Sufi Islam: What you need to know after Egypt’s deadly mosque attack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE EGYPT INDEPENDENT NEWS PAPER)

((oped) Folks, this is a great article to help people to understand the differences within the sects of Islam!)(trs)

Sufi Islam: What you need to know after Egypt’s deadly mosque attack



A suspected “Islamic State” militant attack on a mosque in the Sinai peninsula on Friday was the deadliest terror attack in Egyptian history.

The motive behind the attack that killed more than 300 worshipers remains unclear. But the prospect of IS targeting a mosque frequented by Sufis has raised the specter of further violence against a form of mystical Islam with deep roots in the Muslim world.

What is Sufism?

Sufism is a mystical and acetic Islam practiced by tens of millions of Muslims. Known as “Tasawwuf” in the Muslim world, in the West it is often erroneously thought of as a separate sect.

Sufism is more prominent among Sunnis, but there are also Shiite Sufi orders, or “tariqa.”

Followers of Sufism believe they can become closer to Allah through inner purification and introspection. They do this by meditating and receiving guidance from their spiritual leaders, or “murshid” (guide).

Adherents of Sufism follow the five pillars of Islam just as other practicing Muslims. They declare faith in one God Allah and Mohammed as his messenger, pray five times a day, give to charity, fast and perform the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Timothy Winter, an Islamic scholar at the University of Cambridge, describes Sufism as “a broad devotional tendency.”

“There are no practices or beliefs characteristic of all Sufis. It is too diverse for that,” he told DW.

The most well-known “tariqa” in the Western world is the Mevlevi Order, founded by the followers of the 13th Century Persian poet and mystic Rumi after his death in the Turkish city of Konya.

The Mevlevi Order performs the Sufi practice of “dhikr” in a musical ceremony and dance, giving them the moniker “Whirling Dervishes.”

Dhikr is a central practice in Sufism, whereby adherents recite divine verses and intone the name of Allah. It can be performed individually or in a group, and can be quiet or out loud. Dhikr practices vary among Sufi orders.

‘Sufism provides for joy in life’

Sheikh Esref Efendi, the spiritual head of the Germany-based Sufi Center Rabbaniya, which is part of the Naqshbandi Order, described Sufism for DW.

“The Sufis are Muslims and live Islam in perfection with body and soul. The body of Islam is Sharia, the law, and soul of Islam is Sufism, spirituality. For Sufis, Sharia is indispensable, because law provides order in life and Sufism provides for joy in life. The daily remembrance of God in the dhikr and the different forms of meditation in the community, strengthen the conscious feeling of closeness to God and the charity for the other.”

He continued: “Sufis adhere to the prophet’s tradition of loving every creature for the sake of the Creator’s love. So they overlook the mistakes and blemishes of the people they encounter and only look at the light of God in them. By recognizing the light of God, the Sufis practice forgiveness of mistakes of man.”

Origins

Sufism originated after the death of Mohammed in 632, but it did not develop into orders until the 12th Century.

The orders were formed around spiritual founders, who gained saint status and shrines built in their names. There are dozens of Sufi orders and offshoots.

Sufism spread throughout the Muslim world, becoming a central component of many peoples’ religious practice from Indonesia and South Asia to Africa and the Balkans.

Sufi orders were sometimes close to the ruling powers such as the Ottoman Empire, helping their spread and influence.

As it spread, it often adapted to and incorporated local beliefs and customs that made it popular, but would later become to be viewed by Islamic extremist groups as heretical.

Salafism and Wahhabism

The 18th Century saw the emergence of a new puritanical Islamic ideology and movement on the Arab peninsula that would later give birth to violent extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and IS.

Wahhabism sought to purge Sunni Islam of accretions and innovations such as the widespread Sufi practice of venerating saints and visiting tombs and shrines. The goal was to create a “pure” Islam.

The Wahhabi movement allied with the House of Saud, which eventually established the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

From the 1960s onward, Saudi and Arab Gulf oil wealth helped fuel the global expansion of Wahhabism ideology, which is often associated with hardline Salafism.

Salafist jihadists have repeatedly targeted Sufis, deeming them heretics. They have also targeted Christians, Shiites and others they deem apostates.

Al-Qaeda linked militants in 2012 destroyed ancient Sufi shrines in Timbuktu, Mali, drawing international condemnation. But IS that has taken the jihadist violent ideology further.

Earlier this year, an IS suicide bomber killed more than 70 people at a Sufi shrine in Pakistan.

While no group has claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack on a mosque attended by Sufis in the Sinai peninsula, it bore all the signs of IS.

It comes as the Egyptian IS affiliate last year beheaded the blind Sheikh Suleiman Abu Heraz, a Sufi figure.  In January, IS’ online propaganda magazine advocated targeting Sufis and warned it would “not permit (their) presence.”

