Based on the Teachings of Sufi Master Anmet Kayhan


Henry Bayman

What is the Meaning of the Four Books? The Psalms explain David. The Torah explains Israel. The Gospel explains Jesus. The Koran explains them all. The Koran has not denied its predecessors; it has confirmed them. Never before have you read a book quite like this.

“Perhaps it will not be apparent to many... that what we have here is the Mother Lode of authentic Sufism.”

- From the Preface

With simplicity, clarity and wisdom, this anthology covers the major aspects of Sufism. At the same time, it comprises a fresh and refreshing vision of the Islamic religion. The author opens a window onto the teachings of Master Ahmet Kayhan, who guides us through a copious garden in which everyone will find what he needs—or at least, something akin to it. On each visit to this market-place, you will discover something new and exciting. In addition, it provides a rare glimpse of Islam as it should really be lived. For anyone interested in spiritual growth, religion, or mysticism, this book is a must.


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This book started out as a translation of the Turkish book named Body and Spirit, by the renowned Sufi Master Ahmet Kayhan—

—And right here at the very beginning, we encounter our first difficulty, one of many to be addressed in this book. Mr. Ahmet Kayhan defies description or any simple categorization. Part of the problem arises from the definition of the words “Sufism” and “Islam,” and the conceptions these give rise to in people’s minds. “Sufism” has come to be understood in a variety of ways. Properly, it is the esoteric aspect, the highest expression, of Islam. Yet it cannot be divorced and considered in isolation from the exoteric aspect: the former is the content and the latter is the form which contains it.

In the case of the term “Islam,” the problem is compounded to such a degree that it becomes almost impossible to solve. The word has become associated with so many connotations that different people using the same term rarely mean the same thing. One thing is clear: what you understand from the word is almost certainly not what “Islam” really means. This holds no less true for a majority of Moslems than for non-Moslems. Given the sorry state of religious instruction in so-called “Islamic” countries, few Moslems really know what our religion is all about. Even fewer are able to practice it properly, and the failings of the majority in this respect are responsible for most of the misconceptions. If this is the case even with Moslems, think what the situation must be for non-Moslems. This book aims to disabuse readers from such misunderstandings, and it is hoped that by the time you finish it, you will have gained a more accurate impression of what “Sufism” and “Islam” really mean.

Professor Aydin Ungan spent a year or two on the translation of the book, and I would here like to express our gratitude to him for all his efforts.

The translation finally arrived in my hands in a semi finished state. Nevertheless, I started work thinking that only a little polishing would be necessary.

The more I applied myself to the task, however, the less tenable it became to remain content with a rote translation. For one thing, the anthology did not proceed in linear sequential order; it presumed a certain amount of knowledge concerning Islam and Sufism in the reader, and a relatively simple chapter might, for example, be preceded by a difficult one. This knowledge could not be taken for granted in the average Western reader. Hence new, introductory chapters had to be written that incorporated material dispersed throughout the Master’s books and talks.

The result is a book that evolved from Body and Spirit, and is not a direct translation. I, of course, must bear responsibility for all its failures. Yet it is also to be hoped that the reader will find it not entirely lacking in appeal, and in lieu of this I would like to say a few words about my main concerns in preparing it.

1. Universality.

Islam is a universal religion, a religion for all humanity; it always has been. The original book assumed an Islamic cultural background in its readers. From the start, Islam has found roots predominantly in the Middle East, and naturally it has been imbued with the culture of that region. Islamic peoples have been quite content with this situation; they are satisfied with it and have found no reason to contest it. But a Western reader may rightly wonder how Islam can be called universal if no way can be found to relate it to his own cultural background.

Western culture is based on the Judaeo-Christian tradition, and Islam has so much in common with Judaism and Christianity that there should be no reason why Western readers should find themselves unable to relate to it. Hence, I have interspersed the text with quotations from Western sources wherever an affinity suggested itself. These are mostly absent from the original book, but I hope the general readership will find the book more accessible and appealing in its present form. Being a universal religion, Islam has expressed universal truths, and some of these truths have been the property of the Western religious and intellectual tradition as well. Wherever a Western source is referred to, therefore, it should be noted that Islam in most cases already contains that truth quite independently, and the reference is given only in order to ease the reader’s comprehension.

