Poetry is a key art form that has been key to human civilisation for thousands of years. Often sent down through oral history, the tradition of composing and reciting poetry is said to pre-date even the written word. At its heart, poetry is dedicated to conveying an idea, an image, or a feeling. The use of poetry has been instrumental in religion. The Sufi school of Sunni Islam in particular has a long history of poetry. BRIC Plus News tells you everything you need to know about Sufi poetry.
Who are the Sufi?
Sufism is known as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. Sufism first gained traction in the early years of the Ummayyad Caliphate, in the late 7th century. Adopting the movement was seen as turning away from the materialism and worldliness which some felt was present under its rulers.
Why do they write poetry?
The Sufi have a strong tradition of poetry. It is written for a variety of reasons. For some, poetry is a means of religious devotion. These poems are either recited privately, or used as lyrics for religious songs. Perhaps the most famous Sufi poet is Rumi. Rumi was born to Persian parents in present-day Afghanistan in the year 1207, and has left an indelible mark on Sufi literature, and on the literature of the Middle East as a whole. Maṭnawīye Ma’nawī (‘Spiritual Couplets’ in Persian) is considered his magnum opus. A heaving tome of Persian literature, it’s a religious text of devotional poetry considered some of the best mystical poetry of all time.
How much of an impact has it had?
Sufi poetry has had an enormous impact on the literature of the Middle East, and on Sufism itself. The Mevlevi (Mawlawiyya) Order of Sufism was formed by followers of the poet Rumi. This order gave rise to the famous Whirling Dervishes, who whirl around repeatedly in remembrance of god (dhikr). This ceremony was confirmed by UNESCO in 2008 as part of the ‘Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’.
Where can I see it?
Sufi poetry has experienced a revival in recent years. Recitals have been held in a variety of languages, including Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and English. For fans of Sufi poetry in London, an exciting new event is happening this week. A Sufi event will be held on Friday the 2nd of October – and it’s all for a good cause. The fundraiser gala is being held by the Collective for Women & Children (CwC), to draw attention to the plight of sex workers in Mumbai, India. Organised by Bollywood star Jasbir Jassi, with Suhel Seth and Kanwal Toor (Miss India International 2001), the event will take place at the Hilton London Kensington, and run from 7pm until 11pm. For fans of Sufi poetry, with an interest in charity, it is sure to be an event to remember.