Wahhabism vs everything else

For centuries, most of the Muslim world has accepted Sufism, a stance that has been supported by leading mainstream Sunni Muslim scholars and centers of learning.

“The current disputes in the Middle East are not really between ‘Sufism’ and ‘extremism,’ but between Wahhabism and everything else,” said Winter, adding that mainstream Sunni Islam advocates tolerance and peace.

As Sheikh Esref Efendi explains, IS only sees perceived violations within Islam and “not the people and the light in the people, and therefore call Sufis traitors of Islam.”

“IS thinks that any wrong must be punished. They think and commit even the greatest sin of Islam: They declare themselves Gods who can decide on life and death and use violence to kill.”

Women To Be Allowed Into Stadium’s As Saudi Arabia Promotes National Pride

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

 

Women allowed into stadium as Saudi Arabia promotes national pride, part of reform push

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia is celebrating the 87th anniversary of its founding this weekend with an unprecedented array of concerts and performances, including allowing women into King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh for a Saturday evening operetta – a first in the conservative Islamic kingdom.

The festivities are part of a government bid to boost national pride and improve the quality of life for Saudis.

Also on offer is a concert in the Red Sea city of Jeddah featuring 11 Arab musicians, plus fireworks, air acrobatics and traditional folk dance shows.

The events are the latest entertainment sponsored by the government as part of the Vision 2030 reform program launched two years ago to diversify the economy away from oil, create whole new sectors to employ young citizens and open up Saudis’ cloistered lifestyles.

However in a country that adheres to the austere Wahhabi brand of Sunni Islam, which bans gender mixing, concerts and cinemas, the plan’s seemingly anodyne goals to empower women, promote sports and invest in entertainment have been criticized.

Saudi rulers are also starting to reform areas once the exclusive domain of the clergy, such as education and the law, and have promoted elements of national identity that have no religious component, or pre-date Islam.

They have increased National Day celebrations that were previously attacked by clerics as undermining religious feeling, and are promoting heritage sites, like Nabatean rock temples, once seen as embarrassing in the land of Islam.

Saudi flags and green billboards, often bearing the face of King Salman and his son Crown Prince Mohammed, have gone up across Riyadh this week, and at night skyscrapers are flooded in green light – the national color.

Companies from telecoms operators to furniture stores have launched patriotic-themed marketing campaigns offering discounts for the holiday weekend.

The General Entertainment Authority, the government agency organizing the National Day festivities, expects some 1.5 million Saudis to attend events in 17 cities over four days.

Vision 2030 reforms are intended to capture up to a quarter of the $20 billion currently spent overseas by Saudis, who are accustomed to traveling abroad to see shows and visit amusement parks in nearby tourist hub Dubai or further afield.

This weekend’s events, though, are free to the public.

Reporting By Stephen Kalin; Editing by Andrew Bolton

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Pakistan Marks 70 Years Of Independence Yet It Is Still A Bastion Of Hate Toward Minorities

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR)

 

As Pakistan Marks 70 Years Of Independence, Its Minorities Struggle For Space

People pose in front of Pakistan Independence Day signs in Lahore. The country, created in 1947 as a homeland for South Asia’s Muslims, celebrated 70 years of independence on Aug. 14.

Diaa Hadid/NPR

The children pile into the stadium in shiny clothes, clutching green-and-white Pakistani flags. Their parents light the area with cell phones to record the event as they scream, chant and cheer, watching soldiers close a gate that separates India from Pakistan.

In the evening ritual at the Wagah-Attari border, near Lahore and Amritsar, soldiers from both countries high-kick, shake their fists, then shake hands – and slam the gate shut.

It is deeply visceral for many Pakistanis: an acknowledgement of their border, of a plucky country they feel they have sacrificed so much to create.

Left: Youths sell paraphernalia in the colors of Pakistan’s flag to celebrate its Independence Day on Aug. 14. Right: An anonymous mask in Pakistan’s national colors of white and green lies on the grass of a park in Lahore.

Diaa Hadid/NPR

Pakistan was imagined more than 70 years ago by a stern, British-educated, whiskey-drinking Shiite lawyer. Muhammad Ali Jinnah hoped for a nation as cosmopolitan as he was. He led the fight to carve the country out of British-ruled India. In a new, independent India, Muslims were fearful that they would be dominated by a Hindu majority.

But in the decades since, the sense of who is a citizen in the Muslim state hasn’t been resolved. The question has come at a high price: Although Pakistan’s constitution specifies the protection of minority rights, “the government limited freedom of religion,” according to the State Department. The country’s tiny minorities of Sikhs, Christians and Hindus are vulnerable to persecution. Certain laws, such as blasphemy laws, are often used to target them.

As a boy in 1947, Muhammad Hanif Qureshi — now 83 and shown here with his great-niece and great-nephew in their home in Lahore — fled Amritsar. The area encompassing Amritsar and Lahore saw some of the worst violence of Partition.

