By Miri -
The whirling dervish, with his right arm directed to the sky, ready to receive God's beneficence, and his left hand turned toward the earth is but one of the many and diverse manifestations of Sufi rituals. While commonly defined as as “the inner, mystical dimension of Islam”, Sufis themselves define it as "a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God". Dedicating themselves solely to achieving this goal Sufis commonly live very ascetic lives.
During the heyday of Sufism, which lasted well over a thousand years, its followers spanned across several continents and cultures, including, of course, Palestine.
With the time, members of those tariqas would start reaching out more and more to the communities they lived amongst, feeding the poor, welcoming guests, teaching the young and thereby steadily increasing the numbers of their followers. From the twelfth century onwards, Sufi influence allegedly came to include the entire population, including the ruling elites, which in turn established Sufism as an integral part of Islamic culture.
|The medieval shrine of al-Majdhoub, Deir Ghassane, West Bank|
Jewish Israelis on the other hand seem to be very drawn to the mysticism of Sufism and hundreds are flocking to the by now institutaionalised annual Sufi Festival in the south of the country, which offers its participants workshops, seminars, and dance sessions "intended to enlighten and explain." Whether
the participants actually learn anything about peacemaking (or Sufism for that matter), as suggested by Sheikh Ghassan, or rather find yet another form of escapism that will lead them even further away from acknowledging the everyday injustice perpetrated in their very name remains to be seen. Or not.
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