Know the one thing you need to do

“You have a duty to perform. Do anything else, do a number of things, occupy your time fully, and yet, if you do not do this task, all your time will have been wasted.” Rumi

Rumi implies that when we were born, we chose a particular purpose for our life. In turn, we were blessed with a unique gift — the ability to accomplish that mission.

This purpose is entrenched in our core. However, when we entered the world, we were attracted to the “toys” of life. They dazzled and tempted us, and we gradually became lost in their illusion. We became comfortable with worldly temptations and forgot our mission and promise.

We spend our days and nights working hard to accomplish a million and one things, but we have to remember that, if we do not perform the purpose we were born to carry out, our mission is incomplete. If we perform this one task, we have done all; but if we fail in this, we have missed all. Finding our purpose and connecting with our soul enables us to realize our potential.

How do we find our promise and calling? The Sufis affirm that there are many paths to the same truth. While there is no one particular way for each seeker to fulfill his purpose in life, connecting with the spirit is essential to finding purpose. One way of doing this is by slowing down and spending time in reflection, contemplation, and meditation.

Another way of finding our calling is to imagine we are on our deathbed today and to ask ourselves what our regrets would be. This will tell us what, in the final analysis, is really important to us. Or, imagine that we have won a 20- million-dollar lottery. What kind of work would we then do? This will reveal to us what work is really important. These practices will gradually help us to clarify our inner reality.

What is the point of expending our energy if we are not enjoying what we are doing or feeling fulfilled? If we are finding that there is something amiss in our motivation, drive, or happiness, then it is time for more reflection and a more directed search for our inner self — a search for the one thing that we need to do.

The Sufis say that there is a difference between spending a night with a lover and a night with a toothache. Spending time without purpose is like spending time with a toothache, whereas spending time with purpose is like spending time with a lover. When we work without purpose, we are aimlessly going through life, and we experience pain and frustration. When we are working with purpose, we are passionate and excited.

It takes time to find our calling, but this work is important. Some describe it as being as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack. The route to our calling is embedded deep inside each one of us. It is work we have to do on our own as we are all unique and come with our own individual strengths.

When we know the one thing we must do while we are here in this physical world, we have found our purpose.

(Excerpt from the book, The One Minute Sufi by Azim Jamal)

Life is a precious gift

“Life is a precious gift and a bridge to the next life.” Sufi Saying

We have been blessed with life as a gift and a bridge to the next life. But to get ready for the next life, we have to live a spiritually centered life and let go of our obsessions. Each obsession that we relinquish allows us to experience life at a more spiritual level.

A child must be weaned from his mother’s breast to expose him to different tastes of food. As time passes, we realize we must be weaned from the material world until the day comes when we experience true reality.

Life is a precious gift — a gift that comes with responsibility. With this blessing, we are expected to use our talents to make the world a better place, to live an ethical and well-balanced life, and to prepare for the spiritual life, which is eternal.

Agakhan III in his memoirs writes, “Life is a great and noble calling; it is not a mean and groveling thing to be shuffled through as best as you can, but a lofty and exalted destiny.”

In our daily lives, we need to ask ourselves: Are we using our time in a way that reflects a great and noble calling and paves the way to a lofty and exalted destiny? If not, what do we need to do to refocus and to be on this path?

The bridge to the next life is described by some Sufis as narrow and full of obstacles. It is a bridge that is hard to cross. But the rewards and the joy of being on this path outweigh all the difficulties.

Search in the right place

“You search for the one who is with you. You look for the looker closer to you than you. Don’t rush outside. Thaw like melting ice and wash yourself away.” Jalaluddin Rumi

The key to spiritual fulfillment and inner peace is inside us, not outside. The Sufi Nasrudin speaks of a man who had lost his keys and was looking for them in the street. A friend joined him in his search, but they were unsuccessful. The friend then asked the man where he had lost his keys. The man replied that he had lost them at home. When asked why he was looking for the keys out in the street, his simple reply was that there was more light in the street.

We are looking for the keys to spirituality and inner happiness in bright places, not in the right ones. The right place is within us. The Sufis say, seek within and you will find it. Meditation can connect us to this place of illumination inside ourselves. We mistakenly seek meaning in life outside ourselves. Eventually, when we achieve inner meaning, we realize it is within us, not without.

When the Sufi saint Rabi’a heard Salih of Qazwin teaching, “Knock and the door will open for you,” she admonished him by saying, “What are you talking about, Salih? The door has never been shut.”

We shut the door with an illusory bolt. Through relaxation, silence, and meditation we may unlock the door which, in fact, was never really locked. When we search within, we are searching in the right place.

