Interview with a student at the 2016 London retreat

What were your first impressions of a sufi retreat?

I’m lost for words… very blessed, serene, almost like returning to my family.

When was your first retreat?

Two and a half years ago.

How many have you been to since then?

I’ve been to one, two, three, four… about seven.

Were they all in London?

I’ve been to Scotland, Wales, Turkey, and again the London ones.

Do you find the retreats vary a lot depending on location?

Yeah I think so, London is more that you can dip in and out, it’s a bit more social, but also you have to prioritise your work, and also come here at the same time, whereas other retreats you know you are at a retreat and so you can focus more on the practises… it’s trying to find the time to come to London, but if anything that makes it even better.

London is nice to come to because it’s almost an escape from work. I’ve come from Birmingham.

How has your perspective of Sufism changed since coming to the retreats?

I’ve seen the authentic side of Sufism. There is cultural Sufism which a lot of people practise, but to actually practise regularly in the presence of the Shaykh, and really see the difference between what it’s like to meditate in a big group with the Shaykh and on your own.

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Reflection on the London retreat, February 2016

The London retreat is always, in my mind, a special kind of retreat. Instead of leaving our busy lives and retiring from the world for a few days as we do on the residential retreats, we are called to make space in the midst of our busyness. Great light pours into our everyday lives if we do so, and London, of all places, harbours a sanctuary. Our Shaykh Hazrat Hamid spends the week with us, meditating, leading the prayers and meeting all who need to see him for advice.

The effect of the retreat builds over the week as the blessings accumulate. There is a quality of ebb and flow, as the serenity of the day-time prayers and practices deepens to the powerful quality of the evening meditation and prayers. The retreat is open every day throughout the day, and every evening, giving great opportunity to all students to deepen their practices and refine their adab (spiritual courtesy).

The other joy of the retreat is catching up with each other, our fellow travellers from across the country – as many students from other parts of the UK travel down to meet with the Shaykh. There is a festive feeling in the social spaces, open smiling faces.

This year I was only able to attend for a few days, and every hour felt precious. The contrast with everyday life can be stark at times – particularly if you are working. It can be hard to leave and return to daily responsibilities – but the light returns with us, illuminating our way and granting fresh strength to persevere with our practices.

This February retreat was held at Sukaina’s house and went smoothly thanks to the tireless generosity of Sukaina and everyone who helped with organisation, donations, cooking food and housekeeping.