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Friday, June 5, 2015
Understanding Sufi Spirituality
In 2012, a militant group wielding crude shovels and pickaxes damaged the ancient Sufi shrines in Timbuktu, Mali. The militant group, known as Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith), attacked the city's ancient mosques and mausoleums associated with local Sufis, arguing that shrine worshipping is offensive to Shariah. "Shrines are haram. We will destroy them all, without exception," said the group. The assault on Sufi shrines alarmed the world. The United Nations placed Timbuktu mosques on the List of World Heritage in Danger. The faith-filled violence against the concept and artifacts of Sufi spirituality reignites a broader question whether Sufi spirituality is compatible with Shariah. Small-minded versions of Islam emanating from pedestrian groups within the Muslim world undermine Sufi Spirituality that forges alliances among diverse religions and denominations to lead human species to a common and universal spirituality.
Over the centuries, the Orientalists (a breed of Western scholars who studied Islamic history and culture in the period of colonialism) have been censorious of Shariah but appreciative of Sufism. The dichotomy continues. In nurturing this dichotomy, some Western scholars are anti-Shariah, some are unacquainted with Islam; some are motivated to moderate what they perceive as the "excesses of Shariah", such as persecution of religious minorities, subjugation of women, and imposition of harsh criminal punishments. Unfortunately, scholars bereft of mysticism are incapable of understanding the Sufi ways because intellectualized scholarship can barely see beyond the walls of argumentation.
Muslim Sufis strive to expand law's space for tolerance, egalitarianism, and spiritual diversity. However, no version of Sufism can discard Shariah without undermining Islamic law. Lawless Sufism does little to improve a satisfying way of life for most Muslims. Law is indispensable for the construction and maintenance of an ordered society. Equally true, however, is the fact that law without enlightened criticism leads to cruelty. Contemporary opposition to Shariah in the West and denunciation of Sufism in some Muslim communities, both are misguided. (For more explanation,see)