Some time ago I blogged about a video by Alexandra Huddleston, 333 Saints: A Life of Scholarship Under Threat
The good news is that Alexandra is now ready to publish her work on this subject with magnificent photos. The photo included in this post is one of the many beautiful images she has captured. This work is of great importance in recording the life of scholars in Mali especially as they have recently been under threat. Alexandra needs the funds to publish the book and she has launched a Kickstarter project to raise the money. You can see the page that describes the project here
Please take a look and consider donating and you will be rewarded for doing so.
This is a re-posting that was originally on my other blog, The Sufi Book and Music Blog but I thought it worth posting it here too as I get more readers here and contemporary Sufi poetry is definitely worth bringing to a wider audience.
If you do a Google search on Sufi poetry the results will most likely bring up a wealth of sites with information and examples of the masters of the art. Honoured and respected poets on the Sufi path who wrote about what they experienced and ‘tasted’ on the journey of return to unity with the One. It is a journey of longing and struggle in which all things are seen as the signs of God, including our own selves. Metaphors of love are commonly used in such poetry where the lover longs for union with the Beloved. We see this in the images of the nightingale singing to the rose or the moth drawn to the flame. There are many translations from the original languages in which this poetry was written, Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Urdu, to English. Some of these translations are more like free interpretations attempting to capture the spirit of a piece for contemporary readers. For example, the thirteenth century Sufi poet/mystic Jalaluddin Rumi is one of the most widely read poets in the United States today. But what about Sufi poetry written today by contemporary students on the Sufi path?
Very little contemporary Sufi poetry is published for a mainstream readership. There appears to be little publishing interest in contemporary Sufi writing. Yet many of today’s dervishes, like Sufis of old, still feel compelled to allow words to flow and the recent phenomenon of the blog provides a structure for that expression. Try some of the following blogs for poetry from the heart written today. Just click on the titles.
Knocking from Inside
Poems from the Edge of the Continent
The Wandering Troubadour
Court of Lions
Gathering of Thoughts
"Through the Sufi themes of the descending arc of Creation, the foundation of the human soul, and its return through the ascending arc of the Quest, Laleh Bakhtiar brings to light the spiritual reality that underlies the forms and rhythms of the Islamic tradition. Her introduction is suitable for both novice and experienced readers."
I remember when I first began reading the work of Laleh Bakhtiar many years ago and how I immediately felt that connection to the author that happens when the author is writing from her own experience and practice. As the Qur’an maintains that all things are the signs of God then all of creation is a book to be read. Then we have a third ‘book’ of signs, and that is ourselves. As we read in that well known hadith that is central to the Sufi path, know yourself and you will know your Lord. This allows us to read all of creation in the way of the path and in this book, Laleh Bakhtiar looks at the forms and the rhythms of the Sufi path in their relation to the arc of descent that brought us from our primordial creation to our present lives, and the arc of ascent, which is the journey of return to our origins in God. This is the great quest of every lover who seeks union with the Beloved and Laleh Bakhtiar takes the reader through the Islamic Sufi tradition and its reflection in the architecture, poetry, music, dreams, and geometry of the Muslim world.
This is a wonderful introduction to the core concepts of Sufism and also a great pleasure for the seasoned traveller, for learning never ceases. Sufi: Expressions of the Mystic Quest is well worth reading and digesting.
I can always rely on Ibn ‘Arabi for spiritual refreshment and feeling greatly in need of drinking close to the source of compassion I have been reflecting on the great Shaykh’s life and work recently. Ibn ‘Arabi is also known as the Shaykh al-Akbar, the greatest Shaykh. He was born in Al-Andalus in the mid twelfth century and lived half his life there before travelling east. He wrote prodigiously and claimed never to write anything he had not experienced personally. His influence on the development of Sufism was immense. Stephen Hirtenstein has written a biography of Ibn ‘Arabi and what I appreciate so much about this biography is the way he introduces the reader to the thought of Ibn ‘Arabi and also describes the historical context in which he lived, wrote, and pursued his spiritual path. Many scholars see Ibn ‘Arabi as being equally significant to our present day concerns alongside the work of Jalaluddin Rumi. To read this book is like stepping into the times of Ibn ‘Arabi in Al-Andalus and bathing in his spiritual wisdom. Having lived in Andalucia I often had a sense of his presence in the places he had been whether in the mosque of Cordoba, the port of Adra, or under the mulberry trees in the Alpujarran Mountains. It felt like remembering his presence in Andalucia brought a special blessing and that I had moved back several hundred years through time, or that time had become blurred and no longer relevant. One day, insh’allah, I hope to visit his tomb in Damascus.
If you would like to read more about this great Shaykh then just click on the image.
"Rare glimpses of two 20th-century Sufi saints are offered in this work: the eminent Shaykh al-Alawi and the lesser-known woman saint Fatima al-Yashrutiyya, both of whom continued on the Sufi path even as they watched their world crumble. Shaykh al-Alawi's influence was pivotal to the spiritual development of Thomas Merton, who looked to al-Alawi's writings and teachings in his own practice. Fatima al-Yashrutiyya is a rare example of a literate Muslim woman living a public spiritual life. Readers will see a new side of the Sufi Path from her uncompromising viewpoint, and can catch an uncommon glimpse of life in the early 20th century for a spiritual seeker, writer, and self-educated woman in the Muslim world. These essays represent Islam in its esoteric dimension and raise issues of regional unrest and colonial intervention that are still relevant. Through the words of these two saints the world of the Sufi brotherhood is opened, revealing an underlying theme of the oneness of Allah."
Fatimah al-Yashrutiyya was born in Acre, Palestine in 1883. The Yashruti Sufi Order in which she grew up and in which her father was a Shaykh (spiritual guide) are a branch of the Shadhili Order, founded in 1258. Fatimah’s father promoted the advance of education for women and in her autobiography she speaks of the many scholars of philosophy and the Sufi path from whom she learnt. Following the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948, known to the israelis as the War of Independence, Fatimah and her family had to flee their home to live permanently in Beirut. The book pictured on the left, Two Who Attained contains a translation of her autobiography and is published by Fons Vitae. Just click on the image if you would like to order it. Below is an excerpt from the autobiography. The book also contains translations of the work of Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi, another 20th century Sufi saint.
“The Shadhiliyya Sufi method is founded on the Holy Book and the Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad, the search for knowledge, and the frequent practice of invocation in an attitude of worshipfulness and consciousness of the divine. This means of calling upon God is the easiest and most direct of spiritual paths, for it does not entail great hardship or much strenuous effort. The primordial light lying dormant within the soul gains strength through the light of knowledge and through the light of invocation, so that the soul is rid of its defects and impurities. It can then draw nearer to the Divine Presence until it is completely absorbed and the invocation burns away all thoughts of anything other than the One Invoked.”
Photo of Fatima al-Yashrutiyya taken from the Fons Vitae website