The role of the members of a spiritual community.
By Fadil Marion
One aspect of the Tariqa is the community formed by the fuqara. This is a spiritual community in which we receive and we give. The more we give, the more we receive. ”Give what is in your pocket and GOD will give you what is in His mystery”. The initiating action is the gift: “Give!”. You start by giving and then; you are in a position to receive as a consequence.
One way to give is to be active, to work, to develop an activity within the community. Very often, one can think: “I’ll be able to be useful to others once I will have grown enough, once I will have received already.” This way of thinking is a stumbling block as it is only when one serves the community that one can be in a position to receive. Some individual members, because of their modesty, or due to a lack of orientation, may stay a bit aside, may not engage fully. They wait to have reached a certain level to act. But no one ever feels ready. The level is never reached when one feels he or she can add value. Therefore, the best is to start immediately to serve.
The fundamental justification of a spiritual community is its beating heart, the spiritual guide. He is an awaken being; a fully realized being whose role is to transmit a spiritual influx he received, not as a result of his own will, but through a divine order. This spiritual influx is the sirr. The sirr means literally the secret. This word is used not to design something that is hidden, but rather something that cannot be expressed. This is somehow the spiritual energy that characterizes an “alive” Tariqa.
At different times in history, according to providential plans, the sirr can be communicated through different methods. Sometimes, the keeper of the sirr, the saint, is hidden. This was the case for instance of the master of Sidi Abu Median who had been his neighbour for 18 years without revealing himself and whose reputation was the one of a lunatic. But, in different times, the guides are openly spreading the teachings.
When there is no occultation, when there is a manifested master whose mission is to teach openly, then a community will be created around him. The sirr is the only justification, the exclusive reason, of this community. The community, its members and their inter-relations only exist for the sirr and thanks to the idhn, which is the authorization given to the guide to communicate the sirr. Therefore, all relations between the members of the community, the fuqara, are dedicated to the sirr. The sole purpose of those relations is to communicate the sirr.
Sidi Hamza (the current master of the Tariqa Qadiriyya Boutchichiyya) said: “the master gives birth, the fuqara are educating”. The master is like a fountain or a source that provides water. The fuqara are the gardeners that ensure that the water irrigates properly and spread in the garden. Likewise, one faqir of Sidi Abu Median wrote a poem for his master, which said “Your eyes are the matches that set my heart on fire”. And once the fire is lit, like the pieces of charcoal that need to be gathered to remain red, the fuqara need to be close to each other to keep their heart burning.
The Tariqa is alive: it actually lives its own life. This community is not only a social group: it has a spiritual function.
Around the central fountain, there are all the streams, the canals that link with each other and transmit the sirr, the spiritual energy. Each faqir is that link. Each faqir’s purpose, role and responsibility are to transmit the sirr. As soon as someone joins the Tariqa and starts to work in it, he or she will transmit the sirr, consciously or not. Everyone is important in the community, every link counts.
The fuqara are here to serve something that is far beyond them. The community is a way towards the ultimate source. This way, this path is the life of the Tariqa. Everything that supports or blocks the communication of the sirr impacts on the journey. Therefore it is a key that each faqir ensures that he or she is not a place of retention where the sirr would stop and not being transmitted.
Of course there are some rules, still like gardening and irrigation, in order to allow the sirr to spread everywhere, even in the most remote areas. One rule is about the respect of each other’s role. As each role is aiming at the same goal, none is more important than other. Another rule is about power. There is no role about power or control. One more rule is about judgment. Each individual must avoid judging others. A faqir spent 40 years in a community and said: “I was so busy with my own defaults that I never had the opportunity to judge others”.
Again, everyone, each individual is about transmitting the spiritual secret, the sirr. Each person is one of the many links. In that sense, the key rule is “being transparent”. Being transparent to allow the sirr to be shared. This transparency is gathering us together and bringing us closer to the source.
The absolute transparency is the heart of the master as it is a heart empty of passions, free from any idols or power struggle and which sole purpose is to serve God.
This is towards this transparency that the faqir should be oriented. By focusing on this transparency one can absorb it and then communicate it to others. Again, this can only work when the fuqara do not reject each other’s by letting their individual ego judging. One must fight his or her own ego and reduce it so that no distances are placed between the fuqara. Searching for a total absence of judgment, respecting others, forgiving others, not giving back the hits that may come… having the opposite behavior to the one our ego would have considered normal: that brings us closer to the transparency.
Only the Dhikr can lead us there.
To close this reflexion, I will bring one image developed by a West African Sufi, Tierno Bokar. He compared each man as a cliff where white birds and black birds are living. Black birds and white birds are living in holes of different shapes. Each time you have a good thought for another man, you send a white bird to his cliff, freeing therefore a space where a white bird could come from someone else and join your own cliff. Each time you are being led by negative feelings towards someone, you are sending a black bird, and you are then in a position to receive more evil.
Once a member of a community, every aspect of life becomes a way to receive the sirr. Let’s become living links. By giving to others, I will receive in return, when they benefit & grow, I will grow and the community will progress.
· Tariqa – Path / Way
· Faqir – masc. singular for disciple. . lit. Means one who is poor/needy infront of GOD
· Faqirah – female disciple/s.
· Fuqara – Plural for disciples. lit. Means those who are poor/needy infront of GOD
· Sirr – spiritual secret
· Dhikr – invocation/remembrance of GOD
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