Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Our New Sufi News Site

Dear Friends and Readers,
This is to notify you that our blog has moved to www.sufinews.org
It is newly designed and is looking very attractive and easy to navigate to all the Sufi news you like to read.
Click here to go to the new site and please remember to bookmark the new site and to sign up on the new site for alerts by email for new posts. 
May Allah send peace and blessings to all.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sufi Islam in Egypt

Sufi Islam in Egypt  Daily News Egypt, Sarah El Masry  /  October 21, 2012 

 

Lately, Sufis have been one of the vital cards utilised in Egyptian parliamentary and presidential elections. Being supportive of the “civil state” camp and against political Islam added more to the long list of misconceptions about Sufis. Not only are they depicted as indulgers in folkloric celebrations, poetic recitals and religious chants, but also as allies of secularism, a precondition to be bashed by their rival religious group, the Salafis. Daily News Egypt explores the meaning of Sufism through the eyes of its adherents, the insightful explanations of some Sufi sheikhs about the long rivalry against Wahhabism and the current Sufi involvement in politics.

Folkloric performances sometimes overshadow the spiritual core of Sufism. (Photo by Hassan Ibrahim)
“The mawalid [plural of moulid, birthdates of the prophet’s family and other awliya'a, saints] have turned into popular as well as religious celebrations, so not every person who goes to them is a Sufi,” said Sheikh Mohamed Mazhar, the leader of the Borhameya order in Egypt.
Two of the major mawalid that Sufis celebrate annually were held in the past two weeks. On 18 October, over one million visitors travelled to Desouk in Kafr El Sheikh governorate to celebrate the moulid of sidi Ibrahim El Desouki. On the preceding Thursday another million visitors from all over Egypt and even from other Islamic countries flooded Tanta in El Gharbiya governorate to commemorate the moulid of Sidi Ahmed El Badawi. The crowds who went there sought not just blessings, but to recharge themselves spiritually and to be reminded of the virtues Islam calls for through the remembrance of these righteous men’s deeds and attitudes.
The mawalid combine religious rituals such as dhikr (recitation of the names of Allah and the prophet and some verbal prayers) and inshad (an Islamic religious singing that allows minimal musical instruments) as well as some folkloric traditions such as poetry recitals, singing, dancing and selling oriental desserts and toys. Sufis originally celebrated mawalid for spiritual reasons but over the years the folkloric traditions grew bigger and to overshadow Sufism’s tenets, leaving behind an image that Sufism is just a circus for the commoners, uneducated and poor.
Like other religious communities in Egypt, there is no official information about the numbers of Sufis, however most estimates approximates the number of Sufis to around 10 million Egyptians. These estimates are much dependent on attendance of mawalid, religious lessons and dhikr and inshad sessions.  While none of these events are restricted by any means to the disciples of the turuq (plural of tariqa, order or path of Sufism), many people can go in and out of a Sufi order which makes it even harder to make a precise estimate.
What it means to be a Sufi
As he sipped his coffee, Ahmed Cherif put aside his colourful rosary on the table and commenced a passionate discourse about what attracted him to Sufism.
“I have always admired inshad and praise sessions because when I lived in Alexandria many of my friends used to hold dhikr sessions. Also my uncle Sheikh Mazhar guided the Borhameya order, but we never connected on that level,” said Cherif.
After his graduation, he knocked at the door of Sufism.
He continued, “two years ago many things happened to me and I talked to him [his uncle], attended his lessons and got attached to him. I then discovered that Sufism was very different from how I perceived it.”
Cherif read about Sufis, their ideas, how Sufism started and he started adhering to the Borhameya order.
“My first perception of Sufism was solely focused on the physical practices rather than the spiritual ones. I knew there were different aspects of it for the heart and soul, but I hadn’t thought it over,” he said.
Cherif’s definition of Sufism crystallised in freeing your baser self from the shackles of materialism which controls everything. He elaborated, “today people decide for us what to wear, buy, eat and drink; we no longer feel spirituality. Even religion is now measured with material rewards. Do this and you will get a reward from Allah. How about doing this because you love it or because it’s right?”
He thinks that true followers of Islam should control themselves because the prophet, peace be upon him (PBUH), was not afraid of Muslims being infidels, he was afraid of them being tempted by el donia (worldly desires).
He explained, “you practice self-restraint because many times you follow your desires to fulfill your ego. However, if you submitted yourself and emptied the path between you and Allah, then you would break free from anything that enslaves you.”
He believes that you can learn from reading about something, but Sufism requires one to act upon its principles to truly experience it.
“We learnt in books on religion to love, respect and to be humble. I saw that Sufis conform to these values. I saw that differences dissolve in the order. People from all classes, professions get together and differences never came up. I felt it was genuine,” said Cherif.
He described the changes he observed in himself. Some trivial things that used to matter to him were no longer important. Conforming to the five pillars of the order disciplines the person; eating less to purify the body, speaking only to say good, limiting sleeping, refraining from vicious company and keeping dhikr.
“I thought, it actually works!”
Sufi orders  
There are many narratives about the origins of the word Sufi. Some opinions say the name comes from safaa (purity), mystics wearing souf (wool), or el estefaa, being chosen by Allah for their religiosity and sincerity.
Sheikh Mazhar of the Borhameya order explained what Sufism is in his mind.
He said, “Sufism is the rouh [soul] of Islam. It seeks to help people reaching ehsan [a level of perfection and certainty in worshiping Allah] because it is based on the principle of purifying the baser self.”
Sheikh Mazhar is a graduate of Cairo University in economics and political science. His father became the sheikh of the order in 1968. In 1993, the disciples of the order pledged allegiance to him because he was always accompanying his father and they trusted his knowledge of the order.
“The ruling principles of any order are to abide by the Quran and the Sunnah [actions and sayings] of the prophet (PBUH) in our manners, talks, and actions. The order is really about istiqama, incorruptibility,” he said.
In Egypt, there are more than 75 Sufi orders. Each was established by a grand master. The biggest four orders are El Badaweya by sidi Ahmed El Badawi, El Borhameya El Desoukeya by sidi Ibrahim El Desouki, El Shazoliya by Sheikh Aboul Hassan Al Shazli, and Al Rifa’eya by Sheikh Ahmed Al Rifa’i. Other orders such as Al Qenawiya by Sheikh Abdel Rahim El Qenawi, founded in Qena, Al Naqshabandiya, Al Kaderiya, and Al Khelwatiya have chapters in Alexandria and the Nile delta.
Sheikh Mazhar explained that the difference between the orders relates to the spiritual aspect rather than to the creed. In other words, each order is not a distinct religion in itself. Each order might follow a different fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) school, but the leader of the order does not invent a whole new school.
He said, “the methods followed by the grand master with his disciples differ, but the core ruling principles of Sufism are consistent throughout the different orders.”
Sheikh Alaa Aboul Azayem of the Al Azmeya order in Cairo agrees with Sheikh Mazhar. He said, “all the orders are spiritual paths to reach Allah.”
Sheikh Aboul Azayem gave an example of these minor differences among the orders saying, “In the Azmeya order we observe praying the five prayers on time, we have our distinguished dua’a [verbal prayers], our mawalid [many of them are common among all orders] and we follow the Malki school of fiqh.”
Steffen Stelzer, a professor of philosophy at the American University in Cairo and one of the representatives of the Naqshbandiya order in Egypt, thinks the different label for the order are not important. Instead, he believes the emphasis should be on the core of Sufism.
“There is an old saying that says ‘at the beginning Sufism was a thing without a name, now it’s a name without a thing,’” he said. “What interests me is the thing and not the name; the living kernel of spirituality of any religion. It has been called Sufism in the context of Islam with the aim of pleasing Allah. If you’re a Christian, Jewish or whatever, and you’re aim is to please God then you can call that thing whatever you like. Labels and tags are not important.”
Stelzer’s story with Sufism took an interesting turn from someone who was not interested in Islam in 1980 to a leader of an order. The secret was in observing a true embodiment of Islam as a religion.
“People in Egypt knew what is right and what is wrong, but none of them was inviting. I did not see a true example of Islam. Then, I was interested in mysticism and I intended to learn about it in Japan through Zen Buddhism. Before traveling, I was introduced to a Sufi Sheikh in Turkey. That meeting made the difference and connected me to Sufism. I did not read about it before, it was the other way around, I met the person then I started reading about Islam.”
In addition to consistency in principles binding all orders, they emphasise purity and asceticism of the heart.
Sheikh Mazhar clarified that when people associate Sufism with austerity and asceticism they sometimes miss the point. According to him, Sufism and Islam in general are against excessive materialism. However, this does not mean that people should refrain from work. He said, “the Sahabah [the prophet’s companions] had their trade and jobs and the prophet did not ask them to dedicate themselves for worship only because Islam encourages people to work and be productive.”
Wahhabism, the antithesis of Sufis
Despite the authentic Islamic principles and foundations Sufism is based upon, as a doctrine it has been criticised heavily by its rival the Wahhabis (in Egypt Salafis adopt the Wahhabi doctrine).
Historically, since its foundation in the 18th century in Najd, the Wahhabi movement, named after Mohamed Abdel Wahhab, adopted an extreme interpretation of the Hanbali school of fiqh and sought to purify Islam from all bid’a (innovations and un-Islamic practices). The Wahhabis were against celebrating mawalid and consecrating shrines. They believe that by such practices Sufis tarnish the Islamic faith.
Stelzer commented on Wahhabis saying, “you have different ideologies competing to represent purity. The Wahhabis want to bring back the simplest forms and that’s what represents purity for them. The desires to purity have some dangers with them because you think that you’re the only clean one and that everyone else is dirty.”
On the other hand, Sheikh Mazhar agreed with some of the criticisms by Salafis and disagreed with others. He agreed that some Sufis are not good disciples of Sufism. Those disciples sometimes commit mistakes against Shari’a and in that case Salafis are right to criticise Sufism.
He said, “Ibn Timia [the grand Sheikh who influenced Abdel Wahhab] distinguished between the early pure forms of Sufism and the later forms. The former he praised and the latter he criticised. However, he was criticising with knowledge of the ruling principles. Some critics of Sufism slam it so hard and generalise the wrong practices they see without having knowledge of the principle.”
Sheikh Mazhar explained that having awliya’a and virtuous men is important in Islamic societies.
“If the awliya’a are not highlighted, then people will think that Islamic virtues like loyalty, asceticism, honesty are just theoretical manners restricted to prophets only. Showing them that in our time there were awliya’a who practiced these virtues strengthens their belief in religion.”
It seems that Sufi Sheikhs and representatives agree that with time Sufism developed practices that were and still are tarnishing the appearance of Sufism.
Sheikh Mazhar added, “some critics have to do with our cultural practices as Egyptians, like cleanliness of our mosques during the mawalid.”
Beyond the Salafis’ attempts to demonise Sufis, Sufis have been looked down upon because they were considered a source of backwardness and traditionalism in Egyptian society. According to Stelzer, this portrayal of Sufis dates back to the colonial era and the rivalry between east and west.
He said, “at a certain historical period in Egypt, resentment started building towards Sufism by the middle classes because it was thought to be for common and stupid people. To be able to follow up with advancement of the west you needed to get rid of the stupid circus stuff.”
Sufis in politics
Sufis Sheikhs were involved in politics with the old regime through the Supreme Council of Sufi Orders. Although the council is somewhat disconnected from Sufi orders and is regarded as a regulatory authority, its existence curbs the autonomy of Sufi orders from the state. It has registered about 75 orders, leaving a further 25 unregistered orders deprived of certain privileges in the public sphere, such as permissions to use streets for celebrating mawalid. The purpose of the council is to advance Sufi rights; however it is hampered due to its structure and its semi-governmental nature.

