Below are some notes I took during the Ahl al Bayt Forum 2014 in Streamwood, IL at the Bait-ul-Ilm center.
Sufism: Islamic “Mysticism?”
If this definition is to be believed, one must properly define mysticism. Culturally and popularly, the word invokes several other terms:
-Mystery and occultism
-Popular religion and cultural relevance (note that this point lies in contrary to the first)
-Deviance and innovation to a monolithic reality
There are obviously stark differences in the way that people treat Sufism, depending, of course, on the time and place they are witnessing it, the ways it is being manifested in its own cultural milieu, and the public exposure to Sufi practices and practitioners. Most of the time, the topic of Sufism as a particular and separate issue is regarded as “bid’ah” in Sunni circles, but in Shi’i circles, the criticism is of another nature: “They don’t work! They are lazy!” Shi’is usually don’t take issue with some of the practices that make Sunnis uncomfortable, such as calling upon the dead or visiting their shrines.
The Garden of Sufism
Perennials, Hybrids, and Transplants.
The Sufi Order of Inayat Khan
-Does not specifically promote Shari’a compliance or Islam as an exoteric practice
-Has a strong following in the United States through Wilayat Khan and Inayat Khan’s other children
-Has a small following in Muslim-majority countries
International Association of Sufism
-Two main branches of differences: a particularly “Islamic” one and a “universalist” one
-Only half of this movement is Perennial, seeing a universal important truth in all manifestations of the message
Traditionalism: A Subset of Perennialism
-Rene Guenon, Frithjof Schuon, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Martin Lings
-Does not match the Perennial ideology completely but contains some concepts
-Finding the One truth in all religions and hearkening back to a primordial past that is contained in all later religions
-Religion must “do” something for us (something very particular to the West, esp. The United States”
-Not much engagement with other Muslims
-Bawa Muhyiddeen Order (Indian derivation from the Qadiri Order)
-Helveti-Jerrahi Order (Turkish order with heavy Turkist cultural influence)
-Naqshbandi-Haqqani Order (From Cyprus; an order concerned heavily with engagement of multiple groups around the world)
In all of these orders, social engagement plays a heavy role, along with the ‘mainstreaming’ of the Order through culture-mixing and political engagement (Naqshbandi links with White House and other global political figures)
Authenticity Sufism (1990s)
-Distinctly non-cultual, a desire to return to a ‘default’ and ‘compliant’ Sufism in an imagined past.
-Shaykh Hamza Yusuf is a product and a producer of this brand of Sufi thought in the United States.
-This type of Sufism presents a focus on the ‘indigenous,’ the ‘convert Imam’ that allows traditional Muslims from other countries and American young Muslims to engage with each other fruitfully.
-This type of Sufism imagines itself as part of a neo-madrasa system as part of its hearkening back to a nostalgic past. This presents a dissonance between modern amenity and worldly engagement and the zuhd, or detachment of that traditional system. One may have it both ways.
1. Ta’leef Collective
-“Hip” to current youth trends
-“Come as you are” attitude
-Open access to knowledge about Islam’s depths, for anyone
-Engaging in mutual respect and empathy for the plight of other’s (often through the lens of minding the struggles of the Prophet Muhammad)
-Fiqh and other and Knowledge for anyone
-Social and media engagement, promotion of a style and look of Islam that has been unbranded, lost
-Discipline in spirituality takes precedence over openness and freedom
The themes of this type of Sufism involve ritualism, devotionalism, love and mercy as talking points and emphases, and mutual respect and restoration of old types of Sufi engagement as ‘new.’ Often, social justice is emphasized as a form of ‘love.’