Wednesday, January 31, 2007

`We Had Three Heads'

By Gowri Ramnarayan - Frontline - India
Volume 24 - Issue 02: Jan. 27/Feb. 09, 2007

Interview with Uzbek director Ovlyakuli Khojakuli

A shaven head streaming with plaited strands, ear and finger rings, a chain with an "Om" pendant, a wrist band... Ovlyakuli Khojakuli cannot but turn eyes towards him wherever he goes. More, the man breathes alertness.

Born in Turkmenistan where he studied theatre, Khojakuli went on to work in Uzbekistan with different theatre groups. He specialises in adapting Central Asian audio-visual and story-telling traditions in his modern productions.

His interest in Sufism and poetry made him dramatise works such as "Seven Tourists" by Central Asian poet Alisher Navoi, and "Conference of the Birds" by 12th century Persian mystic Fariduddin Attar.

His film Oedipus had a Turkmenistan cast. Khojakuli's striking imagery has attracted international attention.

Did you have a choice in this project?
Yes.
Why did you choose Medea?
Medea is one of the most challenging characters in Greek mythology. She represents the problems of all women faced with difficult choices. She had a big love in her life. She believed in the sanctity of marriage, motherhood, home-making. Betrayed by Jason, her faith turns to fury.

Her decision to kill her children is not an easy one, not done on the spur of the moment. It was a considered choice to do what she thought was right - for the children, and the world. She did not want them to grow up like Jason, become oppressors and contaminate the earth.

These were the issues I wanted to show on the stage and open out for discussion. Show why she did what she did. Was she prompted by love? Wrath? Vengefulness? I needed very strong acting from the actor to realise my goal. Medea's decision is one of the most powerful decisions in Greek mythology.

(...)

Your dialogues are modulated to create an incantative kind of opera. Why?The characters are so strong and highly charged with emotions. So I evolved this way of delivery - not music, not rhetoric but a scream. Tragedy should be like a prayer of despair. Of course, actors had trouble doing this, but we did manage.

What was the most difficult thing in this production for you?
It was the problem of working with actors from different theatres and groups, each with his/her own ways of doing things. To bring them together and make them work as a team was tough.

This first show is raw. A few more shows and the actors will become stronger, more sensitive.

How was it to work in a trilogy, sharing space with other directors?In theatre, the director is the head of the team. Here we had three heads! So the director has to do what he should never do: compromise. At times it became more important than the final product. But we will work more now...

[see also: http://sufinews.blogspot.com/search?q=medea]

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Iranian ensemble celebrates Persian poet's birth

By Ezra Glinter - McGill Tribune - Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Birthdays generally cease to be celebrated upon the advent of death, the latter occasion conventionally seen as an effacement of the former. But there are always figures whose works have elevated them above mere corporeality and whose births are thus justifiably celebrated, even centuries after their deaths.

Such is the case of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, better known simply as Rumi, a 13th-century Sufi poet whose literary and spiritual vitality has endured to the present day. His works include the Masnavi-ye Manavi (Spiritual Couplets), a six-volume poem whose importance for many Sufis approaches that of the Qur'an itself.

He is also the progenitor of a spiritual inheritance claimed by the Mevlevi Order, better known as the Whirling Dervishes.

It is no great surprise then, that the 800th anniversary of Rumi's birth is being celebrated across the globe and that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization declared 2007 an "International Rumi Year."

Here in Montreal, the birthday of the great poet is being celebrated with a performance of Persian classical music by the Chakavak Ensemble, a Toronto-based group of Iranian extraction. Formed at Tehran's Sharif University of Technology in 1998, the group re-formed in Canada in 2004 and has since performed several major concerts, including a benefit for the Canadian Cancer Society.

According to Chakavak musician Amaan Mehrabian, a PhD engineering student at McGill and the only member of the group living in Montreal, the traditions of classical Persian music, poetry and Sufism go hand in hand.

In fact, he relates, the use of traditional Persian music in Sufi meditation has helped it spread outside of the Persian community, a phenomenon reflected by diverse audiences at Chakavak shows.

In Iran, as in most other parts of the world, traditional and classical forms of music have been overshadowed in recent history by more popular forms. Mehrabian acknowledges the difficulties that his chosen genre faces, but remains optimistic.

"It's hard times for Persian traditional music nowadays," he says, "but it's going to survive, I'm sure."
The tradition of Persian classical music is an ancient one and according to archeological records, goes back to the Elamite Empire, which existed from 2,500-644 B.C.E.

Though for most of its existence Persian music has been preserved by oral rather than written methods, Western-style notation has been dominant since the early 20th century. Still, says Mehrabian, there are many traditionalists who continue to teach using the "ear-to-ear" approach through which the music was handed down for many centuries. Learning the full repertoire according to this method, he says, can take as many as 15 years.

Mehrabian began his own musical education at the age of 12, when he first picked up the Santour, a 72 stringed hammered dulcimer.

He became involved in Chakavak as an undergraduate student in Tehran after meeting the ensemble's director, Reza Manbachi. In its current incarnation, the ensemble consists of seven members, all of whom play traditional Persian instruments such as the Oud and the Tar, with the addition of the violin.

The music of the Chakavak Ensemble is both traditional as well as innovative. While only about a fifth of the group's repertoire consists of traditional pieces, even the newer compositions follow conventional structures.

The traditional works, in turn, have been given new arrangements.

It is clear that for Mehrabian, as well as for the other members and fans of the Chakavak Ensemble, classical Persian music has great personal as well as national cultural resonance.

"It's not only our music," says Mehrabian, "but it's also our history and our culture."
No doubt, Rumi would agree.

[To hear a sample of music, click here: http://www.chakavakensemble.com/Newsletter.html]

‘Fütuhat’ represents the ‘whole of Sufism’

By Musa Igrek - Today's Zaman - Istanbul,Turkey
Monday, January 29, 2007

Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi (1164-1240) profoundly impacted Eastern and Western thought and is one of the most discussed, venerable names in Sufism.

The unfathomably deep and delicate subjects he touched in his great number of works were criticized during his day and are still criticized. Nonetheless, his works are being widely read, translated into many languages and republished as Sufism is gaining worldwide attention.

One of those translations is "Fütuhat-ı Mekkiyye" (the Meccan Inspirations), arguably Ibn Arabi's masterpiece and presented as unabridged for the first time. The first four volumes, published by Litera Publishing House, were translated by Dr. Ekrem Demirli [pictured], known for his research on Turco-Islamic philosophy classics.

We spoke with Demirli, winner of the Association of Turkish Writers 2006 Best Translation of the Year Award, about Ibn Arabi in the Sufi tradition, his works and his profound impact on the world and Turkey.

Where do Ibn Arabi and his works stand within the Sufi tradition?
Ibn Arabi best represents the period of maturity in Sufism.
The period of maturity in Sufism carried early Sufism to a higher stage. It dealt with all disciplines of Islamic thought, from philosophy to theology, and it turned into an intellectual movement for everyone, whether a Sufi or not.

Sufism after Ibn Arabi is a process like a sequel to reach maturity. In my opinion, his works such as "The Meccan Inspirations" [Fütuhat-ı Mekkiyye], "The Wisdom of the Prophets" [Füsus'u-l Hikem] or "The Divine Precautions" [Tedbirat-ı İlahiye], are the highest and most comprehensive books of Sufism.

What was the Ottomans' approach to these classics and their author?
We know that all of Ibn Arabi's works were read by the Ottoman scholars.
That there are a large number of commentaries written on "Wisdom of the Prophets" can easily be seen as an indicator of the great interest shown in him. An important group of leading scholars that affected Ottoman thought grew up in this tradition.

Another facet of the diamond is the prevalence of his ideas that are not necessarily mentioned with his name every time they are talked about. The sources of "popular" Sufism are mostly the reflections of the ideas seen in Ibn Arabi.
In my opinion, if we wanted to see Sufism reflected in one book, that book would be "The Meccan Inspirations," which he wrote in Mecca.

Could you briefly talk about the commentary tradition among the Ottomans?
Since Ibn Arabi and Sadreddin Konevi represent the zenith of Sufism, it is natural that there would soon emerge a commentary tradition. And this is what happened.

It is certain that all those works provide spiritual sustenance to people, helping them to get to "know their Creator by knowing themselves." And today new works are written on Ibn Arabi. Our work can be considered a very humble contribution to this long dormant tradition.

In addition to translations of Sadreddin Konevi, Abdülgani Nablusi and Ebu'l-Ala Afifi, you are now translating Ibn Arabi's works to Turkish. What was your motivation for this?
I think it would suffice to say the love of wisdom.
However, I must point out that this work has a system of its own. The commentary on Fusus'u-l Hikem was a new phase of the project. It will be followed up by similar works.

"The Meccan Inspirations" is made up of 37 volumes; will it not be difficult to finish translating them all?
Ibn Arabi is a Sufi scholar who encourages boldness. We should not give in to laziness by exaggerating the amount of work we should do.
If Allah gives me health to do this, there is no room for hesitation, and for this I ask for and require everyone's prayers.

How will the translations contribute to the Sufi tradition and understanding of Ibn Arabi?Knowledge must be accessible. The preliminary aim of my works is to overcome this hurdle of Arabic, which makes it impossible for many people to study the translations.
The translation of these books will replace the groundless prejudices with sound opinions.

Fütuhat will especially build our opinions of Ibn Arabi and Sufism from the ground up.

Along with Mevlana Rumi, now Ibn Arabi is also receiving a great deal of attention in the West.
I would like to be able to say the river is finding its course; however, I still don't think we have reason to be that optimistic.

Until the time when a person such as him, of such a high caliber, occupies an important part in cultural life with his art, literature, and poetry, and as long as we don't have films and documentaries on him, I can't say he is receiving the attention he deserves.

“Those who are not familiar with our spiritual state should not read our works,” warns Ibn Arabi

“Discriminate between your good words and bad words with the power of discernment, and then convey them to those who aspire; don't obstruct this mercy enveloping you, spread it to everyone.”

“Talking about someone, taking an interest in someone and reading someone are different things: these are all confused in Turkey.
One needs to have made painstaking efforts to be able to read and understand Ibn Arabi; this precondition should never be overlooked.”

Some people are trying to establish a "Sufism without Islam" by focusing only on the mystical sides of Ibn Arabi and Mevlana. What do you think about this?
If people read Ibn Arabi's books, they would not encounter such dangerous problems. However, if there is an aim for which people want to abuse Ibn Arabi's ideas as their tool, then the issue would become a question of morality, not an intellectual one.

I think that Ibn Arabi and Mevlana based their ideas on such sound foundations that no one will ever be able to 'convert' them to their own fallacies. When you take Ibn Arabi out of context and out of his environment, he would cease to be Ibn Arabi.

Credit goes to the Sufi saints

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed - RxPG NEWS - Westchester,CA,USA
Monday, January 29, 2007

Muharram has got Indianised over the years.

Quite spiritedly, fervently and emotionally like the Ramlila, Muharram in India - signifies the victory of virtue over evil. It commemorates the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain, the younger grandson of Prophet Mohammed. In India, it is revered by all communities, especially the Hindus in Varanasi, Lucknow, Allahabad, Amroha, Indore, Nagpur, Jaipur, Phagwara in Punjab, Bhopal and Kanpur.

Muharram is not a festival to be celebrated, rather it is to be observed with solemnity as a day of mourning.

The 61st year of the Hijri calendar - for the Arab world proved to be most unfortunate as Muawiah enthroned his tyrant son Yazid who - proving to be more depraved than his father - obliterated the Nizam-e-Shoora - and replaced with a tyrannical despotism.

When Yazid asked if he accepted his authority, Hussain said his subservience was only to Allah. At this Hussain was shot at by a volley of arrows by the Yezidi army. Even after Hussain died, Yazid's soldiers trampled over his mortal remains. This sacrifice is remembered everywhere in the world, but nowhere is it observed as in India for it has merged seamlessly into the Indian milieu.

Regarding the 'Indianisation' of Muharram and communal harmony on the occasion, Khwaja Hasan Sani Nizami, the sajjadanashin [spiritual successor of the saint and guardian at the holy place] of Dargah Nizamuddin, relates that Varanasi -the land of famous ghats [steps leading down to sacred waters] and Vedic saints- has a tradition of observing Muharram with many Hindu families fasting along with their Muslim brethren.

Varanasi's Shivala Mohalla boasts of the most artistic 'tazias' [replicas of Imam Hussain's tomb]. Tazia's ritual representation resembles the burning of evil effigies on the Hindu festival of Dussehra. Though identical in spirit, the tazia differs from the Dussehra in that it is buried while the effigies of Ravana, Meghnad and Kumbhkarna are burnt.

Italian artist Bruno Cabrini's etchings depict Muharram processions with tazias during the 18th and 19th centuries in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra by the Hindus.
He has recorded his astonishment: 'How come these Brahmins observe Muharram with such devotion and sincerity and devotion even though they are dedicated Hindus and do not permit slaughtering of any animal in the manner prescribed by Islam?'

Beautiful imambaras [congregation halls]were erected by the Hindu rulers of Vijayanagar during the 16th and 17th centuries. Even the Scindias of Gwalior and the Holkar Maharajas of Indore used to conduct the special majalis.

A lot of credit goes to the Sufi saints for making Muharram an occasion to demolish religion, caste and class barriers, thus symbolising the day as one of amnesty and humanity - resembling that of Dussehra.

Jamia Millia Islamia' vice chancellor Shahid Mahdi said that Muharram alums are revered by most Hindus like the Ramlila processions. Sufi saints delivered sanity messages to feudal lords who tried to divide communities along religion, caste and creed.

There had been an effort to create a rift between the two major sects of Muslims - Shias and Sunnis.

It is well known that the Karbala tragedy was an outcome of the feudalisation of Islamic concepts, an unfortunate procedure initiated after the Prophet's death and consolidated by Muawiah's nomination of son Yazid to the throne.

The Sufi saints, along with the Shia ulema, encouraged the mix of indigenous elements from the rich cultural heritage of the land with that of Muharram - both conveying the message of peaceful coexistence.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

“Spirit of Fez” fights on several cultural fronts

[From the French language press]:

La Fondation «Esprit de Fès» se bat sur plusieurs fronts, culturels bien entendu.
Quoi que le festival des musiques sacrées de Fès demeure son cheval de bataille, d' autres rendez-vous hauts en couleurs font partie des activités de cette entité créée pour dynamiser la culture dans la ville mythique.

Al Bayane - Casablanca,Maroc - Jeudi18 Janvier, 2007 - par S. Alaoui

The Foundation “Spirit of Fez” fights on several fronts, cultural of course. While the Festival of World Sacred Music in Fez remains its warhorse, many other activities spring from this entity created to dynamize the culture in the mythical city.

The Foundation “Spirit of Fez” held Monday [January the 15th] a conference in Casablanca to raise the veil on the activities that it intends to realize within year 2007.

This year' Sacred Music festival will have as theme "Blow of times, spirit of places" and will feature, among others, American artist Barbara Hendricks, the Sufi Iranian group Dastan d'Iran, and the enthralling Turkish flutist Kudsi Erguner.

As for the other activities of the Foundation, the list is long. It includes the Festival of Madhi and Samaa (10th edition, in September) and the festival of the Art of cooking (4th edition, 25th-28th October).

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Middle Eastern Arts Festival in Bloomington, Indiana, U.S.A.

Media Relations - Indiana University - Bloomington,IN,U.S.A.
Friday, January 26, 2007

This year's Middle Eastern Arts Festival showcasing culture and artistic traditions, again will feature a vivid array of music and dance from the region, as well as exhibits, lectures by artists and scholars, and foods from the various countries.

Most festival events, which runs from Feb. 1 to Feb. 10, require no admission fee and all are open to the public .

Mohamed Shahin, an internationally-known performer, instructor and choreographer of Egyptian and Oriental folk dances is one of several artists scheduled to participate. Also, Cornell University scholar Buzz Spector, enthnomusicologist Irene Markoff, and award-winning painter Najjar Abdul Musawwir will give presentations.

The festival is a result of a collaboration by several IU faculty members who focus on the region, community members and the IU Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.

An exhibit of books and manuscripts on Middle Eastern arts and culture also opens on Feb. 1 at the IU Fine Arts Library, 1133 E. Seventh St. A selection of artists' books from Spector, an artist and critical writer who also chairs the Department of Art at Cornell, will accompany this exhibition.

Iraqi music group Salaam will join Windfall Dancers, Bloomington's original contemporary dance ensemble, to kick off festival entertainment with Arabian Nights concerts, Feb. 2-3 and 9-10, in the auditorium of the John Waldron Arts Center, 122 S. Walnut St. The show will tell the age-old stories of Arabian Nights. Performances all four nights begin at 8 p.m.

Families will enjoy a special children's event Feb. 4 at the Monroe County Public Library, 303 East Kirkwood Ave. Swordsmen and stories from the Middle East will be the entertainment, along with Bloomington's Katya Faris and performer Shahin, who will present the dances of the Middle East.

Shahin studied with the famous El Kawmia Troup in Egypt and has been a dancer and choreographer for numerous television programs and movies. Highlights of his performances include the Tanoura, commonly known as Whirling Dervish for the spinning motion it emulates. The dance is a Sufi rite used to communicate with the Divine. The Sufis, who represent a spiritual offshoot of Islam, have performed the dance for centuries.

Sufi music and culture also are the focus of Markoff's appearance. From York University in Canada, she is a scholar of the musical theory, performance and professional baglama, or folk lute, specialists of Turkey. From 7-9 p.m., on Feb. 9, she will give a workshop, "The Challenges of Teaching Turkish Music in an Ensemble/Lecture Setting," at the Mathers Music of World Cultures, 416 N. Indiana Ave.

Markoff also will lecture on Sufi music and ritual in Turkey on Feb. 10 in the Faculty Room of the University Club, located in the Indiana Memorial Union, 900 E. Seventh St.

Performance will be integrated into the presentation, which will be from 4 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Her visit is sponsored by the American Turkish Society. Of Bulgarian heritage, Markoff directs York University's Balkan Ensemble. She has written and published various research about Bulgarian and Turkish traditional and popular music, and mystical Islam in Turkey.

[For the complete program, click on the title of this article,

Friday, January 26, 2007

5th Patiala Heritage Festival from Feb 16 to Feb 24

Punjab Newsline Network - Mohali-Chandigarh,Punjab,India
Thursday, January 25, 2007

PATIALA: Rakesh Kumar Verma, Deputy Commissioner-cum-Secretary of the Patiala Heritage Society disclosed here today that the 5th Patiala Heritage Festival will take place at Patiala from February the 16th to February the 24th in collaboration with INTACT at Quila Mubarak, Old Moti Bagh Palace and Sheesh Mahal.

The festival will comprise a series of performance's by some of India's finest exponents of classical music, dance and theatre including vocalist featuring performance by Asad Ali Khan (Rudra Been), Fahimudin Khan Dagar (Dhrupad), Pt. Brij Narain (Sarod),), Manjari Chaturvedi (Sufi-Kathak), Pt. Laxman Krishna Rao Pandit Devotional Music and others.

