Can Sufi Islam counter the Taleban?

Sufis by Velcrow Ripper

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7896943.stm

By Barbara Plett
BBC News, Lahore

It’s one o’clock in the morning and the night is pounding with
hypnotic rhythms, the air thick with the smoke of incense.

I’m squeezed into a corner of the upper courtyard at the shrine of
Baba Shah Jamal in Lahore, famous for its Thursday night drumming
sessions.

It’s packed with young men, swaying to the music, and working
themselves into a state of ecstasy.

This isn’t how most Westerners imagine Pakistan, which has a
reputation as a hotspot for Islamist extremism.

Now some in the West have begun asking whether Pakistan’s Sufism could
be mobilised to counter militant Islamist ideology and influence.

Lahore would be the place to start: it’s a city rich in Sufi tradition.

At the shrine of Data Ganj Bakhsh Hajveri, musicians and singers from
across the country also gather weekly, to perform qawwali, or Islamic
devotional singing.

Qawwali is seen as a key part of the journey to the divine, what Sufis
call the continual remembrance of God.

“When you listen to other music, you will listen for a short time, but
the qawwali goes straight inside,” says Ali Raza, a fourth generation
Sufi singer.

“Even if you can’t understand the wording, you can feel the magic of
the qawwali, this is spiritual music which directly touches your soul
and mind as well.”

But Sufism is more than music. At a house in an affluent suburb of
Lahore a group of women gathers weekly to practise the Sufi
disciplines of chanting and meditation, meant to clear the mind and
open the heart to God.

One by one the devotees recount how the sessions have helped them deal
with problems and achieve greater peace and happiness. This more
orthodox Sufism isn’t as widespread as the popular variety, but both
are seen as native to South Asia.

‘Love and harmony’

“Islam came to this part of the world through Sufism,” says Ayeda
Naqvi, a teacher of Islamic mysticism who’s taking part in the
chanting.

“It was Sufis who came and spread the religious message of love and
harmony and beauty, there were no swords, it was very different from
the sharp edged Islam of the Middle East.

“And you can’t separate it from our culture, it’s in our music, it’s
in our folklore, it’s in our architecture. We are a Sufi country, and
yet there’s a struggle in Pakistan right now for the soul of Islam.”

That struggle is between Sufism and hard-line Wahhabism, the strict
form of Sunni Islam followed by members of the Taleban and al-Qaeda.

It has gained ground in the tribal north-west, encouraged initially in
the 1980s by the US and Saudi Arabia to help recruit Islamist warriors
to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.

But it’s alien to Pakistan’s Sufi heartland in the Punjab and Sindh
provinces, says Sardar Aseff Ali, a cabinet minister and a Sufi.

“Wahhabism is a tribal form of Islam coming from the desert sands of
Saudi Arabia,” he says. “This may be very attractive to the tribes in
the frontier, but it will never find resonance in the established
societies of Pakistan.”

So could Pakistan’s mystic, non-violent Islam be used as a defence
against extremism?

An American think tank, the Rand Corporation, has advocated this,
suggesting support for Sufism as an “open, intellectual interpretation
of Islam”.

There is ample proof that Sufism remains a living tradition.

In the warren of Lahore’s back streets, a shrine is being built to a
modern saint, Hafiz Iqbal, and his mentor, a mystic called Baba Hassan
Din. They attract followers from all classes and walks of life.

‘Atrocities’

The architect is Kamil Khan Mumtaz. He describes in loving detail his
traditional construction techniques and the spiritual principles they
symbolise.

He shakes his head at stories of lovely old mosques and shrines pulled
down and replaced by structures of concrete and glass at the orders of
austere mullahs, and he’s horrified at atrocities committed in the
name of religion by militant Islamists.

But he doubts that Sufism can be marshalled to resist Wahhabi
radicalism, a phenomenon that he insists has political, not religious,
roots.

“The American think tanks should think again,” he says. “What you see
[in Islamic extremism] is a response to what has happened in the
modern world.

“There is a frustration, an anger, a rage against invaders, occupiers.
Muslims ask themselves, what happened?

