Thursday, December 01, 2016

Report from Yemen: Dhikr amidst the bombs

Report from a Yemeni friend today in Yemen:

The situation is extremely catastrophic.

We are no longer very disturbed and worried
by the planes, rockets, and bombs
because when death comes
it will not be possible to stop it.
Our true concern is the
wretched and deteriorating economic situation....
I want to thank you
for my memories of the sessions of dhikr
[editor: chanting meditation, the sessions that we used to have at your house].
When the planes circle above us
and we hear the reverberations
of the violent explosions,
I gather my family,
and we begin a session of dhikr.
During it, we forget all that is going on around us,
and we feel tranquility
and indescribable peace.
(Translated from the Arabic by Alan Godlas)

[Note: For a good general article on the conflict in Yemen see "Yemen Crisis: Who is Fighting Whom?" from BBC News 14 October 2016]

Monday, November 28, 2016

On the OSU shooting: A Sufi News Editorial

Our hearts go out to the victims hurt by Abdul Razak Ali Artan, the Somali OSU criminal. And to the victims, their famlies, to all non-Muslim Americans, and to all Muslims in the US and over the world who are suffering on account of this criminal's action: we who are following the Sufi way of Islam are with you in your grief; and we are with you in your rage.

 We urge you to use whatever resources you have in your cultures (such as counseling and psychotherapy) and in your religions (such as the contemplative, meditative, or devotional dimensions of religions) to heal the wounds now aching, wounds that for some are even seething inside you.

If you do not know how to access such resources, find out before it is too late. To the degree that you are successful at healing such wounds in your heart, you will decrease the likelihood that you too (like the criminal Artan) will one day become deluded into thinking that in order to acheive your goal, it is necessary for you to hurt or even kill innocent people.

 In contrast, this criminal and those who influenced him, one of whom is reported to have been the criminal Anwar al-Awlaki, only knew Islam as a set religious doctrines, behaviors, and prohibitions. They were not aware of how to practice Islam in such a way as to heal the wounds of the heart.

 We pray that this tragedy will not be a cause of hatred but rather that it will be a cause of healing, a wake-up call for everyone to regain and actualize the healing wisdom that the human race has often lost sight of but which it fortunately possesses.

Amin/Amen

Outrage on Sufism

November 16, 2016 | 12:39 AM
Under attack in Mosul and Aleppo, the Islamic State  of Iraq and Syria has renewed the extension of its tentacles in the subcontinent. As much is the sinister message of Saturday's suicide attack, said to have been carried out by a 14-year-old, on a Sufi dargah in Baluchistan. There are a couple of facets to the outrage. One, the Caliphate has extended the conflict beyond the Shia-Sunni confrontation. It was an attack on tolerant Sufism, indeed the manifestation  of the conflict within Islam. Dargah Shah Noorani stands today as an awesome symbol of the calculated malevolence. The other is the surge in the attack on Sufi artistes, notably singers, in parallel to the accumulation of arms by the Islamist militants. As recently as June, the  qawwali singer, Amjad Sabri, was shot dead in Karachi, a killing for which  the Taliban had claimed responsibility. Pakistan has reached a stage where the label of the terrorist is of lesser moment than the grim reality of innocents being done to death with fearsome regularity.  Less than a month ago, cadets of the Baluchistan Police College in Quetta were killed by the Taliban, a disaster that followed  the bombing of a hospital in the Baluch capital.
The tragedy at Dargah Shah Noorani would seem to be still more poignant as the targeted innocents had assembled for the weekly songs and prayers, notably when the worshippers were performing the dhamal, a ritualistic dance of profound importance in the Sufi tradition. It was, to use contemporary jargon, a surgical strike  not merely on the sect but on the tolerant and liberal culture that it has propagated over time. In death, the 52 victims have conveyed the chilling message, and not to the Muslim bloc alone. Amidst the mushroom growth of militant hubs across Pakistan, the shrine culture still prevails. And there is little doubt that the offensive of the hardliners, who strike to kill, is directed against any modern, let alone liberal, interpretation of Islam. Notably, the song-and-dance  religious culture of the Sufis has palpably turned out to be an anathema, perhaps even heretical. Direly alarmist must be the fact that its religious philosophy of tolerance is perceived as anti-Islam through the fundamentalist prism. Indeed, the contribution of the Sufi saints to Pakistan's social development has been no less significant than that of the ulema  and clerics.
Till the emergence of mortal fundamentalism, more Pakistanis are said to have visited Sufi shrines than they did mosques. Saturday's mayhem is an affront to a noble tradition. Aside from the Shias, the Sunni Caliphate has widened its targeted flank. The terrorist, whatever the label, will find it difficult to digest that Sufism, a tolerant, mystical practice of Islam, has millions of followers in Pakistan. And it shall not be easy to obliterate the groundswell of support.

Bhitshah conference demands teaching of Sufism at all academic levels [in Pakistan]

BHITSHAH (from The Dawn (Pakistan) THE NEWSPAPER'S STAFF CORRESPONDENT — UPDATED Nov 15, 2016 08:29am: Inclusion of sufis’ teaching in the syllabi right from the primary to university level was among several demands made through the resolutions adopted at the first ‘Shah Latif Aalmi Tasawwuf Conference’ organised under the aegis of the Pakistan Mashaikh Ittehad Council (PMIC) within the courtyard of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai’s shrine on the eve of the 273rd urs of the great Sufi saint on Monday.

 Syed Waqar Hussain Shah, the custodian (Sajjada Nashin) of the Bhitai’s shrine, heads the council that organised the conference titled ‘Dehshat gardi ka jawab – sufia-i-karam ka nisab’.

 The conference was attended by custodians of different shrines in the country. Benazir Income Support Programme chairperson Marvi Memon, Adviser to the Chief Minister on Auqaf Syed Ghulam Shah Jilani, Saira Peter from London were prominent among those who attended the conference.

 Condemning Saturday’s suicide bomb attack at the Shah Noorani shrine in Khuzadar (Balochistan), the conference called for appropriate measures for the safety and security of all shrines and the devotees visiting them. It demanded immediate reopening of the Noorani shrine, which was sealed after the carnage. It said the PMIC would launch a movement if the shrine was not unsealed.

 Through another resolution, the conference stressed that custodians of all shrines be taken on board by the Auqaf department as far as their [shrines’] supervision was concerned. The revenue generated at each shrine in the shape of donations be spent in consultation with the custodian concerned and a reasonably big chunk be spent on the teaching of sufism.

 The conference called for the setting up of a committee for better coordination between government and Mashaikh. Sufism be taught through the syllabi right from the primary to university level. It urged the government to set up institutions for research on all important shrines.

 It also urged the chief minister to form a committee that should devise a comprehensive strategy for security of shrines and devotees. Action be taken against all immoral activities and the rituals that were contrary to the tenets of Islamic and were being resorted to by people at shrines. It called for the appointment of pesh imams, khateebs and muazzins, for mosques at shrines, from the Sufi school of thought.

