The Religion of Love Revisited
Both Ibn 'Arabi and Rumi have been described as proponents of "the religion of love," but relatively little attention has been paid to the distinctive teachings of this religion and its many earlier proponents. In order to get a better sense of how these two masters fit into a long tradition, it can be useful to look at the basic tenets of love's religion as expressed by some of its earlier members.
Implications of the Religion of Love
We will look at a few texts from the preceding generation of Sufi teachers expressing some of the teachings of the religion of love.
About William Chittick
William C. Chittick is professor of religious studies at Stony Brook University and has published extensively on both Rumi and Ibn 'Arabi. His most recent books are In Search of the Lost Heart: Explorations in Islamic Thought (SUNY 2012) and Divine Love: Islamic Literature and the Path to God (Yale 2013).
A Hindu Commentator on Ibn `Arabi
The expansion of Islamicate culture in South Asia included among its consequences the creation of a large bureaucracy of Hindu secretaries (munshis) who were thoroughly trained in Persian literature. One such figure was Sital Singh, munshi to the Raja of Benares, who (under the pen-name "Bi-khwud" or "Selfless") wrote a number of Persian works on Sufism in the early 19th century, including a commentary on the Arabic poetry of Ibn `Arabi from the Fusus al-hikam. This paper introduces this now forgotten Hindu intellectual and describes his engagement with Ibn `Arabi.
The Poetry of Hallaj
This workshop will focus on key poems of the early Sufi Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj, who was executed in Baghdad in 922. I will provide examples from my recently completed translations of around 120 poems usually attributed to Hallaj, based on the edition of Louis Massignon with corrections and additions from more recent editions by al-Shaybi and Wazin. Samples of the different genres of al-Hallaj's poetry (including some never previously translated into English), along with the difficult problem of authorship, will afford an opportunity to consider the question: what is Sufi poetry?
About Carl Ernst
Carl W. Ernst is a specialist in Islamic studies, with a focus on West and South Asia. His published research, based on the study of Arabic, Persian, and Urdu, has been mainly devoted to the study of three areas: general and critical issues of Islamic studies, premodern and contemporary Sufism, and Indo-Muslim culture. His most recent publications are How to Read the Qur'an: A New Guide, with Select Translations (UNC Press, 2011) and an edited volume on Islamophobia in America (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2013). He is William R. Kenan, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi and Muhyi al-Din ibn 'Arabi: A Hitherto Neglected Comparison
A connection can be made between the unitive metaphysics of light in Illuminationism and the cosmic role of Adam, the prototype of humanity in Akbarian philosophy. Mutual complementarity of ideas, a real proximity, and the shared Sufi legacy of egological self-investigations makes it possible that ibn 'Arabi drew on Suhrawardi's theory of knowledge-by-presence in order to offset the mu'ta'zilite metaphorical interpretations of the Qur'an. This may explain why the successor of Qunawi in the lineage of ibn 'Arabi, Qutb al Shirazi, wrote extensive commentaries on hikmat al-Ishraq. I will present a case study of how direct (non-metaphorical) signification in Suhrawardi's key term, nur mujarrad, clarifies the question of essences in the doctrine of wahdad al-Wujud.
Light, Self, and Essence: Guided Meditations on Suhrawardi's Nur Mujarrad
In Suhrawardi's hikmat al–Ishraq, we find a term translated by Walbridge and Ziai as "incorporeal light", in Arabic nur mujarrad, a principle that "cannot be pointed to, nor be located in a body, nor have spatial dimensions" (112). The adjective mujarrad, which is past participle of the verb jarrada ("to strip away, remove the outside covering, peel off the shell") does not mean "incorporeal". In The Epistle of the High Towers, Corbin mentions a fraternity of mystics whom he calls mujarrad-s, whose goal is to join the light of tawhid. Why does Suhrawardi choose this interesting term? Following Suhrawardi, we will engage in guided exercises to find the nur mujarrad, and examine of the existential consequences of this discovery.
