The idea of God is a means for the Sufi to rise from imperfection to Perfection, which is suggested in the Bible: “Be ye perfect, as your Father in Heaven is Perfect.” There is a vast gulf between the state of imperfection and the state of Perfection, and God is the boat in which one sails from the port of imperfection to Perfection.
To a Sufi, God and man are not two; the Sufi does not consider God separate from himself. The Sufi’s God is not in Heaven alone; He is everywhere. He sees God in the unseen and in the seen; he recognizes God both within and without. Therefore, there is no name which is not the Name of God, and there is no form which is not the form of God, to the eyes of the Sufi. As Jelal-ud-Din Rumi says: “The Beloved is all in all; the lover only veils Him; the Beloved is all that lives; the lover a dead thing.” In other words, he means that this dual aspect of love, which is expressed as lover and beloved, is in fact one, and that one of the two will die and one alone will live. The one that will die is the imperfect self, which covers Perfection; the One that will live is the Perfect Self.
The Sufi recognizes both these aspects in himself, the imperfect and mortal aspect of his being, and the Perfect, the Immortal aspect of his Being. The former, his outer self represents; the latter is his innermost self. Since the imperfect self covers his soul, and confines it in a limited being, he recognizes at the same time the greatness of the Perfect Being, and calls himself “I, a servant of God,” and God, the Lord of the whole existence. In the Sufi schools in the East this idea is expressed in a Qur’anic allegory which moves those who enjoy its poetic delicacy. In the Qur’an it is related that, when the first man was made, he was asked: “Say, who is thy Master?” and he answered, “Thou art, my Lord.”
Philosophically, this idea is the picture of human life. Man begins his life on earth by accepting somebody’s command, fearing lest he cause him any displeasure, looking upon someone as his support, protector, or guide, be it in the form of father or mother, a relation, friend, master, or king. This shows that man begins his life in the world with his imperfection, at the same time recognizing, surrendering, and bowing to perfection in whatever form. When man understands this better, then he knows that all sources that demanded his surrender, or recognition, were limited and powerless in comparison to that perfect ideal which we call God. Therefore, it is the same attitude that the ordinary man has toward another who is greater than he in strength, power, or position, that the Sufi learns to show toward his God, the ideal of Perfection, because in God he includes all forms in which he recognizes beauty, power, greatness, and perfection. Therefore, the worship of the Sufi is not alone worship of the Deity; by worship, he means to draw closer to perfection; by worship he tries to forget his imperfect self in the contemplation of the Perfect One.
It is not necessary that the Sufi should offer his prayers to God for help in worldly things, or by thanking Him for what he receives, although this attitude develops in man a virtue that is necessary in life. By the thought of God, the whole idea of the Sufi is to cover his imperfect self, even from his own eyes, and that moment, when God is before him, and not his own self, is the moment of perfect bliss to him. My Murshid, Abu Hashim Madani, once said that there is only one virtue and one sin for a soul on this path: virtue when he is conscious of God, and sin when he is not. No explanation can be sufficient to describe the truth of this, except the experience of the contemplative, to whom, when he is conscious of God, it is as if a window is open which is facing Heaven, and, when conscious of the self, the experience is the opposite. For all the tragedy of life is caused by consciousness of self. Every pain and depression is caused by this, and anything that can take away the thought of the self helps to a certain extent to relieve man from pain; but God-consciousness gives a perfect relief.