Soulful Serenity: How Sufism Weaves Its Threads into My Life

Marium IhsanNovember 14, 2023Now and ThenInterfaith Connections
Soulful Serenity: How Sufism Weaves Its Threads into My Life




In the kaleidoscope of cultures and traditions, where ancient customs dance with modernity, while diversity finds solace in unity, a profound appreciation of Sufism continues to shape my life. A mystical dimension of Islam emphasizing the inward search for God and the development of spiritual knowledge through practices such as meditation, asceticism, and the pursuit of divine love, Sufism’s core principles revolve around the concepts of divine unity (tawhid), selflessness, and the attainment of spiritual truth through direct experience and intuition.

Growing up in Pakistan, a land brimming with rich historical narratives yet restricting paradigms too, I would often escape- purifying, invoking, twirling away. In the captivating tapestry of Pakistani culture, the mystical current of Sufism flows like a river of spiritual solace, embracing hearts and minds. From the whirling dervishes to the soul-stirring qawwals, Sufism has woven its threads of transcendence into the very fabric of Muslim society. Reflecting on my personal journey, the profound impact Sufism has had on my life cannot be understated, guiding me toward enlightenment, tolerance, and inner peace. Join me as we quickly twirl together through this metaphysical realm.

A Quest for Meaning:

In the heart of the bustling bazaar, where the rapid happenings of our world intertwined with the aromatic swirls of incense, my mother’s artful gaze chose its framed quote for our lounge:

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there." - Rumi

The existence of a dimension beyond the tangible, a surreal landscape where seekers embark on a profound journey to unravel the mysteries of existence, captivated me. The Curious George within me was always intrigued by the rich tapestry of Sufi traditions that permeate every aspect of our culture. The verses of renowned Sufi poets, like Rumi and Bulleh Shah, became a portal to a world beyond the mundane, evoking a longing for more profound meaning and connection. As I delved into the mystical teachings of Sufism, I discovered a transformative philosophy that transcends the boundaries of religion, offering a universal approach to spirituality.

I found meaning in the vastness of the unknown: I discovered peace within myself.

The Dance of Whirling Dervishes:

Within oneself, one continues to spin: in introspection, in transcendence, in submission. Spinning of the whirling dervishes is one of the most awe-inspiring rituals of Sufism. Witnessing their graceful spins and their white robes swirling in harmony, I was always captivated by the symbolic dance of cosmic unity when Baba would take me to Sufi Circles with my brothers.

“The whirling motion reflects the concept of ‘sama,’ a spiritual journey toward self-discovery and union with the Divine,” my brother explained as I stood captivated by the labyrinthine uniformity of their performance.

The dervishes taught me that life itself is a dance, a constant surrender to the rhythms of the universe, and by embracing this dance, we find inner serenity and tranquility.

Music that Touches the Soul:

Qawwali, the devotional music of Sufis, holds a special place in the Sufi masterpiece. The ethereal melodies and heartfelt lyrics evoked a profound emotional response within me every time I heard them. Now a cornerstone of Pakistani culture, too, attending qawwali sessions where the melodious voices blend with the rhythmic beats of the tabla and harmonium, I am transported to a realm where worldly concerns fade away, and the essence of the divine becomes tangible. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s verse envelops me in contemplation, as I immerse myself in the evocative rendition.

"Tum Ek Gorakh Dhanda Ho": You are a puzzle, unfathomable and intricate.

The qawwals' enchanting renditions not only touch my heart but also ignite a yearning to explore the depths of my soul.

Love as a Pathway to Enlightenment:

In its tapestry, Sufism teaches that love is the key to attaining mystic enlightenment and transcending the limitations of the ego. Once I understood this profound concept, it resonated deeply within me and transformed my perspective on life and relationships. Sufi saints like Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai preached a message of love that transcends boundaries of religion, caste, and creed. Their timeless poetry reminded me that love is a unifying force, capable of dissolving the barriers that divide humanity. By embracing this message of love, I have strived to cultivate compassion, empathy, and acceptance in my interactions with my parents, my siblings, my neighbors, my friends, and those whom I am yet to know.

Sufi Saints as Beacons of Inspiration:

The lives of Sufi saints serve as pillars of righteousness, illuminating the path toward self-awakening. The tombs and shrines of revered Sufi saints, such as Data Ganj Bakhsh in Lahore and Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan, have become sanctuaries of haven and pilgrimage for seekers of enlightenment. Visiting these sacred spaces as a child, I have witnessed people from diverse backgrounds coming together in reverence and seeking blessings. The saints' teachings reinforce the transformative power of selflessness, devotion, and humility, urging me to embody these virtues in my life.

Sufism has long been valued as an integral aspect of Islamic culture — the poets especially have used it as a means to explain greater philosophies of life. Growing up around a father who adored the works of poets like Mirza Ghalib and Faiz, the ideals of Sufism were always within me. The vast and universal aspects of Sufism have been constant reminders of unity, inspiration, patience, and an inclination toward curiosity and learning that are applicable in so many aspects of my own life.

The most important takeaway from Sufism for me is the importance of being united and inclusive at all times for a truly peaceful life. Bulleh Shah’s words truly encapsulate this message:

"The essence of Sufism lies in embracing the oneness of all creation, for in the depths of unity, we discover the eternal source of love and peace."

It is time we all become one, stand united, and twirl in the infiniteness of peace and love together.

Marium Ihsan is a 15-year-old from Lahore, Pakistan, who enjoys writing articles about topics she is passionate about and exploring new and interesting areas of science.