Sufism -- Sufis -- Sufi Orders

Sufism: Obstacles on the Path

The difficulties in following the path or obstacles to getting closer to God derive primarily from one's self or ego (nafs). In other words, it can be said that if one is not recognizing or experiencing God's "closeness" or presence, the responsibility for this condition lies with one's own self.

Some of the gross effects of the dominance of the nafs are that one may become overwhelmed by the need to gratify desires such as anger, lust, and the many addictions that afflict us. Other gross effects are that one may become dominated by states of consciousness such as anxiety, boredom, regret, depression, and self-pity-- so that one feels like a powerless victim or prisoner tortured within one's own mind.

Given that the Sufi regards every thought, feeling, and perception that he or she has (including his or her sense of self) as a manifestation of God or as a particular view of God's face ("Wherever you turn there is God's face"--Qur'an), a more subtle effect of the dominance of the nafs than those expressed earlier (but still a devasting effect) is to imagine that God is absent from one's experience or to imagine that one does not have the choice to embrace the way in which God appears at this moment. Such mistaken imaginings often cause one to cease to surrender gratefully and lovingly into God's embrace. In fact, being overcome by these subtle effects opens the door for the gross effects mentioned earlier.

Hence, one of the emphases of Sufism is upon the struggle to overcome the dominance that one's nafs (link fixed from archive 20 Feb. 2008) has over one, a struggle that first and foremost involves choosing at each moment to remember and surrender actively to God--irrespective of whether the form in which God becomes manifest is one of absence or presence, benevolence or severity. As Rumi said:

I am a lover of both his benevolence and severity!
Amazing it is that I'm in love with these opposites!

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