The Mausoleum of Al-Hussein in Cairo is a sacred Sufi site. (Photo by Sarah El-Masry)
“Although the council is supposed to serve Sufi communities, it does not represent Sufis really,” said Sheikh Aboul Azayem.
The council is made up of ten members that are elected from the general assembly of sheikhs of Sufi orders and five representatives appointed by Al-Azhar (the most prestigious Sunni institute in the Islamic world), the local authority and the ministries of interior, culture and interior. Some members of the council are affiliated with the National Democratic Party and the chairman of the council is elected by the council and approved by the president.
The current chairman, Sheikh Abdel Hady Al Kasaby, was approved by ousted President Hosni Mubarak and therefore after the revolution, the Sufi Reform Front was founded by Sheikh Aboul Azayem to counterbalance the council. After many attempts at mediation between the front and the council, a reconciliation took place in January and the current formation of the council is awaiting new elections next year.
The entry of Salafis into politics in post revolutionary Egypt induced Sufis to enter politics too. In the wave of polarisation between Islamist and secular groups that hit Egypt, Sufis were a vital card. Their great numbers and solid connections attracted political parties to take advantage of Sufi networks. The secular and “civil” camp aligned themselves with the Sufis who are naturally opposed to political Islam.
Only a few orders opted to enter the political arena and established a number of Sufi parties such as the Egyptian Tahrir Party, El Nasr Party (victory) and Sout El Hurriya Party (sound of freedom). Only the Egyptian Tahrir acquired legal status as a political party while the others are still under establishment. The Egyptian Tahrir was founded by Sheikh Aboul Azayem and the majority of the members of the party are adherents of Al Azmeya order.
Since it originated in 1930s, Al Azmeya order has been involved in politics by printing brochures against the British occupation in Egypt, issuing fatwas (religious rulings) against selling Palestinian lands to Zionist settlers and publishing books rebuking Wahhabism.
Due to its overt involvement in politics, Al Azmeya order, in particular, has been criticised by different media outlets. The media capitalised on the membership of Sheikh Aboul Azayem in the Iranian-based organization known as the International Academy for the Approximation between Islamic Sects (IAAIS) and some Islamist fronts insinuated that Sufis are being infiltrated by Shi’a groups to be used to spread Shi’a Islam in Egypt.
Sheikh Aboul Azayem commented on the accusations of spreading Shi’a Islam saying, “Iran is an Islamic power, calling it an infidel only helps Israel and divide the Islamic nation further.”
He believes that Al-Azhar should play a stronger role in reforming what Islamists ruin. He said, “Egypt is Al-Azhar. If Al-Azhar is virtuous, so is Egypt, if Al-Azhar goes off track, so does Egypt,” referring to the autonomy of Al-Azhar from the state and its impartiality.
Unlike Sheikh Aboul Azayem, both Sheikh Mazhar and Stelzer think that Sufis should be out of the political realm and if they are to play a role in it, it should be to guide those in power towards the true principles of Islam.
Sheikh Mazhar said, “politics has its own balance of power, is governed by interests and needs compromises that can endanger some religious values.”
Stelzer believes in Plato’s statement that the best leader suited to govern a country is the one who has least inclination to do so, because anyone who has the inclination to rule is in danger of serving himself rather than severing the people.
Sufis are not peculiar in their diversity and differences; they are like any other community. They cannot be considered a monolithic group, therefore their entry to politics was not a position taken up by all Sufis in Egypt. The same goes for their mistakes; they should not be generalised or taken out of the bigger context. It is worthy after the revolution to tear down the misconceptions about such a big constituent of society to grant the different communities the freedom they need in Egypt’s new era.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Iqbal Academy Scandinavia seminar on Sufism in modern Islam

Iqbal Academy Scandinavia seminar on Sufism in modern Islam, Asia Portal

The Iqbal Academy Scandinavia, based in Copenhagen, organises a seminar on ”The role of Sufism in modern Islam theologically, politically and socially in Pakistan and Denmark” on Saturday 10 November 2012. The seminar is co-organised by the Islamic-Christian Study Centre (IKS) and the Centre for European Islamic Thought (CEIT) at University of Copenhagen.
Venue: Faculty of Theology, 1st floor, aud.7, Købmagergade 46, Copenhagen.
The seminar includes lectures by Professor Javed Majeed, Director of Comparative Literature Programme/Dept. of English Language and Literature, King’s College London, UK, who will speak about ”Iqbal, Sufism and Post colonialism”; and by PhD candidate Iram Nisa Asif from the Dept. of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen, who will speak about ”The taste of Sufism: Dhikr and social cohesion in Danish Sufi circles”. More information.
Date: Saturday, November 10, 2012 - 11:00 to 16:00

Exhibition: “In the heart of Indian Sufism"

Exhibition: “In the heart of Indian Sufism" My Destination Rio de Janeiro

Fundição Progresso is the site for the latest exhibition of photographer, Ousmane Lambat, titled: “A Unidade - no coração do sufismo” translated in English as “A Unit – in the heart of Indian Sufism”. Exhibition:  “In the heart of Indian Sufism"
From 19 Oct 2012 To 15 Nov 2012
The photo exhibition depicts the world of Sufism, identified as Islam's mystical power. It is a total experience of the senses afforded by the author using photography as well as some unique video. Sufism in India had an instrumental role in spreading Islam in India.
The pilgrimage of the photographer Ousmane Lambat began ten years ago, when he felt a need to better understand the world. Departing La Reunion, a small French island in the Indian Ocean, Ousmane travels through Europe, Asia and Australia. He supports himself by performing small photography projects based in London. On one of his assignments that takes him on a trip through India, the land of his ancestors, he discovers Sufism, Islam's mystical power.
The photographer, through this exciting work, invites us to relive this great adventure with him. Through the valleys of Kashmir and deserted landscapes of Rajasthan, he guides us along the path of the great masters who have brought Sufism to the Indian world. At the end of the journey, we discover Islam in its spiritual dimension, full of “peace, fraternity and humanism”. The exhibition contrasts the stereotyped image of the religion, which too often is perceived as extreme, fanatical and often misunderstood.
Fundição Progresso-Mezzanine: Visiting hours from Noon to 9:00 pm (12:00 – 21:00 - Monday to Friday.

