Inside America’s Mosques
An Interesting and honest look into various mosques around the country: Inside America’s Mosques
Page 5 takes a look into Ruaf’s Masjid Al-Farah…
Although some media outlets have attempted to portray Abdul Rauf as an extremist with links to terrorists, he is, in fact, very much a mystic imam. Mystics have a unifying view of faith and believe that Muslims, Christians, and Jews all pray to the same God. Modernists and literalists frequently complain that mystics “innovate,” or place human figures between man and God, which they say challenges monotheism. The mystic reverence of saints, as well as their use of music and dance to connect with the divine, causes conflicts with other Muslims.
It is a safe bet that opponents of Park51 would be surprised by the scene at Masjid Al-Farah’s weekly dhikr, or recitation of the names of God. Every Thursday night, some 40 people gather, men and women, including some visiting Zen Buddhists, Jews, and Christians.
A female mosque leader, Sheikha Fariha Fatima al-Jerrahi, led the ceremony. The sheikha is a white mystic who converted to Islam from Catholicism after a decade-long search for God. She wore flowing robes with tie-dye flourishes. Sheikha Fariha tries to expand the boundaries of Islam by including traditions of other faiths and absorbing her Americanness and Christianity into Sufism.
Together, we chanted the names of God, sitting, kneeling, and standing. The effect was hypnotic and intoxicating. After about 30 minutes, the sheikha stood up and asked everyone to hold hands, continue chanting, and rotate in a circle. Although the sheikha constantly referred to the Prophet of Islam, the eclectic and syncretic nature of the evening didn’t have much to do with Islam itself.
“It didn’t feel Muslim at all,” said one of my research assistants, like a disgruntled customer about to ask for his money back. After all, he was accustomed to spending late hours in Salafi mosques discussing the Quran and the boundaries of faith with earnest bearded men inspired by Saudi texts.
The whole article is a worthwhile read.