The festival will include Sufi Quawali by Sher Miandad and Jawed & Babar Niazi of Kapurthala Gharana (both from Pakistan).

A Kavi Durbar, Dog Show and seminar on Punjab art would be held.
Art & handicraft traditional exhibition will be a feature of the festival.
A fashion show featuring one of world's most famous designers J.J. Wlaya will be held during the festival.

Like every year the festival will also coincide with the 15 day-long Craft Mela which will take place from February the 17th to March the 3rd.
The Craft Mela will be held in the precincts of historic Sheesh Mahal.

Sufism: the guiding force for millions of people

Staff Report - Daily Times - Lahore,Pakistan
Thursday, January 25, 2007

LAHORE: Amatullah Armstrong Chishti, who has written six books on sufism, said on Thursday that sufism is the guiding force for millions of people across the globe. Its essence, she said, is gentleness and tolerance.

Chishti was addressing a discourse arranged at the Lahore College for Women University (LCWU) by the Department of English on Thursday. Chishti said sufism was an immense concept. She said sufism and mysticism were purely Islamic concepts.

She said sufism could be traced back to the 12th century. She said Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was the first to propagate a perfect message of love, acceptance and open-mindedness, the central concepts of sufism.

Chishti said that with the passage of time, four main orders of sufism had emerged: Chishti, Qadri, Naqshbandi and Suhrawardi.

Education Minister Mian Imran Masood, the chief guest, praised Chishti’s efforts, particularly coming to Pakistan to spread the message of love. He said it was not easy to find any equal in the world to sufi poets Hafiz, Rumi and Ibn-e-Arabi. He added that the works of Bulleh Shah and Waris Shah were unmatched. He highlighted the significance of qawali, saying that it enriched the souls of believers and raised them to a realm of celestial serenity.

Chishti said that she found Punjab and Sindh most rich in sufi culture.
She said her journey towards Islam and then sufism was long and hard.

Chishti said that many years ago, when she was riding bicycles with her husband from Paris to North Africa, she observed several signs, which she believed were from God, telling her that she had a greater purpose in life.

She said that during her trip, she saw Muslims of all colours and races who would experience a sense of serenity while saying their prayers. This made her curious about this feeling. After her trip, she visited several libraries and spent thousands of hours researching various religions being practiced around the world, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. She said studying Islam was the last thing on her mind because of the propaganda against it, but as she went deeper into her research, she realised that this was the true path for her.

She said Islam made her feel calm and closer to her Maker then ever before.

She said if anyone wanted his or her soul polished and to know its depth, the person should walk the path of sufis, which takes one to a level closer to God.

LCWU vice chancellor, Dr Bushra Mateen, presented souvenirs and bouquets to the two guests. She said sufis had made great efforts to spread Islam in the subcontinent.
See A.A. Chishti's biography and a summary of her books at: http://www.amatullah.zikr.org/

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Return to the life of a good man

[From the French language press]:
C’est vendredi 12 janvier 2007, jour de reccueillement et de prières pour les musulmans du monde entier que Thierno Mountaga Tall, khalife de la famille omarienne a été rappelé à Dieu dans sa 92 ème année.

Nettali.com - Dakar,Senegal - 13 Janvier, 2007

It was on Friday (January 12, 2007), a day of absorption and prayers for the Moslems of the whole world that Thierno Mountaga Tall, khalif of the Omarian family, was recalled to God in his 92nd year.

The disappearance of this spiritual guide, reference in the Tijani Brotherhood and beyond, plunges all the Moslems of Senegal in a deep sorrow.

The house of Thierno Mountaga bathed in a studious environment. Simply dressed and carrying broad glasses hiding a strong myopia, Thierno Mountaga left very seldom the Coran to which it referred unceasingly.

In spite of his close links with president Senghor, Thierno Mountaga always endeavoured not to give an opinion in the elections and the political life generally. However, he engaged intensively at the time of the fatal events Senegalo-Mauritanians of 1989 strongly standing by the victims of this conflict.

Available for faithfuls and parents often coming to request his intermediation, he intervened for the release of Abdourahim Agne, Jean Paul Diaz, and more recently in the case of Bara Tall.

Thierno Mountaga is the author of a book of two volumes on his grandfather El Hadji Omar Tall. The objective to build a large mosque in the honor of its grandfather was carried out.

Among the children of Thierno Mountaga Tall, the most known is Madani Tall.

Boussemghoune: from Sufism to Tourism

[From the French language press]:
Cité algerienne d’origine berbère, dont sa composante parle toujours le Tamazight, Boussemghoune est prédisposée à devenir un pôle touristique indéniable.
La Nouvelle République - 11 Janvier 1007 -Par C.P.

An algerian village of Berber origin, where Tamazight [an Afro-Asiatic language and a member of the Berber group] is spoken, Boussemghoune is developing into a promising tourist pole. By the beauty of its landscape, by the oasis with palms plantations and orchards of pomegranates, by the limpid and fresh running water, this "ksar" [group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls] has been from time immemorial a caravanserai, i.e. a "place impossible to circumvent".

Boussemghoune, located 165 Km [102.5 miles] south of El Bayadh is where Sufi saint Mohamed Tidjani (born in Ain Madhi, Laghouat) went for refuge and meditation, and eventually established there, enchanting the people through his presence.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A strong message of peaceful co-existence

Bureau report - The Hindu - Chennai,India
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Historical shrines of Charar-e Sharief and Hemis Monastery, carrying a strong message of peaceful co-existence of different faiths, would be the focus of Jammu and Kashmir tableau at the Republic Day [26th of January] parade in Delhi this year.

The float depicting an ensemble of a Sufi shrine of Kashmir valley, a monastery of Ladakh and a Temple from Jammu region, showcases the theme of co-existence of faiths, communal harmony and secularism.

"It would not be the tableau of Jammu and Kashmir but the real J-K at the show with its strongest institution of co-existence of faiths at Delhi's R-Day parade," Secretary, Jammu and Kashmir Cultural Academy, Dr Rafeeq Masoodi told PTI here.

He said, the float will represent the religious milestones of the State in three different sections. While the front view of the tableau depicts famous Sufi shrine of Charar-e-Sharief, the trailer section showcases Hemis monastery of Ladakh and the ancient Kali Temple, built by Dogra kings in Jammu.

"This is the thirteenth tableau of Jammu and Kashmir in the series that will be displayed at the Republic Day," Masoodi said.
Chief Minister Gulam Nabi Azad is likely to visit the State float in the National Capital, he added.
In all, 45 artists would be participating in the parade, offering the audience a spectacular delight of traditional dance and music from Jammu and Kashmir, Masoodi said.

The State has got the Best Tableau award thrice in the past.

"Master of the Jinn" now available also as Ebook

SNSWR - Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Sufi News republishes this review of the Sufi novel "Master of the Jinn" with a new offer (below) from the Author:

Book review by Ali Eteraz - altmuslim.com - March 28, 2006
Call him Ishaq. That is the name of the narrator in Irving Karchmar's debut Sufi novel, "Master of the Jinn," which has already been translated into twelve languages.

The novel heralds the arrival of a fresh literary voice to Islam and America. It also signals the revival of Sufism, such that in addition to associating Sufism with the long-dead such as Rumi and Hafiz, we may now find cogent expositors of the ways of the heart in our midst today.

The premise of the book is astounding. A Sufi master in Jerusalem, to whom Ishaq is an apprentice, is paid a visit by an Israeli archaeologist, his daughter, and an Israeli intelligence officer who has been having something akin to paranormal visions. The officer, Captain Simach, is convinced that his visions are, in fact, actual events. He seems to be suggesting that in a far flung mission to the Sahara, he has come across the ring of the Jewish Prophet-King, Solomon.

The archaeologist, Dr. Freeman, is unable to solve the matter using his scientific methods, and brings it before his friend, the Sufi Master.

The Master confirms that the ring is real; that it is imbued with immense mystical powers; and that it must be salvaged. He asks the three Israelis, accompanied by three of his apprentices, to go after the ring, and in the quest they are to be led by a beggar, who is as mysterious as Khizr, and equally cryptic.

Prior to their departure, the Master reveals that Solomon's ring was given to him by God, to command the spirits of smokeless fire, the Jinn. This revelation casts a certain fright over the group.

As the chosen go to the desert, visions, dreams and painful memories enter their heart. They become humanized and vulnerable. In addition, they suffer unearthly storms, nights that don't end, and temporal shifts. In the end they find themselves in a lost city and there the mystery of Solomon's ring begins to be revealed to them, setting up a resolution of this magical-mythical-Islamic-Jewish mystery of such subtlety that it left me smiling.

It is plausible to suggest that Karchmar has actually managed to lay before us what all others have simply suggested: the intertwined threads of theology and faith that link Judaism and Islam.

For the mystics and the metaphysicians, this story is, through and through, a meditation on Love, the mercy of God, and spiritual discipline. The Sufi Master speaks on matters of the soul with the authority that Zorba the Greek reserved for matters of lust.

The journey can be read allegorically, and many secrets meanings may be unearthed in later reads. Occasionally Karchmar gives a hint of the matter being touched upon by dropping quotes from the poetry of innumerable Sufi poets. He also brings in quotations from Plato and the Psalms of David. These quotes were a favorite part of the experience.
(...)

As an experiment, author Irving Karchmar is now offering the Sufi novel, Master of the Jinn, to anyone who wants one as an EBOOK. It will be emailed in pdf form to your homecomputer. This is the same book as the paperback, with all the interior illustrations intact, taken from the original file.

Click here to read the full offer:

His mission will live

By Peerzada Irfan Ali Shah - Greater Kashmir - Srinigar,India
Monday, January 22, 2007

Peer Sahab is no more but he will live through his ideals in the hearts of those who love him.

Death is the only reality of life. As Tennyson, a renowned poet [Lord Alfred T. 1809-92] has rightly mentioned:

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair,
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more

The entire valley came under a big shock when the death of a great visionary Peerzada Mehraj-ud-din Shah, spread like wildfire. Peer Sahib; as he was popularly known among the intellectual, political and social circles of Kashmir; was born on 29th July, 1929 at Batamaloo (in the heart of the capital city) in a well-to-do family.

It was a family of scholars and luminaries which has gifted Kashmir great intellectual giants like Peer Ghyas-ud-din Shah (Peer Sahibs elder brother), who besides being an erudite scholar-writer, was also the Cabinet Minister in Jammu and Kashmir Government.

The eldest brother and head of the family was Peer Abdul Ahad Shah, who was an accomplished politician, writer and orator of repute.

History of Kashmir bears glaring testimony to this vivid fact that from time to time great saints and scholars have risen on the spiritual and intellectual arena of the valley and whose ideals and teachings will always serve as a beacon light for the followers of truth and universal brotherhood. Peer Sahib was one such saint-philosopher who was profoundly concerned with the purpose of man’s creation, an organizer of immense capacity and a reformer of deep human motivation.

Peer Sahib was surely among messengers of truth and hope for entire Kashmir. He, by his pious living and rational attitude towards life, inspired thousands of people to strive for truth and to move on the straight and righteous path (Seerat-ul-Mustaqeem).

According to Sir Lawrence, Kashmiri Saints’ dictum was “To be in the world but not of it, free from ambition, greed... that is the saints’ ideal” and Peer Sahib’s life bears ample testimony to this truth. He would sit with the lowly and downtrodden. He received everyone with a broad smile. He never felt angry. He had the spiritual virtues of toleration and forgiveness to his credit. He was a writer who tirelessly worked for the regeneration of Kashmiri society because he had a firm belief that Kashmir’s rich spiritual heritage would be the greatest gift to the world culture and civilization.

I really feel proud to write here that this great illustrious son of Kashmir was my grandfather whom I, out of reverence and love, called “Aba Jaan”. He was and will always be an inspiration for me.

In fact some months before his death he helped and inspired me a lot in writing the draft of my first book on Kashmiri sufism namely “Bat-Mol”—Vegetarian Saint of Kashmir which by the grace of Almighty Allah is nearing completion and will be released very shortly.

But alas! Peer Sahib himself is no more to see his dreams coming true.

It is my strong belief Peer Sahib has not died, he lives in his intellectual and scholarly works. He lives in his ideals and principles which are serving as beacon light in my life. I would like to conclude my write-up with the words of the great poet-philosopher, Dr. Allama Iqbal (RA):

Hazaroon Saal Nargis Apni Benoori Pe Rotj Hai
Badi Mushkil Say Hota Hai Chaman May Deedwar Paida

May the soul of Peer Sahib rest in peace Ameen!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Explaining social schizophrenia

By Dr Ayesha Siddiqa - Daily Times - Lahore,Pakistan
Monday, January 22, 2007

A district government study, kept confidential, conceded the increase in the number of madrassahs and linked them with rise in sectarianism and violence in the district.
The report clearly points to the sources of funding for each madrassah and its ideological orientationIn trying to explain my opinion on the social schizophrenia of the Bahawalpuri society, Ejaz Haider has mentioned the increase in the Deobandi influence in the Southern district.

He is right. The area has traditionally been a Barelvi stronghold. But the rise of the Deobandi school has resulted in no small measure to the rise of the jihadi who is also, for the most part, sectarian. I do not have the expertise to comment on the differences and nuances of the two creeds but, given the feedback on the earlier article, I find it important to explain what seems to have happened to Bahawalpur, once known for its Sufi tradition, its poets and its writers.

Much before the age of ‘enlightened moderation’, Bahawalpur glowed due to its tradition of tolerance and its rich cultural heritage.

A certain level of conservatism notwithstanding the society offered generous space to great men and women of letters. The great Sufi poet Bulleh Shah hailed from Uch Gilaniyan in Bahawalpur from where his family later shifted to Multan and then to a place near Kasur. Bahawalpur being the seat of power of the princely state also contributed to Persian literature.

After 1947, the focus shifted to Urdu literature and the district can boast great names such as Khalid Akhter, Zahoor Azar and Jamila Hashmi.The district has also produced great names in the performing arts (Uzma Gillani and forgotten names such as Tahira Khan who had, during the 1960s earned the title of ‘Dukhter-e-Bahawalpur’ (daughter of Bahawalpur) and was rated by the connoisseurs of theatre and film as an actress comparable with Elizabeth Taylor).

The Sufi culture gave to Bahawalpuri society a certain tolerance and equanimity. We were not known for passionate reaction or outrage. Resultantly, crimes such as murder or honour killing were largely unheard of.

A Bahawalpuri finds it difficult to equate that culture with the trend in the past decade-and-half of Southern Punjab producing extremists.While Riaz Basra and Masood Azhar are better known, the list is long.

Bahawalpur also became known for sectarian tension, a development unheard of even during the 1960s and the 1970s. Today, there are about 15,000 trained jihadis in the Bahawalpur division which comprises the three districts of Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar and Rahim Yar Khan. It is not clear as to how many of these are still active, particularly after 2003-2004.

This is the dateline for some apparent shift in Islamabad’s policy towards the militancy after which quite a few militants got absorbed in other professions and settled back in their villages. Surely, this is no different from other parts of Punjab. But it becomes more surprising in the context of the area’s cultural history; plus, Southern Punjab is culturally different from Northern and Central Punjab.

The involvement of Bahawalpur in the business of Jihad is linked to the overall transformation of state policy during the 1980s when General Zia-ul Haq’s regime encouraged militancy and a puritanical form of religion in support of its larger military plan to fight a war in Afghanistan and on other fronts, mostly domestic. This period also saw the rise in the number of seminaries in Bahawalpur.

In fact, a district government study, kept confidential, conceded the increase in the number of madrassahs and linked them with rise in sectarianism and violence in the district.

The report clearly points to the sources of funding for each madrassah and its ideological orientation. The pattern for the report was later copied to study the issue all over the Punjab province. The issue was not the presence of madrassahs but the deliberate proliferation of these schools and their dominance by puritanical ideologues.

Traditionally, religious seminaries were part of the Sufi shrines where the students were not only instructed in religious norms and law but also Persian. Therefore, the older and more traditional madrassahs were also the repositories of precious manuscripts in Arabic and Persian.

Incidentally, Islamabad manipulated the existing madrassah tradition in Bahawalpur to plant and encourage a more puritanical brand of religion. Such deliberate grafting significantly contributed to changing the overall social environment resulting in not only greater Puritanism but also ideological fragmentation.

The proliferation of different sects and religious schools of thought, which are amply represented through their independent mosques and madrassah, denotes the growing social divide. It is almost comical to see the different mosques observing their independent times for azaan (prayer call) based on their interpretation of religion.

Incidentally, the religious divide is one of the many divisions. Other fault-lines, however, do not form part of the current discussion.

The state’s encouragement of puritanical religion is what I call the exogenous factor. The implicit and explicit support to outfits such as Jaish or the entire jihad industry created a peculiar relationship between the jihadis and the larger society based on the rising power of the latter.

A lot of people drifted towards the puritanical agenda to benefit from the windfall of the power and influence of the militants who had greater access to financial and other material resources. These organisations’ comfortable access to weapons also attracted young men who wanted to renegotiate their individual position within the larger society.

Therefore, the exogenous factor dovetailed into the endogenous factor or the social impetus to adopt puritanical religious ideology. I relate the endogenous factor to the feudal nature of the socio-political system which is inherently incapable of allowing a renegotiation of power relationships within the society.

It is interesting to watch the movement of capital in Southern Punjab. While the power of the traditional feudal, especially the large landowners, has increased due to their adoption of other means of capital generation and power accumulation, the financial capacity of mid-ranking landowners seems to have changed. The large landowners have gone into industrialisation or joined the bureaucracy to enhance their power. The financial prowess of the mid-ranking landowners (landholding of 50-500 acres) is now challenged due to the emergence of the rural indigenous bourgeoisie or capitalist class who can claim greater financial worth but minimal political power.
These belong mostly to the trader-merchant class which has also built land assets to match the traditional landed-feudal.

However, the accumulation of land did not change the power-political relationship. Power continues to remain in the hands of the traditional landed-feudal class.

In this social background, the puritanical ideology represented a tool for renegotiating power relationship, especially where the centre of power could not be moved away from families who were the pirs of the area. Considering the public’s association with or reverence for the pirs and their families, it was almost impossible for the new capital to grab power unless they could create the capacity to dismantle or challenge the traditional notions of faith and religion.

The new capital or the trader-merchant class in Bahawalpur is involved in funding Deobandi and Wahhabi madrassahs. In fact, even in smaller villages mosques are no longer community affairs but have the patronage of a group or family of trader-merchants. The mosque imam is paid and appointed by the financiers of the mosque and encouraged to propagate a particular brand of Islam which often brings them in direct confrontation with other mosques.

