What is Sufism? Part 3: The State of Trance

by Navid Zaidi

As the soul is completely withdrawn from the body and concentrated within, it is said to be in a state of trance. It has awakened from deep sleep. It is at this stage that man is able to know his reality as a soul.

Once Buddha was sitting under a tree in a contemplative mood. Someone passing by asked him, ‘Who are you? Are you a god, a genie, an avatar, or what?’ Buddha replied, ‘I am awake’.

Socrates would say, ‘Know thyself’. It is in this profound sense that he appealed to his students. It is in this sense alone that knowledge of the self leads to knowledge of God.

Jesus says:

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.  (John 3:6)

The process of withdrawal of the soul from its attachment to worldly desires and material stuff has been called ‘dying while living’. Says Bulleh Shah:

نِت  نِت  مراں  تے  نِت  نِت  جیواں
میرا  نِت  نِت  کُوچ  مقام

I die daily and daily I come to life,
I am daily in transit.

In the Bible this concept is called ‘to be born again’:

I say unto thee except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.  (John 3:3)

To rise above the physical body and enter spiritual realms within is what is implied by the expression ‘to be born again’.

Sufi saints have often used the expressions fana fillah and fana fil sheikh. Literally, the word fana means annihilation or passing away- merging into God or the Master. When the soul leaves the company of the body, mind and senses it merges into the Master or the Lord. With the disappearance of the ego from within the individual merges into the Universal and becomes one with God.

Amir Khusrow writes:
من تو شدم ، تو من شدی ، من تن شدم ، تو جاں شدی
تا کس نگوید بعد ازیں ، من دیگرم ، تو دیگری

I have become You, and You me,
I am the body, You soul;
So that no one can say hereafter,
That You and me are apart from each other

Jesus expressed this concept as follows:

I will come again and receive you unto myself. That where I am, there ye may be also.  (John 14:3)

The state of annihilation is not merely a passive belief in one or more propositions of a certain kind; it is living assurance that comes from a rare experience. Strong personalities alone are capable of rising to this experience and the higher fatalism implied in it.

In the state of trance the Sufi is in intimate association with the Eternal. However, this does not mean a break with serial time. This unitive experience remains related to common experience. The state fades away but leaves a deep sense of authority after it has passed away. It means self-affirmation for the Sufi, not self-negation, and finds expression in such phrases:

I am the Creative Truth………Mansur Hallaj
I am Time…….Prophet Muhammad
I am the speaking Quran…….Imam Ali
Glory to me……..Bayazid Bistami

This entry was posted in Classic Poetry, Classic Teaching, Navid Zaidi, Original Essays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What is Sufism? Part 3: The State of Trance

  1. seeker says:

    Rumi gives a very intoxicating poems. I enjoy his writings.

  2. sufiways says:

    I agree. There is something about Rumi so close to our hearts. He takes us to a never-ending bliss.

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