 It demanded that international mashaikh conferences be held at the important shrineson the occasion of urs and a recognised scholar of mysticism be appointed as the vice chancellor for the Sufi university at Bhitshah.

 It said shrines should be given representation on universities’ syndicates and senates. The conference demanded lifting of the ban on the urs of at the Luwari Sharif shrine in Badin and ensure preservation of rare books present there. It also demanded allotment of land for the establishment of the ‘Sindh PMIC secretariat’.

 ‘Shrines victims of neglect’
 Sajjada Nashin Syed Waqar Hussain Shah of the Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai shrine has expressed his disappointment over the state of shrines in Sindh, especially the Bhitai shrine, and said they were victims of ‘deliberate neglect’ on the part of government. “That’s why, the philosophy of Sufism is not begin carried forwarded,” he observed.

 “They [government] are using shrines for commercial purposes,” said a dejected Shah speaking to visitors at his residence on Monday. Waqar Shah became the 12th Sajjada Nashin of the Bhitai shrine after the death of his father, Syed Nisar Hussain Shah, last year.

 “What is the logic behind the sealing of the Shah Noorani shrine in the wake of the suicide attack there?” he asked, and argued that which military or civilian installation in the country was sealed after such an attack? Mr Shah observed that the Bhitai shrine did not get the official attention it deserved.

 “If rally of Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is organised in Karachi, the present chief minister and Sindh IGP personally ensure that proper security measures are taken. It is the question of priorities on the part of government. But in our case, if I raise security issue for the shrine in the wake of the Shah Noorani tragedy, the DIG says I know nothing about security,” he said.  It was the level of seriousness that was shown by the authorities to the Bhitai shrine, he added.

 “Government representatives do attend urs celebrations only for a photo session,” he claimed, and said that millions turn up to attend the three-day urs celebrations and they were provided basic amenities including drinking water, food and toilets.

He said that some sort of security was seen around the shrine but only for three days of urs. Then everyone in government remained least concerned about it, he said. “Our shrines are being commercially used by government which is not the case in India,” said Waqar Shah, who also heads the Shah Latif Foundation.

 He said Bhitai’s shrine was the real face of Islamic Republic of Pakistan which was frequented even by people from religious minorities. “Our government is disowning shrines,” he said.

 Published in Dawn November 15th, 2016

Sunday, November 06, 2016

ICCR's International Seminar on Bedil, Sufi Poet, to Keep Pakistan Out


First published: November 5, 2016, 6:41 PM IST  Delhi
The Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) is gearing up for a grand international celebration of 17th century Persian-Urdu poet Mirza Abdul Qadir Bedil, but the guest list has an obvious exception: Pakistan.
Around 60 scholars from Uzbekistan, Kazakastan, Kyrgystan, Afghanistan and Iran will take part along with their Indian counterparts in celebrating the poet whose birthplace is in Azimabad near Patna and grave Bāġ-e Bīdel (Garden of Bīdel) in Delhi.
"We are organizing academic exchanges of international nature on eminent Asian personalities in India bringing countries, intellectuals and writers together. Bedil is huge in name," Amarendra Khatua, Director-General ICCR, told News18.
Although there is no official mention why Pakistan is kept out of the list, News18 learns it is part of the larger government plan to isolate Islamabad internationally. ICCR comes under the aegis of the Ministry of External Affairs.
"In Central Asia Bidel is as big a rockstar as Michael Jackson. Afghanistan has Bedil Studies in their curriculum. Though in India and Pakistan he is not so much celebrated in popular discourse. Having said that wherever Urdu etymology is taught Bedil makes an entry," writer Rakshanda Jalil said.
Urdu activist Kamana Prasad who has earlier been a cultural coordinator of Tehran Festival by ICCR said Bedil is loved in Afghanistan and countries in Central Asia and is known for his free-thinking.
"Maybe ICCR is concentrating only on Persian speaking countries, which Pakistan is not,” she said,

Sufi Music Festival of Mumbai, Nov. 11 -13th

MUMBAI: National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai is back with the eighth edition of its annual Sufi Music Festival- ‘Sama’a: The Mystic Ecstasy’. The three-day long festival will comprise a cinematic representation of the journey of Sufia Kalam, Rajasthani Sufi Folk music, whirling dervishes and contemporary Sufi songs.

 According to NCPA Programming (Indian Music) Dr. Suvarnalata Rao said, “Sama’a has been an attempt by NCPA to celebrate Sufi music traditions from across the world on one stage. It is a festival of spiritual ecstasy complete with songs, dances and music that allows the audience to experience the true mysticism of Sufism. Sufi music is practiced in different regions of the world through myriad genres. Through Sama’a, we endeavor to bring to our audiences varied and truly immersive experiences.”

 Sufi music is based on the mystical branch of Islam, which attempts to unite listeners with the Divine. Practiced across different parts of the world, this music has an array of genres, yet it is based on the common philosophy of staying one with the Creator by transcending into the spiritual realm with Samara, the practice of listening to music, chanting and whirling culminating into spiritual ecstasy.

 The first day of Sama’a will open with a 50-minute documentary called Mann Faqeeri by M.K Raina, the renowned theatre actor and director. The film explores the evolution of Sufiyana Kalam. It unfolds a story of a multi-cultural exchange among Central Asia, Persia and India with the advent of Islam in Kashmir. These exchanges in turn created a new cultural fabric weaving in the essence of Islam, Shaivism and Buddhism, leading to the development of Sufiyaana Kalam as a sophisticated classical music genre with complex rhythms and Maqams.

 This will be followed by an energetic performance of Rajasthani Sufi- Folk music by the Manganiyars, led by Mame Khan and Group (GIMA Awardees). Manganiyaar means “those who ask for alms”. These hereditary caste musicians traditionally performed for kings and lords on various occasions ranging from weddings to festivals to even mourning events. Their music fuses elements of Hindustani classical music with the Sufi music; the lyrics are mostly centred around life and the love for God. The presentation will include works of Sufi poets from Sindh and Rajasthan, including Mira Bai, Kabir, Bulleh Shah and Baba Ghulam Farid, in their own mesmerizing style called ‘Jangra’ with native musical instruments like kamaicha, khadtal and morchang.

 Mame Khan hails from a family of singers based in Jaiselmer region and gained popularity with his super hit renditions in Hindi films like No one Killed Jessica and Luck By Chance. Day two, will see a riveting performance of Sama Ayins, (whirling prayer ceremonies) in its original form by the Semazen, whirling dervishes. The performance is an attempt to feel one with God through three stages which include knowing God, seeing God and uniting with God.

