You come, where is your blessed home?>>

This seemed to upset the angel, who roared in reply: <<What? I am the first-born of the children of the Creator, and you call me a youth? I come from beyond the mountain of Qaf... It is there that you were yourself at the beginning, and it is there that you will return when you are finally rid of your bonds...>>

t h e - s u f i - t r a d i t i o n

NO ROOM FOR GURUS ---- An Interview With Idries Shah.
IN A 1975 INTERVIEW WITH PSYCHOLOGY TODAY, IDRIES SHAH SAYS THERE IS NO ROOM FOR GURUS -- AND THAT WORKERS ARE OFTEN DRAWN TO THEIR PROFESSIONS BY UNMET EMOTIONAL NEEDS: EH (Elizabeth Hall): Idries Shah, you are the West's leading exponent of Sufism, that rich religious tradition growing out of the Middle East. Why, at a time when new cults are springing up, do you refuse to be a guru? You could easily become one.

IS: There are a lot of reasons. But if we are talking about the teacher who has disciples, it's because I feel no need for an admiring audience to tell me how wonderful I am or to do what I say. I believe that the guru needs his disciples. If he had a sufficient outlet for his desire to be a big shot or his feeling of holiness or his wish to have others dependent on him, he wouldn't be a guru.

I got all that out of my system very early and, consistent with Sufi tradition, I believe that those who don't want to teach are the ones who can and should. The West still has a vocation hang-up and has not yet discovered this. Here, the only recognized achiever is an obsessive. In the East we believe that a person who can't help doing a thing isn't necessarily the best one to do it. A compulsive cookie baker may bake very bad cookies.

EH: Are you saying that a person who feels that he must engage in a certain profession is doing it because of some emotional need?

IS: I think this is very often the case, and it doesn't necessarily produce the best professional. Show an ordinary person an obsessive and he will believe you have shown him a dedicated and wonderful person - provided he share his beliefs. If he doesn't, of course, he regards the one obsessed as evil. Sufism regards this as a facile and untrue posture. And if there is one consistency in the Sufi tradition, it is that man must be in the world but not of the world. There is no role for a priest-king or guru.

EH: Then you have a negative opinion of all gurus.

IS: Not of all. Their followers need the guru as much as the guru needs his followers. I just don't regard it as a religious operation. I take a guru to be a sort of psychotherapist. At the very best, he keeps people quiet and polarized around him and gives some sort of meaning to their lives.

EH: Librium might do the same thing.

IS: Yes, but that's no reason to be against it. Why shouldn't there be room for what we might call "neighborhood psychotherapy" - the community looking after its own? However, why it should be called a spiritual activity rather baffles me.

EH: One can't help getting the feeling that not all gurus are trying to serve their fellowman.

IS: Some are frankly phonies, and they don't try to hide it from me. They think that I am one, too, so when we meet they begin the most disturbing conversations. They want to know how I get money, how I control people, and so on.

EH: They want to swap secrets.

IS: That's going a little too far. But they feel safety in numbers. They actually feel there is something wrong with what they are doing, and they feel better if they talk to somebody else who is doing it. I always tell them that I think it would be much better if they gave up the guru role in their own minds and realize that they are providing a perfectly good social service.

EH: How do they take to that advice?

IS: Sometimes they laugh and sometimes they cry. The general impression is that one of us is wrong. Because I don't make the same kind of noises that they do, they seem to believe that either I am a lunatic or that I am starting some new kind of con. Perhaps I have found a new racket.

EH: I am surprised that these gurus tell you all their secrets as freely as they do.

IS: I must tell you that I have not renounced the Eastern technique of pretending to be interested in what another person is saying, even pretending to be on his side. Therefore, I am able to draw out gurus and get them to commit themselves to an extent that a Westerner, because of his conscience, could not do. The Westerner would not allow certain things to go unchallenged and would not trick, as it were, another person. So he doesn't find out the truth. Look here, it's time that somebody took the lid off the guru racket. Since I have nothing to lose, it might as well be me. With many of these gurus it comes down to an "us and them" sort of thing between the East and the West. Gurus from India used to stop by on their way to California and their attitude was generally, let's take the Westerners to the cleaners; they colonized us, now we will get money out of them. I heard this sort of thing even from people who had impeccable spiritual reputations back home in India.

EH: It is an understandable human reaction to centuries of Western exploitation.

