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God Maker and Prophet's Ascension | From Omid Safi's Speech

Omid Safi, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill where he specializes on Islamic mysticism (Sufism), contemporary Islamic thought, and medieval Islamic history, gave an interesting introduction speech on the theme of Revelation at Seven Pillars' Inauguration' Opening Ceremony. It carries special inspiration and also beauty of mysticism. Thanks to the help of my friend Sendhil Kumar, from India - may God bless him for his service, that I share here the transcription of the talk.

On the good days that I have I get to translate love poetry, and the last few years I have been spending some time looking at the life story of that wonderous mystic and poet known as Rumi, who is probably dear to a quite a few of them in this room. There is a lovely story about the community that formed around him, and may be like this room, there were people in that community that came from different ethnicities, different faith traditions and languages, though they also shared in ideals that brought them together. 

Over the last few years, I have become drawn to some of these characters, in every sense of that word, his personality stands out, and one of them is this extraordinary Greek 'Sufi Wanna-be', its the only way I can describe him, named Serianus. Being a seeker I am attracted to the wana-be types. Sometime the illuminated ones, you adore them, you admire them, but you hold them up so much its harder to see yourself. 

Serianus is walking into this world which is this elegant world, this beautifully orchestrated ritualized world where every word is beautiful, every conversation is punctuated with poetry, and he speaks Greek, he is just picking up the lingo, 'the sufi lingo'. He is just learning Persian and he just manages always, always to say the wrong thing, though he means not. 

So one day he is walking around and then people said “So, now you've seen him, what do you think of this Rumi guy, what do you think of him?”

He says, “Ahh, he is God maker!”

Well, this caused a slight commotion and the next thing you know there is a little bonfire that they are putting together, and there is this inquisition court. And the people take him in front of judge and the judge says, “Did you say about Rumi that he is God maker?"

"Well, yes!"

He is very happy, everyone recognizes you and they say. “Dont you know that the God of the whole cosmos is eternal, preternity to post eternity He has no beginning and end, how can you say that this mere mortal is the God maker?” 

And Serianus just fumbles around his broken language and he says “No you see, what you don't understand, when I say he is 'God maker', what I mean to say is - that he makes God real for me. He is my God maker, before him 'God' was this word, now it is real.

Part of what I hope brings us together and over this weekend and Inshallah for given life and breath for many many years is a sense that together through speaking, through silence we can make that reality real for one another. It is this coming together that I think that is as important. 

Every faith tradition has its moments. The moments where the magic and the mystery of the cosmos seem to be opening up. We have the Buddha sitting in meditation, we have Christ crucified and resurrected, and for those of us who come from an Islamic background it is the Prophet's heavenly ascension that is the model of the mystical experience. But I think there are lessons in it that we have not sufficiently taken note of.

A lot of you flew, today or yesterday to get here. Almost none of us took  a direct fight. Amsterdam to some hub and then got here. So it was in the Prophet's time, there was no direct flight from Mecca to God. You have to go through a hub, which happened to be Jerusalem. 

Before the Prophet has his intimate encounter with God there was a gathering in Jerusalem with all of the Prophets - Moses and Jesus and Abraham which already suggests (..) that they were talking about a heavenly Jerusalem perhaps and its only after this he ascends to God, But this says to me, is that before we can have that intimate encounter with the Source of our creation, we have to come together. 

Unity is necessary for us, as it was necessary for the Prophets. The accounts of the ascension are exquisite, amazing and transformative; it is the moment about which the Prophet says "I have with my Lord a moment, a moment", and the trick is, can we actually come to treat every encounter with every creature as that moment, because there too is the presence of God. 

Here is the part that to me links together enlightened activism and mysticism. Had it been me in that moment of bliss I would have bid everything else farewell. Even a great Sufis Abdul Quddus Gangohi from India said that “I swear to God if it had been me, I would not have returned", and yet at this point the Prophet functions like a Bodhisattva

Out of compassion for creation, he leaves that moment of utter bliss so that others can have their moment. And this I think is the paradigm for us, today. Have the mystical experience be rejuvenated so that we dont become bitter, angry Marxist, and perpetually return to the creation which is the theater of God's manifestation (..)

Even though you read this text, yet I urge you to watch the talk and listen to it. The presence from which its spoken has an effect which naked text alone fail to embody. May it be inspiring and bring grace filled moments to you, as it has been to many.

[>] Watch the video of the talk in full here.

. Official Web of Omid Safi
. Seven Pillars House of Wisdom
. Islamic Mysticism (Religion 337), Theme: The Persian Love Tradition In Sufism


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Technology of the Heart: God Maker and Prophet's Ascension | From Omid Safi's Speech
God Maker and Prophet's Ascension | From Omid Safi's Speech
Technology of the Heart
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