State of the art international center for research in sufism to be set up at Amritsar

State of the art international center for research in sufism to be set up at Amritsar by Jagmohan Singh,                   Punjab News Express October 20 2012

 AMRITSAR: Punjab Governor Shivraj V Patil today said that the state government has initiated several projects to develop Punjab especially holy city of Amritsar as a world class tourist destination.

Addressing the gathering after inaugurating two day International Sufi festival here today, the Governor said that realizing well the cultural and historical importance of this holy city the state government was making concerted efforts to develop it as a world class city. Urging the city residents to contribute towards making the city a clean, beautiful and tourist friendly, Mr Patil said that it was the duty of all the Punjabis to preserve this rich heritage of the state.
Congratulating the foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature, Punjab Heritage and Tourism Promotion Board and Khalsa College for organizing this Sufi Festival in Amritsar, Governor said that Sufi thought has impacted the cultures for several countries across the world.
Mr Patil said that the love of God and love of the Gurus has been expressed in song, dance, poetry and literature adding that he was happy to see that this festival aims to capture all these forms. He further said that Sufism has impacted southern & eastern Europe, North and central Africa, the Middle East, China and our own country in a number of ways. Emphasizing on the need of spreading the Sufi message of love, tolerance and unity of God, the Governor said that it was the need of the hour because it inspires us to renounce violence and aggression thereby contributing towards constructing a harmonious society. Welcoming the participants from 13 countries, Mr Patil said hoped that this festival would continue in coming years year and more countries would participate in it.
Presiding over the function, the Punjab Chief Minister Mr Parkash Singh Badal announced that the state government would soon establish a state of Art an International Centre for research in Sufism here in the holy city to propagate the values of humanism, harmony, peace and universal brotherhood. He said that this centre would be exclusively devoted for in-depth research in Sufism to herald a new era of love, friendship, mutual trust and amity through socio-cultural exchange programs transcending the geographical barriers. Mr Badal also announced that this upcoming centre would hold such mega sufi concerts every year adding that the state government would extend all support for organizing this International Sufi festival annually.

Badal said that the essence of Sufism proclaims that the only way to love the Almighty, is to love all his creation in all its manifestations. He said that Punjab being the land of Sufism and of Sufis had always been a cradle on universal brotherhood and peace. The Chief Minister further said that on its part the SAD-BJP government of the state has made stupendous efforts to promote peace, communal harmony, amity and brotherhood adding that it was indeed a matter of pride for them that with the active support of the people, Punjab today has emerged as the epicenter of spreading the fragrance of universal brotherhood throughout the world. Tracing the influence of Sufism on Sikhism, he said that Sufi saints like Baba Farid had spread the message of humanism, spirituality and oneness of god based on the principles of love, compassion, equality, humility, brotherhood and freedom which were very similar to the tenets of Sikhism.
The Chief Minister said that the bani of a large number of Sufi saints had been enshrined in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib which reflects affinity between Sikhism and Sufism. He further said that Sufism had the power that it could eliminate hostile images by showing that true belief could wipe out the demarcations of 'mine' and 'thine', and pave way for constructing a world that is 'ours.' Mr Badal further said that by spreading a message of peace and love Sufism creates a voice for secularism and composite culture. The Chief Minister hoped that the deliberations in the Academic Session of the Festival, in which 30 International Sufi Scholars, 25 International Poets, 50 Sufi musicians, singers and dancers from 13 countries were participating, would focus on tolerance, human values, love of futuristic dreams and a consciousness for love and Compassion that Sufism creates and advocates, thereby ensuring more co-operation and love in the Indian Sub continent.
The Chief Minister also called upon the need for holding such cultural meets frequently to further foster the bonds of friendship, goodwill, mutual trust and harmony especially amongst the people of India and Pakistan which share a common cultural bondage having lingual and socio-cultural similarity. Highly appreciated the efforts of the state government in organizing this grand Sufi meet, Mr Badal said that it would offer memorable moments to the audience to listen the great classical works of eminent Sufi singers. He hoped such events were far more meaningful in today’s stressful life to relieve the mankind from the monotonous routine in which a person works like a component of a machine. Mr Badal said such cultural programs help to soothe the body and mind besides rejuvenating a new spirit to work with much more vigor and enthusiasm.
The Chief Minister also announced a grant of Rs 2 lakh for the organizers of the festival.

Indian Sufi Music of Ustad Nizami to University of Georgia

Ustad Ghulam Farid Nizami, 17th generation Indian musician, poet, and composer, will give a performance of classical Indian music in Ramsey Concert Hall on Friday, November 2, 2012 at 6:00 p.m. The cost is $5. As a descendant of Mian Tan Sen, court musician of 16th century Moghal Emperor Akbar the Great, Nizami is a master of Hindustani and Sufi music in the Senia Gharana tradition. He will be performing on the sitar, harmonium, and tabla. He has performed for all Pakistani heads of state as well as for 3 United States presidents, Nelson Mandela, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana, Saudi King Abdullah, and Jordan's King Hussein. Nizami is the creator behind several educational television programs in his native Pakistan, and has appeared countless time both on television and radio. As a teacher, Nizami taught the first female tabla and sitar players in Pakistan during his 30 year educational career before coming the the USA as a Fulbright Scholar in 2008. In addition to his performance, Nizami will also give a free workshop open to the public in Room 521 of the Hugh Hodgson School of Music on November 6 from 2-3 pm. Tickets for sale online http://tickets.perfcenter.uga.edu/single/selectSeating.aspx?p=1067 . and at the door. See the publicity poster: http://assets4.pinimg.com/upload/383298618255376471_doA2ojJ0.jpg
Ustad Nizami Poster

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Oprah Winfrey Inspired by Islamic and Buddhist Faiths, Admits to Reading Daily Sufi Word


Oprah Winfrey


Christine Thomasos. Christian Post Oct 16 2012

Oprah Winfrey recently shared her morning routine with Harper's Baazar magazine which includes a breakfast of fruit and almond milk, a workout and inspiration from Sufism, or Islamic mysticism.

Winfrey told the publication that she wakes up at around 5:45 a.m. and reads a passage from
TheDailyLove.com and The Bowl of Saki, which she describes as "like the Sufi daily word."
Although the 58-year-old media proprietor has been vocal about reading the Bible and being a Christian in the past, she has also spent time speaking about Sufism lately.
Last August, Winfrey interviewed author and Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee for OWN's "Super Soul Sunday" program. On her network's YouTube page, she labeled a preview to the show as "Oprah's Interest in Sufism" and tweeted about her love for the spiritual belief.
"Love Sufism …'the divinity of the human soul,'" Winfrey tweeted last September. "Within Our spiritual heart there is a direct connection to God."
According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, "Sufism is the esoteric dimension of the Islamic faith, the spiritual path to mystical union with God. It is influenced by other faiths, such as Buddhism, and reached its peak in the 13th century."
While Winfrey recently admitted to an interest and daily reading of a Sufi daily word, she has maintained that she is a practicing Christian. During a broadcast of "Oprah's Lifeclass" program in April, Winfrey spoke about her Christianity while having respect for all faiths.
"I am a Christian, that is my faith. I'm not asking you to be a Christian. If you want to be one I can show you how. But it is not required," she said on the broadcast. "I have respect for all faiths. All faiths. But what I'm talking about is not faith or religion. I'm talking about spirituality."
In the episode about "Spiritual Solutions" which featured new age spiritual leader Deepak Chopra, Winfrey also described her definition of spirituality.
"My definition [of spirituality] is living your life with an open heart, through love... allowing yourself to align with the values of tolerance, acceptance, of harmony, of cooperation and reverence for life," Winfrey said. "There is a force energy consciousness divine thread, I believe, that connects spiritually to all of us, to something greater than ourselves."

Singers to come together for Sufi music festival in Jaipur

http://daily.bhaskar.com/article/RAJ-JPR-singers-to-come-together-for-sufi-music-festival-in-jaipur-3858202-NOR.htmlDaily Baskhar, 26 October 2012

Jaipur: Sufi singers from various parts of the globe are all set to perform in the annual world Sufi music festival 'Jahan-e-Khusrau' to be held here next month.

