The Sufi Way

Dear Mom,

I haven’t made it to Khane much at all like I thought I would. I find it hard to get through even one Du’a (prayer) without just being in a bucket of tears. There are smells and words and sounds and textures- even holding a tasbih in my hand- that are so you. They remind me of you. And this should be a good thing. But they also remind me that you are not here to be the barer of them. And that weighs too heavy on my heart. So instead of solace, sometime being in our place of prayer makes me so overly emotional.

Don’t get me wrong. I think I have written this before, but what our faith and the culture you brought us in has taught me is invaluable. I feel so grateful to know that I could go to any country in the world, and if I walk into a Khane, I will be welcomed and be made a part of a community because of this commonality – a belief system- that we share or at least grew up in.

The problem is that I have so many questions. I have so many misunderstandings or “un-understandings” about the words and rituals and protocols we just follow. But I feel like I am following them blindly because I don’t have a good sense of what they mean or stand for. I do want to learn better. I want to learn not just for myself, but to teach others, especially my nieces, your granddaughters. I know they have questions too, and I want to help them find the answers, but also encourage them to find their own answers, and make their own choices. Faith should not be forced on anyone. It’s very meaning- belief- is about what we feel inside. And I want to feel a closer tie to this faith you so lovingly made a part of our lives. I want to do this also to feel a closer connection to you.

And sure, I haven’t been practising our usual Ismaili ways for years, in terms of customs or going to khane. But I think in my heart and the way I live and the way I treat people shows that I have those values in me.

And I found another way to delve deeper into Islam, through something that resonates more with me- Sufism.  Remember when I came back from that Sufism school that one day? I went to it somewhere on Lonsdale. And I told you about it that night or the next day. And you were so excited. I was excited too. But it was a little overwhelming for. But that and of course all those poems by Rumi, and my fascination with mysticism has just planted this seed in me that I think is my “ticket” into an Islam that connects with me.

Thank you for being so excited for me, Mom. I remember the way your face lit up when I told you about it. You didn’t know much about Sufism, as far as I could tell. But you were pretty charged up about finding me books or helping me learn more about it.

Well, guess what? I am now, Mom. I’ve been taking this online course called The Sufi Way of the Beloved.  It’s by Andrew Harvey, the author whose book I got sent in the mail. I think I have written to you about that recently. Well, he is a passionate speaker. And I was so drawn to his passion and the way he spoke about literature and spirituality and passion and … He had this one line in his description of the course. He said something about Sufism being transfused into your veins, and that just had me.

I have to admit, I have found a lot of the information quite overwhelming. It is a lot to take in and some of it, I don’t quite understand. Or maybe I have just never been a great listener to one voice speaking continuously for long periods of time. I need visuals. I need to read the words. I need to stop and think about them or discuss them. Otherwise, they all become a blur.

But each week, I took another line or another concept, or another piece of history or something that intrigued me with me. And it added up until last week where I just had goosebumps for the whole hour as Andrew spoke about Rumi. I think he is right. The other lessons and talks were leading me to Rumi. Rumi is my in to spirituality, to Islam, to getting back to my connection with my faith. And I am hoping it will help me find a connection to you.

I actually called in to the talk afterwards, and spoke to Andrew live over the internet. I told him about you. I told him about what I was struggling with, what my intentions with the course were. And he reminded me of something it sounds like Rumi taught him, or at least consolidated in him- that there is no death, really. That we are connected still. And that I can find that connection through honoring my name- Tasleem, which I know means surrender. And this is the reason I was so fascinated with Sufism in the first place, Mom. I never got a chance to tell you how after I learned what my name meant, I also found out that the Sufis believed that surrender was the highest attainment that someone to achieve.

And that has been my goal ever since- to live up to my name. To surrender to life, to love, to God.  I just never knew that I’d be doing this without you physically here. Or at least not this soon. But Andrew gave me some wise words of wisdom. He listened with so much compassion and gave me so much hope.

Thank you, Mom, for honouring our faith and being so full of faith. Thank you for being such a beautiful role model of spirituality. Thank you for bringing me up with this as my grounding. I am sorry that I may have never really showed much appreciation for it. But I was feeling lost in it. Not quite understanding it. But I am wanting to learn. It may be through a different route that most, or than you went through or that I expected. But I think this is more me- poetry, mysticism, dance, surrender, passion, and love. When I think of these qualities as being so embedded in Islam, that gets me excited.

And I am going to use this to get more in touch with you. I will try to update you with what I learn along the way.  The Sufi Way.  It is kind of intriguing, and magical, and gives me hope that something truly beautiful will come out of this not just for me, but also for you and me together.

Love you, Mom.

 

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Look at the Water- ‘Duhryo Nar’

Dear Mom,

“Duhryo nar, Tas!”  Remember you always used to say that, especially when we were crossing over the bridge?  I do. I remember it now everytime I am near water.  Your voice saying “Look at the water, Tas!”  I wish I could hear that voice in real time all over again. But what does that even mean anymore- ‘real’ time? 😦

I used to get so annoyed because usually, I was driving when you’d tell me to look at the ocean. And I would be thinking, Mom, I can’t look right now. I need to keep my eyes on the road.  But guess what? I find myself sneaking a peak now everytime I go over any bridges.  I try to take a look for you.  You were right- it’s always worth even a second to glance at. And now I remember how excited you got when you saw the water. You seemed so in awe of it and this happiness and calm would just spread all across your face as you looked over at the waves and the boats and the beauty of it.

It’s funny though, that I don’t think you were much for being in the actual water. I don’t remember you loving being in pools or even dipping your feet in sand or the ocean. But I know you did come to a few, if not all, of my swimming lessons with me (Okay, I know there weren’t many since I can hardly swim now as an adult). But I wish I could thank you for putting yourself in an environment I know you weren’t that comfortable in just to help me learn and make me comfortable- knowing you were there with me.   I wish that you had been given more time as a child yourself, and as an adult, to just play and enjoy the water and the waves and to float on the water weightless and carefree.

I live only a few blocks from the beach and seawall now, the one that we grew up near. I have to admit that I don’t go out there enough- to walk and just soak in the fresh ocean air.  But when I do, I always make sure I stop in front of the water. I make sure I look out at the ocean, and take it all in with thoughts of you. Your appreciation for its vastness, its beauty and maybe it’s connection to God and the Universe. There must be something going right if we are blessed with such beautiful nature around us, right?

It makes me feel appreciative of my surroundings but also reminds me of how small we are. How small I am.  How there is still so much I don’t understand. And how some things are really out of our control.  That feeling is both a relief and causes me fear as well.  I still want to know where you went, what the Universe’s plan was in taking you so suddenly, and who is looking after you now.  Are you a part of the wind and ocean and air?

Do you finally get to float and move around freely without pain or sadness or heaviness around you?  Are you surrounded now by your own beautiful scenes like the ocean and birds that you loved so much here while you were with us?  How do I find you amongst all of this vastness? It seems so big and overwhelming, but I know I keep looking for you somehow. I don’t think I will ever stop until I get a sure sign that you are okay. And even then, I still need you in my life somehow.  I don’t know how or in what capacity, but I do need you, Mom. And you will always be my mom. The best one I could have ever asked for.