I first read about the Sufi sage in a bookstore in 1997. I sat for hours on the carpet of Borders store in the world trade center and I read chapters of his beautiful book “The Mysticism of Sound and Music” which I ended up purchasing.
Innately, Music for me has been one of those experiences that made me wonder about the beauty of the Unseen. As a child, with my intrigue for Music, I studied classical piano so over time uncovering how harmonious Sound was a combination of mathematics and aesthetic made me view Music as an intangible octave of the Creation. In turn I perceived the material Creation as the tangible phase of Music, they were one. In hindsight, all these perfect mysteries evoked by the spirituality of Music truly connected me to Islam. Once I realized Surrender, I renounced my desire to pursue the Art of Music. It felt as though the desire itself had vanished although I still loved Music, I no longer was consumed with the thought of pursuing it, it seemed that instead I longed to pursue only its Source. Then one day, suddenly I started writing as an impulse… in doing it, I eventually found Poetry, Painting and Music again!
Hazrat Inayat Khan’s words in the book verified in me the grace of “Renunciation”, it was a great feeling to read someone else (a sage-musician at that) stating that it was really okay, even natural to let go of an activity we cherish, it actually can be a veil to the greatest Wonder.
Said Nursi was a Turkish scholar of outstanding capabilities for learning. He earned the name Bediuzzaman (Wonder of the Age) in youth. He led a life of self-sacrifice for the sake of Islam at a time when the Ottoman empire’s collapse ushered in repressive anti-religious policies from the new government. In 1925 he was sent into exile and imprisonment for the next 25 years of his life. During that time of persecution at the hands of governmental authorities, he went through deep spiritual transformations. He wrote beautiful poetry and a body of work including the masterpiece Risale-i Nur,the Treatise of Light. Said Nursi writings elaborate on the truths of the Holy Qur’an which awaken man to contemplation of the Universe, its functioning and signs. This contemplation thus opens him up to his true nature, to the purpose of the Creation and to the attributes of the Unique Creator. Said Nursi taught that this realization helps defeat the ills that plague mankind.
“Now I see clearly that most of my life has been directed in such a way, outside my own free-will, ability, comprehension and foresight that it might produce these treatises to serve the cause of the Qur’an. It is as if all my life as a scholar had been spent in preliminaries to these writings, which demonstrate the miraculousness of the Qur’an”
– Said Nursi
Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba was a Senegalese Muslim saint who is renowned for his resistance to the imperialism and oppression of the French colonizers. The weapons he used for resistance were his knowledge and piety for which the French authority persecuted him. He was subjected to confinement and all sorts of injustices including exile in Gabon and Mauritania for a total of 32 years. One famous episode of the cruelty he endured at the hands of the oppressors is the one where while imprisoned in a cell, he was thrown a lion so it could devour him. To their great surprise the lion looked at him and gently sat by his side. His devotion to The Divine and his love for prophet Muhammad (saw) are tangible through his writings. I must say that his sayings and poems are of a soothing depth. In 1927, after years of retribution, the French finally recognized him as a holy man and awarded him the cross of “legion d’honneur” which he turned down as he wanted validation from only God.
Some of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba’s Sayings:
“I have received an order from my Lord to guide the people toward God, The Most High. Those who want to thread this path just have to follow me. For the rest, who are only looking for education, there are enough men of letters who are available throughout the country.”
“They accused me of doing the Jihad (Struggle), which I fully agree with. But the weapons through which I am doing it are science and piety. The Lord by excellence is my witness.”
“The undeserved favors that I have had from Allah (swt) can no longer be counted in this Universe and in this is my happiness.”
I pleasantly came across the beautiful Indian saint‘s autobiography one day “by accident” in a bookstore. I was about 23 years old with a great longing for answers to my inner Quest. Born to a Muslim father and thus in Islam, I was raised with the moral and traditional values of Islam.
When I found out about Yogananda’s work, I had already studied the Bhagavad Gita so I was yet familiar with certain Indian spiritual and cultural notions. What I enjoyed the most while reading “Autobiography of a Yogi” was the moving description of Yogananda‘s quest for the Divine from childhood, his first meeting with his spiritual master, his practice of Kriya Yoga, its benefits and the tradition through which it was revealed.
After having read the whole book with its striking motherly charged energy, I was clearly encouraged to formally embrace the practice of Islam. I then realized that the manifestation and work of saints transcend the notion of “religions” as conceived by the mundane.
Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov was a French philosopher, pedagogue, mystic of Bulgarian descent. I first discovered his work in childhood. At the time, my dear mother collected his books. With the influence of my elder brother Roland, my attention for Omraam’s work grew. He was the first sage I read. I can remember that at a young age, the sight of his picture on the back cover of his books always intrigued me because he looked unusually peaceful and harmonious. His words moved me by their quietness and profundity; they had a simplicity that was pleasing to my young mind! It is almost as if he was expressing himself in that way so that even children could comprehend him. His work resonated in me because he exceptionally expressed faith in the youth, he always stressed how important it was to be one’s true, higher self and to honor one’s purpose even if it implied going against the grain.