The impact of such a development has multi-layered consequences but the three most significant are: (a) the rift among different religious schools of thought, (b) a shift away from the Sufi tradition to Wahhabism, and (c) a silent confrontation between the old and the new powerhouses represented by the multiple religious ideologies and their related mosques.

Presently, the new capital and their religious partners have not mustered sufficient critical mass to challenge the traditional centres of power which might happen at some future time and date. Meanwhile, the internal tension to shift the centre of power would result in greater friction and fragmentation. That could change the entire character of the Bahawalpuri society.

The writer is an Islamabad-based independent defence analyst and author of the forthcoming book, Military Inc, Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Tajikistan & Kashmir part 1: Saints and Shrines

By Prof. Mushtaq Ahmad Kaw - Greater Kashmir - Srinigar, India
Monday, January 22, 2007

Based on the empirical study, I venture to record some observations about my recent visit to Tajikistan regarding a research project. Geographically speaking, the two [Tajikistan and Indian Kashmir] have been in close proximity with each other. Only the Pamir Mountains bisected them by a mere distance of 100 kilometres [62 miles] or so.

Notwithstanding this, the two were intimately connected through Gilgit-Wakhan Corridor: thanks to the factors of unprecedented political integration, dynamism of Silk Route and the heydays of Buddhism, Islam and Sufism.

Being profound enough, neither political convulsions and dynastic upheavals nor geographical hazards could ever infringe them. The most plausible reason, interalia, was that these bilateral relations characterized the lifeline of two peoples which in sequence nurtured and kept alive quite a free movement of men, material and ideas across the borders.

No wonder, therefore, to notice a great deal of religio-spiritual affinity between Tajiks and Kashmiris from this and other side of the Pamirs into Badakhshan and Tajikistan.

As I had read and heard about Tajikistan so exactly I found it during my one and a half months stay. A very beautiful land mass situated in the lap of the Pamir Mountains. Its people of the Iranian descent, quite hospitable and gentle, resemble Kashmiris much more than any other peoples of the Central Asia. As a result, both share many things together in several fields. One of them is indeed religio-cultural and spiritual domain.

(...)

They [the Tajiks] believe in power of intercession and advocacy for multitude of mundane and spiritual ends; hence, they respect saints and their mausoleums. As a result, the country is dotted with innumerable number of shrines dedicated to the holy and the great men of the country including martyrs, Sufis, saints and the like.

A mausoleum just outside the Hissar Fort, 25 kilometres from the capital city of Dushanbe, is dedicated to one thousand Arabs who, by tradition, are reported to have sacrificed their lives for the sake of Islam in and around the 8th century.
This renovated dome-shaped mausoleum, is regularly thronged by the Muslim devotees to pay respects to the departed souls as a means to achieve their worldly and other ends.

One comes across similar other mud and brick-made shrines dating around 12th-16th centuries in Tajikistan. These include the shrines devoted to the holy man like Zainulabidin at Khotlan/Koolab and Makhdoom-i Azam at Hissar.

Popular faith in holy shrines is so preponderant that people even esteem the places which, by tradition, are believed to have been visited by champions of Islam in Tajikistan. Two such sites dedicated to Khalifa Hazrat Ali and Khalid Bin Walid at Hissar, Dushanbe, offer the best example.

As a matter of fact, all the three major oblasts of Badakhshan, Koolab and Soghd are dotted with numerous shrines, some abandoned for want of care and others well maintained so as to soothe the devotees. However, one of the most popular shrines is that of Sayyid Ali Hamadani at Koolab in southern Tajikistan bordering Afghanistan.

Being buried at Koolab, the great saint Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani is revered to an appreciable extent in whole Tajikistan. Quite exactly, after the most devastating Civil War, the Tajik government with the support of the Irani government renovated the shrine on the most modern lines.

Besides containing an impressive façade, the present structure features several chambers bearing separate domes over each of them. While the central chamber houses the grave of Mir Sayyid Ali, the adjacent chambers possesses the graves of his wife, son Mir Muhammad Hamadani, and the children.
The cloistered courtyard of the shrine is marked with hanging wooden and metal tablets conveying Sayyid Ali’s message about statehood and the like.

During the process of resuscitating its rich past and culture, the present government has accorded the Sayyid the status of a national saint. Accordingly, it dedicated a remarkable museum to his name just in front of his shrine.

The museum contains, inter alia, abundant literature on Sayyid Ali’s life, performance and philosophy in the form of books and manuscripts published from different parts of the region including India, Pakistan, Iran etc.

Given the tremendous state patronage and the strong popular faith, large gatherings of devotees pay obeisance at the shrine. Indeed, the saint is reverential for them. So is the breath-taking view of the shrine and its surroundings: beautiful gardens, flowers, fruit and chinar trees and resting places, really a scintillating and a panoramic view.

Though one does not find any traces of the original shrine at the site, yet some of its architectural elements have been meticulously reflected in the newly designed tomb of Sayyid Ali—the well-looking domes, semi-arched gates, stone windows and carved wooden doors and other reminiscences of medieval architecture.

The grave is in itself wrapped with a Jaama or a green piece of cloth marvelled with the Qur’anic verses: all these features exactly symbolize the shrine culture of medieval Kashmir.

--To be concluded
(The author is Director Centre for Central Asian Studies)

The Northern Mosaic: Peoples and Faiths of North Iraq

AINA Assyrian International News Agency - Modesto,CA,USA
Saturday, January 20, 2007

Although the US appears to be initially facing somewhat greater challenges from various Shi`ite groups in southern Iraq (See the Lead Story) [go to AINA website, link above], the complexity of peoples in northern Iraq remains a long-term challenge that could prove extremely volatile, particularly given the longstanding ambitions of the Kurds and the possibility of Turkish intervention.
In Part 1 of this Dossier, we examined the ethnic groups of northern Iraq -- Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and smaller groups -- and noted that these sometimes overlapped with religious community. Part 2 looks more closely at the religious mosaic in northern Iraq, and at the potential for outside intervention.

As noted in Part 1, most of Iraq's Kurds are Sunnis (though a few are Shi`ite); yet they come from a different legal school (madhhab) of Sunnism than do Iraq's Sunni Arabs, since the Kurds are Shaf`i and most Iraqi Arabs who are Sunni belong to the Hanafi school. But Kurdish Muslim identity is more closely linked to Sufi mystical orders than to orthodox legal schools, and some of these Sufi mystical orders may include members who are not Muslims at all but members of one of the syncretistic sects of northern Iraq. For like many mountain regions of the Middle East, northern Iraq is one of those areas where small, almost fossilized communities continue to exist, with their roots veiled deep in history and their beliefs often secret to protect them from persecution by the majority.

There is some overlap, and there is considerable room for argument about how to categorize the religious groups of northern Iraq. Almost no one has ever considered the Yazidis, for example, to be Muslims, since they have a very distinct set of religious beliefs and since many Muslims denounce them as "devil-worshippers"; yet other small groups, such as the `Ali-Ilahis, have very similar beliefs to the Yazidis but are sometimes classed as extremely heterodox Muslims.

This Dossier does not seek to get into such debates about classification, but the very fact that sometimes a given group can be considered one thing and other times another may have something to do with the confusion about how many belong to each group. Are there 100,000 Yazidis? That would seem to be on the high end of most estimates, but some Yazidi authors have claimed they number 800,000, though not entirely in Iraq. Numbers will not be cited very frequently in this Dossier precisely because it is so hard to come up with reliable statistics.

Muslim Groups for northern Iraq, most mainstream Muslims (leaving out some of the small syncretist groups) are Sunnis, though there are some Shi`ites, either Kurds (particularly along the Iranian border), or Arabs resettled from southern Iraq as part of the Arabization program. As noted, Sunni Arabs and Sunni Kurds belong to difference legal schools of Sunnism.

But among the Kurds in particular, the fact that one is a Sunni of the Shaf`i legal school is usually of importance only to religious scholars. Far more important are the traditional identification of tribal groups with one of the major Sufi mystical orders.

Sufism is not a sect -- there are Sunni Sufis and Shi`ite Sufis -- but an approach to religious practice and devotion, often associated with membership in a particular "order" (tariqa) following certain specific ceremonial practices and faithful to the teachings and rituals of a (sometimes hereditary) chain of sheikhs. In a few areas of the Islamic world, Sufism and specific Sufi orders have had profound impact; among these areas are Central Asia and the Caucasus, plus Kurdistan. Often, in all these areas, the sheikh of a Sufi order was also the military leader of tribes which might resist the power of the central government. We are not speaking of remote medieval events here: the Barzanis who have led the Kurdistan Democratic Party in the past century are hereditary sheikhs of the Naqshbandi order.

There are Sufi orders among the Shi`ite Kurds as well as the Sunnis, and the Nurbakhshi order is one of the most influential there. But among Sunni Kurds, the two major orders are the Qadiri and the Naqshbandi. The Qadiri take their name from their founder, the 12th century sheikh `Abd al-Qadir al-Gailani (Gilani, Khaylani). The other order, the Naqshbandi, was founded at Bukhara in Central Asia in the 14th Century by Baha' al-Din Naqshband, and introduced into Kurdistan more recently, really taking hold only in the early 19th century under the influence of a particularly charismatic leader.

The two orders tend to divide geographically: to the northern and western parts of Iraqi Kurdistan one finds mostly Naqshbandis; to the east and south, Qadiris. These divisions also follow tribal lines. As already noted, the Barzani family, leaders of the KDP, are hereditary Sufi masters as well as political leaders. The Talabani tribe of Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), are Qadiris, though the Talabani leadership of the PUK, unlike the Barzanis in the KDP, is not itself from a line of Sufi sheikhs.

It needs to be emphasized that the real distinctions here are not doctrinal, but involve religious practices and a sense of belonging to a larger organization; the practices may include dancing and chanting, meditation, and the like, with some rituals characteristic of the particular order. The fundamental structure of a Sufi order, in which the murid or follower is loyal to a sheikh or master, fits neatly into a basically tribal society, and has often been the reason that Sufi masters could become powerful rebel chieftains, since they have a following of loyalists already in place. If those loyalists also happen to belong to the same tribe, the bonds of loyalty are reinforced.
Thus the Barzanis -- Ahmad, Mustafa, and now Mas`ud have been both religious and political/military leaders of their region.

Thus, too, the longstanding split between the KDP and the PUK has multiple levels of identity: it is a split between rival political organizations, and between the personalities of Mas`ud Barzani and Jalal Talabani; but it also reflects the division between Naqshbandi and Qadiri, tribal divisions, and even dialect areas of Kurdish.
(...)
This two-part Dossier has not by any means exhausted the complexities of northern Iraq. There are few real experts (one would need, at a minimum, a knowledge of both Arabic and Kurdish, while Turkish and even Aramaic would help). But the new occupying power may be wishing very soon that it could find a few.

Designer Rohit Bal takes the Sufi flight!

By Mallvika Nanda - Hindustan Times - New Delhi,Delhi,India
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Now we know why fashion designer Rohit Bal was growing his hair. We are just kidding! That was just his look for the season. But he has more designs than you have seen yet! Yes, it is the Sufi revolution that is capturing souls of a different kind. Delhi’s very own Sufi singer Zila Khan has released her ode to the great poet Hazrat Amir Khusrau.

And lending his name and panache to the song’s video is none other than the flamboyant fashion guru, Rohit ‘Gudda’ Bal.

Daughter of the illustrious sitar maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan, Zila’s album, Sarmasti has a range of Sufi favourites like Chap Tilak, Abr-Mi-Bara and Man Kunto Maula.
Sound sojourn:
Gudda is completely at ease in the video, playing a character that’s lost in the world of spirituality.

“It was a beautiful experience working with Gudda, he was totally in the flow and danced like a true Sufi. He’s a celebrity but also a friend. One day, I asked him if he would want to do this and he agreed!” says Zila, adding, “I want people to understand the real thing and who better to start with than Khusrau!”

Designed to act:
Gudda is excited about his music video debut. So was this why he was seen sporting untamed locks?
“No,” he laughs. “That was incidental but I really did enjoy doing the video. I keep on receiving offers to act in movies and I’m not opposed to the idea but I’ll do so if something interesting comes along,” says the man, an avid music lover.

Directed by Delhi-based Rohit Suri the video was partly shot at the Hazrat Nizamuddin dargah.

After HT City’s sneak peek into the video, Gudda reveals, “There is a sense of incomparable vibrancy in the video, and seeing the splendid Sufi qawalls in action was absolutely wonderful.”

Mevlana's Divan-i Kebir among best-sellers in USA


The Anatolian Times - Ankara,Turkey
Saturday, January 20, 2007
KONYA - Americans show great interest in Divan-i Kebir of Jalal ad-Din Rumi (also known as Mevlana).

In an exclusive interview with the A.A, Associate Prof. Dr. Nuri Simsekler, director of Selcuk University Mevlana Research & Practice Center, said on Friday that the Divan-i Kebir was one of the most important works of Mevlana in which he used the concepts of love and affection more than any other of his works.

"Prominent U.S. poet Coleman Barks compiled some poems from Rumi`s Divan-i Kebir in a book titled `The Essential Rumi`. The book is among the best-sellers in the United States," he said.

13th century Persian poet, jurist, and theologian Jalal ad-Din Rumi, devoted himself to the pursuit of Sufi mysticism, in which he was justly regarded as the supreme master. He was the spiritual founder of the Mevlevi order of whirling dervishes.

One of his most important works is the Mathnawi-i Manawi (Mesnevi). This comprises about thirty thousand couplets in six books, a vast compendium of Sufi lore and doctrine, interspersed with fables and anecdotes. It is especially remarkable for its insight into the laws of physics and psychology.

Rumi`s other major works are the Diwan-e Shams-e Tabriz (The Works of Shams of Tabriz - named in honor of Rumi`s great friend and inspiration), comprising some 40,000 verses, and the Fihi Ma Fih (In It What`s in It) which is composed of Rumi`s speeches on different subjects.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Film Provides a Glimpse of Islamic Art

By Sayed Zafar Hashemi - Scripps Howard Foundation Wire - 1090 Vermont Ave. N.W. - Suite 1000 Washington, D.C. 20005 /
Republished in Kansas City infoZine - Kansas City,MO,USA
Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Brooking Institutions hosted Wednesday's screening of "Islamic Art Glories," the three-part television program Ahmed made for Britain's Channel 5, which aired it in the fall.

Ahmed is the chair of Islamic Studies at American University here and a non-resident senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He is a former Pakistani high commissioner to the United Kingdom.

The hour-long documentary displays Islamic art and history, mainly focusing on the significance of the Islamic world. It also gathers art and art devotees using architecture, history and the beauties of Islamic art with a goal of reducing the gap between the Islamic world and the non-Islamic world.

"For Muslims like me, Islam means more than a religion," Ahmed says at the start of the film.

Islamic architecture has encompassed a wide range of both secular and religious styles from the foundation of Islam to the present day. The film shows the principle Islamic architectural types: the mosque, the tomb, the palace and the fort. From these four types, the vocabulary of Islamic architecture is derived and used for buildings of lesser importance such as public baths, fountains and domestic architecture, which are all shown in Ahmed's documentary.

Ahmed took the opportunity at the screening to explain his vision for Islam. He repeated some of the facts from his personal Web page that he said the non-Islamic world needs to know:

about 1.3 billion Muslim live in 57 countries, one of which has a nuclear bomb. One-third of the world's Muslims live in non-Muslim countries, with about 25 million in the West, including 7 million in the United States. And finally, he noted that Muslim nations are indispensable in American foreign policy.

The documentary was filmed in the historic cities of Istanbul, Turkey; Damascus, Syria, and Cairo, Egypt. It examines achievements from the earliest Islamic art and delves into Islam's respect for knowledge and the more spiritual Islamic tradition of Sufism.

The final part of the program deals with the last great Islamic dynasty, the Ottomans, and their great capital at Istanbul.

This episode also looks at calligraphy, the Islamic art-form that grew out of the careful copying of the word of God.

Following the film, there was a panel discussion.

Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Mahmud Ali Durani said this is the proper time for the film because of the sensitive incidents happening around the world. He called Islam the religion of humanity and harmony, which asks for unity, love for mankind and acceptance of beliefs and other prophets.

Cynthia P. Schneider, a former U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, a professor at Georgetown University and a non-resident senior fellow of foreign policy at Brookings, said the gathering was tremendous opportunity for Islamic scholars and scholars of other religions to talk about art, Islam and religion in general.

The series was a hit in the UK, Ahmed said he and his team hope it will be aired globally.

Original source: http://www.shfwire.com/story/film-provides-a-glimpse-of-islamic-art

See also:
http://sufinews.blogspot.com/search?q=Islamic+Art+Glories

Strenghtening Inclusiveness

By Dr. Chandra Muzaffar - JUST, International Movement for a Just World - Selangor,Malaysia
Just/The Brunei Times - Bandar,Brunei Darussalam
Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Summary of the Keynote Speech by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, President, International Movement for a Just World (JUST), Malaysia at the 2007 Regional Outlook Forum organized by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) at the Shangri-La Hotel Singapore on 4th January 2007.
1) Religious extremism is the violation of the balance or equilibrium that is embodied in the religion itself. It is a transgression of the limits set by the religion in the conduct of human affairs. Thus, while it is legitimate in Islam to use force as a last resort in resisting occupation, aggression and oppression, it is a transgression of the limits imposed by the religion in the struggle for justice if one deliberately targets non-combatants or civilians. Similarly, while Islam cherishes modesty as a virtue among men and women, cloistering a woman within the confines of the home, denying her education and the right to work, would be a violation of the balance that the religion seeks in human life.


2) Acts of religious extremism are not alien to modern Southeast Asia. However, most of the time religious extremism is not linked to religious doctrine or practice as such. Its primary causes more often than not can be traced to socio-historical, socio-political or socio-economic factors.

The domestic causes of recent manifestations of religious extremism would be as follows:-

a) The breakdown of law and order and the ensuing political turmoil and economic chaos which sometimes prompts political actors bent on perpetuating, or acquiring, power to manipulate religious sentiments to their advantage. Socio-economic dichotomies between ethnic groups may also lend themselves to overt and covert exploitation by unscrupulous elements who invariably provide a religious gloss to these differences.

b) State policies aimed at enhancing elite power or weakening the political or economic position of a cultural or religious minority which eventually provoke a reaction from the minority concerned. The backlash is often garbed in religio-political rhetoric.

c) An event or episode in history which may have contributed to the alienation of an entire community---alienation which may have been exacerbated by current socio-economic and socio-political circumstances. Religion may serve as a conduit for the articulation of the alienated community's grievances.

d) Bigoted, fanatical interpretations of religious text and tradition that seek to establish a state based upon a particular religion which often creates fear and insecurity among the followers of other religions and the populace as a whole.

e) Aggressive religious proselytisation which provokes the followers of other religions to retaliate with their own belligerent stances leading to religious polarization.

