Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf Is a Sufi

A blogger for the American Family Association (AFA) has produced what must be the most ignorant, over-the-top, foaming-at-the-mouth hate post about mosque building yet. He wants mosques banned entirely from the United States.

When I opened the page, I got a pop-up ad for a book about the persecution of Christians.

I take it there’s a document called “An Explanatory Memorandum” attributed to the Muslim Brotherhood that has taken on a role analogous to that of the infamous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” The document is not necessarily fraudulent; the Muslim Brotherhood is an extremist Sunni transnational organization that might very well be planning for world domination. Of course, they are about as likely to achieve this goal as Pinkie and the Brain. And the Muslim Brotherhood does not speak for all of Islam. It doesn’t even speak for all Sunni jihadists; I understand there is a nasty rivalry going on between MB and al Qaeda.

Someone here had said that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the main guy behind the Cordoba House Islamic center, is a Sufi. This is a detail I have yet to see in a news story, but I can confirm it is true. He is the imam of a Sufi mosque in lower Manhattan, about ten blocks north of the proposed Cordoba House site.

Thus, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is not connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. I can say this because there is no way the Muslim Brotherhood, or al Qaeda, or the Taliban, or any other organization dedicated to enforcing dogmatic Sunni Islam would have anything to do with a Sufi. In fact, Sufis in the Middle East have suffered terribly from attacks by Sunni terrorists.

Earlier this year, suicide bombers destroyed a major Sufi shrine in Pakistan, killing at least 50 Sufi worshipers and injuring about 200 others. The Taliban were blamed, although a Taliban spokesman denied the charge. But the Pakistan Taliban have been attacking Sunni Sufi shrines and mosques as vigorously as they’ve been demolishing the remnants of the ancient Buddhist civilization there.

And then there is dogmatic Shia Islam. The Shia regime in Iran has been systematically oppressing Sufism in recent years.

Sufism is mystical Islam. Dogmatists don’t get mysticism. This is true of the dogmatists of all religions. It is often the case that mystics from different traditions understand each other better than the dogmatists of the same tradition.

The idea that all Muslims are somehow part of the same conspiracy is absurd enough, but to put Sufis in the same boat as jihadist is just plain ignorance.

Nice article from a June 2009 issue of time, “Can Sufism Defuse Terrorism?

In 2001, one of the first things to happen after the Taliban was chased out of Kabul was that the doors of the Afghan capital’s Bollywood cinemas were flung open to the public. The language of cosmic love that animates Bollywood music and enchants millions of Muslims around the world, even if sung and acted out by non-Muslims, is a direct legacy of centuries of Sufi devotional poetry. At Sufism’s core, suggests Oxford University’s Devji, is an embrace of the world. “It allows you to identify beyond your mosque and village to something that can be both Islamic and secular,” he says. “It’s a liberation that jihadis could never offer.”

36 thoughts on “Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf Is a Sufi

  1. But… but… all those Muslims Christians are the same! Hurry, hurry, we *must* condemn the Quakers for the fact that Christian clergy have raped young boys. What, you say Quakers don’t even *have* clergy? Err… exactly. 🙂

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  3. I know it hasn’t seeped to this level of their brains, but in fact the Cordoba House does pose a threat to these haters, because it might achieve a tiny piece of its goal of interfaith understanding. With friendly Muslims on the block, it’s just all that much harder to stir up a rabid mob.

  4. So, the AFA, un-American to its core, wants this country to be like Saudi Arabia!
    I suggest they change their name to the ATA – American Taliban Ass-ociation.
    Let’s see it the AFA walks back from its bloggers stupid, racist, xenophobic, hateful post, or if it supports it.
    Uhm, it’s the 1st Amendment of the “Bill of ‘Rights,'” not ‘ Bill of Wrongs.”
    Let’s see what it says. It begins with, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”
    It does not further say anywhere that Congress can ‘disrespect’ or ‘dis-establish’ one either.
    Look you want to ban Mosque’s? Fine. Then let’s also ban churches, synagogue’s, temples (sorry maha), and all other houses of worship.
    If that’s part of your proposal, AFA, then I would be the first to say “Amen” to it…

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  6. And of course the right-wing bigots are totally unequipped to understand Abdul Rauf’s comments about 9/11 and Hamas. I’m no admirer or Hamas, and I doubt he is either, but they are a group that is going to have to be dealt with if there’s ever to be peace between Israelis and Palestinians. To preemptively exclude them from the discussion by labeling them as terrorists is not helpful. (If you actually want peace, that is. If what you really want is an excuse to bulldoze more Palestinian houses, that’s another matter.)

    And 9/11–I don’t really like the word “accessory” either, but if you want to understand what’s going on with al Qaeda, it is fair to recognize that a lot of Muslims have a lot of good reasons to be extremely pissed at the US. This is not to blame the US, but simply to point out that a lot of our actions make Osama bin Laden’s job easier.

