"Come into This Fire; It Will Not Burn You"

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is taken from “The Knowing Heart: A Sufi Path of Transformation” by Shaykh Kabir Helminski.

A dervish is an apprentice, one who is learning the profession that will provide eternal livelihood.  This profession is still taught in certain schools of higher learning.  While there are many skills that can be self-taught or learned alone, the skills of dervishhood are learned by being in relationship to a shaykh, or a guide, and within a spiritual family, a Sufi circle.  There will always be much to learn on one's own, through one's own efforts, and within one's own understanding.  The final responsibility, of course, lies with ourselves, and in reality there is no intermediary between us and our Rabb.  And yet one can no more become a dervish alone that one can become a lover alone.

People will dedicate the whole of their lives to becoming an accomplished musician or a professional athlete.  In doing so they will have to organise the whole of their lives around this one master desire.  A dervish is one who has made Truth his or her master desire and is willing to bring all other desires and aims into alignment with this aim.  It is possible to make Sufism a pastime, one interest among others, but that does not make one a dervish.  It is fine to read widely and become acquainted with various traditions, but to be a Sufi is much more than to have a preference for reading Sufi books or listening to Sufi music.

The price of being a dervish is one's whole life, a total commitment of one's life energies.  Fortunately, in our tradition it does not mean the abandonment of a productive and socially useful livelihood, nor the renunciation of marriage and family, but it does mean that everything we are involved with will be understood and arranged from the perspective of our essential spiritual intention.  Certain lifestyles may not be consistent with our intention; certain forms of livelihood may not be appropriate in light of the more stringent requirements of remembering Allah (s.w.t.) with each breath.  We may find that we not asked to sacrifice everything, that the Way does not contradict our essential humanity.  We may discover that God is the Friend, a Patient, Generous and Compassionate Friend, but gradually we learn that we ourselves must withhold nothing.

To become a dervish, we pledge ourselves to a shaykh and a lineage.  This reaches hand over hand all the way to Allah (s.w.t.).  Our pledge, our obedience, our commitment is to Allah (s.w.t.), and the shaykh is a link.  Why should there be any intermediary at all?  This is a very good question.  Actually there is no intermediary if the shaykh is a real shaykh and if one's pledge is sincere.  The shaykh actually is the evidence of Allah’s (s.w.t.) Mercy and Generosity, making grace more tangible, more immediate.  The shaykh does not gather power or privilege for himself or herself but is the servant of the yearning of the dervish's heart.  The shaykh may also be the challenger of the dervish's egoism, calling us to surpass our timidity, our fears, our comfortable complacency.  The shaykh may be the one to say, “Come into this fire; it will not burn you.”


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