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Sufi Syncretism - Folklorist Sufis

Sufism follows the basic tenets of Islam but does not follow all of the orthodox practices of Sunni or Shi'ah Islam. In many Muslim areas, a mystical version of Hanafi Sunnism provided the means by which pagan and Christian practices were accommodated within Islam. Sufism centers on orders or brotherhoods that follow charismatic religious leaders.

There is a distinction between official and folk religion. Official religion stresses religious texts, the sharia (Islamic law), the literal interpretation of religious teachings, and worship at mosques. Folk religion, reflecting Arabic and Kurdish nomadic heritages, emphasizes sacred forces, the symbolic interpretation of texts, and worship at shrines. Folk religion continues to flourish in rural areas. Sufi orders, like folk religion, focus on the allegorical interpretation of texts and have historically been organized around a pious founder or saint.

The Folklorist Sufis, have been under attack, and discriminated against, for centuries. The Folklorists Sufis, have incorporated "un-Islamic" beliefs into their practices, such as celebrating the Birthday of Mohammed, visiting the shrines of "Islamic saints", dancing during prayer (the whirling dervishes), etc.

The followers of Salafist Islam, such as Wahhabis, oppose all practices not sanctioned by the Koran. Wahabbism is named after Abdul Wahab, a religious thinker who two centuries earlier had fought the influence of Sufism in Sunni Islam. Wahhabis look at Sufi Islam as a deviation from the original Islamic rules. This view of Islam rejects "magical rituals," pilgrimages to saint shrines, or recitations of the Koran in cemeteries -- all activities that had become commonplace among the Sufi orders. Wahhabis deny the role of the teacher, which for the Sufi is very important. They also deny the cult of the saints and pilgrimages to the saint shrines that are widespread among the followers of Sufi Islam. The inner link with God, typical for the Sufi followers, is denied by the Wahhabis. Wahhabis follow the old concept of jihad, meaning the holy war to convert the infidels. The Sufis have another interpretation of jihad. They see it not as a war against the infidels, but as a war that a Muslim has to fight against his own defects to try to reach perfection.

Islam was introduced into Chechnya over a period of centuries, gaining a number of converts by the 15th and 16th centuries but not taking firm root until well into the 18th and mid-19th centuries. The Chechens were converted to the Sunni branch of Islam, with particular emphasis on its mystic Sufi form. The Chechens practice the mystical version of Islam known as Sufism. This wins the Chechens little sympathy from the Sunni and Shi'a establishments in most Muslim states. The prevalent form of Islam as practiced in the north Caucasus is Nakshbandi Sufism, which is not favored in Saudi Arabia -- which is a Wahhabi regime -- and is not favored in Shi'a Iran, either. The Chechens, through a combination of Islam which is popular in their homeland, combined with economic issues, have dropped below the level of Islamic solidarity that one might expect from other Islamic countries. Zikr, which means "remembrance of God," is the central ritual practice of most Caucasian Sufi orders. This mystical ceremony, designed to lead participants into an ecstatic union with God, involves the group repetition of a special prayer.

Albania is the world center of the Bektashi school (a particularly liberal form of Shi'a Sufism), which moved from Turkey to Albania in 1925 after the revolution of Ataturk. Bektashis are concentrated mainly in central and southern regions of the country and claim that 45 percent of the country's Muslims belong to their school.

Alawiya is an underground movement that appeared in the third century on the Hijri calendar. The group followers do prayers different from that of Muslims and allow many practices prohibited under Islam. Turkish Alawiya Muslims' number vary from 5 to 25 million, mostly inhabited in impoverished central areas of the country. The situation of the Shadhiliya/'Alawiya Sufi order of Sanaa is a typical case of the problems facing Sufi orders in Yemen, where covert but commanding devotion to the saints and Sufi shaykhs of Yemen can still be found.

The vast majority of Muslims in Chad are adherents of a moderate branch of Sufism known locally as Tidjani, which originated in 1727 under Sheik Ahmat Tidjani in what is now Morocco and Algeria. Tidjani Islam, as practiced in the country, incorporates some local African religious elements. Of the total population, 54 percent are Muslim, approximately one-third are Christian, and the remainder practice traditional indigenous religions or no religion at all. Most northerners practice Islam and most southerners practice Christianity or a traditional indigenous religion.

