Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, is reviving its ties to the Muslim faith after a long period of divorce from the tradition and syncretism among many of its Western, especially American, practitioners.
Gnosis magazine (Summer), a quarterly on esoteric spirituality, reports that the closing of such a gap between sufi “gurus” and practitioners and traditional Islam was in evidence at the recent International Sufism Symposium held outside San Francisco. Sufism teaches diverse mystical traditions and practices, though perhaps is best known for its “whirling dervish” ceremonies.
The strongly anti-Islamic climate in the West is the main reason why Sufi orders tended to disassociate themselves from Islam, although the inner circles of such groups acknowledged the movement’s Muslim identity, writes Rashid Raymond Patch.
The diminishment of persecution and the burgeoning Muslim communities in the West have made claiming an Islamic identity for Sufi groups easier. “At the same time a serious change has occurred in the Muslim community worldwide which has led to a reacceptance of the spiritual disciplines of Sufism . . . as an essential part of Islamic identity and education,” writes Patch.
He adds that tensions still persist. “There are some Western teachers whose own practice has been so separate from Islam that they resist any identification with the Muslim faith. The adoption of a fashionable eclecticism or syncretism as group policy has also locked groups into rejecting any traditional faith. But the number of such teachers and students is steadily dwindling, as more and more teachers of traditional explicitly Islamic, forms of Sufism emerge.”
[The realignment of Sufism with Islam may have an effect upon the widespread popularity of Sufism in the spiritual marketplace. On the other hand, the interest in Sufism could serve as a new entry point into the Islamic faith for American seekers.]
(Gnosis, P.O. Box 14217, San Francisco, CA 94114-0217)