This musical performance will be brought to life by an ensemble of 20 artists belonging to the illustrious Istanbul Historical Turkish Music Ensemble using instruments like ney (reed flute), kudum (small double drum), bendir (big size tambourine without bells), tanbur (long-necked plucked lute), kemenche (bowed lute) and kemancha
kanun (box zither) followed by the prayer ceremony. Istanbul Historical Turkish Music Ensemble was established 1991 by the Turkish Republic Ministry of Culture and Tourism with the intention to preserve and promote the 700 years old traditions of Turkish Tasawwuf music and traditional Sama Ayins (Whirling Prayer Ceremonies) in their original form.

 The third day is a rendition of contemporary and popular Sufi songs by the versatile Rekha Bhardwaj, which will transcend the artificial boundaries of religion, caste, country etc. The core idea of love, longing and union with the beloved, as espoused in the Sufi songs has an evergreen appeal with people from all of walks life. Today, besides the traditional repertoire a large number of songs are sung under the Sufi label.

These compositions show a marked influence of contemporary idioms and expressions, and are widely popular with the masses. Rekha Bharadwaj’s presentation will include a bouquet of sufiana compositions from traditional repertoire and also songs based from Bollywood. The artist is a very popular singer who has trained with several stalwarts like Vasant Thakar, Vinay Chandra Mudgal and Amarnath ji of Kirana gharana. She has lent her voice to Hindi cinema in films like Delhi 6, 7 Khoon Maaf and Ishqiya which won her two Filmfare awards and a National award.

 Schedule: Date Performance Venue Time Friday, 11 Nov 2016 Mann Faqeeri: A Documentary GDAT 6.30 pm Rajasthani Sufi-Folk with Mame Khan & Group The Experimental Theatre 8.00pm Saturday, 12 Nov 2016 Sama Ayins: Whirling Prayer Ceremonies by Istanbul Historical Turkish Music Ensemble Tata Theatre 6.30 pm Sunday, 13 Nov 2016 Sufiana songs by Rekha Bharadwaj Tata Theatre 6.30 pm

Dr. Alan Godlas to conduct sessions of Islamic Sufi contemplation and to discuss contemplative practice and social justice


Announcement: Dr. Alan Godlas ('Abd al-Haqq), will conduct three sessions involving  contemplative practice in Islamic Sufism, will make a brief presentation on contemplative practice and social justice in Islamic Sufism, and then will participate in a panel discussion on this topic at the International Symposium for Contemplative Studies in San Diego organized by the Mind and Life Institute. This will take place at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina on Nov. 11 and Nov. 12, 2016.

Dr. Godlas is an Associate Professor of Religion at the University of Georgia and is authorized to teach in the Shadhili and Naqshbandi Sufi orders.

Nov. 11, Friday, 3:15-3:45 Engaged Contemplative Practice in Islamic Sufism: Vocal Emphasis
This workshop will involve beginning instruction in two methods of engaged contemplation in Islamic Sufism, consisting of silent and vocal forms of "remembrance" (dhikr). The ultimate purpose of these methods is to retrain the individual's consciousness to respond — at each moment in one's daily life — toward one's consciousness and whatever appears in it, responding with an engaged contemplative stance consisting of a continual re-embrace of unconditional gratitude. Structurally, this workshop will involve alternating periods of contemplation and instruction with discussion. It will include both vocal and silent dhikr, but this workshop will emphasize seated vocal dhikr.

-----

Nov. 12, Saturday 8:00-8:25 Engaged Contemplative Practice in Islamic Sufism: Silent Emphasis
This workshop will have the same format as the previous workshop session, including both vocal and silent dhikr; but this workshop will emphasize seated silent dhikr.  

-----

Nov. 12, Saturday 4:00-4:30 Engaged Contemplative Practice in Islamic Sufism: Vocal, Silent, Living
This workshop will involve three methods of engaged contemplation in Islamic Sufism, consisting of silent and vocal forms of "remembrance" (dhikr) and "remembrance in life." In addition to the previous two workshops' vocal and silent forms of contemplation,  this workshop will involve "remembrance in life" (consisting of short, non-strenuous periods of walking dhikr). For this workshop, a smartphone with an alarm or a watch is recommended. Also, for anyone with a physical disability, the walking "remembrance in life" practice can be modified according to individual needs.

Contemplative Practice and Social Justice: Panel Discussion  
2:45-3:45 Saturday, Nov. 12

Presenters:
Beth Berila, Professor, St. Cloud State University
Alan 'Abd al-Haqq Godlas PhD, Associate Professor, University of Georgia
Rev. Takafumi Kawakami, Deputy Head Priest, Shunkoin Temple & Zen Center
John Makransky PhD, Associate Professor of Buddhism and Comparative Theology, Boston College
Erin Jien McCarthy PhD, Chair and Professor of Philosophy , St. Lawrence University

Location:
Nautilus 5
Description:
Inspired by questions arising out of Rhonda Magee’s keynote address earlier in the day, this roundtable brings together contemplative faculty to discuss pressing issues in the area of contemplative practice and social justice. This panel will discuss key questions in the field including: How can contemplative practices — as individuals and communities — help us more deeply unlearn privilege and internalized oppression, allowing us to engage in more compassionate and just dialogues across difference? How are contemplative practices sometimes used to "spiritually bypass" an accounting of systematic oppression and our various roles in them? What kinds of things go wrong when social justice activity lacks a contemplative discipline to inform it? What kinds of things go wrong when contemplative practices are offered to people as a solution to their problems without enough awareness of the social and institutional systems in which those people are embedded?  

Learning Objectives
At the conclusion of this activity, participants should be able to:1) Define how contemplative practices can help us--as individuals and communities-- more deeply unlearn privilege and internalized oppression;2) Explain how contemplative practices sometimes used to "spiritually bypass" an accounting of systematic oppression and our various roles in them;3) Evaluate what goes wrong when social justice activity lacks a contemplative discipline to inform it;4) Identify the kinds of things that go wrong when contemplative practices are offered to people as a solution to their problems without enough awareness of the social and institutional systems in which those people are embedded.
------------------------
To register and for more information on the conference and Dr. Godlas' sessions see https://www.eiseverywhere.com/ehome/iscs-2016/


Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Spiritual benefits, economic losses go together" [ed. note: A critique of the state of affairs at Data Darbar, the shrine of Data Ganj Bakhsh, Hz. Ali Hujviri]

By Amraiz Khan, in The Nation, October 25, 2016, LAHORE - One way or the other, almost every visitor gets robbed at Data Darbar - the shrine of famous Sufi saint Hazrat Ali Bin Usman Al-Hajveri [in Lahore]. Tens of thousands of devotees from across the country visit the Lahore’s historic shrine daily. But they are virtually robbed by the food sellers, contractors, and mafias who in fact enjoy the administrative control of the shrine.

 In addition to fleecers and fraudsters, the populous Data Darbar locality is among the worst crime-hit areas of the provincial metropolis. Crimes like pick-pocketing, child abuse, and robberies are quite common around the holy site. Runaway children from all across the province prefer staying at the shrine because of free food and petty jobs.