    Again, though, it all depends on whether you actually want peace. If you want a religious war, it’s another matter. That’s obviously what al Qaeda wants, and a lot of our own Christian bigots obviously are happy to oblige. Peas in a pod.

  7. The first amendment, protecting religion, was intended to blunt ignoramuses like the blog writer in question. And they really don’t have a clue about mysticism, they’re still playing the we vs them game, our fundamentalists against theirs (Go TEAM! Rah!). They haven’t graduated from exoteric (retail) religion to the esoteric (inner, mystical).

    I have a former girlfriend (from way back) who is a fundie Christian, who believes in Christian persecution. Whenever I tell her about a movie (Constantine’s Sword, Agora) that tries to present history factually, where Christianity isn’t always portrayed in the best light (but not the worst either), her black and white reasoning on this subject takes her to the conclusion that these films are a product of general cultural hate against Christians, when they’re hardly that at all.

    I can never get where this perception of hers is coming from. My conclusion is that because she is so married to her beliefs (confusing opinion with fact, seriously), anything that threatens this, she hates, and so this hate is projected onto others. My guess anyway.

    I try to counter it with, “well what do you expect” given the supposed Christians (GW Bush, Sarah Palin, etc) who have run the country into the ground with their ignorant views about everything? Christians – even the good ones, like Jimmy Carter – have earned a bad rep and disdain from their countrymen.

  8. Christian fundamentalism is a narcissistic faith concerned most of all with the wrong suffered by the righteous – and only they are the righteous. They also are on a mission to purify their ranks.

    Change Christian fundamentalism to militant Islam – different religion, same God, same paranoia – the definition describes militant Islam.

    In the mean time, the rest of us, be we Christians or Muslims should concentrate on purifying OUR ranks of them.

  9. A good rule of thumb is to group all Abrahamic faiths in the same box. The Sufi might look good in comparison to worse, but that doesn’t change the danger they possess. Trying to find a similar counterpart in Christendom that holds a degree of mysticism* would be the Evangelicals. Those who promote the gifts of the spirit— Speaking in tongues, laying on of hands, intercessory prayer, casting out demons, divine healing, “relationship not religion”,and blah blah, blah. I think ultimately it should understood that their values have been predetermined for them in ancient times. And although they might not advocate stoning rebellious children, or killing homosexuals or oppressing women, the God that they believe in does. That fact cannot be overcome no matter how reasonable they appear, or how much they try to distance themselves from the roots of their beliefs.

    * a tricky word where faith is concerned…can’t pin it down. I see it very close the mystery of the Shekinah Glory…and it means..I’m right, you’re wrong, that settles it!

    • Swami — I think you’re confusing evangelicals with pentacostals. Although I admit in recent years they tend to blend together, they used to be very separate movements. Also, I agree with moonbat about the gnostics. The mystical approach to religion is anti-dogmatic; one cannot be a true mystic and a dogmatist at the same time.

  10. Swami, the Christian analog to the Sufis are the Gnostics, not the Evangelicals. The Evangelicals often exhibit many “gifts of the spirit”, but they are very dogmatic, and as you say, these gifts are predetermined in ancient times. Mysticism by contrast is very here and now, and doesn’t have a lot of use for dogmatic boxes – it has a way of blowing them apart.

  11. The Sufis I know are all West African, mostly from Senegal and Guinea. They are the Hasidim of Islam. Youssou N’Dour has a nice song about the revered holy man of their sect, the imam Bamba. These muslims pray in the direction of the holy city of Touba in Senegal, where he taught.

    Years ago I had the uncanny experience of having a group of African Muslims put down their prayer rugs in front of my Christmas tree, after we determined the direction of Touba. Made me proud to be an American, actually.

    In the mideast, the Dervishes are Sufi, and in Pakistan, the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is the most famous exemplar of Sufi song.

  12. Thanks for the correction, moonbat. I gotta say I am a bit embarrassed by my lack of knowledge considering I hold a PhD in Theology from the Universal Life Church. Seems the $21.00 I paid for my degree didn’t buy me all that I thought it would. I hope that my PhD in Philosophy from ULC gives me better service for the $17.50 I paid for that.

    Not to excuse my stupidity, but when I was thinking about what I said,I was within the mindset of an Evangelical( that accounts for the stupidity), so the dogma element never entered into my thinking. They don’t see themselves as dogmatic… it’s more a revealed truth gained through intimacy with God and coincidentally confirmed by his word.

  13. I think you’re confusing evangelicals with pentacostals.

    You’re right, Maha.. More specifically I was thinking of the Assemblies of God( the ones I know best). They’re Pentecostals, but their publication is Evangel Magazine so I wrongly associated them with evangelicals.

  14. A mystic of the Greek Orthodox persuasion was asked the definition of God. He said, “Yes.” Not much mumbo-jumbo there.