The global environment has also contributed to the growth of religious extremism in the region.

f) The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the occupation of Iraq in 2003, and the continuing suppression of the rights of the Palestinian people within a hegemonic global system that appears to be biased against Muslims have generated a great deal of unhappiness and anger among Muslims everywhere some of which is expressing itself through religious extremism. Southeast Asia is one of those regions where fringe groups within the Muslim community have committed acts of terror.

g) Partly in response to global hegemony in a unipolar world and partly in pursuit of its own dream of a global caliphate, a terror network with the elusive Al-Qaeda as its anchor has emerged espousing an extremist ideology which has no basis in mainstream Islamic thought. The network has a Southeast Asian dimension to it.

h) The terrorism of Muslim fringe groups has encouraged a section of the international media, certain political groups and a number of evangelists from a Christian Zionist background to denigrate Islam and Muslims in general. This tarnishing of the religion and its followers has had some influence upon a small segment of the non-Muslim populace in Southeast Asia who are not averse to employing harsh, vile extremist language against Muslims and their religion especially through the internet. This has led to a deterioration in inter-religious ties in certain countries in the region.


3) In spite of these negative developments, the fact remains that religious extremism is peripheral to the political and social life of Southeast Asia. For a region whose religious diversity is second to none---all the major religions of the world are represented here---Southeast Asia enjoys a remarkable degree of inter-religious harmony. A number of reasons from the past and the present may help to explain this.

a) Religious and cultural diversity has been the hallmark of the region for centuries. It has created an atmosphere which allows an accommodative, inclusive attitude to flourish. Within such an atmosphere, it would be difficult for religious extremism--- or any other form of extremism for that matter--- to become the dominant outlook.

b) The two major religious cum cultural influences upon the region, namely, Islam and Buddhism, have both in their own ways contributed towards the strengthening of this atmosphere of inclusiveness. Islam which spread rapidly through trade and Sufism brought to the fore values such as universalism, moderation and reciprocity while Buddhism's emphasis upon kindness and compassion made acceptance of the other easier.

c) Leadership has also played a role. The political leadership in almost every country in the region has, for the most part, advocated---and practised---moderation and inclusiveness. By the same token, mainstream religious elites whether Muslim, Buddhist, Christian or Hindu have seldom if ever adopted an antagonistic attitude towards the religious other.

d) It is because of all this, that 'live and let live' has become the credo of the average Southeast Asian. Even if one does not interact with the religious other because of geography or other reasons, one is very much aware of his presence---and at the very least tolerates his existence.


4) In this regard, it is important to remember that the two worst carnages in modern Southeast Asia ---- carnages which witnessed unimaginable violence---were perpetrated by groups that had very little to do with religion.

In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge, in power from 1975 to 1979, eliminated 1.4 million people in order to create an egalitarian agrarian society. Its leaders like Pol Pot and Khieu Samphan had renounced Buddhism and showed such venom towards all religious practices and institutions.

In Indonesia, the coup of 30 September 1965, it is estimated, led to the massacre of a million human beings. Whether it was engineered by a faction in the Indonesian military or by the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), the prime movers behind those mass killings were not men of God.

This is why while we are concerned about religious extremism in Southeast Asia we should remain cognizant of the fact that the worst forms of extremism in the region were caused by groups and individuals who to all intents and purposes were divorced from religion.


5) Nonetheless, because religious extremism does exist and is a threat to peace, we should take various steps to combat it.

a) There should be more determined efforts to resolve in a just manner the conflicts in Southern Philippines, Southern Thailand and in various parts of Indonesia which have all fuelled religious extremism in one way or another.

b) Since political turmoil and economic chaos pave the way for extremism in certain situations, both good governance that promotes elite accountability and popular participation in the political process, and the equitable distribution of wealth and opportunities which enhances the dignity of each and every community, are vitally important.

c) Governments in Southeast Asia should also add their voices to the global chorus demanding an end to the US helmed occupation of Iraq and the creation of a truly independent and sovereign Palestinian state based upon United Nations Resolutions. They should, at the same time, push for multilateralism as an antidote to unilateralism and global hegemony. If global politics moves in this direction, extremists exploiting religious sentiments will soon discover that they have no constituency.

d) Resolving regional and global conflicts and making domestic and international structures of power and wealth more just and egalitarian may not be enough to curb extremism. There should also be a conscious endeavor to counter extremist interpretations of religion through the propagation of a more enlightened and universal vision of faith in the 21st century. In the case of Islam, the intelligentsia in particular should be mobilized for this mission.

e) More than merely countering extremism, the spiritual worldview and universal moral values which constitute the crux and core of religion should perhaps play a bigger role in shaping the collective consciousness of Southeast Asia's 550 million citizens. Living in harmony with nature and respecting the delicate ecological balance are for instance central to all our religions and yet Southeast Asia as a whole has paid little heed to these perennial principles in its rush to 'develop' and 'progress'. The environmental and ecological crisis that confronts all of us today should force us to pause and ponder. Shouldn't we seek guidance and inspiration once again from that eternal spiritual and moral source that sustains life in all its mystery?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Moulay Brahim: ecstasy to drive out the devils

[From the French language press]:
La sainteté est un concept profondément ancré dans la mentalité marocaine. Ce phénomène s'enracine dans l'effervescence mystique issue du soufisme aux 15ème et 16ème siècles.

Libération - Casablanca,Maroc - 7 Janvier 2007

Holiness is a concept deeply anchored in Moroccan mentality. This phenomenon roots into mystical effervescence resulting from 15th and 16th centuries' Sufism.

In Morocco, the saints are men or women recognized by their uprightness and their blessing (baraka). People beseech them to reduce the sufferings of the body and the spirit, to conquer or increase material wealth, to ensure themselves an offspring, and also for the return of a loved one who is afar.

South-westbound from Marrakech, about 5 kilometers from Asni, is located the sanctuary of the saint Moulay Brahim, patron saint of single people and of sterile women.

According to its history, Moulay Brahim belongs to a family whose hagiography is to some extent the history of the development of spirituality in Morocco.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Musa Dieng Kala on Sheik Bamba

[From the French language press]:
Musa Dieng Kala présente un film documentaire sur Bamba

Rewmi - Thiès,Sénégal - 6 Janvier 2006

The artist and writer Musa Dieng Kala will present to Afro-Senegalaise diaspora of Washington D.C. and New York his very last production, a documentary film entitled “The Privileged Servant of the Prophet”.

The 52 minutes' duration work focuses on the lesson of the founder of Tarika Murid, Sheik Bamba; the film expounds the love of the Sheik for the best of men, the prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Great revelation of (year 2005) Fez Festival of World Sacred Music of Morocco, the Montreal (Canada) resident Musa Dieng Kala is one of the greatest lyrics' writers of Senegal and a bright star of the contemporary Sufi music.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sindh Festival begins today

By Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman - The News International - Pakistan
Thursday, January 18, 2007 / Dhul Hijjah 29, 1427

KARACHI: A four-day ‘Sindh Festival 2007’ programme of the City District Government Karachi (CDGK) begins at Clifton Beach today (Thursday).

A large area around the Beach Park has been reserved for the festival and the main theme of this year’s festival is “Rising to greater heights”, followed by three sub-themes including ‘human trafficking,’ ‘women empowerment’ and ‘preferring national interest over self-interest’.

Sindh Governor, Dr. Ishratul Ebad, is expected to be the chief guest at the opening ceremony and will open the festival gates with a golden key. This will be followed by a grand festival parade, a fireworks display by the Karachi Port Trust, a laser show and Sufi music show.

The second day’s events include demonstrations by the Pakistan Coast Guards and Pakistan Rangers. Other events of the festival which would span the next three days include a cultural village, sports village, fishermen’s village, health village, naval village, army and Rangers village and a business village.

The festival would also have a kid’s area with many interesting activities, such as a debate competition and public speaking competition.
Bodybuilding, beach volleyball, boxing, vintage car display, scale model display, VJ contest, cinema, arts and crafts, scuba diving are also part of the festival.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Abd Al Malik: saved by sufism

[From the French language press]:
Avec son album “Gibraltar”, cet ancien délinquant, licencié en philosophie et disciple du cheikh Hamza, a bouleversé le paysage du hip-hop français. Portrait d'un artiste iconoclaste.

Tel Quel - Morocco - par Youssef Aït Akdim - Vendredi 5 Janvier 2007

With his album “Gibraltar”, this former delinquent, with a degree in philosophy and disciple of Sheikh Hamza, upset the landscape of the French hip-hop. Portrait of an iconoclast artist.

In an autobiographical book published in 2004, Q' Allah bénisse la France, [May Allah bless France] Abd Al Malik tells his astonishing course.

His chance, he says, is to have met Sufism. Randomly from its readings, he fell on a text from Al Ghazali. It was a revelation! Conquered by this ethics of search for oneself, he went to Morocco, and to Sidi Hamza, the chief of the brotherhood Boutchichie.

The discovery of Sufism alleviated the need for spirituality without attacking the creativity of the singer. If he changed, it is also after his voyage to Morocco, where he “found an Islam moving, which wants to progress".

"There is in this country something that should inspire Moslem from the rest of the world , and which proves that Islam is neither fixed nor antiquated, but open and universal”, he said recently in an interview to Jeune Afrique.

The last album of Abd Al Malik, Gibraltar, issued in June 2006, already imposed itself like the revelation of the musical re-entry in the Hexagon [an epithet of France], with more than 50.000 specimens sold in a few months.

Reading Islam: A religion in a region

ANU Reporter - Australian National University - Canberra,ACT,Australia
Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A new book by ANU specialists presents the first collation of the many different views of Islam in Southeast Asia from Muslims themselves.
Voices of Islam in Southeast Asia: A Contemporary Sourcebook (Hardcover) by Greg Fealy and Virginia Hooker(editors)
U$37.74
(...)
Chapter 10: ‘Personal Expressions of Faith’This section of the sourcebook covers the rise in religiosity; the pillars of the religion; Sufism (the spiritual aspect of Islam); manifestations of piety, including views on education, health and healing, and dress; and Islamic culture and civilisation.
Some of the primary material was collected by Hooker, who interviewed a range of Indonesians about their views of their religion. The following extract, where a young girl describes the connection between identity and head dress, is from one of those sources:

“So I think I really have to demonstrate my Islamic identity in the way that the Qur’an stipulates, that is, by wearing a headscarf. This also differentiates me from other people. When people see someone walking without a headscarf, they’re unsure about their identity – whether they are Muslim or not – but if they see a woman wearing a headscarf they see straight away the Muslim identity of that person.” Khairunisa, pg 120

When the first draft of the sourcebook was presented to the consultative committee of Southeast Asian Muslims for “frank feedback”, the predominant suggestion by those gathered in Canberra was the addition of the opening chapter, Personal Expressions of Faith.

“The Personal Expressions chapter aims to reflect what it means to be a good Muslim to individuals in the region. Its inclusion has become very important to introducing Islam as a religion without having to do it in an obvious way,” Hooker says.

The issue of dress – particularly the headscarf – is also addressed from different perspectives in the Gender and the Family chapter of the book (in Indonesia the headscarf is called jilbab, while in Malaysia it is called tudung). Contentious issues and their place within Islam – work, polygamy and abortion – are also discussed in this revealing chapter by ANU academic Dr Sally White.

All of the book’s extracts are from primary sources, including the writings of clerics, academics, politicians, journalists, rebel leaders, heads of government and ‘lay’ Muslims. The editors have attempted to authentically preserve these writings throughout the translations, reflecting the original form as much as possible.
The sourcebook also contains 21 colour plates, including paintings, cartoons and photographs of significant Islamic sites and leaders.

“We had a group of people and combed websites, libraries and newsletters, and along with our own sources tried to identify key primary sources representing a spectrum of views,” Hooker says.

“We chose extracts based on their representativeness, that they represented a particular stream of view in an articulate manner,” Fealy says. “We then just tried to explain the material in as even-handed a way as possible and let people decide what makes the particular extract distinctive.”

“The main thing for us is that we have accurately portrayed the views of Southeast Asian Muslims, and that we have provided the information without passing judgement so the reader can make up their own minds.”

The Voices of Islam in Southeast Asia: A Contemporary Sourcebook was funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through the Australian Committee of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific.

The housewife and the chickpea

By Sami Rafiq - Hindustan Times - New Delhi,Delhi,India
Monday, January 15, 2007

On January 14 and 15 the world commemorates Jalaluddin Rumi’s literary contributions to world peace.

UNESCO has designated 2007 as the year of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, in order to promote his ideas of love, peace, tolerance and inter-faith harmony.

The Masnawi by Rumi is a massive poem also referred to as the "Quran in Persian". It consists of mystical tales that are rich in metaphor and meaning and shed light on every aspect of human life and provide spiritual guidance. The images and symbols are taken from everyday life.

Interestingly, some tales are remarkably similar to the tales in the Panchatantra [originally a canonical collection of animal fables, written in Sanskrit around 200 BCE, in verse and prose].

For instance the meaning behind the tale of the chickpea in the pot is profound. There is a ‘conversation’ between the chickpea that bubbles and boils in the pot and the housewife who smashes it and stirs it.

The housewife tells that the chick pea, which is boiling and breaking, is the preparation of the soul to meet God. But the chick pea has various subtle hidden meanings too, as the housewife talks to it about its journey from the sun, cloud and stars till it has become a soul, act, speech and thought.
One cannot help but observe the marked resemblance between these beliefs about the enlightenment of the soul with those in other religions of the world.

All religions are based on a belief in the immortality of the soul and the transience of the human body and Rumi brings to us the essence of Sufism through the housewife - a symbol of an evolved soul talking about her enlightenment thus. "In the inanimate state I used to say ‘you are running to and fro in order to obtain knowledge and spiritual truths. Through this double boiling, I graduated from the strength of the senses to become spirit and finally your teacher’."

Through his writings Rumi tells us that the way to God or spiritual perfection can be gained through perfection of the self and by living in harmony with others because the universe is itself a reflection of God.

The Forgotten Treasure of Iqbal’s Reconstruction -I

By Dr. M Maroof Shah - Greater Kashmir - Srinigar,India
Monday, January 15, 2007

Need is to revive a great legacy which stands buried under the ignorance of our modern day scholars.

Iqbal’s is the unique flowering of poetical, mystical and philosophical genius in recent Islamic history. He has few predecessors and still fewer inheritors. His encyclopedic mind wrestled with almost all the important issues that modern Muslim and modern man confronts in his life’s odyssey.

His is the original, bold and very unorthodox approach. He is an arch innovator and non-conformist. He is a philosopher of no mean stature and his attempt of bridging philosophy and religion, or in general, knowledge and religion is unique in boldness of thought and originality.

His primary addressee is modern man and then the modern Muslim.The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam — makes Iqbal the most important intellectual of modernist Islam. He is perhaps the most important Muslim philosopher of science in the twentieth century.

His is a unique flowering of mystical philosophical religious genius. He and his Reconstruction are phenomena in themselves and history hardly ever repeats such phenomena. His appropriation of modern science in Islam, his rereading of Sufism and his individualist religious metaphysics are uniquely his and constitute his originality.

It is ridiculous to argue that Ibn Hnifa did something similar. Ulema have some reservations about the whole project of reconstruction. If any aalim had done something similar there would have been no reason for saying that “it would have been better if Iqbal had not written it.”

Rational appropriation of traditional Islamic metaphysical thought that invokes modern philosophical and scientific thought structures as has been done in these lectures has hardly any orthodox/ traditional warrant. Saeed Akbar Abadi’s defense of Reconstruction in traditional terms has not found and cannot find much favour with the generality of Ulema.

Iqbal’s concept of ego, his individualistic metaphysics, his divinization of time, his epistemology, his rejection of orthodox Unitarian Sufi metaphysics, his theological and philosophical dualism, his humanist orientation, his evolutionist and empiricist approach, his concept of God’s omniscience and freedom, his view of good and evil, his concept of taqdir and so many other dimensions of his metaphysical and theological thought—all are not easily reconcilable with traditional/orthodox interpretation of Islam.

Iqbal has reread Rumi and certain other great classical authorities and conceptions of traditional Islam from the perspective of philosophy of ego and this constitutes his unique approach to Islam. There is no other modern Muslim philosopher or traditional aalim who has done anything comparable. Iqbal and his overall philosophy, not just his Reconstruction are phenomena in themselves, unique, unprecedented.

Iqbal is in himself an institution, a school that originated with him. Here I intend neither to defend nor to critique Iqbal vis-à-vis traditional metaphysical/mystical/religious thought spearheaded by either the exoteric ulema or the Sufi authorities or the perennialists but just point out how radical a divergence is between the two.

There is only one Iqbal and only one Reconstruction in the history.

Without a deep familiarity with such abstruse metaphysical and Sufi works as Insani Kamil of Al-Jili, Fusus of Ibn Arabi, such modern philosophers as Hegel, Nietzsche, Bergson etc., such scientific works as Darwin’s Origin of Species, Freud’s important works, Fraser and Comte’s works, such physicist philosophers as Einstein and Eddington, such theosophical works as Secret Doctrine to name only a few, understanding Iqbal or his Reconstruction and his originality and genius is not possible.

He is mazloom as someone has well remarked as everybody who has memorized some of his verses and has not mastered or at least has not good acquaintance with world’s metaphysical, religious, philosophical and literary traditions has hardly any moral right to dabble in Iqbali studies or discuss Reconstruction.

(...)

Iqbal lays down charter of Reconstruction in its preface. He has succinctly put forward his agenda in the book. The very first line that “Islam is a religion which emphasizes deed rather than idea” is quite a loaded statement in tune with modern sensibility though such metaphysicians as Guenon (Abdul Wahid Yaha) and Schuon (Isa Nuruddin) would question its Islamic warrant.

Iqbal has elsewhere declared that action is the highest form of contemplation.

This is quite an innovative rereading of the whole Eastern tradition. Modern man, for good or worse, is committed to action instead of contemplation. It is not however very clear what Iqbal here means by the word “Idea”. But one may reasonably infer that he has in mind eastern and Platonic idea of idea and contemplation for which the consistent philosophy of ego has not much space as the East is against the ego as well as actions that fortify it as a separate individual entity in a tensionful state with a dialectical relation to the world and associated dualistic philosophical framework.

The whole metaphysical and mystical tradition privileges contemplation over action, being over becoming, eternity and space over time, universal over individual (spirit over soul and body). However Iqbal problematizes most of these binaries and sometimes argues for reversing the hierarchies.

Starting with this assertion Iqbal makes another statement that the traditionalists would contest. He says that for a concrete type of mind the traditional modes of thought (as represented in classical mainstream Sufism as he explains after a few lines) are no longer valid or need to be adapted to changed perception. This is indeed true but the question is ‘is not concrete type of mind itself a problem?’ Could not the whole problem lie in modern mind’s peculiar make-up itself?

Should it not be asked to remould itself and renounce the whole philosophical –scientific tradition that has shaped it in the first place.

