Sunnis, Sufis, Jihads, Our Differences

HALAJ
Execution of Mansur Al-Hallaj

 

 

 

SUNNIS, SUFIS, SHIAS, TWO JIHADS, AND OUR DIFFERENCES

FROM THESE TERRIBLE TIMES

BY DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

“Look at the travelers on the Path of Love, how each has a different spiritual state. The one sees in each atom of the world a Sun radiant and imperishable. Another directly witnesses in the mirror of existence the beauty of the hidden archetypes. And a third sees each one in the other, without veiling or defect.” Jami

Many Americans had never heard of Sunnis and Shiites until neoconservative Christian regressives seized executive privilege in the United States and led what its commander-in-chief, President George W. Bush, openly referred to as a “holy war” on Islamic extremists or Islamists in Afghanistan, in retaliation for Al-Queda’s retaliatory attacks on installations of the military-industrial-oil complex in the States, a complex that the President’s forebears had been instrumental in establishing, and then employed pretexts – in accordance with Carl Schmitt’s dicta that one must lie to a democracy to overcome its factious nature and get something done – to dupe frightened and angry people into participating in a preconceived, pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, to destroy its sovereign government, incorporate its oil fields, and establish a Western-style, democratic-capitalist bulwark against Islamism in the Middle East. Both military actions were in direct contradiction to the professed neoconservative ideology of not participating in “regime change.”

Until the other side of the “holy war” had been brought home to them, a majority of United States citizens could not place Afghanistan or Iraq on the map, let alone the several states and cities of their own country. Still almost every American had a general notion of what Islam stood for, as opposed to Christianity, and mature Americans had studied some of its history before such studies had become increasingly irrelevant to making a living in America; of course histories were still read by history buffs, usually for entertainment, as if they were novels. A few people interested in current events followed the Iran-Iraq war instigated by Saddam Hussein, who was aided by President Ronald Reagan. President Reagan had also supported jihadist Osama bin-Laden in Afghanistan. Sunnis controlled Iraq, where some of the holiest sites of Shiites are located, while the Shiites were dominant in Iran, so the Iran-Iraq war was viewed as a sort of religious or ethnic conflict between the two main Islamic cults. Still, few people knew much, if anything at all, about the religious difference between Sunnis and Shiites, especially since the difference was confused by regional politics.

As the United States was waging war in Iraq, newspaper columnists tried to distinguish between Islam’s two main branches because the difference had something to do with what was perceived as an unjust imbalance of power in Iraq. For example, Bill Tammeus, news editor and faith columnist for the Kansas City Star, wrote a useful article entitled, ‘Centuries of strife split Sunnis and Shiites.’

It is indeed important for the public to understand that, despite Islam’s professed universalism and the apparent superiority of Islam’s monotheism in that regard, compared to the feel-good faith of Christianity that fosters international strife in the name of its own one-god, Muslims are not all of a piece or at peace with one another nor have they ever been. Neither are we, for that matter, and our own differences are so similar to their differences and to other people’s that we have good reason to hope to resolve them via a universal global accord with a common political-economic religious theology posing as ideology. The wars fought until then shall increasingly be revolutionary wars and civil wars, instead of world wars between powerful states – that is not to say that World War III is impossible. Iran’s totalitarian regime has most lately set itself up for a fall – a push from the Great Satan i.e. the United States shall not be required – and perchance an Islamic state shall arise despite that being a contradiction to the religion.

Mr. Tammeus did not support the difference he drew, with examples of the strife between the two main Islamic branches, so that we could compare the divisions with our own. He might have pointed out that the Shiite faith, given its expectation of the appearance of the Hidden Imam, and its hierarchical structure, is more ‘compatible’ with apocalyptic and catholic Christianity than the Sunni faith, which has its similarities with protestant and secular Judeo-Christianity.

To further our confusion, the Kansas City Star’s faith commentator brought Sufism into his discussion, parroting the widespread notion that “Sufism is the small but influential mystic branch of Sunni Islam.” But Sufis worship saints – the various schools or paths were founded by various holy masters – and holy places and relics, which is anathema to orthodox Sunnis, the grossest infidelity as far as iconoclastic Muslims are concerned. That is not to say that the average Sunni cannot be tolerant, and submit to Allah’s judgment as to whether or not He is properly worshiped by someone or the other, or that the Sunni cannot at least be pragmatic whenever Sufis can be useful to them, especially in politics and war.