“We once ruled the world and now we’re enslaved. This is a power
struggle, it is the oppressed who want to become the oppressors, this
has nothing to do with Islam, and least of all to do with Sufism.”

Ayeda Naqvi, on the other hand, believes Sufism could play a political
role to strengthen a tolerant Islamic identity in Pakistan. But she
warns of the dangers of Western support.
“I think if it’s done it has to be done very quietly because a lot of
people here are allergic to the West interfering,” she says.

“So even if it’s something good they’re doing, they need to be
discreet because you don’t want Sufism to be labelled as a movement
which is being pushed by the West to drown out the real puritanical
Islam.”

Back at the Shah Jamal shrine I couldn’t feel further from puritanical
Islam. The frenzied passion around me suggests that Pakistan’s Sufi
shrines won’t be taken over by the Taleban any time soon.

But whether Sufism can be used to actively resist the spread of
extremist Islam, or even whether it should be, is another question.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/7896943.stm

Published: 2009/02/24 05:55:03 GMT

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Happy Annihilation Day

“Heart, you are lost.
But there’s a path
From lover to love.
Worlds blaze round.
Don’t shrink!
The path is hidden
But yours.”
-Rumi

fire

Well here it comes – Valentines day. A celebration of love! And a great opportunity to market flowers, chocolates and Hallmark cards. For those not in a relationship, it can be a bit of a downer – like christmas when you’re far from family. A new friend just commented that she calls it “singles awareness day.” Ha.

Ah love, that beat up misused misunderstood word. We just finished interviewing Coleman Barks, the great Rumi Translator, for Redvolution: Dare to Disturb the Universe. Rumi is well renouned for his tremendous love poems, but the love he talks about might be a little different than the kind of love those red hearts in the store windows are selling. Coleman told us that he once got a phone call from Hallmark, asking if he might consider doing a line of cards with some of his Rumi translations on them. He said, “well you realize that the kind of Love that Rumi writes about involves complete and utter obliteration.” There was a long pause, and then the Hallmark rep asked, “is there a holiday for that?”

Say what? Love = annihilation? WTF? Isn’t love warm and fuzzy and nurturing and sticky sweet? Not the kind of divine love that Rumi talks of. He wasn’t referring to romantic love, between humans. No, he was talking about the human daring to truly love G~d. Daring to truly be loved by G~d. This can certainly, and most beautifully, happen between humans – in fact, one of the highest forms of human love is when souls meet through the human form. Which can involve down and dirty sex. Spirituality and sexuality are ecstatically happy bedfellows. But it is not the kind of romance and intrigue, the ‘will you be mine’, the clinging, grasping romantic love that we’re taught is love, the kind that is really about the quest for ownership over another. No, the kind of love Rumi talks about involves complete freedom, non-attachment, and trust.

To be consumed, destroyed, burnt in the flames of divine love, to the place where your ego dissolves, and there is nothing left of you but G~d stuff, that’s Love. The search for this union with the divine is the path of the mystic. Every tradition has a mystic path, the path that involves daring to stare into the sun with your eyes wide open. It’s not for everyone, and there are many dangers on the way. But once one has had a taste of the possibility of the the mystic path, it’s hard to turn back. One is consumed by what the Sufi’s call a sense of divine longing, which calls you, and refuses to let you sleep – refuses to let you fall back into unconsciousness, lose touch with your divine heritage.

There are as many paths as there are humans on this planet, and we each need to find the one that is ours, and ours alone. As Rumi says, “the chefs of God are cooking up a special stew, just for you.” For me, that stew is ever changing, though at one time I used to call myself, in an attempt at simplicity, a “sufi buddhist baha’i punk rocker.” There is still a lot of truth to this description – the Sufi in me is the passionate, fiery side, the Buddhist is the patient, peaceful, centered part of me, the Baha’i offers me a global perspective and a sense of law, and the punk rocker is the rebel, always seeking the fresh truth, the present truth, the truth beyond all limitations and dogma. I am all of those, and none of those.