--to be concluded--

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

`We Had Three Heads'
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By Gowri Ramnarayan - Frontline - India
Volume 24 - Issue 02: Jan. 27/Feb. 09, 2007

Interview with Uzbek director Ovlyakuli Khojakuli

A shaven head streaming with plaited strands, ear and finger rings, a chain with an "Om" pendant, a wrist band... Ovlyakuli Khojakuli cannot but turn eyes towards him wherever he goes. More, the man breathes alertness.

Born in Turkmenistan where he studied theatre, Khojakuli went on to work in Uzbekistan with different theatre groups. He specialises in adapting Central Asian audio-visual and story-telling traditions in his modern productions.

His interest in Sufism and poetry made him dramatise works such as "Seven Tourists" by Central Asian poet Alisher Navoi, and "Conference of the Birds" by 12th century Persian mystic Fariduddin Attar.

His film Oedipus had a Turkmenistan cast. Khojakuli's striking imagery has attracted international attention.

Did you have a choice in this project?
Yes.
Why did you choose Medea?
Medea is one of the most challenging characters in Greek mythology. She represents the problems of all women faced with difficult choices. She had a big love in her life. She believed in the sanctity of marriage, motherhood, home-making. Betrayed by Jason, her faith turns to fury.

Her decision to kill her children is not an easy one, not done on the spur of the moment. It was a considered choice to do what she thought was right - for the children, and the world. She did not want them to grow up like Jason, become oppressors and contaminate the earth.

These were the issues I wanted to show on the stage and open out for discussion. Show why she did what she did. Was she prompted by love? Wrath? Vengefulness? I needed very strong acting from the actor to realise my goal. Medea's decision is one of the most powerful decisions in Greek mythology.

(...)

Your dialogues are modulated to create an incantative kind of opera. Why?The characters are so strong and highly charged with emotions. So I evolved this way of delivery - not music, not rhetoric but a scream. Tragedy should be like a prayer of despair. Of course, actors had trouble doing this, but we did manage.

What was the most difficult thing in this production for you?
It was the problem of working with actors from different theatres and groups, each with his/her own ways of doing things. To bring them together and make them work as a team was tough.

This first show is raw. A few more shows and the actors will become stronger, more sensitive.

How was it to work in a trilogy, sharing space with other directors?In theatre, the director is the head of the team. Here we had three heads! So the director has to do what he should never do: compromise. At times it became more important than the final product. But we will work more now...

[see also: http://sufinews.blogspot.com/search?q=medea]
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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Iranian ensemble celebrates Persian poet's birth
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By Ezra Glinter - McGill Tribune - Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Birthdays generally cease to be celebrated upon the advent of death, the latter occasion conventionally seen as an effacement of the former. But there are always figures whose works have elevated them above mere corporeality and whose births are thus justifiably celebrated, even centuries after their deaths.

Such is the case of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, better known simply as Rumi, a 13th-century Sufi poet whose literary and spiritual vitality has endured to the present day. His works include the Masnavi-ye Manavi (Spiritual Couplets), a six-volume poem whose importance for many Sufis approaches that of the Qur'an itself.

He is also the progenitor of a spiritual inheritance claimed by the Mevlevi Order, better known as the Whirling Dervishes.

It is no great surprise then, that the 800th anniversary of Rumi's birth is being celebrated across the globe and that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization declared 2007 an "International Rumi Year."

Here in Montreal, the birthday of the great poet is being celebrated with a performance of Persian classical music by the Chakavak Ensemble, a Toronto-based group of Iranian extraction. Formed at Tehran's Sharif University of Technology in 1998, the group re-formed in Canada in 2004 and has since performed several major concerts, including a benefit for the Canadian Cancer Society.

According to Chakavak musician Amaan Mehrabian, a PhD engineering student at McGill and the only member of the group living in Montreal, the traditions of classical Persian music, poetry and Sufism go hand in hand.

In fact, he relates, the use of traditional Persian music in Sufi meditation has helped it spread outside of the Persian community, a phenomenon reflected by diverse audiences at Chakavak shows.

In Iran, as in most other parts of the world, traditional and classical forms of music have been overshadowed in recent history by more popular forms. Mehrabian acknowledges the difficulties that his chosen genre faces, but remains optimistic.

"It's hard times for Persian traditional music nowadays," he says, "but it's going to survive, I'm sure."
The tradition of Persian classical music is an ancient one and according to archeological records, goes back to the Elamite Empire, which existed from 2,500-644 B.C.E.

Though for most of its existence Persian music has been preserved by oral rather than written methods, Western-style notation has been dominant since the early 20th century. Still, says Mehrabian, there are many traditionalists who continue to teach using the "ear-to-ear" approach through which the music was handed down for many centuries. Learning the full repertoire according to this method, he says, can take as many as 15 years.

Mehrabian began his own musical education at the age of 12, when he first picked up the Santour, a 72 stringed hammered dulcimer.

He became involved in Chakavak as an undergraduate student in Tehran after meeting the ensemble's director, Reza Manbachi. In its current incarnation, the ensemble consists of seven members, all of whom play traditional Persian instruments such as the Oud and the Tar, with the addition of the violin.

The music of the Chakavak Ensemble is both traditional as well as innovative. While only about a fifth of the group's repertoire consists of traditional pieces, even the newer compositions follow conventional structures.

The traditional works, in turn, have been given new arrangements.

It is clear that for Mehrabian, as well as for the other members and fans of the Chakavak Ensemble, classical Persian music has great personal as well as national cultural resonance.

"It's not only our music," says Mehrabian, "but it's also our history and our culture."
No doubt, Rumi would agree.

[To hear a sample of music, click here: http://www.chakavakensemble.com/Newsletter.html]
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‘Fütuhat’ represents the ‘whole of Sufism’
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By Musa Igrek - Today's Zaman - Istanbul,Turkey
Monday, January 29, 2007

Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi (1164-1240) profoundly impacted Eastern and Western thought and is one of the most discussed, venerable names in Sufism.

The unfathomably deep and delicate subjects he touched in his great number of works were criticized during his day and are still criticized. Nonetheless, his works are being widely read, translated into many languages and republished as Sufism is gaining worldwide attention.

One of those translations is "Fütuhat-ı Mekkiyye" (the Meccan Inspirations), arguably Ibn Arabi's masterpiece and presented as unabridged for the first time. The first four volumes, published by Litera Publishing House, were translated by Dr. Ekrem Demirli [pictured], known for his research on Turco-Islamic philosophy classics.

We spoke with Demirli, winner of the Association of Turkish Writers 2006 Best Translation of the Year Award, about Ibn Arabi in the Sufi tradition, his works and his profound impact on the world and Turkey.

Where do Ibn Arabi and his works stand within the Sufi tradition?
Ibn Arabi best represents the period of maturity in Sufism.
The period of maturity in Sufism carried early Sufism to a higher stage. It dealt with all disciplines of Islamic thought, from philosophy to theology, and it turned into an intellectual movement for everyone, whether a Sufi or not.

Sufism after Ibn Arabi is a process like a sequel to reach maturity. In my opinion, his works such as "The Meccan Inspirations" [Fütuhat-ı Mekkiyye], "The Wisdom of the Prophets" [Füsus'u-l Hikem] or "The Divine Precautions" [Tedbirat-ı İlahiye], are the highest and most comprehensive books of Sufism.

What was the Ottomans' approach to these classics and their author?
We know that all of Ibn Arabi's works were read by the Ottoman scholars.
That there are a large number of commentaries written on "Wisdom of the Prophets" can easily be seen as an indicator of the great interest shown in him. An important group of leading scholars that affected Ottoman thought grew up in this tradition.

Another facet of the diamond is the prevalence of his ideas that are not necessarily mentioned with his name every time they are talked about. The sources of "popular" Sufism are mostly the reflections of the ideas seen in Ibn Arabi.
In my opinion, if we wanted to see Sufism reflected in one book, that book would be "The Meccan Inspirations," which he wrote in Mecca.

Could you briefly talk about the commentary tradition among the Ottomans?
Since Ibn Arabi and Sadreddin Konevi represent the zenith of Sufism, it is natural that there would soon emerge a commentary tradition. And this is what happened.

It is certain that all those works provide spiritual sustenance to people, helping them to get to "know their Creator by knowing themselves." And today new works are written on Ibn Arabi. Our work can be considered a very humble contribution to this long dormant tradition.

In addition to translations of Sadreddin Konevi, Abdülgani Nablusi and Ebu'l-Ala Afifi, you are now translating Ibn Arabi's works to Turkish. What was your motivation for this?
I think it would suffice to say the love of wisdom.
However, I must point out that this work has a system of its own. The commentary on Fusus'u-l Hikem was a new phase of the project. It will be followed up by similar works.

"The Meccan Inspirations" is made up of 37 volumes; will it not be difficult to finish translating them all?
Ibn Arabi is a Sufi scholar who encourages boldness. We should not give in to laziness by exaggerating the amount of work we should do.
If Allah gives me health to do this, there is no room for hesitation, and for this I ask for and require everyone's prayers.

How will the translations contribute to the Sufi tradition and understanding of Ibn Arabi?Knowledge must be accessible. The preliminary aim of my works is to overcome this hurdle of Arabic, which makes it impossible for many people to study the translations.
The translation of these books will replace the groundless prejudices with sound opinions.

Fütuhat will especially build our opinions of Ibn Arabi and Sufism from the ground up.

Along with Mevlana Rumi, now Ibn Arabi is also receiving a great deal of attention in the West.
I would like to be able to say the river is finding its course; however, I still don't think we have reason to be that optimistic.

Until the time when a person such as him, of such a high caliber, occupies an important part in cultural life with his art, literature, and poetry, and as long as we don't have films and documentaries on him, I can't say he is receiving the attention he deserves.

“Those who are not familiar with our spiritual state should not read our works,” warns Ibn Arabi

“Discriminate between your good words and bad words with the power of discernment, and then convey them to those who aspire; don't obstruct this mercy enveloping you, spread it to everyone.”

“Talking about someone, taking an interest in someone and reading someone are different things: these are all confused in Turkey.
One needs to have made painstaking efforts to be able to read and understand Ibn Arabi; this precondition should never be overlooked.”

Some people are trying to establish a "Sufism without Islam" by focusing only on the mystical sides of Ibn Arabi and Mevlana. What do you think about this?
If people read Ibn Arabi's books, they would not encounter such dangerous problems. However, if there is an aim for which people want to abuse Ibn Arabi's ideas as their tool, then the issue would become a question of morality, not an intellectual one.

I think that Ibn Arabi and Mevlana based their ideas on such sound foundations that no one will ever be able to 'convert' them to their own fallacies. When you take Ibn Arabi out of context and out of his environment, he would cease to be Ibn Arabi.
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Credit goes to the Sufi saints
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By Firoz Bakht Ahmed - RxPG NEWS - Westchester,CA,USA
Monday, January 29, 2007

Muharram has got Indianised over the years.

Quite spiritedly, fervently and emotionally like the Ramlila, Muharram in India - signifies the victory of virtue over evil. It commemorates the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain, the younger grandson of Prophet Mohammed. In India, it is revered by all communities, especially the Hindus in Varanasi, Lucknow, Allahabad, Amroha, Indore, Nagpur, Jaipur, Phagwara in Punjab, Bhopal and Kanpur.

Muharram is not a festival to be celebrated, rather it is to be observed with solemnity as a day of mourning.

The 61st year of the Hijri calendar - for the Arab world proved to be most unfortunate as Muawiah enthroned his tyrant son Yazid who - proving to be more depraved than his father - obliterated the Nizam-e-Shoora - and replaced with a tyrannical despotism.

When Yazid asked if he accepted his authority, Hussain said his subservience was only to Allah. At this Hussain was shot at by a volley of arrows by the Yezidi army. Even after Hussain died, Yazid's soldiers trampled over his mortal remains. This sacrifice is remembered everywhere in the world, but nowhere is it observed as in India for it has merged seamlessly into the Indian milieu.

Regarding the 'Indianisation' of Muharram and communal harmony on the occasion, Khwaja Hasan Sani Nizami, the sajjadanashin [spiritual successor of the saint and guardian at the holy place] of Dargah Nizamuddin, relates that Varanasi -the land of famous ghats [steps leading down to sacred waters] and Vedic saints- has a tradition of observing Muharram with many Hindu families fasting along with their Muslim brethren.

Varanasi's Shivala Mohalla boasts of the most artistic 'tazias' [replicas of Imam Hussain's tomb]. Tazia's ritual representation resembles the burning of evil effigies on the Hindu festival of Dussehra. Though identical in spirit, the tazia differs from the Dussehra in that it is buried while the effigies of Ravana, Meghnad and Kumbhkarna are burnt.

Italian artist Bruno Cabrini's etchings depict Muharram processions with tazias during the 18th and 19th centuries in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra by the Hindus.
He has recorded his astonishment: 'How come these Brahmins observe Muharram with such devotion and sincerity and devotion even though they are dedicated Hindus and do not permit slaughtering of any animal in the manner prescribed by Islam?'

Beautiful imambaras [congregation halls]were erected by the Hindu rulers of Vijayanagar during the 16th and 17th centuries. Even the Scindias of Gwalior and the Holkar Maharajas of Indore used to conduct the special majalis.

A lot of credit goes to the Sufi saints for making Muharram an occasion to demolish religion, caste and class barriers, thus symbolising the day as one of amnesty and humanity - resembling that of Dussehra.

Jamia Millia Islamia' vice chancellor Shahid Mahdi said that Muharram alums are revered by most Hindus like the Ramlila processions. Sufi saints delivered sanity messages to feudal lords who tried to divide communities along religion, caste and creed.

There had been an effort to create a rift between the two major sects of Muslims - Shias and Sunnis.

It is well known that the Karbala tragedy was an outcome of the feudalisation of Islamic concepts, an unfortunate procedure initiated after the Prophet's death and consolidated by Muawiah's nomination of son Yazid to the throne.

The Sufi saints, along with the Shia ulema, encouraged the mix of indigenous elements from the rich cultural heritage of the land with that of Muharram - both conveying the message of peaceful coexistence.
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Sunday, January 28, 2007

“Spirit of Fez” fights on several cultural fronts
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[From the French language press]:

La Fondation «Esprit de Fès» se bat sur plusieurs fronts, culturels bien entendu.
Quoi que le festival des musiques sacrées de Fès demeure son cheval de bataille, d' autres rendez-vous hauts en couleurs font partie des activités de cette entité créée pour dynamiser la culture dans la ville mythique.

Al Bayane - Casablanca,Maroc - Jeudi18 Janvier, 2007 - par S. Alaoui

The Foundation “Spirit of Fez” fights on several fronts, cultural of course. While the Festival of World Sacred Music in Fez remains its warhorse, many other activities spring from this entity created to dynamize the culture in the mythical city.

The Foundation “Spirit of Fez” held Monday [January the 15th] a conference in Casablanca to raise the veil on the activities that it intends to realize within year 2007.

This year' Sacred Music festival will have as theme "Blow of times, spirit of places" and will feature, among others, American artist Barbara Hendricks, the Sufi Iranian group Dastan d'Iran, and the enthralling Turkish flutist Kudsi Erguner.

As for the other activities of the Foundation, the list is long. It includes the Festival of Madhi and Samaa (10th edition, in September) and the festival of the Art of cooking (4th edition, 25th-28th October).
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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Middle Eastern Arts Festival in Bloomington, Indiana, U.S.A.
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Media Relations - Indiana University - Bloomington,IN,U.S.A.
Friday, January 26, 2007

This year's Middle Eastern Arts Festival showcasing culture and artistic traditions, again will feature a vivid array of music and dance from the region, as well as exhibits, lectures by artists and scholars, and foods from the various countries.

Most festival events, which runs from Feb. 1 to Feb. 10, require no admission fee and all are open to the public .

Mohamed Shahin, an internationally-known performer, instructor and choreographer of Egyptian and Oriental folk dances is one of several artists scheduled to participate. Also, Cornell University scholar Buzz Spector, enthnomusicologist Irene Markoff, and award-winning painter Najjar Abdul Musawwir will give presentations.

The festival is a result of a collaboration by several IU faculty members who focus on the region, community members and the IU Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.

An exhibit of books and manuscripts on Middle Eastern arts and culture also opens on Feb. 1 at the IU Fine Arts Library, 1133 E. Seventh St. A selection of artists' books from Spector, an artist and critical writer who also chairs the Department of Art at Cornell, will accompany this exhibition.

Iraqi music group Salaam will join Windfall Dancers, Bloomington's original contemporary dance ensemble, to kick off festival entertainment with Arabian Nights concerts, Feb. 2-3 and 9-10, in the auditorium of the John Waldron Arts Center, 122 S. Walnut St. The show will tell the age-old stories of Arabian Nights. Performances all four nights begin at 8 p.m.

Families will enjoy a special children's event Feb. 4 at the Monroe County Public Library, 303 East Kirkwood Ave. Swordsmen and stories from the Middle East will be the entertainment, along with Bloomington's Katya Faris and performer Shahin, who will present the dances of the Middle East.

Shahin studied with the famous El Kawmia Troup in Egypt and has been a dancer and choreographer for numerous television programs and movies. Highlights of his performances include the Tanoura, commonly known as Whirling Dervish for the spinning motion it emulates. The dance is a Sufi rite used to communicate with the Divine. The Sufis, who represent a spiritual offshoot of Islam, have performed the dance for centuries.

Sufi music and culture also are the focus of Markoff's appearance. From York University in Canada, she is a scholar of the musical theory, performance and professional baglama, or folk lute, specialists of Turkey. From 7-9 p.m., on Feb. 9, she will give a workshop, "The Challenges of Teaching Turkish Music in an Ensemble/Lecture Setting," at the Mathers Music of World Cultures, 416 N. Indiana Ave.

Markoff also will lecture on Sufi music and ritual in Turkey on Feb. 10 in the Faculty Room of the University Club, located in the Indiana Memorial Union, 900 E. Seventh St.

Performance will be integrated into the presentation, which will be from 4 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Her visit is sponsored by the American Turkish Society. Of Bulgarian heritage, Markoff directs York University's Balkan Ensemble. She has written and published various research about Bulgarian and Turkish traditional and popular music, and mystical Islam in Turkey.

[For the complete program, click on the title of this article,
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Friday, January 26, 2007

5th Patiala Heritage Festival from Feb 16 to Feb 24
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Punjab Newsline Network - Mohali-Chandigarh,Punjab,India
Thursday, January 25, 2007

PATIALA: Rakesh Kumar Verma, Deputy Commissioner-cum-Secretary of the Patiala Heritage Society disclosed here today that the 5th Patiala Heritage Festival will take place at Patiala from February the 16th to February the 24th in collaboration with INTACT at Quila Mubarak, Old Moti Bagh Palace and Sheesh Mahal.

The festival will comprise a series of performance's by some of India's finest exponents of classical music, dance and theatre including vocalist featuring performance by Asad Ali Khan (Rudra Been), Fahimudin Khan Dagar (Dhrupad), Pt. Brij Narain (Sarod),), Manjari Chaturvedi (Sufi-Kathak), Pt. Laxman Krishna Rao Pandit Devotional Music and others.

