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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ridiculous "Study", Films of the Decade, Again?Rumi's Masnavi, part 4: Rumi's Sufism | Franklin Lewis

Ridiculous "Study" Supposedly Finds Widespread Anti-Semitism on Progressive Websites - It's a slanderous report, and just to bring home the point of how dangerous it is to minimize real anti-Semitism by bitching about mean commenters on websites: I'm on various list-servs with proggressives who write about Israel and Palestine -- most Jewish -- and when the report was issued our reaction was: 'what do you have to do to get on this list -- why weren't we included?' When you have progressive Jewish writers looking at charges of anti-Semitism as a badge of courage, it's time to re-think your tactics.

Rumi's Masnavi, part 4: Rumi's Sufism Franklin Lewis Sharia and the external observance of religious rules are only the beginning for the seeker after truth

You attain to knowledge by argument;
You attain a craft or skill by practice;
If voluntary poverty's your choice,
companionship's the way, not hand or tongue.
The knowledge of it passes soul to soul,
not by way of talk or reams of notes.
Its signs are writ upon the seeker's heart,
yet still the seeker cannot ken those signs
until his heart becomes exposed to light
Then God reveals His:
Did We not expose? [Qur'an 94:1]
for We've exposed the chambers of your breast
and placed the exposition in your heart

Masnavi 5: 1062-7

Not every wayfarer who sets out on the path may attain the goal, but for Rumi it is the Sufi path which offers the best potential of attaining to true knowledge. But what exactly does Rumi understand by Sufism and the quest? And how does this mystical way relate to the path of Sharia, or religious law? Neither a separate religion nor a sect of Islam, the Sufi path (tariqa) is rather a mode of religious observance and a method of self-training and purification, the goal of which is to orient the believer to a religiously-informed spirituality of experience.

Rumi's Sufism rests upon traditional practices like prayer and fasting (eg, Masnavi 3:2147-74 and 5: 1749-51), pilgrimage (though the idea of 'interior' pilgrimage, and not the outward ritual of Hajj is emphasised, eg, Masnavi 2: 2231-2251), control of baser impulses, and following the example of the prophet. It also depends upon the companionship, or sohbat, of a guide who has progressed along the path and can initiate the novice, helping him establish a praxis and habitus above and beyond what is found in the sharia (eg, Masnavi 1:722-26, 2687-88). The brotherhood of Rumi's followers, the Mevlevis, established a rule requiring a novice perform three years of service to the community before engaging in the sama, or "spiritual concert" – the stylized motive meditation, or turning ceremony, performed as a group, which earned them the nickname of the "whirling dervishes".


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