A Sufi teaching-story told by Rumi beautifully illustrates this point. A Greek, an Arab, a Turk and a Persian once came together, and when they were hungry they pooled their money to buy something to eat. At that point a difficulty arose, however, because the Greek wanted to buy stafil, the Arab wanted to buy inab, the Persian wanted angur while the Turk wanted uzum. They finally began to quarrel, and at that moment a wise sage passing by interrupted them. “Tell me what you want,” he said, and taking the money from them, soon came back with some grapes. They were amazed to see that they all had wanted the same thing. So it is with human beings everywhere: although we all fundamentally want the same things, we call them by different names, and in doing so imagine they are different.

Well, then, here are the grapes.

2. Unification.

As will be discussed in this book, Islam is the religion of unification. At the most immediate level, of course, this refers to the fact that God is One. Yet there are other dimensions to it. Ideally, Islam aims to unite science, philosophy, religion and art—no field of human knowledge or perception lies outside its ken. The “grand synthesis” which some have aimed at but failed to achieve because they weren’t looking in the right place can only be achieved within the purvey of Islam.

Mathematics has been called the queen of sciences, and in a similar vein it may be said that Islam is the crown of religions. The true facets of all religions—and they all contain truth, even the most unexpected—are proper subsets of Islam. Hence, in order to help the reader, I have attempted to show parallels with other religions where these exist.

And finally, Islam ideally aims to unite all humanity. I find it unnecessary to labor the importance of this point in the “global village” we inhabit today.

A portion of Professor Ungan’s original preface is included here for its flavor and human interest:

My involvement with the translation of this book was not as subtle as Master Ahmet Kayhan’s personality, yet the beginning was interesting, and I could not pass without sharing it with you first.

Since my childhood, I have always been fascinated with the Sufis; their literature, philosophy, knowledge, comprehension, intuitive power, synthesis, tranquillity, poetry and mystical music. Since, in the later years of my life, I started living in the United States, I made the reading of Sufi literature in English a habit in my free time. However, I had very little personal contact with actual Sufis.

On one of my visits to my native country, Turkey, I had a chance to visit the Master’s house. It was in Ankara, a crowded top-floor flat open to everybody who seeks his wisdom and advice, which are freely dispensed. When we knocked on the door, we were welcomed and asked to come in without any questions. In the living room, the Master was talking to two women, and there were several men sitting on the couches. After finishing his words, the Master showed us our seats, talked with my friends for a while, and gave some advice.

At one point he looked at me and said: “Oh, we forgot you... Who are you descended from?” I told him my father’s name. The Master turned his head, looked at my friend, Sadettin, and asked: “Do we know him?” Sadettin replied: “Not likely,” and added that I lived in the States. I affirmed that he would not know of my father since he had passed away years ago, and added: “Ten years ago, I came and visited you here.” He replied: “Oh... you came back so soon,” with a playful smile on his face. In order to change the subject, I quickly thought of saying: “I am reading the works of Ibn Arabi.” The Master closed his eyes for a moment, and said: “You should not start building a house from the roof. What happens to a building without a foundation? It collapses.”

He again closed his eyes for a moment, and continued: “God Almighty has given two things into the hands of human beings. On the one hand we have fire, and on the other, water. You cannot contain fire; cannot put it anywhere, cannot give it to a child... So, be careful with it. However, you can put water into any cup. You can give it to a child. You can give life, comfort, and peace with it. Therefore, use water.” After finishing his words, he waited for a while, and from the next room he called in his son-in-law. He asked him to find the original version of this book and to read the first section in

the preface aloud. While he was reading, the Master was reaffirming the sentences and looking at me to make sure that I understood. After it was finished, he asked: “What is your name?” I replied: “Aydin,” which means “enlightened” in Turkish. The Master said: “That’s a nice name. Very well, then, take this book and translate it into English.” After giving me some literature on the Sufism, some in English, some in Turkish, he added: “Enlighten all around.”