About Olga Louchakova-Schwartz
Olga Louchakova-Schwartz, M.D., Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology and Comparative Religion at Sofia University (formerly Institute of Transpersonal Psychology), and spiritual teacher in the traditions of Advaita Vedanta, Kundalini Yoga and Prayer of the Heart. Her chief research contributions are both in medical science, and in phenomenology of prayer, spiritual embodiment, and psychology of spiritual awakening. Her numerous publications cover a broad range of topics from the autoimmune diseases of the nervous system, to psychosomatic mysticism, to intrapsychic ontopoiesis and the non-dual consciousness. At present, she is working on comparisons between phenomenology and Islamic metaphysics.
Being Human According to the Qur'an
(An Introduction to the Thought of Ibn Arabi and Rumi)
Ibn Arabi and Rumi are two of the best known and influential thinkers in the world today, whether we are speaking of the so-called "Islamic World" or the post-modern global society. Surely this is so because each in his own way explicates the spiritual reality of the individual in compelling and beautiful language. It is impossible to overestimate the influence of the Qur'an or the Hadith on their thought because almost every page or poem alludes to those two sacred Islamic sources. In this presentation we will discuss how the Qur'anic view of the human being, humanity as such and the ongoing, endless perfectibility of each are at the heart of their respective teachings.
Qur'anic Cosmopolitanism and the Spiritual Reality of Humanity
In this session participants will be asked to read, study and interpret selected passages from the Qur'an (in English translation). Together we will create a conversation in which we explore and creatively consider the self understanding of the Islamic religion, its contribution to a discourse on the nature and potential of humanity, whether individual or social, and identify areas for further exploration, such as: How is the Qur'anically formed consciousness distinctive? In which ways does it celebrate and perform being human?
About Todd Lawson
Todd Lawson is associate professor of Islamic Thought at the University of Toronto. He teaches courses on the Qur'an, Sufism, Shi'i Islam and related topics. His most recent book is Gnostic Apocalypse and Islam (Routledge 2012). He is now writing a book on the Qur'an as sacred epic. He lives in Montreal.
Number, Shape, and the Nature of Space
Spain during the time of Ibn 'Arabi's youth, and the Middle East at the time of his journeys to the east and Mecca, were centers of new mathematical activity, building upon Euclid's geometry and Indian arithmetic. This workshop offers hands-on activities designed to convey an understanding of basic concepts of number, shape, and the nature of space, which provides exposure to geometry and algebra as understood in Ibn 'Arabi's time.
About Carol Bier
Carol Bier is Visiting Scholar with the Center for Islamic Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA and Research Associate at The Textile Museum in Washington, DC. Her research focuses on the historical development of Islamic patterns as intersections of geometry and art. She is author of an award-winning website, Symmetry and Pattern: The Art of Oriental Carpets. Her publications include Woven from the Soul, Spun from the Heart: Textile Arts of Safavid and Qajar Iran.
"A Donkey's Tail With Angel's Wings": Being Fully Human According to Rumi
For Rumi being fully human means not only embracing every aspect of humanity but engaging with all kinds of human-persons in quest for a version of 'Truth' that emerges at the moment of that particular engagement. Unlike the widely held assumption that in his magnum opus, the Masnavi, Rumi serves as the guide, the Shaykh to his listeners and readers in a rather straight-forward manner, this talk will demonstrate, through several stories in the Masnavi, that Mawlana allows all kinds of characters to dialogically engage with each other, often voicing diametrically opposing points of view, presenting multivalent approaches to critical human issues rather than advocating a monochromatic, one-size-fits-all approach.
The Fundamental Predicaments of Human Beings
The workshop will focus on a long story from the Masnavi where Rumi grapples with one of the fundamental predicaments of human beings: Free will and/or Predestination. A close reading of the story will allow participants in this workshop to appreciate first hand, the complexity of the subject matter as well as the plural approaches and understandings of the various characters inhabiting the many stories embedded within the frame story.
