Orüç Güvenç’s Music Is the Closest I’ve Come to the Sound of Heaven

Omid Safi

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 TimesNewsweekWashington Post, PBS, NPR, NBC, CNN and other international media. He leads an educational tour every summer to Turkey, to study the rich multiple religious traditions there. The trip is open to everyone, from every country. More information at Illuminated Tours.

Orüç Güvenç performs.
BY
July 19th, 2017

His music ushered Omid’s children into the world. Learning of Orüç Güvenç’s death, Omid offers an ocean of remembrance in return — for the Turkish Sufi master and ethnomusicologist who embodied the poetry of Islam in both his music and his being.

BY
July 5th, 2017

How can we nurture our identity and faith if we don’t feel recognized for who we are? A reflection on yearning for a community that truly sees us.

BY
June 28th, 2017

Omid Safi on the experience of being institutionally invisible — and how our structures and spirits might change to acknowledge each other’s entire being.

BY
June 21st, 2017

The extraordinary is revered and celebrated, but where does that leave the ordinary? On rediscovering the meaning of awe, and finding it in the quiet majesty of the daily grind.

BY
June 14th, 2017

There are gems at the heart of all our faith traditions. Omid Safi on the challenge ahead to polish away the impurities of hatred and greed that keep the light from shining.

BY
June 7th, 2017

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.

BY
May 31st, 2017

After a meditative walk through a Shinto shrine in Kyoto, Japan, a reflection on recognizing the paths we’re on as a spiritual destination.

BY
May 24th, 2017

Challenging the notion of the “Muslim world,” what dedication to peace looks like, and the weight words — and actions — carry.

BY
May 18th, 2017

We often speak about how best to heal the world around us, but it’s also essential to nurture ourselves. A reflection on self-care as a crucial part of healing one another.

BY
May 11th, 2017

Heartened by the resilience of nature, Omid reflects on our own capacity to soften and grow, even from the hardest places.

BY
May 4th, 2017

Wounds do not heal simply with the passing of time, but time does give us the tools to endure them. On learning to live with the unimaginable.

Khizr Khan, father of Humayun S. M. Khan who was killed while serving in Iraq with the US Army, gestures as his wife looks on during the fourth and final day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center on July 28, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. / AFP / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
BY
April 27th, 2017

Those who have suffered most may also be our greatest teachers on the road to courage. Omid Safi looks to the complicated, yet abiding faith one grieving father holds for his country for moral wisdom.

BY
April 20th, 2017

Is it enough to be tolerant of each other? Omid Safi yearns for more, and imagines a more loving embrace of our diversity.

BY
April 13th, 2017

The Japanese art of kintsugi — repairing cracks in pottery with gold — gives a new perspective on how healing and illuminating our own flaws can lead to a more nourishing wholeness.

BY
April 4th, 2017

Fifty years ago today, on April 4, 1967, a reluctant Martin Luther King stood in Riverside Church in New York. Omid Safi on the promise of that moment and where we are today.

BY
March 23rd, 2017

When turbulence strikes, we must rise above to find a place of calm.

BY
March 16th, 2017

In the resonant voice of Valarie Kaur, Omid Safi finds hope for the painful but fruitful path that we must take forward as a nation.

BY
March 9th, 2017

Solidarity on social media can be a source of hope, but there’s more required of us to affect meaningful change.

BY
March 2nd, 2017

To elevate the spirit, we must nurture the soul and the rational mind, alike.

BY
February 23rd, 2017

What if our relationship with God were more long, tender, even humorous?

BY
February 20th, 2017

Faced with scatteredness of mind, body, and spirit, Omid Safi offers a balm: the prayer of the heart.

BY
February 9th, 2017

A Muslim man reflects on the pain of citizenship in this moment and the fragile hope he holds from the nation he and his loved ones call home.

BY
February 4th, 2017

A deep inquiry into Trump’s immigration ban, and its subversion of the American ideals we’re called to embody.

BY
January 26th, 2017

The aspirational ideals of our nation call us to embody compassion toward the stranger, and those whom others might cast out.

BY
January 19th, 2017

Channeling Dr. King, Omid Safi examines where our nation stands on the long journey toward justice.