I knew right away then that my contribution to the efforts of this enlightenment process would be less than minimal, since I was myself in search of enlightenment by the Master and other Sufis. Compared with their functions and comprehension of this world, I felt very small.

However, after returning to the States, I felt a strong urge to comply with the Master’s

request. By translating his book, I wanted to take a part, however negligible, in his process of “giving to the world.” Right after the start, I quickly found out how the Master was right about his comment on my reading. This book fortified the foundation I needed for further attempts in comprehending Sufism.

The Master’s speech and his writing style in the original text are lucid and conversational, but there is a difficulty in translating esoteric ontological concepts into English. Therefore, in order to add to the understanding and the translation of the concepts discussed here, efforts were concentrated on the following points:

Translations from the Koran: I have not adhered to any single translation of the Koran, although the best-known translations have been consulted. As elsewhere, I have not hesitated to sacrifice accuracy for clarity where called for.

From Turkish, Arabic, Persian To English: The original of this book is in Turkish, with frequent use of Arabic and Persian words. However, in order to help the reader, I have— except on a few occasions—tried to use Arabic equivalents of the Turkish and Persian words scattered throughout the original text.

Scholarly texts on Sufism are usually peppered with italicized Arabic originals of special terms. This is not without reason, since the original words possess more depth than their English-language equivalents do. In a book such as this one, however, intended as it is for a general readership, it was considered superfluous to include Arabic words when perfectly good counterparts for them could be found in English, by choosing the closest sense in a given context. Hence, this translation contains a minimum amount of Arabic words, and the ones present are generally Sufic technical terms for which the presentation of the Arabic originals is a must. Diacritical marks have been omitted. Technical terms without their originals are indicated by italicizing them or by capitalizing their first letters, especially when they first occur in a text.

In Arabic names, the suffix ‘-1” indicates “from” or “of,” similar to the von in German. For example, Gilani means “of (the town of) Gilan,” Arabi means “of Arabia,” and Misri means “from Misir” (or Egypt—hence “Egyptian”).

Since they occur frequently, those parts of Arabic names denoting family relationships are summarized here for convenience: ibn or ben: “son of,” bint: “daughter of,” abu or abou: “father of,” umm: “mother of.”

Translation of the words “Allah”, “dhikr” and “salat’’: In Islam, “Allah” is the proper name, the personal name of God. In English we use the capitalized form, “God,” to refer to the Deity, who is One. The lower-case form refers to fictitious deities whose existence has been assumed in the previous history of humanity. Even when it indicates one of a kind, however, “God” is still a generic, not a specific, name. There was once only a single specimen of homo sapiens, yet he had a name and it was Adam.

Absolute Reality, being all-encompassing, has both personal and impersonal aspects, but in Islam He is addressed as a person. And “Allah” is the name He has chosen for Himself. He desires, even demands, to be called by this name. This is similar to the way in which the Hebrews address God by the “tetragrammaton,” the unpronounceable YHWH. Although it was forbidden to vocalize this word, we know that they probably pronounced it as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah”.

As an interesting and significant aside, it may be mentioned that this word is also of Arabic origin. According to Professor T. James Meek, author of Hebrew Origins, the name was foreign to the Hebrews, and in their attempts to explain it they associated it with hayah, “to be,” from which they derived the meaning usually ascribed to Yahweh, “I am.” Professor Meek himself deems an origin from the Arabic root HWY, “to blow”, more probable. Thanks to the Master, however, we are now able to give the correct form and meaning: Ya Huwa, which may be translated as “O He,” another name by which God likes to be called in Islam. The third person singular form refers to the absolute transcendence of God, and is the ethically proper form of address in certain contexts. The upshot is that even before Moses, the Arabs already possessed a second name for God of great importance which was adopted by the Hebrews.

