Sufism and Anorexia Nervosa




rumi sufism

“Lose yourself. Escape from the black cloud that surrounds you. Then you will see your own light, as radiant as the full moon.

Dear Readers,


I love these words by Turkic poet Rumi: “Prayer clears the mist and brings back peace to the soul,” because nothing matters in the world when you have that connection with your Lord. As a Muslim, I always make a futile attempt towards performing my daily five prayers. Before my Eating Disorder diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, I was connected with my faith or perhaps I was more automated in my prayers and never really dwelled on the peace I had in my daily life (it was all taken for granted). The days I completed my five daily prayers were the days marked off as a success on my weekly planner. As days passed with my anorexia nervosa, I felt that connection with my faith was dwindling. How can you pray and concentrate on essence of Holy Book when your mind is preoccupied with disordered thoughts of food? I would be often in middle of my daily prayer and all of a sudden my focus would shift and I would start planning elaborate meals for my family. I would hastily finish my prayer and run off to kitchen and then the doom of my disorder would begin as I would be subconsciously chained to kitchen for next 7 hours, measuring, cooking, cleaning, cooking and never once tasting my own food.

In my yester years (before ED took over) I always dreamed of having enough time to master the magical world of Sufi teachings. I wanted to read Imam Ghazali, get lost in the magical world of Ibn al Arabi, travel to past to read Rabia al Basri and immerse my self in evolving Sufi practices in the sub continent of South Asia. I wanted to recite Rumi, memorize Hafiz and read Iqbal.

With anorexia nervosa another hefty price I paid was dying brain, loss of self worth, low morale and ongoing anxiety attacks over eating out. My depleted serotonin, leptin, endocrine levels left me with a very little functioning brain. Oh don’t get me wrong, I was brilliant when it came to cooking and drooling over cookery books and watching come dine with me on Channel 4 and 4HD all day long, but when it came to reading any other literature or watching anything else on Tele, my mind would shut down.

I rediscovered my love for Sufism in mid 2012, when I was aiming towards the lowest point in my life. Recovery is your journey and as Polly Mertens said: “It’s not how many times you fall down its how many times you get up that makes the difference between success and failure.”

‘According to Sufi teachings, the path to experiencing the Divine Presence starts within. It is said that one who realizes oneself realizes the Lord. God is present, but individuals cannot see the Almighty because curtains of ignorance veil their eyes and rust encases their hearts. The average person is ego-centered. Only after he or she has polished the heart and purified the self will the curtains lift, the rust fall away, and the eyes become able to see God.’

I joined school of Sufi teaching and started to meditate (called Muraqabah) every morning after my early morning prayer. ‘The origin of muraqabah lies in the saying of the Prophet Muhammad SAW, “Adore Allah as if you are seeing Him, and if you do not see Him, know that He is seeing you.” Literally, muraqabah means to wait and to guarantee or protect. When used as a Sufi technical term, the meaning of muraqabah is to detach oneself from worldly pursuits for a period of time with the intention of nurturing the spiritual guidance that the seeker has received from his shaykh.’

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As Rumi said: “Be with those who mix with God as honey blends with milk.” Therefore, I made a decision to be in the company of those who loved God and not in the company of my Eating Disorder.



Indeed the practices are helping me to conquer the demon of Eating disorder. I panic less and though there are bad days, but nothing that a weekly group meditation session cannot conquer.  It is the very first time, that I am willing to eat. I feel that I still have a long way to go with my practices, but in life nothing comes free, we have to struggle if we want to succeed.

‘Keep knocking, and the joy inside/ will eventually open a window/ and look out to see who’s there.’



About Author

Islam and Eating Disorders founded in 2012 – run by Maha Khan, the blog creates awareness of Eating Disorders in the Muslim world, offers information and support for sufferers and their loved ones.

1 Comment

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