The Sufi mystic search for silence

Let me talk to you about a topic, which has a vital bearing on your everyday life. We are, to a great extent, bearing on our everyday life. We are, to a great extent, governed, not only by our thoughts, but also by the environment and atmosphere in which we live and work. Home atmosphere deeply affects an individual. Nobody can claim to be unaffected by his home atmosphere.

The neighborhood atmosphere is another dynamic force which moulds and shapes our life.

Besides our desires, our ambitions and our aspirations create and generate noise, which, for most of us, is difficult to resist. This type of noise created within, robs us of inner harmony, peace, and may I say, of happiness.

Thus, we have noise within and noise around. In fact, we are living in an Age of Noise. An individual finds it difficult to avoid noise.

The Industrial Age has also its share in creating noise. The modern inventions like the radio, the television, the cinema and the loudspeaker have further surcharged the atmosphere with noise.

No one can validly claim to be immune from the harmful effects of noise. Noise in the home is more harmful. It leads to a deterioration of health and mental vigour. Conflicts and quarrels between the members of the family are generally due to the noise in the home. Which creates tension. Those exposed to noise are more exposed to diseases, like ulcers, Fatigue and irritability are the other depressing effects of noise.

As opposed to noise, silence is conducive to harmony, peace, poise, solace, comfort, calmness and inner strength. The Sufi mystics have emphasized silence and tried to avoid noise.

The mystic zest for life is expressed in their search of silence, which they preach and practice. According to the mystics the one eager and anxious to evolve morally and to develop spiritually, must guard his tongue, which is more venomous and poisonous than a serpent. One should speak only when he must.

Tongue, indeed, creates most of the mischief of the world.

Like an arrow, which once shot cannot be brought back, likewise, a word once uttered, cannot be brought back.

To use tongue recklessly to become a prey of the serpent of the tongue. Reckless words, frivolous words and abusive words make a person, uttering them, a prisoner of the tongue.

There is a Japanese proverb, which says that:

“The tongue is but three inches long, yet it can kill a man six feet high.”

Wisdom lies in controlling tongue.

Uncontrolled tongue is the mark of the lack of self -control.

When speaking, we should keep a vigilant eye, on what we say, to whom we speak, what we speak, how to speak, when to speak and what we should speak when and where.

A man, having a developed mind, and possessing self-control, is marked out as one, who is man of a few words, but of manifold actions and deeds.

The Sufi Mystic warning against idle chatter, needless gossip, aimless talk and frivolous conversation, is undoubtedly, a reasonable code of conduct against waste of energy, which too much talking implies, and against loss of too much inner strength, which living in noise signifies.

There can be no doubt, that such an ideal human outlook and mystic search for inner peace, is more needed now than ever before.

A Sufi mystic is very cautious in his speech and in his choice of words. He speaks little, but he speaks well and speaks at an appropriate time and at a proper place, before persons whom he considers fit and otherwise deserving.

The speech of man, like the dress of a man, proclaims the man. As soon as the man utters a word, one can know his inner feeling and his likes and dislikes.  The words, uttered by a man, show whether the man is vain, or boastful, or thoughtful.

Aimless talk leads nowhere. It entails loss of time and waste of energy, which could have been better utilized in better pursuits and in some constructive work.

Thomas Carlyle emphatically lays down that:

This is such a serious world that we should never speak at all unless we have something to say.”

Silence implies rest of the mind. Silence deserves to be cultivated. It has its own inherent merits. It gives tranquility, peace physical and mental vigour, just like calmness to our nerves. It covers our folly. It keeps out secrets intact. It avoids deputes. It prevents many evils, like slander and backbiting.

According to Carlyle:

“Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together; that at length they may emerge, full-formed and majestic into the delights of life, which they are thenceforth to rule.”

There can be no doubt, that, judicious silence averts many troubles and tribulations. Heart induces us to speak.

Wisdom teaches us to be silent. Judicious silence is better than ostentatious piety.

The Sufi mystics treat unrestrained and indiscriminate talk as morally wrong and spiritually dangerous.

Silence prepares an individual for the spiritual life, having as its goal, the attainment of self-realization, leading to the union with God.

Self-realization is and arduous search.

Self cannot be realized by those, who want to realize it by knowledge, study, or by intelligence. Self is realized in silence. It can be realized, when mind is still and outer senses are clam and quiet. The voice of silence speaks and guides the individual keen on self-realization. For this, one has to do many things. Before closing his tongue, to be opened only when absolutely necessary, one has to exercise self-control, give up vice and get rid of negative thoughts. Moreover, one has to try to have a still mind. A distracted mind is a hindrance towards the attainment of inner peace and self-realization. One should be at peace within. Silence, thus, is an aid to the achievement of desired goal.