But to return to the main line of discussion: Another noteworthy aspect of the name “Allah” is that it carries within it the power of the presence of God, so that many Sufis have achieved an experience of God by constantly calling upon His name. Indeed, “Allah” is the most comprehensive and Supreme Name of God. Hence, God is almost always referred to by the name He prefers, Allah, in the original text. In view of the unfamiliarity of this name to non-Moslem readers, however, the word “God” has been used in its place to express clearly what we mean, in almost all occasions except where it is absolutely unavoidable.

Concerning dhikr, this refers to the continuous repetition of a religious formula, such as one of God’s names discussed above. This may be done either vocally (verbally, externally) or silently (mentally, internally). This technical term has overtones of remembrance, incantation, invocation, and the best way to describe it, perhaps, is as the repetition of a keyword, “keyword” in the present case meaning a sacred word or formula assigned by a perfect master that unlocks the doors of inner space. In order to be consistent, I have tried to use “invocation” for dhikr as far as possible throughout the text.

Salat, which is namadh in Persian, poses a problem in translation that could not finally be resolved here. Although generally translated as “Prayer(s)” into English, it is so different from what is ordinarily meant by the term that an alternative is called for; yet in the end, I had to opt for retaining this customary form of translation. Salat is different from any other kind of worship. One is tempted to call it “Islamic Yoga” in order to convey a sense of its nature to the West, but this too falls miserably short of the mark. Ultimately, the only solution may be for the West to become familiar with these terms, dhikr and salatmamadh, and to use them in the same way—freely and without fear of being grossly misunderstood—as Yoga and Mantra are now used.

Gender problems: Turkish is delightfully free of gender associations in the third person. The singular form, “o”, can mean “he,” “she”’—even “it”. Hence, whenever we are speaking about people, it is automatically understood that both sexes are included. It was impossible to carry this over into English, so it should be realized from the outset that wherever we are not talking specifically about women, “he” also means “she”. The form

“s/he” has been used occasionally, but it is clumsy, as is “his or her”.

The original of this book is basically an anthology, drawn from various sources which remain anonymous except in cases where the author is—most often—a famous Sufi or poet.

Not all selections in the Turkish original lent themselves to translation with equal ease. Some of those in the original had, therefore, to be omitted entirely. Others had to be, not just translated, but also adapted to the English language and Western culture. In return, however, the Master gave permission to use choice texts from his other publications, which an English-speaking readership would, it was hoped, find to be of the greatest benefit and interest. This applies not merely to entire texts, but to portions of texts that have been interspersed into the book where required. Hence, many texts have been substantially rewritten, and even new texts have been added where necessary. This is why the present book is more a new book than a translation, and also why it is not published under the Master’s name.

Another point is that the original book consisted of a mixed anthology. For instance, you would find a relatively accessible text side by side with a highly complex and profound one. In view of the difficulty this would inevitably present for readers already unfamiliar with the subject-matter, the attempt has been made to order the text linearly, and a step- by-step approach has been aimed at—so that if you start at page one and read through the entire book, the chain of reasoning and information should not, as far as possible, be interrupted. In all this, the main concern has been to remain faithful to the spirit, if not necessarily to the letter, of the original. As the chapters are “stand-alone” texts—i.e., intended to be read individually rather than at one sitting—a certain amount of repetition could not be avoided. A subject dealt with briefly in one place is generally expanded upon in other places, but it was thought that cross-references would needlessly complicate matters. Editorial and translation comments have been added as footnotes, within brackets in the main text, or in italics at the beginning and/or end of a text.


Perhaps it will not be apparent to many—and so needs to be stated at the outset—that what we have here is the Mother Lode, the living core, of authentic Sufism. Some of the material here may strike you as familiar, even mundane. Yet tucked away in comers are small nuggets that have been handed down through the ages by the famous Oral Transmission of the Sufis, and have as far as is known never before seen print. The explanation about Ya Huwa above is a case in point. Another is the double Ascension of some prophets described in the Introduction, which, to the best of our knowledge, has never been committed to writing.

