A lecture by Hazrat Inayat Khan on the Sufi point of view was posted here recently. Following the lecture, there was an exchange of questions and answers, some of which are given below.
Q.: If someone asks what definite teaching the Sufi has to offer?
A: You must say that Sufi has no definite teaching to offer. It is the essence of all teaching.
Q.: You said, we must not defend the wrong-doer. If we do not know, if we doubt?
A.: If we have a doubt that he is a wrongdoer, the best thing is not to defend him. Why to defend? We might be taken as someone who promotes wrongdoing. Sometimes we think it is wrong what a person has done, and owing to our kindness we are defending him. It is just like defending something which we think wrong.
Q.: Could we defend the person without defending his action?
A.: It is so very difficult to divide the person from his action. It is very difficult. Nevertheless, if you separate the person from his action and defend him, you may.
Q.: We have a saying, “Love the sinner, but not his sin.”
A.: That is very good, very wise.
Q.: Murshid, what is the wisest way to treat some person who has followed a wrong course of action. Yet we know they thought they were doing right. And we do not want to be unfriendly to them. And yet, as you say, if we pay a particular attention to them, people think we were defending their action; and if we do not appear gentle and Christian-like, they turn their back and say we are condemning them.
A.: Yes, if you are in that position it is just as well to be silent. Silence is a great protection.
Q.: So you advise avoiding persons like that?
Q.: How could we help these people who are in the wrong way?
A.: It is a very difficult question. You cannot always help them. There is sometime the time that helps them. Sometimes their own wrongdoing helps them. Now I will tell you a little story of a man in the mosque. That there was a good person, a very pious person, and he was praying in the mosque. And there came a lad, a mischievous lad, and he entered in the mosque. He saw that person devoted in his prayers, so he came and gave him a slap or a blow in his back, and ran away. Of course they are engaged in the prayer, and they are asked not to go out of the prayer. Therefore that pious man continued his prayer. And this boy ran away. But when this man came out, he saw this boy standing and laughing. So he put his hand in his purse and gave him a penny. So the boy was very glad. Next time a soldier was offering his prayer. Of course the soldier’s mind was half in his prayer and half in his drill. When the boy came and gave him a slap, the soldier was conscious of it, and as soon as he got the slap he was ready to answer it, and he gave him a blow and threw him down. From that the boy learnt never to do it again. One blow was enough for him to finish. Both did something towards his improvement. The first was that he let him learn from his own vice, his own weakness. The second one completed that teaching. Therefore we are not the only responsible ones to accomplish the lesson. Let another one come and complete it. Life will teach just the same. Why should we take the responsibility of the teaching?
Q.: Christ teaches us first to correct our own faults and mistakes. Would it not be good, a good plan, to try and extend one’s own self toward another, really feeling where the other person is, and working from that bottom, if we feel what he should do, influencing the other in a special manner?
A.: Yes, but that is the work of the Teacher. When a person reaches the stage of Teachership, then he may do it. But when we come to a general Sufi idea, what every Sufi must have, if that Sufi can have this point of view which I have explained, that begins the Sufi-life.