Sufis themselves have a reputation for tolerance wherever tolerance suits their purpose. They are famous for their professed love of God and their fervent desire for unity with the deity. The godhead is one thing if not no-thing or Nothing, and the religious forms of worship are something else, something secular or worldly. When in Rome we might do as the Romans do yet not lose our essential faith. The Romans required lip-service to the state religion, and a person could maintain his personal faith on his homely hearth. Christian martyrs, however, sacrificed themselves to be identified as bearing witness; yet Christians ultimately took up many of the Roman ways and became the state religion.

Why should not Sufi mystics be good Pythagoreans and observe whatever exoteric religion prevails while maintaining their esoteric preference? Indeed, Sufis have dared to claim that their mystical cult predates both Islam and Christianity. Classical Sufi author Moulana Nuruddin Abdorrahman Jami (Hakim Jami) of Herat, in his Alexandrian book of wisdom, identified esoteric Sufism with Western thinkers, naming Hermes Trismegistos, Pythagoras, Hippocrates and Plato as Sufis. As for that intelligence and learning from which we draw so many differences between ourselves, Jami said it is nothing to boast about, nor should people boast of their humility. He noticed that people have been taught to declaim dishonesty, but what they really abhor is hypocrisy.

Americans have enjoyed a romantic perspective on exotic Sufism since it was imported into the United States. Popular Sufism is associated with love and god, and with poetic, musical, and dance rituals that purportedly bring the devotee into harmony with the cosmos and unity with the godhead. Surely, we think, if everyone were a Sufi at heart our world would be peaceful. Or a mystical Hindu, or Christian, or Buddhist, et cetera; for the essence of true religion is the Supreme Being. Well, we may sing the same song and dance the same dance, but movement requires the exertion of force and harmony is born of conflict. If we in our particulars were the One, we would not be at all in our particulars. Religion may worship absolute power, but politics is required for its distribution. Religion has its politics in its practices. Although the morality of religion may be virtual suicide if it aims at the annihilation of the striving self, the struggle for life naturally goes on, for we would all endure forever without resistance if only we could, but if there were no resistance to our will, we would not exist as we are.

Mysticism may help the mystic get along in the world, to be at peace even when moving, to be blissful momentarily, and to tolerate human evil, or to be, at least in attitude, beyond good and evil. Yet there is nothing moral about being at one with an indefinite or infinite One. You are at one with God and you feel great, as if you were God Almighty. So what? What are you going to do about evil? He who ignores evil by transcending it or saying it is nothing but the absence of good is no good to anyone.

To wit: a mystic is not inherently good. A mystic may be an angel or devil or both. Sufi masters are not inherently good or holy simply because they practice mysticism and conduct the rituals of their preferred paths. They remain human beings in the world, a world necessarily political in its power struggles, and their regions of the world may be awful trying. To illustrate that fact and its consequences, our faith columnist and news editor might have, before he identified Sufism with Sunni Islam, proceeded with an investigation of the then current official status of Sufism in Uzbekistan, and the official persecution of religious dissidents, most of whom are Sunnis, with the cooperation of the United States in the “war on terrorism”, i.e. highly organized, well-equipped, uniformed terrorism against loosely organized, ill-equipped terrorists who also think they are fighting for “freedom.”

The Sufi persecution of dissident Sunnis in Uzbekistan is derived from the old policy of the U.S.S.R. Our faithful columnist might study the history Samarkand, and examine, for example, Tamerlane’s slaughter of reputed infidels in India. And he will find a history of sectarian violence in the mountain regions, especially those of Afghanistan and the Caucasus, once Sufi strongholds. He might note that the current leaders of the Naqshbandi sect of Sufism brag of their origin near Samarkand, and claim that they have always been peaceful; but they have always been politically involved and extraordinarily deceptive; by the way, their missionaries led the Chechen jihad against the Russians.

If in his historical journals the faithful student journeys south and west from the mountains, he will see that Sufi dervish cells were formed as a reaction to Sunni theocratic domination, a reaction against universalism and imperialism. He could conclude that Sufi spiritualism has more in common with Shism than Sunnism, instead of stating, “Sufism is the small but influential mystic branch of Sunni Islam.” Sufis were tolerated for political reasons by both Shiites and Sunnis, but efforts were eventually made to stamp out their cells, which reacted with more secrecy. The cellular type of organization is well known to freedom fighters, regardless of their races and creeds, throughout the world.