(Excerpt from the book, The One Minute Sufi by Azim Jamal)

Making a Difference

Making a difference does not only refer to doing some grand things but also to doing the small everyday things that affect people’s lives. Every encounter is an opportunity to make a difference, and the Sufi does not lose this opportunity. The Sufi makes a difference by what he says and how he conducts himself

Service is on a higher level than even prayer. Service is faith in action and the translation of the prayer in daily life. Without action, prayers are not enough. As Sadi says, “The path is the service of others, not prayer beads and dervish robes.”

We are here in this world for a short period of time. We come empty-handed and return to our origin empty-handed. The only thing that we take with us is the contribution that we have made to the society we live in. The true source of making a difference is love.

A person walked past a beggar and asked, “Why God, do you not do something for these people?” God replied, “I did do something. I made you.”

When we see each other as integral parts of who we are as individuals, there is no “you” or “I” anymore. This leads to oneness with God. When we help someone, we are helping ourselves. It is like a movement of water in the ocean — and we are part of that ocean. A little movement in the water affects the whole ocean and, thus, everyone in the ocean. The more we serve others, the more we are serving ourselves. Conversely, if we hurt someone, we are hurting ourselves. What goes around comes around.

Nature teaches us the true meaning of giving of ourselves. The sun gives off its warmth and breeds life. Rain quenches the dry land and makes it sprout plants and fruits. The fruits give of themselves to calm the pangs of hunger.

The circle must not stop here — we too need to give back to complete the circle of nature.

(Excerpt from the book, The One Minute Sufi by Azim Jamal)

Timelessness is in you

Sufi timelessness means that everything in the past and the future is contained in the here and now. The Sufi never dies because he was never born in the first place. Life and death are one when you are one with God.

This very moment is perfect and powerful — there is no need to wait for another.

Any joy you have ever experienced cannot be experienced twice, because you can never be in the same moment twice. You are the sum total of your past, present, and future. The timelessness in you is your eternal soul and your living memory of all that you have been and will be.

The earth drinks water from the sky, receives sunlight, and gives life to plants and herbs. Animals eat plants, humans eat animals. Eventually, humans are absorbed into the earth. And so the circle of life continues.

We are meant to live life so that, if we fall down, die, and never come back, we will have no regrets. We need to be ready to go when the time comes.

This is a very elevated state to be in, and it is not easy to get there. But nothing worthwhile in life is easy. To be ready for death and to face the Creator, we have to work on ourselves for many years. This is the work of “cleansing” our souls.

Ibn Arabi states, “When you realize the mystery of Oneness with the Divine, you will know that you are no other than God and that you have always been and will always be beyond every time and place.”

(Excerpt from the book, The One Minute Sufi by Azim Jamal)

Slow down

“In a boat rushing on a fast-running creek, it seems as if the trees on the bank are rushing by. What seems to be changing around us is rather the speed of our craft leaving this world.” Rumi

When we are living in a fast-paced world, everything seems rushed, and it is easy to blame the environment and circumstances for its speed. However, the reality is that it is our choice as to how fast we want to go. We have the choice to stop and spend time for reflection and contemplation.

By slowing down, we are able to differentiate between reality and illusion and have a better chance of getting a sense of perspective and direction in life. What good is it to go fast if we are traveling in the wrong direction? We only get to the wrong place faster. It is better to go slowly but to head in the right direction. We get there, slowly but surely.

When we slow down and remain centered, there seems to be more time. In reality, time cannot increase, but our anticipation and presence are heightened to the point that we feel it is.

Going fast and being busy are not recipes for effectiveness and success. Success is knowing the reality, having a direction, and heading there. If we feel the trees on the bank are rushing by, what is changing is rather the “speed of our craft leaving this world.”

(Excerpt from the book, The One Minute Sufi by Azim Jamal)

Get the best out of others

“If words come out of the heart, they will enter the heart. If they are spoken just from the mouth, they will not even reach the ears.” Al Suhrawardi

Leadership, through the eyes of the Sufi, is about caring. It is not just how much you know that matters, but also how much you care and love. It is caring and loving that enable us to get the best out of others because people feel the connection and genuineness. When we show people we care, we build trust with them. Trust is the glue that holds relationships together.

A Sufi, by keeping an open mind, values different approaches and is not fixed or narrow in his views. Getting the best out of others is emblematic of true leadership. A Sufi inspires people to great heights by believing in their abilities, noticing their efforts, and commending them for their contributions.

A Sufi realizes that the best way to ignite a spark is to awaken what is asleep in others. Generally, people know what is right but need a little encouragement to get started.

The Sufi gets the best out of others by giving of himself without expectation or recompense. The difference need not be big; every small deed counts. It creates momentum and has a ripple effect. When we are kind to an employee, he will be kind to his colleagues, customers, and family. His colleagues, customers, and family will be well disposed to people they encounter. Your kindness will snowball. It is like throwing a small pebble in the ocean — the ripple affects the entire ocean. Just a small pebble! Such is the effect of a good deed.

(Excerpt from the book, The One Minute Sufi by Azim Jamal)