We can hear the voice of God only in silence. Needless talk is detrimental to spiritual development, and morally, it is unbecoming of an individual to talk and to speak without rhyme and reason.

To be silent implies to conceal and to hide one’s own imperfections, and to hear and to see and to observe the limitations and drawback of other people, with whom we may come in contact.

Silence is the safeguard of the fool and an ornament of the ignorant and untutored.

In time of stress, in time of trial, in time of suffering and in adverse circumstances, it is always better to be silent instead of groaning, moaning, complaining, shrieking and weeping. Instead of shrieks and curses, one should observe silence, in silence a solution can be found for the difficulties and hardships besetting an individual. In silence, one can gain strength enough to cope and to overcome the unfavourable circumstances surrounding an individual. #

One can draw strength from within and be courageous and bold to overcome evil and to encourage good.

The Corner of Silence is the dwelling place of the highest, the purest, the best and the choicest positive thoughts.

Silence is necessary for intuition and inspiration. Silence leads to concentration. Sufi Meditation is a way of regulated silence.

The four mystic commandments, namely talk less, eat less, sleep less and mix less with the people, show us the way to the life of bliss, where moderation is the rule and where excessive indulgence is an exception.

It has been said that safety lies in silence and danger lies in speech. But, occasions arise, when not to speak is moral guilt.

To be helped and to help may assume different forms. It may, at times, be informal and other times, it may be professional. Help may come in the shape of advice, suggestion, counsel and guidance. Sympathy is a type of help.  Empathy is a type of better and superior help. A doctor helps a patient by prescribing medicine. A teacher helps his pupil by imparting to him knowledge. A priest helps people by giving them a discourse. A spiritual guide helps his disciples by showing them the path, which leads to better life, and better living and which gives them the vision of harmony, beauty, truth and peace.

Life without guidance is, “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing”.

With inner change and transformation, and individual is capable of understanding the real cause of tension and upheavals, with which he often suffers. Ultimately, he will come to realize, that, the fault is in himself that he talks recklessly, aimlessly and talks too much.

We have been given one tongue, so that, we may talk less. We have been given two ears, so that, we may hear more, and thus learn more.

Like the three monkeys, one should not speak evil, hear evil and see evil.

Control of the tongue is an expression of self-mastery. One cannot control his tongue without controlling his thoughts and thoughts cannot be controlled without self-control.

Our tongue invites most of the sins as compared to other parts of out body.

Telling a lie is one of them. Backbiting is another. Slander, perjury and false evidence are all sins, committed by our tongue.

We waste our energy in criticizing others. We should refrain and ignore things which do not concern us. Instead of criticizing others, we should try to concentrate upon our own foibles, faults and follies. Self-criticism is a better part of wisdom, but, criticism of others is the reflection of the debased nature inherent in man. Criticism may be constructive or destructive. It may be positive or negative. Destructive and negative criticism is induced by evil intention and is due to malice, envy, or enmity or it may be with intention of discouraging a person in his noble and loft pursuits. Whereas, constructive or positive criticism constitutes a piece of good advice, or a suggestion, aiming at the reformation of the individual.

In our social relations, it is not praiseworthy or wise to blame others. Our influence, knowledge and power should not be used to abuse or to blame others. But, on the contrary, it should be harnessed in the service of man, and to help and assist men

Talking about yourself will not secure respect or consideration for you. People are not interested in your health and hopes, ambitions and aspirations, tours and travels, exploits and erudition, in your fears and fancy and in your rise and fall, in your accomplishments and achievements and in your wrongs and worries.

To talk about oneself is an indication of the spirit of self-love, to which, the mystics cannot reconcile themselves. Self-praise is egoism enlarged.

Self-praise is not and can never be praiseworthy. Self-conceit prompts a man to be self-centered.

When we talk to others we should observe and ethical social norm and standard. We should not place the load of our own ills and troubles upon their shoulders. Instead of crushing others by our tale of suffering told in a sad tone, we should speak to them in a way, which may not be boring to them. Our words should be brief and our tone should be soft and melodious.

Conversation should be such as not to lose the lustre of words.

