On ‘La Stampa’ newspaper, today
Like this you will learn to breathe peace
Sheikh Burhanuddin Herrmann speaks: German, after the fatal meeting with the master of an ancient Sufi school he travels around the world to spread his message of love
The call of the spirit had brought him still a boy from his Germany to India, Poona. But the search is unpredictable: according to the tradition you are not the one who finds the master, it is the master to find you. As in the story of the rabbi from Krakow who goes to Prague looking for a treasure he saw in a dream, and once there he finds out that the gold was hidden under the fire place of his house, the fatal meeting happened in Freiburg. The destiny had the face of Maulana Sheikh Nazim, master of the ancient Sufi Naqshbandi school. We remember him as the wise old Muslim who talked with Pope Ratzinger in the street in Cyprus, in 2010, or while receiving a bearded Cat Stevens. Skeptics and enemies cite him as the mystic who made some risky prophecies, as the fall of all the regimes in the Middle East in 2011 and their replacement with a single sultanate. He’s attributed often the assertion, later denied, that Bush and Blair have attained holiness for their fight against the tyrants.
Facing the master, the emotion was so strong that the student fainted. Burhanuddin Hermann, as he is now called, has become a Sufi sheikh and travels the world to spread the message of love of his brotherhood. Fifty-two years old, married, seven children, we met him passing through Turin.
Sheikh, why young people with the iPhone, who spend time on social media and want everything immediately, should be interested in Sufism? “Everyone is born with a certain duty, a task, and everyone needs to feel beloved, and to be in peace with themselves. There comes a time in life, when the pressure is very high, which pushes us in this direction. Many spiritual disciplines, including Sufism, speak about it. What can we offer to young people? A path to inner peace and self-realization. In the outside world there is no offer, now less than ever. Politics is complicated and corrupt. Nobody understands what is really happening. We are bombarded with information, we are in contact with everyone, but we lack the steadiness, the sense of direction. Something that brings us back to ourselves. ”
To become a Sufi, have we to become Muslim? “I would say that you have to become muslim you have to become sufi. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, represents the highest state of Sufism, its heart. Who falls in love with this Way cannot ignore him. Otherwise it is as if I would say: I love you, but I don’t love your house, your clothes, I don’t like anything you do. Muslim means one who surrenders. How you do it, it is another matter. We do not tell people to become crazy fanatics. Islam is like a diamond with many facets, no one can say: Islam is me. Unfortunately the Islamic nations do not have a single leader. For Catholics it is a great thing to have a Pope, especially with this Pope who seems particularly inspired. If in Islam there was a unique leader, a sultan, he could tell these fanatic extremists: you are not Muslim, you’re not part of our community. ”
So a Christian or a Buddhist cannot become a Sufi? “The Sufis understand when one is born outside of the Islamic tradition: I have seen cases of eighty years old Christians who approached to our teaching because they fell in love with the master or with our songs, or our prayers. We don’t tell them to leave the Church, in these cases Sufism becomes a kind of extension. Even if one is young can continue with his tradition, it just depends on him. We do not impose anything. One must understand that Jesus and Mohammed are two prophets, who are not in opposition to each other: one confirms the other. We recognize Jesus; in the Quran there is a great surah dedicated to Mary. ”
Why do we need a teacher? ”If you want to understand what is your sickness, you have to go to the doctor. There are things that we can’t understand just by ourselves. You need someone who has overcome the obstacles before you and knows the pitfalls of the way. But a guide is not someone who makes the decisions in your place you. The master clearly shows what is your responsibility, then the work is up to you. ”
Increasingly science describes the man as a biological machine: are we actually able to choose freely? “Many think that with the thought we can understand life. The thought has a practical function: survival. But it is not needed to think all the time in order to live. In a sense, things in life are already written since ever. But the same role played by George Clooney or Tom Cruise is different. Similarly, each of us changes over time: if the choice will be made by a different person, it will open different possibilities. Nothing happens in a linear way but through successive steps. The reality is like the universe, a sphere that expands and contracts. Ali, a famous Sufi and companion of the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Believe in the goodness of your destiny, and it will be fulfilled.” Faith is very important to get to a state of expansion of consciousness in which you understand many things, although not in the sense of science. ”
How do the Sufis pray? ”The Sufis practice different types of meditation, each one with a different focus, such as when you go to the pharmacy and you choose the most suitable drug for a certain requirement. One of the most celebrated meditations, the Zikhr, is the repetition of the name of God, of the Islamic profession of faith or of certain parts of the Quran. The repetition can be silent, spoken, sung or danced, but it is always accompanied by the awareness of breath. It is the teacher who chooses the best Zikhr for you. We must learn to breathe peace. ”
Why we should not be afraid of death? “Death itself does not exist, there is nothing that really disappears. The body changes condition and the spirit changes the place and time of his experience. I have been very close to death: once in an accident and once for a disease. Although these experiences may vary from person to person, I can say that the sense of me remains. You lose the connection with the body, which becomes like a dress that you leave. I do not mean that it is an easy transition, it is not like this. To face the unknown often generates terror. The awareness of death, however, is crucial for us to understand what is important in life. In our tradition we must remember death five times a day. ”
The mystical dimension of Islam
Sufism represents in general the mystical dimension of Islam, and it divides in many schools. The origin of Sufism is debated, someone state that it is a pre-islamic practice, other sees in it an influence form the Christian monk system, others considers it an original creation of Islam.
Who wants to go deeper in the topic, he can consult the website www.sufiway.eu that is near to Burhanuddin school the Naqshbandiya. On the same brotherhood just published by Morcelliana Publisher, an essay by Fritz Meyer, THE POWERS OF THE MASTER (352 pages, 30 euros)