Sufism’s intense spirituality makes it a huge draw for some.

Los Angeles, CA has witnessed the rising popularity of Sufism. One prominent group is the Moroccan-origin Shadhili Order. Founded in the seventh century by Abu Hasan Ali ash-Shadhili, the number of members have increased from only ten a decade before to 500 members within Los Angeles. People who adopt Sufism as their faith are drawn to it for its totally intense spiritualism. Its followers describe the innate spiritualism of the practice as an “intoxicated kind of love where there is a union with God.”

Sufism is known as Taswwuf in the Muslim world. It can be defined as Islamic mysticism. Non-Muslims erroneously identify Sufism as yet another Islamic sect. It is not so. Sufism can be described as one of Islam's multiple dimensions. Orders from Sufism can be seen in Shia, Sunni and in a number of other Islamic groups.

Sufis insist that the knowledge about Islam must be taught by teachers and not exclusively from books. Teachers or Tariqas can trace their learned lineage to the times of Prophet Mohammad himself. Students follow their teachers and hope they too will learn something to become a prophetic master.

Tamsin Murray, a teacher who lives in New Mexico, says that the number of Sufi experiential sessions and conferences have gone up markedly during the last decade. She said that a number of Sufis have found their life's calling under Adnan Sarhan's tutelage. Sarhan holds the Sufi Foundation of America's director's post. He follows the Shattari branch of Sufism. The latter originated in the 15th century and is known for using meditation, movement and whirling to attain high concentration states. According to Murray, many individuals want an actual spiritual connection via movement and experience, sans any kind of dogma or form.

Academicians have also taken note. One of them is Alan Godlas from the University of Georgia. He links the increasing popularity of Sufism with the rising dissatisfaction with standard American religious teachings. The last 10 years have seen Americans identifying less and less with Christian traditions.

Even though not many Sufis are found in the world, they punch above their weight when it comes to shaping Islamic history and thought. They have made substantial contributions to Islamic literature. Prominent examples include the influence of Al-Ghazali, Rumi, and Omar Khayyam. These three influenced Western philosophers, theologians, and writers. They also played a major role in the spread of Islam. 


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