Gender is a term that is still up for discussion. So is feminism. One thing that is sure, though, is that both terms are important, not just to women, but also to men and to all kinds of people and the roles in which they express, or cannot yet express, themselves.
This issue of SUFI embraces difference, specifically with respect to gender, as a way of describing what makes inclusion as a necessary factor on the spiritual path, possible. Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order, Alireza Nurbakhsh, throws down the gauntlet at the beginning of the issue in his discourse, “The Limit of Reason and the Practice of Sufism:”
To give up intellect and rationality in Sufism means to practice love first and foremost. Practicing love means to love indiscriminately. Love, unlike reason, is blind. It does not ask questions; it does not listen to pros and cons. The path of love is inclusive. It is not concerned with gender, sexual orientation, color or race. Nor is it concerned with self-preservation.
An inclusive love that risks even “self-preservation,” and theorizing this love, is properly the work of gender studies and feminism. Dominique Butet describes how Himalayan Buddhist Nuns are at work on this project after centuries of exclusion. A conversation with Carol Flinders, author of the beloved classic vegetarian cookbook Laurel’s Kitchen, and many books on women and spirituality, addresses the joys and challenges of loving in global and local contexts that can obstruct or open wide into inclusion. Joy Ladin’s illuminating poem, “Gender,” gives a clear and immediate insight into the limitations of human divisions. This line of experience is further developed in Alex Wilson’s interview with Safoura Nourbakhsh. Wilson has first-hand and academic knowledge of how love manifests in the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, where the language is not gendered; where there is a binary, it is a slippery one between animate and inanimate. Songs in the night that bring together Lover and Beloved, and the transmutations and inspirations of gendered language in that process of union, find a hearer in Mary Gossy’s article on St. John of the Cross’s poem “Noche oscura.” Mary Lane Potter discovers that destruction and fruition are crucial terms for her spiritual path, and that maternity, understood in new ways, can make enlightenment possible.
Dani Kopoulos has given readers a great gift in her tribute to Paul Weber, who passed away near the end of winter, 2016. Paul himself gave many a great gift, chiefly that of his life, in service to the order and to SUFI. His flawless prose, commonsense editorial judgment, good taste and diplomacy have for many years made the magazine clear and beautiful. With this journal, as with everything else we have known him to love, his eyes were sharp, clear, and penetrating, and his embrace was complete. Nobody was left out.
—The Editors of SUFI
Photo © NIKI ANGELIS
Print and digital subscriptions available. Buy SUFI now.