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November 2001 Feature

REFLECTIONS ON ADAB

COMPILED BY STUDENTS OF
THE GREAT SUFI MASTERS
SEYEDEH DR. NAHID ANGHA and
SHAH NAZAR SEYED DR. ALI KIANFAR

Adab is among the first necessary qualities that enable one to step onto a path civilized and generous. Adab in Farsi means politeness, etiquette, common courtesy and is the "manner" of the Sufi. The Prophet Mohammad (swa) has said, "the value of any human being is based upon actions." According to the teachings of Sufism, outward manner should be in harmony with the inward manner. True adab comes from the heart.

One of the important issues in regard to adab is control. In addition to respecting one's self, one's teachers, one's elders, and one's community adab forces us to take control of our every actions rather than letting our mind, body and tongue run free. In adhering to adab, we are fully aware of actions, reactions, and resulting consequences. Control and balance go hand-in-hand. Adab is especially important in the arena of spiritual understanding. Adab is something that goes beyond polite behavior in the Khaneghah. It carries itself throughout all aspects of our lives. Adab makes us aware of the importance of everything we do. We are aware, and thus responsible, for our every movement. To understand and practice adab is truly a noble and esoteric endeavor.

Adab is for the benefit and balance of the individual as well as the community. Adab is required so that none of us steps on another's rights. It is required for peace and harmony to remain amongst us and for our survival. Adab comes from a pure devotion, humility and reverence and it can aid us in moving beyond the veils of nafs (self). Adab, is a practice of attending to and controlling our actions in relation to our Teachers first, toward our brothers and sisters on this path, and ultimately to all humanity. Inner adab is a capacity to keep our hearts pure and free from that which is harmful. Inner adab takes place in how we speak to ourselves and about others within. Therefore, adab pertains to how we treat ourselves and includes how we act when there is no other person in our proximity and when we are alone with ourselves.

We may try to learn the actions of adab, which may be pretend adab if it is not coordinated with the rest of our system. True adab is cultivated by deepening of practice, faith, and connection to the harmony of existence. Adab does not overwrite rights, values, position, etc.

Adab is a proper behavior based on wisdom, logic, learning, observation, devotion, respect for our own self, honoring our own self, and valuing our own self. It is not a theory towards an unknown, thus it is not imagined. We can learn from past mistakes of adab through meditating in order to understand the principles of adab not simply by memorize specific rules. Our past mistakes are, in actuality, a ground for learning. If we learn, then our past becomes a valuable lesson, and anything of value is important to note.

One must have the will and the longing for improvement and learning, whether spiritual or non-spiritual. There is no compulsion in religion It is important to review our thinking to see if we do respect, honor and value our own self. Does how we portray ourselves match the origin (who we really are). That "origin" is visible to the people of the divine.

Adab is a continual practice, not something to be turned off and on by our will, whim, or circumstance.

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