IS: It's understandable, but I deny that it's a spiritual activity. What I want to say is, "Brother, you are in the revenge business, and that's a different kind of business from me." There are always groups that are willing to negotiate with me and want to use my name. On one occasion a chap in a black shirt and white tie told me, "You take Britain, but don't touch the United States, because that's ours." I had a terrible vision of Al Capone. The difference was that the guru's disciples kissed his feet..."

d u t i e s - o f - t h e - s h e i k

DUTIES OF THE SHEIK ---- By Captain Wahid Bakhsh Sial Rabbani.
THE DUTIES AND FUNCTIONS OF THE SHEIK ARE ALMOST THE SAME AS THAT OF THE PROPHET, MENTIONED ABOVE. As already stated to begin with, you need the service of one who knows, a teacher, a Sheik or a Murshid. As soon as a Murid (Pupil) is initiated, it is the Sheik's duty to lead him to the Unseen. He chalks out a course of action for him. He brings the Unseen within him in harmony with the Unseen without. He keeps a constant watch over him and saves him from pitfalls and slips. He acts as a medium between the high and the low, between the Deity and humanity, between where he was and where he ought to be, or in plainer language, between him and his God. So the Sheik or the Murshid is an indispensity necessity in the spiritual emancipation of man.

We spend a good deal of the earlier portion of our life in physical bondage. Our libraries and laboratories only tighten the bonds. Even independent thinking creates fresh chains for us. The moment we come in contact with the Sheik, we enter upon a new era of liberation. The ties are loosened, the chains are broken and the journey begins. From the Seen we gradually move on to the Unseen and after plunging into the fathomless depths of the Unseen, we have to come back to the Seen to complete our course.

The following diagram will clearly illustrate the beginning and the end of a spiritual wayfarer called Salik:

In the above diagram, B is the starting point for the beginner. The arrows indicate the direction of the journey. BCA is the upward journey, which finishes at A. It is called Sair-ila-Allah which means the journey towards God. Then follows the journey in God which is completed at point A and is called Sair-fi-Allah (journey in the Divine Soul.) You can then make a further progress by coming down to B, via ADB. This is known as the Sair-min-Allah (the journey from God) when you complete the circle, you finish your spiritual course and attain "human perfection".

IT WILL BE OBSERVED, THAT B IS THE POINT WHICH IS THE FIRST AND THE LAST, THE POINT WHERE YOU START AND FINISH. To a superficial observer, you may appear in the end what you were in the beginning, but as a matter of fact, you and others who know you inwardly find in you a wonderful change. At the start you know nothing of the circle and nothing about your real self and God. At the end, you found you have traversed the entire circuit and have found yourself, that you have personally been through all the different gradations of life, that you have realised God and known (of course, according to your personal capacities) all the various forces of nature that move the universe. You have discovered that these forces are, in a way, centered in you and, ultimately, you realize that at point B, you are in a comprehensible form from which you were at point A, an incomprehensive formlessness. In short, you realize the sense, the force and the significance of the religious phraseology of the Quran that you are God's image or God's Lieutenant on earth and you understand better the meaning and sense of the following passages from the Quran:

"And in this way We showed unto Abraham the Kingdom of Heaven and Earth (high and low)."

"We will soon show them Our signs around them and within them."

"Unto the Lord is the Ultimate Goal."

"We are nearer to Him than the jugular vein."

"And He is with you wheresoever you are."

"He is the First and the Last, the Manifest and the Hidden."

This realization makes you a Perfect Man, in the accepted sense of the term. Of course, all human beings are not alike. Their capabilities of attainment differ, the extent of their realization varies and the degrees of perfection likewise differ.

UP OR DOWN ---- Which Way Do You Want to Spin?
TO RETURN TO THE ABOVE DIAGRAM, THE UPWARD MARCH, BCA, IS a DIFFICULT AND UPHILL TASK. The downward move, ADB, is comparatively easy. As a matter of fact BCA passes through exactly the same fields as ADB. In other words, you can observe during the upward march what you observe during the downward move, but your observations during the upward journey are bound to be misleading. You cannot understand properly anything below point A, unless you reach point A, the root of everything else. Unless you grasp the root properly, you cannot make the branches your own. So the best teachers prefer to carry their pupils up through BCA, with closed eyes, as it were. They do not allow them observation on their upward march. It saves time and labour and prevents mistakes resulting from partial and incomplete knowledge. The "eyes" are, however, utilized when the downward course ADB is traversed. This is the safest and shortest way to success.

