Category: Articles

Let it Shine


by Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons

I cannot imagine the Civil Rights Movement without the music we produced as we marched, sat in or were jailed.  The music was the articulate voice of the masses of the people.

The music of black spirituals emerged for the suffering of African slaves in America. But how did it infuse the spirit of non-violence in the historic Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, that broke the back of institutionalize racism in the South? The scholar Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons offers a moving answer, weaving together history and music with her own personal experience as a foot-soldier for freedom in the crusade led by Dr. Martin Luther King.

(Painting by Anita Philyaw,



The Fez Festival of Sufi Culture, 2011


by Fitzroy Morrissey

Five different Sufi orders performed on successive days during the Festival.  A Sufi tariqah is by its very nature autonomous, distinct and traditional.

In this thoughtful and beautifully written article, Fitzroy Morrisey narrates his personal experience of the 2011 annual festival of Sufi culture in Fez, Morocco.   Beginning with a succinct exploration of the dichotomy between Sufism as it is commonly conceived and Sufism as it is actually lived, the author devotes the rest of the article to a thrilling description of the God-intoxicated music of diverse Sufi musicians, including classical singers, professional Sufi groups, and five Sufi tariqahs from Morocco and Turkey.

(Photo by Thierry Beauvir,


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Naked Voice

by Ellen Oak

A DOOR OPENS – I first encountered the early chant of the western church in a music history course at Swarthmore College.  Professor Peter Graham Swing introduced the topic with descriptions and interpretations of the chant as a precursor to polyphony. But my mind could not travel with him.  I had fallen in love with the chant at first sight, and desired to stay.

For singer, composer and conductor Ellen Oak, the practice of Christian chant has been a way of life for over 30 years. In a poetic and passionate article, Oak shares her knowledge and experience of this mystical tradition, and her own development of a long disused practice rooted in the chanting of the ancient Hebrews and other near-eastern peoples.

(Image © 2012 John Teti Sr,

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by Alireza Nurbakhsh

The Sufis refer to God as the Friend (dūst). This is based on the Koranic verse yuhibbuhum wa yuhibbuhunah (God loves them and they love Him, 5:45), which is interpreted by the Sufis as meaning that it is God’s love for us that gives rise to our love for Him.

Sufi Symbolism


by Lahleh Bakhtiar

The centrality of symbolism in Sufi teaching remains a consuming topic for scholars as well as practitioners. Lahleh Bakhtiar’s discourse on the subject in her book Sufi: Expressions of The Mystic Quest invokes the tapestry of Sufi symbolism as an expanding visual language, rich with ritual and hidden archetypes—an inner path to understanding.


(Photo Prof. Richard T. Mortel – Riyadh)

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Guides of Light


by Yousef Daoud

The east Asian traditions and Sufism have in common the tradition of working with a guide or master. As many of the great wisdom traditions have been migrating from the East to the West since the beginning of the 20th century, to cultures that are less traditional than those of Asia and the Middle East, the ancient role of the spiritual guide or teacher is being questioned and tested.

(Photo © Himberry/


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Visions of Love


by Sajidah Abdus Sattar

In 13th century Europe, when the men of the Church preached about God as the almighty power who required pain and penance from sinful man, a remarkable movement known as Minnemystiek (love mysticism) emerged. Instigated by devout and courageous women of noble birth searching for a God who was tender and loving, these “beguines,” were particularly inspired by the writing and spiritual guidance of one exceptionally gifted woman, Hadewych (or Hadewijch) of Antwerp.


(Hadewijch article photo © Gate Gustafson 2011)

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Men of Faith


By Peter Valentyne

Winner of the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010, director Xavier Beauvois’s film Of Gods and Men is based on the true story of a group of Cistercian monks who lived a monastic life of prayer and service in Algeria from 1993 until 1996, when they were kidnapped and then killed by radical Islamic insurgents.