 Devotees from across the country visiting the shrine take sigh of relief when they pay homage to their spiritual leader buried here. About 40,000 to 50,000 pilgrims daily visit the shrine of Hazrat Ali Hajveri widely known as Data Ganj Bakhsh, according to Data Darbar manager Mr Jahangir.

 Due to poor administration of Auqaf department which is also custodian of the shrine, security, janitorial and administrative issues are not up to the mark. When a devotee enters in the Darbar limits, he has to face swindlers, pickpockets and kidnappers roaming around the premises in guise of beggars, food sellers, addicts, and flower sellers.

 Food (Lungar) sellers not only sell substandard food but also in lesser quantity than declared. A devotee, Muhammad Salman said, “I bought a Daigh of rice of 10 kg to distribute among the poor but when I checked, there was hardly 5 kg food in ‘Daigh’. The irony is that one cannot countercheck the weight at the Data Darbar. ” Another regular visitor told The Nation that some food sellers only receive money from the rich devotees to distribute food among the people but after distributing minor chunk of the food, they put the food again at their counter for sale.

 Similarly, many devotees coming from far flung are deprived of their money through pickpocketing when they enter in the rushy area of the shrine. Police say 106 cases of pickpocketing have been registered with Police Station Data Darbar since the start of this year; however, there was not even a single case of kidnapping of any male or female children. “Rather we rescued children and sent them to Child Protection Bureau around the Darbar premises,” the area SHO said, further claiming that number of swindling and deception cases have also touched zero.

 The station house officer added since CCTV cameras have been installed everywhere in Darbar premises, swindlers have shifted to other areas of the city like Lorry Adda and Railway station.

 Another grave concern of Data Sahib devotees is overcharging by the contractors of Auqaf for shoes-keeping. The department has fixed Rs5 for each pair of shoes when a devotee goes inside the Darbar he has to put his shoes off and hand them over to the Darbar staff. But in ‘normal’ practice, the contractor charges Rs100 to 150 per pair of shoes keeping in view the dressing and financial position of the devotee. Jabbar Ahmad, a resident of Bahawalnagar, who was there with his family, complained to the Darbar manager that the shoes-keeping staff had charged Rs100 from his wife and also misbehaved with her. The manager called the shoe-keeping staff and enquired about the issue. The matter was then ‘settled’ at the official rate. To a question about punishment for overcharging by shoes contractor, the manager said: “We have displayed a board near the shoes counters inscribed with warning not to pay excess charges than Rs5. ” “We are also making announcements in this regard repeatedly but even then they don’t spare the people visiting the holy shrine,” the manager told The Nation. He added that Auqaf department was thinking on these lines to finish the contract system, and shoe-keeping service will be free of cost in future. However, the administration has no clear mechanism to check the overcharging, let alone taking any action against the violators. According to the area police, only two cases of overcharging were registered against the shoe-keeping staff during past ten months.

 Almost 40,000 to 50,000 people visit Data Darbar daily, and on Thursday and Friday more rush is witnessed. People from every school of thought like Sunni, Brailvi, Shia, Ahle Hadees and Ddeobandi, visit the shrine. During Raiwind congregation, rush increase at Data Darbar. Similarly, Shia devotees visit Darbar during Muharram when they visit Bibi Pak Daman shrine, and Karbala Gamay Shah.

 Published in The Nation newspaper on 25-Oct-2016

Govt neglects 700- yr old shrine in Saujiyan

By Ishrat Butt, Poonch (Mandi), Published in Greater Kashmir, Publishing Date: Oct 26 2016 1:01AM. Locals, while talking to Greater Kashmir, said that this shrine is seven hundred years old and is named after a great Sufi saint, who reached this area from Kashmir.

 A shrine located at Guntar village of Saujiyan, only eight kilometres from Mandi tehsil headquarter, here in Pir Panchal region is craving for government attention. The shrine of Peer Sayeed Sadiq Shah is located very close to Line of Control in Saujiyan.

 Locals while talking to Greater Kashmir said that this shrine is seven hundred years old and is named after a great Sufi saint, who reached this area from Kashmir. They informed that the Minar [i.e., minaret] of this shrine was constructed 80 years ago and is repaired after every couple of years by locals on their own.

 “So far government has not even bothered to pay attention to this shrine which is a centre of religious values of the people of the area,” he added. Locals said that a road to this shrine was constructed by them a few months ago.

We spent Rs eight lakhs but Rural Development Department is still to clear the payment. They also informed that a temporary bathroom was constructed by locals of the area on their own. "We appeal authorities to show some concern towards this shrine and to ensure that basic facilities remain available to devotees visiting here," locals said.

Women to Get Access to Inner Sanctum of Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai

Women to Get Access to Inner Sanctum of Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai  IANS Updated Oct 24, 2016, NEW DELHI – Women devotees will have access up to the sanctum sanctorum of Sufi saint Haji Ali in Mumbai, the Haji Ali Dargah Trust Oct. 24 informed the Supreme Court. The trust told the apex court that it is going to create a separate way to facilitate women devotees' access to the Dargah.
 As senior counsel Gopal Subramaniam appearing for the Haji Ali Dargah Trust sought two weeks' time to create the way, the bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice L. Nageswara Rao, describing the development as positive, said: "You can have four weeks' time if you are going to strictly comply with the (Bombay) High Court order."

 Subramaniam took the court through the map of the Dargah to tell it that the trust has decided to relocate the treasury boxes in which the offerings by the devotees are kept. He also told the court that in the past, women were allowed access to the sanctum sanctorum of the Dargah, but for some logistical problems, the restrictions were imposed.

 "The Trust in 2012 prohibited women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine." The Haji Ali Dargah Trust had approached the Supreme Court challenging the Bombay High Court order that directed the trust to allow women devotees full access to the sanctum sanctorum of the Dargah.

 The Bombay High Court had on Aug. 26 permitted the entry of women right up to the restricted grave area of the famous Saint. However, the Bombay High Court, while ruling that women can go up to the sanctum sanctorum of the Dargah, had put the operation of its verdict on hold, giving time to the Haji Ali Trust – managing the shrine affairs – to approach the Supreme Court.

 The High Court verdict had come on a public interest litigation filed by Noorjehan Niaz, Zakia Soman and others. This shrine of the Sufi Saint in Mumbai was built in 1431.

Reviving Sufi News

Salam 'alaykum, Dear Friends, It is time to get Sufi News up and running again. For a while we were at another site, www.sufinews.org, but I am more comfortable with this site. So I will start it up here again. wa-s-salam, 'Abd al-Haqq

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.
“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.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Report from Yemen: Dhikr amidst the bombs

No comments:
Report from a Yemeni friend today in Yemen:

The situation is extremely catastrophic.

