“I cried because I had no shoes, and then I met a man who had no feet.” This famous line from the Sufi poet Hafiz reflects the essence of Sufism, the mystic path of Islam, in one sentence.
How do Sufi practices differ in Ramadan?
“The question you bring up is interesting because it indicates to my mind that you make a separation between Sufi and Muslim … I don’t make that separation,” . Sufis are Muslims; they practice the five pillars of Islam, which include fasting in Ramadan.
Out of the five pillars, fasting is the only one done purely between an individual and God. It is done in secrecy and privacy. “Fasting is a form of hijab; Allah gave every being on earth protection. The birds he gave wings, the porcupine he gave needles, the skunk he gave a scent … to man he gave zikr Allah, and in Ramadan we remember Him more and more,” he says.
Restraining oneself from eating, drinking, love making, sinning, anger and striving to be good builds patience. Sabr (patience) is mentioned in over 90 places in the Quran. In one verse in Surat El-Baqarah, it clearly states, "O you who believe, fasting is prescribed to you, as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn patience."
Yet patience is only one aspect of the holy month. “Ramadan gives everyone the opportunity to go into themselves … during this month we are not taken by the world,” .
Sufi iftars are traditionally communal. Many gather together in a zawya with a sheikh present. They first drink water then pray the maghrib prayers followed by a communal meal. Then they pray the tarawih and in between they sing praises to the Prophet Mohammed.
In Ramadan extra prayers are done not out of habit but out of genuine conviction. Sufis feel this so strongly they want to do more. A Sufi makes sure he does all the tarawih prayers although they are not obligatory.
“The Prophet Mohammed prayed the tarawih two nights in a row, and then didn’t show up the third night. He didn’t want people to think it was mandatory,”
In Arabic Ramadan is spelled with five letters and Sufis believe that each stand for something that defines this holy month. R for ridwan, Allah’s satisfaction; M for marhaba, Allah’s love; D for deman, Allah’s protection and security; A for ulfal, Allah’s friendship; N for nour, Allah’s divine light and the essence of creation.
“Ramadan reveals many of the holy secrets of the Quran and for the believers it is a month of forgiveness, Ramadan opens the door of the interior of ourselves and the secrets of Allah are within us.”