In Persian, the term ‘sayr wa suluk’ (‘traveling and social conduct on the Path’) -which is another term for Sufism- is composed of two words where each word can be explained separately in the following manner.
First, ‘sayr’ (‘traveling’) indicates the purification of the Sufi’s inward being on the path towards spiritual perfection. It refers to the Sufi’s relationship with God, to the Sufi’s struggle to be ever more conscious of God through constant remembrance of Him, so as to attain success in advancing farther and farther along the Path. This is an inward and individual matter.
On the other hand, ‘suluk’ (‘social conduct’) refers in the school of Sufism to a fundamental principle relating to the society of Sufis as a community. Suluk pertains to how Sufis should conduct themselves with respect to society as a whole. This is a vitally important aspect of Sufism, and it is imperative for Sufis to pay attention to it.
In general, someone who is identified as a Sufi from the point of view of society must act as a model human being, and if such a person, whom others associate with Sufism, behaves improperly or does things that are contrary to human considerations, he does harm to the school of Sufism and to Sufis as a whole.
In order to instruct and correct their disciples, Sufi masters in the past have resorted to various tales and anecdotes, sometimes using animals to illustrate their points, thus providing a kind of indirect instruction.
As an example, it is related that Abu Sa’id ‘Abi 1-Khayr was going down the street one day with a group of disciples when a dog bit at the garment of one of the darvishes. The darvish raised his walking stick and hit the dog with it. The dog then went to the master, Abu Sa’id, complaining about his treatment at the hands of the darvish, that it should be beaten simply for having bitten at his clothes. The master replied, “Why don’t you bite me in return?” The dog protested, “But I am complaining about something else! I don’t want revenge. He was dressed as a Sufi and treated me wrongly. I assumed that since he was a Sufi, I could bite him freely without him hurting me! Thus, he should be stripped of his Sufi cloak.”
This story illustrates the importance of Sufi conduct and indicates that sayr and suluk, although considered separate aspects of Sufism, are in fact complementary. That is, one who does not observe the conduct of a Sufi has not attained perfection in the work of spiritual traveling, while, at the same time, one who has advanced spiritually has the conduct towards others of a perfected human being. As a result, masters of the Path are able to identify the progress of Sufis in reaching more advanced spiritual stations and determine the extent of their traveling towards God by means of their conduct.
Fundamentally, then, sayr (‘traveling’) and suluk (‘ social conduct’) are a pair of wings with which a human being takes flight towards perfection, for no one can fly with only one wing!
- Do I have to convert to Islam to be a sufi? Answer by Dr.Javad Nurbakhsh (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- The Sufi Question (via Darvish) (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- Recommending Sufism and the Way of Blame by Dr. Toussulis (2) (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- How Many Sufis Are There in Islam? by Stephen Schwartz (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- New Issue of Sufi Magazine with an article from Yours Truly (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- Surrender – A Poem by Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- Two poignant Line from The Sufis of Afganistan Film (Roughy translated) (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- Recommending Sufism and the Way of Blame by Dr. Toussulis with a small excerpt. (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- SUFISM: Seeking a Spiritual Guide (thinkaloudtoday.wordpress.com)