If Sufism has a central method, it is the development of presence and love. Only presence can awaken us from our enslavement to the world and our own psychological processes. And only love, cosmic love, can comprehend the Divine. Love is the highest activation of intelligence, for without love nothing great would be accomplished, whether spiritually, artistically, socially, or scientifically.
Sufism is the path of those who love. The lover is someone who is purified by love, free of himself and his own qualities, and fully attentive to the Beloved. This is to say that the Sufi is not held in bondage by any quality of his own because he sees that everything he is and he has belongs to the Source.
In the words of great Sufis: “The Sufi sees nothing except Allah in the two worlds.” In the words of Abu Muhammad Muta’ish: “The Sufi is he whose thought keeps pace with his foot – i.e., he is entirely present: his soul is where his body is, and his body is where his soul is, and his soul where his foot is, and his foot where his soul is. This is the sign of presence without absence. Others say on the contrary: ‘He is absent from himself but present with Allah.’ It is not so: he is present with himself and present with Allah.”
We live in a culture which has been described as materialistic, alienating, neurotically individualistic, narcissistic, and yet ridden with anxiety, shame, and guilt. From the Sufi point of view, humanity today is suffering under the greatest tyranny, the tyranny of the ego, of the false self. We “worship” innumerable false idols, but all of them are forms of the false self.
The idea of “presence with love” may be the most basic remedy for the prevailing materialism, selfishness, and unconsciousness of our age. In our obsession with our false selves, in turning our backs on Allah, we have also lost our essential Self, our own divine spark. In forgetting Allah, we have forgotten ourselves. Remembering Allah is the beginning of remembering ourselves.