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Sarraj -- Flashes of Light
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: August 08, 2015 10:08AM

Sarraj - a list of deviations from Sunnah



Sufism: The Formative Period By Ahmet T. Karamustafa pp. 159--160

Sarraj who died in the late 10th century (About seventy seven years before
the Battle of Hastings) gives this list.


"...Sarraj (died 989 C.E.gave a full the 'Book of Errors' in his Light Flashes(Kitab al-luma'fi 't-tasawwuf) under the heading "On those who erred in fundamentals and were led
to misbelief'.

These included the following:

1) Those who thought that once mystics reached God they should be called 'free' instead of Godservants.

2)A group of Iraqis who thought that God's servant could
not achieve true sincerity unless he ceased to pay attention to how others viewed him and who thus preceded to ignore social norms in his actions, whether these were right or wrong

3)Those who placed sainthood above prophecy on account of their baseless
interpretation of the Quranic story of Moses and Khidr.

4)Those who argued that all things were permitted and that prohibition only applied to taking license with someone else's property

5)Those who believed in divine inherence in a person.

6)Those who understood fana (passing away) as the passing away of human nature.

7) A group in Syria and a group in Basra (abd al Wahid ibn Zayd is named)who believed in a vision of God with a heart in this world.

8) Those who believed they were permanently and perfectly pure

9)Those who believed their hearts contained divine lights that were uncreated

10) Those who sought to avert blame from themselves when they incurred the punishments laid down in the Quran and violated the custom of the Prophet by
arguing they were compelled by God in all their actions

11)Those who surmised that their closeness to God exempted them from
observing the same etiquette that they followed prior to achieving proximity with the Divine

12) A group in Baghdad who thought that in passing away from their own
qualities they had entered God's qualities.

13) A group in Iraq who claimed to lose all their senses in ecstacy
and thus to transcend sensory phenomena

14) Those who erred in their beliefs concerning the spirit (ruh)
with many versions of this error listed, most noteably the belief
in the uncreatedness of the spirit and the transmigration of spirits.

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Re: Islamic Sufism -- Issues and Incidents
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: November 18, 2015 10:36AM

Jihad Wannabes The rise of the Walter Mitty radical.
. By Asra Q. Nomani



There will always be people who feel alienated and suffer from a profound emptiness, whether it’s from bad lives or bad choices. The rigidity of a strict system of belief can be of comfort to anyone looking for answers (and this goes for Tea Partiers, too). Radical Islam, which is conservative and puritanical, provides such sacred boundaries, called hudood. The problem is that this search, which is normal and human, can lead, in the current world of global terrorist networks in need of recruits, to horrifying violence.

The British-Muslim leader, Haras Rafiq, co-founder of the Sufi Muslim Council, identifies four elements that draw Muslims to radicalization: a perception of vulnerability owing to a personal crisis; exposure to a worldview like Islamism that offers solutions to such crises; exposure to extremists who take advantage of this sense of vulnerability; and an internalization of a violent ethos. Rafiq’s idea is to begin “detoxifying Islamists.” Perhaps this will help lessen this brand of radicalism’s attraction for the likes of Jihad Jane, too.

The challenge is to give the jihadi wannabes something meaningful with which to fill the voids in their lives so that jihad cool stops filling the abyss. Iftikhar, the Muslim-American lawyer, appeals to jihadi wannabes thus: “Put down your Xbox 360, turn off the overmilitaristic Halo 3 video game, and go feed the homeless in a soup kitchen. That is Islam, my friends.”

For full text of article go here


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Re: Islamic Sufism -- Issues and Incidents
Posted by: Misstyk ()
Date: December 15, 2015 03:53AM

I don't know if there's any info available on esoteric Sufism. I've heard that there are tantric rituals in Sufism that are very similar to those in Tibetan Buddhist "Highest Yoga Tantra" or supreme yoga tantra, involving the consumption of "impure substances" (known in TB as "the five nectars--urine, feces, menstrual blood, etc.) Whether or not there's ritual sex, I have no idea. I imagine it would be very difficult to find such information.