Here is a mystic poem I have written, in honour of the search for annihilation in the fire of God, here spoken of as the divine feminine, the great Goddess, so needed as a counter balance to the worship of God as a patriarch. It is about the search for true divine Love.

~ ~ ~

 

All my life
I searched for the diamond heart
Ruby Red
Emerald Green
Alchemy’s leaden Gold

The hidden truth
At the center of lifes labryinth

At each turn of the bend
A fire awoke
Ablaze
Alive

Yet around the bend
Always
A sudden downpour would appear

To douse my desire
Until there was nothing left
But smouldering coals
Blackened
Charred
Back in the cave

Yesterday
Or was it tommorrow?
In this dark dark cave
I found that spark
A single flash
A glint
A twinkle
A droplet of light
And fanned the flames
With my dogged Love
My unextinguishable love

I let the wind of my desire
For Her
That Red and gold divinity
That perfection
Completion
I can taste
On the tip of my tongue
On the very tip of my tongue
Just there
Always there
The aftertaste of truth
Still there

Love!
I shout
I cry
I weep
I pound the pavement

Love!
I kneel before you
Ripped open
Broken wide and bloodied
Dripping red
And roaring loud
Then soft
Softer
Just so….

And you who witnesses
My agony
My ecstasy
You know
You truly know
That this is no charade

That Love is here
Not gone
Truly here
Not gone

And I
Am one
Not two
Not two
Just One

And all I ask for
Is nothing
Just everything
Inside that nothing
Always
And not now
Now
And not then

All ways
From inside
To out

I shriek like the wind in february trees
And loom like the moon
On a hot august night
With persistence
Dogged presistence
My stalwart friend

Waiting for the day
Not wanting
Not wanting anything more than this
Even if this
Is the waiting

Waiting

Waiting

Waiting for God’s deepest embrace
Consuming embrace
To rip my illusions to shreds
Until all that’s left of me is Love

Waiting

To be destroyed by Her raging love
Her flaming benediction
Annihilated by Her grace

I kneel before You
I stand before You
I cartwheel before you
Laughing
Wailing
Beseeching You
To bless me with a deadly kiss

I ignore you
Turn from You
Walk away
The haggler in the market
Suddenly tired of trying
Suddenly finished
Done.
Enough.

Ha!
I’ll never be finished
I’m still baking
I am half baked

I will not be finished
With this Love
With this life
Until my very last breath

And even then….
Well I just may be back
To continue the Work

But let me tell you this one thing, this one thing:
If you want to talk numbers
Percentages
I am 100 percent divine
Not one iota less
I cannot be otherwise
Even at my most imperfect
Try as I might
I am Him
Even when I’m too foolish to know it

He is me.
And He is here
Kneeling
In front of this perfection of wisdom
This Goddess
Of Fire

Burn me to the ground
Destroy me
Consume me
Devour me
Until there is nothing left of me
But You
Until there is nothing left of me
But Me

Ecstatic Activism

“Mysticism is creation seeking its source” —Stuart Davis

 

Velcrow Ripper phot in Tasmania of Fern

Pump up the volume. Turn up the burner. To 11. Move over Spiritual Activism – let’s talk Ecstatic Activism. “It goes beyond tree hugging,” says Spiritual Cowgirl Sera Beak, “ecstatic activism is more about tree humping.” It’s about being utterly and completely in Love with this divine planet we live on, this astounding multi~verse we’re born from, this incredible unfolding kaleidoscope of life, of ever changing energy, shuddering with the orgasmic after shocks of G~d’s Big Bang. It sets your hairs on end and electrifies your Soul. It’s the rich ripeness of those moments when you dare to open Your heart and plunge face forward into the Mystery.

To be an ecstatic activist is to be a Love Warrior, fierce and fiery…diving into both the light, and the shadows, reveling in all that it is to be divinely human. That means all the mess too – it’s the creative friction that propels us to grow, and growth is what it’s all about, least it is for my being. One of my sacred symbols – I’m wearing a version of it around my neck right now – is a spiral, amongst the Maori known as the “Koru”, and modeled on the unfolding fern frond. Ecstatic unfoldment of life. You can feel it pulsing through you – it’s eros, it’s erotic, it’s hot. It gets me out of bed in the morning, makes me want to change the world, change myself, open my heart even wider, and go out and hump a tree or two. Make love to my morning bagel. French kiss G~d with every action. Dance the dance of Fierce Love.