The book is organized into roughly three parts. The first part consists mainly of introductory information. The second part, dealing with women, democracy and administration, deals with social subjects and provides sorely-needed answers to some questions. (An earlier chapter, “Social and Ecological Vistas,” would also fall within this group.) The final part deals mainly with Sufism, and thus with matters of a spiritual and mystical nature. A pamphlet by the Master on the subject of world peace is included at the end as an appendix.

Special thanks are due to Tim Thurston and Peter Murphy for their proofreading, suggestions, and invaluable help in bringing the book to its present form, as well as to all others who contributed to it in any way. I am indebted to Mr. Sadettin Zorlutuna for his help in all further details after the completion of the manuscript.

This book introduces many of the concepts of, and forms the background to, the Master’s last major work: The School of Wisdom—soon, it is hoped, to be translated into English.

I find it not inappropriate here to conclude with Professor Ungan’s words:

May the favors of the Reality Most High be with you, the reader, at all times; may He grant the vision to comprehend things as they really are. May the translator be forgiven, if he has made mistakes here, by every party of concern.

H. Bayman

January 1, 1997



“A little science leads one away from God, a great deal of science leads one back to Him.” According to noted historian Paul Johnson, as much as 80 percent of scientists believe in God. Among them have been the greatest scientists the world has ever seen. Scientists who believe in God run through the whole spectrum of scientific disciplines, from physics, which studies the external world, to psychology, which studies the inner world of man.

Albert Einstein, one of the greatest physicists of the twentieth century and certainly the most famous, remarked: “The Lord God is subtle, but malicious he is not.” On another occasion, he explained his faith as follows: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science...

“To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in the most primitive forms—this feeling is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the ranks of the devoutly religious men...

“Tt is enough for me... to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we can dimly perceive, and to try humbly to comprehend even an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifested in nature.”

In Einstein’s vision, the Lord God manifests Himself in nature with the highest wisdom, the greatest beauty, and with infinite intelligence, subtly but not maliciously. And true religiosity is the source of all true art and science. It takes a scientist of Einstein’s stature to recognize the deep beauty, profound order, and magnificent intelligence manifested in “blind nature.”

Einstein was firmly of the opinion that “God does not play dice with the universe.” His detractors on this point, Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, were the founders of the “Copenhagen school” of quantum mechanics, which favored a probabilistic interpretation of quantum events. Yet in relation to God, Bohr and Heisenberg, too, found it necessary to speak of “the central order of the universe,” for probability, too, has its mathematical laws—so much so, in fact, that the illustrious mathematician John von Neumann—who also helped invent the modern computer—once remarked: “Probability is black magic.” There are laws that govern even chance, and all order, and all laws of mathematics— including laws of probability—and of science, are the design of the Divine Lawgiver.

On the other end of the spectrum, Carl Gustav Jung, the psychologist who delved deepest into the human unconscious in the twentieth century, replied to the question: “Do you now believe in God?” as follows: “I know. I do not need to believe. I know.” In other words, Jung did not simply believe; he knew God exists. In the face of such testimony, the efforts of those who strive to deny God are puny and misinformed. Just how puny is


highlighted by Jung’s following remark: “A man can know less about God than an ant can know of the contents of the British Museum.”

The founders of modern science—Kepler, Descartes, Barrow, Leibniz, Gilbert, Boyle, Newton, etc.—were all deeply and genuinely religious thinkers, for whom God was the chief mathematician, beyond rigid scholastic frames and more mystical and Pythagorean in nature. Both Newton—the father of British empiricism—and Descartes—the originator of French rationalism—were profoundly religious thinkers. The same view of God as chief mathematician has been shared by eminent scientists in our century. “From the intrinsic evidence of His creation,” wrote the renowned physicist James Jeans, “the Great Architect begins to appear as a pure mathematician.” Paul Dirac, the Nobel prizewinning quantum physicist and discoverer of antimatter, observed: “God is a mathematician of a very high order, and He used very advanced mathematics in constructing the universe.”