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Charter School blog -- the Gulen Movement
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 21, 2016 04:51AM

No matter how excellent a school happens to be, due diligence includes
investigating whether the leaders are tied to political projects at home or
in foreign countries.

If you approve of those policies, fine and dandy. If you do not approve of
those policies, give careful thought before paying funds to send your child to
such a school.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/21/2016 05:07AM by corboy.

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Re: Charter School blog -- the Gulen Movement
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 21, 2016 05:18AM

These are reportedly from persons formerly involved in Gulenist groups.

Statements by Ex-Gulenists


Someone on a discussion forum mentioned this book.

"Hizmet" is a name for the Gulenist movement.

Gülen: The Ambiguous Politics of Market Islam in Turkey and the World, by Joshua D. Hendrick.


The writer noted:

"Unfortunately, it dates from late 2012, and only mentions the first signs of the Hizmet-AKP conflict, but it appears to be well-researched. Hendrick maintains a critical distance, not taking professed motivations at face value, but asking who benefits and how. I'll probably buy it."

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Advice for Concerned Parents of Charter School Students
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 21, 2016 05:20AM



What's a concerned parent to do?
(also for teachers and community members)

The Gulen Movement has evolved over decades, under a very hostile environment in Turkey. Consequently it has developed some very shrewd tactics. Gulen's followers are very good at exploiting certain weak points in our democratic system and society.

One tactic they have employed with great success whenever allegations of a school's connections to the Movement are raised is to feign innocence, deny any connections, and allege that the people raising questions are Islamophobic, xenophobic, or against diversity. Another tactic is to say that the allegations arise from disgruntled parents or ex-teachers, or competitors who are jealous of their success. Sometimes they try to cast aspersions on the mental stability of the concerned person. They will say that the accusations are baseless. Their trump card is to repeat over and over that their schools are excelling. Americans have an innate bias towards thinking favorably of any school that is apparently excelling in math.

Why do these tactics work so well? There's actually a very easy explanation. Americans are very aware that Islamophobia exists in our society. So, they can easily believe that when someone criticizes a school that has acquired a reputation as excelling, and that just happens to be run by Muslims from another country, they're being Islamophobic. People tend to put new information into already existing frameworks. See "Psychology of Belief" for more on this.

Also, the Gulen Movement's activities in this country are so unlike anything anyone has ever seen before, that they seem almost incredible - as in, literally, not credible, not believable.

But hard-to-believe things do happen, occasionally. And this is one of them.

Here are some suggestions for concerned parents:

(1) Come with the facts. Bring evidence. Don't just say you heard a rumor or read something on somebody's website. Make sure you know the source of all your information.
(2) Some constructive starting points:
Why is the school administration denying any connection to Gulen when there is so much evidence of a connection?
Why all the secrecy?
Who sets school policies? Is it really the Board of Directors and the Principal?
Why are parents who ask questions being threatened with lawsuits, or being accused of racism or bias?
Why is it so difficult for parents of special needs students to get the services they are legally entitled to?
Is it right for a publicly-funded charter school to be run by a religious group, even if there is no overt indoctrination in the curriculum?
Is it right for a publicly-funded charter school to fail to disclose its affiliations to parents?
Where are the tax dollars going?
Why does the school have almost exclusively Gulenist male administrators?
Why is the school contracting its business to Gulenist businesses?
Why is the administrative overhead going to Gulenist foundations?
How much is the school spending on visas, and why?
Why is information requested in the application form that should have no bearing on admission?
Why are placement tests requested before a final admission decision is made, rather than after?
Has anyone actually supervised the entire admission lottery process, in cases where the school says it has a waiting list?
Why is teacher turnover so high?
Why the emphasis on Turkish language classes? Would other languages be a higher priority?
Why aren't the names of the members of the board and the board meeting times and minutes posted on the school website?
Where are the school's security cameras located, and exactly what are they recording? How long are these recordings kept?
Why doesn't the school hire a trained, professional counselor to deal with bullying and other issues?
Why can't the PTO address parents' concerns?
Are staff members who are simultaneously pursuing a graduate degree truly putting in the effort normally expected of a full-time employee?
Is the school supporting the graduate education of any of its staff, and if so, why?
Is it appropriate for teachers' spouses to also be hired by the school?
How is it that the school claims to barely be able to afford paper for the copy machine, yet the Turkish club has elaborate, expensive costumes?
Which private individuals are loaning money to the school, and at what interest rate? Why did the school need these loans?
(3) Download and print this 1-page informational flyer (it's a pdf file) which you can hand out to other parents or prospective parents, or to public officials.