BY
January 12th, 2017

As we grow, the qualities we look for in our relationships change — and with them, the qualities we want to nurture in ourselves. Above all else, seek kindness.

BY
January 7th, 2017

In the light of a New Year’s sparkler, a metaphor for the illuminating capacity we hold within, despite our fleeting existence.

BY
December 15th, 2016

Witnessing the divorce of his friends, our columnist remembers the rituals of celebration. But, what would it be like to have similar rituals of support when things fall apart?

BY
December 9th, 2016

When going about our business, could we pay more attention to what we’re leaving behind for others in our wake?

BY
December 2nd, 2016

In our pursuit of justice, we must cling to what illuminates the darkness and keep the pain and indignation that fuel us from hardening to hatred.

BY
November 17th, 2016

Hope isn’t always soothing and soft. A pragmatic embrace of compassion, kindness, and truth-telling in the face of America’s rifts.

BY
November 12th, 2016

#Woke reflections on our nation’s deepest political and social wounds, and the hope to be found in our capacity to heal them, together.

BY
November 3rd, 2016

Accepting dark realities and difficult truths doesn’t negate love for our country. An appeal for choosing American aspiration over American pride, so that we might grow into the nation we want to be.

BY
October 27th, 2016

From soured relationships to dead bugs, it’s a given: life can get disgusting. But sometimes we can step back and recognize that we’re far from powerless in the face of things we fear.

BY
October 20th, 2016

An account of one man’s years with the legendary American bard, who spoke to a desire for authenticity, justice, and love.

BY
October 16th, 2016

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.

BY
October 6th, 2016

Often, the remedy to what ails us is simpler than we think. Omid Safi shares a comedic lesson on recognizing the blessings that are already within us.

BY
September 29th, 2016

For Omid Safi, the words and movements of prayer are more than rote. A reflection on faith as a lived embodiment of love.

BY
September 22nd, 2016

A true friendship doesn’t only bring support and joy, but also challenges us to grow. Omid Safi reflects on the importance of nurturing relationships that acknowledge our imperfections, and nourish the best in us.

BY
September 19th, 2016

Who is the woman at the heart of the hajj? Omid Safi honors the roots of the global pilgrimage, and the social gravity that it holds for modern life.

BY
September 8th, 2016

Beyond our busyness and worn-out calendars, Omid Safi seeks out the places where the eternal shines through the temporal — and offers a benediction for the beloved.

BY
August 11th, 2016

The strength of spirituality lies in the just action it inspires. Omid Safi points to faith as inextricable from the work of bringing about a community of equity and love.

BY
July 28th, 2016

In the face of fear and hatred, it’s easy to be a mirror but harder still to hold fast to love and tenderness. Omid Safi calls for a more gritty, luminous love that manifests justice.

Activists walk through the crowd near the Quicken Loans Arena during the 2016 Republican National Convention July 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.
BY
July 21st, 2016

Drawing on the walking undead from Game of Thrones, Omid Safi comments on the stubborn disease of white supremacy, and on resisting its spread with the resilience of kinship and kindness.

BY
July 14th, 2016

In the wake of the violence in Falcon Heights, Baton Rouge, and Dallas, Omid Safi puts forth an impassioned call for the revolutionary work of love.

BY
July 7th, 2016

Omid Safi laments the violence and loss of life in the holy city of Medina, and calls on our true capacity for love and mercy to heal the rifts that divide us.

BY
June 30th, 2016

The Sufi tradition is infused with the beauty of art and song. Honoring singer Amjad Sabri, Omid Safi celebrates and gives thanks for the spiritual gift of the qawwali devotional.

BY
June 23rd, 2016

Fueled by a Vietnamese Zen master’s question, Omid Safi waxes lyrical on the many ways we need to be loved and need to love others in a time of turmoil and uncertainty.

BY
June 17th, 2016

Omid Safi honors each life lost in Orlando — with a hard look at the realities we face, and an appeal to the urgency of compassion to heal our wounds.

BY
June 9th, 2016

Our columnist Omid Safi pays tribute to the life of boxing legend Muhammad Ali and the legacy he lived.

123