Sunday, September 18, 2016

Shirdi Sai Baba's life and sayings on Sufi Maqaams (stations) of faqr (poverty), sabr (patience) and tawakkul (trust/surrender)

Last updated on 19th Sept. 2016

In the book, The Life and Teachings of Sai Baba of Shirdi by Antonio Rigopoulos, Page 285 to 290, the author (Rigopoulos) covers Shirdi Sai Baba's adherance to faqr (poverty), sabr (patience) and tawakkul (trust/surrender), which the author says are three fundamental aspects of tariq(a), the classical spiritual path of Sufism.

Some info. from wikipedia on these matters, before I get back to Rigopoulos' book


A Tariqa (or tariqah; Arabic: طريقة‎‎ ṭarīqah) is the term for a school or order of Sufism, or especially for the mystical teaching and spiritual practices of such an order with the aim of seeking Haqīqah, which translates as "ultimate truth".

A Tariqa has a Murshid (guide) who plays the role of leader or spiritual director. The members or followers of a tariqa are known as Murīdīn (singular Murīd), meaning "desirous", viz. "desiring the knowledge of knowing God and loving God" (also called a Faqīr فقير)

The metaphor of "way, path" is to be understood in connection of the term sharia which also has the meaning of "path", more specifically "well-trodden path; path to the waterhole". The "path" metaphor of tariqa is that of a further path, taken by the mystic, which continues from the "well-trodden path" or exoteric of sharia towards the esoteric haqiqa. A fourth "station" following the succession of shariah, tariqa and haqiqa is called marifa. This is the "unseen center" of haqiqa, and the ultimate aim of the mystic, corresponding to the unio mystica in Western mysticism. Tasawwuf, Arabic word that refers to mysticism and Islamic esotericism, is known in the West as Sufism.
--- end wiki Tariqa extract ---


Maqaam (also known as maqām) or maqaamat (plural), translating to "stations" in Arabic [Ravi: English], is a term that references the various stages a Sufi's soul must attain in its search for God. The stations are derived from the most routine considerations a Sufi must deal with on a day-to-day basis and is essentially an embodiment of both mystical knowledge and Islamic law (Sharia). Although the number and order of maqaamat are not universal the majority agree on the following seven: Tawba, Wara', Zuhd, Faqr, Ṣabr, Tawakkul, and Riḍā. Sufis believe that these stations are the grounds of the spiritual life, and they are viewed as a mode through which the most elemental aspects of daily life begin to play a vital role in the overall attainment of oneness with God.


Faqr, translated as "poverty", is one of the central attitudes in a Sufi’s life. It was also one of the attributes of the Prophet. He claimed "poverty is my pride". In a spiritual sense, poverty is defined as the absence of desire for wealth or for the blessings of the otherworld.

Ṣabr (Patience)
Junayd describes the fifth station, "patience", as "The bearing of the burden for the sake of God Most High until the times of hardship have passed." Al-Ghazzali divides this station into different kinds of patience. The first is to have patience with physical pain. This can be caused by serious illness, an accident or even in the tasks of God's services. This patience is judged by laws of the religion. The second kind deals with attraction to evil and greed, essentially concerning matters of self-control. He lists other kinds of patience such as that of battles, the appeasement of anger, of happiness and that of possessions. The Prophet Muhammad described patience as the most difficult act of faith as well as the forbearing of hardship. Because the Prophet viewed patience as such a difficult act, it is widely followed on the path of a Sufi.

Tawwakul, translated "trust" is a noble stage a Sufi must reach once he has learned patience, so that when something is denied to a mystic they trust it is in agreement with destiny. True faith is accompanied by tawwakul, a disposition that must be incessantly cultivated through pious practice and reflection. This stage is characterized by complete trust in God and surrender to his will. It is agreed upon by some scholars that because the divine power is all-encompassing, complete trust in this power is mandatory. As such, the degree of tawwakul can vary in accordance to the amount of faith a person has.

--- end wiki Makaam extracts ---

Ravi: On faqr, Shirdi Sai Baba always identified himself as a faqir (a (Muslim) renunciant). Baba led a very, very simple life of a beggar. So he clearly adhered to faqr (poverty) aspect (makaam/station) of the Sufi Tariqa.

Baba is quoted from Narasimhaswami's Charters & Sayings book as having said, "Poverty is the highest riches and is a thousand times superior to a lord's position. God is the brother of the poor. The fakir is the real emperor. Fakirship does not perish, but an empire is soon lost."

On Sabr (patience/endurance), Rigopoulos gives Islamic references. He writes, "Sabur is included among the traditional ninety-nine names of Allah. It figures as the last one, designating Allah as al-Sabur, the Patient One."

He then quotes Shirdi Sai Baba from Narasimhaswami's Charters and Sayings book, as having said to Mrs. Radhabai Deshmukin, "What the Guru wanted from me were not metallic coins, he did not care even for gold, but only Nistha and Saburi i.e. faith and courageous patience. I gave these to him at once and he was pleased. Mother, Saburi is courage, do not discard it. It ferries you across to the distant goal. It gives manliness to men, eradicates sin and dejection and overcomes all fear."

Rigopoulos writes, "The concept of tawakkul (trust in God) describes the state of mystical abandonment into God's hands. Indeed, to be a Muslim means to surrender to Allah's will and to obey his laws."

Rigopoulos does not give specific examples here of Sai Baba quotes related to tawakkul. Perhaps Baba's frequent words, "Allah Malik" [God is the owner/master], can be viewed as an indication of tawakkul. But Rigopoulos quotes Sai Baba on Page 282 from Narasimhaswami's Charters & Sayings as having said on the matter of surrender, "God is the Actor. We must recognize His independence and our dependence on Him, and see all acts as His. If we do so, we shall be unattached and free from Karmic bondage." Perhaps this can be viewed as a quote related to tawakkul.

[I thank Antonio Rigopoulos, and B.V. Narasimahswami, and wikipedia and have presumed that they (and their books' publishers) will not have any objections to me sharing the above short extracts from the books, "The Life and Teachings of Sai Baba of Shirdi" and "Sri Sai Baba's Charters and Sayings", or website, on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

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