Download File
(4) Some more ideas for taking action:
Find out which businesses the school is contracting to or purchasing from, using public records requests if necessary.
See if the state or local authorities governing the school have conflict of interest policies, prohibitions on related-party deals, and anti-nepotism rules. If so, inform them of violations your research has uncovered.
Ask if board meeting minutes are public information; if so, request that they be posted on the school website in a timely manner.
Inquire about state or local requirements for percentages of certified teachers.
Write letters, do petition drives, or arrange meetings with state legislators to try to change charter school law. Some ideas: require at least 50% of board members to be US citizens; require minimum state or county residency requirements for board members; ask for a mandate that the board include parent members; require all charter school employees to use their legal name spelled exactly as shown on their government-issued ID at all times; require that all providers of goods or services to the school above a certain threshold go through a transparent bidding process.
Approach your local media about informing the public of the Gulen connection.
Ask questions about state and local officials going on Gulenist Turkey trips. What was the purpose? Were they disclosed as a gift? Do the trips create a conflict of interest?
(5) Don't fall into the trap. Don't talk about Islam or Muslim indoctrination of students (unless you have very solid evidence, and you probably don't). Don't throw out inflammatory words such as "jihad," "radical," or "Sharia," or mention "possible ties to terrorism," without very good supporting documentation. Don't bring up your own religion or ethnicity as it is irrelevant to the issue at hand as seen by most of the public and by government officials.

Here is why you will get nowhere with trying to call Gulen "radical:"
His publishing company churned out dozens of books on "interfaith dialog."
He met with Pope John Paul II.
Bill Clinton mentioned him in a speech, and his followers have successfully courted many other well-known political figures and influential community leaders.
Much of the literature critical of Gulen is written in Turkish, so it's inaccessible to most Americans.
A Gulen charter school is currently operating on a US Air Force Base, and most people believe our government would not have allowed this if there were any security threat.
Calling Gulen "radical" is nothing but a gift to the Gulenists - it's what they want you to do, so they can marginalize and discredit you by telling everyone that you are just another raging and ignorant xenophobe.

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Re: Advice for Concerned Parents of Charter School Students
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 23, 2016 09:38PM



By Abbas Djavadi
August 29, 2016

In the mid-1990s, Aygul attended one of the hundreds of "Gulen schools" that were established throughout Turkey by the unregistered network of Fethullah Gulen, the Turkish cleric who has lived in exile in the United States since 1999 and is at the center of an extradition wrangle.

It began around two decades after Aygul's Kurdish-Alevi family migrated to Ankara from a village in the eastern Turkish region of Tunceli. Southeastern and eastern Turkey are traditionally home to many of the country's estimated 8 million to 10 million Alevis, a branch of Shi'ite Islam, and there are both ethnic Turkish and ethnic Kurdish Alevis.

Alevis differ from Sunnis and Shi'a in many ways, including the way they pray. They don't pray five times a day. Their spiritual ceremonies are accompanied by music and folk songs. They attend neither mosques nor the hajj pilgrimage, as most Muslims do. Alevi women needn't cover their heads and arms in public in the fundamentalist style. And drinking alcohol is not banned in the Alevi faith.

Aygul -- whose name I've changed to protect her privacy -- had been born in the Turkish capital and had grown up as something of an urban girl, maintaining her family's Alevi faith but adopting Turkish as her first language.

