Spirituality: Pearls and Roses

May 10, 2008 § 11 Comments


In today’s environment we increasingly find a new kind of believer. This believer is not religious and not exactly an atheist. They may or may not, however, be an agnostic but believe in something “greater than themselves”. This kind of believer is, for all intensive purposes, considered “spiritual”. Which essentially means that a person does not practice or partake in one particularly religion but believes there is a “transcendental reality” beyond the material world. These believers are often attracted to mysticism, often seeking the emotional  experience of religious awe or reverence.

The Western world has been scared by doctrinal and dogmatic religious systems and thus many of the would be Believers coming out of the Western world are skeptical of the mature methods of faith. Often times the intention of these kind of seekers is to find plurality in faith, thus penetrating some kind of perennial or objective truth. You can find this happening daily throughout America.

In the film, My Mom’s New Boyfriend, which debuted in Spain on April 30, 2008, writer and director George Gallo portrayed a scene which is becoming all too familiar in the religious landscape of America. The setting has three of the characters sitting at the dinner table sipping wine after a meal. Meg Ryan plays Martha who after a life altering experience lost weight and became beautiful, changed her name to Marty and adopted a new outlook on life. The other two characters: Colin Hanks, plays Martha’s son and Selma Blair his fiance Emily. And when sprituality becomes the topic of discussion it mirrors the reality that is fast growing in American society, that being, “more spiritual than religious” as the screen play narrates,

Marty: It just took me a long time to realize that there was something missing inside.

Henry: Missing from inside the house?

Marty: No Henry, missing inside here, spiritually.

Henry: Oh…

Marty: So started my quest for enlightenment, inner peace; inner joy. The person who’d gotten buried alive in a sea of nicotine and packaged cakes. 

Emily: Yeah, this is so great.

Henry: Yeah… yeah (eyes skeptically reading the scene while nodding the affirmative).

Emily: So what did you do?

Marty: I went to India!

Henry: You went to India?

Marty: Yeah!

Henry: You used to never leave the house.

Marty: Then I went to Tibet and I studied Buddhism and I read the Koran and then studied Kabbala and then, I understood!

Emily: What?

Marty: That the whole world is one truth-seeking organism and so it doesn’t matter if your science is religion or your religion is science. Because we all seek meaning; we all seek our reason for being.

Emily: That is so beautiful.

Henry: And the reason that we’re here is?

Marty: To have fun, because its all over too frickin fast (as the two women toast their wine glasses in agreement).

Although this may be a story-line for the purpose of entertainment, it is reflecting a growing culture and mentality in our society. A culture which has its good and its harm. On one hand it is waking people up to themselves but it is a path that is not sustainable for long periods of time. And the wakefulness one once found seeking the plurality of faith ends in a similar mentality as Marty’s conclusion, that the meaning of life is to have fun and enjoy yourself before you die.

This condition, that we see reflected in Gallo’s screenplay and big budget motion picture, has also been addressed by Shaykh Maulana Nazim, Grand Shaykh of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order. In 2000 he toured the U.S. giving talks and holding a number of associations where he said,

I have met so many people here in the West who have delved deeply into the great traditions of the East. They have acquired wisdom through seeking it. They have read, traveled, listened and learned. The attraction for everything oriental is a divine inspiration in the hearts of Western people: even the ancient Greek philosophers took their light from the East.

But as for Westerners who often subject themselves to great hardships to travel to Tibet and India, and receive wisdom to take back with them, most are in danger losing all they gained. Why? Because they bring back loose pearls. If a lady buys pearls does she carry them loose in her pocket, or does she string them on a strong thread? People are going to great lengths to seek wisdom and are so happy with what they have gained, but all the time the pearls are falling out the holes in their pockets, because the pearls are not yet bound on a thread. What is the thread I am referring to? Wisdom pearls may only be kept with a strong faith and method. So many people have overlooked this necessity. If you have the thread, one by one you may obtain the pearls and string them.

You must follow the methods prescribed by a great religion. I am not going to tell you that you must follow this one or that; all I am saying is that making a hodge podge is useless. Why? Keeping to the precepts of a world religion, without being a fanatic, guards your string of pearls. There are many thieves at work, and you must keep it carefully lest it be stolen. Therefore, faith and wisdom need protection, and you must learn what actions or practices may protect your treasures from thieves. Who tries to go the path alone will wander into a den of thieves, or be attacked by a pack of wolve’s in no man’s land. (Sh. Nazim, In The Mystic Footsteps of Saints, Volume 1)

In summary, it could be said that the inner peace and joy, Marty mentioned is like a rose. The divine inspiration that comes to a seeker, that stirs his passion for knowledge is like that of rose’s fragrance. Through its fragrance we can sense its presence yet the fragrance is not tangible. Likewise, through divine inspiration we can sense the truth but it is unobtainable.

Shaykh Maulana Nazim has expressed that, ‘wisdom may only be obtained by faith and method’. Our way, the Naqshbandi Sufi Way, is that of association. This means that rather than searching high and low for the rose by running after its fragrance, we merely find the possessor of the rose and sit in his association. And while immersed in the fragrance of that sitting what also occurs is the splendor of witnessing “a rose”. This strengthens the faith and increases one’s knowledge of the method to protect a man’s faith. 

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§ 11 Responses to Spirituality: Pearls and Roses

  • Lucy Nom de Plume says:

    Thank you very much for your post. My family background is not religious at all but I have recently started going to church. I recently had a terrible 10 days because I was chasing an undisciplined spirituality rather like the kind you describe in your post.

