Traditions :
Muslim / Sufi


Poets in the Muslim / Sufi tradition
Books - Links



Islam and Sufis

Sufism is commonly called the mystical branch of Islam, but many Sufis would argue the point, saying that Sufism existed before the advent of the Prophet Mohammed. This perspective makes Sufism a non-dogmatic tradition of devotion and mystical technology, somewhat parallel to the role of Yoga in India. Others, however, find this argument offensive, asserting that Sufism is well-rooted within the religion of Islam. Either way, it is a holy well of sacred experience and has inspired some of the finest mystical poetry given to the world.

The Sufis

Sufis are sometimes called the Masters of Love because the Sufi path strives for ecstatic ego annihilation in the fires of Divine Love.

The origin and meaning of the word Sufi is often debated. It is often said to derive from the Arabic word for wool (suf), and a reference to the simple, rough clothing often associated with early Muslim ascetics. Other possible meanings for the term relate to purity, the chosen ones, even a reference to the Greek word for wise man (sophos). The truth is that all of those possible meanings tell us something of what it means to be a Sufi.

The Sufi commentator Qushayri gives a beautiful description of the Sufi ideal:

Sufism is entry into exemplary behavior and departure from unworthy behavior.
Sufism means that God makes you die to yourself and makes you live in him.
The Sufi is single in essence; nothing changes him, nor does he change anything.
The sign of the sincere Sufi is that he feels poor when he has wealth, is humble when he has power, and is hidden when he has fame.
Sufism means that you own nothing and are owned by nothing.
Sufism means entrusting the soul to God most high for whatever he wishes.
Sufism means seizing spiritual realities and giving up on what creatures possess.
Sufism means kneeling at the door of the Beloved, even if he turns you away.
Sufism is a state in which the conditions of humanity disappear.
Sufism is a blazing lightning bolt.
(quoted in Sufism: An essential introduction to the philosophy and practice of the mystical tradition of Islam, by Carl W. Ernst, PhD)

Though not as widely known or practiced in the West today as Yoga, Sufism has had a profound effect on the mystical traditions of the world, both East and West, since the Middle Ages. The Sufi tradition seems to have influenced developments in modern Yoga, particularly the ecstatic devotional practices of Bhakti Yoga. In Europe, as well, where mysticism often had to remain underground and look for mystical traditions "lost" or suppressed in mainstream expressions of Christianity, the Sufis greatly inspired Christian mystics, reaching them through Moorish Spain, through the interaction of the Crusades, and through the influence of Islamic physicians and scientists in service at various European courts.

Sufi Poetry

Poetry has been a revered art in every world culture, but this is particularly so throughout the Islamic world. This is partly due to the traditional Islamic prohibition on representational art. Since portrayal of people and things was largely forbidden, the visual arts tended to focus on rich, elaborate patterns and calligraphy, while much of the Islamic artistic genius emphasized the power of words over the visual image. And the Quran itself uses highly poetic language which, of course, inspires a tendency among Muslims to express themselves in a similarly poetic fashion. Perhaps the desert environments that predominate in many Islamic countries likewise contributed to a vocal rather than a visual focus.

The poetic tradition within Islam, still very much alive today, has given us an amazing bounty of sacred and mystical poetry from the Sufi and Muslim traditions.