Diaa Hadid/NPR

Within the Muslim community as well, the definition of who exactly is a Muslim has narrowed.

The seeds of Pakistan’s intolerance were sown within the country’s very ideology as a Muslim state, says Taimur Rehman, a political scientist at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

That intolerance was “inherent in the very way in which Pakistan was created and the very purpose which it was supposed to serve of being a Muslim state,” he says. “By its very definition, it has already singled out a community in opposition to another one,” he says, referring to Muslims and Hindus. “And it’s very easy for that community to be to be narrowed further.”

Over the decades, he argues, the narrowing has been exacerbated by the military, Pakistan’s most powerful institution, which cultivated hard-line Islamists to wage a jihad in the disputed region of Kashmir, among other things.

A member of Pakistan’s tiny Sikh minority stops in Lahore’s Gurudwara or Sikh temple. Sikhs have a centuries-long presence in Lahore, but most fled for India in 1947.

Diaa Hadid/NPR

This has given right-wing religious groups outsize influence. “Despite never having won an election,” Rehman says, “they are nonetheless able to dictate the narrative in the country because of the support that they have from the military establishment.”

Perhaps none have suffered more than members of a small Muslim sect, known as Ahmadis, whose beliefs clash with the dominant Sunni version of Islam. They played a key role in founding Pakistan. They are a community of over-achievers: An Ahmadiphysicist, Abdus Salam, received one of only two Nobel prizes awarded to Pakistanis.

But the state declared Ahmadis as heretics via a constitutional amendment in the 1970s and restricted their rights further in the 1980s. They’re not allowed to call themselves Muslims, and can’t refer to their houses of worship as mosques. Over the years, militants have attacked their mosques and targeted them in killings.

Enlarge this image

A Hindu shrine in Lahore was rebuilt after it was burned down more than a decade ago during a period of communal tensions. Now it’s guarded by two state employees. A handful of worshipers come on Tuesdays.

Diaa Hadid/NPR

In a leafy suburb near Lahore, the Khans live in a two-story home behind a high gate that’s firmly bolted. Mrs. Khan stands on the balcony every morning, waiting for her husband to return from prayers at their local mosque. She’s terrified that somebody will kill him.

“We are frightened,” she says. “For the life.” (Her first name isn’t being published out of concern for the family’s safety.)

Most of her family already fled overseas.

So far, Mrs. Khan insists on staying. She runs a clinic that dispenses free medicine to her poorer neighbors. “If I go, the people will suffer,” she says.

She doesn’t want to “just sit and eat” in exile. “This is not the meaning of life.”

She’s also worried about her nephew. Twice, somebody threw a note into his house warning him to convert to Sunni Islam — or die. He hides out here when he’s afraid.

He repeatedly tried to flee Pakistan – but he says the U.K., Sweden and Canada all rejected applications.

The roots of intolerance run deeper than just how Pakistan defines itself as a Muslim state, says Anam Zakariya, an oral historian in Islamabad.

She traces it back to Pakistan’s birth story – at the time of Partition, in 1947, when millions of Hindus and Sikhs fled to India and Muslims to Pakistan. Mobs raped and butchered each other — around a million people died.

But Zakariya says those events are pushed aside. Pakistan focuses on celebrating its creation – and emphasizes how Muslims were victims.

“Now if it’s your biggest victory to date,” Zakariya says, “you have to make sure that the bloodshed is portrayed to the younger generations as perpetrated by Indians — Hindus and Sikhs.”

Laborers work to prepare the new Pakistan history museum in Lahore’s Greater Iqbal Park. The museum — a project of the provincial government and the private Citizens Archive of Pakistan — will be the first to look at Partition through the stories of those who witnessed it.

Diaa Hadid/NPR

It’s to drive home the point: “And that’s why there was a need to create Pakistan.”

There are challenges emerging to that narrative. In a sprawling park in the heart of noisy, smoggy Lahore, a museum will soon open that will look at Partition through the stories of the people who witnessed it. It’s a collaboration between the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, a nonprofit, and the government of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province.

“This is the first place in the entire country where you’ll experience what the refugees in 1947 experienced,” says Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, an Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker and head of the Citizens Archive.

Being exposed to stories from survivors of Partition will help create a more inclusive Pakistan, she believes, but it’s a race against time – the people who lived through Partition are fading away.

And 70 years on, the very idea of what Pakistan is meant to be – an Islamic state, in opposition to Hindu-dominated India – feels hard to shake.

Aya (right), 19, partially covers her face as she poses alongside her sister Sania, 22, and their mother. They visited a shrine in Lahore with their family patriarch Abdul Aziz, who remembers tending fields alongside Hindus before British-ruled India was partitioned.

