by Murshid F. A. Ali ElSenossi

In the Name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful.


It is said in the Holy Qur'an - "It is the same with regards to them if you call them or if you remain silent (7:193)", and the Holy Prophet said, 'The one who keeps silent, will triumph'.

There are variations in silence. Our topic deals with real silence, not 'sukut' - which is a non verbal condition which entails the absence of speech. Allah illustrates 'sukut' in the Holy Qur'an concerning Maryam, when she says "I have vowed a fast to the Merciful, today I shall not speak with any human (19:26)".

If speech is from silver, silence is golden, and real silence is precious gems and diamonds.

Sufism, or Tasawwuf, is a system of development which provides access to the silence hidden at the centre of man's being. The silence that is the most beautiful form of music heard only by the Saints and the People of Allah and is the source of all meaningful activities and actions. It is the origin of life and of man's own existence. It is a key given to man with which he can unlock the secret of his own existence and come to possess the forgotten and neglected treasure hidden within his being.

Tasawwuf gives man the means to know himself and thus to know The Real; to listen to the music of silence. It is able to lead mankind to that quiet and peace which is hidden at the centre of his being and whose attainment is possible at all times and places. It can deliver him from the crushing storm of events in this life and the uproar of the external world without necessitating abandonment of that world.

In Tasawwuf, man is delivered by means of an inner transformation which takes place here and now, within the framework of his normal life. As a result he is enabled to hear the inward music of all beings, and above the noise of everyday life, to listen to the music of the Silence of Eternity.

Within Tasawwuf, the spiritual psychological teaching of Islam based on the knowledge of Prophethood - silence, that is, real silence, can be categorized in many different ways. For example,

1. Keeping silent because of adab (spiritual courtesy). One enters a state of silence, not because it's not good to speak (restraining yourself), but because of a genuine desire to gain the knowledge of the moment. This is the samt (silence) of high manners. It is part of the character of the people on the Path of Tasawwuf, by nature, that they train themselves to be silent and to have good manners, because, as we have said before, the Path of Tasawwuf is nothing other than good manners. This is the way of the Holy Prophet.

2. Silence because of specific causes. This means that the murid may enter a state of silence because of unveiling or the Divine overflowing of Grace. He becomes mute, overpowered by this state. There is no speech or indication, or any gestures of communication, because of the overpowering of the moment. The deep silence overtakes him. (There are some people who practice outward silence in their spiritualistic training, yet continue to communicate with others by writing volumes of literature, using hand signals and notes. This is not silence, it is stupidity - pretending to be mute).

3. Becoming silent because the etiquette of spiritual awareness requires you to do so. When you are unavoidably in the company of people whose tongues are loose and they speak of things that do not concern them and there is no benefit in your speaking because they are indulging in backbiting and criticism of others. To be silent in that moment is ibadah (worship).

4. The People of Allah have put in place certain foundations for training that deal with silence. They have said that if you feel that you would like to speak, then remain silent. If you like to remain silent and you are enjoying silence, then speak (going against the desires of the lower self).

The states of silence differ in the human being based on his condition, geographical location and surroundings. As Sayyidina Ali has said "For every state, there is speech". However, we will explain the relevant implementations of silence:

1. Silence of the tongue
2. Silence of the heart
3. Silence of the secret

The silence of the masses is silence of the tongue. The silence of the Knowers is the silence of the heart. The silence of the Lovers is from the luminous flashes of their secret.

Following the methodology of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, the great People of Allah have set down foundations for reaching the higher states of silence. Anyone who travels on the Path of Allah (Tasawwuf) and is on The Way (Tariqa), has to implement certain practices for the transformation of the self. Included in these practices are:

1. Hunger
2. Wakefulness
3. Silence
4. Seclusion

Here you have two practices that activate - hunger and seclusion, and by these, the other two will manifest - wakefulness and silence. The silence indicated here is to leave the manners of the way that people talk and to busy yourself with the remembrance of Allah by the heart. Keep oneself away from things that do not concern you except that which is of necessity regarding ones responsibility towards others. This is the beginning of entering a state of silence. You become the gatekeeper of the heart. As the Shaykh al Akbar says "The real silence is that you should not speak with any of the creations of Allah from any of the four kingdoms (Human, animal, mineral, vegetable) which accompany you in your travel or place of seclusion. In keeping ones self silent from the talking of the self, one should not speak to himself with regards to the things that he is wishing to obtain from the Most Generous Allah. If he makes it a habit to speak with his own self in such a manner, a veil will be placed between the remembrance of Allah and his heart. The heart does not have the space for the remembrance of Allah and anything else".

