The Islamic Post Blog

BOOK LIST: The International Quranic Open University Recommends: The Other Islam by Khalida
May 21, 2009, 7:10 am
Filed under: Education, International, Magazine/ Culture, May Volume I - 2009 | Tags:

By Lorna Swaine-Abdallah
Islamic Post Staff Writer

The Islamic Post is pleased to present an excerpt from the introduction of the latest book by scholar of Sufic doctrine, Stephen Schwartz called, The Other Islam: Sufism and the Road to Global Harmony. An analysis by the International Quranic Open University (IQOU) regarding Schwartz’ accurate assessment of extremists abusing the name of Islam follows.
First, the excerpt from the introduction to The Other Islam, by Stephen Suleiman Schwartz: “Sufism –Islamic Spirituality in a World of Fear:”

On May 27, 2007, a huge bomb struck the mosque and shrine of Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani in central Baghdad, killing at least twenty-four people and injuring many more. The Jilani shrine is a prominent landmark in the Iraqi capital, and the explosion damaged its dome and minaret.
Shaykh Jilani, who lived from around 1077 to 1166 C.E., has been described as a “patron saint” of Baghdad, and the celebration of his birthday, a custom known as mawlid in Islam, is a favorite festival in the city. His mawlid had taken place a month before the May 2007 blast.
Because Shaykh Jilani was a Sunni Muslim, some Westerners immediately assumed that the attack on his shrine was committed by Iraqi Shia Muslims. But they were wrong. The perpetrators of the Jilani bombing were also Sunnis. The difference was that Shaykh Jilani was known as a Sunni Sufi, and the bombers were Wahhabis (alias “Salafis”), probably from Saudi Arabia, who militantly claim the Sunni banner.
If the fighting between Muslims in Iraq pitted Sunnis against Shias, most Americans would ask, why would Sunnis bomb a Sunni shrine? Was this some bizarre provocation aimed at blaming Shias for the crime and rousing the anger of Sunnis? Every Muslim in the world knows the answer to that question: Sunnis attacked Sunnis in the Jilani shrine bombing because Wahhabis, representing the most extreme, violent, exclusionary, rigid, and fundamentalist interpretation in the history of Sunni Islam –fueled by Saudi petrodollars– despise Sufis and their shrines. Wahhabis also hate and kill other non-Wahhabi Sunnis, as well as Shias, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and anybody else with whom they disagree, including each other.
The rise of Al-Qaida and of Islamist terrorism in general originates more in Wahhabism and the divisions it has created within the community of Muslim believers than in a conflict with the West. And the field of deadly Wahhabi action against Sufis and other dissenting Muslims is not limited to Iraq. Less than five months after the Jilani shrine bomb, a blast at the shrine of another of the most famous Sufis, Moinuddin Chisti, in Ajmer, India, killed two people and injured twenty. The crime occurred during evening prayers when the shrine was crowded with hundreds of worshippers.
The conflict between Sufis, both Sunni and Shia, and Islamist fundamentalists or clericalists is widening around the world –in terror attacks striking Iraq as well as in reform efforts in Saudi Arabia, amid intrigues among American Muslims at the same time as Sunni fundamentalists and Sufis confront one another in the Balkans, and in the banning of Sufi books in Malaysia.
[…] The Iranian clerical regime is in crisis, and Sufis are increasingly prominent as representatives of a new political and social alternative to the failed scheme of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (the story of the Gonabadi Sufis will be told in chapter 5). Similarly, Sufis are in the forefront of demands for political and social reform in Saudi Arabia, where the anti-Sufi Wahhabis comprise the official form of Islam. For many years the outstanding opponent of fundamentalism in Saudi Arabia was a beloved Sufi, Sayyid Muhammad Alawi Al-Maliki (1947-2004). When his funeral was held in Mecca, private jets choked the Saudi airports for days.
In the Wahhabi mind, to praise a Sufi saint such as Shaykh Jilani, to observe his birthday, and to honor his shrine, is to deviate from strict monotheism, concentrated on God, and thus to treat a personality such as Jilani or Moinuddin Chisti as a “partner” or “equal” of God. According to the same bizarre logic, Wahhabis condemn mawlid birthday events for the Prophet Muhammad himself [peace be upon him]. The fundamentalists deride such customs as a mimicking of Christianity, claiming that extolling the Prophet’s birthday is an unacceptable innovation (bida) in religion and that Muslims must not stray from the original expression of their faith. That was the Wahhabi posture from the beginning: that acclaiming the Prophet’s birthday, Sufism itself (since it is not mentioned specifically in the Qur’an), and honoring Muslim and other saints are all novelties in Islam, to be strictly avoided.
But as Sayyid Al-Maliki and other opponents of Wahhabism have written, in texts appearing since Ottoman times, if Muslims reject all innovations after the era of the Prophet [peace be upon him], they must abandon the written Qur’an (since Islamic scripture was delivered to Muhammad [peace be upon him] orally, and at first memorized), the production of books of knowledge, the erection of minarets at mosques, the construction of schools and hospitals, and numerous other modern customs, including use of sophisticated weaponry in war. Even the most extreme Wahhabis cannot claim to live by such a set of prescriptions, although they may impose them on others. Wahhabi fanatics will not watch television and the Saudi kingdom has no movie theaters, since both are recent inventions.