We are no longer very disturbed and worried
by the planes, rockets, and bombs
because when death comes
it will not be possible to stop it.
Our true concern is the
wretched and deteriorating economic situation....
I want to thank you
for my memories of the sessions of dhikr
[editor: chanting meditation, the sessions that we used to have at your house].
When the planes circle above us
and we hear the reverberations
of the violent explosions,
I gather my family,
and we begin a session of dhikr.
During it, we forget all that is going on around us,
and we feel tranquility
and indescribable peace.
(Translated from the Arabic by Alan Godlas)

[Note: For a good general article on the conflict in Yemen see "Yemen Crisis: Who is Fighting Whom?" from BBC News 14 October 2016]
Read More

Monday, November 28, 2016

On the OSU shooting: A Sufi News Editorial

No comments:
Our hearts go out to the victims hurt by Abdul Razak Ali Artan, the Somali OSU criminal. And to the victims, their famlies, to all non-Muslim Americans, and to all Muslims in the US and over the world who are suffering on account of this criminal's action: we who are following the Sufi way of Islam are with you in your grief; and we are with you in your rage.

 We urge you to use whatever resources you have in your cultures (such as counseling and psychotherapy) and in your religions (such as the contemplative, meditative, or devotional dimensions of religions) to heal the wounds now aching, wounds that for some are even seething inside you.

If you do not know how to access such resources, find out before it is too late. To the degree that you are successful at healing such wounds in your heart, you will decrease the likelihood that you too (like the criminal Artan) will one day become deluded into thinking that in order to acheive your goal, it is necessary for you to hurt or even kill innocent people.

 In contrast, this criminal and those who influenced him, one of whom is reported to have been the criminal Anwar al-Awlaki, only knew Islam as a set religious doctrines, behaviors, and prohibitions. They were not aware of how to practice Islam in such a way as to heal the wounds of the heart.

 We pray that this tragedy will not be a cause of hatred but rather that it will be a cause of healing, a wake-up call for everyone to regain and actualize the healing wisdom that the human race has often lost sight of but which it fortunately possesses.

Amin/Amen
Read More
Outrage on Sufism
No comments:
November 16, 2016 | 12:39 AM
Under attack in Mosul and Aleppo, the Islamic State  of Iraq and Syria has renewed the extension of its tentacles in the subcontinent. As much is the sinister message of Saturday's suicide attack, said to have been carried out by a 14-year-old, on a Sufi dargah in Baluchistan. There are a couple of facets to the outrage. One, the Caliphate has extended the conflict beyond the Shia-Sunni confrontation. It was an attack on tolerant Sufism, indeed the manifestation  of the conflict within Islam. Dargah Shah Noorani stands today as an awesome symbol of the calculated malevolence. The other is the surge in the attack on Sufi artistes, notably singers, in parallel to the accumulation of arms by the Islamist militants. As recently as June, the  qawwali singer, Amjad Sabri, was shot dead in Karachi, a killing for which  the Taliban had claimed responsibility. Pakistan has reached a stage where the label of the terrorist is of lesser moment than the grim reality of innocents being done to death with fearsome regularity.  Less than a month ago, cadets of the Baluchistan Police College in Quetta were killed by the Taliban, a disaster that followed  the bombing of a hospital in the Baluch capital.
The tragedy at Dargah Shah Noorani would seem to be still more poignant as the targeted innocents had assembled for the weekly songs and prayers, notably when the worshippers were performing the dhamal, a ritualistic dance of profound importance in the Sufi tradition. It was, to use contemporary jargon, a surgical strike  not merely on the sect but on the tolerant and liberal culture that it has propagated over time. In death, the 52 victims have conveyed the chilling message, and not to the Muslim bloc alone. Amidst the mushroom growth of militant hubs across Pakistan, the shrine culture still prevails. And there is little doubt that the offensive of the hardliners, who strike to kill, is directed against any modern, let alone liberal, interpretation of Islam. Notably, the song-and-dance  religious culture of the Sufis has palpably turned out to be an anathema, perhaps even heretical. Direly alarmist must be the fact that its religious philosophy of tolerance is perceived as anti-Islam through the fundamentalist prism. Indeed, the contribution of the Sufi saints to Pakistan's social development has been no less significant than that of the ulema  and clerics.
Till the emergence of mortal fundamentalism, more Pakistanis are said to have visited Sufi shrines than they did mosques. Saturday's mayhem is an affront to a noble tradition. Aside from the Shias, the Sunni Caliphate has widened its targeted flank. The terrorist, whatever the label, will find it difficult to digest that Sufism, a tolerant, mystical practice of Islam, has millions of followers in Pakistan. And it shall not be easy to obliterate the groundswell of support.
Read More
Bhitshah conference demands teaching of Sufism at all academic levels [in Pakistan]
No comments:
BHITSHAH (from The Dawn (Pakistan) THE NEWSPAPER'S STAFF CORRESPONDENT — UPDATED Nov 15, 2016 08:29am: Inclusion of sufis’ teaching in the syllabi right from the primary to university level was among several demands made through the resolutions adopted at the first ‘Shah Latif Aalmi Tasawwuf Conference’ organised under the aegis of the Pakistan Mashaikh Ittehad Council (PMIC) within the courtyard of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai’s shrine on the eve of the 273rd urs of the great Sufi saint on Monday.

 Syed Waqar Hussain Shah, the custodian (Sajjada Nashin) of the Bhitai’s shrine, heads the council that organised the conference titled ‘Dehshat gardi ka jawab – sufia-i-karam ka nisab’.

 The conference was attended by custodians of different shrines in the country. Benazir Income Support Programme chairperson Marvi Memon, Adviser to the Chief Minister on Auqaf Syed Ghulam Shah Jilani, Saira Peter from London were prominent among those who attended the conference.

 Condemning Saturday’s suicide bomb attack at the Shah Noorani shrine in Khuzadar (Balochistan), the conference called for appropriate measures for the safety and security of all shrines and the devotees visiting them. It demanded immediate reopening of the Noorani shrine, which was sealed after the carnage. It said the PMIC would launch a movement if the shrine was not unsealed.

 Through another resolution, the conference stressed that custodians of all shrines be taken on board by the Auqaf department as far as their [shrines’] supervision was concerned. The revenue generated at each shrine in the shape of donations be spent in consultation with the custodian concerned and a reasonably big chunk be spent on the teaching of sufism.

 The conference called for the setting up of a committee for better coordination between government and Mashaikh. Sufism be taught through the syllabi right from the primary to university level. It urged the government to set up institutions for research on all important shrines.

 It also urged the chief minister to form a committee that should devise a comprehensive strategy for security of shrines and devotees. Action be taken against all immoral activities and the rituals that were contrary to the tenets of Islamic and were being resorted to by people at shrines. It called for the appointment of pesh imams, khateebs and muazzins, for mosques at shrines, from the Sufi school of thought.

 It demanded that international mashaikh conferences be held at the important shrineson the occasion of urs and a recognised scholar of mysticism be appointed as the vice chancellor for the Sufi university at Bhitshah.