  15. Further on to my comment above, I started thinking about ecstatic music (as seen among Sufis, Hasids, and the like). Here are two pieces from XIIIth century European monastic tradition: This swings! Hildegard von Bingen via the Kronos Quartet. Trance-like.

    While on the root subject of Islam v. Christianity, here is a lament by Juan del Encina ,from the 1490’s, from the viewpoint of Boabdil–last Moorish king of Spain–after the Reconquista when the Moors were defeated and driven out of Spain. We Christians have no lock on sadness and tragedy.

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  17. Yes, I did mention that the leader of Cordoba House was Sufi, but now I cannot recall where I read it. Interesting how the mention of this has been submerged in the media, possibly because that fact has no meaning for reporters. Back to “They’re all the same and out to get us.”

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  19. Uhm, I’m an American. Hamas has never attacked America or Americans. Why should I care about Hamas? Just askin’.

    — Badtux the American Penguin

  20. Sufism is hardly a monolith or even much of an “ism.” What Order of Sufis are these folks? Can’t really generalize about something this non-specific.

    • Sufism is hardly a monolith or even much of an “ism.” What Order of Sufis are these folks? Can’t really generalize about something this non-specific.

      It is true there are several different schools of Sufism, but my understanding is that all Sufis are being targeted by Jihadists, and there is no way any Sunni fundamentalist or Jihadist would associate with any Sufi. If you can find a specific example that disproves that generality, please trot it out.

  21. there are hundreds of schools of Sufism. I’m simply curious as to what Order these folks belong to. Sunni and Shia muslims have certainly associated with Sufis, some Sufis are Sunni or Shia (Sufi lineages typically go back through the Shia lineage).

    Not trying to start an argument here. just want to know what order of Sufism these folks belong to. If ya don’t know, ya don’t know.

    • Sunni and Shia muslims have certainly associated with Sufis

      Yes, but not the fundamentalists/jihadists. Righties are trying to connect the imam to terrorist organizations, and that’s nuts, because the jihadists won’t have anything to do with Sufis, period. That’s the point I’m trying to get across.

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  23. while I agree that Moslems have the right to build their mosque near 911 site, I question the wisdom. It seems it is only inflaming Americans against the Islamic World. As the old retail question goes, location, location, location. If I were a moslem I would not build there. It is the equivilant of building a Christian church in Mecca.

    • If I were a moslem I would not build there. It is the equivilant of building a Christian church in Mecca.

      So you’re saying that America is just as intolerant and disrespectful of liberty as Saudi Arabia. Jeez, I thought al Qaeda attacked us for our freedoms. I guess that makes them fools, if we’re no more respectful of freedom than they are.

  24. What one believes to be true is a bias. Question; when does a religion of anykind cease to be a religion when it advocates death to those who donot believe what they believe? Should not any religion teach love and tolerance?

    Most Christians and Jews believe, “I will die for what I believe.” Some Muslims believe, “You will die for what I belive.” Does this meet the requirements of a religion, or this just another gang, mafia, or what?

    Now, gangs in America are attaching themselves to religions to justified their actions and wrongs. My point, it can not be a religion with those beliefs and doctrines.

    • Question; when does a religion of anykind cease to be a religion when it advocates death to those who donot believe what they believe? Should not any religion teach love and tolerance?

      Sufism does teach love and tolerance and is opposed to forcing people to adopt Islam, either by force or threat. That’s why it’s significant that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is a Sufi. It’s also why the jihadists in the Middle East target Sufis for terrorist attacks.

  25. Sad thing is that we will be killed by our own constitution and law…Go see if any of you have a choice in any other country, see if there is such a thing as ” Having the right to do or be” anything other than “what , THEY, want you to be” or live where they want you to live…Can I build a Jewish Temple or Church in Afganistan?.. Building bridges… Wonderful concept.. Let’s see if Rauf supports the growth and education of the Middle East and the tollerance of other religions..Let him start in his own home land. He may be trying to stand for a “good cause”..POOR timing..should gracefully build his center in Trukey or Africa

    • So, Jackqueline, you’re saying you want to shred the Bill of Rights because you’re afraid of a building? Wow. I’m glad I’m not a patheic, sniveling coward like you are. I was in lower Manhattan on 9/11 and watched the towers fall with my own eyes, and I’m not afraid of the Islamic Center. I am afraid of hysterical mobs who want to turn America into some kind of armed fortress of hate. People like you, for example.

      Let’s see if Rauf supports the growth and education of the Middle East and the tollerance of other religions..

      The imam has a long record of being in favor of education and tolerance of other religions. He is a Sufi, part of an old tradition in Islam that has a long history of tolerance and open-mindedness. That’s why jihadists hate Sufis and target them for terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East. Assuming that the imam must be just like al Qaeda is pure bigotry.

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  27. My favorite book in all the history of literature is The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (Fitzgeralds’s 1st translation).
    Was Omar, perchance, Sufi?

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