Tasbiah Akhtar
Last updated: 5 October, 2012

“Sufism can help one eradicate inhibitions and disillusions prevalent in the wider Islamic world today”

Sufism is considered a more unconventional branch of Islam. Since the tradition’s origin, Sufi mystics have attempted to connect to God on a much deeper level. It is a journey of spiritual enlightenment that is humbling yet can be considered audacious and ambitious, delving into a deeper level of religion and spirituality not easily comprehendible to the conscious mind. This act transcends religious scripture and everyday religious duties ascribed to Muslims.

In more modern terms, in comparison to mainstream Islam, Sufism is far more quaint and eccentric due to its focus on music and dance as outlets of expression of faith – and considering that dance and music are banned in many mainstream Muslim sects and schools of thought. However, Sufism goes beyond music and dance. The mission to connect with God – the One – has afforded itself a mystical reputation, in which, love (for God) is the fundamental driving force. Sufism is also tolerant and inclusive, and Sufi thought transcends religious boundaries. Its perspective and philosophy of the world has also afforded itself a humanist, universal and Gnostic reputation.

Sufism’s humanist and universal qualities alongside tolerance and inclusion should play a bigger role in informing and influencing mainstream Islam. Unfortunately, mainstream Islam remains in the clutches of sectarianism, politicisation, and cultural dispositions and delusions hindering its own followers from adopting Sufi wisdom. In this age of conflicting ideologies, the tolerance and inclusion of Sufism could play a vital role in unifying Islam, as well as helping its followers adopt a tolerant and unified approach towards other religions.

However, in the eyes of many, Sufism is deemed heretical. But in a universal context, and as a personal experience of my own, the wisdom behind Sufism can help one eradicate inhibitions and disillusions prevalent in the wider Islamic world today. Although every Muslim cannot make the deep spiritual journey undertaken by committed Sufi mystics, the enlightenment gained through Sufi knowledge and wisdom can bridge the ever expanding gaps and rifts within Islam and between Islam and the wider non-Islamic world.

Having said this, the reactions towards the recently released film “Innocence of Muslims” has displayed Islam in yet another negative light. Muslims have every right to be offended by the content of the film. Many have taken to peaceful protesting, which is encouraged and acceptable in modern society. However, the overall approach seems, from an outside perspective, driven by hate, informed by politics, and an intrinsic victimhood that Muslims seems to have adopted very quickly overtime, blaming foreign policy, wars and influenced by old age messages denoting Islam as under attack.

From recent images of Muslims burning American flags, and attacking embassies, tolerance, peace and inclusiveness seem pretty farfetched. Yet, Muslims should not have to tolerate slander and insult directed towards Prophet Muhammad, but there are ways and means of expressing intolerance of provocative content.

As far as my understanding of Sufi knowledge goes, an appropriate approach would be one of peace and quiet contemplation and how one can react appropriately without resorting to violence and rioting. It is the conflicting ideologies that have already disintegrated the modern Muslim world, and are now driving Muslims further into a dark hole, where more hatred has brewed and more violence could eschew.

The argument of freedom of speech has been waved around. Through a peaceful Sufi approach, Muslims have and can further utilise their rights to freedom of speech to oppose the film. Further, the slander and mockery does not need to impact negatively on Islamic thought, practice and belief. With a Sufi approach, though words cannot or may not be eliminated, reaction to them gives Muslims opportunity to rise above the inappropriate content of the film. Understanding that we live in a world where freedom of speech is a vital component of society, Muslims can only work with the same tools to direct a peaceful, yet strong message of opposition, influenced by Sufi philosophy and wisdom.