About Nargis Virani
Nargis Virani is Assistant Professor of Arabic at The New School, University Liberal Studies in New York. She received her PhD in 1999 in Arabic and Islamic Studies from Harvard University. She studied the Qur'an with the Shaykh of al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo and holds a shahadah (certificate) and an ijazah (permission to teach the Qur'an). Her doctoral dissertation entitled I am the Nightingale of the Merciful Macaronic or Upside Down? analyzed the Mulamma'at, the mixed-language poems, in Rumi's Diwan and she is currently converting this into a book which will also include a translation into English of all of Rumi's multilingual verses in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Greek, and Armenian. Dr Virani's second book project is tentatively entitled, Qur'an in Muslim Literary Memory.
Turn to the Heart of Love
The aim of the traveller on the sufi way is to return to his or her essential being or, you could say, to Being. Using Rumi's own words of poetry and teachings, we will explore that journey of return and will ourselves enact it through the stages of the whirling ceremony of the Mevlevi.
About Tasnim Fernandez
Tasnim Fernandez was initiated into the way of the Sufis by Hazrat Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan in 1971 and serves the Sufi Order International as a Representative and Center Leader and as a minister (cherag) of the Universal Worship. She is, also, a trained semazen (whirling dervish) in the Mevlevi sufi tradition. Tasnim is recognized and acclaimed as one of the foremost leaders and mentors of the Dances of Universal Peace based on the work and teachings of Murshid Samuel L. Lewis. She is the spiritual director of the Church of All in Burbank. Tasnim gives personal guidance to her Sufi mureeds, trains and certifies Dance leaders, trains and ordains Universal Worship ministers, conducts seminars, workshops, and camps and is a presenter at conferences and festivals. Since 2001 Tasnim has hosted bi-monthly sessions to study the writings of Ibn 'Arabi.
Rumi and the Art of Remembrance
If your thought is frozen, practice remembrance of God.
Recollection of God brings thought into movement:
make remembrance the sun for this congealed thought.
Remembrance (Zhikr) is the greatest of all spiritual practices, according to the Qur'an. Invocation of the Name is transformative for the self. What does Rumi have to teach us about Zhikr? The images and metaphors of his poetry become a language of the soul. His entire literary legacy is the "workshop of Oneness" reminding us of the spiritual reality underlying all of existence. Finally, we will explore the resonance of Sufi Zhikr together.
About Kabir Helminski
Kabir Helminski is a translator of the works of Rumi and others, a Shaikh of the Mevlevi Order which traces back to Jalaluddin Rumi, co-director of The Threshold Society (Sufism.org) and director/founder of the Baraka Institute (barakainstitute.org).
His books on spirituality, Living Presence and The Knowing Heart, have been published in at least eight languages. Among his recent publications are The Book of Language, Exploring the Spiritual Vocabulary of the Qur'an; Love's Ripening, Rumi on the Heart's Journey; and The Rumi Daybook (2012).
"I follow the religion of Love. Whatever path Love's camel takes, that is my religion and my faith."
Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi
"Be certain that in the religion of Love there are no believers and unbelievers. Love embraces all."
"It is He who is revealed in every face, sought in every sign, gazed upon by every eye, worshipped in every object of worship, and pursued in the unseen and the visible. Not a single one of His creatures can fail to find Him in its primordial and original nature."
Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi
"Out beyond all ideas, of right doing, and wrong doing, there is a field. I'll meet you there." - Jelaluddin Rumi
"...he is the sight of God over His creation and God's mercification of it. And...his emergence is continuous and forever. And he is the connective and collective word. And the universe is complete by his existence..."
Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi
"What befits the man of gnosis and is necessary for him to do is that he should take each breath from God and return it to Him."
Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi
"In love fever separation kills.
would ease the burning.
No one blames me
I love her
beauty wherever she turns."
Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi
"Man's situation is like this: an angel's wing was brought and tied to a donkey's tail so that the donkey perchance might also become an angel, thanks to the radiance of the angel's company."
"In the lover's heart is a lute which plays the melody of longing. You say he looks crazy - that's only because your ears are not tuned to the music by which he dances."
"If your thought is frozen, practice remembrance of God.
Recollection of God brings thought into movement:
make remembrance the sun for this congealed thought."