SUFISM IS A TRAINING PROGRAM
by Murshid Shaykh Taner Ansari
Allah says in the Quran-i-Kerim that He has put the summary of what you are supposed to do on your neck. The Sufis believe that this is zikr. Our bodies are doing zikr all the time, whether we are aware of this or not. Your heart is saying “Allah, Allah” with every beat, and your lungs are saying “Hu, Hu” with every breath. Everything in the universe is making zikr all of the time as well, whether we know this or not. In this way, Allah showed us the path to the target. The target is Allah. Then, Allah created distractions in order to separate the sincere from the insincere and to test the true believers to see who would keep their attention on Allah and who would become distracted.
Allah has also shown us how to disregard these distractions. All of the rules for right behavior that are contained in the Quran-i-Kerim are designed to bring you to the target and to help you avoid the things that will distract you from Allah. Sufism is a training program that helps you to learn to be a single-minded and single-targeted person. In order to reach the target, you need the training, education and discipline of Sufism. You also need perseverance and patience, wisdom, light, obedience and good intentions. You particularly need the intention to learn.
First step is having the intention to go to Allah. Then Allah sends teachers who act as guides to help people learn what they need to learn in order to get to the target, which is Allah. Thus, everything comes from intention and communication. This is implicit in Allah’s manner of working things out. He understands how our minds work and knows what kinds of things distract us. Allah is the designer of our physical makeup, including our brains. Our brain is one of the most important parts of the body—it is the command module that houses all the buttons that affect our behavior and thoughts. Allah is in your heart and He tells the brain what to do, but there are many other forces competing for your attention as well. Shaytan is competing for your attention, the television is competing for your attention, people who want to sell you things are competing for your attention. Everyone is after your attention but your attention is supposed to be directed to the target. Unless you have a firm focus on the target, you will be diverted.
How can we avoid these distractions? That is where the laws of Allah come into play. There is hakim (wisdom) in the things that Allah tells us to do. These laws are all designed to appeal to your brain and to provide you with the means and methods to keep your focus on Allah.
For example, Allah says that if you want the world, He will give it to you but you will have no share in what comes after this world. He tells the believers to lower their gaze and protect their eyes from forbidden things. If you do not follow this rule, your attention will go to whatever you are seeing with your eyes. The image of that thing makes an imprint in your mind, which distracts you from the target and takes you away from Allah. On the other hand, if you occupy yourself entirely with the things that take you to the target, then they will help you get to the target. It is that simple.