The Introduction of Signs on the Horizons

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is adapted from Signs on the Horizons by Shaykh Michael Sugich.

“I have often wondered why I have had the great good fortune to have come into contact with these men.  I am as worldly as the next person and have done nothing to merit their attention.  I am not particularly adventurous.  I am not overly religious or contemplative.  I am neither a scholar nor a saint.  On reflection, I have come to the conclusion that my contact with these great men has been in direct proportion to my sense of distress, helplessness and need.

The 18th century Sufi, Shaykh ‘Ali al-Jamal (q.s.), said, ‘If people knew how many secrets and benefits are to be found in need, they would have no other need than to be in need.’

His successor, the sublime shaykh, Mawlay al-‘Arabi ad-Darqawi (q.s.) wrote, ‘Distress is nothing but intensity of need,’ and ‘There is no doubt that, for men of God, their best moment is a moment of distress, for this is what fosters their growth.’  He referred to al-Hikam of Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah as-Sakandari (q.s.), saying, ‘The best of your moments is that in which you are aware of your distress and thrown back upon your own helplessness,’ and continued, ‘it may be that in distress you will find benefits that you have been unable to find either in prayer or in fasting.’

Of course, we hate distress in our lives.  We avoid it like the plague.  I know I do.  But it is in times of trouble, when we exhaust all our options and are forced to turn to God in extreme need, that we approach the Essence of Reality.  One of the saints profiled in this volume, Mawlay Abu al-Qasim (q.s.) would say to us that there is nothing God Loves more than His slave, helpless, weeping, with hands outstretched in supplication.  He said this with tears of yearning in his eyes.  Perhaps I have a greater sense of helplessness and need than many even though on the surface of things I appear to be strong and my life has been comfortable and relatively trouble free.  When my sense of need has been strongest, these men have appeared in my life, like Divine Instruments.  When my feeling of helplessness has diminished and given way to a sense of empowerment and complacency or when I have been overcome by my passions and worldly concerns, these men have receded from my life and I miss them terribly.

When the Sufi, Shaykh Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadzili (q.s.) was asked why he did not write books, he replied, ‘My companions are my books.’  Most of the men described in this volume are Sufis.  Almost every one of them has been disciplined and guided – ‘written’ – by a spiritual master.  This volume is a personal celebration of this process.”


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