The views of all these scientists—and many others—have encouraged us to write this book. Alfred North Whitehead, the great mathematician and philosopher, expressed his thoughts as follows: “Religion is the vision of something which stands beyond, behind, and within, the passing flux of immediate things; something which is real, and yet waiting to be realized; something which is a remote possibility, and yet the greatest of present facts; something that gives meaning to all that passes, yet eludes apprehension; something whose possession is the final good, and yet beyond all reach; something which is the ultimate ideal, and the hopeless quest.”

On this last point, we would beg to differ with Whitehead. The final good is not beyond all reach, and the quest is not hopeless. For the mystics, as Josiah Royce said, “are the most thorough going empiricists in the history of philosophy”, and Sufism represents the summit of mysticism. And just as there is physical science, there also exists such a thing as “spiritual science.” There exists a religion, moreover, where religion and science— knowledge of the inner world and knowledge of the external world—do not clash, but complement each other.

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Even though we live at the peak of technological civilization—with air travel, skyscrapers and the Internet—the world we live in constitutes a spiritual desert.

Man’s scientific and technological capabilities have been stretched to the utmost. Yet his emotional life has become progressively stultified, his moral life increasingly barren.

But this is not the true stature of man. A man is a complete organism in which all the parts are equally important. And when it is fine-tuned, this totality is the most wonderful thing in the universe, with a destiny that beggars the imagination.

The brain itself is sold short under these circumstances. We treat it as a machine for

reasoning, and nothing more. Yet if the human totality were to be developed harmoniously, that is in a truly holistic manner, then we would discover abilities of the


brain that, in our present deplorable condition, cannot even be guessed at. This lopsided development stands in need of correction. We need to achieve a balance that will fulfill more—ideally, all—of our potentials, and if we are able to do so, we will be happy, for happiness lies in the realization of the purposes for which we have been designed.

This does not entail throwing our present achievements to the winds. We need not forsake our knowledge, our technology, or our civilization. Nor need we become hermits and live in a mountain cave. What needs to be done is to bring our neglected aspects up to a par with those which are already highly developed. In terms of the human entity, the focus for this is the heart and the spirit. In social and ecological terms, it is morality, or ethical conduct. The fact that we have seldom realized, however, is that these two are coupled, to an extent that one cannot exist without the other. Moreover, moral conduct is the foundation, the infrastructure, for the elevation of the spirit. No spiritual improvement is possible without salutary conduct.

Traditionally, these fields have fallen within the domain of religion. Many of us have distanced ourselves from religion, and rightly so. But even if we were justified in doing so for a variety of reasons, this still does not justify throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Suppose we had thrown out our reason and knowledge in a similar way— where would we be now? “Science without religion is lame,” Albert Einstein said; “religion without science is blind.” Man needs both.

The truth is that we have become alienated from our spirits. And this estrangement has progressed to such an extent that some of us even deny that we possess spirits at all. But the spirit is nothing but that which animates the body. To say that spirit does not exist in a living being is like saying that a radio or TV set can work without electricity. Suppose a man born blind came to you and said: “Eyesight cannot exist, because I have never experienced its existence.” Would you believe him? Philosopher David Hume claimed that he had conducted lengthy introspection and could not find any trace of man’s soul. But in order to find something, one first has to look in the proper place, and in the right way.

Nasruddin Hodja (also know as Mullah Nasruddin, the humorous sage of the Middle East) was once looking for something in the middle of the street. He was down on all fours, searching. A man who knew him came by, and asked him what he was looking for. “T’ve lost a key,” the Hodja replied. So the man began to help him. After a while, though, unable to find anything, the man asked: “Hodja, where did you say you dropped the key?” “Down in the basement of my house,” the Hodja said.

