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Whirling dervishes, with their acts of worship consisting of a fast spinning dance, have always seemed special to me. Their ecstatic expression of faith reminds me of the trances I saw worshippers go into at the voodoo ceremonies I attended in Haiti in the 1960s. Today dervishes like their fellow Sufi Moslems are under attack from Isil. More than 80 were killed at a shrine last month. In this Post I want to look at what Sufism is. Let us spare a moment to remember the innocent dead and their families.
I hope you find this account as interesting as I do.
Sufism is an esoteric, mystical dimension of Islam whose adherents focus on maintaining a direct, personal relationship with God. It isn’t a sect. It is an approach to understanding Islam. Sufis seek conciliation, rather than confrontation, among all religions. It is apolitical; its adherents are on a quest not for temporal power but for self-knowledge and an understanding of the divine. To Sufis, all those who believe in a higher power and divine connection are Sufis.
Salafi jihadism is associated with literal, puritanical and political approaches to Islam. It employs fear and guilt as motivators. Sufism on the other hand, embodies love and kindness: Obedience to God should come not from fear of hell, but from a desire to be closer to Him. Sufism attests that God has created man with a mind and free will.
No attack can shatter the Sufi soul, which is free from the dimensions of time and space. Indeed, the message from the shrine was ‘Love, humanity, peace and tolerance.’
Iman Malik “A suicide bomber and the Sufi soul” The Wall Street Journal 6 March 2017 p. A10