Sufism – An Insider’s Story
The following is an interview by Kent Philpott of a man who will be identified as Noema.
He was born in London, England on the day President Nixon was inaugurated president—January 20, 1969. At that point his father was Muslim, and his mother was Jewish, though neither practiced either religion. Both his parents were born in British India, his father in Aligarh, U.P. and his mother in Bombay (Mumbai). Both are well educated--his father, now retired, was a Chartered Accountant, and his mother is a PhD in Nutritional Science. On his father’s side is an ancient family of titled landlords, and before Independence, the family owned thousands of acres of land. His mother comes from a Persian-speaking family.
Presently Noema works in a computing IT environment as a database specialist. He studied physics at the university level for two years but had to drop out due to a lack of money.
Question: Noema? This is not your real name. What does it mean, and why did you choose it?
Answer: This name I chose because it means “the object of focus for the consciousness.” It can be an object external to the human consciousness or an object within the human consciousness. The focus of my life has been God. I do not lust for money or possessions. I have been searching all my life for something other than material goods. I had been thirsty and knew I had no love in my life. I could not find it among others. I found it when I found Christ. It was a joyous occasion. I felt joy, I felt uplifted, as though a large weight had been lifted off me. And still I have this sense of it; I am content.
Q: Tell me more.
A: I thought of God to be loving yet distant. My childhood was somewhat unhappy and lonely. I remember talking to God as a child. I had a telescope and would look up at the sky and admire God’s handiwork. The idea of space and the universe made me feel very small. But I thought how great God must be.
When I was a child I was told that religion was about law and rules that God set down to live our lives by. I was told that God gave laws and rules, or the world would be full of chaos, that the strong would rule the weak, and the rich would exploit the poor. My mother would read a book to me every night, and some were stories about the Bible and Tales of Aesop. I loved the stories with simple moral lessons at the end.
I had little interaction with my father growing up; he was always busy, always gone from home.
I had a very strong sense of right and wrong. I would become upset if I saw someone hurting someone else or even being unjust toward another. Sometimes I would ask God why He let people get away with such things.
At school I would be bullied. A gang of about five white kids would beat me up and call me names. This made me angry and made me question God as to why He would let this happen to me.
Q: Your early family life greatly impacted you. What other significant events stand out in your mind?
A: It was my 7th or 8th birthday. Everything was going fine; I cut the birthday cake, then after the guests left, I went to bed. However I was not asleep and I heard my parents argue, scream, and shout at each other. I got upset and walked out of the flat onto the street and started to run and kept running until I could run no more. The problem was I no longer knew where I was and I did not know the way home. Then I saw a bus, which I recognized as one that my mother often used. I hopped on and no one noticed me get on except a priest wearing a black cassock and a collar. He asked me if I was lost, I said that I was. We then got of the bus at the next stop.
We went to a phone box, he asked me my name, I told him, and he then went through the phone book until he found the correct phone number and called my parents. He told me that they were coming to pick me up. He stayed with me until my parents arrived. While we were waiting he prayed:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I now know this to be the 23rd Psalm.