 It said shrines should be given representation on universities’ syndicates and senates. The conference demanded lifting of the ban on the urs of at the Luwari Sharif shrine in Badin and ensure preservation of rare books present there. It also demanded allotment of land for the establishment of the ‘Sindh PMIC secretariat’.

 ‘Shrines victims of neglect’
 Sajjada Nashin Syed Waqar Hussain Shah of the Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai shrine has expressed his disappointment over the state of shrines in Sindh, especially the Bhitai shrine, and said they were victims of ‘deliberate neglect’ on the part of government. “That’s why, the philosophy of Sufism is not begin carried forwarded,” he observed.

 “They [government] are using shrines for commercial purposes,” said a dejected Shah speaking to visitors at his residence on Monday. Waqar Shah became the 12th Sajjada Nashin of the Bhitai shrine after the death of his father, Syed Nisar Hussain Shah, last year.

 “What is the logic behind the sealing of the Shah Noorani shrine in the wake of the suicide attack there?” he asked, and argued that which military or civilian installation in the country was sealed after such an attack? Mr Shah observed that the Bhitai shrine did not get the official attention it deserved.

 “If rally of Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is organised in Karachi, the present chief minister and Sindh IGP personally ensure that proper security measures are taken. It is the question of priorities on the part of government. But in our case, if I raise security issue for the shrine in the wake of the Shah Noorani tragedy, the DIG says I know nothing about security,” he said.  It was the level of seriousness that was shown by the authorities to the Bhitai shrine, he added.

 “Government representatives do attend urs celebrations only for a photo session,” he claimed, and said that millions turn up to attend the three-day urs celebrations and they were provided basic amenities including drinking water, food and toilets.

He said that some sort of security was seen around the shrine but only for three days of urs. Then everyone in government remained least concerned about it, he said. “Our shrines are being commercially used by government which is not the case in India,” said Waqar Shah, who also heads the Shah Latif Foundation.

 He said Bhitai’s shrine was the real face of Islamic Republic of Pakistan which was frequented even by people from religious minorities. “Our government is disowning shrines,” he said.

 Published in Dawn November 15th, 2016
Read More

Sunday, November 06, 2016

ICCR's International Seminar on Bedil, Sufi Poet, to Keep Pakistan Out
No comments:


First published: November 5, 2016, 6:41 PM IST  Delhi
The Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) is gearing up for a grand international celebration of 17th century Persian-Urdu poet Mirza Abdul Qadir Bedil, but the guest list has an obvious exception: Pakistan.
Around 60 scholars from Uzbekistan, Kazakastan, Kyrgystan, Afghanistan and Iran will take part along with their Indian counterparts in celebrating the poet whose birthplace is in Azimabad near Patna and grave Bāġ-e Bīdel (Garden of Bīdel) in Delhi.
"We are organizing academic exchanges of international nature on eminent Asian personalities in India bringing countries, intellectuals and writers together. Bedil is huge in name," Amarendra Khatua, Director-General ICCR, told News18.
Although there is no official mention why Pakistan is kept out of the list, News18 learns it is part of the larger government plan to isolate Islamabad internationally. ICCR comes under the aegis of the Ministry of External Affairs.
"In Central Asia Bidel is as big a rockstar as Michael Jackson. Afghanistan has Bedil Studies in their curriculum. Though in India and Pakistan he is not so much celebrated in popular discourse. Having said that wherever Urdu etymology is taught Bedil makes an entry," writer Rakshanda Jalil said.
Urdu activist Kamana Prasad who has earlier been a cultural coordinator of Tehran Festival by ICCR said Bedil is loved in Afghanistan and countries in Central Asia and is known for his free-thinking.
"Maybe ICCR is concentrating only on Persian speaking countries, which Pakistan is not,” she said,
Read More
Sufi Music Festival of Mumbai, Nov. 11 -13th
No comments:
MUMBAI: National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai is back with the eighth edition of its annual Sufi Music Festival- ‘Sama’a: The Mystic Ecstasy’. The three-day long festival will comprise a cinematic representation of the journey of Sufia Kalam, Rajasthani Sufi Folk music, whirling dervishes and contemporary Sufi songs.

 According to NCPA Programming (Indian Music) Dr. Suvarnalata Rao said, “Sama’a has been an attempt by NCPA to celebrate Sufi music traditions from across the world on one stage. It is a festival of spiritual ecstasy complete with songs, dances and music that allows the audience to experience the true mysticism of Sufism. Sufi music is practiced in different regions of the world through myriad genres. Through Sama’a, we endeavor to bring to our audiences varied and truly immersive experiences.”

 Sufi music is based on the mystical branch of Islam, which attempts to unite listeners with the Divine. Practiced across different parts of the world, this music has an array of genres, yet it is based on the common philosophy of staying one with the Creator by transcending into the spiritual realm with Samara, the practice of listening to music, chanting and whirling culminating into spiritual ecstasy.

 The first day of Sama’a will open with a 50-minute documentary called Mann Faqeeri by M.K Raina, the renowned theatre actor and director. The film explores the evolution of Sufiyana Kalam. It unfolds a story of a multi-cultural exchange among Central Asia, Persia and India with the advent of Islam in Kashmir. These exchanges in turn created a new cultural fabric weaving in the essence of Islam, Shaivism and Buddhism, leading to the development of Sufiyaana Kalam as a sophisticated classical music genre with complex rhythms and Maqams.

 This will be followed by an energetic performance of Rajasthani Sufi- Folk music by the Manganiyars, led by Mame Khan and Group (GIMA Awardees). Manganiyaar means “those who ask for alms”. These hereditary caste musicians traditionally performed for kings and lords on various occasions ranging from weddings to festivals to even mourning events. Their music fuses elements of Hindustani classical music with the Sufi music; the lyrics are mostly centred around life and the love for God. The presentation will include works of Sufi poets from Sindh and Rajasthan, including Mira Bai, Kabir, Bulleh Shah and Baba Ghulam Farid, in their own mesmerizing style called ‘Jangra’ with native musical instruments like kamaicha, khadtal and morchang.

 Mame Khan hails from a family of singers based in Jaiselmer region and gained popularity with his super hit renditions in Hindi films like No one Killed Jessica and Luck By Chance. Day two, will see a riveting performance of Sama Ayins, (whirling prayer ceremonies) in its original form by the Semazen, whirling dervishes. The performance is an attempt to feel one with God through three stages which include knowing God, seeing God and uniting with God.

This musical performance will be brought to life by an ensemble of 20 artists belonging to the illustrious Istanbul Historical Turkish Music Ensemble using instruments like ney (reed flute), kudum (small double drum), bendir (big size tambourine without bells), tanbur (long-necked plucked lute), kemenche (bowed lute) and kemancha
kanun (box zither) followed by the prayer ceremony. Istanbul Historical Turkish Music Ensemble was established 1991 by the Turkish Republic Ministry of Culture and Tourism with the intention to preserve and promote the 700 years old traditions of Turkish Tasawwuf music and traditional Sama Ayins (Whirling Prayer Ceremonies) in their original form.