Her father was employed as a "kapici," or doorman, in charge of maintenance and cleaning in a building with multiple apartments. Her mother didn't usually work but occasionally cleaned a few homes to augment the family budget.

"We started to send Aygul to one of Gulen's schools when she was 15," her father told me. "Why not? Those schools were very good at preparing students for college. They had excellent teachers. They were also very cheap, and we couldn't afford other, expensive, good schools."

Gulen, who was still in Turkey at the time, had a wide network of schools, foundations, charities, and media outlets, amounting to perhaps thousands of institutions with many thousands of employees. After first appearing in Turkey in the 1970s, the Gulen schools and universities had multiplied for decades and expanded abroad beginning in the 1980s.

The schools -- which were said to have been funded by sympathetic businessmen and other, undisclosed sources -- were part of Gulen's stated effort to build a "golden generation," one aggressively pursuing educations in the natural sciences and foreign languages and also committed to Islam and "Turkish national objectives."

After a while, Aygul's parents started to see changes in her behavior: wearing the Islamic head scarf, praying regularly, refusing handshakes with men. Her mother feared that her daughter was "being brainwashed in school as well as in those lengthy after-school hours."

Newcomer students at universities, schools, and in private after-school tutoring courses under the auspices of the "Hoca Efendi" -- or Master Teacher, as supporters referred to Gulen -- had senior colleagues or occasionally "imams" to help and "guide" them. Senior brothers "abis" or sisters "ablas" were assigned to upper-school boys and girls, respectively. The Gulen movement rented thousands of apartments where such students gathered -- girls and boys separately -- for tutoring, guidance, and training in the sciences, English, ethics, and religion.

They were the "agents" of Gulen's missionary and sectarian work launched in the 1970s.

Aygul's father told me he liked Gulen's school "as long as they provided my daughter with good and cheap lessons and ensured a university entrance and later a good job." The latter was particularly attractive in Turkey, where national exams and oral interviews presented (and still present) major hurdles to admission to university or government service.

But Aygul's mother rebeled after two years. As a result, her parents withdrew Aygul from the Gulen school and sent her to a regular public school and "regular" after-school tutoring to get additional support in the sciences and foreign languages and to prepare for university exams.

Nobody could have predicted at the time that some two decades later, in July 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) would blame a failed coup attempt on Gulen and his purported sympathizers within Turkey's army, courts, education system, and other government institutions, in addition to its private sector.

Since the failed coup, the government has closed down all public and private institutions identified by the government as "related to the Gulen terrorist organization." That has included 15 universities and 934 schools and tutoring centers, as well as hospitals and clinics, foundations, associations, and businesses. Around 77,000 government employees -- including army and police officers, judges, prosecutors and teachers -- have been fired.

I asked Aygul about her feelings and whether she was pleased that she had left the Gulen school after two years.

"Yes," she said, "especially after finding out that, as you know, they kept stealing the university and government employment exams' questions to [elevate] their sympathizers in the government ladder." She was referring to a scandal in 2010 in which so-called Gulenists in higher education and the government-placement bureaucracy were accused of providing other Gulen supporters access to exam questions in advance.

Aygul's father chimed in, saying: "Not only illegal; it is also against any religion's principles, while they claim to be the true faithful. ... But what makes me angry is that Erdogan and Gulen were the right and left hands of the same body until 2013, supporting each other. Now one [Erdogan] is fighting a war against the other [Gulen], laying all the blame in the world on his former ally."

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"Spiritual Vagabonds" New York Times article
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 28, 2016 07:19AM


Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam, has been cloaked in secrecy for most of its existence, having been forced underground by Ottoman rulers in the 13th century.

Corboy: According to conventional chronology, the Ottoman Empire began with Osman 1 around 1300 CE. Prior to that time, the most famous of the Sufi sects, the Mevlevis began with Rumi in the city of Konya, with the benevolent support of a Seljuk sultan.


