Sufism is the inner, spiritual, mystical dimension of Islam. The goal of Sufism is to help individuals develop the ability to be present in the current moment and to love unconditionally, and the path to developing those qualities is a form of meditation that encourages the remembrance of Gd with every breath.
As I listened to the Shaikh speak, I began to see many, many similarities between Sufism and my Jewish beliefs and practice… which includes meditation and devekut, the constant awareness of Gd’s presence… and I began to intellectually understand why my heart was drawn to the writings of Sufi poets like Jelaluddin Rumi, Shams Tabriz, and Rabi’a al-Adawiyya.
Outside the auditorium where the Shaikh spoke was a book fair. There, I found a book entitled “Shalom/Salaam: A Story of a Mystical Fraternity” by Thomas Block (Fons Vitae 2010). Block spent more than a decade gathering research about historical accounts of Sufis and mystical Jews studying together, and his book attempts to share those accounts beginning with Medieval Egypt.
My day at the festival, finding Block’s book, beginning to have a better intellectual understanding of Islam, being moved by prayer with a shaikh . . . all of it reminded me of the lesson I received nearly a decade ago on the Temple Mount, when the Muslim man from East Jerusalem talked with me and prayed that Muslims and Jews would return to seeing one another as family and living in peace, because we have more that unites us than divides us.
My summer schedule, and then the fall Jewish holidays, have kept me too busy to read as much as I had wanted of Block’s book, but now I’m ready to settle in for the winter. I’ve got Block’s book and a Qur’an, and I’m really excited to see what I learn in this next leg of my Jewish Journey!!
shavua tov, a good week, to all, jen