    I realise now that although the church has its faults, it is very old and it has a huge library of experience. For me it is a good idea to be humble and to follow the wisdom of all those years of experience.

    I was also seeking plurality but I understand now that I can follow Christianity while continuing to have the utmost respect for the other world faiths.

  • For Prez '24 says:

    Its certainly an interesting idea, and I know I’m currently guilty of the handful of pearls but I think finding the string that holds them together is a part of the journey rather than required for success (it happens as you get closer, and success is when you complete it, but you don’t need to accept a knotted string right off). Your trying to find the pearls for your personal necklace and can switch out ones that you find hindering to whatever path your on. The end product might look exactly the same as one someone else is holding but you’ve developed developed it from such a start that you realize the value of each piece, rather than having to learn it in retrospect.


  • Saifuddin says:


    salam alaykum! Lucy Nom de Plume and For Prez ’24, welcome to you. It seems you both have very different positions on this subject yet still feeling comfortable to respond which means I have done my job, shukralhamdulillah. Thank your for commenting.

    Lucy, that must have been some 10 days. I too had the opportunity to wake up to myself through hardship. Consider yourself fortunate, those kinds of opportunities are precious gems. And the stronger our faith become, the bigger the test, the bigger the pearl. The difference is, you are choosing to string your pearls. Good choice.

    For Prez ’24, perhaps you are one of those who may find the success. May God Almighty guide you to the Success, amin.


  • dawudwalid says:

    As-Salaamu `Alaykum,

    Very profound explanation by Shaykh Nazim (May ALLAH preserve him).

    Due to the excesses of the Church, especially the Catholic Church, organized religion, especially religion with catechism and rituals, is viewed a tool of oppression in the West. Hence America’s “founding fathers” stressed so much the seperation of church & state and the 1st Amendment.

    In my city, we have people who say, “I’m a Sufi, but not a Muslim.” The benefit from the dhikr and hadra on one hand then do not accept any matters relating to shar’iah.

    WALLAHU `Alim.


  • Saifuddin says:


    wa ‘alaykum asalaam dawudwalid!

    “In my city, we have people who say, “I’m a Sufi, but not a Muslim.”

    Europeans and Americans have been saying this since the 70’s and perhaps longer. But we do not make a big deal out of it, as they like, if want to call themselves sufis and say “Allah” thats good, better than not, so we don’t make a fuss.

    What they are not accepting is His Holy Prophet (may Peace and Blessings be upon him). But whether or not their efforts benefit is for Allah to determine.


  • Saha says:

    This is an excellent post, and a timely one for me!
    Thank you and may Allah preserve your faith.

  • James says:


    This is nothing new. Man always has been a spiritual being. Even the Neanderthals held ceremonies for their dead. Shamans and holy men have been part of Hunter-gatherer societies since Homo Sapiens first made the long trek out of Africa.

    Religion is door to spirituality. It is system that brings us in touch with the greater mysteries. It is spirituality melded with discipline.

    One of the greatest Christian Minds though proved the limits of Religion and Philosophy. St. Augustine was a formidable mind who helped create Christian Orthodoxy. He lied down proofs for such Dogma as the existence of God, the Virgin Birth, and the holey Trinity. He spent many years writing about and for God. But at the end of his life he fell silent. He was given a gift of the spirit from God. He got a brief glimpse of the divine spirit and the that tiny bit of knowledge left him so humbled that he felt any further intellectual inquirery was pointless. Formal religion will only get you so far; true revelation belongs to God and the seaker alone.

  • Lucy Nom de Plume says:


    Once again I am reminded I must read St Augustine

  • Saifuddin says:


    asalaam alaykum! Thank you all for commenting. I appreciate all of your wonderful thoughts.

    Saha, alhamdulillah. I am pleased that this weak attempt at something beneficial was helpful, shukralhamdulillah.

    James you wrote,

    “Formal religion will only get you so far; true revelation belongs to God and the seaker alone.”

    We are not talking about the end game in this discussion. Merely training camp. And we all agree no one can meet the requirements of the end game without attaining a number of qualities, some of which include experience, spiritual maturity and some know how. All of which begin in training camp with an authentic coach and authentic method, that is what we are talking about here.

    The end game is not something that I can say is this or that as I have yet to experience this. I am still in training as everyone can well see from my writings and photographs.


  • Sincerae says:

    I just discovered your blog and have added it to my blogroll. I like it:)

    I am a devout Protestant Christian who believes that from the beginning God intended that humanity maintain a spiritual relationship with Him because only He can provide true comfort, security, and hope. Even though I am Christian, some of my closest friends have been Muslims.

    I see you have the Ottoman (Osmanli) coat of arms on your site. I have a similar display on my wall which a friend gave me when I was Istanbul in 2006. I continue to have close ties to Turkey.

  • Sonic Jihad says:


    I’m sorry, I dont too understand, coz I only can talk with Indonesia language.

    tetap berjalan dijalan Allohu, sperti jlannya nabi Ibrahim yg lurus.
    and minta ijinya buat copy gambar Muhammadnya, buat d save k komputer ane…
    jangan lupa untuk tetap sabar menghadapi kaum kafirin di planet bumi ini.

    semoga ane gk slah ngomong he..he…

    “Allohu Akbar”

    thanx yu.

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