The Spirit of Islam – World Religion Class Essay
Omid Safi is a professor of religion at Colgate University. Safi comes from a long line of Islamic poets. He is an American but spent the first years of his life in Iran with his grandfather who was an
Ayatollah. He describes him as looking just like
Ayatollah Kamani but differing in the message that comes out of his heart. Safi is both a student and professor of Islamic studies and particularly Sufism.
However, Safi says that he is not a Sufi but seems to have a deep respect for what it means to be a Sufi. Omid is obviously a Muslim but he seems to be on a quest for truth. He is moved to the core of his being by the values of Sufi’s. But he states that he is a Muslim that is on the path towards a better relationship with God. The values of Sufism are not something you put on a pamphlet; they are processes that take a lifetime to understand.
Sufism is very in touch with the mystical world of Islam, it has been popularized in recent years by the poet Rumi. Rumi was a Persian poetic and Mystic of the 13th century. At this time national identity didn’t matter as much because if you were a religious scholar it was expected that you would travel and teach throughout all Islamic lands. He wrote 90,000 lines of poetry and it is now being interpreted in English. Safi is happy that more people are able to experience Rumi now but believes it is important to listen to the original verse as Rumi intended.
It originated as a spiritual movement against increasing worldliness after Muhammad’s death. Sufi’s aspire to a special intimacy with God in this life. Safi says that practicing the path of Sufi is “One of the most important manifestations of Islam and one of the most pertinent for finding hope in our current situation”. Until the 18th century you would find Sufi’s in the entire Islamic world. After the 18th century a very radical interpretation of the Qur’an which starts out in Saudi Arabia and practicing the Sufi way was actually banned in places. 85% is Sunni, 13% Shiite, 2% other. Sufi’s have tried not to be known as the third sect of Islam.
The role of poetry in the Sufi practice stems from an understanding that it is a powerful form of learning. It provides provocative images of longing as one travels through the desert, often times alone. A good portion of Islamic verse reads like a beautiful love poem even though they are very careful not to call the Qur’an poetry. The Prophet Mohammed surrounded himself with poets. Poetry is a major part of Sufism because poetic language appeals at an emotional level where as theological language just can not appeal. In the Muslim world even people who are illiterate often know hundreds of lines of poetry. As compared to the western world where we think of only highly educated people having such a capture of poetry. The practical examples of this are Shepard’s who walk day after day alone; perhaps poetry is both entertaining and a reminder that God is always with them.
Seemi Bushra Ghazi is a woman who practices Islam. She comes from a long line of Ordure scholars. Currently she is a singer and she recites Qur’an as a non cleric. Ghazi is also a professor at Colgate University. Her parents founded some of the first Islamic Sunday schools in America. She believes that English translations of Qur’an do not do justice to women particularly because of the loss of gender that can have significant meaning in English.
Women at home reciting Qur’an in the morning make a powerful impression on their children. She believes that women are very powerful and necessary in order to spread the message of God. Islam is a ritual practice that interweaves itself into life completely. As a woman she is very interested in the role of women in Islam, not to imply that there is just one role. She does not wear a veil unless she is praying or is in a part of a world wear a veil is required. However, she seems to take comfort in the veil and thinks of it as a sanctuary that she is able to take with her.
1.) Is it fair to think of Sufism as a philosophy about how to live as apposed to a religion?
2.) So much of ones choice in religion seems purely based on where they are raised or who their parents are. As a result do you think that Sufism, being less fundamentalist, would tend to thrive more in a place like America were there are cultural Muslims seeking a religious ideology that works in a free society?