"Islam means to surrender to God in peace. The journey of surrender is the lifelong work of transforming the ego, opening the heart and becoming conscious of God. We need to bring Divinity into the center of our lives. The guidance, inspiration, and support of a spiritual director, spiritual teacher, or spiritual friend is crucial to this process. The thirteenth-century sage Rumi says that whoever travels without a guide needs two hundred years for a two-day journey.
A Muslim spiritual director, teacher or friend has abiding faith in the spiritual guidance abounding in the Quran, insights of the Prophet Muhammad and teachings of Islamic sages. The Quran tells us that 'God is closer to you than your jugular vein' and 'Everywhere you turn is the Face of Allah.'
To remove the veils between us and our Creator, the Prophet Muhammad says, 'Know thyself and you will know thy Lord,' and, 'Die before you die.' He also explains the role of a spiritual teacher and companion: 'The teacher kindles the light; the oil is already in the lamp.' Mystics advise seekers to exercise discernment in their choice of a spiritual guide.
Choose someone who reminds you of God, one who counsels you not with the tongue of words but with the tongue of deeds. Rumi's prayer for us is that over a lifetime we connect with several spiritual teachers, guides, and friends so that we can "come out of the Circle of Time and enter the Circle of Love."
Sufism is the mystical core of Islam. Although Sufism is more prominent in Muslim countries, its ideas, practices, and teachers can be found throughout the world. The practices of Sufism are often thought of as spiritual medicines and the sheikh, or guide, is the physician. According to an old Turkish Sufi saying, 'You can bandage a cut for yourself, but you can’t take out your own appendix.' That is, we can learn and grow through our own efforts, but for profound spiritual transformation we need a guide. The guide inspires and teaches students to move closer to realizing their inner, divine nature. That teaching is in itself an expression of divine will. Rumi writes, 'Whoever travels without a guide needs two hundred years for a two-day journey.'
Robert Frager, PhD is the founding president of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, California, USA where he is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Spiritual Guidance Program. He is a sheikh in the Halveti-Jerrahi Sufi Order and has written three books on Sufism.