"The artists performing this year at Jahan e Khusrau in Jaipur on October 27 and 28 are -Abida Parveen (Pakistan), Whirling Dervishes (Turkey), Shafaqat Ali Khan (Pakistan), Zia Nath (Indian modern dancer)," said Muzaffar Ali, director of the festival.

The event is being organised jointly by the tourism department of Rajasthan and Rumi Foundation.

Each year, Jahan-e-Khusrau presents rare lyrics of Sufi mystics in an innovative form.

Over the last decade it has showcased Sufi singers, dancers and musicians from different parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, Iran, Israel, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Italy, Sudan, Egypt, Greece, Germany, Japan, USA and Canada, a release said.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Statement Decrying the Murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens

Statement from Dr. Aref Nayed (former Libyan diplomat, Muslim scholar and Sufi) Sept. 12, 2012: This is to express my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the late Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his fallen colleagues, and to the American people and government. I had the honor of personally knowing Ambassador Stevens, and witnessed, firsthand, in Benghazi and later in Tripoli, the care and hard work that he devoted to fulfilling his duties towards his country and towards Libya and the Libyan people. He was a man of dedication and honor, and I am shocked and deeply anguished for the loss of a dear friend and supporter of the Libyan people’s struggle against tyranny. Tyranny and darkness may wear a thousand guises, including pseudo-religiosity, but must never deceive us. Islam is a religion of peace and understanding, and Islam’s Prophet (peace be upon him) is the Prophet of Compassion. It is outrageous and totally unacceptable for criminals to kill and destroy in the name of defending Islam and its Prophet (peace be upon him). The criminals who committed this cowardly act must be rigorously pursued and rapidly brought to justice. May this tragic loss make us even more dedicated and determined to building our respective countries, based on the values of dialogue, understanding, and peace. Aref Ali Nayed, Former Ambassador of Libya to the UAE, Member of the League of Libyan Ulema.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why are they targeting the Sufis?

Why are they targeting the Sufis? Richard Schiffman, New Internationalist blog, Oct 23 2012

Afghanistan in 2001? The Taliban destruction of these massive archaeological monuments dating back to the sixth century has become emblematic of the cultural and religious intolerance of radical Islam.What is less well known is that fanatical elements have done equal damage to Islam’s own religious heritage. Not only have Shi’a and Sunni partisans bombed each other’s mosques in countries like Iraq, Syria and Pakistan, but Sufi places of worship are under attack throughout the Islamic world.

In September, the world was shocked to learn that the US ambassador and three other Americans had been killed in an attack on a US Consulate in Libya. Few heard of the other violent events there later that month, which included the destruction of Sufi shrines in three Libyan cities.

In Tripoli, security forces watched passively as militants with bulldozers levelled the shrine of al-Shaab al-Dahmani, a venerated Sufi saint, in broad daylight. In Benghazi, on the other hand, locals fought back, killing three of the militants who were assaulting a holy place.

Perhaps we don’t hear much about these incidents because attacks on Sufis and Sufi sites have become routine, not just in Libya, but throughout the Islamic world. This past summer, Islamic militants in Mali demolished historical mausoleums, universities and libraries in the ancient Saharan trading town of Timbuktu, several of which were on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites. Sufi worship halls have also been turned to rubble in Iran, where the Islamic government has reportedly jailed and tortured thousands of Sufi practitioners for their unorthodox views. And in Egypt since the fall of Mubarak Sufi shrines have been torched and the Sufi chanting ritual called zhikr has been banned in some locations.

The deadliest attacks to date have occurred in Pakistan, including last year’s bombing of the Sakhi Sarkar shrine during the annual festival of the Sufi saint, in which 41 worshippers were killed. Meanwhile, in the former Soviet Republic of Daghestan, the Sufi leader Effendi Chirkeisky, along with six of his followers, was assassinated at the end of August by a female suicide bomber. Chirkeisky, a critic of Muslim extremism, had ironically been working to broker peace between warring Islamic factions.

For many here in the US, Sufism is associated with the ecstatic verse of the 13th-century mystic, Jalaluddin Rumi, whose poetry in translation sells more copies than any living US poet. Rumi’s popularity derives in part from the fact that he taught that religion is less a matter of external observance than an intimate, personal relationship with God. This undoubtedly appeals to our American ideal of individualism and free-form seeking.

What many contemporary fans of Rumi may not realize is that Sufism in practice is more of a communal affair than a lonely quest. Moreover, the philosophy of Rumi and his fellow Sufis is very much alive today. It has spread to the distant corners of the Islamic world and beyond, and comprises many different orders, each with their own teachings and modes of practice.

Historically, Sufism was one of the great wellsprings of Islamic philosophy, and deeply influenced luminaries like the great Muslim theologian Abu Hamid al-Ghazali and the 13th-century mystic thinker, Ibn Arabi. Some have credited Sufism’s open-minded approach to knowledge with the development of Islamic medicine and other sciences in the Middle Ages. Sufism’s influence on the literature, music, art and architecture of Islam is also immense, and it was a potent force in many of the political and social reform movements in the 19th century.

While nobody can say with certainty how many Sufis there are, they undoubtedly number in the millions in countries like Iran, Indonesia and Pakistan, and untold hundreds of millions of Muslims take part in Sufi ceremonies and festivals.

‘In the Islamic world,’ according to Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University, ‘Sufism is the most powerful antidote to the religious radicalism called fundamentalism, as well as the most important source for responding to the challenges posed by modernism.’

This pervasive influence may be why Sufis have been targets of the fundamentalist, who see their kinder, gentler form of Islam as a standing challenge to their own rigid orthodoxy. Sufi practices, such as the famous whirling of the Mevlevi dervishes in Turkey, first practiced by Rumi himself, employ music, dance and spiritual recitation to awaken the God who Sufis say is asleep in the human heart. Nothing could be further from the grim-faced puritanism of the Islamic fundamentalists who accuse the Sufis of being ‘idolaters’ and ‘pagans’. Sufis reply that they are hearkening back to the roots of Islam, which means ‘peace’.

I can attest to the power of Sufi practices to provide a glimpse of the ‘peace which passeth understanding’ which is at the core of all religious experience. For several years I attended the weekly zickr of a Turkish Sufi order in New York City. The chanting in Turkish and Arabic was co-ordinated with our movements and the flow of the breath to create a trance-like state which I found to be both subtler and more powerful and enduring than the drug experiences which I had pursued during college. Equally remarkable was the feeling of deep affection and fellowship which was served up along with the tea and Turkish sweets after the ceremony.

The Sufism that I know, while deeply Islamic in form, is universal in spirit. I think often of what our Sheikh, Muzzafer Effendi, told his Turkish followers when they asked him why he didn’t convert more American dervishes to Islam. ‘There are more than enough Muslims already,’ he replied. ‘What the world needs is more lovers of God!’

I would love to say this to the extremists who are bombing holy places and attacking Sufi practitioners.

Richard Schiffman is an American dervish in the Jerrahi order of Sufism. He is also the author of two religious biographies, and a poet and journalist whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, Reuters, the Guardian and on NPR.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Talk on Sufism by Dr. Nahid Angha in San Francisco

Title of the talk: Sufism: Mysticism of Islam When: Thu, Oct 25 2012 - 6:00pm Who: Nahid Angha, Ph.D. , Co-director, The International Association of Sufism; Director, Sufi Women Organization, introduced by Michael Pappas, Executive Director, SF Interfaith Council – Moderator. Don't miss this chance to learn about Sufism – the inner, mystical interpretation and expression of Islam – from an internationally esteemed Persian Sufi scholar, author and lecturer. Dr. Angha will discuss Sufi history and Sufi literature, with an emphasis on the poetry of Rumi and Omar Khayam, considered by many to be among the highest literary expressions of spirituality. Angha, a human rights activist, women's rights and interfaith activist will also discuss the rights of women in Islam. The Commonwealth Club presents some of the world’s most important and interesting speakers. Founded in 1903, the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco has continuously hosted diverse discussions including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor Alec Baldwin and author Christopher Hitchens. In past events, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Bill Gates have all given landmark speeches at The Club. Location: SF Club Office, 595 Market St., San Francisco Time: Thursday, October 25, 2012. 5:30 p.m. networking reception, 6 p.m. program Cost: $20 standard, $8 members, students free (with valid ID) Discount available for IAS Members Contact IAS for more information. Register online for this event by visiting the Commonwealth Club website:www.commonwealthclub.org Tickets are also available by calling Commonwealth Club at 415-597-6705 or email them for information at club@commonwealthclub.org

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Our New Sufi News Site

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Dear Friends and Readers,
This is to notify you that our blog has moved to www.sufinews.org
It is newly designed and is looking very attractive and easy to navigate to all the Sufi news you like to read.
Click here to go to the new site and please remember to bookmark the new site and to sign up on the new site for alerts by email for new posts. 
May Allah send peace and blessings to all.
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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sufi Islam in Egypt

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Sufi Islam in Egypt  Daily News Egypt, Sarah El Masry  /  October 21, 2012 

 

Lately, Sufis have been one of the vital cards utilised in Egyptian parliamentary and presidential elections. Being supportive of the “civil state” camp and against political Islam added more to the long list of misconceptions about Sufis. Not only are they depicted as indulgers in folkloric celebrations, poetic recitals and religious chants, but also as allies of secularism, a precondition to be bashed by their rival religious group, the Salafis. Daily News Egypt explores the meaning of Sufism through the eyes of its adherents, the insightful explanations of some Sufi sheikhs about the long rivalry against Wahhabism and the current Sufi involvement in politics.

