Wednesday, February 28, 2007
The still atmosphere of the meeting room was broken only by occasional traffic whizzing by from the street.
For Dr. Ali Kianfar, a Master of an order in Sufi Islam, the quiet setting was a deliberate act.“Time in Sufism is very important ... Every breath counts,” he said.
Inside the Commercial Boulevard home of the International Association of Sufism (IAS), Kianfar spoke of the reasons why he founded it and his dedication to understanding others. “We need the right knowledge from the right source. That's very important ... If we do this, we don't find any differences in religion,” he said.
The non-profit organization, established in in Novato in 1983, serves as a meeting place for not only an array of Muslims but members of all faiths, as Kianfar is an active member in the Marin Interfaith community.
“A few months ago, during our symposium on ‘Understanding Buddhism,' I was in a conference with the Dalai Lama,” he said.
Born in Tehran, Iran he earned a law degree, P.h.D. in Islamic Philosophy and studied under Shah Maghsoud Sadegh Angha to earn recognition as a Master. Kianfar emigrated to Marin County with his family in 1979.
The IAS is run mainly by Kianfar and his wife, Dr. Nahid Angha. They are both published authors and teach at area universities. Kianfar's business, a printing press, pays for most of the bills.
He describes Sufism as the mystical or inner side of Islam, similar to Gnostic Christians or Zen Buddhists.
“Inner practice, meditation, purification and wisdom. A Sufi Master is a wise person ... The nature of Sufism is you practice to be right,” he said.
With millions of adherents worldwide, the tradition has long been associated with Islamic arts and literature, perhaps best known in western traditions by the “Whirling Dervishes” or the poet, Rumi.
Kianfar regularly hosts meetings every other Saturday, where he “teaches” lessons from the Koran, the New Testament and a variety of religious sources to about 100 to 120 regular members.
“Our education is limited to the house where I worship. We have to give ourselves the opportunity to learn more,” he said.“It doesn't matter how many times you read the Bible. It's ‘rental knowledge.' Religion is the time when you experience it.”
[picture credit: Thomas K. Sorensen/ADVANCE]