Posts Tagged ‘Whirling Dervishes’

Sufi Poem on the Value of All Religions

January 23, 2016

I found this poem by the Arab Sufi poet, Ibn Farid, who lived from 1182 to 1235 in the anthology of religious texts, Sacred Books of the World, by A.C. Bouquet (London: Pelican 1954). The Sufis are Islamic mystics, like the Whirling Dervishes of Turkey. There are a number of different Sufi orders, rather like the monastic orders and lay brotherhoods of Christianity, and the Whirling Dervishes are just one of them.

The Sufis have a reputation for religious tolerance and syncretism. The teachings and practices of various orders may include elements drawn from the other religions around them. It’s also been claimed that where Islam has been spread peacefully by their preaching, rather than jihad, relations between Muslims and the non-Muslim population are much more peaceful and amicable.

The poem below is on the value of the other, non-Muslim religions, and illustrates this spirit of tolerance and syncretism.

Virtually no hand but mine tied the infidel’s girdle: and if it be loosed in acknowledgement of me, ’twas my hand that loosed it.

And if the niche of a mosque is illuminated by the Qu’ran, yet is no altar of a church made vain by the Gospel:

Nor vain are the books of the Torah revealed by Moses for his people, whereby the Rabbis converse with ~God every night:

And if a devotee fall down before the stones of an idol-temple, there is no reason for religious zeal to take offence;

For many a one who is clear of the shame of associating others with God by means of idolatry, is in spirit a worshipper of money.

The warning from Me hath reached those whom it hath sought, and I am the Cause of the excuses put forth in every faith.

Not in any religion have men’s eyes been awry, not in any sect have their thoughts been perverse.

They that heedlessly fell in love with the Sun lost not the way, forasmuch as its brightness is from the light of My unveiled splendour. And if the Magicians adored the fire – which a history tells us was not quenched for a thousand years –

They intended none but Me, although they took another direction, and did not declare the purpose they had formed.

They had once seen the radiance of My light, and deemed it fire, so that they were led away from the True Light by the rays.

And but for the screen of existence, I should have said it out: only my observance of the laws imposed on phenomena doth keep me silent.

So this is not aimless sport, nor were the creatures created to stray at random, albeit their actions were not right.

Their affairs take the course according to the brand of the Names; and the wisdom which endoweth essence with diverse attributes caused them to take that course in consequence of the Divine Decree.

ISIS really hate the Sufis, considering them part of the juhailiyya, or age of non-Muslim darkness and barbarism that afflicts everyone except them. The Sufis are especially despised for their fatalism, their believe that whatever happens is due to the Will of Allah, and Daesh are doing their level best to exterminate them, along with other persecuted religious groups, in Iraq and Syria.

And no wonder, if their great poets offer a way of religious dialogue, mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence. All ISIS and al-Qaeda have had to offer is hate, repression and bloodshed. A hatred that’s also expressed in the racism and bigotry of Western clowns like Donald Trump.

Let’s hope the way of peace and tolerance, like that expressed by Ibn Farid, prevails against the people of violence and butchery.

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ISIS Executes Its Executioner For Smoking

April 7, 2015

This is yet another video from The Young Turks internet news show. In it, the anchors John Iadarola and Cenk Uyghur discuss the bizarre killing by the terrorists of one of their chief executioners. The man was found beheaded, with a cigarette stuffed into its mouth, and the words ‘This is evil, you sheikh’, scrawled on the body.

They link the death to an edict promulgated by the organisation denouncing smoking as a ‘slow way of committing suicide’, and warning that smoking and getting into a trance state is ‘disobedience against God’. The Turks make the point that if ISIS are serious about enforcing the death penalty, then they’re going to have to kill 70 per cent of the Middle Eastern population as ‘everyone smokes out there’. They also make the point that ISIS’ standards are so high, they’re completely unrealisable. If the regime continues on its path of executing everyone for even the most trivial of crimes, then eventually it’ll just implode as they murder and butcher their way through their own members.

Now the Turks are right in that it is highly ironic that ISIS should have executed their executioner. It probably couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. But he committed far worse crimes than merely enjoying a ciggie. This actually looks to me like part of a sectarian campaign against Sufism.

The word ‘sheikh’ has a number of meanings. Apart from that of tribal chief, it’s also used in Pakistan to describe the bonded labourers working in the brickyards. They’re the lowest caste of Pakistani society. It clearly doesn’t mean that here, though there might be a similar meaning in Arab society, of which I’m unaware. However, it also means the leader of a Sufi order.

Sufism is Islamic mysticism. Its organised in a series of orders roughly similar to the monastic orders in Roman Catholicism and their confraternities for the laity. They are under the spiritual directions of sheikhs, or saints, who may be believed to have supernatural or mystical powers themselves. These orders aim at achieving ecstatic union of the individual with God, using methods like chanting, music, dancing and sometimes other, more extreme methods. The whirling dervishes of Istanbul are probably the best known example of a Sufi order in the West. Other orders may juggle hot coals, or slash themselves with swords in the belief that the sheikh presiding over the ceremony has the power to heal.

