Blessing of Animals and Pets

VENICE, ITALY - JANUARY 15:  Don Filippo Chiafoni Chaplain of the Church of S Francesco blesses the congregation and their animals during a special service held on January 15, 2012 in Venice, Italy. The blessing of animals and pets is a very ancient tradition dating back from San Francis of Assisi. (Marco Secchi/Getty Images) VENICE, ITALY - JANUARY 15:  Don Filippo Chiafoni Chaplain of the Church of S Francesco blesses the congregation and their animals during a special service held on January 15, 2012 in Venice, Italy. The blessing of animals and pets is a very ancient tradition dating back from San Francis of Assisi. (Marco Secchi/Getty Images)

This custom is probably conducted in remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi’s love for all creatures. Francis, whose feast day is October 4th, loved the larks flying about his hilltop town. He and his early brothers, staying in a small hovel, allowed themselves to be displaced by a donkey. Francis wrote a Canticle of the Creatures, an ode to God’s living things. “All praise to you, Oh Lord, for all these brother and sister creatures.” And there was testimony in the cause for St. Clare of Assisi’s canonization that referred to her little cat!

It was a really nice and friendly ceremony, I believe next week there will be one at the Bragora if you are around is worth checking.

Even today I was asked by a friend how can I (being a Muslim) get close and friendly with dogs (I have one!) let me quote ‘Ali ebn Abi Taleb, the seminal figure of Sufism:

Happy is the one who leads the life of a dog! For the dog has ten characteristics which every believer should possess. First, the dog has no status among creatures; second, the dog is a pauper having no worldly goods; third, the entire earth is his resting place; fourth, the dog goes hungry most of the time; fifth, the dog will not leave his master’s door even after having received a hundred lashes; sixth, he protects his master and his friend, and when someone approaches he will attack the foe and let the friend pass; seventh, he guards his master by night, never sleeping; eight, he performs most of his duties silently; ninth, he is content with whatever his master gives him; and tenth, when he dies, he leaves no inheritance.

Not to mention Bulleh Shah, the famous sufi from Punjab was quite innovative in his scathing about them and here, compares and un-enlightened “Mullah” with a dog!

[He] Read a lot and became a scholar But [he] never read himself [He] enters into the temple & mosque But [he] never entered into his own heart He fights with the devil every day for nothing He never wrestled with his own ego Bulleh Shah, he grabs for heavenly flying things But doesn’t grasp the one who’s sitting at home Religious scholars stay awake at night But dogs stay awake at night, higher than you They don’t cease from barking at night Then they go sleep in yards, higher than you They [dogs] don’t leave the beloved’s doorstep Even if they’re beaten hundreds of times, higher than you Bulleh Shah get up and make up with the beloved Otherwise dogs will win the contest, better than you

 

 

A Sufi Ramadan

By Paul Salahuddin Armstrong

Paul of the Wulfruna Sufi Association tells about Ramadan in Sufism. Read about the significance of fasting, the symbolism of the rose and the importance of prayer and meditation.

Ramadan, the month when God revealed the Holy Qur’an, is a time of deep reflection and contemplation for Muslims. Considering past accomplishments and where our life’s journey is leading. Ramadan is a good time for us to make changes for the better, an excellent opportunity to turn over a new leaf, shedding any old bad habits.

Sufi meditationSufi meditation

Walking in the footsteps of the prophets

"O you who have attained to faith! Fasting is ordained for you as it was ordained for those before you, so that you might remain concious of God" Holy Qur’an (2:183) Asad

"Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant - the Ten Commandments." Exodus (34:28) NIV

Muslims aim to be walking in the footsteps of prophets and saints. While Ramadan is unique to Islam, most religions have their traditions of fasting. We spend much of our lives concerned with mundane activities, work, meals, television, fashion. Without even realising it, time passes, often wasted on nothing special. Fasting helps us to regain self-discipline and self-restraint.

