Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sufism vs. Traditional Islam in The Huffington Post

As a teenager, the only Sufi order I knew of lived in a communal trailer park in western Kansas. When I moved to Boston in the early 90s, I encountered the American version of Sufism through dance mentors and poetry and used copy of Sa'adi's Rose Garden I found in a used bookstore in Davis Square. I still remember a memorable lecture on Sufism at Harvard Divinity School presented by a Sufi scholar from the American southwest. Unfortunately, his name escapes me. His main focus was that American Sufis avoid the connection between Sufism and Islam. I'd always associated both together and was surprised by this, but soon became aware of this sticky topic. Since then, I've also encountered doubt from those who follow traditional Islam toward contemporary Sufis in the US. This topic continues to interest me. Today's appearance of this column by Omid Safi "Is Islamic Mysticism Really Mysticism" showed up in The Huffington Post's Religion section. ..." The second half of the essay interests me most: So what we have had for the last few decades is a situation of Orientalists and Salafi Muslims seeking to construct a "real Islam" that is untainted by Sufi dimensions, and many new agers seek to extract a mysticism that stands above and disconnected from wider, broader and deeper aspects of Islam."

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