When I studied Islam at College, I was taught that most Muslims today belong to a Sufi order. When it emerged in the 7th century or so, Sufism was intensely controversial within Islam, and its followers often viciously persecuted as heretic. The ecstasies experienced by the Sufis in the dhikr, or ‘circle’, the term given to their mystical worship, was seen as violating the commandment in the Qu’ran against becoming intoxicated. It’s the passage that bans Muslims from drinking alcohol. In past centuries the passage was also cited in debates over whether it was permissible to use coffee, because of its effect as a stimulant.

I’ve blogged before about the possible influence of Wahhabi Islam in the destruction of tombs by ISIS. Sufi rituals are frequently conducted at the graves of the orders’ founders, a practice which is condemned by the Wahhabis. The Islamic reformers Rashid Rida and Sayyid Qutb also hated Sufism, because they believed it was the source of the fatalism that prevented Islam from once again becoming a great power.

The judicial murder of ISIS’ judicial murderer thus strikes me not so much as a punishment for smoking, but as part of a crackdown on Sufi mystics. In several of the videos I put up yesterday, the point was made in that ISIS does not only persecute and kill non-Muslims, but also other Muslims, simply because their beliefs don’t match those of ISIS. One of the videos was a news report from RT reporting on the murder of opposition ulema – Muslim clergy – in Syria. So far 20 of them have been murdered, and 800 mosques closed by the terrorists.

This is further proof that ISIS are intent on killing everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim, in their quest for power. The westerners, who join them, won’t just be complicit in murdering and butchering Christians and Yezidis, but also for the mass killing of their co-religionists.

ISIS’ Destruction of Muslim Cultural Treasures in Timbuktu

March 17, 2015

Yesterday I put up a number of pieces on ISIS’ destruction of irreplaceable cultural treasures, seen in the smashing of ancient Assyrian artefacts in a museum in Mosul and the destruction of an Islamic shrine of Adam’s son Seth, revered in Islam as the prophet Sheth. The Islamist terror group hasn’t confined its destruction of items and monuments of immense cultural heritage to Iraq.

This is a report from Euronews from 29th January 2013, reporting how, when they were expelled from Timbuktu, they smashed one of the important local graves, and set fire to the local library, in the hope of destroying the priceless books and manuscripts within.

ISIS’ Attack on the Graves of the Sufi Saints

This was a calculated attempted to destroy Mali’s peculiar Islamic culture, and its rich intellectual heritage that is only just beginning to be discovered and truly appreciated by Western scholars. And it shows clearly what ISIS would like to do to other Muslim nations and their cultures, including those in the West, simply for not following what they consider to be the correct interpretation of Islam.

The desecration of the ancient grave looks to me like an attempt to destroy an aspect of Sufi worship, which is strongly rejected in Wahhabi Islam. Sufism is a form of Islamic mysticism, in which the practitioner attempts to achieve union with the Almighty through a series of spiritual exercises. These can include singing and dancing. There are a number of different Sufi orders, some of whom may differ widely from orthodox Islam. The famous whirling dervishes of Turkey are one Sufi order. These orders are under the guidance of a sheikh, the term given to their spiritual head. The orders’ founders are revered as saints, their graves are frequently the sites of veneration and special ceremonies.

I was taught at College that most Muslims in fact belong to a Sufi order. Sufi mysticism was practised not only in the Near East, but also amongst European Muslim communities in the former Ottoman Empire. Many of these communities were converted to Islam through their preaching, and in particular that of the Bektashi order, who served as the chaplains to the Ottoman forces. Unfortunately, this aspect of the traditional Islamic heritage of the Balkan nations has been under attack, not only from Non-Muslim nationalists, but also from Islamic fundamentalists from elsewhere in the Dar al-Islam. I can remember reading years ago in the Independent how graves in Muslim cemeteries in some of the Balkan countries had been destroyed as part of a fundamentalist attack on monuments and practices they considered non-Muslim.

There are British Muslims, who perform religious rites to venerate the graves of religious leaders in this country. If ISIS had their way, the worshippers and mystics at these shrines, who follow the traditions of their orders, would find their beliefs and practices banned and suppressed. Just as ISIS would kill and maim their non-Muslim friends and fellow citizens.

Timbuktu’s Ancient Heritage of Learning

As for the destruction of the library, Timbuktu was one of the richest towns in West Africa during the Middle Ages because of its position on the major gold trading route. So rich was the country, that when the ruler of Mali went on the pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj, in the 12th century, he took so much gold with him that it sent Egypt into recession.

Mali was not only rich, but cultured. Timbuktu was a university town, where the Islamic texts and doctrines were studied and copied. Not only that, but its scholars were also interest in the secular sciences that were pursued by Muslim scientists during the Middle Ages. One of the books shown to the Beeb’s Aminatta Forna in her programme on Timbuktu’s lost library was a scientific text arguing for a heliocentric model of the solar system. That’s the same model as proposed independently in Europe by Copernicus, in which the Earth goes round the Sun, rather than the usual medieval notion of the Sun and the planets going round the Earth.

Forna’s programme was a fascinating documentary on the sheer wealth of the city’s and Mali’s medieval culture and learning. It’s also on Youtube. Here it is below. It’s nearly an hour, so not short, but well worth watching.

The modern Arabic word for literature is adabiyyat, which I understand is derived from adab, meaning manners, but also ‘culture’. ISIS in their destruction of the world’s cultural heritage and learning have shown themselves to be its enemies, both those of Muslims and non-Muslims. And if they continue, the world will be a much poorer place.