The festival will include Sufi Quawali by Sher Miandad and Jawed & Babar Niazi of Kapurthala Gharana (both from Pakistan).

A Kavi Durbar, Dog Show and seminar on Punjab art would be held.
Art & handicraft traditional exhibition will be a feature of the festival.
A fashion show featuring one of world's most famous designers J.J. Wlaya will be held during the festival.

Like every year the festival will also coincide with the 15 day-long Craft Mela which will take place from February the 17th to March the 3rd.
The Craft Mela will be held in the precincts of historic Sheesh Mahal.
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Sufism: the guiding force for millions of people
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Staff Report - Daily Times - Lahore,Pakistan
Thursday, January 25, 2007

LAHORE: Amatullah Armstrong Chishti, who has written six books on sufism, said on Thursday that sufism is the guiding force for millions of people across the globe. Its essence, she said, is gentleness and tolerance.

Chishti was addressing a discourse arranged at the Lahore College for Women University (LCWU) by the Department of English on Thursday. Chishti said sufism was an immense concept. She said sufism and mysticism were purely Islamic concepts.

She said sufism could be traced back to the 12th century. She said Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was the first to propagate a perfect message of love, acceptance and open-mindedness, the central concepts of sufism.

Chishti said that with the passage of time, four main orders of sufism had emerged: Chishti, Qadri, Naqshbandi and Suhrawardi.

Education Minister Mian Imran Masood, the chief guest, praised Chishti’s efforts, particularly coming to Pakistan to spread the message of love. He said it was not easy to find any equal in the world to sufi poets Hafiz, Rumi and Ibn-e-Arabi. He added that the works of Bulleh Shah and Waris Shah were unmatched. He highlighted the significance of qawali, saying that it enriched the souls of believers and raised them to a realm of celestial serenity.

Chishti said that she found Punjab and Sindh most rich in sufi culture.
She said her journey towards Islam and then sufism was long and hard.

Chishti said that many years ago, when she was riding bicycles with her husband from Paris to North Africa, she observed several signs, which she believed were from God, telling her that she had a greater purpose in life.

She said that during her trip, she saw Muslims of all colours and races who would experience a sense of serenity while saying their prayers. This made her curious about this feeling. After her trip, she visited several libraries and spent thousands of hours researching various religions being practiced around the world, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. She said studying Islam was the last thing on her mind because of the propaganda against it, but as she went deeper into her research, she realised that this was the true path for her.

She said Islam made her feel calm and closer to her Maker then ever before.

She said if anyone wanted his or her soul polished and to know its depth, the person should walk the path of sufis, which takes one to a level closer to God.

LCWU vice chancellor, Dr Bushra Mateen, presented souvenirs and bouquets to the two guests. She said sufis had made great efforts to spread Islam in the subcontinent.
See A.A. Chishti's biography and a summary of her books at: http://www.amatullah.zikr.org/
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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Return to the life of a good man
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[From the French language press]:
C’est vendredi 12 janvier 2007, jour de reccueillement et de prières pour les musulmans du monde entier que Thierno Mountaga Tall, khalife de la famille omarienne a été rappelé à Dieu dans sa 92 ème année.

Nettali.com - Dakar,Senegal - 13 Janvier, 2007

It was on Friday (January 12, 2007), a day of absorption and prayers for the Moslems of the whole world that Thierno Mountaga Tall, khalif of the Omarian family, was recalled to God in his 92nd year.

The disappearance of this spiritual guide, reference in the Tijani Brotherhood and beyond, plunges all the Moslems of Senegal in a deep sorrow.

The house of Thierno Mountaga bathed in a studious environment. Simply dressed and carrying broad glasses hiding a strong myopia, Thierno Mountaga left very seldom the Coran to which it referred unceasingly.

In spite of his close links with president Senghor, Thierno Mountaga always endeavoured not to give an opinion in the elections and the political life generally. However, he engaged intensively at the time of the fatal events Senegalo-Mauritanians of 1989 strongly standing by the victims of this conflict.

Available for faithfuls and parents often coming to request his intermediation, he intervened for the release of Abdourahim Agne, Jean Paul Diaz, and more recently in the case of Bara Tall.

Thierno Mountaga is the author of a book of two volumes on his grandfather El Hadji Omar Tall. The objective to build a large mosque in the honor of its grandfather was carried out.

Among the children of Thierno Mountaga Tall, the most known is Madani Tall.
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Boussemghoune: from Sufism to Tourism
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[From the French language press]:
Cité algerienne d’origine berbère, dont sa composante parle toujours le Tamazight, Boussemghoune est prédisposée à devenir un pôle touristique indéniable.
La Nouvelle République - 11 Janvier 1007 -Par C.P.

An algerian village of Berber origin, where Tamazight [an Afro-Asiatic language and a member of the Berber group] is spoken, Boussemghoune is developing into a promising tourist pole. By the beauty of its landscape, by the oasis with palms plantations and orchards of pomegranates, by the limpid and fresh running water, this "ksar" [group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls] has been from time immemorial a caravanserai, i.e. a "place impossible to circumvent".

Boussemghoune, located 165 Km [102.5 miles] south of El Bayadh is where Sufi saint Mohamed Tidjani (born in Ain Madhi, Laghouat) went for refuge and meditation, and eventually established there, enchanting the people through his presence.
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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A strong message of peaceful co-existence
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Bureau report - The Hindu - Chennai,India
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Historical shrines of Charar-e Sharief and Hemis Monastery, carrying a strong message of peaceful co-existence of different faiths, would be the focus of Jammu and Kashmir tableau at the Republic Day [26th of January] parade in Delhi this year.

The float depicting an ensemble of a Sufi shrine of Kashmir valley, a monastery of Ladakh and a Temple from Jammu region, showcases the theme of co-existence of faiths, communal harmony and secularism.

"It would not be the tableau of Jammu and Kashmir but the real J-K at the show with its strongest institution of co-existence of faiths at Delhi's R-Day parade," Secretary, Jammu and Kashmir Cultural Academy, Dr Rafeeq Masoodi told PTI here.

He said, the float will represent the religious milestones of the State in three different sections. While the front view of the tableau depicts famous Sufi shrine of Charar-e-Sharief, the trailer section showcases Hemis monastery of Ladakh and the ancient Kali Temple, built by Dogra kings in Jammu.

"This is the thirteenth tableau of Jammu and Kashmir in the series that will be displayed at the Republic Day," Masoodi said.
Chief Minister Gulam Nabi Azad is likely to visit the State float in the National Capital, he added.
In all, 45 artists would be participating in the parade, offering the audience a spectacular delight of traditional dance and music from Jammu and Kashmir, Masoodi said.

The State has got the Best Tableau award thrice in the past.
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"Master of the Jinn" now available also as Ebook
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SNSWR - Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Sufi News republishes this review of the Sufi novel "Master of the Jinn" with a new offer (below) from the Author:

Book review by Ali Eteraz - altmuslim.com - March 28, 2006
Call him Ishaq. That is the name of the narrator in Irving Karchmar's debut Sufi novel, "Master of the Jinn," which has already been translated into twelve languages.

The novel heralds the arrival of a fresh literary voice to Islam and America. It also signals the revival of Sufism, such that in addition to associating Sufism with the long-dead such as Rumi and Hafiz, we may now find cogent expositors of the ways of the heart in our midst today.

The premise of the book is astounding. A Sufi master in Jerusalem, to whom Ishaq is an apprentice, is paid a visit by an Israeli archaeologist, his daughter, and an Israeli intelligence officer who has been having something akin to paranormal visions. The officer, Captain Simach, is convinced that his visions are, in fact, actual events. He seems to be suggesting that in a far flung mission to the Sahara, he has come across the ring of the Jewish Prophet-King, Solomon.

The archaeologist, Dr. Freeman, is unable to solve the matter using his scientific methods, and brings it before his friend, the Sufi Master.

The Master confirms that the ring is real; that it is imbued with immense mystical powers; and that it must be salvaged. He asks the three Israelis, accompanied by three of his apprentices, to go after the ring, and in the quest they are to be led by a beggar, who is as mysterious as Khizr, and equally cryptic.

Prior to their departure, the Master reveals that Solomon's ring was given to him by God, to command the spirits of smokeless fire, the Jinn. This revelation casts a certain fright over the group.

As the chosen go to the desert, visions, dreams and painful memories enter their heart. They become humanized and vulnerable. In addition, they suffer unearthly storms, nights that don't end, and temporal shifts. In the end they find themselves in a lost city and there the mystery of Solomon's ring begins to be revealed to them, setting up a resolution of this magical-mythical-Islamic-Jewish mystery of such subtlety that it left me smiling.

It is plausible to suggest that Karchmar has actually managed to lay before us what all others have simply suggested: the intertwined threads of theology and faith that link Judaism and Islam.

For the mystics and the metaphysicians, this story is, through and through, a meditation on Love, the mercy of God, and spiritual discipline. The Sufi Master speaks on matters of the soul with the authority that Zorba the Greek reserved for matters of lust.

The journey can be read allegorically, and many secrets meanings may be unearthed in later reads. Occasionally Karchmar gives a hint of the matter being touched upon by dropping quotes from the poetry of innumerable Sufi poets. He also brings in quotations from Plato and the Psalms of David. These quotes were a favorite part of the experience.
(...)

As an experiment, author Irving Karchmar is now offering the Sufi novel, Master of the Jinn, to anyone who wants one as an EBOOK. It will be emailed in pdf form to your homecomputer. This is the same book as the paperback, with all the interior illustrations intact, taken from the original file.

Click here to read the full offer:
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His mission will live
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By Peerzada Irfan Ali Shah - Greater Kashmir - Srinigar,India
Monday, January 22, 2007

Peer Sahab is no more but he will live through his ideals in the hearts of those who love him.

Death is the only reality of life. As Tennyson, a renowned poet [Lord Alfred T. 1809-92] has rightly mentioned:

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair,
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more

The entire valley came under a big shock when the death of a great visionary Peerzada Mehraj-ud-din Shah, spread like wildfire. Peer Sahib; as he was popularly known among the intellectual, political and social circles of Kashmir; was born on 29th July, 1929 at Batamaloo (in the heart of the capital city) in a well-to-do family.

It was a family of scholars and luminaries which has gifted Kashmir great intellectual giants like Peer Ghyas-ud-din Shah (Peer Sahibs elder brother), who besides being an erudite scholar-writer, was also the Cabinet Minister in Jammu and Kashmir Government.

The eldest brother and head of the family was Peer Abdul Ahad Shah, who was an accomplished politician, writer and orator of repute.

History of Kashmir bears glaring testimony to this vivid fact that from time to time great saints and scholars have risen on the spiritual and intellectual arena of the valley and whose ideals and teachings will always serve as a beacon light for the followers of truth and universal brotherhood. Peer Sahib was one such saint-philosopher who was profoundly concerned with the purpose of man’s creation, an organizer of immense capacity and a reformer of deep human motivation.

Peer Sahib was surely among messengers of truth and hope for entire Kashmir. He, by his pious living and rational attitude towards life, inspired thousands of people to strive for truth and to move on the straight and righteous path (Seerat-ul-Mustaqeem).

According to Sir Lawrence, Kashmiri Saints’ dictum was “To be in the world but not of it, free from ambition, greed... that is the saints’ ideal” and Peer Sahib’s life bears ample testimony to this truth. He would sit with the lowly and downtrodden. He received everyone with a broad smile. He never felt angry. He had the spiritual virtues of toleration and forgiveness to his credit. He was a writer who tirelessly worked for the regeneration of Kashmiri society because he had a firm belief that Kashmir’s rich spiritual heritage would be the greatest gift to the world culture and civilization.

I really feel proud to write here that this great illustrious son of Kashmir was my grandfather whom I, out of reverence and love, called “Aba Jaan”. He was and will always be an inspiration for me.

In fact some months before his death he helped and inspired me a lot in writing the draft of my first book on Kashmiri sufism namely “Bat-Mol”—Vegetarian Saint of Kashmir which by the grace of Almighty Allah is nearing completion and will be released very shortly.

But alas! Peer Sahib himself is no more to see his dreams coming true.

It is my strong belief Peer Sahib has not died, he lives in his intellectual and scholarly works. He lives in his ideals and principles which are serving as beacon light in my life. I would like to conclude my write-up with the words of the great poet-philosopher, Dr. Allama Iqbal (RA):

Hazaroon Saal Nargis Apni Benoori Pe Rotj Hai
Badi Mushkil Say Hota Hai Chaman May Deedwar Paida

May the soul of Peer Sahib rest in peace Ameen!
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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Explaining social schizophrenia
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By Dr Ayesha Siddiqa - Daily Times - Lahore,Pakistan
Monday, January 22, 2007

A district government study, kept confidential, conceded the increase in the number of madrassahs and linked them with rise in sectarianism and violence in the district.
The report clearly points to the sources of funding for each madrassah and its ideological orientationIn trying to explain my opinion on the social schizophrenia of the Bahawalpuri society, Ejaz Haider has mentioned the increase in the Deobandi influence in the Southern district.

He is right. The area has traditionally been a Barelvi stronghold. But the rise of the Deobandi school has resulted in no small measure to the rise of the jihadi who is also, for the most part, sectarian. I do not have the expertise to comment on the differences and nuances of the two creeds but, given the feedback on the earlier article, I find it important to explain what seems to have happened to Bahawalpur, once known for its Sufi tradition, its poets and its writers.

Much before the age of ‘enlightened moderation’, Bahawalpur glowed due to its tradition of tolerance and its rich cultural heritage.

A certain level of conservatism notwithstanding the society offered generous space to great men and women of letters. The great Sufi poet Bulleh Shah hailed from Uch Gilaniyan in Bahawalpur from where his family later shifted to Multan and then to a place near Kasur. Bahawalpur being the seat of power of the princely state also contributed to Persian literature.

After 1947, the focus shifted to Urdu literature and the district can boast great names such as Khalid Akhter, Zahoor Azar and Jamila Hashmi.The district has also produced great names in the performing arts (Uzma Gillani and forgotten names such as Tahira Khan who had, during the 1960s earned the title of ‘Dukhter-e-Bahawalpur’ (daughter of Bahawalpur) and was rated by the connoisseurs of theatre and film as an actress comparable with Elizabeth Taylor).

The Sufi culture gave to Bahawalpuri society a certain tolerance and equanimity. We were not known for passionate reaction or outrage. Resultantly, crimes such as murder or honour killing were largely unheard of.

A Bahawalpuri finds it difficult to equate that culture with the trend in the past decade-and-half of Southern Punjab producing extremists.While Riaz Basra and Masood Azhar are better known, the list is long.

Bahawalpur also became known for sectarian tension, a development unheard of even during the 1960s and the 1970s. Today, there are about 15,000 trained jihadis in the Bahawalpur division which comprises the three districts of Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar and Rahim Yar Khan. It is not clear as to how many of these are still active, particularly after 2003-2004.

This is the dateline for some apparent shift in Islamabad’s policy towards the militancy after which quite a few militants got absorbed in other professions and settled back in their villages. Surely, this is no different from other parts of Punjab. But it becomes more surprising in the context of the area’s cultural history; plus, Southern Punjab is culturally different from Northern and Central Punjab.

The involvement of Bahawalpur in the business of Jihad is linked to the overall transformation of state policy during the 1980s when General Zia-ul Haq’s regime encouraged militancy and a puritanical form of religion in support of its larger military plan to fight a war in Afghanistan and on other fronts, mostly domestic. This period also saw the rise in the number of seminaries in Bahawalpur.

In fact, a district government study, kept confidential, conceded the increase in the number of madrassahs and linked them with rise in sectarianism and violence in the district.

The report clearly points to the sources of funding for each madrassah and its ideological orientation. The pattern for the report was later copied to study the issue all over the Punjab province. The issue was not the presence of madrassahs but the deliberate proliferation of these schools and their dominance by puritanical ideologues.

Traditionally, religious seminaries were part of the Sufi shrines where the students were not only instructed in religious norms and law but also Persian. Therefore, the older and more traditional madrassahs were also the repositories of precious manuscripts in Arabic and Persian.

Incidentally, Islamabad manipulated the existing madrassah tradition in Bahawalpur to plant and encourage a more puritanical brand of religion. Such deliberate grafting significantly contributed to changing the overall social environment resulting in not only greater Puritanism but also ideological fragmentation.

The proliferation of different sects and religious schools of thought, which are amply represented through their independent mosques and madrassah, denotes the growing social divide. It is almost comical to see the different mosques observing their independent times for azaan (prayer call) based on their interpretation of religion.

Incidentally, the religious divide is one of the many divisions. Other fault-lines, however, do not form part of the current discussion.

The state’s encouragement of puritanical religion is what I call the exogenous factor. The implicit and explicit support to outfits such as Jaish or the entire jihad industry created a peculiar relationship between the jihadis and the larger society based on the rising power of the latter.

A lot of people drifted towards the puritanical agenda to benefit from the windfall of the power and influence of the militants who had greater access to financial and other material resources. These organisations’ comfortable access to weapons also attracted young men who wanted to renegotiate their individual position within the larger society.

Therefore, the exogenous factor dovetailed into the endogenous factor or the social impetus to adopt puritanical religious ideology. I relate the endogenous factor to the feudal nature of the socio-political system which is inherently incapable of allowing a renegotiation of power relationships within the society.

It is interesting to watch the movement of capital in Southern Punjab. While the power of the traditional feudal, especially the large landowners, has increased due to their adoption of other means of capital generation and power accumulation, the financial capacity of mid-ranking landowners seems to have changed. The large landowners have gone into industrialisation or joined the bureaucracy to enhance their power. The financial prowess of the mid-ranking landowners (landholding of 50-500 acres) is now challenged due to the emergence of the rural indigenous bourgeoisie or capitalist class who can claim greater financial worth but minimal political power.
These belong mostly to the trader-merchant class which has also built land assets to match the traditional landed-feudal.

However, the accumulation of land did not change the power-political relationship. Power continues to remain in the hands of the traditional landed-feudal class.

In this social background, the puritanical ideology represented a tool for renegotiating power relationship, especially where the centre of power could not be moved away from families who were the pirs of the area. Considering the public’s association with or reverence for the pirs and their families, it was almost impossible for the new capital to grab power unless they could create the capacity to dismantle or challenge the traditional notions of faith and religion.

The new capital or the trader-merchant class in Bahawalpur is involved in funding Deobandi and Wahhabi madrassahs. In fact, even in smaller villages mosques are no longer community affairs but have the patronage of a group or family of trader-merchants. The mosque imam is paid and appointed by the financiers of the mosque and encouraged to propagate a particular brand of Islam which often brings them in direct confrontation with other mosques.

The impact of such a development has multi-layered consequences but the three most significant are: (a) the rift among different religious schools of thought, (b) a shift away from the Sufi tradition to Wahhabism, and (c) a silent confrontation between the old and the new powerhouses represented by the multiple religious ideologies and their related mosques.

