Do All Dervishes Whirl? Looking At Sufism Today
Sufis regard Sufism as the act of surrendering one’s entire being to the ultimate reality
Sufism is inherently Islamic despite being a frequent target of terrorism
Sufism can be viewed as the treasure of human experience that people feel afraid to access
Sufism is the method of actualizing the heart's desire
The panel discussion “Do All Dervishes Whirl? Looking At Sufism Today” took place on April 5th, 2018 in Kimball Block at NYU. Led by Dr. Walead Mosaad, the Director of Muslim Student Affairs at Lehigh University, the discussion featured three other panelists — Dr. Alan Godlas from the University of Georgia; Imam Muhammad Adeyinka Mendes, founder of African-American History and Development (AHAD) Institute, and Chaplain Rabia Harris from the Stony Point Center.
Dr. Walead Mosaad began the discussion by introducing Sufism as a philosophy of life. Mosaad brought up the question that whether Muslims regard Sufism as an orthodoxy, considering Sufis are often targeted by terrorists.
Introducing Sufism as a way to surrender one’s entire being to the ultimate reality, Dr. Alan Godlas called Sufism an inherent part of Islamic culture. Rabia Harris said the act of “surrender” in Sufism does not bear negative connotations; rather, it is the act of “surrender into complete peace through love.” Imam Muhammad Adeyinka Mendes, who called Sufism a path to engage in the divine presence, said Western academics developed the term “Sufism” to describe an approach to God.
Mosaad asked for the panelists’ interpretations of Sufism in the modern era. Harris interpreted Sufism as a treasure of human experience that is accessible in modern times through literacy, translation, and the media. Godlas defined Sufism as the method of actualizing the desires of people’s hearts, which he said symbolizes people’s awareness of their right to yearn for their desires. Mendes said Sufism is a matter of the heart that is uncontrollable by others.
Godlas brought up five points that he says makes up the “spiritual alchemy” of Sufism — the understanding of one’s purpose in life, hope in one’s capability to fulfill one’s purpose in life, recognition of the impermanence of life, recognition of ego as a source of problems, and gratitude to God for every moment in life.
Asked about the relationship between Sufism and Sunnah, Godlas called Sunnah “a path that involves getting in touch with the most beautiful quality of feelings of ourselves,” while Sufism is “the ultimate guide to transcend the layers through the presence of God.”
Following the discussion, an ensemble led by Amir Alan Vahab performed live Sufi music and poetry.
This report was compiled by Julia Guo on April 13, 2018 and edited by Jamin Chen.