The faith of Islam continues to challenge Americans and other Westerners with many questions, which for most non-Muslims have remained unanswered. Is Islam a religion comparable to Christianity or Judaism, a political movement, or a violent conspiracy? Does it aim to conquer the world? Does it urge its adherents to commit atrocious acts of terror?
And then, what are Muslims? What do they believe about Islam? And how do they look at their Christian, Jewish, and other non-Muslim neighbors –if not on the same street in an American suburb, then at least on the same continent, as in Europe, and on a single planet? The West has many academic experts on the Middle East –the core Muslim area– and many Muslim and Arab advocates. But few have provided answers to the basic concerns of non-Muslims. The same inquiries have gone without adequate reply, or fallen into the void of forgetfulness, occasionally resurfacing and usually failing to stir new explanations.
[…] Outside university and political circles, hate-mongering self-anointed “experts” on Islam have proliferated, but they are heedless of Islamic, Western, or other history and interested only in selling their shoddy wares by sowing panic. They seek to reinforce suspicion in the Western public that the only trustworthy Muslim is one who has left the religion of Islam or otherwise expressed loathing towards it.
After the atrocities of September 11, 2001, followed by American military action, few Americans comprehended the essence of the situation. Many believed that the Iraq intervention was about fighting terrorism; others thought that, as in the Gulf war of 1991, it was mainly about oil. But then details emerged that had been absent from previous American involvement with the Muslim world. It turned out that Iraq had several differing kinds of Muslims: mostly Arab Shia Muslims, but also Arab and Kurdish Sunni Muslims. Aside from the Kurds, who had been protected by the West in the past and were secure friends of America, both Shias and Arab Sunnis appeared to harbor a homicidal rage against the American presence in the country.
Words such as “Sunni” and “Shia” were novel to most Americans, and almost none of the Westerners who tossed them around in the media had a clear picture of what made them different from one another or why suddenly the Iraq war had turned into what appeared to be a blood feud between them. Even many who knew that neighboring Iran is overwhelmingly Shia could not explain what that really meant for the Iraqi Shia majority –more than 60 percent of the population of Mesopotamia. Some assumed that Iran, with a Persian, non-Arab culture, sought to take over the Arab East. Most Westerners already distrusted Iran as a clerical dictatorship and rogue state.
Other new terms appeared in the Western vocabulary, also without sufficient explanation. From Saudi Arabia, the home of Al-Qaida, came a sudden awareness of Wahhabism. But certain Western experts, journalists, and government representatives were quickly convinced that Wahhabism and its followers, known as Wahhabis, did not really exist –rather. that the Saudi-based form of radical Islam should be called “Salafism.” Once again, none of the Western public figures who talked about “Salafism” showed any knowledge of the origin of the term, its original meaning, or its use by the Saudi Wahhabis (who really are Wahhabis, not “Salafis,” as will be explained further on).
On the edge of this quicksand of misapprehension, disinformation, foreign influence, ignorance, and arrogance there occasionally sprouted, like tiny but fragrant flowers, references to something called Sufism. While Sunni and Shia Islam alike were portrayed by some Westerners as dangerous to the West, and even as Satanic inventions, Sufism was typically mentioned with grudging respect, as a peaceful, spiritual way of Islam based on a journey toward God. But here, too, established expertise and common wisdom weighed heavier than the fragile petals of the Sufi blossom.
~ IQOU Analysis:~
The most refreshing observation to make about Stephen Suleyman Schwartz’ book, The Other Islam: Sufism and the Road to Global Harmony is that his analysis is surprisingly quite accurate in many respects –something very hard to come by in these days with a multitude of orientalists and even so-called Sufis who, far from having a clue, actually misrepresent the Sufi way, (deliberately or not). Schwartz’ research and exposition on the subject, in fact, presents a most favorable impression of the Sufis, while exposing Wahhabism for what it truly is, the worst kind of extremism, a revolt from Orthodox Islam—indeed, a movement to destroy Islam from within, were that possible.
American Sufis and other Muslim groups, can only benefit from the sincere effort and in-depth study that researchers such as Mr. Schwartz, make about this most vital aspect of Islam. Muslim and non-Muslim alike would be well served by examining his work. Schwartz’ work conveys an understanding that while clearly coming from his personal point of view, reveals his insight, and is truly indicative of someone who has come with an open heart to the field of study. The same cannot be said of others such as Annemarie Schimmel and R. A. Nicholson and such of their ilk who twist the facts and misrepresent the Sufi way.
The book delineates the intent of the Wahhabi movement as one that, under the cover of “purifying religion,” incites toxic hatred against those with love for the Holy Last Messenger (peace be upon him), his descendants, as well as the Saints and Sufis. Many unsuspecting Muslims would be shocked to learn that the British Secret Service played a very important role in giving guidelines, aims and objectives to this ideology, meant to cause hatred and bloodshed amongst Muslims. To understand this one has to read a very well known book called the “Confessions of Hempher, a British Spy.” It was, according to Hempher, he who recruited one Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab and trained and developed him. Later on, this Ibn Abdul Wahhab was given dangerous and destructive aims to include in his newfound religion called Wahhabism. But do enough Muslims know this or give it due credence?