Given human nature, we should not be at all surprised to hear that Sufis have enthusiastically fought on one side or the other. Of course they are better known for fighting against imperialism than for it. The fact that Sufis on the whole put themselves on the path of ‘tasawwuf’, the consciousness or spiritual state of being of the perfect man, in distinction to his outward actions and spoken laws (sunna), does not mean they will not, for instance, behead an infidel, and perhaps use his skin for their war drums – as was done with Russians in Chechnya, where the Sufi Death Song was still chanted by rebels in our time.

We might believe that Sufis are political quietists, but history loudly speaks otherwise. Just because someone abhors the existing human world and obtains direct loving access to god does not mean he must withdraw to a mountain or desert cave or monastery cell to chant the names of god and leave the world alone. No, in addition to withdrawing to constantly remember god, he may become a knight of god or Muslim ghazi and wage a holy war or jihad on the evil world he has renounced. The ghazis were closely associated with Sufi orders. Not only did Sufi dervishes follow the warriors around, banging on drums and eating live snakes to inspire and entertain the troops, they also led the warriors in battle. Sufi ascetic discipline inured the body and mind to suffering: fasting, a strict regimen of praying, single-minded concentration, and related practices are not only conducive to passive martyrdom at the stake or on the cross but also to martyrdom on the battlefield. Still today the adept dervish engages in practices, such as whirling, that render him impervious to pain, enabling his body to be cut and burned without flinching.

We recall that the ghazi institution developed from the association of Arab with Turkish warriors. During the seventh century, Islam penetrated northeast into Transoxiana, a region north of Afghanistan, on the old Silk Road to China used by the Romans. Islam was joined there in the eleventh century by the Seljuks, a branch of the Turkic peoples who dominated the Asian grasslands from Mongolia to Russia. The Seljuks were precursors to the Ottoman Empire and the modern Turkish state, which descended from one of the ghazi principalities left after the fragmentation of the Seljuks by the invading Mongols who had followed the Seljuks south from Asia via the same gate.

After the Seljuks settled in Transoxiana, they converted to Islam and soon became masters of what revered Sufi Sheikh Kabbani, while attending a UNESCO conference in Uzbekistan, called the “Spiritual Heart of Islam.” (emphasis added). The Seljuks expanded southeast to capture Baghdad in 1050. The caliph obligingly appointed the Seljuk ruler sultan. The sultans thereafter became the temporal rulers of the Abbasid Empire, the caliphs remaining in office as mere puppets.

The Seljuks soon penetrated into Asia Minor and eventually prompted the First Crusade. They were joined by ghazis, frontier Muslim raiders and warriors. At first the ghazi bands had resisted the Seljuks, yet they eventually became closely allied with the Turks. Besides the prospect of ample material loot to be had from sedentary Christian settlements, the ghazis and the invading Turks had a common spiritual purpose under the one and only god. Nomadic warriors and the unemployed came from far and wide to wage jihad on Christians at the Byzantine frontier. The overall objective was political domination rather than conversion to Islam: it was more a case of your money (tax or tribute) or your life. Some people converted to Islam and argued that, since they were Muslims saved from Hell, they were therefore immune from the death penalty if they did not pay the tax; their arguments for immunity, however, fatally failed.

By the end of the fourteenth century, the ghazi ways had been adopted by the Turks and most of Turkish Asia Minor was ruled by ghazi groups. Each ghazi brotherhood had a spiritual leader, and most of the ghazis belonged to a dervish order. After the break up of the Seljuk Empire, the Ottoman Empire emerged from a small Turkish state occupying the border between Islam and Byzantine Christianity, ruled by Osman 1299-1326). An Ottoman ruler was thenceforth called a “border chief” or leader of the ghazis. A fourteenth-century saga calls ghazis “the instruments of God’s religion… God’s scourge who cleanses the earth from the filth of polytheism… God’s pure sword.” The principle and cornerstone of Ottoman political theory and the Ottoman state was the Sixth Pillar of Islam: Jihad.

The number of Sufi heroes waging war are legion. For instance, take Hasan al-Basri (642-728), who participated in the Arab conquest of eastern Iran in 663. His name is found in the genealogies of many Sufi orders. In the Sufi classic, ‘Nourishment of the Hearts’ (c. 970), he is acknowledged as “our imam in this doctrine… and we walk in his footsteps.”

