If the Qur’an Were a Film

The opening scenes of the film show men made of mud, their backs bowed under the weight of sacks. In his narration of these pictures taken of a gold mine in Brazil, the photographer says, “When I came upon this place, every hair on my body stood on end. It was as though I was seeing the entire history of mankind, from the building of the pyramids to the tower of Babel. There wasn’t the sound of a single machine… Read more

Awakening the Sacred Feminine In All of Us 

Huddled at the back, left-hand corner of a large hall, me and a handful of other women would gather to take part in the Islamic Friday prayer at our university in British Columbia the early 2000s. Meanwhile at the front of the room, where light streamed in from the windows, dozens of young men stood side-by-side in rows. We recited the same prayer, but the gap in our experience was far wider than the swath of carpet separating the masculine… Read more

Muhammad and Rumi on Sexual Harassment

It is a time of reckoning for men around the world who have disrespected and brought distress and harm upon women. Rumi, writing about what could be called the “sacred feminine,” quotes the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):   The Prophet said, “Woman prevails over the wise man, while the raw and ignorant prevail over her.” Those men who lack tenderness and affection are animals, not men. [see Mathnawi I 2421-2437]   To paraphrase: woman can dominate a wise… Read more

Bob Dylan and the Beloved

When I ask myself who or what the Beloved is in Sufi terminology, I have to admit I don’t know. Maybe the beloved is a feeling or a face, a river or a tree, a word or a silence, a presence or an absence… or That which is aware of all these things, and aware of Itself, beyond them. Nothing is more accessible than the beloved, yet He/She/It won’t be tied down. It’s baffling and pleasing, and I don’t know… Read more

Lessons from the Sufi Kitchen

Two-thirds of the way through high school I fell under the spell of baking. Every night after finishing my homework I’d drift downstairs to the kitchen and start pulling down flour and sugar and spices from the pantry shelves. Soon the aroma of cinnamon rolls, chocolate chip cookies or banana bread would fill the house At first my parents enjoyed the sweet treats I produced, and were glad to share the bounty with neighbors, co-workers and friends. As time went… Read more

The Heart-Breaking Work of a Dervish

A section of the Wisconsin River winds through towering, 500 million-year-old rock formations composed layer upon layer of honey-coloured sandstone. Called the Upper Dells, the cliffs were cut by ancient glaciers. They’re remnants of a time when the continent was covered in desert. During a boat tour meandering around the imposing cliffs and traversing dazzling river narrows, a few dear friends and I marvelled at the protruding rocks that cradle a several-mile stretch of the river. Our guide described how… Read more

Sacred Space: Making Prayer Beautiful

My childhood memories of the mosque hardly evoke the idea of sacred space. I recall damp basements with mouldy walls (and the occasional mushroom growth), stifling in summer and so cold in winter we could see our breath when we recited the Quran, rocking back and forth vigorously to warm ourselves. At home, the only sacred aspect was the prayer mat, which would be brought out and placed wherever there was space for the quick ritual prayer. As a teenager… Read more

Bold and Extraordinary Living

  Sayyid Abul Hassan Kharaqani, one of the greatest of Sufi masters said, “Make extraordinary and bold efforts on the Path but remember who the doer is.”   What is the significance of Kharaqani’s guidance to us? What could be extraordinary and bold effort on the Path? After several days of reflection, these words resonated in my heart, “Reflect on the end in order that you may see the beginning.”   “We are for Allah and unto Him we return.”[1]… Read more

The Work of Heart

Lately I’ve been seeing hearts everywhere I look. In a magazine I was reading, I was startled by the image of a heart filled with crude oil (it turned out to be an advertisement for the oil and gas industry). Then I saw a news story about the heart of a blue whale being exhibited at a museum in Canada. It is the first of its kind to be displayed this way thanks to a recently refined form of preservation called plastination. It seems to me… Read more

Ramadan with Shams: The Ambush of Love

  This Ramadan, I drank from the wisdom of Shams of Tabriz contained in the wonderful book Rumi’s Sun: The Teachings of Shams of Tabriz.  “Shams” means “Sun” of course, and this year the summer equinox fell in the month of Ramadan; something which felt significant. I have discovered that for Shams the best indication of a sincere spiritual seeker is a sense of need, and I reflected a great deal on God as as-Samad, the Satisfier of All Needs,… Read more

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