All the various hard and fast rules laid down for the completion of the spiritual course are necessary during the first round only. When you complete the course and finish, for the first time, the rounds BCA and ADB, you are liberated. You are now at liberty to go up and down as many times as you like without observing the rules of procedure you observed during your first round. You may go up either way and come down likewise. You may go up halfway and return or you may stop, for any length of time, at any of the intermediate stages. There have been people who have preferred to remain permanently at point A, and have refused to come down. The luxury at A is called Lazzat-i-uluhiyat, which means Luxury of Divinity and is so great that no earhtly pleasure, whatsoever, can match it and everyone is tempted to remain there for good. But human greatness of human perfection really depends upon descending to point B, unlike other mystical orders whose goal was point A, and that too was only during the currency of each religion. Here (point B) man fulfils the duties and functions of Perfect Man, so long as the physical body retains the power of sustaining the soul within. It shows that the spiritual journey in Islam has two phases, the upper phase called Fana-fi-allah (absorption in God) and the lower phase, Baqa-bi-Allah (subsistence in, or abiding by God). It is due to the pilgrim's descent to himself and fulfilment of his duties that Sufism is compatible with world-affirmation as contrasted with the renunciation of the world of Western mysticism which has always been subjected by condemnation of the scholars, intellectuals, philosophers and reformers in the West, for reasons of its quietism and asceticism. We will, however, talk about this later on..."

(Published in the book Islamic Sufism, Premier Publishing Company, Aligarh, India.

THREE APPROACHES ---- All Leading to God
SYED MOHAMED ZAUQI SHAH (r.a.) WENT ON TO SAY: "There are innumerable methods of approaching the goal, but they may be divided broadly into the following three:

"1... Leading a strictly pure and religious life, provided that the religion is correctly understood, properly handled and duly observed. It is a lengthy and comparatively dry course, but is generally recommended to the masses because, though lengthy and dry, it is all the same quite safe.

"2... Extra hard work, both physical and spiritual; i.e. doing a great deal more than the irreducible minimum prescribed by the shariat. It is shorter and more interesting than the first, but more difficult. It leads to better results.

"3... Cultivating and developing Love of God. It is the shortest, the sweetest and the most interesting path, leading to the best and the most valuable results; but it is not within the reach of everyone and is not always safe for those who are not meant for it.

There are people who combine in them the first two, or the last two, or all the three methods, in different proportions."


"It usually happens that the Sufi finds it difficult to express himself in an ordinary language. The language of miscellaneous humanity is not coined to give expression to the higher subjects of Divine purity. He has therefore, to express himself in his own special language which can only be understood by those conversant with proper Sufism and for whom his writings are really meant.

"Limitation of language, sometimes compel him to use ordinary human expressions to indicate extraordinary discoveries in the domains of Divinity. For example, in the description of the diagram given before (Figure 1), the following expressions have been used:

...and, ultimately, you realise that at point B, you are in a comprehensible form from what you were at point A, an incomprehensible formlessness.

"This very important part of the explanation of the diagram, is quite capable of misinterpretation and can never be understood correctly by those who are ignorant of the subject and who have not been personally through the suluk.

"Since most non-Sufis are not fully conversant with the expressions and language of the Sufis, the Sufistic writings are generally misunderstood and misinterpreted, not only by ordinary people, but by those who are learned in the subjects other than tasawwuf."


"A closer knowledge of the subject will convince a discriminating observer that a Muslim Sufi is quite a different man from a Western Spiritualist. The Western Spiritualist has no faith to start with, no set of beliefs to guide him, and no fixed goal to direct his steps. His work is experimental throughout.

"Bred and brought up in an atmosphere of doubt and distrust, he starts with scepticism and winding his way through a long and circuitous route of doubts, delusions, experiments, surprises, and disappointments, he very often finds himself stranded in the midst of unexplored fields.

"He imposes upon himself a double duty. He is his own leader and his own follower. He does not want to be guided by the experience of others. With him, it is not a question of realisation, but of test. He has nothing to realise, because he has no faith to stand by. He has first to find out the truth and then test it.

"His initial estrangement from spiritual subjects, makes him an easy prey to foreign influence. Some of the very ancient and antiquated Eastern religions, which have lost their original glamour and primitive glory, possess a novelty for him and attract him easily.

"The "Theory" of Reincarnation, the "Philosophy" of Karamma and other similar mutilations of ancient teaching, take possession of him and deviate him from his proper path. His materialistic tendencies clog his footsteps during his spiritual march and beset his progress at every turn.

"Development of will, concentration, and other spiritual powers, are readily employed by him to secure some brilliant worldly success. Any valuable information, obtained from a higher source, is willingly utilised for a materialistic end. Higher attainments are ungrudgingly employed to secure lower ends.