Hasan was known for his puritanical piety. He rejected the world he described as a “venomous snake”, and he made the gnostic claim that creation was a bad mistake instead of something the creator was pleased with after making it. His gnostic views greatly influenced the kind of Sufism which had its ascetic roots in Arab displeasure with the Persian luxuries that perverted the Arabs as they swept north, creating a vast gap between rich a poor, a tiny, enormously wealthy minority in contrast to the desperately impoverished majority.

Hasan denied that a man can excuse himself by saying god caused his actions. He preached humility and the sort of self-scrutiny that became a cornerstone of Sufism. He extolled altruism. He scorned the pedantic reconstruction and transmission of lines of authority. He is well known for the depiction of antitheses, famous for his vivid, masterful images of heaven and hell. Muhammad’s promise of Paradise to martyrs and Hell to infidels was vital to his jihads.

Of course Sufis are not best known for either/or thinking. Usually, after engaging in antithetical thinking on fear and hope, hell and paradise, and the like, Sufis masters discounted the divisive process in favor of union with the god beyond relative good and evil; by way of example, here are two excerpts, one from the female love-mystic Rabiah al-Adawiah (d.801), the other from the male poet Omar Khayyam (1048-1131):

Rabia:

O my lord, if I worship thee from fear of hell, and if I worship thee in hope of paradise, exclude me thence, but if I worship thee for thine own sake, then withhold not from me thine eternal beauty.

Omar:

Nobody, heart, has seen heaven or hell,
Tell me, dear, who has returned from there?
Our hopes and fears are of something which,
My Dear, there is no indication but the name.

Hassan had numerous followers from a wide variety of backgrounds; they are described in the literature as Koran reciters (qurra) and pious warriors (mujahidun). They despised social injustice, luxury, and especially hypocrisy – that is, the contradiction between inner and outer jihad, thoughts and deeds.

Another freedom fighter was Abd al-Wahid bin Zayd (d. 750). Wahid provided vivid images of Judgment Day to his followers: he admonished them to prepare to meet their maker. Wahid informed his disciples that God bestows secret knowledge on His righteous friends.

Wahid admired Christian monks for their disdain of the world and its sinners. He reportedly founded the first Sufi cloister on the island of Abbadan, a military outpost which became a training station for Iraqi ascetics – Abbadan was a major attraction for jihad-minded Muslims. The post was manned by ghazis who combined military service with religious worship – the ‘dhikr’ or constant citing of God’s name was practiced there.

We should also mention Ibrahim Ibn Adham, a native of Balkh (a city in today’s Afghanistan). He was said to have given up a kingdom in order to go out West to live as a vagabond and farmer. When there was nothing to reap, he fasted, meditated, practiced sadness, engaged in gnosis and divine friendship with God. He eventually settled in Syria, on the border with Byzantium. He died waging outer or “lesser” jihad: he was killed in the second of two navy battles he participated in.

Fahad Ansari, a specialist in anti-terror legislation, a researcher and spokesperson for the Islamic Human Rights Commission, posted an informative article on the Web about Sufi Jahidis: ‘Remembering the Great Tradition of Sufi Jihadis in Muslim History.’

Mr. Ansari complains that even those Muslims who fight against injustice and oppression are labeled “extremists.” Only “moderate” Muslims are acceptable, that is, only those who are willing to compromise their values, to be assimilated into the Western culture, keep their religion to themselves, and otherwise embrace Western and secular values. He points out Westerners believe that Sufis, whose mystics have a reputation for universal tolerance, are moderates with whom alliances against extremism can be forged. But they neglect the fact that Sufis established a reputation for fighting both Eastern and Western imperialism. He refers to three modern Sufi jihadis:

Omar Mukhtar aka the ‘Lion of the Desert,’ a Sufi member of the Sanussiyah tariqah or path, “led the jihad against the Italian military occupation of Libya for over twenty years beginning in 1912. Although a teacher of Quran by profession, Mukhtar was not one of those about whom Allah says, ‘Do ye enjoin right conduct on the people, and forget to practice it yourselves, and yet ye study the Scripture.” Mukhtar said, “We fight because we have to fight for our faith and our freedom until we drive the invaders out or die ourselves.” He was captured in 1931 and shackled despite his old age (70). He recited sacred verses while tortured, and was finally hanged.

