The Sufi Manner of Sympathy*
I would like to say something about the Sufi manner of sympathy: that it is the first and most essential thing for the Sufi to have a sympathetic attitude towards all. And by ‘towards all’ I mean towards those who expect sympathy, towards those who will be helped by sympathy, and towards those who do not yet deserve, and yet it is better to give them sympathy.
But now there is another question: in what way you must show your sympathy. You must be ready to show your sympathy where it is welcome, and you must keep your sympathy for the time, in some cases, when it will be welcome. And you may give your sympathy without making the other person know of it. The real sympathy does not need any manifestation, all the expression of words and action, all these expressions must follow sympathy, but sympathy must not follow them.
The greatest sympathy that one can show to anyone is the regard for that person’s pleasure and displeasure. And that is the first lesson, and most often people try to learn the last lesson and omit the first lesson. Everybody is anxious to become perfect at once. As soon as they feel sympathy in their heart they want it to be complete. But in reality sympathy must grow slowly, it must be reared, it must be watered. Where there is a deep sympathy it is not even so much profitable to another person as it is to oneself. And that sympathy which is for reciprocity is worthless, from a higher point of view.
And now I would like to know how you will show your sympathy to the workers of the Movement, to the mureeds and to Murshid. You will show your sympathy to Murshid by having a full regard for his pleasure and displeasure, covered or veiled in his silence. And how will you show your sympathy to the workers of the Movement? By giving them due respect, knowing that they are the helpers of Murshid. Suppose a mureed has a great regard for Murshid and no regard for those who are his collaborators, who are authorized for a certain office, to hold a certain office. It is like loving Murshid, but shaking his whole house by moving the pillars of the house. And if the Murshid is disturbed by it, a mureed will say to excuse himself, ‘I have every devotion to Murshid, I do not wish to do the least little harm to Murshid. But this pillar is ugly, I want to shake it off, it does not look good in the house. This window is out of place here.” But there also a regard for Murshid is necessary. It is Murshid’s house, he has put those pillars, he has made these walls, he has put those doors there, and he knows who is the architect of his own building.
And then the way one can help one’s co-mureeds is that those who stand in need of some service, some help, some advice, some assistance, you give them. And those who do not stand in need of anything, leave them alone. If a person is standing in the garden of the Summer School and you, out of your sympathy, thought that he must be brought tea, it may be that this person will become ill by drinking tea. He is not standing there looking at a tree to get tea. He is standing there in his own thought, perhaps he is meditating. By your giving him tea you are not doing any good. Therefore kindness must be bestowed in the place where there is need. Suppose a person is sitting under the shade of a tree, perhaps meditating upon a word that he has heard from Murshid, and if you go near him and say, “I want to know what is the trouble with you. What is the matter with you, I feel sympathy with you, I would like to know, I want to help you.” He will say, “If you feel sympathy towards me, please leave me alone. I meditated, I was quite happy.” Therefore sympathy must have sense with it. Wherever sympathy is needed there it must be given, and there is the value of it.
And now the question, in what form it may be given. Now suppose if a mureed says, “Tell me all that you have heard in the Collective class, I would like to hear it from you.” And you feel very kind and sympathetic and you pour out all you have heard here. That would not be nice, because what has been spoken here, taught here, it is your trust. You may not speak about it to another person. But you may profit by it yourself, and then what comes to you inspirationally, that must help your friend; in that way sympathy may be given. Or perhaps you thought that a Gatha or a Gatheka, or some papers you have, another co-mureed is very sad because he has not got it. “Will you please copy it?” It is a sympathy, but at the same time it goes against it. Besides there is a mureed who is saying I do not like that person, I do not like the other person, the other person has done this, has done that harm; and you are so sympathetic to say: you are quite right, I quite believe, I have the same opinion also. That sympathy will not do any good.
Sympathy must be to console a person in his disturbance, when his mind is disturbed, when he is restless, when he is sad, when he is sorry. When he has some pain or when he stands in need of your help in any way, that you will be ready to give him.
And now in conclusion to what I have said I wish to add one word more, and that is: you cannot show a greater and better sympathy than being considerate to every person you meet.
*From a collective class held with mureeds in 1926, near the end of the Summer School and not long before he left for India; it is therefore among his final teachings. Hazrat Inayat Khan used the word sympathy in a very specific sense, which has sometimes proved difficult to convey when making translations of his works. In English, the term can mean to feel pity and sorrow for the misfortunes of another, but Hazrat Inayat’s meaning is closer to the sense of having common feeling with another, together with compassion.
Present-day mureeds may be surprised by the examples given of guarding the lectures and Gathas in confidence; this is not so strictly observed now, but there is nevertheless great wisdom in not making a public show of our Sufi teachings.
Dear Murshid, from this post I take the following, the real sympathy does not require any manifestation, I think that many times in our egarness to show sympathy and like the examples given show, we become intruderds and rude with others. And learning to be considerate is the first step to begin to show real sympathy, is this correct?
Yes, Hazrat Inayat is telling us that to be sympathetic does not mean that we need to be seen as sympathetic. That is most often something to satisfy our own ego. But if we learn to be considerate, then the situation will teach us what needs to be done – perhaps visibly, perhaps invisibly.