By Michele Rousseau
Sufism has few ideas, but an inexhaustible wealth and variety of illustration. Among a thousand fluttering masks the interpreter is required to identify each old familiar face.
~ R.A. Nicholson, 1898
Internationally renound musician and DJ, Mercan Dede, is beloved by many nations of the world but his home country, Turkey, houses his harshest critics – those who feel that his contemporary appropriation of Sufi music, whirling dance, and ethics are an erosion of the traditions of the path.
Michele Rousseau balances the anxieties of Dede’s critics with her own experience of his music, and his extraordinary power to bring people of all walks of life together to partake in a shared experience, a “contemporary sama.”
(Photo Courtesy Yagmur Kizilok)
by Azize Güvenç with Yousef Daoud
Most of us know first-hand the transformative power of music and sound to create a profoundly calming or emotional experience, and readers know our previous issue of Sufi was dedicated to sacred encounters through music.
In their carefully researched essay Shamanic Traditions and Sufism, authors Azize Güvenç and Yousef Daoud take us into the amazing life and work of Dr. Rahmi Oruç Güvenç, a Sufi shaikh and master musician of Turkey who provides healing to the sick through music therapies that fuse Sufism with ancient shamanic practices from Central Asia.
Güvenç and his musicians combine music, movement and dhikr to awaken body, mind and soul. And researchers in Europe, the United States and Turkey are studying the positive effects of Güvenç’s sound and movement therapies on patients suffering from cancer, bone fractures, depression and other maladies.
(Photo courtesy of Azize Güvenç)
Interviewed by Annie Stopford and Eugene Ulman
The West African nation of Senegal holds a unique position in the global picture of contemporary Sufism. In a nation with a population of almost 13 million people, 94% of the people identify themselves as Muslim and, of those, 95% are affiliated with one of the four major Sufi orders in the country.
Sufi leaders wield enormous influence in all aspects of Senegalese religious, economic and social life. The complex and often controversial role they play in mediating between the government and their own disciples is often viewed as the source of Senegal’s relative political stability. In this interview Seydou Diop, a former Senegalese diplomat, shares his own personal insights and experiences in these matters.
Mr. Diop retired from the diplomatic corps in 2004 and is today a Shaikh of the Nimatullahi Order in Dakar. The interview begins with some discussion of Mr. Diop’s religious and family background, and ranges over many fascinating subjects, including the differing responses of Sufi leaders to French colonialism, the influence of Sufi leaders on Senegalese politics, Sufism and the role of women, and his personal experience on the Nimatullahi path.
(Photo © Thomas J. Haslam, www.evolvinghumanities.org)
THE SOUND OF COMPLEX SIMPLICITY
by Ali Nourbakhsh
Based on references to the instrument in early literature and on depictions in ancient sculpture and illustrations of musicians playing the daf, it is widely believed that the daf has been used in the Middle East for at least 2,000 years.
(Photo courtesy of Foad Tohidi)
A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
by Fitzroy MorrisseyFive 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, beauvir.com)