Presently, the new capital and their religious partners have not mustered sufficient critical mass to challenge the traditional centres of power which might happen at some future time and date. Meanwhile, the internal tension to shift the centre of power would result in greater friction and fragmentation. That could change the entire character of the Bahawalpuri society.

The writer is an Islamabad-based independent defence analyst and author of the forthcoming book, Military Inc, Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy.
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Monday, January 22, 2007

Tajikistan & Kashmir part 1: Saints and Shrines
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By Prof. Mushtaq Ahmad Kaw - Greater Kashmir - Srinigar, India
Monday, January 22, 2007

Based on the empirical study, I venture to record some observations about my recent visit to Tajikistan regarding a research project. Geographically speaking, the two [Tajikistan and Indian Kashmir] have been in close proximity with each other. Only the Pamir Mountains bisected them by a mere distance of 100 kilometres [62 miles] or so.

Notwithstanding this, the two were intimately connected through Gilgit-Wakhan Corridor: thanks to the factors of unprecedented political integration, dynamism of Silk Route and the heydays of Buddhism, Islam and Sufism.

Being profound enough, neither political convulsions and dynastic upheavals nor geographical hazards could ever infringe them. The most plausible reason, interalia, was that these bilateral relations characterized the lifeline of two peoples which in sequence nurtured and kept alive quite a free movement of men, material and ideas across the borders.

No wonder, therefore, to notice a great deal of religio-spiritual affinity between Tajiks and Kashmiris from this and other side of the Pamirs into Badakhshan and Tajikistan.

As I had read and heard about Tajikistan so exactly I found it during my one and a half months stay. A very beautiful land mass situated in the lap of the Pamir Mountains. Its people of the Iranian descent, quite hospitable and gentle, resemble Kashmiris much more than any other peoples of the Central Asia. As a result, both share many things together in several fields. One of them is indeed religio-cultural and spiritual domain.

(...)

They [the Tajiks] believe in power of intercession and advocacy for multitude of mundane and spiritual ends; hence, they respect saints and their mausoleums. As a result, the country is dotted with innumerable number of shrines dedicated to the holy and the great men of the country including martyrs, Sufis, saints and the like.

A mausoleum just outside the Hissar Fort, 25 kilometres from the capital city of Dushanbe, is dedicated to one thousand Arabs who, by tradition, are reported to have sacrificed their lives for the sake of Islam in and around the 8th century.
This renovated dome-shaped mausoleum, is regularly thronged by the Muslim devotees to pay respects to the departed souls as a means to achieve their worldly and other ends.

One comes across similar other mud and brick-made shrines dating around 12th-16th centuries in Tajikistan. These include the shrines devoted to the holy man like Zainulabidin at Khotlan/Koolab and Makhdoom-i Azam at Hissar.

Popular faith in holy shrines is so preponderant that people even esteem the places which, by tradition, are believed to have been visited by champions of Islam in Tajikistan. Two such sites dedicated to Khalifa Hazrat Ali and Khalid Bin Walid at Hissar, Dushanbe, offer the best example.

As a matter of fact, all the three major oblasts of Badakhshan, Koolab and Soghd are dotted with numerous shrines, some abandoned for want of care and others well maintained so as to soothe the devotees. However, one of the most popular shrines is that of Sayyid Ali Hamadani at Koolab in southern Tajikistan bordering Afghanistan.

Being buried at Koolab, the great saint Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani is revered to an appreciable extent in whole Tajikistan. Quite exactly, after the most devastating Civil War, the Tajik government with the support of the Irani government renovated the shrine on the most modern lines.

Besides containing an impressive façade, the present structure features several chambers bearing separate domes over each of them. While the central chamber houses the grave of Mir Sayyid Ali, the adjacent chambers possesses the graves of his wife, son Mir Muhammad Hamadani, and the children.
The cloistered courtyard of the shrine is marked with hanging wooden and metal tablets conveying Sayyid Ali’s message about statehood and the like.

During the process of resuscitating its rich past and culture, the present government has accorded the Sayyid the status of a national saint. Accordingly, it dedicated a remarkable museum to his name just in front of his shrine.

The museum contains, inter alia, abundant literature on Sayyid Ali’s life, performance and philosophy in the form of books and manuscripts published from different parts of the region including India, Pakistan, Iran etc.

Given the tremendous state patronage and the strong popular faith, large gatherings of devotees pay obeisance at the shrine. Indeed, the saint is reverential for them. So is the breath-taking view of the shrine and its surroundings: beautiful gardens, flowers, fruit and chinar trees and resting places, really a scintillating and a panoramic view.

Though one does not find any traces of the original shrine at the site, yet some of its architectural elements have been meticulously reflected in the newly designed tomb of Sayyid Ali—the well-looking domes, semi-arched gates, stone windows and carved wooden doors and other reminiscences of medieval architecture.

The grave is in itself wrapped with a Jaama or a green piece of cloth marvelled with the Qur’anic verses: all these features exactly symbolize the shrine culture of medieval Kashmir.

--To be concluded
(The author is Director Centre for Central Asian Studies)
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The Northern Mosaic: Peoples and Faiths of North Iraq
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AINA Assyrian International News Agency - Modesto,CA,USA
Saturday, January 20, 2007

Although the US appears to be initially facing somewhat greater challenges from various Shi`ite groups in southern Iraq (See the Lead Story) [go to AINA website, link above], the complexity of peoples in northern Iraq remains a long-term challenge that could prove extremely volatile, particularly given the longstanding ambitions of the Kurds and the possibility of Turkish intervention.
In Part 1 of this Dossier, we examined the ethnic groups of northern Iraq -- Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and smaller groups -- and noted that these sometimes overlapped with religious community. Part 2 looks more closely at the religious mosaic in northern Iraq, and at the potential for outside intervention.

As noted in Part 1, most of Iraq's Kurds are Sunnis (though a few are Shi`ite); yet they come from a different legal school (madhhab) of Sunnism than do Iraq's Sunni Arabs, since the Kurds are Shaf`i and most Iraqi Arabs who are Sunni belong to the Hanafi school. But Kurdish Muslim identity is more closely linked to Sufi mystical orders than to orthodox legal schools, and some of these Sufi mystical orders may include members who are not Muslims at all but members of one of the syncretistic sects of northern Iraq. For like many mountain regions of the Middle East, northern Iraq is one of those areas where small, almost fossilized communities continue to exist, with their roots veiled deep in history and their beliefs often secret to protect them from persecution by the majority.

There is some overlap, and there is considerable room for argument about how to categorize the religious groups of northern Iraq. Almost no one has ever considered the Yazidis, for example, to be Muslims, since they have a very distinct set of religious beliefs and since many Muslims denounce them as "devil-worshippers"; yet other small groups, such as the `Ali-Ilahis, have very similar beliefs to the Yazidis but are sometimes classed as extremely heterodox Muslims.

This Dossier does not seek to get into such debates about classification, but the very fact that sometimes a given group can be considered one thing and other times another may have something to do with the confusion about how many belong to each group. Are there 100,000 Yazidis? That would seem to be on the high end of most estimates, but some Yazidi authors have claimed they number 800,000, though not entirely in Iraq. Numbers will not be cited very frequently in this Dossier precisely because it is so hard to come up with reliable statistics.

Muslim Groups for northern Iraq, most mainstream Muslims (leaving out some of the small syncretist groups) are Sunnis, though there are some Shi`ites, either Kurds (particularly along the Iranian border), or Arabs resettled from southern Iraq as part of the Arabization program. As noted, Sunni Arabs and Sunni Kurds belong to difference legal schools of Sunnism.

But among the Kurds in particular, the fact that one is a Sunni of the Shaf`i legal school is usually of importance only to religious scholars. Far more important are the traditional identification of tribal groups with one of the major Sufi mystical orders.

Sufism is not a sect -- there are Sunni Sufis and Shi`ite Sufis -- but an approach to religious practice and devotion, often associated with membership in a particular "order" (tariqa) following certain specific ceremonial practices and faithful to the teachings and rituals of a (sometimes hereditary) chain of sheikhs. In a few areas of the Islamic world, Sufism and specific Sufi orders have had profound impact; among these areas are Central Asia and the Caucasus, plus Kurdistan. Often, in all these areas, the sheikh of a Sufi order was also the military leader of tribes which might resist the power of the central government. We are not speaking of remote medieval events here: the Barzanis who have led the Kurdistan Democratic Party in the past century are hereditary sheikhs of the Naqshbandi order.

There are Sufi orders among the Shi`ite Kurds as well as the Sunnis, and the Nurbakhshi order is one of the most influential there. But among Sunni Kurds, the two major orders are the Qadiri and the Naqshbandi. The Qadiri take their name from their founder, the 12th century sheikh `Abd al-Qadir al-Gailani (Gilani, Khaylani). The other order, the Naqshbandi, was founded at Bukhara in Central Asia in the 14th Century by Baha' al-Din Naqshband, and introduced into Kurdistan more recently, really taking hold only in the early 19th century under the influence of a particularly charismatic leader.

The two orders tend to divide geographically: to the northern and western parts of Iraqi Kurdistan one finds mostly Naqshbandis; to the east and south, Qadiris. These divisions also follow tribal lines. As already noted, the Barzani family, leaders of the KDP, are hereditary Sufi masters as well as political leaders. The Talabani tribe of Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), are Qadiris, though the Talabani leadership of the PUK, unlike the Barzanis in the KDP, is not itself from a line of Sufi sheikhs.

It needs to be emphasized that the real distinctions here are not doctrinal, but involve religious practices and a sense of belonging to a larger organization; the practices may include dancing and chanting, meditation, and the like, with some rituals characteristic of the particular order. The fundamental structure of a Sufi order, in which the murid or follower is loyal to a sheikh or master, fits neatly into a basically tribal society, and has often been the reason that Sufi masters could become powerful rebel chieftains, since they have a following of loyalists already in place. If those loyalists also happen to belong to the same tribe, the bonds of loyalty are reinforced.
Thus the Barzanis -- Ahmad, Mustafa, and now Mas`ud have been both religious and political/military leaders of their region.

Thus, too, the longstanding split between the KDP and the PUK has multiple levels of identity: it is a split between rival political organizations, and between the personalities of Mas`ud Barzani and Jalal Talabani; but it also reflects the division between Naqshbandi and Qadiri, tribal divisions, and even dialect areas of Kurdish.
(...)
This two-part Dossier has not by any means exhausted the complexities of northern Iraq. There are few real experts (one would need, at a minimum, a knowledge of both Arabic and Kurdish, while Turkish and even Aramaic would help). But the new occupying power may be wishing very soon that it could find a few.
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Designer Rohit Bal takes the Sufi flight!
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By Mallvika Nanda - Hindustan Times - New Delhi,Delhi,India
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Now we know why fashion designer Rohit Bal was growing his hair. We are just kidding! That was just his look for the season. But he has more designs than you have seen yet! Yes, it is the Sufi revolution that is capturing souls of a different kind. Delhi’s very own Sufi singer Zila Khan has released her ode to the great poet Hazrat Amir Khusrau.

And lending his name and panache to the song’s video is none other than the flamboyant fashion guru, Rohit ‘Gudda’ Bal.

Daughter of the illustrious sitar maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan, Zila’s album, Sarmasti has a range of Sufi favourites like Chap Tilak, Abr-Mi-Bara and Man Kunto Maula.
Sound sojourn:
Gudda is completely at ease in the video, playing a character that’s lost in the world of spirituality.

“It was a beautiful experience working with Gudda, he was totally in the flow and danced like a true Sufi. He’s a celebrity but also a friend. One day, I asked him if he would want to do this and he agreed!” says Zila, adding, “I want people to understand the real thing and who better to start with than Khusrau!”

Designed to act:
Gudda is excited about his music video debut. So was this why he was seen sporting untamed locks?
“No,” he laughs. “That was incidental but I really did enjoy doing the video. I keep on receiving offers to act in movies and I’m not opposed to the idea but I’ll do so if something interesting comes along,” says the man, an avid music lover.

Directed by Delhi-based Rohit Suri the video was partly shot at the Hazrat Nizamuddin dargah.

After HT City’s sneak peek into the video, Gudda reveals, “There is a sense of incomparable vibrancy in the video, and seeing the splendid Sufi qawalls in action was absolutely wonderful.”
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Mevlana's Divan-i Kebir among best-sellers in USA
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The Anatolian Times - Ankara,Turkey
Saturday, January 20, 2007
KONYA - Americans show great interest in Divan-i Kebir of Jalal ad-Din Rumi (also known as Mevlana).

In an exclusive interview with the A.A, Associate Prof. Dr. Nuri Simsekler, director of Selcuk University Mevlana Research & Practice Center, said on Friday that the Divan-i Kebir was one of the most important works of Mevlana in which he used the concepts of love and affection more than any other of his works.

"Prominent U.S. poet Coleman Barks compiled some poems from Rumi`s Divan-i Kebir in a book titled `The Essential Rumi`. The book is among the best-sellers in the United States," he said.

13th century Persian poet, jurist, and theologian Jalal ad-Din Rumi, devoted himself to the pursuit of Sufi mysticism, in which he was justly regarded as the supreme master. He was the spiritual founder of the Mevlevi order of whirling dervishes.

One of his most important works is the Mathnawi-i Manawi (Mesnevi). This comprises about thirty thousand couplets in six books, a vast compendium of Sufi lore and doctrine, interspersed with fables and anecdotes. It is especially remarkable for its insight into the laws of physics and psychology.

Rumi`s other major works are the Diwan-e Shams-e Tabriz (The Works of Shams of Tabriz - named in honor of Rumi`s great friend and inspiration), comprising some 40,000 verses, and the Fihi Ma Fih (In It What`s in It) which is composed of Rumi`s speeches on different subjects.
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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Film Provides a Glimpse of Islamic Art
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By Sayed Zafar Hashemi - Scripps Howard Foundation Wire - 1090 Vermont Ave. N.W. - Suite 1000 Washington, D.C. 20005 /
Republished in Kansas City infoZine - Kansas City,MO,USA
Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Brooking Institutions hosted Wednesday's screening of "Islamic Art Glories," the three-part television program Ahmed made for Britain's Channel 5, which aired it in the fall.

Ahmed is the chair of Islamic Studies at American University here and a non-resident senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He is a former Pakistani high commissioner to the United Kingdom.

The hour-long documentary displays Islamic art and history, mainly focusing on the significance of the Islamic world. It also gathers art and art devotees using architecture, history and the beauties of Islamic art with a goal of reducing the gap between the Islamic world and the non-Islamic world.

"For Muslims like me, Islam means more than a religion," Ahmed says at the start of the film.

Islamic architecture has encompassed a wide range of both secular and religious styles from the foundation of Islam to the present day. The film shows the principle Islamic architectural types: the mosque, the tomb, the palace and the fort. From these four types, the vocabulary of Islamic architecture is derived and used for buildings of lesser importance such as public baths, fountains and domestic architecture, which are all shown in Ahmed's documentary.

Ahmed took the opportunity at the screening to explain his vision for Islam. He repeated some of the facts from his personal Web page that he said the non-Islamic world needs to know:

about 1.3 billion Muslim live in 57 countries, one of which has a nuclear bomb. One-third of the world's Muslims live in non-Muslim countries, with about 25 million in the West, including 7 million in the United States. And finally, he noted that Muslim nations are indispensable in American foreign policy.

The documentary was filmed in the historic cities of Istanbul, Turkey; Damascus, Syria, and Cairo, Egypt. It examines achievements from the earliest Islamic art and delves into Islam's respect for knowledge and the more spiritual Islamic tradition of Sufism.

The final part of the program deals with the last great Islamic dynasty, the Ottomans, and their great capital at Istanbul.

This episode also looks at calligraphy, the Islamic art-form that grew out of the careful copying of the word of God.

Following the film, there was a panel discussion.

Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Mahmud Ali Durani said this is the proper time for the film because of the sensitive incidents happening around the world. He called Islam the religion of humanity and harmony, which asks for unity, love for mankind and acceptance of beliefs and other prophets.

Cynthia P. Schneider, a former U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, a professor at Georgetown University and a non-resident senior fellow of foreign policy at Brookings, said the gathering was tremendous opportunity for Islamic scholars and scholars of other religions to talk about art, Islam and religion in general.

The series was a hit in the UK, Ahmed said he and his team hope it will be aired globally.

Original source: http://www.shfwire.com/story/film-provides-a-glimpse-of-islamic-art

See also:
http://sufinews.blogspot.com/search?q=Islamic+Art+Glories
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Strenghtening Inclusiveness
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By Dr. Chandra Muzaffar - JUST, International Movement for a Just World - Selangor,Malaysia
Just/The Brunei Times - Bandar,Brunei Darussalam
Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Summary of the Keynote Speech by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, President, International Movement for a Just World (JUST), Malaysia at the 2007 Regional Outlook Forum organized by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) at the Shangri-La Hotel Singapore on 4th January 2007.
1) Religious extremism is the violation of the balance or equilibrium that is embodied in the religion itself. It is a transgression of the limits set by the religion in the conduct of human affairs. Thus, while it is legitimate in Islam to use force as a last resort in resisting occupation, aggression and oppression, it is a transgression of the limits imposed by the religion in the struggle for justice if one deliberately targets non-combatants or civilians. Similarly, while Islam cherishes modesty as a virtue among men and women, cloistering a woman within the confines of the home, denying her education and the right to work, would be a violation of the balance that the religion seeks in human life.


2) Acts of religious extremism are not alien to modern Southeast Asia. However, most of the time religious extremism is not linked to religious doctrine or practice as such. Its primary causes more often than not can be traced to socio-historical, socio-political or socio-economic factors.

The domestic causes of recent manifestations of religious extremism would be as follows:-

a) The breakdown of law and order and the ensuing political turmoil and economic chaos which sometimes prompts political actors bent on perpetuating, or acquiring, power to manipulate religious sentiments to their advantage. Socio-economic dichotomies between ethnic groups may also lend themselves to overt and covert exploitation by unscrupulous elements who invariably provide a religious gloss to these differences.

b) State policies aimed at enhancing elite power or weakening the political or economic position of a cultural or religious minority which eventually provoke a reaction from the minority concerned. The backlash is often garbed in religio-political rhetoric.

c) An event or episode in history which may have contributed to the alienation of an entire community---alienation which may have been exacerbated by current socio-economic and socio-political circumstances. Religion may serve as a conduit for the articulation of the alienated community's grievances.

d) Bigoted, fanatical interpretations of religious text and tradition that seek to establish a state based upon a particular religion which often creates fear and insecurity among the followers of other religions and the populace as a whole.

e) Aggressive religious proselytisation which provokes the followers of other religions to retaliate with their own belligerent stances leading to religious polarization.

