The Mystic Sound of Sufism

by Mohammad Sarhan.  Mr. Sarhan is a student in Professor Mirakhor’s “Writing in the Age of Terror(ism)” 

Amid the repetitively harsh stereotypes about Islam, associating it with blood, terrorism, and hatred, a voice that asks for “forgiveness for all humanity, even the colonizer” chants out loud in Wooster’s chapel. The Sufi charming meditative performance was one of the most intriguing experiences that added to my understanding of both the Islamic rituals and faith. These stereotypes have merged from a lack of exposure to the community of 1.5 billion muslims, yet the performance broke that lack of exposure.

Despite its greatness, Sufism is not part of the lives of the common Muslims. It is found in almost all countries that have large Muslim societies. Their practices do differ from the non Sufi Sunnis who do neither use music nor dance as a way of reaching God. Sufism is the Muslim gate to spirituality. The word Sufi emerges from the Arabic word Suf which means wool which they wear as a symbol of their asceticism. Sufis say that they worship God, not because they are afraid of him, but rather because they love him.

Coming from North Africa, and South Asia, to one stage despite all their differences. Once the music started, a sense of clarity and serenity dominated the chapel. The first song was from the 15th century. It was a form of connection between the muslim and hindu communities as the song says “people worship the hindu god or the Almighty, yet both come from the first light.” Singing as a form of worshipping in Islam, is a concept that only exists in the Sufi sect. This music is part of the “internal” worshiping. The type of worshiping that this sufi music is clear the inner soulfrom the evil of “Satan.” The second song was more physical compared to the first one. Physical movement such as dancing and clapping in Sufi meditation is of a great significance. The more repetitive physical movement Sufis do, the more exhausted the become and the closer they become to a spiritual state of mind. The more spiritual this state is, the more one is connected to God and the more the become one. This state of mind is similar to the meditation techniques in both Buddhism and Hinduism. The “dance ecstasy” brings the soul to a level of spiritual enlightenment in which one explores his own soul. The same movement was also repeated in the fifth song that was played.

Moussa’s voice was another form of Sufi music. His deep voice reverberated in the chapel praising Allah, and his Prophet. His first song, No God, But God, is a form of thikr which is repeating God’s name. The song which did not need any instruments to express its spirituality. Its meditative repetitive tone which was separated by long breaths. The silence and breaths between each repetition gave the song the needed seriousness.

The Sufi poet Ibn Arabi said “I believe in the religion of love whichever direction its caravan takes”. The direction its caravans have decided to take is the road from South Asia to North Africa to our ears.

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