Folkloric performances sometimes overshadow the spiritual core of Sufism. (Photo by Hassan Ibrahim)
“The mawalid [plural of moulid, birthdates of the prophet’s family and other awliya'a, saints] have turned into popular as well as religious celebrations, so not every person who goes to them is a Sufi,” said Sheikh Mohamed Mazhar, the leader of the Borhameya order in Egypt.
Two of the major mawalid that Sufis celebrate annually were held in the past two weeks. On 18 October, over one million visitors travelled to Desouk in Kafr El Sheikh governorate to celebrate the moulid of sidi Ibrahim El Desouki. On the preceding Thursday another million visitors from all over Egypt and even from other Islamic countries flooded Tanta in El Gharbiya governorate to commemorate the moulid of Sidi Ahmed El Badawi. The crowds who went there sought not just blessings, but to recharge themselves spiritually and to be reminded of the virtues Islam calls for through the remembrance of these righteous men’s deeds and attitudes.
The mawalid combine religious rituals such as dhikr (recitation of the names of Allah and the prophet and some verbal prayers) and inshad (an Islamic religious singing that allows minimal musical instruments) as well as some folkloric traditions such as poetry recitals, singing, dancing and selling oriental desserts and toys. Sufis originally celebrated mawalid for spiritual reasons but over the years the folkloric traditions grew bigger and to overshadow Sufism’s tenets, leaving behind an image that Sufism is just a circus for the commoners, uneducated and poor.
Like other religious communities in Egypt, there is no official information about the numbers of Sufis, however most estimates approximates the number of Sufis to around 10 million Egyptians. These estimates are much dependent on attendance of mawalid, religious lessons and dhikr and inshad sessions.  While none of these events are restricted by any means to the disciples of the turuq (plural of tariqa, order or path of Sufism), many people can go in and out of a Sufi order which makes it even harder to make a precise estimate.
What it means to be a Sufi
As he sipped his coffee, Ahmed Cherif put aside his colourful rosary on the table and commenced a passionate discourse about what attracted him to Sufism.
“I have always admired inshad and praise sessions because when I lived in Alexandria many of my friends used to hold dhikr sessions. Also my uncle Sheikh Mazhar guided the Borhameya order, but we never connected on that level,” said Cherif.
After his graduation, he knocked at the door of Sufism.
He continued, “two years ago many things happened to me and I talked to him [his uncle], attended his lessons and got attached to him. I then discovered that Sufism was very different from how I perceived it.”
Cherif read about Sufis, their ideas, how Sufism started and he started adhering to the Borhameya order.
“My first perception of Sufism was solely focused on the physical practices rather than the spiritual ones. I knew there were different aspects of it for the heart and soul, but I hadn’t thought it over,” he said.
Cherif’s definition of Sufism crystallised in freeing your baser self from the shackles of materialism which controls everything. He elaborated, “today people decide for us what to wear, buy, eat and drink; we no longer feel spirituality. Even religion is now measured with material rewards. Do this and you will get a reward from Allah. How about doing this because you love it or because it’s right?”
He thinks that true followers of Islam should control themselves because the prophet, peace be upon him (PBUH), was not afraid of Muslims being infidels, he was afraid of them being tempted by el donia (worldly desires).
He explained, “you practice self-restraint because many times you follow your desires to fulfill your ego. However, if you submitted yourself and emptied the path between you and Allah, then you would break free from anything that enslaves you.”
He believes that you can learn from reading about something, but Sufism requires one to act upon its principles to truly experience it.
“We learnt in books on religion to love, respect and to be humble. I saw that Sufis conform to these values. I saw that differences dissolve in the order. People from all classes, professions get together and differences never came up. I felt it was genuine,” said Cherif.
He described the changes he observed in himself. Some trivial things that used to matter to him were no longer important. Conforming to the five pillars of the order disciplines the person; eating less to purify the body, speaking only to say good, limiting sleeping, refraining from vicious company and keeping dhikr.
“I thought, it actually works!”
Sufi orders  
There are many narratives about the origins of the word Sufi. Some opinions say the name comes from safaa (purity), mystics wearing souf (wool), or el estefaa, being chosen by Allah for their religiosity and sincerity.
Sheikh Mazhar of the Borhameya order explained what Sufism is in his mind.
He said, “Sufism is the rouh [soul] of Islam. It seeks to help people reaching ehsan [a level of perfection and certainty in worshiping Allah] because it is based on the principle of purifying the baser self.”
Sheikh Mazhar is a graduate of Cairo University in economics and political science. His father became the sheikh of the order in 1968. In 1993, the disciples of the order pledged allegiance to him because he was always accompanying his father and they trusted his knowledge of the order.
“The ruling principles of any order are to abide by the Quran and the Sunnah [actions and sayings] of the prophet (PBUH) in our manners, talks, and actions. The order is really about istiqama, incorruptibility,” he said.
In Egypt, there are more than 75 Sufi orders. Each was established by a grand master. The biggest four orders are El Badaweya by sidi Ahmed El Badawi, El Borhameya El Desoukeya by sidi Ibrahim El Desouki, El Shazoliya by Sheikh Aboul Hassan Al Shazli, and Al Rifa’eya by Sheikh Ahmed Al Rifa’i. Other orders such as Al Qenawiya by Sheikh Abdel Rahim El Qenawi, founded in Qena, Al Naqshabandiya, Al Kaderiya, and Al Khelwatiya have chapters in Alexandria and the Nile delta.
Sheikh Mazhar explained that the difference between the orders relates to the spiritual aspect rather than to the creed. In other words, each order is not a distinct religion in itself. Each order might follow a different fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) school, but the leader of the order does not invent a whole new school.
He said, “the methods followed by the grand master with his disciples differ, but the core ruling principles of Sufism are consistent throughout the different orders.”
Sheikh Alaa Aboul Azayem of the Al Azmeya order in Cairo agrees with Sheikh Mazhar. He said, “all the orders are spiritual paths to reach Allah.”
Sheikh Aboul Azayem gave an example of these minor differences among the orders saying, “In the Azmeya order we observe praying the five prayers on time, we have our distinguished dua’a [verbal prayers], our mawalid [many of them are common among all orders] and we follow the Malki school of fiqh.”
Steffen Stelzer, a professor of philosophy at the American University in Cairo and one of the representatives of the Naqshbandiya order in Egypt, thinks the different label for the order are not important. Instead, he believes the emphasis should be on the core of Sufism.
“There is an old saying that says ‘at the beginning Sufism was a thing without a name, now it’s a name without a thing,’” he said. “What interests me is the thing and not the name; the living kernel of spirituality of any religion. It has been called Sufism in the context of Islam with the aim of pleasing Allah. If you’re a Christian, Jewish or whatever, and you’re aim is to please God then you can call that thing whatever you like. Labels and tags are not important.”
Stelzer’s story with Sufism took an interesting turn from someone who was not interested in Islam in 1980 to a leader of an order. The secret was in observing a true embodiment of Islam as a religion.
“People in Egypt knew what is right and what is wrong, but none of them was inviting. I did not see a true example of Islam. Then, I was interested in mysticism and I intended to learn about it in Japan through Zen Buddhism. Before traveling, I was introduced to a Sufi Sheikh in Turkey. That meeting made the difference and connected me to Sufism. I did not read about it before, it was the other way around, I met the person then I started reading about Islam.”
In addition to consistency in principles binding all orders, they emphasise purity and asceticism of the heart.
Sheikh Mazhar clarified that when people associate Sufism with austerity and asceticism they sometimes miss the point. According to him, Sufism and Islam in general are against excessive materialism. However, this does not mean that people should refrain from work. He said, “the Sahabah [the prophet’s companions] had their trade and jobs and the prophet did not ask them to dedicate themselves for worship only because Islam encourages people to work and be productive.”
Wahhabism, the antithesis of Sufis
Despite the authentic Islamic principles and foundations Sufism is based upon, as a doctrine it has been criticised heavily by its rival the Wahhabis (in Egypt Salafis adopt the Wahhabi doctrine).
Historically, since its foundation in the 18th century in Najd, the Wahhabi movement, named after Mohamed Abdel Wahhab, adopted an extreme interpretation of the Hanbali school of fiqh and sought to purify Islam from all bid’a (innovations and un-Islamic practices). The Wahhabis were against celebrating mawalid and consecrating shrines. They believe that by such practices Sufis tarnish the Islamic faith.
Stelzer commented on Wahhabis saying, “you have different ideologies competing to represent purity. The Wahhabis want to bring back the simplest forms and that’s what represents purity for them. The desires to purity have some dangers with them because you think that you’re the only clean one and that everyone else is dirty.”
On the other hand, Sheikh Mazhar agreed with some of the criticisms by Salafis and disagreed with others. He agreed that some Sufis are not good disciples of Sufism. Those disciples sometimes commit mistakes against Shari’a and in that case Salafis are right to criticise Sufism.
He said, “Ibn Timia [the grand Sheikh who influenced Abdel Wahhab] distinguished between the early pure forms of Sufism and the later forms. The former he praised and the latter he criticised. However, he was criticising with knowledge of the ruling principles. Some critics of Sufism slam it so hard and generalise the wrong practices they see without having knowledge of the principle.”
Sheikh Mazhar explained that having awliya’a and virtuous men is important in Islamic societies.
“If the awliya’a are not highlighted, then people will think that Islamic virtues like loyalty, asceticism, honesty are just theoretical manners restricted to prophets only. Showing them that in our time there were awliya’a who practiced these virtues strengthens their belief in religion.”
It seems that Sufi Sheikhs and representatives agree that with time Sufism developed practices that were and still are tarnishing the appearance of Sufism.
Sheikh Mazhar added, “some critics have to do with our cultural practices as Egyptians, like cleanliness of our mosques during the mawalid.”
Beyond the Salafis’ attempts to demonise Sufis, Sufis have been looked down upon because they were considered a source of backwardness and traditionalism in Egyptian society. According to Stelzer, this portrayal of Sufis dates back to the colonial era and the rivalry between east and west.
He said, “at a certain historical period in Egypt, resentment started building towards Sufism by the middle classes because it was thought to be for common and stupid people. To be able to follow up with advancement of the west you needed to get rid of the stupid circus stuff.”
Sufis in politics
Sufis Sheikhs were involved in politics with the old regime through the Supreme Council of Sufi Orders. Although the council is somewhat disconnected from Sufi orders and is regarded as a regulatory authority, its existence curbs the autonomy of Sufi orders from the state. It has registered about 75 orders, leaving a further 25 unregistered orders deprived of certain privileges in the public sphere, such as permissions to use streets for celebrating mawalid. The purpose of the council is to advance Sufi rights; however it is hampered due to its structure and its semi-governmental nature.