 The third day is a rendition of contemporary and popular Sufi songs by the versatile Rekha Bhardwaj, which will transcend the artificial boundaries of religion, caste, country etc. The core idea of love, longing and union with the beloved, as espoused in the Sufi songs has an evergreen appeal with people from all of walks life. Today, besides the traditional repertoire a large number of songs are sung under the Sufi label.

These compositions show a marked influence of contemporary idioms and expressions, and are widely popular with the masses. Rekha Bharadwaj’s presentation will include a bouquet of sufiana compositions from traditional repertoire and also songs based from Bollywood. The artist is a very popular singer who has trained with several stalwarts like Vasant Thakar, Vinay Chandra Mudgal and Amarnath ji of Kirana gharana. She has lent her voice to Hindi cinema in films like Delhi 6, 7 Khoon Maaf and Ishqiya which won her two Filmfare awards and a National award.

 Schedule: Date Performance Venue Time Friday, 11 Nov 2016 Mann Faqeeri: A Documentary GDAT 6.30 pm Rajasthani Sufi-Folk with Mame Khan & Group The Experimental Theatre 8.00pm Saturday, 12 Nov 2016 Sama Ayins: Whirling Prayer Ceremonies by Istanbul Historical Turkish Music Ensemble Tata Theatre 6.30 pm Sunday, 13 Nov 2016 Sufiana songs by Rekha Bharadwaj Tata Theatre 6.30 pm
Read More

Dr. Alan Godlas to conduct sessions of Islamic Sufi contemplation and to discuss contemplative practice and social justice

No comments:

Announcement: Dr. Alan Godlas ('Abd al-Haqq), will conduct three sessions involving  contemplative practice in Islamic Sufism, will make a brief presentation on contemplative practice and social justice in Islamic Sufism, and then will participate in a panel discussion on this topic at the International Symposium for Contemplative Studies in San Diego organized by the Mind and Life Institute. This will take place at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina on Nov. 11 and Nov. 12, 2016.

Dr. Godlas is an Associate Professor of Religion at the University of Georgia and is authorized to teach in the Shadhili and Naqshbandi Sufi orders.

Nov. 11, Friday, 3:15-3:45 Engaged Contemplative Practice in Islamic Sufism: Vocal Emphasis
This workshop will involve beginning instruction in two methods of engaged contemplation in Islamic Sufism, consisting of silent and vocal forms of "remembrance" (dhikr). The ultimate purpose of these methods is to retrain the individual's consciousness to respond — at each moment in one's daily life — toward one's consciousness and whatever appears in it, responding with an engaged contemplative stance consisting of a continual re-embrace of unconditional gratitude. Structurally, this workshop will involve alternating periods of contemplation and instruction with discussion. It will include both vocal and silent dhikr, but this workshop will emphasize seated vocal dhikr.

-----

Nov. 12, Saturday 8:00-8:25 Engaged Contemplative Practice in Islamic Sufism: Silent Emphasis
This workshop will have the same format as the previous workshop session, including both vocal and silent dhikr; but this workshop will emphasize seated silent dhikr.  

-----

Nov. 12, Saturday 4:00-4:30 Engaged Contemplative Practice in Islamic Sufism: Vocal, Silent, Living
This workshop will involve three methods of engaged contemplation in Islamic Sufism, consisting of silent and vocal forms of "remembrance" (dhikr) and "remembrance in life." In addition to the previous two workshops' vocal and silent forms of contemplation,  this workshop will involve "remembrance in life" (consisting of short, non-strenuous periods of walking dhikr). For this workshop, a smartphone with an alarm or a watch is recommended. Also, for anyone with a physical disability, the walking "remembrance in life" practice can be modified according to individual needs.

Contemplative Practice and Social Justice: Panel Discussion  
2:45-3:45 Saturday, Nov. 12

Presenters:
Beth Berila, Professor, St. Cloud State University
Alan 'Abd al-Haqq Godlas PhD, Associate Professor, University of Georgia
Rev. Takafumi Kawakami, Deputy Head Priest, Shunkoin Temple & Zen Center
John Makransky PhD, Associate Professor of Buddhism and Comparative Theology, Boston College
Erin Jien McCarthy PhD, Chair and Professor of Philosophy , St. Lawrence University

Location:
Nautilus 5
Description:
Inspired by questions arising out of Rhonda Magee’s keynote address earlier in the day, this roundtable brings together contemplative faculty to discuss pressing issues in the area of contemplative practice and social justice. This panel will discuss key questions in the field including: How can contemplative practices — as individuals and communities — help us more deeply unlearn privilege and internalized oppression, allowing us to engage in more compassionate and just dialogues across difference? How are contemplative practices sometimes used to "spiritually bypass" an accounting of systematic oppression and our various roles in them? What kinds of things go wrong when social justice activity lacks a contemplative discipline to inform it? What kinds of things go wrong when contemplative practices are offered to people as a solution to their problems without enough awareness of the social and institutional systems in which those people are embedded?  

Learning Objectives
At the conclusion of this activity, participants should be able to:1) Define how contemplative practices can help us--as individuals and communities-- more deeply unlearn privilege and internalized oppression;2) Explain how contemplative practices sometimes used to "spiritually bypass" an accounting of systematic oppression and our various roles in them;3) Evaluate what goes wrong when social justice activity lacks a contemplative discipline to inform it;4) Identify the kinds of things that go wrong when contemplative practices are offered to people as a solution to their problems without enough awareness of the social and institutional systems in which those people are embedded.
------------------------
To register and for more information on the conference and Dr. Godlas' sessions see https://www.eiseverywhere.com/ehome/iscs-2016/


Read More

Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Spiritual benefits, economic losses go together" [ed. note: A critique of the state of affairs at Data Darbar, the shrine of Data Ganj Bakhsh, Hz. Ali Hujviri]
No comments:
By Amraiz Khan, in The Nation, October 25, 2016, LAHORE - One way or the other, almost every visitor gets robbed at Data Darbar - the shrine of famous Sufi saint Hazrat Ali Bin Usman Al-Hajveri [in Lahore]. Tens of thousands of devotees from across the country visit the Lahore’s historic shrine daily. But they are virtually robbed by the food sellers, contractors, and mafias who in fact enjoy the administrative control of the shrine.

 In addition to fleecers and fraudsters, the populous Data Darbar locality is among the worst crime-hit areas of the provincial metropolis. Crimes like pick-pocketing, child abuse, and robberies are quite common around the holy site. Runaway children from all across the province prefer staying at the shrine because of free food and petty jobs.

 Devotees from across the country visiting the shrine take sigh of relief when they pay homage to their spiritual leader buried here. About 40,000 to 50,000 pilgrims daily visit the shrine of Hazrat Ali Hajveri widely known as Data Ganj Bakhsh, according to Data Darbar manager Mr Jahangir.

