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Excerpted from Essential Sufism by James Fadiman and Robert Frager. Copyright © 1997 by James Fadiman and Robert Frager. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"Islam stresses honesty, charity, service, and other virtues that form a solid foundation for the spiritual practices of Sufism."


James Fadiman and Robert FragerEssential Sufism, Part 3

Faqir is Arabic for a poor person. In Sufism this does not refer to those poor in worldly goods, but to those who are "spiritually poor," that is, whose hearts are empty of attachment to anything other than God. They realize that they have nothing, that they can do nothing, that they are nothing without God. They rely on nothing in the world, only on God.

Sufism is most prominent in the Middle East and in Islamic countries, but its ideas, practices, and teachers are to be found throughout the world. Sufis are scattered among all nations of the world, and, like any genuine mystical tradition, Sufism had become associated with a variety of outward forms to fit the cultures and societies in which it has been practiced. Sufi groups have existed for centuries in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, Central Asia, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, and China. In some countries Sufism is well known and widely accepted. In others, Sufism is considered heretical or even subversive because of its frequent preference for the spirit of the law over the letter.

Islam, the Arabic word for "submission to Godís will," is the religious tradition taught by the prophet Muhammad. The goal of Islam is to be in harmony with God, to attune the individualís will to Godís will. The initial revelation of the Koran (or Qurían) occurred in the year A.D. 610. The Islamic era dates from A.D. 622, the year Muhammad fled from Mecca to the city of Medina, persecuted by the cityís leaders, who opposed the monotheistic and democratic teachings of Islam.

Islam is described in the Koran as a continuation of the great monotheistic tradition revealed in constant succession to such prophets as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. According to one of the sayings of the prophet Muhammad, "I have not brought you a new religion. I have brought you the religion, in an unchanged, untampered with way."

Islam stresses honesty, charity, service, and other virtues that form a solid foundation for the spiritual practices of Sufism. A moral, ethical, and disciplined life-style is like a solid container that can hold the Sufiís mystical experience without its leaking or dissipating.

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