Course this kind of intensity ebbs and flows in our life – there are times when I am a still pond, and other times when I am a turbulent sea. At the moment (in case you hadn’t noticed) it’s one of those times when I’m feeling the fire. Might have something to do with having just come back from another film shoot, this time for Redvolution: Dare to Disturb the Universe. It’s Fierce Light Films new feature documentary project, and it’s all about ecstatic activism in it’s many forms.

This time around it was a short shoot – four days in Boulder, but as always when it’s Redvolution time, a few days feels like a month. My co-director and co-conspirator in the project, Redvolutionary Sera Beak (who’s based in San Fransisco) and I, met up in Boulder to film and interview twisted mystic and punk monk, Stuart Davis, host of a new television show called “Sex, God and Rock n Roll.” Sera was a featured guest on the taboo smashing show, which dares to disturb the pants right off the universe.

Here’s an episode from Stuart’s previous show, “The Stuart Davis Show”…

 

 

 

“One could say that Davis’ work mediates between sensuality and spirituality. Davis practices meditation in a Buddhist tradition (and he has recently taken Genpo Roshi as his teacher), but he believes that religious traditions ultimately fail to transmit the transcendent events from which they spring. He has identified Ken Wilber, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Ramana Maharshi and Aurobindo as influences, and his work displays a deep understanding of Zen and Sufism.

Davis’ songs are populated by alcoholics, atheists, bulimics, drug addicts, egoists, false prophets, fetishists, sadists, masochists, narcoleptics, pedophiles, pornographers, prostitutes, rapists, sexual predators, suicides, swingers, and terrorists. But his lyrics also describe angels, artists, gods, gurus, messiahs, mystics, prophets, psychics, and saints.

This tension points to the profoundly integrative aspect of Davis’ thought—on his view, the theme of sexual deviance does not contradict the spiritual themes. His perspective is wide enough to coherently include much more of the human experience than most. Thus it is possible to see Davis as a mystical poet like Rumi, Kabir, Basho, Ikkyu, Rilke, or Emily Dickinson.”~ Wikipedia

 

“There’s a light bulb in everyone
bright enough to swallow the sun
Earth and sky are all One taste
there is just the Original face

—Stuart Davis, “Original Face”

 

Spending three days with Stuart was akin to standing in a bucket of water and putting my finger in a light socket and throwing the switch. Stuart is a phemomenom unto himself, the embodiment of Crazy Wisdom, but all the madness is rooted firmly in his big open heart.  

Chögyam Trungpa, a brilliant (and crazily wise) Tibetan Buddhist teacher, founder of the Naropa institute in Boulder, describes “crazy wisdom” as an “innocent state of mind that has the quality of early morning—fresh, sparkling, and completely awake. From this profound point of view, spiritual practice does not provide comfortable answers to pain or confusion. On the contrary, painful emotions can be appreciated as a challenging opportunity for new discovery.”

For the ecstatic activist, everything that life throws our way is a divine Koan, a chance to dive further into the mystery. Sometimes we learn through joy, and ease and sunshine, and other times it’s through what Liyanna Silver, (www.redefiningmonogamy.com), another guest this weekend on Stuart’s show, calls AFGO – Another Fucking Growth Opportunity. It’s all part of the sacred puzzle, and too often we ignore the shadow – I was one of those light obsessed seekers myself. Problem is, the shadow doesn’t go away, but instead percolates below the surface, where it is much more dangerous.

Stuart Davis is a trickster in the temple who brings our collectively unconscious shadow out into the light, with the power of humour and rock and roll, exploding our preconceptions and programs, all in the name of Love.  Walking home after the show on Saturday night, he pointed to the sky and cried, “look, the moon! Look at it, if you dare!”

What about you – do you dare to look at the Moon? Do you dare to stare at the Sun? Put them together, and what do you get?

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Trees humping.

 

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