It was the custom of Sidi 'Abderrahman when the sea was calm to float on the waters off Algiers, seated on his prayer carpet. One day on a beach he came upon a poor shepherd who played a small flute (qashbut), and who was so absorbed in his melody that he did not even hear the Shaykh's salam. He had promised to play for three days in a row if God would grant him a child he had long sought to have, and filled with gratitude and joy in seeing his wish accorded, he had undertaken to play for forty days. Now Sidi 'Abderrahman did not like the flute, which certain traditions would have it to be the instrument of Iblis, who solaces in his eternal anguish by wailing through its reeds.
He declared that this way of thanking God was absurd. 'The Lord does not accept such homage. I am going to teach thee something which will reconcile thee to Him.' And he taught the shepherd the Fatiha, together with the rites of prayer. Then he launched his rug and floated out to sea.
The shepherd tried to recite the formula he had just learned. But he got confused: he has forgotten a line. Heeding nothing but his zeal, he ran after the saint to have his help in recalling his words; and thus he walked on the sea. The saint, the sage, had need of a carpet to stay miraculously afloat on the waves, and here was this ignorant man walking on them barefoot. Sidi 'Abderrahman understood the lesson and spoke to the uneducated shepherd, this man of good will, in quoting the first hadith from Sahih Bukhari: 'Continue, O my brother, to play for Him. Innama l'-a mal bi-n-niyat. Verily the act is in the intention.
By Seyyed Hossein Nasr (Author)
The majority of the books written on Sufism are from authors who have not "tasted" it, and that is the reason they are insufficient, if not misleading. To explain Sufism, or tasawwuf, as a bundle of foreign influences outside Islam is ridiculous. If one wants to borrow, or has the need to borrow, then they would go to the source; be it from Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism and so forth. They would simply become Christians or Hindus. Sufism is the kernel of Islam, the very center of its circle. Have there ever been non-genuine Sufi/Muslim practices? Of course, and nowadays more than ever. But that tells us about the condition of people, and their grasp (or lack of) of the core teachings of Islam, not of Islam, and Sufism itself. If one encounters some books written in bad taste does that mean that we should write literature off? That we should boycott masterpieces? That is what some legalism-obsessed fellas seem to suggest nowadays. That is one of the many points touched. There is further elucidation of the meaning of the mystic quest; the relation between revelation, intellect and reason; description of the spiritual states; the encounter of Islam with other religions; excellent explanation of the root of environmental crisis, and more. This is a source to learn from if one is a serious seeker, or genuinely interested in knowing something about the reality of Sufism.