Islamic Mysticism and Liberation: Rabi’a, Rumi, and Malcolm X
by Mark Chmiel
I am a big proponent of “Share the wealth.” Accordingly, I have asked our friend Kristen Andersen to share her important work on Islamic mysticism and liberation, the subject of her Master’s thesis in theological studies from Iliff School of Theology (she recently passed her defense with distinction). Please join us for these sessions in June!
Since the Enlightenment, the West has consistently treated mystical experiences as private, individual, often psychological experiences that have little to do with social or political power or with the workings of G-d. It has similarly portrayed Islam as a repressive religion that has little to do with personal or societal liberation. Across centuries and continents, Muslims who have had mystical experiences have proven these assumptions wrong. In the Islamic tradition, mystical experience is understood as the experience of the presence of G-d. The liberative potentials inherent within Islam have also bloomed and borne luscious and life-sustaining fruit.
Please join us for this 3-week series of sessions about the potentials Islamic mystical experiences hold for liberation — spiritual, individual, and social/political. We’ll explore this through the lives of 3 famous Muslims.
Week 1 will focus on the Islamic understanding of mystical experience and on the exemplar of spiritual liberation and mystical experience in Islam — the theologian, mystic, and poet Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi. Rumi was recently the best-selling poet in the U.S.
Week 2 will explore how mystical experience and spiritual liberation can lead to individual, worldly liberation and also how bonds of systemic oppression can continue to affect even those who are spiritually free. This week, the life and work of another great Muslim poet and teacher — the great female Sufi from Basra, Rabi’a Al-Adawiyya — provides an inspiring example.
Finally, in Week 3, we’ll consider a modern Muslim who perhaps best demonstrates the potential links between Islamic mystical experience and social and political liberation — the much-loved and much-hated religious advocate for justice for African-Americans, Malcolm X.
We meet on Thursdays, June 14, 21, and 28 at the Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma (1077 South Newstead, 63110). We begin with a potluck supper at 6:00 p.m., and sharing and discussion at 6:45.
You are welcome to come for any or all of the weeks. If anyone has time and desires it, I’m happy to send out a bit of optional reading from each of our chosen Muslim exemplars in advance of each session. Please let me know if you have any questions at tattoosh22@gmail. Please also feel free to pass this on to anyone else you know who might be interested.
Looking forward to seeing you!