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Blog of the Grateful Bear

ramblings of a freelance panentheist {"all things are in God, and God is in all things"} . . . musings on Emergent spirituality, powerlifting, LGBTQueer issues, contemplative prayer, mysticism, cats, music, healing, and more. I like my coffee and my existentialism dark-roasted.

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Location: Marietta, Georgia, United States

I'm an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), in private practice in Marietta, Georgia. My writings on queer spirituality have been published in Whosoever and several other magazines. I live in a house-in-the-woods (Bear's Hermitage) in Marietta with Leonidas (Lenny) and Guy, Mighty Warrior Cats, and way too many books.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

What is a Sufi?

I am often asked questions about Sufism, or about my particular relationship to Sufism, so here is a response I recently wrote to address those questions:

What is a Sufi?

“To be at ease with God. To be like an infant in God’s bosom. To be a child of the moment. To breathe well. These are some of the answers that the Sufis have given to the question, ‘What does it mean to be a Sufi?’”
~ Pir Zia Inayat Khan

Sufism is a Wisdom school, a spiritual tradition that relates to God as the Divine Beloved. Many people know about Sufi spirituality through the writings of one of its greatest poets and mystics, Rumi.

There are two types of Sufis: Islamic and Universalist. The ancient teachings of Sufism actually predate Islam (some scholars date them back to the Desert Fathers and Mothers of ancient Christianity, some date them back to the Egyptian Mystery Schools), but they were preserved within Islamic culture. Many of the prayers and spiritual practices in Sufism use the Arabic names of God, although Universalist Sufis sometimes use other names as well. Sufism is sometimes called the mystical heart of Islam, in the same way Kabbalah is the mystical heart of Judaism.

Fundamentalist Muslims consider Sufism (both types) to be a heresy, much like fundamentalist Christians consider Unitarian-Universalism to be a heresy. Under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Sufis were persecuted and killed.

In the early 1900’s a teacher named Hazrat Inayat Khan brought Sufism to the west (to Europe and America) and began to stress the universal, interfaith nature of its teachings and practices. Sufi orders that trace their lineage to him are Universalist.

“The good tidings that the Sufi Message brings to the world is the recognition of the Divine in the soul of the human being. Humanity is one body, the whole of life being one in its source and in its goal, its beginning and its end. . . . The Message is to make humans conscious of the words in the Bible, where it is said ‘We live and move and have our being in God,’ to realize this and recognize the kinship of humanity in the realization of God.”
~ Hazrat Inayat Khan

There are mureeds (initiates) in the Sufi Order International who are also active in other faith traditions. It is possible to be a Christian Sufi (like me), a Jewish Sufi, a Buddhist Sufi, etc.

I am ordained in the SOI and its healing ministry, the Sufi Healing Order, and I also remain an active member of my church, St. James Episcopal in Marietta. The Eucharist and the healing services offered at St. James are still very meaningful sacraments to me. While I recognize that some conservative Christians would have difficulty with the universalism of the Sufi Order, or with being a member of two spiritual traditions at the same time, there is no conflict between my beliefs as a Sufi and my beliefs as a liberal Episcopalian. Jesus is very much alive in my life, as the incarnate Word of God, as Healer, and as Divine Beloved.

I am an ordained Conductor (minister) in the Sufi Healing Order, which means I can conduct the Sufi Healing Circle, a service of healing prayer developed by Hazrat Inayat Khan, and I can also present classes and teachings that are in consonance with the Sufi Message. I am also ordained as an Associate Cherag (associate minister) in the Sufi Order International, which means I can conduct the Universal Worship Service, a beautiful service in which candles are lit and scriptures are read from the different religious traditions of the world. I can also perform weddings, house blessings, and other ministerial functions.

My Sufi name is Hamza, which means “Lion.”

In Metro Atlanta, the Sufi Healing Circle of Atlanta meets each month at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Philip and also coordinates and provides information about Sufi classes, workshops, Dances of Universal Peace, and other opportunities. You can visit the Sufi Healing Circle of Atlanta online at http://www.sufiatlanta.homestead.com/ and join our email group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sufiatlanta.

blessings ~

Addendum (thanks to Laura for the suggestion!)
Bear’s Book List on Sufism ~

by Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan
An easy-to-read introduction to Sufi spirituality, along with Sufi prayers and practices

by Andrew Harvey and Eryk Hanut
Beautiful poems, sayings, and stories from Rumi and many other Sufi poets and mystics

by Musawwir Phillip Gowin
An inspiring book of “practical advice on the strange path of modern spirituality” from a senior teacher in the Sufi Order (check out his blog)

by Irving Karchmar
An exciting and engaging spiritual novel set in the context of a traditional but modern-day Sufi community (check out the author's blog, Darvish)

by Hazrat Inayat Khan
Three classic essays on the spiritual life by the beloved teacher who brought Sufism to the West

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Anonymous laura said...

Wow! Thank you. This was very helpful. A friend was asking the other day about books that might be a good introduction to Sufism. Are there any you recommend?

3:54 PM, August 09, 2007  
Anonymous laura said...

Thanks for the book recommendations, Darrell!

11:51 AM, August 10, 2007  
Anonymous irving said...

Thank you so much for the kind mention of the Sufi novel, Master of the Jinn, and the Darvish blog, Brother Hamza :)

Peace and Blessings!

1:01 PM, August 10, 2007  
Blogger Rainbow Demon said...

Thanks Daryl. I've recently been doing some research on Moorish Science. This is very helpful, Bro.

Here's a poem I Love by Jalaloddin Rumi.

I'm sure you've read it.


p.s. After reading this post, I now love your name, Hamza.

12:11 AM, August 12, 2007  
Blogger Jon said...

Very nice post explaining the two kinds of Sufism, and your life in the Sufi Healing Order. Thanks!

12:11 AM, August 13, 2007  
Blogger Trev Diesel said...

Ditto to all the comments... thanks for the explanation! Sounds beautiful...

8:59 AM, August 13, 2007  
Blogger TigerYogi said...


New reader here! Thanks for the recommendations! :)

10:50 AM, August 23, 2007  
Blogger Darcy said...

Hi there,

Many thanks for such a good post on Sufism. Your blog is excellent, so I just reviewed it on my site, Spiritual Blog Reviews. When you get a chance, please stop by and see/comment!

Enjoy your weekend,


10:47 AM, August 31, 2007  
Anonymous ned said...

Hey Hamza, I'm very interested in your note about Sufism pre-dating Islam and tracing it back to the Desert Fathers and Mothers of Christianity and/or the Egyptian Mystery Schools. Can you point me to a book or reference that explores this notion?

Thanks very much!

12:22 AM, September 14, 2007  
Blogger gratefulbear said...

Ned, the claim about Sufism pre-dating Islam is one I've heard several teachers make, including Pir Zia (the leader of the Sufi Order International), but I don't know of any books I can refer you to about it.

11:49 AM, October 02, 2007  
Blogger Rupa Abdi said...

This world they say is an illusion....a dream. Our thoughts and actions are like threads of a net that we weave around ourselves. A veil has been drawn over our mind's eye and we live out our lives bound and blind folded. Life, they say is a play of shadows through which most of us sleep walk.Few have awakened from this sleep and have tried to show light to the rest of humanity. They succeeded only partly, passing away, leaving behind empty forms to be distorted and misused by their followers.Holy books, sacred messages, rites and rituals, they say, are mere shells. The spirit within, having long departed, along with the Messenger. These shells and forms are mere signposts for those who seek the formless.....and only the true seeker, they say, will find the Path.

8:45 AM, October 18, 2007  

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