Friday, June 25, 2010

Some Thoughts about Sufism

I am a Christian and have never been a Muslim. So, I did not practice Sufism. However, I have been interested about Islam, including Sufism. To some extent, it is because I had Chechen ancestors and am interested about Chechen culture. Chechens consider Sufism as their traditional religion. Originally, Sufism came to Chechnya from Daghestan, a neighbouring region in the Northern Caucasus. However, there are some differences between Sufism in Chechnya and Sufism in Daghestan. Most Chechen Sufis belong to Qadiri tariqah and follow the school of Kunta-hajji Kishiev, a Sufi sheykh (religious leader) who was a native Chechen. In Daghestan, there are many different Sufi groups and many tariqah. Probably, the most numerous are Naqshbandi, Shadhili, and Qadiri tariqahs. There are not much books written by Chechen Sufis, but there are many written by Daghestani Sufis. I read some of them as well as books written by Arab Sufis and other Sufi authors who live in the regions where Sufism has many adherents and exists for centuries.

I read several reports about abusive Sufi sheykhs in the Western countries. I do not know if it is the same in the traditional Sufi regions or not. In Sufism, murids (disciples) are required to submit to their sheykhs and potentially it can be a source of abuse if sheykhs have a tendency to be abusive. However, I think Sufis in traditional Sufi regions recognize this danger and have some ways to prevent it. In many Sufi books, it is written that there are genuine sheykhs and pseudo-sheykhs. Readers are warned about pseudo-sheykhs and are given some characteristics of genuine sheykhs. They are also encouraged to seek for genuine sheykhs and the best of them and not join the first person who calls himself a sheykh whom they met.

The first requirement is that a sheykh must have a certificate or permission to be a sheykh given by his sheykh. In turn, his sheykh must have a permission given by his sheykh, and so on. This line has to go to Muhammad. This requirement also implies that before a sheykh is allowed to have murids, he has to pass through the process of spiritual growth himself.

The second requirement is that a sheykh must know Islam doctrines and practices very well and must observe them. Sufism is a part of Islam and tariqah (Sufi way) is based on sharia (Islamic law).

When murids are in the presence of their sheykh or listen to him, they should feel love toward Allah and faith. Sheykh is supposed to treat murids in a respectful way. He should not only rebuke them, but also see their spiritual advance. Murids who spent long time with a sheykh are supposed to have spiritual growth. Sheykh is supposed to have murids of various social positions and national and cultural backgrounds.

In Sufism, there are many tariqahs, but Sufi from traditional regions believe that the differences between them are just outward practices while they all have the same goal. Thus, a murid can follow any tariqah and they different tariahs are considered to be true. Murids are allowed to change their tariqahs or their sheykhs, though it is not recommended. Murids are allowed to follow two tariqahs at the same time, though it is not recommended because in this case they have to use more time and energy to carry out practices of both tariqahs. There are even sheykhs who follow two tariqahs and have a permission to teach both. For example, there is one famous sheykh in Daghestan who is a sheykh of both Naqshbandi and Shadhili tariqahs and has permissions from his sheykhs to teach both.

In my opinion, these principles may serve as some protection against abusive sheykhs, though I understand that they may not work in some cases.

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