The Mausoleum of Al-Hussein in Cairo is a sacred Sufi site. (Photo by Sarah El-Masry)
“Although the council is supposed to serve Sufi communities, it does not represent Sufis really,” said Sheikh Aboul Azayem.
The council is made up of ten members that are elected from the general assembly of sheikhs of Sufi orders and five representatives appointed by Al-Azhar (the most prestigious Sunni institute in the Islamic world), the local authority and the ministries of interior, culture and interior. Some members of the council are affiliated with the National Democratic Party and the chairman of the council is elected by the council and approved by the president.
The current chairman, Sheikh Abdel Hady Al Kasaby, was approved by ousted President Hosni Mubarak and therefore after the revolution, the Sufi Reform Front was founded by Sheikh Aboul Azayem to counterbalance the council. After many attempts at mediation between the front and the council, a reconciliation took place in January and the current formation of the council is awaiting new elections next year.
The entry of Salafis into politics in post revolutionary Egypt induced Sufis to enter politics too. In the wave of polarisation between Islamist and secular groups that hit Egypt, Sufis were a vital card. Their great numbers and solid connections attracted political parties to take advantage of Sufi networks. The secular and “civil” camp aligned themselves with the Sufis who are naturally opposed to political Islam.
Only a few orders opted to enter the political arena and established a number of Sufi parties such as the Egyptian Tahrir Party, El Nasr Party (victory) and Sout El Hurriya Party (sound of freedom). Only the Egyptian Tahrir acquired legal status as a political party while the others are still under establishment. The Egyptian Tahrir was founded by Sheikh Aboul Azayem and the majority of the members of the party are adherents of Al Azmeya order.
Since it originated in 1930s, Al Azmeya order has been involved in politics by printing brochures against the British occupation in Egypt, issuing fatwas (religious rulings) against selling Palestinian lands to Zionist settlers and publishing books rebuking Wahhabism.
Due to its overt involvement in politics, Al Azmeya order, in particular, has been criticised by different media outlets. The media capitalised on the membership of Sheikh Aboul Azayem in the Iranian-based organization known as the International Academy for the Approximation between Islamic Sects (IAAIS) and some Islamist fronts insinuated that Sufis are being infiltrated by Shi’a groups to be used to spread Shi’a Islam in Egypt.
Sheikh Aboul Azayem commented on the accusations of spreading Shi’a Islam saying, “Iran is an Islamic power, calling it an infidel only helps Israel and divide the Islamic nation further.”
He believes that Al-Azhar should play a stronger role in reforming what Islamists ruin. He said, “Egypt is Al-Azhar. If Al-Azhar is virtuous, so is Egypt, if Al-Azhar goes off track, so does Egypt,” referring to the autonomy of Al-Azhar from the state and its impartiality.
Unlike Sheikh Aboul Azayem, both Sheikh Mazhar and Stelzer think that Sufis should be out of the political realm and if they are to play a role in it, it should be to guide those in power towards the true principles of Islam.
Sheikh Mazhar said, “politics has its own balance of power, is governed by interests and needs compromises that can endanger some religious values.”
Stelzer believes in Plato’s statement that the best leader suited to govern a country is the one who has least inclination to do so, because anyone who has the inclination to rule is in danger of serving himself rather than severing the people.
Sufis are not peculiar in their diversity and differences; they are like any other community. They cannot be considered a monolithic group, therefore their entry to politics was not a position taken up by all Sufis in Egypt. The same goes for their mistakes; they should not be generalised or taken out of the bigger context. It is worthy after the revolution to tear down the misconceptions about such a big constituent of society to grant the different communities the freedom they need in Egypt’s new era.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Iqbal Academy Scandinavia seminar on Sufism in modern Islam

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Iqbal Academy Scandinavia seminar on Sufism in modern Islam, Asia Portal

The Iqbal Academy Scandinavia, based in Copenhagen, organises a seminar on ”The role of Sufism in modern Islam theologically, politically and socially in Pakistan and Denmark” on Saturday 10 November 2012. The seminar is co-organised by the Islamic-Christian Study Centre (IKS) and the Centre for European Islamic Thought (CEIT) at University of Copenhagen.
Venue: Faculty of Theology, 1st floor, aud.7, Købmagergade 46, Copenhagen.
The seminar includes lectures by Professor Javed Majeed, Director of Comparative Literature Programme/Dept. of English Language and Literature, King’s College London, UK, who will speak about ”Iqbal, Sufism and Post colonialism”; and by PhD candidate Iram Nisa Asif from the Dept. of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen, who will speak about ”The taste of Sufism: Dhikr and social cohesion in Danish Sufi circles”. More information.
Date: Saturday, November 10, 2012 - 11:00 to 16:00
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Exhibition: “In the heart of Indian Sufism"

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Exhibition: “In the heart of Indian Sufism" My Destination Rio de Janeiro

Fundição Progresso is the site for the latest exhibition of photographer, Ousmane Lambat, titled: “A Unidade - no coração do sufismo” translated in English as “A Unit – in the heart of Indian Sufism”. Exhibition:  “In the heart of Indian Sufism"
From 19 Oct 2012 To 15 Nov 2012
The photo exhibition depicts the world of Sufism, identified as Islam's mystical power. It is a total experience of the senses afforded by the author using photography as well as some unique video. Sufism in India had an instrumental role in spreading Islam in India.
The pilgrimage of the photographer Ousmane Lambat began ten years ago, when he felt a need to better understand the world. Departing La Reunion, a small French island in the Indian Ocean, Ousmane travels through Europe, Asia and Australia. He supports himself by performing small photography projects based in London. On one of his assignments that takes him on a trip through India, the land of his ancestors, he discovers Sufism, Islam's mystical power.
The photographer, through this exciting work, invites us to relive this great adventure with him. Through the valleys of Kashmir and deserted landscapes of Rajasthan, he guides us along the path of the great masters who have brought Sufism to the Indian world. At the end of the journey, we discover Islam in its spiritual dimension, full of “peace, fraternity and humanism”. The exhibition contrasts the stereotyped image of the religion, which too often is perceived as extreme, fanatical and often misunderstood.
Fundição Progresso-Mezzanine: Visiting hours from Noon to 9:00 pm (12:00 – 21:00 - Monday to Friday.
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State of the art international center for research in sufism to be set up at Amritsar

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State of the art international center for research in sufism to be set up at Amritsar by Jagmohan Singh,                   Punjab News Express October 20 2012

 AMRITSAR: Punjab Governor Shivraj V Patil today said that the state government has initiated several projects to develop Punjab especially holy city of Amritsar as a world class tourist destination.