And Abdul-Qadir al-Jazairi, an Islamic scholar and Sufi member of the Qadiri tariqah, led the jihad against the French invasion of Algeria. “Abdul-Qadir showed himself to be a leader of men, a great soldier, a capable administrator and a persuasive orator. He ultimately failed to defeat the French because of the refusal of the Berber tribes to unite with the Arabs against the French….” He was forced into exile, died in Damascus in 1860, and was buried next to the famous Sufi, Ibn Arabi.

And Imam Shamyl aka ‘The Greatest Imam’, a Sufi follower of the Naqshbandi tariqah, imparted Islamic law to the pagan tribes of the Caucasus and led them against the Russian invaders. Shamyl was a powerful man and great warrior himself. He taught his followers war chants, some of them still used by Chechen rebels, including the famous Death Song. The Russians admired him, sparing his life and allowing him to retire – he died in Medina in 1871.

“Mukhtar, Abdul-Qadir, and Shamyl,” states Mr. Ansari, “are just three examples of how tasawwuf was not regarded as an obstacle to armed jihad but as an inspiration for it. There are countless other examples.”

After referring to so many Sufi heroes of so-called Lesser Jihad, it would only be fair to mention the philosophical heroes of greater jihad; several notable spiritual fathers of Sufism were unwilling to fight the external albeit “lesser” jihad for militant Islam, preferring instead the internal or “greater” spiritual struggle. Despite Islam’s early predilection for militant jihad, mystically inclined Sufis still insist that jihad is unqualifiedly and essentially an internal struggle to put down the selfish self or internal enemy that craves mundane existence. The mystical revolutionary should direct animosity towards the real enemy within; he should meditate or enlist God’s help with virtual suicide; and, if action is absolutely necessary, then he might whirl about the non-dimensional point he wants to make, chasing his own tail instead of hastening towards specific goals. One becomes properly centered in or becomes the One: the cosmic dance provides a thrilling feeling of bliss, somewhat like a spinning top would feel if only it were alive.

The outward revolution of the whirling dervish is obvious, but the inner struggle, called the greater jihad, of the devotee to conquer himself, is invisible and does not appear to be revolutionary at all. Having thus conquered himself, the proudest man is the most humble man of all, a man purportedly more powerful than any worldly king, for he does not need a king to rule himself: he has submitted to the greatest sovereign of all, and is thereby saved from Hell and even the Paradise that makes Hell a hell by comparison.

If only everyone would comply and become the Holy One, peace, if not law and order under a theocracy pending the Last Day, would prevail in the outer world: for as it is in heaven so it should it finally be on Earth – that Earth would no longer be inhabited by warring human beings if their particulars or differences disappeared in the One. Ironically, only a violent revolution could impose a kingdom of God over every man as we know him. Each monotheistic person secretly believes his or her one-god is better than all the other one-gods put together. A lesser or militant jihad may be required to reconcile them all, but still the pacific struggle is preferable to war, hence it remains the greater jihad.

Sufi theorist al-Qushayi (d.A.D. 1074) provides us with insight into psychological jihad in his ‘Treatise on the Knowledge of Mysticism’:

“Al-Sulami said that his grandfather heard Abu ‘Amr ibn Janid say, ‘Whoever is generous with his Self attached no importance to his religion.’ Know then that the basis of striving and possession of it is weaning the Self from what it is accustomed to, and bearing the Self contrary to its desires generally, for the Self has two characteristics which prevent it from the good; indulgence in lusts, and abstinence from obedience.”

Furthermore, here is an excerpt from the great Baghdad Sufi saint, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Quadir al-Jilani’s (d. A.D. 1166) sermon ‘The Opening of the Unseen.”

“Each time you struggle against your lower self and overcome it and slay it with the sword of opposition, God restores it to life and it contends with you again, and demands of you your desires and delights, whether forbidden or permissible, so that you must return to struggle and compete with it in order to carry off the everlasting reward. This is the meaning of the Prophet’s saying – God bless him and give him peace – ‘We have returned from the lesser jihad (war) to the greater jihad (self-control).”

Also worthy of mention is the famous Baghdad mystic and martyr, Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj, who was born in 857. He lived alone for twenty years, and was trained by several great Sufi masters of the time, but he broke away from them to do his own thing as an itinerant preacher. He wandered far and wide, from Arabia to the Indian subcontinent. His famous ecstatic exclamation “I am the divine Truth!” was the ultimate heresy to Muslim monotheists, who did not even believe the prophet Jesus was a divine incarnation let alone this mere vagabond. Hallaj also violated a vital principle of the great Sufi masters of his time and of mystics from immemorial: to keep one’s mouth shut about such incomprehensible experiences; the secrets of mystical union should only be divulged to sworn initiates.

