Friday, July 12, 2013

What is a Darvish? (Dervish/Darwish/Sufi)

The Persian word darvīsh (درویش) is of ancient origin and descends from a Proto-Iranian word that appears in Avestan as drigu-, "needy, mendicant", via Middle Persian driyosh.  The Iranian word is probably a cognate with the Vedic Sanskrit word adhrigu-, an epithet of uncertain meaning applied to several deities. The Vedic word is probably to be analysed as a-dhrigu-, that is "not dhrigu-," perhaps "not poor", i.e. "rich." The existence of this Vedic cognate suggests that the institution of the holy mendicant was as prominent among the ancient Indo-Iranian people as it has been historically in later Iran in the form of dervish brotherhoods and also in India in the form of the various schools of sannyasis.  However, because the etymology of the word is not apparent from the point of view of the modern Persian language, there have been attempts to make the parts of the word interpretable in terms of contemporary words and with reference to Sufic mystical concepts. Dar in Persian means "a door"; "dervish" has been interpreted as "one who goes from door to door".  The Persian word also gives terms for "ascetic" in some languages, as in the Urdu phrase darveshaneh tabi'at, "an unflappable or ascetic temperament".

Many Dervishes are mendicant ascetics who have taken a vow of poverty, unlike mullahs. The main reason they beg is to learn humility, but Dervishes are prohibited to beg for their own good. They have to give the collected money to other poor people. Others work in common professions; Egyptian Qadiriyya – known in Turkey as Kadiri – are fishermen, for example.

Some classical writers indicate that the poverty of the Dervish is not merely economic. Saadi, for instance, who himself travelled widely as a dervish, and wrote extensively about them, says in his Gulistan:

Of what avail is frock, or rosary, Or clouted garment? Keep thyself but free
From evil deeds, it will not need for thee
To wear the cap of felt: a darwesh be
In heart, and wear the cap of Tartary.
Rumi writes in Book 1 of his Masnavi:
Water that's poured inside will sink the boat
While water underneath keeps it afloat.
Driving wealth from his heart to keep it pure
King Solomon preferred the title 'Poor':
That sealed jar in the stormy sea out there
Floats on the waves because it's full of air,
When you've the air of dervishood inside
You'll float above the world and there abide...

This is the closest thing to a "Monk" in Islam and the Sufis or Dervishes/Darvishes who take up arms in defense are similar to Christian "Templars" or "Warrior Monks".   The Ottoman Janissaries or Safavid Qizilbash are good examples of Warrior Monks of Islam.  

The Salafi Bus: Tablighi Jama'at Visiting Your Mosque This Ramadan?

Typical Tablighi Jama'at doing missionary work on Muslims
So get this, I go to Friday prayer at our unity Mosque which is open to all schools of thought (Sunni/Shia) and there is a group from the Tablighi Jama'at from Portland, OR (doing a 40 day missionary trip) who are going to be staying at our Mosque for a couple of days. The first thing I notice is that the books on Shia Jafari fiqh are covered with "Islamic Finder" (which adheres strictly to a Sunni-Centric community and does not list Shia Mosques/Businesses/Prayer times) prayer times and a couple of brochures to raise money for some their Islamic Charities. Then the Emir (Leader) of the Tablighi Jama'at is allowed to speak to the congregation and he talks about meeting with Muslims at Iftar to discuss Islam. Their main goal is not to even talk to Non-Muslims, but rather talk to Muslims to turn them into Deobandi-Salafists. First thing I did was remove these items off the books and place them in their own spot. Second I shaked hands with the Emir and said Salam Alaykom (peace be upon you) as I normally do...after I was putting my Turbah back in the communal Turbah (Earth) box. These nuanced 'censoring' of other schools of thought and trying to make Dawah (Invitation/Witness) to other Muslims is very disturbing to say the least. Coincidentally they all had the typical Kufi, Big Beard, and Thoub/Shalwar Kameez look. I wish they stopped working so much to convert other Muslims to Deobandism/Salafism and instead spent more time on themselves and doing things to educate (and learn themselves) about the true message of Islam that is not about Zahiri Sharia (Legalistic Literalism) but also incorporates Batini Tariqa (Spiritual Allegory). Islam is not about a bunch of Laws like Judaism alone or pure spirituality like Christianity, but rather a hybrid of the Law and Spirit of the Law. Dealing with Legalistic Literalists is always a challenge in every faith environment. May God grant me the patience to tolerate these kind of things. God knows best.