The man laughed. “Why, Hodja,” he exclaimed, “in that case we’re looking in the wrong place. Why aren’t we looking in your basement instead?” “Ah,” said the Hodja, “it’s too dark in my basement. This is where the light is.”

But if we deny even the existence of the spirit, then we are certainly bound never to find

it. Because if we believe a thing does not exist, of course there is no need even to go looking for it, so the possibility of discovering—or recovering—it is reduced to zero.


Those who haven’t the slightest inkling of what the spirit is tell us: “Spirit does not exist,” and we believe them. Those who haven’t the slightest notion about God tell us God does not exist, and we believe them too. Clearly, if we choose a crow as our guide, our noses are sure never to be free of mud.

Man is an amphibious creature. He lives in the material world with his body and in the spiritual world with his soul. A person shorn of one aspect cannot soar, any more than a bird with one wing can fly.

We have starved the heart—not the physical heart, but its emotional and spiritual counterpart—of nourishment, until it has entered suspended animation. And we have denied sustenance to the spirit, until it has fallen into a coma. At this point, it is easy for a doctor to come in and, confusing the lack of signs of life with absence of the source itself, to pronounce the patient dead. Yet the heart and the spirit, in spite of their apparent lifelessness, are neither dead nor nonexistent; they await our tender loving care in order to be revived—they live dormant, waiting for spring.

We have this civilization that we have built up with our own hands. Its material achievements are unmatched in recorded history. And yet it is a civilization where we have failed to complement our material progress with moral—and, by implication, spiritual—progress. We have conquered outer space whilst forgetting and deserting our inner space. And because we have failed to strike this balance, the whole edifice is trembling uncontrollably before our very eyes, as evidenced in even the everyday media. The building, shaken by an earthquake, threatens disintegration.

It is no use to lament when a man goes into a school and butchers a bunch of innocent children, nor does it make sense to brand the act as evil and let it go at that. What we witness today is the plaster falling from the ceiling. In thirty years we have regressed, from people being left lying helpless in the streets, to serial killers whose achievements are reminiscent more of war than of crime, and the spread of violence from the United States to Europe and Japan until there’s no safe place left. What is needed is a solution. We need a methodology that can be practiced by everyone, and if everyone sweeps his doorstep, the whole city will be spic and span.

For the first time in history we have a civilization that is truly global. Furthermore, all the knowledge and, more importantly, all the wisdom distilled drop by golden drop by all the civilizations in history, are at our fingertips, if only we would choose to avail ourselves of them. We need a faith that is truly global to complete our global civilization—a faith that takes into account and coordinates all the religions of the past. In its absence, our metropolises and all our accomplishments will sink into a quicksand of violence, ruthlessness, and destruction.

We think that intelligence, which we value so highly, is centered in the mind. The Sufi sages, however, held (and continue to hold) a different view. Like the ancient Chinese and Egyptians, they considered true intelligence to be based in the heart; according to them all, the seat of the intellect was not the mind, nor indeed the heart alone, but the


“heartmind.” We have severed the connection between the mind and the heart, and as long as it is not reestablished, all our attempts to achieve wisdom will be in vain.

Many have lamented a world that has not only differentiated but polarized the mind and the heart, so that the two are mutually exclusive. This schizoid split between reason and emotion has yielded precisely what one would expect: uncontrolled oscillation between the poles of heartlessness and mindlessness. Either we have hard-boiled rationalism and science, which exclude affection and spirit altogether, or mediums, fortune-tellers, spiritualism, and similar fringe beliefs, which require us to throw away our rationality and intellect. Whereas all the while, what we need is a harmonious synthesis of the mind and heart.

The emergence of fringe cults calls to mind the end of another great civilization: that of Rome. That civilization did not go out with a bang but with a whimper, though we may not have even that option left open to us. Historians are still debating the reasons for the fall of Roman civilization, for these are by no means as clear-cut as we would like them to be. The result was the Dark Ages. But today we cannot afford to give up our present civilization, for the cost would be far too great. If this civilization goes, humanity goes with it.