Tayyaba Mosque

Realising the difficulties of others

An important role of fasting, is to help us realise the difficulties and suffering of others. Caring for those in need is so important, charity is the third pillar of Islam. One important benefit of fasting, is we learn what it is like to feel hungry. Once we realise this, hopefully we will show more compassion for those in need, for those who have no food to break their fasts, or cannot afford to buy it.

The rose blooms amid thorns

Sufis are people striving for an inner, personal experience of the Divine. Seeing the basic practices of Islam as only the first step to this higher goal. To allow one’s soul to grow and ascend, one needs to strive against the bad characteristics of one’s ego. In Sufism, the rose is symbolic of our soul. As like the development of our own souls in this world, the rose blooms amid thorns.

Seeking to lose themselves in the Divine

While all Muslims are on a quest for inner peace, Sufis seek to lose themselves in the Divine. Fasting is an important stepping stone on this inner spiritual journey. Sufi saints perform the greatest form of fast, while others go without food, they exercise the fasting of their mind. Put another way, they do not think of anything except God.

Prayers and meditation

Sufis consider their existence in this world as only the seed, for their existence in the next world. In a similar way to how small acorns grow into mighty oaks, we reap what we sow. In addition to their daily prayers, various forms of meditation are practised by Sufis, enabling them to become more conscious of the Divine.

"unto everyone who is conscious of God, He [always] grants a way out [of unhappiness], and provides for him in a manner beyond all expectation" Holy Qur’an (65:2-3) Asad

Laylat al-Qadr

God has promised great rewards for those who fast. One of these occurs during the last ten days of Ramadan. During the night of Laylat al-Qadr, for one who has fasted perfectly, God sends an angel to personally meet this person, and grant them any wish they desire.

Fasting is an enormous blessing, it is a great way of improving one’s self discipline and physical health, yet at the same time conveys immense spiritual benefits.

Sufi Ramadan traditions

ramadaan

 “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.”

Galata Mevlevi Ensemble...under the sign of Rumi!

The Galata Mevlevi Music and Sema Ensemble, under the direction of Al Sheik Nail Kesova, brings to audiences around the world the beauty and spirituality of the Sema, the Mevlevi whirling ritual, and the tradition of Mevlevi music. The Whirling Dervishes of Turkey were proclaimed as a Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2005. The "Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" Programme was launched by UNESCO in 1997 to raise public awareness about the value of the intangible elements of heritage and the need to safeguard them .For more than 700 years, the Mevlevi brotherhood defined the spiritual life of the Ottoman Empire. Sufism, and especially the Mevlevis, gave birth to well known poets, musicians, theologians and politicians. Travelers to the Orient noticed the Mevlevis mainly because of their “Sema“, the ritual whirling dance. The brotherhood of the Whirling Dervishes became familiar worldwide as the symbol of oriental mysticism.

 

VENICE, ITALY - JUNE 21:  A whirling Dervish of the Galata Mevlevi Ensemble,declared UNESCO World Heritag, perfoms under the guidance of Sheikh Nail Kesova at Auditorium Candiani on June 21, 2011 in Venice, Italy. The whirling dance associated with Dervishes, is the practice of the Mevlevi Order in Turkey, and is part of a formal ceremony known as the Sema which is only one of the many Sufi ceremonies performed to try to reach religious ecstasy (Marco Secchi)

 

The Galata Mevlevi Music and Sema Ensemble is very much part of the so called avant-garde tradition of the brotherhood. Sheik Nail Kesova has composed a number of liturgical pieces for the group. In collaboration with Asian and western musicians and orchestras, they have created new interpretations of traditional oriental and mystic compositions. Perhaps one of the most important activities of the group has been to continue the tradition of the Mevlevi Order to educate young, talented musicians in the sophisticated art of classical mystic music, in addition to bringing the haunting beauty of the whirling ritual, the Sema, to people throughout the world.

More images are in my Galleries or at  Getty Images

For bookings Contact in Italy Paolo Sgevano  HERE For the Rest of the World Birgit Hellinghaus  HERE