This week, we learned about the musical practices of the Sufis. Music (especially the Sama) is a way for people to become closer to God through intoxication with His presence. Leonard Lewisohn writes about the trance experiences that Sufis aim to achieve through their Sama practices and this week’s readings show that music serves a very specific purpose in bringing those on the tariqah (the path to the divine truth) closer to the truth and love that they are seeking. Reading about music and the Sama as the means through which Sufis remember God made me think of what my Sama is.
I am a very visual person and an appreciator of nature’s beauty. I have often looked out my window in the early morning and reflected upon the beauty of the rising sun, the freshness of the air and the clarity of the sky. Tuning in to this natural beauty never fails to remind me of the greatness of its creator Himself. Looking at nature and reflecting upon it is my Sama.
There is a tree that I look upon from my room. It is big, beautiful and green with the arrival of spring. I have attempted to capture it’s beauty as I see it here in photographic form. I see it is an open symbol from God, as a piece of the garden that He created. It reminds me of much that we have talked about in class and what I have reflected upon during different periods of life.
Some time ago, in class we learned about how Sufis trace their spiritual lineage to Prophet Muhammad. This reminded me of how all of humanity (or at least those in the Judeo-Christian and Islamic tradition) traces its origins to Adam and Eve. Islam, too, is like this tree. At its root is Allah. Further up, the turnk is Prophet Muhammad whom the Root has sent up to support the branches and the leaves. The branches are the different sects and ways of practicing the Islam brought to us by the Prophet. The leaves are the individual people and they may grow in groups or in isolation just as people have their own way of believing.
Through the photographs below, I tried to capture and express the similarity I see between the sign and what it inspires me to think. I have used Photoshop to depict the tree in different seasons, anchored in the same position and surviving all. Standing tall, weathering the trials of time, going through life and being re-born after a period of near-death during the dead of winter, the tree is like the Sufis who trace their lineage back to the Prophet, the leaves connecting to their root, who have gone into hiding for fear of persecution and have lost their lives due to persecution–much like the wind has blown many leaves off this tree, to the ground. But this tree is also like the children of Adam, the human race who has gone through periods of war, famine, strife against each other but then made it to the spring of love in which we eventually see the sunlight that makes us grow and flower like this tree. And still the tree is strong. It stands and sings praises of God which human eyes can only detect as lush, green beauty.
The signs of God are everywhere: one need only look. The Sufis use music and dance to reach God, but one can also use the beauty that is found in nature to reach God by remembering him. Just within one tree, one can see a reference to any group of people (the Sufis, for instance) or to the entire race of humanity, a ticket to the veneration of God, and the beauty that is in all His work. It is a visual ghazal, a live performance, an open sign all contained in one seemingly mundane tree. The pictures can only capture so much and my words even less.