Poets in the Muslim / Sufi Tradition

  Muhittin Abdal (16th Century)
  Abu-Said Abil-Kheir (967 - 1049)
Ahmad al-Alawi (1869 - 1934)
  Abu 'l-Husayn al-Nuri (? - 908)
Khwaja Abdullah Ansari (1006 - 1088)
Muhyiddin ibn Arabi (1165 - 1240)
Farid ud-Din Attar (1120? - 1220?)
  Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia (1238 - 1325)
  Ayaz (Contemporary)
  Binavi Badakhshani (13th Century)
  Sultan Bahu (1628 - 1691)
  Abdul-Qader Bedil (1644 - 1721)
Stewart Bitkoff (Contemporary)
Francis Brabazon (1907 - 1984)
Bulleh Shah (1680 - 1758)
  Seyh Ibrahim Efendi (1591 - 1651)
Yunus Emre (1238 - 1320)
Faiz Ahmad Faiz (1911 - 1984)
Baba Sheikh Farid (1173 - 1266)
Seyh Galib (1757 - 1799)
Mahsati Ganjavi (12th Century)
Mirza Ghalib (1797 - 1869)
  Hafiz (1320 - 1389)
  Hafiz (Daniel Ladinsky) (1945? - )
  Mansur al- Hallaj (9th Century)
  Ayn al-Qozat Hamadani (1098 - 1131)
  Zeynep Hatun (15th Century)
  Bibi Hayati (19th Century)
  Kul Himmet (16th Century)
  Umar Ibn al-Farid (1181 - 1235)
  Ibn Ata' Illah (1250 - 1309)
Allama Muhammad Iqbal (1877 - 1938)
  Fakhruddin Iraqi (? - 1289)
Nazrul Islam (1899 - 1976)
Asik Ali Izzet (1902 - 1981)
Ahmad Jami (1048 - 1141)
Kabir (15th Century)
  Baba Afzal Kashani (13th Century)
Omar Khayyam (11th Century)
Amir Khusrow Dehlawi (1253 - 1325)
  Awhad al-Din Kirmani (1163 - 1238)
  Najmoddin Kobra (1145 - 1221)
  Baba Kuhi of Shiraz (980? - 1050)
  Lalan (1775? - 1891?)
Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai (1689 - 1752)
  Muhammad Shirin Maghribi (1349 - 1408)
  Moulana Shah Maghsoud (1914 - 1980)
  Sharafuddin Maneri (1263 - 1381)
Meher Baba (1894 - 1969)
  Dhun-Nun al- Misri (796 - 859)
  Niyazi Misri (1616 - 1694)
Bawa Muhaiyaddeen (1900? - 1986)
Imadeddin Nasimi (1369? - 1418)
  Gharib Nawaz (1142? - 1236?)
Shah Nematollah Vali (1330 - 1431)
  Niffari (Muhammad ibn al-Hasan an-Niffari) (? - 965)
  Seyyid Seyfullah Nizamoglu (16th Century)
Javad Nurbakhsh (1926 - 2008)
  Qushayri (? - 1074)
  Rabia al-Basri (Rabia al- Adawiyya) (717 - 801)
Rahman Baba (1653 - 1711)
  Rasakhan (1534? - 1619?)
Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi (1207 - 1273)
Sa'di (1207? - 1291)
  Mohammad 'Aref San'at (1800 - 1849)
Hakim Sanai (1044? - 1150?)
  Sarmad (? - 1659)
Sachal Sarmast (1739 - 1829)
Frithjof Schuon (1907 - 1998)
Mahmud Shabistari (1250? - 1340)
  Ala al-Dawla Simnani (? - 1336)
  Ummi Sinan (16th Century)
  Sahl al- Tustari (818? - 896)
  Sultan Valad (1240? - 1312)

Related Links:

  Sufism Journal Online

  The Chishti Order of Sufis

Good information on Sufism in general, and specifically the Chishti lineage. Some poetry on-line, as well.
  Sufi Studies Society

Several articles on Sufism and Sufi Poetry.
  The Nimatullah Sufi Order

The Sufi order founded by Shah Nimatullah Wali. Quite large and vital in Iran today, with other centers around the world. Includes brief descriptions of the life and teachings of Shah Nimatullah.
  The Threshold Society & Mevlevi Order

A society in the US dedicated to Sufism, particularly the Mevlevi traditions inspired by Rumi. Many good articles online.
  Sufism, Sufis, and Sufi Orders: Sufism's Many Paths

Information on a wide range of Sufi shaykhs, teachers, traditions, and orders.
  The Sufism Symposium

An annual symposium, sponsored by the International Association of Sufism, that gathers Sufis from around the world. Much to explore! Tapes and video cassettes from past symposia are available.
  International Association of Sufism

A rich website with lots of articles on Sufism, information on events, audio and video resources. Worth exploring.
  Fons Vitae Publishing

A great source online for many hard to find English translations of Sufi classics.
  Chishti Poetry

A broad selection of Sufi poetry, including verses by Rumi, Hafez, Jami, and many others.
  Beauty of Islam

A simple, lovely site that includes biographies and anecdotes of the lives of many of the "great personalities" of Islam.
  The Threshold Society and Mevlevi Order

An excellent site with many articles by Kabir Helminski, Refik Algan, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee and others on Sufism and Islam.
  Aisha Bewley's Islamic Home Page

A simple site but with links to many articles and source writings on Islam and Sufism. Worth exploring.
  The Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship

Several discourses by Bawa Muhaiyaddeen available online. Various articles on Sufism.
  Sufi Poetry - Yahoo Groups

A Yahoo email group focused on Sufi poetry.
  Persian Sufi Poetry

The website of David and Sabrineh Fideler, authors of the book Love's Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition. Several poem selections, including some audio recordings of the poetry read in Persian and English.
  Texts of Islam: Sufi

A good source for many Sufi texts online, including Rumi's Masnavi, Saadi's, Gulistan, and Shabistari's Secret Rose Garden.
  Stars on a Dark Night - Sufi Inspired Islamic Art

A highly recommended web site associated with the Naqshbandi Sufi Order. Perspectives on Sufism, many brief quotes, video clips, links to Islamic art sites.
  Sufism - Sufis - Sufi Orders

A good outline/overview of the main Sufi orders and several important historical figures.
  Sufi Poets - Poet Seers

A very good web site, and a good source for poems by several Sufi poets. Worth exploring.

Muslim / Sufi