A Layman's Guide to World War III
By Kevin Filan
Not all Moslems were thrilled by as Islam grew from the faith
of a few desert nomads to the religion of an empire. Disgusted
by the worldliness of the early Umayyad Caliphs, some mystics
withdrew to the desert for solitary contemplation of the divine.
As with Christian mysticism, some of these pious men gained
followers, and before long various "schools" of
At first these mystics were noted for their attention to
the "doomsday" verses of the Q'uran. As time progressed,
many of the Sufi mystics became less concerned with mourning
and more concerned with joy. They sought to gain direct knowledge
of Allah through various mystical practices, notably dancing
and singing. The Sufis also welcomed women. The Persian Sufi
Abü 'Abd ar-Rahman as-Sulami wrote a history of eighty-two
female Sufi Wadis (saints) who gained acclaim for their wisdom
and their understanding of complex Q'uranic issues. One of
the most important concepts in Sufi mysticism, "selfless
love for the divine," was first expressed by Rabi'a al-'Adawiya,
the most important female saint of Sufism.
Sufism spread rapidly as the Islamic Empire expanded. Those
who would never be able to make the pilgrimage to far-away
Mecca were able to make pilgrimages at the tombs of great
Sufi leaders; the Sufis were also willing to draw from the
religious teachings of others and add them into their philosophy.
The Bektashi Sufis of Albania were known to celebrate both
Christmas and Ramadan, while many of the Sufi ideas on the
role of the Nafs (ego) as stumbling block owe a great deal
to Hinduism and Buddhism. All this has led to tension between
the Sufis and more "orthodox" Moslems; even today
some Imans condemn Sufism as rank heresy, while others praise
Sufi devotion to and love of Allah.
Sufi brotherhoods have played an instrumental role in the
history of the Caucasus Mountains. In the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries the Naqshbandiya brotherhoods organized
the struggle against the Buddhist Kalmyk invaders; later,
they would provide the backbone for two centuries of resistance
against the Russians. In 1944 Stalin deported the Chechens
and Ingush en masse to work camps in Siberia and Kazakhstan.
In those camps a new Sufi order arose, the Vis Haji. Militantly
orthodox and militantly anti-Western, the Vis Haji would later
be influenced by Wahhabi Islam through Saudi-funded missionaries
and through Muhajjadeen who traveled to Chechnya for jihad.
Today the Vis Haji continue to lead the fight against Russians
in Chechnya, and a large number of Chechens were numbered
among Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda troops.
Sufis, Sufism and Sufi Orders: Sufism's many paths
Sufism Journal Online
Introduction to Sufism
Kevin Filan is a freelance contributor to hybrid based in
New York. Last month, Kevin wrote a piece entitled The
Thermonuclear Men's Club.
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