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.

That’s how my perspective has changed, that there’s actually a very dynamic aspect of Islam, and if anything the essence, so it’s not just a bunch of hippies dancing or singing – there’s a lot more going on.

Were you a Muslim when you began the practices?

Yes, but I was looking to understand Islam a lot better.  To see what it’s really about.

Has your understanding changed?

Oh yes. My perspective on Islam has changed a lot. When they say Islam is a religion of peace I used to think it didn’t really seem that way. But now I see the wisdom in the sayings of the Prophet and the Quran, and the significance behind those things.

What brought you to this particular group?

I googled it, I was looking for something Sufi related for quite a few years but nothing really clicked. But I was at the stage of my life where I just googled at the right time, and I found the meetup group. I came and I really enjoyed it, and just kept coming back.

How have you been affected by the meditations at the retreat?

A stronger relationship with the Shaykh, trying to develop and enhance that relationship, because that’s a means to get closer to God. Observing his mannerisms, characteristics, and trying to be receptive to his presence.

Do you have any special memories from these retreats?

Well at the Konya retreat the last day was my birthday, so that was… something else. It was on a Friday, we meditated at Shams’ tomb, it was a very exhilarating experience.

In the evening they got me a cake, and I got some nice presents… probably the best birthday I’ve had.