Addressing the gathering after inaugurating two day International Sufi festival here today, the Governor said that realizing well the cultural and historical importance of this holy city the state government was making concerted efforts to develop it as a world class city. Urging the city residents to contribute towards making the city a clean, beautiful and tourist friendly, Mr Patil said that it was the duty of all the Punjabis to preserve this rich heritage of the state.
Congratulating the foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature, Punjab Heritage and Tourism Promotion Board and Khalsa College for organizing this Sufi Festival in Amritsar, Governor said that Sufi thought has impacted the cultures for several countries across the world.
Mr Patil said that the love of God and love of the Gurus has been expressed in song, dance, poetry and literature adding that he was happy to see that this festival aims to capture all these forms. He further said that Sufism has impacted southern & eastern Europe, North and central Africa, the Middle East, China and our own country in a number of ways. Emphasizing on the need of spreading the Sufi message of love, tolerance and unity of God, the Governor said that it was the need of the hour because it inspires us to renounce violence and aggression thereby contributing towards constructing a harmonious society. Welcoming the participants from 13 countries, Mr Patil said hoped that this festival would continue in coming years year and more countries would participate in it.
Presiding over the function, the Punjab Chief Minister Mr Parkash Singh Badal announced that the state government would soon establish a state of Art an International Centre for research in Sufism here in the holy city to propagate the values of humanism, harmony, peace and universal brotherhood. He said that this centre would be exclusively devoted for in-depth research in Sufism to herald a new era of love, friendship, mutual trust and amity through socio-cultural exchange programs transcending the geographical barriers. Mr Badal also announced that this upcoming centre would hold such mega sufi concerts every year adding that the state government would extend all support for organizing this International Sufi festival annually.

Badal said that the essence of Sufism proclaims that the only way to love the Almighty, is to love all his creation in all its manifestations. He said that Punjab being the land of Sufism and of Sufis had always been a cradle on universal brotherhood and peace. The Chief Minister further said that on its part the SAD-BJP government of the state has made stupendous efforts to promote peace, communal harmony, amity and brotherhood adding that it was indeed a matter of pride for them that with the active support of the people, Punjab today has emerged as the epicenter of spreading the fragrance of universal brotherhood throughout the world. Tracing the influence of Sufism on Sikhism, he said that Sufi saints like Baba Farid had spread the message of humanism, spirituality and oneness of god based on the principles of love, compassion, equality, humility, brotherhood and freedom which were very similar to the tenets of Sikhism.
The Chief Minister said that the bani of a large number of Sufi saints had been enshrined in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib which reflects affinity between Sikhism and Sufism. He further said that Sufism had the power that it could eliminate hostile images by showing that true belief could wipe out the demarcations of 'mine' and 'thine', and pave way for constructing a world that is 'ours.' Mr Badal further said that by spreading a message of peace and love Sufism creates a voice for secularism and composite culture. The Chief Minister hoped that the deliberations in the Academic Session of the Festival, in which 30 International Sufi Scholars, 25 International Poets, 50 Sufi musicians, singers and dancers from 13 countries were participating, would focus on tolerance, human values, love of futuristic dreams and a consciousness for love and Compassion that Sufism creates and advocates, thereby ensuring more co-operation and love in the Indian Sub continent.
The Chief Minister also called upon the need for holding such cultural meets frequently to further foster the bonds of friendship, goodwill, mutual trust and harmony especially amongst the people of India and Pakistan which share a common cultural bondage having lingual and socio-cultural similarity. Highly appreciated the efforts of the state government in organizing this grand Sufi meet, Mr Badal said that it would offer memorable moments to the audience to listen the great classical works of eminent Sufi singers. He hoped such events were far more meaningful in today’s stressful life to relieve the mankind from the monotonous routine in which a person works like a component of a machine. Mr Badal said such cultural programs help to soothe the body and mind besides rejuvenating a new spirit to work with much more vigor and enthusiasm.
The Chief Minister also announced a grant of Rs 2 lakh for the organizers of the festival.

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Indian Sufi Music of Ustad Nizami to University of Georgia

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Ustad Ghulam Farid Nizami, 17th generation Indian musician, poet, and composer, will give a performance of classical Indian music in Ramsey Concert Hall on Friday, November 2, 2012 at 6:00 p.m. The cost is $5. As a descendant of Mian Tan Sen, court musician of 16th century Moghal Emperor Akbar the Great, Nizami is a master of Hindustani and Sufi music in the Senia Gharana tradition. He will be performing on the sitar, harmonium, and tabla. He has performed for all Pakistani heads of state as well as for 3 United States presidents, Nelson Mandela, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana, Saudi King Abdullah, and Jordan's King Hussein. Nizami is the creator behind several educational television programs in his native Pakistan, and has appeared countless time both on television and radio. As a teacher, Nizami taught the first female tabla and sitar players in Pakistan during his 30 year educational career before coming the the USA as a Fulbright Scholar in 2008. In addition to his performance, Nizami will also give a free workshop open to the public in Room 521 of the Hugh Hodgson School of Music on November 6 from 2-3 pm. Tickets for sale online http://tickets.perfcenter.uga.edu/single/selectSeating.aspx?p=1067 . and at the door. See the publicity poster: http://assets4.pinimg.com/upload/383298618255376471_doA2ojJ0.jpg
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Ustad Nizami Poster
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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Oprah Winfrey Inspired by Islamic and Buddhist Faiths, Admits to Reading Daily Sufi Word

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Oprah Winfrey


Christine Thomasos. Christian Post Oct 16 2012

Oprah Winfrey recently shared her morning routine with Harper's Baazar magazine which includes a breakfast of fruit and almond milk, a workout and inspiration from Sufism, or Islamic mysticism.

Winfrey told the publication that she wakes up at around 5:45 a.m. and reads a passage from
TheDailyLove.com and The Bowl of Saki, which she describes as "like the Sufi daily word."
Although the 58-year-old media proprietor has been vocal about reading the Bible and being a Christian in the past, she has also spent time speaking about Sufism lately.
Last August, Winfrey interviewed author and Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee for OWN's "Super Soul Sunday" program. On her network's YouTube page, she labeled a preview to the show as "Oprah's Interest in Sufism" and tweeted about her love for the spiritual belief.
"Love Sufism …'the divinity of the human soul,'" Winfrey tweeted last September. "Within Our spiritual heart there is a direct connection to God."
According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, "Sufism is the esoteric dimension of the Islamic faith, the spiritual path to mystical union with God. It is influenced by other faiths, such as Buddhism, and reached its peak in the 13th century."
While Winfrey recently admitted to an interest and daily reading of a Sufi daily word, she has maintained that she is a practicing Christian. During a broadcast of "Oprah's Lifeclass" program in April, Winfrey spoke about her Christianity while having respect for all faiths.
"I am a Christian, that is my faith. I'm not asking you to be a Christian. If you want to be one I can show you how. But it is not required," she said on the broadcast. "I have respect for all faiths. All faiths. But what I'm talking about is not faith or religion. I'm talking about spirituality."
In the episode about "Spiritual Solutions" which featured new age spiritual leader Deepak Chopra, Winfrey also described her definition of spirituality.
"My definition [of spirituality] is living your life with an open heart, through love... allowing yourself to align with the values of tolerance, acceptance, of harmony, of cooperation and reverence for life," Winfrey said. "There is a force energy consciousness divine thread, I believe, that connects spiritually to all of us, to something greater than ourselves."

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Singers to come together for Sufi music festival in Jaipur

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http://daily.bhaskar.com/article/RAJ-JPR-singers-to-come-together-for-sufi-music-festival-in-jaipur-3858202-NOR.htmlDaily Baskhar, 26 October 2012

Jaipur: Sufi singers from various parts of the globe are all set to perform in the annual world Sufi music festival 'Jahan-e-Khusrau' to be held here next month.