Word has power. It embodies human thought. Through words we express ourselves and our words convey our sentiments, our feelings our opinion and our judgement. The effect of the word, that we utter, persists. It exercises an influence for good or evil. If we utter a good word, its effect is good, and if we utter a word which injures others, then we are doing gross injustice. Such injuries are not healed, unlike the injuries of the bullet and the knife, which can be cured.

There are some people who act and behave as an Iago, appearing to be sincere and sympathetic, but, inwardly, using crooked ways and adopting tactics bordering on deception and treachery.

Life is a serious proposition. Our words are not like snowballs which melt and disappear. Every word, that we utter, may be a source of blessing or may serve as a curse. We are all architects. We build, brick by brick, with words, the edifice of life. Our words may serve as adornments or may serve as a pick-me-up to the person to whom they ae addressed.

Let us, then, not sow the seed of dissension, disunity and hatred by our words, but, use words, giving hope, happiness, encouragement, comfort and courage.

Words are capable of changing destinies. Coarse and vulgar conversation, whether it be idle gossip, hurtful strictures, prejudiced criticism, and boastful pedantry, is not and cannot be, fine building material to be used in the building of human lives.

There are people, who do not tolerate other people’s opinion. They insist on their own opinion and judgement. Intoleration thus leads to mutual bickering’s and bitterness, talk and discussions.

The mystics do not enter into the arena of arguments, discussion, recriminations, feuds and quarrels.

Knowledge versus love

Knowledge and love are two powerful forces, which exert great influence.

It is true, that, knowledge is power. But, knowledge without love, is like a flower without fragrance. It is live, which gives knowledge the desired cohesion, security and vitality.

Knowledge insists on speech, talk or conversation. In other words, knowledge is vocal. Whereas love is silent.

Knowledge lacks the skill to make the life of others good and beautiful. Love makes life a bouquet of multi-coloured flowers of devotion, suffering and patience.

Knowledge does not spare criticism. Its arrogance and austerity make it cold and cruel. On the other hand, love is calm and placid. Knowledge is assertive but love is submissive.

Knowledge seeks perfection. Love tolerates human foibles and the mistakes of omission and commission. Knowledge is indifferent. It shows no sympathy and pity. Love insists on service and devotion. Love, unlike knowledge, grows fragrant flowers in the path of life.

Knowledge has no forbearance, whereas, love is forbearing. With its cloak of generous disposition, it covers and hides the faults of others.

Knowledge is concerned with what ought to be. Love is content with what it is.

Knowledge divides. Love unites. Knowledge is selfish. Love is ever willing to make sacrifice. Unlike knowledge, success is not the watchword of love.

Love is silent and mute. In silence, it lends beauty to life. Its breath serves as an inspiration. Its language of silence gives hope, vigour, strength and courage. What-ever it touches, it adorns.

Its silent words are like drops of rain on the parched and dry land. Love seeks peace and serves as benediction. Love grows, develops and flourishes in silence.

Mysticism interprets silence in different ways. The subtle extensions of meaning and feeling, which the mystics do not hesitate to give to silence, do not admit of easy definition. They are to be experienced. They, in silence, carve, plan and prepare a path, which leads them to peace, progress and purification.

A Sufi mystic is a landscape in the universe. In silence, he puts lasting and imperishable things in the life of those, who come in contact with him.

A Sufi mystic is a watershed embodying the human efforts towards perfection. In silence, he has tried to know himself. In silence, he has discovered other profound truths. In silence, he has solved the riddle of life.

Types of Silence

Silence may be of different types. It may be classified

  1. Silence of tongue;
  2. Silence of heart;
  3. Silence of will;
  4. Silence of mind;
  5. Silence of soul;
  6. Silence of passions;
  7. Silence of desires; and
  8. Silence from wandering thoughts.

Silence of tongue is an ordinary type of silence.

Silence of heart means slow heartbeat prolonging life.

Silence of will implies “Thy will be done”.

Silence of mind is necessary for creative living.

Silence of soul implies loss of self.

Silence of passions confers tranquility.

Silence of desires is to gain self-control

Silence from wandering thoughts gives silence to heart, mind and will. It leads to internal harmony and promotes calmness and tranquility.

Foot Prints

Silence is self-discipline.

Silence creates inner harmony and gives inner strength.

Silence is conservation of energy.

Fewer wants, fewer desires and fewer ambitions result in less talk and greater silence.

Silence saves the soul from strain and stress.

 When a person earns the Grace of God, he becomes more and more quiet and silent.

When our outer senses are dumb, coolness comes in as a balm.