Diaa Hadid/NPR

Near the museum construction site, the Abdul Aziz family huddles under a shelter as a sudden summer rain drenches the park. Their patriarch, Yousef, isn’t sure of his age, but says he used to work in fields alongside Hindus – and so he predates Partition. When the Hindus left Pakistan, he said, Muslims became free.

“We are now in a country where we can say, ‘There is no God but God and Muhammed is his messenger,'” he says, reciting the Muslim declaration of faith.

In Pakistan, he says, “There is no idolatry” – a reference to polytheist Hinduism.

His granddaughters Sania, 22, and Aya, 19, nod in agreement. He says he’s proud of Pakistan, which he describes as a “fort of Islam” where it’s safe for his grandchildren to grow up.

Sania says she’s not interested in a museum. She’s already heard her grandfather’s stories of Partition, and she’ll tell them one day to her own children.

Besides, she says, “I know history — the Islamic history of Pakistan.”

It Was Okay To Kill Them, They Were Sinning

 

This is a short editorial about the New Year’s massacre at a nightclub in Istanbul Turkey. Even though it is my belief that the President of Turkey Mr. Erdogan is the single biggest reason for the turmoil in Turkey because of his policies, I do not wish to make this particular article about his personal evils. This article is about people like the person who was the shooter and anyone who had prior knowledge of his actions or post knowledge of his whereabouts who have not turned him into the police.

 

The Demonic Sunni Islamic group in Syria who calls themselves ISIS as well as many other names has taken “credit”  for the murder of those 39 people in the nightclub as well as the 40 whom were injured. Credit, think about the theology behind that statement. In a civilized society when someone murders a person or persons, they try to keep it quiet, they don’t want the police to know that you murdered that person or persons. Civilized is the key word in that last sentence. A civilized culture, it does not appear that the Arabian Desert of 1,400 years ago was a civilized culture.

Isis says that this nightclub was a target because it is a place where Pagans/unbelievers celebrate their Pagan holidays. CNN reported this morning that 24 of the 39 dead were actually believers of Islam, that is about 2/3, they didn’t give the numbers on the wounded. In reality ISIS sent one of their Demonic goons to a nightclub to kill as many people as possible, reality is that somewhere around 2/3 of the people in that club worshiped the same ‘God’ as the ISIS folks do. But you know, that is okay. Do you know why it is okay? It is okay because those ‘Arab’ folks in that nightclub were sinning. These people were drinking alcohol, listening to music and dancing, with infidels (unbelievers) no less, so they obviously were openly sinning. You know, ISIS was only carrying out the Commandments of Allah, so, they were putting themselves in the place of God as God is the only one who has the right to pass judgement on people like that. Who knows, these Muslim people who were murdered may have turned their lives around and started following the strictest versions of Islam later this year or later in their lives. But the gunman and ISIS decided to ‘play God’ and execute them now, before they had a chance to change their ways. It is the gunman and ISIS who put themselves in the place of God by executing these people, thus condemning them to Hell forever. The gunman and ISIS decided it was up to them to be the Judge, Jury, and the Executioner for these people. Who knows, maybe even people of other religions that they murdered would have changed their religions and have started worshiping Allah before they died, but they, the ‘God players’ didn’t give them that chance. Obviously it was okay to kill them, they were sinning. I guess that this means that the ISIS folks are perfect and never sin themselves, we know this because otherwise they would all be dead now from suicide.

Iran’s Supreme Ruler: Iman Khamenei “Islamic Unity Only Solution To Extricate Muslims From U.S., Zionist Evil

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF: ENGLISH.ALMAMAR.COM.LB T.V. NETWORK)

Imam Khamanei: Islamic Unity Only Solution to extricate Muslims from US, Zionist Evil
Imam Khamenei
Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei

“Should we unite and proceed toward Islamic goals in a united manner, then the US and the malignant, nefarious Zionist nexus can no longer hold nations in their clutches,” he said on Saturday on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

The Leader was addressing a number of state officials and diplomatic representatives of Muslim countries as well as participants at an international unity conference in Tehran.

“Today, the Muslim world is facing great tribulations, the way out of which is Islamic unity,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.

“Today, Muslim killings are taking place  from Myanmar to Africa; some are being killed at the hands of Boko Haram, others by Buddhists.”

“Today, there are two volitions at contrast with each other in the region: The will for unity and the will for schism. Should unity transpire, the situation will not be as it is today and Muslims will earn esteem.”

Imam Khamenei said the British version of Shia Islam and the American version of Sunni Islam, which pit Muslims against one another, are “two blades of the same pair of scissors.”

The British policy of “divide and rule” is seriously being pursued by the enemies of Islam, the Leader said.

Imam Khamenei said worldwide Muslim unity, the most important type of readiness needed by the Muslim world, would abort the conspiracy to consign the issue of Palestine to oblivion.

 

Source: Press TV