By Ahmed Ibrahim, IOL Correspondent
The name of Allah is changed by dozens of people who meet every week to attend a Sufi circle at the rented church.
It is one of many Sufi
circles held around the country, in what many observers see as a sign of the
rise of Sufism in
The specific number of Sufi
"I can tell by the sheer number of people who attend Sufi circles and by mosques which are packed out to attend circles chaired by a Sufi Sheikh."
Muslim scholars have
divided Sufism into two broad categories to determine its compatibility or not
Firstly, genuine and authentic Sufism, practiced by Sufi masters such as Junyad Al-Baghdadi and Abu Sulayman Al-Darani, which is in perfect agreement with the Qur'an and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
Secondly, pseudo-Sufism which includes those who advocate cultic practices or customs that are contrary to the Sunnah and those who have mixed Sufism with speculative mysticism/Neo-Platonism.
Scholars consider those to be charlatans and impostors.
Ali, the Sufi activist, attributes the popularity of Sufism to a rising trend to "see the beauty of Islam" away from any "extremist influences."
That is the same reason why
the government has decided following the 7/7
Two years ago, politicians from the main parties attended the launch of the Sufi Muslim Council (SMC) at the House of Commons.
Ruth Kelly, then Secretary of State for Communities, also showed up and praised the council's "core principles condemning terrorism in all its forms."
The SMC makes its mission clear: Facing extremism and staying away from any politicized representation of Islam.
On its website, it criticizes classical scholars and groups such as the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas.
"Our focus is on British Muslims who follow Sufism," says Haris Rafiq, a co-founder of the council.
"There are many
organisations that do lobby on foreign policy and what is happening in
Indeed, politics was absent at the Maida Vale Sufi circle.
The night began with Sufi followers performing religious chants before sharing a meal as is the custom.
"We are only involved in dhikr (remembering Allah)," Amjad Patt, one of many immigrants who had come to Britain from the Indian subcontinent where Sufi orders are widespread, told IOL while attending the St. Peter’s Church circle.
"…that is what Allah asked us: do dhikr and do not involve in politics," he argued.
However, the spread of Sufism has been met with strong opposition from the main Muslim organisations and community members.
"Sufism does not work
"Muslims cannot stay away from politics as Sufism asks them to do. They have their own concerns – either internal or external – that can be only handled via politics."
The MCB, the largest Muslim
community body in the
It also helped organize the
biggest demonstration against the government before the 2003 US-led invasion of
Domestically, the MCB campaigns against what it sees as discrimination against British Muslims.
Azzam Tamimi, a community activist of Palestinian origin, is equally critical of Sufi orders.
"The government supports Sufi orders only because they are closer to its policies," he charged.
"… because these orders do not criticize the government, … because these orders generally encourage the separation between life and religion."
Ali, the Sufi activist who uses his skills as webmaster to spread the word on Sufism through articles and inviting people to circles, fires back.
"Unfortunately, those opponents – from a Wahhabi extremist school - have a stronger voice, because they are backed by the Saudi government which has a lot of money," he claims.
"Islam is based on Rahma (mercy), which means that it allows for different forms of Islam, including Sufism, to be there. Isn’t it?"
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