Can we have the best of both worlds? Can we both save this civilization, and carry it to loftier heights? The answer to both questions is: yes.

In the hectic rush of modern life, few of us have the time or the resources to carry out a prolonged investigation of religions. For this reason, most of us rely on hearsay or superficial impressions in judging a religion. The problem is compounded by two other factors. First, the differences between religions are not matters on which the poorly informed layman can easily pass judgment. And second, what a religion demands of its adherents and what those all-too-human adherents do in real life are two different things. The merits of a religion should be judged on the basis of its precepts, not on the failures or inabilities of its followers. Yet at the same time, a religion should cause a noticeable improvement in the average person who practices it to an average degree. This may be difficult, though not impossible, to assess.

A religion may be broadly termed a system of beliefs. But the acid test of a belief is the actions that derive from it. If a person claims to believe one thing and yet acts otherwise, it is the action and not the belief that is valid. Actions speak louder than words. If a person says one thing and does another, his claims do not count—his true belief is whatever leads to that sort of action. “Deeds are a person’s mirror, mere claims do not heed; the level of one’s intellect is apparent in one’s work.” If actions and beliefs are in synch with each other, then we can truly say that a person lives according to the lights of his faith. As Rumi, the mystic, rightly said: “Either appear as you are, or be as you appear to be.”

In what follows we would like to look at a faith that, if implemented correctly, is a foolproof algorithm for success and happiness. If a person applies it properly, that person


will succeed. If a nation applies it correctly, that nation will succeed. Look closely at people and nations that have been successful, and you will discover that they have applied a small subset of the precepts of this faith. Look at those that have failed, and you will find that they have failed to apply those precepts, even, in some cases, in spite of their claim to profess that very faith.

Untruth can only lead to error. Even those tenets which at first glance one would regard as metaphysical are true, for metaphysical principles, if pursued long enough, will lead to concrete outcomes in even the physical world. We are all metaphysicians, without knowing it. The illiterate peasant who takes a simple step is unconsciously assuming the continuity of spacetime—a metaphysical principle that happens to be borne out by events.

By now many of us have experimented with a variety of religions and philosophies. Some have appealed to us more than others. Yet the big one still eludes us—or rather, we elude it. Many accounts of Sufism have been published in the West, but without making allowance for cultural differences. When we try to understand something, we should avoid the danger of pigeonholeing it—of placing it into our collection of well-known and well-understood categories. This is reductionism, and once you reduce something to another thing, it ceases to be the original. Once you dissect a cat, it becomes a dead cat. The difference between life and death is all the difference in the world.

For a long time, our attention in the West has been focused on the religions and philosophies of the East. This is not an error. Instead, it points to the fact that Western minds have correctly diagnosed the problem, and are looking for a solution in the right place. Then where have we gone wrong? And why haven’t we been successful in finding a solution?

The answer is that we have tried to temper the extreme rationalism, materialism and mechanism of the West by the equally arid spirituality, nontheism, and asceticism of the East. Herein lies the crux of the problem. Aware that sitting at one end of the seesaw has landed us in a fix, we seek salvation by going overboard and trying to sit on the other end (or, if you wish, by jumping from one pan of the scales into the other). But the seesaw will then be as unbalanced as it was originally. From the mind we seek to go over to the heart, yet the heart by itself is as helpless as the mind in isolation. What is needed is a synthesis —in order to balance the seesaw, we need to go over to the middle, not to one or the other extreme. We need a system that equally embraces our materiality and our spirituality; that synthesizes our hearts and our minds—and even then, without the presence of God the two are still empty. What we need is not a compromise, as between water and oil which do not mix, but a synthesis, like that of hydrogen and oxygen, which combine to yield water—the sparkling water of life, a substance entirely different from oxygen or hydrogen taken alone. We need to fuse the good of the West with the good of the East. Today we have the opportunity to build on the