Sufism: Its Mystical Contribution to an Understanding of the Islamic God

Sufism: Its Mystical Contribution to an Understanding of the Islamic God

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2.3 A God to be Remembered: The Sufi Practice of Dhikr

In an interview on the Sufi concept of God’s oneness conducted in 2011, contemporary mystic Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee emphasised the ‘forgetfulness’ of today’s society. In the context of Sufism, this ‘forgetfulness does not refer to mere absent-mindedness but a kind of perpetual and periodic obliviousness to the centrality of God and the divine spark within. The goal of the Sufi then, is to maintain a constant state of remembrance of God through the recitation of His ninety-nine names – a practice known as dhikr. Although often occurring in the form of silent and prolonged meditation on God, the most popularized form of dhikr amongst the majority of Sufi sects includes a group of Sufis gathering together and chanting the names of God in unison, often falling into a trance or state of ecstasy (Gilchrist 1986: 5). In a further explanation of the mystical significance of dhikr, Ernst (1997: 93) quotes a prominent Egyptian Sufi, Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah of Alexandria in saying that dhikr is a “multileveled process…beginning with the tongue as the outermost, then engaging the heart, the soul, the spirit, the intellect, and the innermost conscience.” This explanation presents dhikr as a concentrated process and a form of discipline – a meditation that’s driven by spiritual fervour to experience the presence of God and indulge in the divine ecstasy like one would indulge in good wine. Indeed these dhikr ceremonies are often accompanied by “whirling dervishes” where mystics spin around repeatedly with their arms outstretched, dancing (so to speak) to the sound of the chanting and musical accompaniment. This practice of whirling serves to imitate the movement of the cosmos and its cyclical animati...


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...esex: Penguin Books Ltd.

Ernst, C.W. 1997. The Shambhala Guide to Sufism. Boston: Shambhala Publications Inc.

Fakhry, M. 1997. Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Mysticism: A Short Introdu ction. Oxford: One World Publications.

Gilchrist, J. 1986. Muhammad and the Religion of Islam.
(Accessed 20 March 2014, http://answering-islam.org/Gilchrist/Vol1/index.html)

Khan, H. I. 1990. Sufi Mysticism: The Sufi Message. 10th volume. Geneva: International Headquarters of the Sufi Movement.

Tayob, A & Jeppie, S & Shaikh, S. eds. 2006. “To Love Every Life as Your Own: An Introduction to Engaged Sufism” in Journal for Islamic Studies: Thematic Issue: Engaged Sufism. 26. Cape Town: University of Cape Town. pp 1-11.


Vaughan-Lee, L. 2011. In an Interview on ‘The One’ by an Unknown Source. Youtube: November 1
(Accessed 20 March 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iod_2QZcVOI)

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Sufism: Its Mystical Contribution to an Understanding of the Islamic God

- 2.3 A God to be Remembered: The Sufi Practice of Dhikr In an interview on the Sufi concept of God’s oneness conducted in 2011, contemporary mystic Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee emphasised the ‘forgetfulness’ of today’s society. In the context of Sufism, this ‘forgetfulness does not refer to mere absent-mindedness but a kind of perpetual and periodic obliviousness to the centrality of God and the divine spark within. The goal of the Sufi then, is to maintain a constant state of remembrance of God through the recitation of His ninety-nine names – a practice known as dhikr....   [tags: Sufi, dhikr, Islam]

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