Passing the Bread

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

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

“On certain occasions he would sing qaswa’id, sometimes while leading a hadhrah.  His voice was unearthly, the most celestial voice I have ever heard, as if the song he sang was emanating from the ethers; he seemed never to take a breath.  In the center of a hadhrah, he had the grace of a leopard.  At the end of a hadhrah, his eyes brimmed with tears, his heart heaved, as if he had been sucked into a vortex of luminous divinity and returned absorbed in an indescribable passion.

He was the first human being that gave me certainty of the Path.  He was a proof of the vibrant reality of Islam for me and his memory has kept me within the Way for 40 years.  He combined all the aspects of a Man of God – sobriety, intoxication, serenity, compassion, subtlety, love, knowledge, wisdom, humility and strength.

For all his gentleness, and he was one of the gentlest men I have ever encountered, he could be fierce.  One afternoon during a meal, I watched him closely.  He ate very little – three balls of couscous – during a meal.  However, it was almost impossible to recognise this. Had I not been following his every move, I would have assumed he was eating as heartily as the rest of those at the table.  There was nothing ostentatious about his abstinence.  I had observed that he always passed food to whoever sat to his right.  This was a practice of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).  The adab, or spiritual courtesy, in response to such an action is to accept any food offered, particularly by an elder.  Whenever I was able to sit to his right hand side during a meal, I eagerly took the bread he passed to me.

On this occasion, toward the end of the meal, he passed some bread to the faqir on his right hand.  This faqir was dominating the table talk.  In the aftermath of the hadhrah, an intoxicating lightness pervades the atmosphere and it is very easy to allow levity to overtake the sobriety of the act of remembrance.  The man on his right hand was a little carried away and talking too much.  When the bread was passed to him, he pushed it back to Mawlay Abu al-Qassim, pointing to his stomach, saying something to the effect that he had eaten enough and could not possibly have more.  He was being polite but he was, in the context of the gathering, behaving with a lack of adab.  I paid close attention to Mawlay Abu al-Qassim.  He looked at the bread and moved it back in front of his neighbour.  The man continued his conversation, smiled and insisted that he really could not take the bread.  He pushed it back.

Mawlay Abu al-Qassim looked silently at the bread for a moment and in one powerful motion, grabbed his neighbour’s wrist, lifted his arm, put the bread in the man’s hand and closed his fingers over it, staring fiercely into his eyes.  He then quietly resumed eating, leaving the fellow stunned and with a powerful lesson in the small spiritual courtesies of Sufism, which lie at the core of the practice.”


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