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
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).
which includes those who advocate cultic practices or customs that are contrary
to the Sunnah and those who have mixed Sufism with speculative
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
On its website, it criticizes
classical scholars and groups such as the Palestinian resistance movement
"Our focus is on
British Muslims who follow Sufism," says Haris Rafiq, a co-founder of the
"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.
supports Sufi orders only because they are closer to its policies," he
"… 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.
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
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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