The global environment has also contributed to the growth of religious extremism in the region.

f) The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the occupation of Iraq in 2003, and the continuing suppression of the rights of the Palestinian people within a hegemonic global system that appears to be biased against Muslims have generated a great deal of unhappiness and anger among Muslims everywhere some of which is expressing itself through religious extremism. Southeast Asia is one of those regions where fringe groups within the Muslim community have committed acts of terror.

g) Partly in response to global hegemony in a unipolar world and partly in pursuit of its own dream of a global caliphate, a terror network with the elusive Al-Qaeda as its anchor has emerged espousing an extremist ideology which has no basis in mainstream Islamic thought. The network has a Southeast Asian dimension to it.

h) The terrorism of Muslim fringe groups has encouraged a section of the international media, certain political groups and a number of evangelists from a Christian Zionist background to denigrate Islam and Muslims in general. This tarnishing of the religion and its followers has had some influence upon a small segment of the non-Muslim populace in Southeast Asia who are not averse to employing harsh, vile extremist language against Muslims and their religion especially through the internet. This has led to a deterioration in inter-religious ties in certain countries in the region.


3) In spite of these negative developments, the fact remains that religious extremism is peripheral to the political and social life of Southeast Asia. For a region whose religious diversity is second to none---all the major religions of the world are represented here---Southeast Asia enjoys a remarkable degree of inter-religious harmony. A number of reasons from the past and the present may help to explain this.

a) Religious and cultural diversity has been the hallmark of the region for centuries. It has created an atmosphere which allows an accommodative, inclusive attitude to flourish. Within such an atmosphere, it would be difficult for religious extremism--- or any other form of extremism for that matter--- to become the dominant outlook.

b) The two major religious cum cultural influences upon the region, namely, Islam and Buddhism, have both in their own ways contributed towards the strengthening of this atmosphere of inclusiveness. Islam which spread rapidly through trade and Sufism brought to the fore values such as universalism, moderation and reciprocity while Buddhism's emphasis upon kindness and compassion made acceptance of the other easier.

c) Leadership has also played a role. The political leadership in almost every country in the region has, for the most part, advocated---and practised---moderation and inclusiveness. By the same token, mainstream religious elites whether Muslim, Buddhist, Christian or Hindu have seldom if ever adopted an antagonistic attitude towards the religious other.

d) It is because of all this, that 'live and let live' has become the credo of the average Southeast Asian. Even if one does not interact with the religious other because of geography or other reasons, one is very much aware of his presence---and at the very least tolerates his existence.


4) In this regard, it is important to remember that the two worst carnages in modern Southeast Asia ---- carnages which witnessed unimaginable violence---were perpetrated by groups that had very little to do with religion.

In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge, in power from 1975 to 1979, eliminated 1.4 million people in order to create an egalitarian agrarian society. Its leaders like Pol Pot and Khieu Samphan had renounced Buddhism and showed such venom towards all religious practices and institutions.

In Indonesia, the coup of 30 September 1965, it is estimated, led to the massacre of a million human beings. Whether it was engineered by a faction in the Indonesian military or by the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), the prime movers behind those mass killings were not men of God.

This is why while we are concerned about religious extremism in Southeast Asia we should remain cognizant of the fact that the worst forms of extremism in the region were caused by groups and individuals who to all intents and purposes were divorced from religion.


5) Nonetheless, because religious extremism does exist and is a threat to peace, we should take various steps to combat it.

a) There should be more determined efforts to resolve in a just manner the conflicts in Southern Philippines, Southern Thailand and in various parts of Indonesia which have all fuelled religious extremism in one way or another.

b) Since political turmoil and economic chaos pave the way for extremism in certain situations, both good governance that promotes elite accountability and popular participation in the political process, and the equitable distribution of wealth and opportunities which enhances the dignity of each and every community, are vitally important.

c) Governments in Southeast Asia should also add their voices to the global chorus demanding an end to the US helmed occupation of Iraq and the creation of a truly independent and sovereign Palestinian state based upon United Nations Resolutions. They should, at the same time, push for multilateralism as an antidote to unilateralism and global hegemony. If global politics moves in this direction, extremists exploiting religious sentiments will soon discover that they have no constituency.

d) Resolving regional and global conflicts and making domestic and international structures of power and wealth more just and egalitarian may not be enough to curb extremism. There should also be a conscious endeavor to counter extremist interpretations of religion through the propagation of a more enlightened and universal vision of faith in the 21st century. In the case of Islam, the intelligentsia in particular should be mobilized for this mission.

e) More than merely countering extremism, the spiritual worldview and universal moral values which constitute the crux and core of religion should perhaps play a bigger role in shaping the collective consciousness of Southeast Asia's 550 million citizens. Living in harmony with nature and respecting the delicate ecological balance are for instance central to all our religions and yet Southeast Asia as a whole has paid little heed to these perennial principles in its rush to 'develop' and 'progress'. The environmental and ecological crisis that confronts all of us today should force us to pause and ponder. Shouldn't we seek guidance and inspiration once again from that eternal spiritual and moral source that sustains life in all its mystery?
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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Moulay Brahim: ecstasy to drive out the devils
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[From the French language press]:
La sainteté est un concept profondément ancré dans la mentalité marocaine. Ce phénomène s'enracine dans l'effervescence mystique issue du soufisme aux 15ème et 16ème siècles.

Libération - Casablanca,Maroc - 7 Janvier 2007

Holiness is a concept deeply anchored in Moroccan mentality. This phenomenon roots into mystical effervescence resulting from 15th and 16th centuries' Sufism.

In Morocco, the saints are men or women recognized by their uprightness and their blessing (baraka). People beseech them to reduce the sufferings of the body and the spirit, to conquer or increase material wealth, to ensure themselves an offspring, and also for the return of a loved one who is afar.

South-westbound from Marrakech, about 5 kilometers from Asni, is located the sanctuary of the saint Moulay Brahim, patron saint of single people and of sterile women.

According to its history, Moulay Brahim belongs to a family whose hagiography is to some extent the history of the development of spirituality in Morocco.
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Friday, January 19, 2007

Musa Dieng Kala on Sheik Bamba
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[From the French language press]:
Musa Dieng Kala présente un film documentaire sur Bamba

Rewmi - Thiès,Sénégal - 6 Janvier 2006

The artist and writer Musa Dieng Kala will present to Afro-Senegalaise diaspora of Washington D.C. and New York his very last production, a documentary film entitled “The Privileged Servant of the Prophet”.

The 52 minutes' duration work focuses on the lesson of the founder of Tarika Murid, Sheik Bamba; the film expounds the love of the Sheik for the best of men, the prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Great revelation of (year 2005) Fez Festival of World Sacred Music of Morocco, the Montreal (Canada) resident Musa Dieng Kala is one of the greatest lyrics' writers of Senegal and a bright star of the contemporary Sufi music.
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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sindh Festival begins today
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By Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman - The News International - Pakistan
Thursday, January 18, 2007 / Dhul Hijjah 29, 1427

KARACHI: A four-day ‘Sindh Festival 2007’ programme of the City District Government Karachi (CDGK) begins at Clifton Beach today (Thursday).

A large area around the Beach Park has been reserved for the festival and the main theme of this year’s festival is “Rising to greater heights”, followed by three sub-themes including ‘human trafficking,’ ‘women empowerment’ and ‘preferring national interest over self-interest’.

Sindh Governor, Dr. Ishratul Ebad, is expected to be the chief guest at the opening ceremony and will open the festival gates with a golden key. This will be followed by a grand festival parade, a fireworks display by the Karachi Port Trust, a laser show and Sufi music show.

The second day’s events include demonstrations by the Pakistan Coast Guards and Pakistan Rangers. Other events of the festival which would span the next three days include a cultural village, sports village, fishermen’s village, health village, naval village, army and Rangers village and a business village.

The festival would also have a kid’s area with many interesting activities, such as a debate competition and public speaking competition.
Bodybuilding, beach volleyball, boxing, vintage car display, scale model display, VJ contest, cinema, arts and crafts, scuba diving are also part of the festival.
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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Abd Al Malik: saved by sufism
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[From the French language press]:
Avec son album “Gibraltar”, cet ancien délinquant, licencié en philosophie et disciple du cheikh Hamza, a bouleversé le paysage du hip-hop français. Portrait d'un artiste iconoclaste.

Tel Quel - Morocco - par Youssef Aït Akdim - Vendredi 5 Janvier 2007

With his album “Gibraltar”, this former delinquent, with a degree in philosophy and disciple of Sheikh Hamza, upset the landscape of the French hip-hop. Portrait of an iconoclast artist.

In an autobiographical book published in 2004, Q' Allah bénisse la France, [May Allah bless France] Abd Al Malik tells his astonishing course.

His chance, he says, is to have met Sufism. Randomly from its readings, he fell on a text from Al Ghazali. It was a revelation! Conquered by this ethics of search for oneself, he went to Morocco, and to Sidi Hamza, the chief of the brotherhood Boutchichie.

The discovery of Sufism alleviated the need for spirituality without attacking the creativity of the singer. If he changed, it is also after his voyage to Morocco, where he “found an Islam moving, which wants to progress".

"There is in this country something that should inspire Moslem from the rest of the world , and which proves that Islam is neither fixed nor antiquated, but open and universal”, he said recently in an interview to Jeune Afrique.

The last album of Abd Al Malik, Gibraltar, issued in June 2006, already imposed itself like the revelation of the musical re-entry in the Hexagon [an epithet of France], with more than 50.000 specimens sold in a few months.
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Reading Islam: A religion in a region
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ANU Reporter - Australian National University - Canberra,ACT,Australia
Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A new book by ANU specialists presents the first collation of the many different views of Islam in Southeast Asia from Muslims themselves.
Voices of Islam in Southeast Asia: A Contemporary Sourcebook (Hardcover) by Greg Fealy and Virginia Hooker(editors)
U$37.74
(...)
Chapter 10: ‘Personal Expressions of Faith’This section of the sourcebook covers the rise in religiosity; the pillars of the religion; Sufism (the spiritual aspect of Islam); manifestations of piety, including views on education, health and healing, and dress; and Islamic culture and civilisation.
Some of the primary material was collected by Hooker, who interviewed a range of Indonesians about their views of their religion. The following extract, where a young girl describes the connection between identity and head dress, is from one of those sources:

“So I think I really have to demonstrate my Islamic identity in the way that the Qur’an stipulates, that is, by wearing a headscarf. This also differentiates me from other people. When people see someone walking without a headscarf, they’re unsure about their identity – whether they are Muslim or not – but if they see a woman wearing a headscarf they see straight away the Muslim identity of that person.” Khairunisa, pg 120

When the first draft of the sourcebook was presented to the consultative committee of Southeast Asian Muslims for “frank feedback”, the predominant suggestion by those gathered in Canberra was the addition of the opening chapter, Personal Expressions of Faith.

“The Personal Expressions chapter aims to reflect what it means to be a good Muslim to individuals in the region. Its inclusion has become very important to introducing Islam as a religion without having to do it in an obvious way,” Hooker says.

The issue of dress – particularly the headscarf – is also addressed from different perspectives in the Gender and the Family chapter of the book (in Indonesia the headscarf is called jilbab, while in Malaysia it is called tudung). Contentious issues and their place within Islam – work, polygamy and abortion – are also discussed in this revealing chapter by ANU academic Dr Sally White.

All of the book’s extracts are from primary sources, including the writings of clerics, academics, politicians, journalists, rebel leaders, heads of government and ‘lay’ Muslims. The editors have attempted to authentically preserve these writings throughout the translations, reflecting the original form as much as possible.
The sourcebook also contains 21 colour plates, including paintings, cartoons and photographs of significant Islamic sites and leaders.

“We had a group of people and combed websites, libraries and newsletters, and along with our own sources tried to identify key primary sources representing a spectrum of views,” Hooker says.

“We chose extracts based on their representativeness, that they represented a particular stream of view in an articulate manner,” Fealy says. “We then just tried to explain the material in as even-handed a way as possible and let people decide what makes the particular extract distinctive.”

“The main thing for us is that we have accurately portrayed the views of Southeast Asian Muslims, and that we have provided the information without passing judgement so the reader can make up their own minds.”

The Voices of Islam in Southeast Asia: A Contemporary Sourcebook was funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through the Australian Committee of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific.
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The housewife and the chickpea
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By Sami Rafiq - Hindustan Times - New Delhi,Delhi,India
Monday, January 15, 2007

On January 14 and 15 the world commemorates Jalaluddin Rumi’s literary contributions to world peace.

UNESCO has designated 2007 as the year of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, in order to promote his ideas of love, peace, tolerance and inter-faith harmony.

The Masnawi by Rumi is a massive poem also referred to as the "Quran in Persian". It consists of mystical tales that are rich in metaphor and meaning and shed light on every aspect of human life and provide spiritual guidance. The images and symbols are taken from everyday life.

Interestingly, some tales are remarkably similar to the tales in the Panchatantra [originally a canonical collection of animal fables, written in Sanskrit around 200 BCE, in verse and prose].

For instance the meaning behind the tale of the chickpea in the pot is profound. There is a ‘conversation’ between the chickpea that bubbles and boils in the pot and the housewife who smashes it and stirs it.

The housewife tells that the chick pea, which is boiling and breaking, is the preparation of the soul to meet God. But the chick pea has various subtle hidden meanings too, as the housewife talks to it about its journey from the sun, cloud and stars till it has become a soul, act, speech and thought.
One cannot help but observe the marked resemblance between these beliefs about the enlightenment of the soul with those in other religions of the world.

All religions are based on a belief in the immortality of the soul and the transience of the human body and Rumi brings to us the essence of Sufism through the housewife - a symbol of an evolved soul talking about her enlightenment thus. "In the inanimate state I used to say ‘you are running to and fro in order to obtain knowledge and spiritual truths. Through this double boiling, I graduated from the strength of the senses to become spirit and finally your teacher’."

Through his writings Rumi tells us that the way to God or spiritual perfection can be gained through perfection of the self and by living in harmony with others because the universe is itself a reflection of God.
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The Forgotten Treasure of Iqbal’s Reconstruction -I
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By Dr. M Maroof Shah - Greater Kashmir - Srinigar,India
Monday, January 15, 2007

Need is to revive a great legacy which stands buried under the ignorance of our modern day scholars.

Iqbal’s is the unique flowering of poetical, mystical and philosophical genius in recent Islamic history. He has few predecessors and still fewer inheritors. His encyclopedic mind wrestled with almost all the important issues that modern Muslim and modern man confronts in his life’s odyssey.

His is the original, bold and very unorthodox approach. He is an arch innovator and non-conformist. He is a philosopher of no mean stature and his attempt of bridging philosophy and religion, or in general, knowledge and religion is unique in boldness of thought and originality.

His primary addressee is modern man and then the modern Muslim.The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam — makes Iqbal the most important intellectual of modernist Islam. He is perhaps the most important Muslim philosopher of science in the twentieth century.

His is a unique flowering of mystical philosophical religious genius. He and his Reconstruction are phenomena in themselves and history hardly ever repeats such phenomena. His appropriation of modern science in Islam, his rereading of Sufism and his individualist religious metaphysics are uniquely his and constitute his originality.

It is ridiculous to argue that Ibn Hnifa did something similar. Ulema have some reservations about the whole project of reconstruction. If any aalim had done something similar there would have been no reason for saying that “it would have been better if Iqbal had not written it.”

Rational appropriation of traditional Islamic metaphysical thought that invokes modern philosophical and scientific thought structures as has been done in these lectures has hardly any orthodox/ traditional warrant. Saeed Akbar Abadi’s defense of Reconstruction in traditional terms has not found and cannot find much favour with the generality of Ulema.

Iqbal’s concept of ego, his individualistic metaphysics, his divinization of time, his epistemology, his rejection of orthodox Unitarian Sufi metaphysics, his theological and philosophical dualism, his humanist orientation, his evolutionist and empiricist approach, his concept of God’s omniscience and freedom, his view of good and evil, his concept of taqdir and so many other dimensions of his metaphysical and theological thought—all are not easily reconcilable with traditional/orthodox interpretation of Islam.

Iqbal has reread Rumi and certain other great classical authorities and conceptions of traditional Islam from the perspective of philosophy of ego and this constitutes his unique approach to Islam. There is no other modern Muslim philosopher or traditional aalim who has done anything comparable. Iqbal and his overall philosophy, not just his Reconstruction are phenomena in themselves, unique, unprecedented.

Iqbal is in himself an institution, a school that originated with him. Here I intend neither to defend nor to critique Iqbal vis-à-vis traditional metaphysical/mystical/religious thought spearheaded by either the exoteric ulema or the Sufi authorities or the perennialists but just point out how radical a divergence is between the two.

There is only one Iqbal and only one Reconstruction in the history.

Without a deep familiarity with such abstruse metaphysical and Sufi works as Insani Kamil of Al-Jili, Fusus of Ibn Arabi, such modern philosophers as Hegel, Nietzsche, Bergson etc., such scientific works as Darwin’s Origin of Species, Freud’s important works, Fraser and Comte’s works, such physicist philosophers as Einstein and Eddington, such theosophical works as Secret Doctrine to name only a few, understanding Iqbal or his Reconstruction and his originality and genius is not possible.

He is mazloom as someone has well remarked as everybody who has memorized some of his verses and has not mastered or at least has not good acquaintance with world’s metaphysical, religious, philosophical and literary traditions has hardly any moral right to dabble in Iqbali studies or discuss Reconstruction.

(...)

Iqbal lays down charter of Reconstruction in its preface. He has succinctly put forward his agenda in the book. The very first line that “Islam is a religion which emphasizes deed rather than idea” is quite a loaded statement in tune with modern sensibility though such metaphysicians as Guenon (Abdul Wahid Yaha) and Schuon (Isa Nuruddin) would question its Islamic warrant.

Iqbal has elsewhere declared that action is the highest form of contemplation.

This is quite an innovative rereading of the whole Eastern tradition. Modern man, for good or worse, is committed to action instead of contemplation. It is not however very clear what Iqbal here means by the word “Idea”. But one may reasonably infer that he has in mind eastern and Platonic idea of idea and contemplation for which the consistent philosophy of ego has not much space as the East is against the ego as well as actions that fortify it as a separate individual entity in a tensionful state with a dialectical relation to the world and associated dualistic philosophical framework.

The whole metaphysical and mystical tradition privileges contemplation over action, being over becoming, eternity and space over time, universal over individual (spirit over soul and body). However Iqbal problematizes most of these binaries and sometimes argues for reversing the hierarchies.

Starting with this assertion Iqbal makes another statement that the traditionalists would contest. He says that for a concrete type of mind the traditional modes of thought (as represented in classical mainstream Sufism as he explains after a few lines) are no longer valid or need to be adapted to changed perception. This is indeed true but the question is ‘is not concrete type of mind itself a problem?’ Could not the whole problem lie in modern mind’s peculiar make-up itself?

Should it not be asked to remould itself and renounce the whole philosophical –scientific tradition that has shaped it in the first place.

--to be concluded--
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