An opinion on Sufism

Katinka Hesselink

[last rewrite Juli 28th 2005]

There are two types of sufism (or perhaps: two extremes). The one extreme is a sufism that is firmly based on and limited to Islam, islamic law and muslim culture. This is the traditional stance, in many respects. The other extreme is a sufism that is universal in practice and outlook. This is a type of sufism that has traditionally flourished in India and Pakistan. Given that India has the second largest community of Muslims in the world (Indonesia has the most), thus universal sufism is not as controversial in Islam as some websites suggest. As I'm not interested in promoting sectarian viewpoints this site has been enriched not only with sufi-writings from the more universal traditions, but also with material from the tradition of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky: the Fourth Way. Representing a Western version of traditional Islamic Sufism is Robert Frager, an American Muslim who has written about sufism for a Western audience while himself having been initiated in a Turkish Tariqa.

The main concern of this website is the value of sufi-thought for contemporary spirituality. My choice in articles and stories reflects this preference. Contemporary spirituality (in the west) focusses on inner growth and community sense, sufism has a lot to offer on both counts.

Every spiritual discipline has its strengths and weaknesses. The weaknesses being usually those places where strength is not. Sufi wisdom has its main strength in its practical, sane, down to earth mentality. The stories, for instance, don't point to transcendent realities, won't give you bliss-like experiences, but will help you face your own, very human nature - while guiding you to God (or Allah).