Sunday, 29 June 2008

Rumi: Body and Voice

In the whirling dance of the Mevlevi Sufis the position of the hands indicates the function of the ‘friend’ in connecting heaven and earth. One hand is raised with palm upwards and the other is lowered towards the earth. This can also be the function of Sufi poetry. As the Sufi remembers God in her/his whirling, attaining a state of ecstasy, so the Sufi poet is expressing that ecstasy in words which in turn become a conduit of the divine. This illustrates the ongoing assignment of the Sufi that has a metaphysical basis and is therefore timeless but must be anchored in the physical world. While the Sufi longs for union it is love that gives rise to this longing, and love that is the fuel for the journey, love is its destination, and love demands the return to the created world, and yet fana fi Allah, union with the divine, is the ineffable, the unspeakable, so how does the one who has returned deal with this paradox, and how does the one who has not yet attained speak about it? The attempt, even compulsion, to do so despite the inadequacy of any words is the defining factor of Sufi poetry.

Jalaluddin Rumi was both a poet and a dancer. He heard the Name of Allah speaking through all sounds. The spirit moved the body to dance the joy of the heart. As Rumi says in the following:

My love for you intoxicated me and made me dance.

I am intoxicated and in ecstasy, what can I do?

I will render the thanks of earth and heaven,

For I was earth, He made me Heaven (1)


Rumi recognized the importance of the body as a sign of the Divine when he said that, “The body is fundamental and necessary for the realization of the Divine Intention”(2)

1) Cited by J. C. Burgal in, “Ecstasy and Order” in The Legacy of Medieval Persian Sufism, ed. Leonard Lewisohn, Khaniqahi Nimatullahi Publications, 1992. p.65

2) Cited by Laleh Bakhtiar in, Sufi, London: Thames and Hudson, 1976, p.21)

Friday, 27 June 2008

Women and Sufism

Women have played an important role on the Sufi path and continue to do so today. The favourite teacher of Ibn 'Arabi, the greatest Shaykh, was Fatima bint Ibn Muthanna. Ibn 'Arabi speaks of her in his Ruh al-Quds alongside several other Sufi saints of twelfth century Al-Andalus. There are quite a few books written about, and by, Sufi women which you can find in the bookstore. Among these are Women of Sufism: A Hidden Treasure by Camille Adams Helminski in which she brings examples through history to the present day with excerpts of the writing of these women. There are also books on Sufi women of America, early Sufi women who lived before the tenth century, and works on Islam and gender from a theological and philosophical aspect. Click here to browse the selection.

Welcome to a Treasure Trove of Sufi Books and Music

Dear Friends and Readers,

Welcome to the Sufi Book and Music Blog. Step in and look around the many sections here that all relate to an aspect of Sufism. There are also DVD's of music from master musicians. If you know of any books that are not here then you are welcome to write and let me know so I can add them. The idea of this site is to bring together in one place as many books on the subject of Sufism as possible so that it is easier for you to discover what is available without doing long searches. So take your time and browse as you would in any library or book store. As I speak of the books available in the store so it is also an opportunity to look at different aspects of the Sufi path and the many friends who have trodden this path in the past and in the present day.