Poverty: The Fourth Station

For many Sufis, Poverty isn’t about being without money or food or clothes. That type of poverty is what they call “the poverty of this world” (faqr al-dunya), which requires of others to pay generously in alms or charitable acts to help support those less fortunate. The type of poverty the Sufis aspire to is much deeper, it is poverty of the heart–so that the heart is empty of all desires and attachments to anything other than the divine. 

Early Sufi Ibrahim b. Adham said:

We sought poverty and got wealth, whereas others sought wealth and only got poverty.

A Sufi who has realized the station of poverty is free, satiated, happy, patient and content no matter the external circumstance—the poor (but spiritually rich) Sufi severs all ties to material things and is thus freed of emotional slavery to things outside of herself.

The path to becoming a faqir (a poor person), which is another name for a Sufi as she is free of material attachment, is to continually work on detachment from material goods and needs. A few ways Sufis do this is:

  • To give away material possessions, especially those that matter to the Sufi, until the act of giving brings her more contentment than receiving.
  • Act in such a way that if anybody asked the poor about you, the poor would express satisfaction with you.
  • Ask yourself consistently “Do I fear poverty?” to tune into your current state
  • Practice gratitude and contentment in times of need and generosity in times of surplus

Exploring Poverty

Today, engage in true karma yoga. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna encourages Arjuna to act without attachment to the fruits of the action. The lesson here is that, rather than being concerned about good actions gaining you good karma or bad actions giving you bad karma, act with detachment to the result so that you are freed from the cycle of karma completely and attain liberation in that way. If we think of karma as accumulated energy surrounding acts and thoughts, then the invitation today is to stop accumulating any type of energy, good or bad, in favour of shedding layers of accumulated samskaras or energetic impressions so that you lighten the load on your heart and find a place of true peace without being yanked from thing to thing.

Deciding what your karma yoga should be today can come from your personal answer to the following questions: “How can I feel free from the ebbs and flows of material life today? How can I serve my spirit?”

Anything that helps your mind realize that you are more than your material wants and needs puts you on the right path.

A few suggestions:

  • Give in charity
  • Eat a simpler meal and acknowledge everybody and everything involved in the process of bringing this food to your plate
  • Do a type of yoga or gentle exercise that you think is beneath your current abilities
  • Practise holding space for what others want to say without reacting
  • Put your phone, laptop and other electronics away for at least an hour or up to the whole day today – Instead, do simpler things like walking, having conversations, meditating, writing etc.
  • Give somebody you don’t know something you care about (a necklace, a book etc.)
  • Live simply

May you be filled with peace,

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Next, we look at the states of Fear and Hope.

See my introduction to this series: The Sufi Journey through Yoga.


7 thoughts on “Poverty: The Fourth Station

  1. A lovely post, yet again. The quote by Sufi Ibrahim had me:

    “We sought poverty and got wealth, whereas others sought wealth and only got poverty”.

    These few words hold so much within them. But the concept of letting go of worldly possessions is indeed a difficult one. As i finished reading, I looked around my room, contemplating and ashamed of all that I had ammased of this world goods ( my hijabs, i’m ashamed to admit i have way tooooo many, yet the thought of giving even one away…. unbearable). I’ve made a conscious decision, with the advent of the new month of Shawwal, having emerged, as God says, purified, I will make every effort to live towards a minimalistic life. Insha Allah

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Salam my dear 🙂 As I read your comment, I feel called to comfort you that it is not so much the possession of material things that is bad for the soul, it’s more that you should let go of material possessions in your heart though they remain in your hands. That’s the test of true spiritual poverty. What a beautiful insight, about emerging purified from Ramadan and using Shawwal as the grounds to build on this new purified state! 🙂 Thank you for such a beautiful reminder that Ramadan isn’t over, it’s just the beginning of a new phase. Warmest wishes to you darling ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 🙂 you definitely have emerged as a wise yogini… grateful to have someone like you in my life. Yes. Material Possessions in ones heart is something i need to delve more into… hopefully with more beautiful and insightful posts from you, will understand this better


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