Mouridism is one of four Sufi movements in Senegal, and one of the most distinctive aspects of contemporary Senegalese social life. Sheikh Amadou Bamba (1853-1927), the spiritual leader of four million Muslims in Senegal and thousands more around the globe, was a Sufi who resisted French colonial oppression through pacifism. The influential Senegalese Sufi movement called the Mouride Way is grounded in his teachings about the dignity and sanctity of work. The abundant images of Bamba convey the saint's blessings to his followers.

The Black Muslim Movement (BMM) is a largely black urban movement in the US that has many of the attributes of a syncretic Sufi movement. One driving force was a rejection of Christianity as the religion of the historically oppressing white race.

The Moorish Science Temple of America was organized in 1913 in Newark, New Jersey by Timothy Drew. H his followers believed he had been ordained Prophet Noble Drew Ali by Allah. Although the truth is difficult to know, He is reported to have been born in North Carolina in 1886 the son of a Moroccan Muslim father and a Native American mother. It is said that at age sixteen Drew began his wanderings as a circus magician, which eventually took him to Egypt where he learned about Islam. Drew advocated a "return" to Islam, teaching was that blacks were of Moorish, and thus Muslim, origins. His followers refused to fight in World War I. In 1940 and FBI investigation was conducted to determine if the Moorish Science Temple of America was committing subversive activities by adhering to and spreading Japanese propaganda. The investigation failed to substantiate that members were pro-Japanese in their attitude. The Temple was investigated in 1953 for violation of the Selective Service Act of 1948 and sedition. In September of 1953, the Department of Justice, concluded that prosecution for violation of the Selective Service Act was not warranted.

The Nation of Islam was started by Wallace Fard, who built the first temple in Detroit. Fard was an immigrant from New Zealand, born to Pakistani parents. He had joined Noble Drew Ali's Moorish Science Temple in the late 1920s, and gradually made his way to the group's leadership when Drew died under obscure circumstances in 1929.

Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Poole) established a second temple in Chicago and later supervised the creation of temples in most large cities with significant black populations. Fard disappeared in 1931, and Elijah Muhammad assumed the leadership of The Lost Found Nation of Islam - known in the news media as the "Black Muslims". They taught that blacks were racially superior to whites and that a racial war is inevitable. The charismatic Malcolm X was perhaps their most famous spokesperson; he played an important role in reversing the BMM's anti-white beliefs. In its earlier years, the movement deviated significantly from traditional Islamic beliefs (particularly over matters of racial tolerance and the status of the BMM leaders as prophets).

After the death of Elijah Muhammad in 1975, there were unsuccessful attempts to shed the idiosyncratic elements of belief by Wallace Muhammad, Elijah's seventh (legitimate) child, who formed the Muslim American Society. He shed the Nation's core beliefs that Elijah Muhammad was a divine messenger and that W. Fard Muhammad, was God incarnate. Mainstream Sunni Islam teaches that the prophet Muhammad was God's final messenger, and rejects the idea of human divinity. The Nation of Islam was opened to those of the white race and members were encouraged to participate in the civic and political life of the country. The Nation of Islam became the World Community of Islam in the west and then the American Muslim Mission.

Minister Louis Farrakhan, long regarded as a race-baiter and Jew-hater, heads spin-off movement from the old Nation of that continued espousing the movements idiosynratic views. Under the leadership of minister Louis Farrakhan a group of Blacks broke with the American Muslim Mission and returned to the original teaching and ideals of Elijah Muhammad and readopted the old name, Nation of Islam. Black Muslims are to live by a strict ethical code that excludes alcohol, drugs, tobacco, sports, movies, and cosmetics. Pork is not to be eaten. Orthodox Islam rejects Nation of Islam as heretical because its doctrines are contrary to the Islamic Qur'an.

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Page last modified: 17-08-2012 18:49:02 ZULU