Webb has told me that several readers of his blog have asked to know more about Sufism. I won’t pretend to be an expert, having only begun my exploration in the past couple years. Sufism began as the mystical (inward directed) arm of Islam about 150 years after Islam was founded by the Prophet Muhammad. And while there are several sects of Sufism, just as there are of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, its essence is found in the perspective that the Divine, God, Allah — whichever name you know her/him by — resides in us all and that the only reality is God.
Sufism is regarded as a spiritual perspective rather than as a religion. There are no Sufi clergy, churches, or holy books. There are only mursheeds, teachers who help their students discover deeper spiritual meaning. Sufism was “Westernized” by the mursheed Hazrat Inayat Khan, who brought a message of love, harmony and beauty to Europe and America from 1910 until his death in 1927. His teachings and those that followed him draw from the Bible, Qur’an, and the Torah. For me, the essence of Sufism is summed up in this quote from Hazrat Inayat Khan: “For attainment on the spiritual path, … the first and most important principal is the cultivation of the heart quality, and there is only one way to cultivate this quality: to become more and more selfless at each step that we take.” To fully accomplish this requires that we overcome the self-limitations imposed by our ego (fear, judgment, self-aggrandizement, anger, etc.), and open our hearts to love, beauty and service.
Among the several famous Sufi mystics known for their poetry, Rumi and Hafiz are perhaps best known today. I love the humor in some and the deeply moving beauty in most of their writings. For just a taste, Hafiz wrote:
One day the sun admitted,
I am just a shadow.
I wish I could show you
The Infinite Incandescence
That has cast my brilliant image!
I wish I could show you,
When you are lonely or in darkness,
The Astonishing Light
Of your own Being!