There are actually many Sufi sects and subsects throughout the Islamic world, not just in Turkey. They had little trouble under the Ottoman Empire, which preferred to work through local institutions, which included Sufi lodges.

Newly arrived conquerors sought legitimacy by patronizing Sufi sects already in the area. Had the Sufis been secretive, this alliance would not have been possible.



(Quoted from below)


Sufis cluster into tarikas, or spiritual orders, that are headed by a grand sheikh who may live in Cairo, but are led day to day by a local sheikh who could live in Queens.

2) Corboy: Not quite. So leaders of Sufi sects live elsewhere than in Cairo. If a senior disciple is given authorization through a formal ijaza granted by head of a Sufi tariqua, that disciple can create a lodge and teach disciples.

(For further information read Mark Sedgwicks and Nile Green, The Sufis: A Global History.)

Sufi Sect of Islam Draws ‘Spiritual Vagabonds’ in New York



People have quite different perspectives on Sufism.


“Sufism has never been embraced by mainstream Islam,” said Daisy Khan, founder of the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality and one-half of the couple who in 2010 sought to open a community center in Lower Manhattan, mislabeled the “ground zero mosque.”

For Ms. Khan, the ethereal buzz of Sufism is its great appeal, a faith that is “beyond the realm of this world,” dealing with the “supernatural, the magical and love.”


This kind of unorthodox approach, said Marcia Hermansen, director of the Islamic world studies program at Loyola University Chicago, is both the root of Sufism’s appeal and its weakness. Charismatic leaders like Sheikha Fariha have spurred Sufism’s growth in America, she said, with New York in particular attracting “loosey-goosey liberal Sufism.”

And yet for all its liberal trappings, Sufism cannot be detached from Islam. “Sufism isn’t just a label you wear; it’s a state of being,” said John Andrew Morrow, an Islam scholar and author. “You can’t pick and choose parts of Islam, and you can’t mislead sincere people, drawing them into Sufism without telling them this is fundamentally linked to Islam.”

Part of this problem, he said, is the American tradition of “spiritual vagabonds.”

“They bounce around from one spiritual tradition to another,” he said, “like going to a buffet.”

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Re: Islamic Sufism -- Issues and Incidents
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 28, 2016 07:33AM

The online version of this article does not include some information available in the print version of the same New York Times article. Corboy will include this later.

Corboy note: I did not participate in the discussion of this article. I wrote the item above before I sent on to look at the comments section.

Some comments following the "Spiritual Vagabonds" article in the New York Times.

One person has this to say. The message is just because something is called Sufi does not mean all of its members are sane and benevolent.

And, there have been too many situations where leaders of both Sufi and Sufistic sects have plundered their followers and disrupted relationships.


MCS New York 1 day ago
I don't know much about the religion, or spiritual practice, however...I do know that 15 years ago my best friend, suddenly and rather surprisingly conflicted by his sexuality turned to Sufi at the urging of a young woman who had a crush on him. Like most conflicted people, religion is an easy pill rather than embrace, face or correct dysfunction of issues. So, he changed, no calls, no more time to hang. no alcohol at all, his once diverse interests in nearly everything fell to nothing. A bright empty look began to appear in his eye, when the subject of Sufism came up. He had, in my mind been undoubtedly brainwashed in some way, willingly yes, he was troubled about something. Our once close friendship, despite my confronting him, gently warning him, trying to help, broke apart. Months passed, and this woman who poisoned him against me quite openly, decides they need spiritual growth on a lake. So in November they paddled out in icy water. The canoe flipped. She survived. He drowned. His family didn't have money. The woman disappeared. I paid for his burial and grave stone despite not having spoken to him in over a year. I was heartbroken before he died, but after, well...pretty rough stuff at 29 years old. That's what I think of when I hear Sufi.


sparrowhawk Texas 2 days ago
Look at the history of sufism, maybe starting with real scholarship--like Nile Green's History of Sufism. That you can use its methods in the modern period to reach out to God does not erase the fact that it is grounded in Islam and has been since the 7th century. Devotion is non-denominational, but sufism is explicitly Muslim practice.