"Instead of sacrificing the low for the high, he thoughtlessly rushes in the opposite direction and feels no compunction in sacrificing the high for the low; not knowing probably, the extent of damage he is thereby inflicting upon his own talents.

"These earthly tendencies keep him earth-bound and, instead of moving on and fast, he finds himself entangled in the meshes of "communion with the dead", where he is very often baffled by the inconsistencies of the results. Having no proper standard of judgment, he cannot draw a correct line of distinction between the spirits belonging to this side of the grave and the spirits belonging to other side of it, and the result is a hopeless confusion.

"Table-turning, planchettes, telepathy, tele-'vision', and his similar other achievements only tend to tie him down to earth, instead of helping him to soar into the heavens of spirituality. Spiritualism in the West, has come to have quite a different meaning from the one indicated by the spiritualism of the Sufi.

"The Sufi is a different man altogether. He starts with faith. He has certain established beliefs to urge him forward, an established goal to draw him on, and a personal guide to help him in his undertaking. He is in no danger of getting stranded anywhere.

"Many have gone the same way before him and many have worked likewise with unanimous results. His predecessors have marked the line of march for him and have left a series of shortcuts for his facility.

"He has to create no new theory, to establish no new truth, to formulate no new creed, and to unseal no forbidden knowledge. He does not stand in need of light from any foreign source, does not stand in need of new experiments, and does not require any old truth to be put to a new test.

"Everything for him is cut and dried. He has simply to realise, simply to taste the sweets ready in store for him.

"He never likes to deviate from the path ordained for him, never sacrifices the high for the low, never seeks to astound the world by his miracles or miraculous powers, and never loses sight of his ultimate Goal."

KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE HEART ---- The Way of the Islamic Arrow.
ISLAM IS PURE MONOTHEISM -- AS PURE AS THEY COME. True Religion writes: "Suffice it to say that just because someone claims to be a "monotheistic" Jew, Christian or Muslim, that doesn't keep them from falling into corrupt beliefs and idolatrous practices. Many people, including some Muslims, claim belief in "One God" even though they've fallen into acts of idolatry. Certainly, many Protestants accuse Roman Catholics of idolatrous practices in regards to the saints and the Virgin Mary. Likewise, the Greek Orthodox Church is considered "idolatrous" by many other Christians because in much of their worship they use icons. However, if you ask a Roman Catholic or a Greek Orthodox person if God is "One", they will invariably answer: "Yes!". This lip-service, however, does not stop them from being "creature worshipping" idolaters. The same goes for Hindus, who just consider their gods to be "manifestations" or "incarnations" of the One Supreme God.

"Everyone should be aware of the fact that throughout the long history of the "Abrahamic Faiths", there have people who, while believing in "One God", have adopted beliefs and practices that completely nullify their claim to "monotheism". This is the Muslim view of Christians. We're well aware of the fact that they claim belief in "One God" with their lips, but this doesn't mean that they don't nullify their claim in other ways. This is because many people simply haven't been taught everything that Pure Monotheism entails. From an Islamic point of view, "monotheism" can be nullified in many ways. For example, simply believing that it is permissible to rule by Western "liberal" and "democratic" laws in lieu of the Divinely Revealed Law of Almighty God makes one a "polytheist". Certainly, a person who does such a thing, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, doesn't ever believe that there is another Almighty Creator and Sovereign Lord. However, for all practical purposes, such a person has take another "god", whether they choose to admit it or not. In this way they are associating partners with Almighty God (Arabic: shirk), and thus become a "polytheist" in a practical sense, regardless of their lip-service to "monotheism". This holds true even if the person doesn't believe what they are doing is "worship". For example, Roman Catholics who pray to the Virgin Mary will staunchly deny that they are "worshipping" her. They instead call it "adoration" or some other watered-down term. However, from an Islamic point of view, what is worship if not this? Islam teaches that prayer and supplication are the marrow of worship, so if one directs their prayers to an intermediary (even if the pray is "ultimately" meant for God), then what is left of worship? Additionally, how can someone who believes in Almighty God follow man-made laws instead of God's Law, without admitting that they've begun worshipping other than God? Do they know better than God?

