Letters of a Sufi Master
The Shaykh ad-Darqawi
Shaykh al-'Arabi ad-Darqawi;
Translated by Titus Burckhardt
Preface by Martin Lings
This precious translation of selections from the letters of Shaikh ad-Darqawi, the founder of a major branch of the Shadhiliyyah Order in North Africa in the 13th/19th century, belongs to a class of Sufi literature that has not as yet received enough attention outside of the Islamic world.
Each letter is a precious gem of wisdom, an indispensable key to open certain doors which stand before every traveler upon the Path. Almost all the letters concern the method and the operative aspects of the Way based on the central techniques of the invocation or dhikr.
In this domain they must be considered among the most direct instructions given on Sufic method to be found in all Sufi literature, where generally masters have preferred to refer to the actual spiritual techniques through allusion. Occasionally, however, fundamental facets of Sufi doctrine are also discussed.
"The sickness that is afflicting your heart is one of those things which strike men whom God loves, for 'of all men the most sorely tried are the Prophets, after them the saints, then those who resemble them, closely or remotely.' So do not be downcast, since this happens most often to men full of sincerity and love, to cause them to go forward towards their Lord.
By this suffering their hearts are purified and transformed into pure substance. Lacking such encounters with reality, nobody would reach the knowledge of God, far from it, for 'if there were no arenas for souls, the runners would not be able to run their course' as it is said in Ibn 'Ata-Illah's Hikam, in which he also says: 'In the variety of signs and changing states I came to recognize Thine intention in regard to me, that of showing me all things, so that there might be nothing in which I would not know Thee.'
In the same sense, the initiates have said: 'It is in times of upheaval that men stand out from amongst men.' In the Koran it is said : Do the people then reckon that they will be left in peace because they say 'we believe,' and that they will not be tried? (XXIX,1)."
In making available these letters in English, Titus Burckhardt has rendered a service to those seeking spiritual instruction. He has also enriched Sufi literature in Western languages and made available one more document of extraordinary power and beauty belonging to the recent past.
"During his early years in Morocco, Titus Burckhardt immersed himself in the Arabic language and assimilated the classics of Sufism in their original form. In later years, through his translations, he was to share these treasures with a wider public. One of his most important works of translation was of the spiritual letters of the renowned 18th-century Moroccan Shaikh Mulay al-'Arabi ad-Darqawi. These letters manifest a deep and lively insight into timeless metaphysical truths and, at the same time, are a precious document of practical spiritual counsel."