Red Ree San Francisco CA 2 days ago
There is at least one Sufi order that is NOT Islamic, although I don't know much more than that. I believe that Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee runs a group called Golden Light Sufi Center tracing from this lineage. The lineage is called Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya as described on the Golden Light Sufi Center website. The only reason I know of it is a former roommate was a member and told me a bit about it. They emphasize dream interpretation among other things.

I wouldn't want to swear an oath of loyalty and obedience to a person as described in this article.



Person NY 2 days ago
Wow. Where do I begin? I am not a scholar of Islamic Studies, I am not a Sufi, but I am a practicing Muslim and the number of errors printed in this article is beyond astounding. I do not know who Adela Suliman is, she probably did a lot of her research for this article with random Google searches. It shows. The “Sufis” that you are describing on the Upper West Side are not “Sufis” they are reformed Muslims practicing religious appropriation. A real sufi would not call themselves “beloved” that would be really pompous. Real Sufis call the prophet Muhammad “habib Allah” which mean “God’s beloved”. The word “Zikr” does not exist. That is not a word. What I think you are referring to is “Dhikr”, spiritual practices in remembrance of God that are done to become spiritually closer to God, or as Sufis refer to Him, “The Divine”. All Muslims do dhikr, not just Sufis. Sufis just do more dhikr and more variegated types of dhikr than non-sufi Muslims. “Worshipers frequently lose themselves in a spinning frenzy, as with the well-known whirling dervishes.” Most sufi Muslims don’t do “whirling dervishes”. Thank you for perpetuating an Orientalist stereotype. The most common form of dhikr amongst sufi and non-sufi Muslims is counting prayer beads and repeating such religious phrases as “subhannallah” (which is synonymous to Hallelujah), or astughfurallah, or countless other religious phrases.


lt midcoat maine 2 days ago
"Ottoman rulers could hardly force anyone "underground" in the 13th. century since they only established a small tribal "beylik" around 1300.


sparrowhawk Texas 2 days ago
This is completely inaccurate and misleading. Sufism, as devotional Islam, has existed since the early medieval period. There are many different sufi orders who demonstrate devotion to God in any number of ways, including silent repetition of the name of God, whirling, chanting, etc.. In the pre-modern world, most Muslims were members of multiple sufi orders and it remains an important component of Muslim identity andworship today. To suggest that it is somehow NOT mainstream Islam is a fallacy repeated by only the most conservative Muslims and by the ignorant. Furthermore, for non-Muslims to adopt some sufi practices--as if it were another form of transcendental meditation, without context within the religion that entirely informs it--is perfectly fine if it brings them devotional joy, but surely it is a gross error to suggest this somehow is Islamic. It is simply new-age devotionalism. The author of this piece should have done a little reading. May I suggest, for those interested in Sufi history and practice, Julian Baldick's "Mystical Islam: An Introduction to Sufism", or Nile Green's "Sufism, a Global History'"? There is a great deal of good scholarly work out there and no excuse for promulgating ignorance as this article does


sparrowhawk Texas 2 days ago
Yes, that was true in the later period. I am a medievalist and look at the ways that sufism was a powerful legitimizing factor in state building until the 17th century--and even then the collapse of power was only partial (specifically Ottoman and of course Safavid/Qajar--but not at all in other parts of the Islamic world: Mughal India, Indonesia, Norht Africa, etc.). Sufi power revived in the modern period in some areas--look at the Naqshbandis in 1980's Turkey or Central Asia. It's a mistake to insist on a dichotomy of sufi vs ulema, especially since so many member of the ulema were sufis in much of the Muslim world, past and present. Sorry to keep on it--it's a pleasure to have an opportunity to discuss such an interesting topic


sparrowhawk Texas 2 days ago
Sorry but that's only true for the modern period and only in some parts of the Islamic world. Throughout Islamis history, sufism was devotional practice, and most Muslims belonged to sufi orders. It was sponsored by the state in many case: the Ottoman royal court supported the Mevlevi, the janissaries the Bektashi, in Mughal India the Chishti, etc.. In the medieval and early modern period most of the ulema belonged to and even founded sufi orders. Nile Green's new book is a good one for this. IN any case, sufism doesn't support the worship of anything BUT God--it simply makes the effort to connect deeply with God. That's why it can be useful for non-Muslims in NY, by offering techniques and tools to reach that desirable state of annihilation within God's love.

