Who is a Rational Sufi?

Who is a Rational Sufi? March 20, 2016

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Those who remember Allah while standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth [and say], ‘Our Lord, you have not created all this in vain, exalted are You, save us from the punishment of the fire (Quran 3:191).

In 1998, while still a doctoral student at Georgetown University, I had organized and hosted a philosophy conference titled Contemporary Muslim Philosophers Conference (you can read a report on this conference here) and at the venue I had expressed an aspirational definition of a contemporary Islamic philosopher as a “Rational Sufi” – one who balances rational and mystical thinking. But soon after my graduation in 2000, the terrible attacks of September 11, 2001 happened and that attack and the political realities of the aftermath stole my intellectual life from me.

I put my spiritual and intellectual aspirations aside and as a good soldier plunged myself into the battle for the soul of Islam. I am hoping that this blog will help me slowly resuscitate that initial vision of balancing rational and mystical thought from within Islamic tradition that so appealed to me. I wish to use this blog to awaken from the political exigency (a form of spiritual slumber) that made me a public intellectual, a slave to reason alone, and now allow my heart to share the space with my mind in my soul’s command center. Hopefully one day I will achieve equilibrium — a balance of power between my mind and my heart and they will speak in synch.

Who is a Rational Sufi?

The scriptural basis of my rather oxymoronic concept of a rational Sufi is verse 3:191 in the Quran. I talk about this in greater detail in the video “Who is a Rational Sufi” that is included in this blog posting. But briefly, this verse described people of intellect as those who remember God (Yazkuruna Allaha) all the time and those who reflect (yatafakkaruna) on his signs. Thus a rational Sufi is one who combines contemplation and meditation.

If you are content then you already know what I mean and are looking forward to the journey itself rather than the reading about the preparations for this mystical journey. But if you at the moment, like me are desolate and thirst to drink from the cup of love, then hang on it is going to be an interesting ride.


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