version of political Islam is losing ground because of the destruction,
violence and terrorism it caused and because it sowed seeds of hatred and
division in societies and between peoples. To prevent political Islam from regaining
its influence by playing on contradictions and exploiting narrow agendas of
some forces, the vacuum must be filled with a tolerant and rational version of
Western circles have become interested in the models of tolerant Islam in
Indonesia, which are based on fundamentals of authentic Sufism. Those models
appeal particularly to politicians who see them as capable of confronting
extremist and militant movements. That has prompted some governments suffering
from the scourge of extremists to give it attention and support.
Islam is popular and has a broad presence among Muslims. Sufism embraces the
essence of religion, which calls for peace and love among human beings and
conceives Islam as a tolerant religion that renounces violence, accepts through
its values and intentions the principles of freedom and human rights and does
not clash with progress and change that benefit humanity.
To be a
Sufi means to rise above racism and sectarian rivalries and arrogance in the
name of religion. Sufism rejects slogans such as “We are on the right path and
everybody else is in the wrong” that political Islam used in trying to wipe out
the idea of brotherhood and social cohesion.
contrary, Sufism is open to everyone, regardless of their faith or ethnic
origin: “Come, come. It doesn’t matter who you are or why you’re here” for all
human beings are partners in seeking divine proximity.
tolerates all religions, beliefs and ideas. He is like “the land that is
trodden by the righteous and the evildoer and like the cloud that hovers above
all and like the rain that quenches everything.”
professes love for all humanity and this is exactly what the world wants and
needs to weed out the Islamic models, given by the Muslim Brotherhood and the
Islamic State, that nurture hatred and resentment in the name of religion.
political Islam, Sufism passionately calls for the protection and preservation
of the human species. It warns against the destruction of the human structure
because its destruction amounts to demolishing God’s most complete and perfect
image. Sufis care about every human being, regardless of his or her beliefs,
and will always seek to protect the sanctity of life and property, for
respecting others and sanctifying their well-being is akin to sanctifying the
Creator and demeaning them is akin to demeaning Allah.
taught large segments of the populations of Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo, for
example, that God is everywhere and that believers should love Him more than
fear Him. It is thanks to this Sufi heritage that these cities have not
produced many fundamentalist figures in modern times.
one’s self as a human being before anything else is one of the cornerstones of
the Sufi experience. It is the basis of all knowledge. Sufi literature states
that man is a model for the universe and the main gateway to the knowledge of
Sufi theorisation has delved deeply in the essence of humankind, trying to
understand human qualities and behaviour to diagnose man’s shortcomings for the
purpose of imagining therapeutic alternatives to correct his path towards
salvation and finding God.
required is to combine the individual character of the Sufi experience with a
collective societal character it lacks. There is a need to shift Sufism from a
movement of self-knowledge and self-transformation in search of one’s salvation
to a reform movement that affects the social reality through the return to
noble values and ideals, not because of a worldly need or because one’s desire
to please authority or attain power but on the basis of one’s love for humanity
and for one’s homeland and one’s desire to reform them for their own sake.
mystics are careful not to discuss their experiences and knowledge with people
outside their circles. They tend to use coded messages and allusions to the
point the meanings of their conversations are opaque to others. Sufi writing is
also charged with strangeness and spiritual explosion as if the Sufi was
writing for himself and creating his own special discourse.
universities produce scholars and scientists in various disciplines who do
their part in advancing their country, Sufism must do its part in nourishing
and developing an individual’s spiritual, intellectual and moral abilities to
become an active and reliable element of the society.
There is a
need for a paradigmatic shift in the Sufi approach. Instead of attracting
individuals and isolating them from society and helping them pursue spiritual
salvation, Sufism must start focusing on the societal role of the Sufi.
civilisational role of Sufism requires that it shifts its paradigms. Instead of
building the spiritual and moral fibre of the Sufi individual for the purpose
of freeing him or her from the shackles of reality and letting him or her fly
high in the rarefied air of spirituality, Sufism should also start developing
the individual for the purpose of walking with both feet anchored in reality
and for reforming this reality.
Sufism will start producing creative individuals who will actively contribute
to society’s renaissance, fully aware of their roles in the divine plan of
giving them the responsibility of being God’s agents on earth for the purpose
of colonising it and making it prosper.
There is room
for having scholars and intellectuals specifically dedicating their efforts to
transforming Sufism to a state free of eccentricities and charlatanism, as some
have said. Their mission would be to redirect the Sufi discourse, energies and
spiritual manifestations towards reforming and improving reality while
preserving the ceremonial and folkloric manifestations of Sufism because they
represent its biggest capital for attracting millions of people to Sufism.
scholars argued that Sufism is not suitable to compete with dynamic Islam
because it focuses on being good to others and on worshipping the Almighty
without giving importance to political gains. However, this is exactly what is
needed and desired.
current should not have political wings that would represent it, as was the
case with political Islam in post-revolution Egypt. If Sufism is to achieve
success as a reform movement, it must remain a purely independent social
movement that cannot be politicised, nor should it be allowed to politicise
religion and exploit it for political gain.
to replace political Islam, which has exhausted its purposes and failed, its
discourse must be rationalised and its performance must be developed so that it
rises to become a national and societal project and not just an individual’s
project or a movement’s project.
happens, individuals would flock to Sufi structures, not for the purpose of
developing their individualities or serving a group but to serve society and
participate in the renaissance of the whole Umma, be it in the East or in the
al-Najjar is an Egyptian writer in Cairo.
Headline: Is Sufism an alternative to political Islam?
Source: The Arab Weekly