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Re: Islamic Sufism -- Issues and Incidents
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 29, 2016 08:13AM



(Google cache)


The quiet devotion of Spain’s Sufis

There are around 1,200 Spanish converts to this mystical form of Islam
The biggest communities are in Granada and Caceres

Mariam Sakina Scott, 22, was one of the first to be born into a Sufi convert family in Órgiva. Ver fotogalería Mariam Sakina Scott, 22, was one of the first to be born into a Sufi convert family in Órgiva.

Known as the gateway to the Alpujarra mountains in Andalusía’s Granada province, Órgiva is also one of Spain’s most culturally diverse places, a bustling market town of around 6,000 people and according to the local council, home to 68 different nationalities.

And Baraka, a restaurant and tearoom with tables and chairs outside on a quiet street in the town center, is a pleasant reminder of Órgiva’s relaxed multiculturalism. It’s run by 41-year-old Pedro Barrio, a former wine taster and restaurant owner from Bilbao who changed his name to Qasim when he converted to Islam more than a decade ago.

Like around 35 other families in Órgiva’s Spanish Islamic community, Qasim adheres to Sufism, described by 14th-century Arab historian Ibn Khaldun as “dedication to worship, total dedication to Allah most High, disregard for the finery and ornament of the world, abstinence from the pleasure, wealth, and prestige sought by most men, and retiring from others to worship alone.”

We converts are seen as strange. Islam isn’t what people think it is. Islam is peace”

Sufi convert Bahía

Qasim says his faith gives him “hope and security,” but admits it has also caused him problems, particularly with his family and friends, who have come to associate Islam with jihadists and Salafists, and a radical interpretation of the Koran. Spain’s Sufi community has also been monitored by the National Intelligence Center.

Mansur, formerly José Carlos Sánchez, explains that Sufis live in the world without necessarily being of this world. “Every day I ask Allah to help me convert my ego into my prayer mat,” says the 41-year-old university graduate. “There is an undoubted rejection of Muslims in our society.”

His wife, Bahía (María José Villa), aged 35, agrees: “We converts are seen as strange. Islam isn’t what people think it is. Islam is peace. Islam is asking God for love, so that you can share that love with others. Unless your intention in life is to become pure love, then your Islam makes no sense.”

Muhammad Iskander, a former merchant seaman in his mid-fifties, says it is precisely the pacifist element of Sufism that Islamist radicals find so hard to accept: “They do not tolerate us, and are trying to abrogate the Koran’s message of mercy for that of the sword.”

Ali writes calligraphy under the watchful eye of his son. ver fotogalería Ali writes calligraphy under the watchful eye of his son. Fernando Sánchez Alonso

Most Spanish Sufis belong to the Naqshbandi order, which traces its spiritual lineage back to Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, the first Caliph and a companion of the prophet Muhammad. The order’s emir in Spain is Umar (formerly Felipe Margarit), who was appointed in the mid-1970s by Shaykh Nazim al-Haqqani, the leader of the Naqshbandi order who died in May of last year at the age of 92.

Umar describes the Naqshbandi order as “a cross between a spiritual center and a hospital. “Nazim welcomed all those who had been wounded by our society. He described himself as a zero, saying his life was only meaningful if God, the One, was at his side. His son, who has succeeded him, believes the same.”