In general, silence in our time is a safety and this is the original gift of silence. Silence is brought about by the Divine Presence. Silence can also be categorized into two different types - outward and inward, by the heart and by the higher awareness and consciousness. It has been said that when the people on the path of spiritual struggle become aware of the problems and headaches that speaking can bring to the speaker and how the speaker's ego can become inflated, bringing praise and attracting others to him, they choose to remain silent. The silence of the secret is to free yourself from the past and the future. This is the state of silence of 'Maqam as Sirr' , 'The Station of the Secret' and the opening of the subtle centres of the heart (Lataif).

One of the companions of the Holy Prophet, Ibn Mas'oud, said "No one deserves to be imprisoned more than the tongue". If people knew what speaking could bring to them in the way of disastrous outcomes and upheavals in their lives, they would never utter a word. At the same time, if people knew the benefits of speaking rightly, honestly and truthfully, they would never stop talking for a thousand years. It has been said that every morning, when a human awakes, all of the members of his body beg and plead with him, saying to the tongue "For God's sake, don't get us in trouble today, because you speak; and when the blows come, we are the ones who suffer". The Beloved Allah has placed the tongue in an amazing position. He has been shut in the mouth between two jaws, 32 teeth, gums and lips. This is an indication that to achieve spiritual success, you must keep it quiet. There is a riddle in North Africa: "What is the room full of chairs, with the devil dancing around like in a playground?" The answer to this riddle is the mouth - the teeth are the chairs and the tongue is the one dancing.

The master of Luqman the Wise, who is mentioned in the Holy Qur'an, sent him to the butcher's market to buy the best meat there. When he came back with a tongue, his master gave him more money and told him to go again and return with the worst meat. He again returned with a tongue. His master questioned him with regards to his actions. Sayyidina Luqman explained that the best meat is the tongue, if it speaks rightly, honestly and if it is used for what pleases its Creator. It becomes the worst meat if it is used to speak vulgar language and bad manners. It then brings disaster to its owner sooner or later. There is an old Arab saying 'Lisanak hisanak' 'Your tongue is your horse'. 'Idha suntahu saanak'. 'If you look after him, he will take you where you want to go safely'. 'Wa idha khuntahu khanak'. 'But if you betray him, he will betray you'. The Holy Prophet has said that 'A man may speak one word that may elevate him to a higher state of bliss and he may speak one word that may make him descend to the depths of Hell'. According to the Traditions, most suffering is caused by problems of the tongue. At the same time, the miracle that Allah indicates to in the Holy Qur'an is the capability of speech among humans, their different languages and dialects. This is one of the signs of God.

At the end of this topic is this advice: You should think, and what you think you should say, and what you say should bring benefit to you and to all of creation. If this is the case, then, by all means, speak because you are in a state of harmony and love and your body, soul and spirit are in a state of alignment, as are the Earth, the Moon and the Sun. By the Grace of God may He give you a long life so that humanity may benefit from you, because this is a state of Divine Love. The Beloved Allah says 'My slave ceases not to strive towards Me by voluntary actions until I love him. When I love him, I become the eyes that he sees with, the ears that he hears with, his tongue with which he speaks, the feet that he walks with and the hands that he grasps with'. In a nutshell, as the Sufis say, he becomes 'Hu'.

Our advice to the salik is that he must set aside a time each day (in a quiet place set aside for this purpose) to read from the Holy Qur'an and to implement his spiritual muraqaba, contemplations, visualizations and tasawwur, and to practice his Awrad so that he may achieve maximum benefit on the way of achieving the greater silence. In this age of busy-ness without direction or focus, time is precious and it is very dangerous to neglect the commodity of the breath that keeps us alive and has the power to make us real human beings, full of life. As for the silence, the Saints of Allah have said "If the rulers and the rich people of the world knew what is within our hearts, they would fight us to the death to obtain it because this is the Breath of the Merciful".

And Allah speaks the truth and He guides to the straight path.

Murshid F. A. Ali ElSenossi
Hobart, Tasmania
December, 2007