Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, is undergoing a revival in Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s fall, reports the Boston Globe (Jan. 23).
For centuries, four major Sufi orders had vast and devoted followings in Afghanistan, evidenced in the weekly mass visits to saints’ tombs, the raising of colorful flags at cemeteries and the celebration of the Persian new year. When the Taliban came to power in 1996, they raided gatherings of “zikrs,” Sufi rituals where men pray, chant, play music or sway in ecstatic trances, arresting prominent leaders of the movement.
Although Sufis met clandestinely during Taliban rule, the fall of that regime has not only encouraged followers to return to practice the faith, but has also drawn “hundreds if not thousands of new adherents,” according to Sufi leaders.
Flags banned under the Taliban have been raised again over the tombs of saints and workers are cleaning shrines in Kabul and elsewhere. The poetry and chanting in the zikrs often reflect a “longing for peace in a country devastated by more than 20 years of war and now drought and hunger,” writes Anthony Shadid.