Al-Matin ~ Step-by-Step Persistence

When you are guided to this pathway, take the opportunity to connect with the sacred qualities of practicality and deliberation, of small steps taken over a long period of time.

WE ALL KNOW CERTAIN situations call for taking things “one step at a time.” But sometimes it is difficult to have the patience to do so. With all the Sufi’s emphasis on love, surprise, and grace, you may wonder what role persistence pays. This pathway keeps us going even when we don’t receive positive feedback from our surroundings, yet our heart of hearts tells us that we’re on the right path. You could say that nothing really worthwhile has ever been accomplished on earth without this pathway. In the following story, Mullah Nasruddin demonstrates that this sort of persistence can seem crazy, but often accomplishes what’s needed:

At one time in his life, Mullah Nasruddin was “riding the circuit” as an independent qadi, or arbiter of local, personal disputes. It was a way for a wise (or in Mullah’s case, only semi-wise) man to make a living. One day, Mullah Nasruddin ran into one of the villages on his route yelling, “Where’s my donkey’s saddlebag? I’ve lost my saddlebag! Unless someone finds it immediately, I’ll do to you what I did to the village I just visited!” After a long search, someone did find Mullah’s saddlebag. “What would you have done if we hadn’t found it?” someone asked. “I would have left here and gone to the next village,” said Mullah.

Love also demands this type of persistence, especially when the relationship has begun to mature beyond attraction, into something deeper. As the fourteenth-century Sufi Hafiz puts it:

If you wait until the end of time,
you will never smell love’s perfume
until you kneel at the doorstep
of your heart’s tavern and sweep it,
night after night, with your forehead.
Likewise, if you want to taste
the pure wine in this
jewel-encrusted cup of love,
you may have to bump
your head on its rim
countless times
before you get a sip.

Perhaps you are facing a long, uphill journey, or a project of many years, in which there may be many distractions. Take this pathway to heart and look at the unfolding of the universe and the evolution of life on earth as examples of the amazing feats that can result from perseverance.

Roots and Branches

Traditional translations of this quality include “steadfast power” and “firm.” The roots of Matin show a basket perfectly woven to form a whole ( MT ), which can resist disintegration for a long time ( N ). When this quality of active persistence awakens within you, you do not become tired of taking things one step—or even one part of a step—at a time. Matin conforms to whatever circumstances it meets and keeps going until the task is finished. In this sense, it is similar to Sabur (99), but the latter expresses itself through light or intelligence, while Matin expresses itself through form.


Center again in the heart. Try breathing and walking with the name in a rhythm of four: ya-Ma-Teen (the last syllable held for two counts). Or, while sitting, allow the sound to find a regular rhythm and tempo that harmonize with your breathing rhythm and heartbeat. Keep the breath strong and stay with this feeling as you look ahead at the day before you to see what is important right now. Call a circle of your inner selves to Widsom’s table. Allow all the feelings, sensations, and voices within you to participate in breathing Matin, which can remind them that the long journey of evolution begins with individual steps.


The Sufi Book of Life, 99 Pathways of the Heart for the Modern DervishNeil Douglas-Klotz

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