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Sufism
http://www.sufism.org
The Threshold Society
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Reviewed by:
Sumaiya Hamdani
George Mason University
September 2003






This site is crated by the North American branch of the Mevlevi Sufi “tariqa” or order, founded around the practice of Jalal al-Din al-Rumi (d. 1273). The Mevlevis were successful especially in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey), and today are perhaps the most well-known Sufi order outside of the Middle East because of the dance performances of their “whirling dervishes.” Rumi’s fame is also widespread because his poetry is considered to be exceptionally beautiful and evocative, and thus is quoted outside Sufi practice and belief.

While there are many websites devoted to celebrating the poetry of Rumi, few websites do so within the context of its Sufi order and Islamic origins. This site provides 16 excerpts of Rumi’s poetry, as well as other Sufi and Islamic primary sources, and thus helps users to appreciate Sufism’s role within Islam. Sufism.org is primarily designed for members of the society, but its value for classroom use lies in its reliable translations and excerpts. These texts can be accessed from the site index or from “Eye of the Heart” (an online journal of the society).

Sufism is the mystical branch of Islam that focuses on a relationship between individuals and God and emphasizes the love of the individual for God and God’s love in return. Sufi tendencies expressed themselves very early in Islamic history, and by the 13th century, many Sufis were renowned for poetry and rituals that helped their followers engage in “dhikr” or recollection of God’s presence. These rituals often involved repetition of particular sayings or attributes of God, often to the accompaniment of music.

The “site index” menu is extensive and can be confusing, but under subheadings of “the Mevlevi Order,” “Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi,” “Writings on Sufism,” and “Qur’an and Islam,” are several primary sources in translation. Under “Mevlevi Order” is a Spanish-language translation of the order’s “wird” or prayers, practice, and statement of belief. More helpful are the translated excerpts of Rumi’s poetry under “Mevelana Jalaluddin” and some of the links under “Writings on Sufism” such as: “Selections from the Maqalat of Shams-I-Tabriz” (the sayings of a Mevlevi Sufi, introduced by the translator), “Some Sayings of Bahauddin Naqashband” (the sayings of another Sufi master), “Selected Poems of Yunus Emre” (the folk poetry of a Mevlevi Sufi, which is also popular outside of Sufi orders), “On Divine Benevolence and On Dying . . . by Ibn Arabi” (two excerpts from the philosophical sayings of this famous Spanish Muslim of the 12th century who had Sufi leanings), and “Poetry and Stories of Rabi’a al-`Adawiyya (one of the first Sufis, a woman mystic to whom many attribute the first examples of Sufi poetry). Under “Qur’an and Islam” are eight links to excerpts from the Qur’an and Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad), in translation, on themes important to Sufis like love of the Divine, forgiveness, and compassion.

Together, these excerpts can help students realize that Islamic literature is not limited to the Qur’an. Reading from these Sufi texts can help students appreciate the wide range of expression and literature generated by Islam. Some useful exercises would be to juxtapose Quranic excerpts with Sufi poetry in an effort to understand where and how Sufi poetry further expands the meaning of the Qur’an. Another exercise might be to explore comparisons of Sufi poetry with Christian mystical poetry in an effort to understand why many scholars have argued that the two greatly resemble one another. And on a purely literary level, assigning excerpts of Sufi poetry enables students to gain something of an understanding of the beauty of literature from other parts of the world.

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