There are around 1,200 Naqshbandi Sufis in Spain, and the largest community is to be found in Órgiva. The reason for this is a happy accident: it’s where Umar was living before he converted to Islam. And once he had been proclaimed emir by Shaykh Nazim, those Spanish Sufi Muslims who could, moved to the town. The second-largest Sufi community in Spain is in Villanueva de la Vera, in the western province of Cáceres.

Amid weak winter sunshine, a group of Sufi farmers gathers olives in the mountains that surround Órgiva. They and their families live a simple life, but are not isolated from the world, like other religious groups such as the Amish are. They are connected to the internet, watch television, and read newspapers, and their children attend local schools.



On Thursdays at nightfall, the community meets in the dargah, a temple hidden away in the olive and orange groves around three kilometers outside Órgiva to celebrate the dhikr, or the recitation of the names of Allah, along with the hadra, a meditational process that consists of intoning a series of chants in praise of God, accompanied by rhythmic swaying and percussion.

“This reminds us of the moment when God filled Adam with breath,” says Amin (Andrés Fernández). “On Fridays, the holy day of Islam, we also celebrate Jummah prayers, and then the community sits to eat together. All our prayers are recited in Arabic, although that is all we know of the language. Our Islamic education has come from many sources, from conversations with other, wiser, brothers, and from the Shaykh’s sermons. The Naqshbandi are probably the least intellectual of the Sufis: we are more interested in the heart.”

Around 500 kilometers away, in Cáceres, is the tiny community of Aldea Tudal, a district of Villanueva de la Vera, which is home to Spain’s second-largest Naqshbandi Sufi community, led by Abdul Wahid (Cristóbal Martín). In the outskirts of the village, we’re met by Omar Ibrahim, originally from Madrid, but who lived in Germany for 35 years, where he ran a chain of restaurants: “Then I sold up and came to live here.”


Omar is waiting for his fellow Sufis to arrive at his house, which doubles as the community’s dargah, to celebrate dhikr. “I converted to Islam almost 30 years ago. That was when I first felt like a true Christian. There is no contradiction, because Jesus Christ is respected as a prophet in Islam. We believe in the saints: we venerate their tombs and their relics. This distinguishes us from other Muslims,” says Omar.

He goes on to explain why Spanish converts to Sufism have adopted new, Arabic names. “You choose your Arabic name. This new name expresses the essence of who you really are and the disciple aspires to reach its meaning. Omar, for example, means force or sustenance.”

As with the community living in Órgiva, the Sufis of Villanueva de la Vera are all Spanish. “In fact, there is only one Moroccan here,” says Yamaluddin (Juan Andrés Molina). The bearded 44-year-old from Madrid is wearing the traditional Naqshbandi ring as worn by Muhammad, along with a waistcoat and baggy pants, and a green turban that will eventually serve as his winding sheet when his naked body is buried.

Sufi women also wear ample, baggy clothing, along with a headscarf, as 41-year-old Hawa (Ana Rosa Soto) explains: “Women should dress modestly. But we also cover ourselves to protect two energy centers on our body: the head and the throat. Thanks to Islam, I have recovered my femininity,” she says. “And nobody has ever given me any problems for dressing like this.”

A group of Sufis chats as they sell vegetables in Villanueva de la Vera (Cáceres). ver fotogalería A group of Sufis chats as they sell vegetables in Villanueva de la Vera (Cáceres). Fernando Sánchez Alonso

Mariam Sakina Scott, who was born a Muslim in Órgiva 22 years ago, to American and Spanish parents who had converted to Islam, says that wearing the headscarf has created problems for her, particularly at school. “Everybody knew I was a Muslim, but I don’t make a big deal about it. In our society, there is this idea that Islam is a fanatical religion. But people have absolutely no idea about Sufism. There are people who ask me if I belong to a sect. I tell them that Sufism is about respect and love between all God’s creatures.”

Shaykh Umar Magarit explains that Sufism “obliges us to ask at who we are in reality. And that question can only be answered by looking for Allah in our hearts. And to do that, Sufis comply with all the precepts of Islam, and then try to transcend them.”

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