 Due to poor administration of Auqaf department which is also custodian of the shrine, security, janitorial and administrative issues are not up to the mark. When a devotee enters in the Darbar limits, he has to face swindlers, pickpockets and kidnappers roaming around the premises in guise of beggars, food sellers, addicts, and flower sellers.

 Food (Lungar) sellers not only sell substandard food but also in lesser quantity than declared. A devotee, Muhammad Salman said, “I bought a Daigh of rice of 10 kg to distribute among the poor but when I checked, there was hardly 5 kg food in ‘Daigh’. The irony is that one cannot countercheck the weight at the Data Darbar. ” Another regular visitor told The Nation that some food sellers only receive money from the rich devotees to distribute food among the people but after distributing minor chunk of the food, they put the food again at their counter for sale.

 Similarly, many devotees coming from far flung are deprived of their money through pickpocketing when they enter in the rushy area of the shrine. Police say 106 cases of pickpocketing have been registered with Police Station Data Darbar since the start of this year; however, there was not even a single case of kidnapping of any male or female children. “Rather we rescued children and sent them to Child Protection Bureau around the Darbar premises,” the area SHO said, further claiming that number of swindling and deception cases have also touched zero.

 The station house officer added since CCTV cameras have been installed everywhere in Darbar premises, swindlers have shifted to other areas of the city like Lorry Adda and Railway station.

 Another grave concern of Data Sahib devotees is overcharging by the contractors of Auqaf for shoes-keeping. The department has fixed Rs5 for each pair of shoes when a devotee goes inside the Darbar he has to put his shoes off and hand them over to the Darbar staff. But in ‘normal’ practice, the contractor charges Rs100 to 150 per pair of shoes keeping in view the dressing and financial position of the devotee. Jabbar Ahmad, a resident of Bahawalnagar, who was there with his family, complained to the Darbar manager that the shoes-keeping staff had charged Rs100 from his wife and also misbehaved with her. The manager called the shoe-keeping staff and enquired about the issue. The matter was then ‘settled’ at the official rate. To a question about punishment for overcharging by shoes contractor, the manager said: “We have displayed a board near the shoes counters inscribed with warning not to pay excess charges than Rs5. ” “We are also making announcements in this regard repeatedly but even then they don’t spare the people visiting the holy shrine,” the manager told The Nation. He added that Auqaf department was thinking on these lines to finish the contract system, and shoe-keeping service will be free of cost in future. However, the administration has no clear mechanism to check the overcharging, let alone taking any action against the violators. According to the area police, only two cases of overcharging were registered against the shoe-keeping staff during past ten months.

 Almost 40,000 to 50,000 people visit Data Darbar daily, and on Thursday and Friday more rush is witnessed. People from every school of thought like Sunni, Brailvi, Shia, Ahle Hadees and Ddeobandi, visit the shrine. During Raiwind congregation, rush increase at Data Darbar. Similarly, Shia devotees visit Darbar during Muharram when they visit Bibi Pak Daman shrine, and Karbala Gamay Shah.

 Published in The Nation newspaper on 25-Oct-2016
Read More
Govt neglects 700- yr old shrine in Saujiyan
No comments:
By Ishrat Butt, Poonch (Mandi), Published in Greater Kashmir, Publishing Date: Oct 26 2016 1:01AM. Locals, while talking to Greater Kashmir, said that this shrine is seven hundred years old and is named after a great Sufi saint, who reached this area from Kashmir.

 A shrine located at Guntar village of Saujiyan, only eight kilometres from Mandi tehsil headquarter, here in Pir Panchal region is craving for government attention. The shrine of Peer Sayeed Sadiq Shah is located very close to Line of Control in Saujiyan.

 Locals while talking to Greater Kashmir said that this shrine is seven hundred years old and is named after a great Sufi saint, who reached this area from Kashmir. They informed that the Minar [i.e., minaret] of this shrine was constructed 80 years ago and is repaired after every couple of years by locals on their own.

 “So far government has not even bothered to pay attention to this shrine which is a centre of religious values of the people of the area,” he added. Locals said that a road to this shrine was constructed by them a few months ago.

We spent Rs eight lakhs but Rural Development Department is still to clear the payment. They also informed that a temporary bathroom was constructed by locals of the area on their own. "We appeal authorities to show some concern towards this shrine and to ensure that basic facilities remain available to devotees visiting here," locals said.
Read More
Women to Get Access to Inner Sanctum of Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai
No comments:
Women to Get Access to Inner Sanctum of Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai  IANS Updated Oct 24, 2016, NEW DELHI – Women devotees will have access up to the sanctum sanctorum of Sufi saint Haji Ali in Mumbai, the Haji Ali Dargah Trust Oct. 24 informed the Supreme Court. The trust told the apex court that it is going to create a separate way to facilitate women devotees' access to the Dargah.
 As senior counsel Gopal Subramaniam appearing for the Haji Ali Dargah Trust sought two weeks' time to create the way, the bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice L. Nageswara Rao, describing the development as positive, said: "You can have four weeks' time if you are going to strictly comply with the (Bombay) High Court order."

 Subramaniam took the court through the map of the Dargah to tell it that the trust has decided to relocate the treasury boxes in which the offerings by the devotees are kept. He also told the court that in the past, women were allowed access to the sanctum sanctorum of the Dargah, but for some logistical problems, the restrictions were imposed.

 "The Trust in 2012 prohibited women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine." The Haji Ali Dargah Trust had approached the Supreme Court challenging the Bombay High Court order that directed the trust to allow women devotees full access to the sanctum sanctorum of the Dargah.

 The Bombay High Court had on Aug. 26 permitted the entry of women right up to the restricted grave area of the famous Saint. However, the Bombay High Court, while ruling that women can go up to the sanctum sanctorum of the Dargah, had put the operation of its verdict on hold, giving time to the Haji Ali Trust – managing the shrine affairs – to approach the Supreme Court.

 The High Court verdict had come on a public interest litigation filed by Noorjehan Niaz, Zakia Soman and others. This shrine of the Sufi Saint in Mumbai was built in 1431.
Read More

Reviving Sufi News

No comments:
Salam 'alaykum, Dear Friends, It is time to get Sufi News up and running again. For a while we were at another site, www.sufinews.org, but I am more comfortable with this site. So I will start it up here again. wa-s-salam, 'Abd al-Haqq
Read More

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sufi Islam in Egypt

No comments:

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.
“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.

Read More

Monday, October 29, 2012

Iqbal Academy Scandinavia seminar on Sufism in modern Islam

No comments:

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
Read More

Exhibition: “In the heart of Indian Sufism"

No comments:

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.
Read More

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

No comments:

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.

Read More

Indian Sufi Music of Ustad Nizami to University of Georgia

No comments:
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
Read More
No comments:
Ustad Nizami Poster
Read More

Thursday, October 25, 2012

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

No comments:

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."

Read More

Singers to come together for Sufi music festival in Jaipur

1 comment:
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.

Read More