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
(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
Labels: G.Bear, Sufism