Hallaj was flogged, mutilated, exposed on a gibbet and decapitated. Thus was he victorious as a martyr to love, as one who fought the inner fight or “greater” jihad. He had written:

Kill me, my trusted friends,
for in my death is my life!
Death for me is in living, and
life for me is in dying.
The obliteration of my essence
is the noblest of blessings.
My perdurance in human attributes,
the vilest of evils.

According to tradition, the severed head of Hallaj repeatedly said, “I am God.” The drops of blood on the ground spelled out the same statement.

Finally, to arrive at a balance between the inner and outer struggles, or the greater and lesser jihad, we should mention a much later Sufi, a poet of a love with all its cruel anger besides its tender affection: Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207-1273). Almost everyone knows that Rumi loved to dance, that he was a great poet, and that his son founded the ever popular Mawlawiyah Sufi order of Whirling Dervishes. Rumi was born in Balkh but his family removed to Konya, Anatolia (Turkey) to avoid the advancing Mongols. The family was warmly received by the Seljuk authorities. Rumi’s father continued his career as teacher and sheikh, and Rumi was educated in the religious sciences. When his father died, he assumed his father’s teaching post.

In 1244 Rumi met Shams al-Din (Sun of Religion), a wandering dervish, to whom he became the Moon, living with him for two months while Shams revealed the occluded Mysteries. Rumi’s family was reportedly jealous and scandalized by the intimate relationship, and Shams was sent away. Rumi was naturally disconsolate. Shams was recalled but disappeared shortly thereafter; he may have been murdered, perhaps with the knowledge of Rumi’s brothers. Rumi had two subsequent spiritual lovers, but Shams, his first love, was the inspiration for his poetry. In his nearly 40,000-verse work, Divan-i Shams-i Tabriz, he signed Sham’s name to the poems.

Inside a lover’s heart
There’s another world,
And yet another.

Rumi’s other masterpiece, Mathnavi-yi ma-navi, or Spiritual Couplets, is sometimes referred to as the Persian Koran. The Mathnavi consists of mystical teachings in the form of long poems, fables, stories, proverbs, anecdotes, and allegories. It is basically an extended commentary on the Koran and the Hadith (traditional sayings of Muhammad). The Mathnavi was a virtual Bible to Sufi-guided ghazi warriors. Therein, Rumi speaks of the tension between the inner and outer jihad.

In one Mathnawi story, a vain Sufi who is flattered by widespread praise of his spiritual conquests and who has contempt for the lesser jihad of war, joins soldiers in order to demonstrate his outward virtue as well. During his lesser jihad of actual combat, the arrogant Sufi is exposed as a coward, giving the lie to his former spiritual claims.

On the other hand, in another story Rumi portrays a military hero who flees from the ardors of spiritual struggle to the relative comfort of the bloody battleground.

We understand this lore because the tales are all too human. The difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’ or ‘us’ and the ‘others’ is very little and is artificially contrived. Obviously, given the crucial crisis underlying mind and body, given the crux of thought or symbolic action and deed or actual action, there is much room for hypocrisy on both the mental and material stages; but for the mystical actor those stages are one, and hypocrisy is resolved by the holy spirit.

The more we inquire into the differences between the people far from our peaceful shores, the better shall we understand ourselves, and the better we understand ourselves in our likenesses to them, the better we can serve the world by sharing with them the better things of life, instead of behaving like self-centered automatons. Sufi masters have considered the universe as a web of mutually supporting systems: a Kurdish Sufi reportedly said in ancient times, “Everything that exists maintains and is maintained by other existences.” Whether or not we are willing to give Sufis credit for discovering this law of reciprocal maintenance, we have an opportunity to pay down the debt of our existence, for we cannot progress on the spiritual path until we fulfill our obligation to our being on this planet. The least we can do after testifying to our good intentions with fine words is avoid the appearance of hypocrisy in our deeds.

Kansas City 2004

Terms:

Sunna: custom, the words and practices
Shia: following, or sect
Suffi: suf or wool, safa or purity, sophos or wisdom?

 

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