Islam is almost entirely a devotional religion. It has produced Sufism which is noted for its intense bhaktas. Sufism emphasizes the use of dancing, music and singing. Its followers do prescribed dancing steps while chanting mantras. This purifies the heart and accentuates the feeling of bhakti. Awareness is heightened and the mind becomes more one-pointed. The ego drops away and so in turn does the veil of delusion. This leads to eventual transcendence and realization.
The most well-known mantra used in Islam is la ilaha illallah which means ‘there is no god but God’. This is repeated over and over again like japa. In Islam this process is called zikr and it is said that the zikr (remembrance), the zakir (person who remembers) and the mazkur (remembered one) become united through intense practice and devotion. This is exactly the same as in yoga and many other systems.
Eventually, with intense bhakti there arises an effortless flow of awareness to the object of devotion. This is calledfana, and is comparable to dhyana or meditation. This eventually leads to baqua which is called samadhi in yoga. This is the exact parallel of raja yoga but in the field of bhakti yoga. Always there is emphasis on the ascent of devotion so that it can receive the descent of grace. This is similar to the concept used in the integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo.
There are innumerable well-known bhaktas in Islam and Sufism. As an example we will give a few quotations of Rabia of Basra, who was born in the 8th century in what is now Iraq. When she was a young girl she suffered from hunger, slavery and beatings. Nevertheless she became a bhakta and said:
My aspiration is but one . . .
To remember thee and thee alone . . .
I have made thee the companion of my heart.
The groaning and the yearning of the lover
Until the heart has found its rest in the beloved.
She also said: “One mark of the awakened mind is that it is centred in the supreme and will not wander after anything else. The mind that is absorbed in the service of the one has craving for nothing else.”
We will end here with one poem by the Sufi Attar:
Joy – joy – I triumph
Now no more I know
Myself as simply me.
I burn with love.
The centre is within me
And its wonder
Lies everywhere about me.
Joy -joy – no mortal thought can fathom me.
I am the merchant and the pearl -both.
Lo, time and space lie crouching at my feet.
Joy – joy – when I would in a rapture
Plunge into myself and all things know.