Mr. Schwartz is quite right in pointing out how these extremists bombed the Holy Shrine of Sultan Mohyuddin Abdul Qadir Jilani, the greatest Sufi of all the times. His family members are still keeping the Qadri Order alive and their numbers are increasing and their followers are found all over the world. Very rightly, has he drawn attention to how the Wahhabis/Salafis bombed the Holy Shrine of His Eminence Moinuddin Chisti in India. Unfortunately, not only this, but these same Wahhabis are the ones who actually trained and equipped the bombers.
Important to note is that the Dar us Salaam publishing house is nothing but a front organization for these enemies of Islam. They openly produce, print and sell books and materials which declare the blood of other Muslims legal.
If anybody is found showing any reverence to the Holy Last Messenger, or celebrates his birthday, he is arrested and sentenced heavily or killed. His birthplace was used as a dump for collecting trash and the date trees which he planted with his own saliva were cut down recently. At same time they maintain the belongings of their elders of Saud in five museums in the Hijaz, the holy land, which they call Saudi Arabia.
Indeed, they specialize in murdering the descendants of the Holy Last Messenger (peace be upon him). It should interest you to learn that the Director of the Abdul Qadir Jilani Institute of Sufi Sciences and the Vice Chancellor of IQOU, NY, has been attacked more than six times by hired Wahhabi assassins. Fortunately one called Ghulam Sarwar Bhatti was arrested while trying to assassinate Pervez Musharraf, former president of Pakistan. There he confessed that thrice he went to assassinate Syed Mubarik Ali Gilani. The International Quranic Open University (IQOU) maintained one summer campus in the Pakistani Himalayas where staff and students would go for Sufic commemoration and contemplation. In 2002 when the correspondent for The Islamic Post, M. Atiq Shahid and an entire group of American Muslim ladies were there, they attacked. An exchange of fire took place between the attackers and the security guards and then the attackers left. The university had to close its facilities in that area because of the mounting hostility towards Sufis and Syeds.
There are a few other points which need to be brought to serve as further clarification on this most important subject. Wahhabis do not believe other Muslims to be their coreligionists. Therefore to call them a sect of Islam is wrong, amounting to dignifying the group with a claim to credence that only serves to confuse those with little understanding of the true teachings of Islam. Wahhabis are Wahhabis and Muslims are Muslims.
The same can be said for the Shia. Mr. Schwartz, and other writers and researchers should understand that Shia never considered themselves as Muslims. They don’t practice Islam. They have their own religion. The foundation of Islam is based on the five pillars: professing that, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the Last Messenger,” offering prayers five times a day, giving two and a half percent zakat, fasting for 30 days in the month of fasting and performing Hajj for all those who have capacity and strength. They don’t believe this. Their religion is based on Taqiya: never express your personal opinion but deceive the opponent by giving him the wrong idea and Muta: temporary marriage which is forbidden in all the Semitic religions. It is wrong to assume that Shia adore and follow Ali, son in law of Holy Last Messenger. They do not. Nor they follow the martyrs of Karbala; only once a year they beat their chest and then go home. Particularly, with regard to the Bektashi Order, it is important to be aware that there has not been a single Hafiz (one who memorizes Holy Quran) nor has there been a single Sufi from amongst the Shia.
We acknowledge that 90% of the Muslims of the world follow orthodox Islam, following the Sunnah of Holy Last Messenger (peace be upon him), give due respect to all previous Messengers and associate freely with people of the previous Books. At this time, the Sufi doctrine is the only way which can bring peace amongst People of the Books: Jews, Christians and Muslims. However, when we use the term “Jew” we do not mean “Zionists,” as Zionists can best be compared to the Wahhabis. They don’t follow the Torah because the Torah, Gospel and Qur’an are a continuity of one and the same message and the Holy Qur’an is the final message.
There is much more to add as there is no end to Sufic knowledge. It is unfortunate that many Muslims do not recognize, much less understand, this term “Sufism.” Nevertheless the first lesson in the Sufic book of guidance is: “Know that mankind is the family of God. And every man/woman is son/daughter of God (figuratively)” as it has been mentioned many times in the Testaments. Even in the East, many times the term is used commonly. It is high time for us to join hands and make this world full of peace, love and harmony by turning to Sufic doctrine. Muslims, Christians and Jews can come together to participate in this noble effort.
The sincere seekers of truth are welcome to make contact with our university to obtain more information on some of our classic videos on the Sufi order and discipline as well as a number of books for further study. An open invitation is also extended to seekers, researchers and students to pay a visit to the Holy Khanqah in South Carolina. Here they will get accounts of all that has taken place there, as also related by some of our Christian visitors.


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