Devotional practice, spiritual striving and ascetic discipline are all for the sake of purifying oneself, not because God needs them.
By Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh
The essential message of Sufism, a message holding true for all sufis, is this; to remember God and serve others.
The purpose of remembering God is to focus solely on Divine Unity. To achieve such constant consciousness of God or Absolute Being, the sufi strives to let go of the consciousness of other things, to gradually forget anything other than God, until one can exclaim:
All that I’ve read and known I have forgotten:
Only awareness of the Friend now remains constant.
Bayazid had a disciple who had remained with him for 20 years. Each time the disciple came to Bayazid the master would ask the man his name. After two decades of this, the disciple one day ventured to suggest that Bayazid was merely poking fun at him by asking his name time after time. “My boy”, replied the master, “I’m not making fun of you. It is just that only God’s Name ever comes to me, sweeping all other names from my heart. Thus, as soon as I hear your name each day, I forget it.”
When one becomes a sufi and loves God, that person loves all beings as manifestations of God and serves them. Devotional practice, spiritual striving and ascetic discipline are all for the sake of purifying oneself, not because God needs them. Service to others, though, means service to God. A true sufi strives to make the hearts of others joyful so that god will be pleased. In effect, this means serving God. That is, if you wish to serve God, you must serve others:
Devotional practice has nothing to do with rosary, prayer-rug or robe;
The true practices of devotion
is but serving others.
The sincere sufi is one who inwardly remembers God while outwardly serving others.
(Source: Sufi Journal, Issue 57, 2003)