"Additionally, the Old Testament makes it perfectly clear that making a "graven image" of any created thing (not to mention ones which are supposed to "represent" Almighty God) is prohibited. Please see Exodus 20:4-6, Leviticus 26:1 and Deuteronomy 4:16, 23, 25, 5:8 and Nehemiah 9:6 for some statements in regards to this point. Without addressing the issue that Christians commonly violate the unambiguous commandment not to even "make" representations of anything that is in the "heavens above or on the earth beneath", these verses not only teach that worshipping idols is prohibited, but also that Almighty God is eternally distinct from His creation and thus nothing in His creation can represent Him. To believe otherwise is to be a de facto idol worshipper - even if one claims belief in one, and only one, "True God". In Exodus 20:4-6 and Deuteronomy 4:16, Almighty God - who is a "Jealous God" - makes it perfectly clear that He is distinct from His creation.

"By giving such clear and merciful guidance to human beings, God is establishing a universal and eternal Truth for the benefit of mankind. This eternal Truth is the bedrock of religious guidance, since once people begin to believe that Almighty God mixes with or can be represented by His creation, they can be duped into believing almost anything. Once someone accepts that God has become "incarnate" in His creation, or that someone or something is a "manifestation" - and thus representation - of Him, the floodgates are open and "Truth" becomes a matter of subjective guesswork. Once the first and most basic concept is violated - regardless of how complicated and sophisticated the rationale for it might be - it is very easy to fall further and further away from the Eternal Truth of Pure Monotheism. In the final analysis, it is not a question of whether God is capable of becoming a man, but rather a question of whether one bases their beliefs about God on clear, unambiguous and authentic guidance. Once it is left up to the human mind to decide what Almighty God can and cannot do, the stage is set for misguidance to take root. Human speculation about God only ends up leading to misguidance and despair, since no clear conclusions can ever be reached. For example, is God capable of creating an object so heavy that He is incapable of moving it? If not, does that mean that He is incapable? It is because of misguided questions like this that Islam clearly teaches that mankind should only say about God what He has said about Himself. This means all of our ideas about God must be based on Revelation - not human speculation. In short, the final prophet of Islam - Muhammad - was sent by Almighty God to preach the same Pure Monotheism that was practiced by Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus - peace be upon them all. This Pure Monotheism means not only believing that there is only One God in existence, but realizing that He is transcedent above His creation and that all worship is due to Him alone.

"Before concluding, we should probably address the practice of those Muslims who insist on using the Arabic word "Allah" even when speaking English. Even though this practice certainly is not to be condemned when it is done around those who understand the meaning of the Arabic word "Allah", it is my experience - both during my years as a non-Muslim and my years as a Muslim - that such a practice can (and usually does) breed misunderstanding. It seems that often times, many of the Muslims who use the word "Allah" in lieu of the word "God", even when trying to attract people to Islam, are unaware of the severe misunderstandings that many non-Muslims have about Islam (and the distorted way which Islam has been portrayed in the West). Insisting on using the word "Allah" only fuels the flames of misunderstanding - so there's no good reason to do it. I've often wondered what value some Muslims think that using the word "Allah" adds to the Pure Message that they are trying to convey. ( . . . and I'm still waiting for an answer!) Unfortunately, those Muslims who insist on using the word "Allah" even when addressing non-Muslims who are unfamiliar with Islam and the Arabic language, do both a disservice to themselves and their religion. Unfortunately, this practice is usually based on the false assumption - by a non-native speaker of English - that the word "God" in English is incapable of expressing a pure and proper belief in Almighty God. This is certainly false. If someone says that the English word "God" cannot be used to express the Pure Islamic Belief in Tawhid, they are wrong not because they don't understand Tawhid, but simply because they don't understand the English language. Many people who insist on using the Arabic word "Allah" usually don't realize this, because in reality, they are not so much affirming the word "Allah" as they are rejecting the word "God" as unsuitable - based on incorrect assumptions. For someone to assume that the word "God" presupposes a certain theological point-of-view (such as the Trinity) is simply Wrong - and that's Wrong with a capital "W". To say the word "God" should be rejected because it can be changed into "god", "gods" or "goddess" is illogical because each of these words has a distinctive meaning and a distinctive spelling - at least to someone who knows how to speak English correctly. Using the same logic, I can demonstrate that the root letters "ktb" can be used to form the Arabic words "kitab" (book), "maktabah" (library), "maktab" (office) and "kaatib" (writer), but does that mean that these words have the same meaning? Do Arabic-speaking people go through life confusing libraries with writers and offices with books (both in conversation and in reality)? I think not! This is not to mention the fact that if the Arabic "Al-" was put in front of these words in order to make them definite, confusion would be even less likely! So the logic in both cases is the same, and this is because even though the same letters are used in "God" and "god", these two words have two different meanings in the English language. The capital "G" implies something different than the small "g" - and anyone who denies this simply doesn't know how to speak the English language. "