"The artists performing this year at Jahan e Khusrau in Jaipur on October 27 and 28 are -Abida Parveen (Pakistan), Whirling Dervishes (Turkey), Shafaqat Ali Khan (Pakistan), Zia Nath (Indian modern dancer)," said Muzaffar Ali, director of the festival.

The event is being organised jointly by the tourism department of Rajasthan and Rumi Foundation.

Each year, Jahan-e-Khusrau presents rare lyrics of Sufi mystics in an innovative form.

Over the last decade it has showcased Sufi singers, dancers and musicians from different parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, Iran, Israel, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Italy, Sudan, Egypt, Greece, Germany, Japan, USA and Canada, a release said.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Statement Decrying the Murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens

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Statement from Dr. Aref Nayed (former Libyan diplomat, Muslim scholar and Sufi) Sept. 12, 2012: This is to express my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the late Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his fallen colleagues, and to the American people and government. I had the honor of personally knowing Ambassador Stevens, and witnessed, firsthand, in Benghazi and later in Tripoli, the care and hard work that he devoted to fulfilling his duties towards his country and towards Libya and the Libyan people. He was a man of dedication and honor, and I am shocked and deeply anguished for the loss of a dear friend and supporter of the Libyan people’s struggle against tyranny. Tyranny and darkness may wear a thousand guises, including pseudo-religiosity, but must never deceive us. Islam is a religion of peace and understanding, and Islam’s Prophet (peace be upon him) is the Prophet of Compassion. It is outrageous and totally unacceptable for criminals to kill and destroy in the name of defending Islam and its Prophet (peace be upon him). The criminals who committed this cowardly act must be rigorously pursued and rapidly brought to justice. May this tragic loss make us even more dedicated and determined to building our respective countries, based on the values of dialogue, understanding, and peace. Aref Ali Nayed, Former Ambassador of Libya to the UAE, Member of the League of Libyan Ulema.
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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why are they targeting the Sufis?

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Why are they targeting the Sufis? Richard Schiffman, New Internationalist blog, Oct 23 2012

Afghanistan in 2001? The Taliban destruction of these massive archaeological monuments dating back to the sixth century has become emblematic of the cultural and religious intolerance of radical Islam.What is less well known is that fanatical elements have done equal damage to Islam’s own religious heritage. Not only have Shi’a and Sunni partisans bombed each other’s mosques in countries like Iraq, Syria and Pakistan, but Sufi places of worship are under attack throughout the Islamic world.

In September, the world was shocked to learn that the US ambassador and three other Americans had been killed in an attack on a US Consulate in Libya. Few heard of the other violent events there later that month, which included the destruction of Sufi shrines in three Libyan cities.

In Tripoli, security forces watched passively as militants with bulldozers levelled the shrine of al-Shaab al-Dahmani, a venerated Sufi saint, in broad daylight. In Benghazi, on the other hand, locals fought back, killing three of the militants who were assaulting a holy place.

Perhaps we don’t hear much about these incidents because attacks on Sufis and Sufi sites have become routine, not just in Libya, but throughout the Islamic world. This past summer, Islamic militants in Mali demolished historical mausoleums, universities and libraries in the ancient Saharan trading town of Timbuktu, several of which were on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites. Sufi worship halls have also been turned to rubble in Iran, where the Islamic government has reportedly jailed and tortured thousands of Sufi practitioners for their unorthodox views. And in Egypt since the fall of Mubarak Sufi shrines have been torched and the Sufi chanting ritual called zhikr has been banned in some locations.

The deadliest attacks to date have occurred in Pakistan, including last year’s bombing of the Sakhi Sarkar shrine during the annual festival of the Sufi saint, in which 41 worshippers were killed. Meanwhile, in the former Soviet Republic of Daghestan, the Sufi leader Effendi Chirkeisky, along with six of his followers, was assassinated at the end of August by a female suicide bomber. Chirkeisky, a critic of Muslim extremism, had ironically been working to broker peace between warring Islamic factions.

For many here in the US, Sufism is associated with the ecstatic verse of the 13th-century mystic, Jalaluddin Rumi, whose poetry in translation sells more copies than any living US poet. Rumi’s popularity derives in part from the fact that he taught that religion is less a matter of external observance than an intimate, personal relationship with God. This undoubtedly appeals to our American ideal of individualism and free-form seeking.

What many contemporary fans of Rumi may not realize is that Sufism in practice is more of a communal affair than a lonely quest. Moreover, the philosophy of Rumi and his fellow Sufis is very much alive today. It has spread to the distant corners of the Islamic world and beyond, and comprises many different orders, each with their own teachings and modes of practice.

Historically, Sufism was one of the great wellsprings of Islamic philosophy, and deeply influenced luminaries like the great Muslim theologian Abu Hamid al-Ghazali and the 13th-century mystic thinker, Ibn Arabi. Some have credited Sufism’s open-minded approach to knowledge with the development of Islamic medicine and other sciences in the Middle Ages. Sufism’s influence on the literature, music, art and architecture of Islam is also immense, and it was a potent force in many of the political and social reform movements in the 19th century.

While nobody can say with certainty how many Sufis there are, they undoubtedly number in the millions in countries like Iran, Indonesia and Pakistan, and untold hundreds of millions of Muslims take part in Sufi ceremonies and festivals.

‘In the Islamic world,’ according to Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University, ‘Sufism is the most powerful antidote to the religious radicalism called fundamentalism, as well as the most important source for responding to the challenges posed by modernism.’

This pervasive influence may be why Sufis have been targets of the fundamentalist, who see their kinder, gentler form of Islam as a standing challenge to their own rigid orthodoxy. Sufi practices, such as the famous whirling of the Mevlevi dervishes in Turkey, first practiced by Rumi himself, employ music, dance and spiritual recitation to awaken the God who Sufis say is asleep in the human heart. Nothing could be further from the grim-faced puritanism of the Islamic fundamentalists who accuse the Sufis of being ‘idolaters’ and ‘pagans’. Sufis reply that they are hearkening back to the roots of Islam, which means ‘peace’.

I can attest to the power of Sufi practices to provide a glimpse of the ‘peace which passeth understanding’ which is at the core of all religious experience. For several years I attended the weekly zickr of a Turkish Sufi order in New York City. The chanting in Turkish and Arabic was co-ordinated with our movements and the flow of the breath to create a trance-like state which I found to be both subtler and more powerful and enduring than the drug experiences which I had pursued during college. Equally remarkable was the feeling of deep affection and fellowship which was served up along with the tea and Turkish sweets after the ceremony.

The Sufism that I know, while deeply Islamic in form, is universal in spirit. I think often of what our Sheikh, Muzzafer Effendi, told his Turkish followers when they asked him why he didn’t convert more American dervishes to Islam. ‘There are more than enough Muslims already,’ he replied. ‘What the world needs is more lovers of God!’

I would love to say this to the extremists who are bombing holy places and attacking Sufi practitioners.

Richard Schiffman is an American dervish in the Jerrahi order of Sufism. He is also the author of two religious biographies, and a poet and journalist whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, Reuters, the Guardian and on NPR.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Talk on Sufism by Dr. Nahid Angha in San Francisco

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Title of the talk: Sufism: Mysticism of Islam When: Thu, Oct 25 2012 - 6:00pm Who: Nahid Angha, Ph.D. , Co-director, The International Association of Sufism; Director, Sufi Women Organization, introduced by Michael Pappas, Executive Director, SF Interfaith Council – Moderator. Don't miss this chance to learn about Sufism – the inner, mystical interpretation and expression of Islam – from an internationally esteemed Persian Sufi scholar, author and lecturer. Dr. Angha will discuss Sufi history and Sufi literature, with an emphasis on the poetry of Rumi and Omar Khayam, considered by many to be among the highest literary expressions of spirituality. Angha, a human rights activist, women's rights and interfaith activist will also discuss the rights of women in Islam. The Commonwealth Club presents some of the world’s most important and interesting speakers. Founded in 1903, the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco has continuously hosted diverse discussions including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor Alec Baldwin and author Christopher Hitchens. In past events, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Bill Gates have all given landmark speeches at The Club. Location: SF Club Office, 595 Market St., San Francisco Time: Thursday, October 25, 2012. 5:30 p.m. networking reception, 6 p.m. program Cost: $20 standard, $8 members, students free (with valid ID) Discount available for IAS Members Contact IAS for more information. Register online for this event by visiting the Commonwealth Club website:www.commonwealthclub.org Tickets are also available by calling Commonwealth Club at 415-597-6705 or email them for information at club@commonwealthclub.org
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