On the outer senses and the inner senses becoming silent and inactive, a person undergoes a feeling of peace, which is, in fact, a state of bliss.

The wrong use of tongue constitutes an acknowledgement of our imperfections, and limitation.

Restraint is better in moments of emotions.

To generate gloom and depression by talk is an encroachment upon the peace of others.

Words should come out from a mouth, as if, they are stars, appearing after sunset.

To search for dirt and mud in a mine is a waste of energy but to try to find gold, diamonds and other precious stones is, indeed, a commendable effort.

Discretion is not only a better part of valour, but also, a better part of conversation, howsoever eloquent it may be.

A man talks most about the things and person, which he likes best and loves best.

The talk of a man reveals the inner man.

The pursuit of spiritual life does not allow too much talking.

Spiritual life is like a mighty stream which flows best when not clogged. Likewise, spiritual life need not be tarnished by idle chatter, frivolous talk and empty gossip.

Conversation, rightly directed, is an acknowledgment of the Grace of God, and a distinct service to fellow-men. Unrestrained indulgence in talk is to give birth to many evils. Best talk is that, which promotes virtue, and which promotes the legitimate interests of the masses and the classes.

To know oneself is a difficult thing. But, to find faults in other people is quite an easy thing.

Avoid self-conceit.

Egoism belittles a man.

Selfishness degrades a man.

Greed humiliates a man.

Pride lowers a man.

Boast exposes a man

Vanity robs the lustre of man.

Thoughts reflect the character of man.

Low thoughts point to a shallow man.

Lofty thoughts refer to marks of altruism in man.

To seize opportunity in silence is luck.

To make the capricious chance favourable in silence is, no doubt and achievement.

One should not be an empty vessel, making much sound.

Morals are best cultivated in silence.

Better is to resist rather than yield to the temptation of talking when there is nothing to talk about.

Like you purse, take care of your words.

Words are precious pears and require to be guarded.


Silence is potent for the development of spiritual power. There can be no inner harmony and a balanced mind without the practice of judicious silence.

Hence it is necessary to find some time to practice silence every day. Look before you leap into the area of talk, arguments and discussions. Be discreet and courteous. The best time to observe silence is at the time of sunrise and sunset.

To banish all thoughts, all talk, all ambitions and all desires every day, for some time, constitutes the preparation for inner purification.

To give rest to mind is to gain power.

Ignore trifles of everyday life.

To show patience in an unpleasant situation is self-mastery.

To practice silence everyday, even for a short time, is a part of self-discipline and self-control.

To search in silence, the avenues of peace, is an effort towards self-realization and self-knowledge.

To close the lips-tight is to wait for the Divine mysteries to be revealed.

Find some time everyday for silence and be an empty vessel. Self-restraint, if accepted as a watchword, will save the tongue from uttering many undignified words.

Once seized by the desire to speak when there is nothing to speak, it is better to overcome the temptation, by reciting some poetry, some hymn, or better still, to engage oneself in prayer. Such words as “I repose my trust in Thee”, “I submit myself to the Will of God”,  “ I want to be saved from vanity, show and ostentatious display”, “I expect better things to happen”, “I have no fears and no cares and no tears”, etc. are powerful words, which can change the pattern of life.

It is always better to be occupied with one thought. The object that one wants to achieve and the vision of life that one wants to adopt, should occupy one’s attention, not leaving any time for idle talk.

It is wise to be silent, in matters which do not concern you.

It is wise decision not to assert from within, in order to avoid inner tension and conflict.

Practice of silence should be gradual and regular. Measured words and brief talk are effective and pleasing.

Silence is a reliable ally. It leads to the development of personality and willpower. It gives peace, poise, bliss, freedom and perfection.

The life of a mystic is a declaration of the sanctity of silence.

The Citadel of Silence is impregnable. When one wants to be saved from tears, fears and cares, or to be protected from envy, enmity and malice, or to serve as an example of modesty, humility or sincerity, or when it comes to self-knowledge and self-realization or when it comes to renouncing all alliance with the evil forces, and when it comes to entering into a truce with the inordinate passions and vile and vicious inclinations, all roads lead to the Citadel of Silence.

This is a series of postings to come, on the subject of Sufi Mysticism. The postings will give in-depth knowledge in the complete world & ultimate sphere of Sufi spirituality. The postings are enlisted in Categories: ‘Sufi’s Spirituality’ (Tasawwuf )  & in ‘Tasawwuf ‘(Path of Mysticism). Alternatively, you can subscribe to our blog for updates.

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