The Characterization of Sufism as a Separate Sect Within Islam Is Inaccurate and Problematic
is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Thursday.
He is Director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center. He is the past Chair for the Study of Islam, and the current Chair for Islamic Mysticism Group at the American Academy of Religion. In 2009, he was recognized by the University of North Carolina for mentoring minority students in 2009, and won the Sitterson Teaching Award for Professor of the Year in April of 2010.
Omid is the editor of the volume Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, which offered an understanding of Islam rooted in social justice, gender equality, and religious and ethnic pluralism. His works Politics of Knowledge in Premodern Islam, dealing with medieval Islamic history and politics, and Voices of Islam: Voices of Change were published 2006. His last book, Memories of Muhammad, deals with the biography and legacy of the Prophet Muhammad. He has forthcoming volumes on the famed mystic Rumi, contemporary Islamic debates in Iran, and American Islam.
Omid has been among the most frequently sought speakers on Islam in popular media, appearing in The New York Times, Newsweek, Washington Post, PBS, NPR, NBC, CNN and other international media. He leads educational tours every year to Turkey, Morocco, or other countries, to study the rich multiple religious traditions there. The trips are open to everyone, from every country. More information at Illuminated Tours.
It can be hard, sometimes embarrassing, to admit we don’t have the answers. But there’s grace and wisdom in owning up to what we don’t know — and giving space for the strengths of those we might overshadow.
We never would have guessed it, but Omid is a total gearhead. What a jaunt in a convertible dream car taught him about seeking out the luminous moments in the mundane — that while we can’t all speed around in expensive convertibles, we can find the joy of driving the family car with all the windows rolled down.
To feast on Mom’s home cooking is its own blessing — but sometimes, traveling with it is a different story. On the particular frustration of traveling while brown and Muslim, and on food as a vehicle for love, not judgment.
We might laugh at the clumsiness of the question, posed so often to people with brown skin in the U.S. But Omid Safi asks us to consider what we’re really saying when we ask this question — and how we might expand our imagination about what American identity is.
After a medical condition changed the way he observes Ramadan, Omid reflects on what he misses about the embodied experience of the fast — and the inner, spiritual fast he takes on now to live out the holy season.
A faith must account for the states and stages of life: joy and thriving, sorrow and death. Omid Safi honors the ritual of Ashura, a cornerstone of Islam whose historical, spiritual, and social significance carries forth to modern life.