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Sufism: Mystical Islam

Part of Belief and Beyond Belief

Learn about the mystical, spiritual practice of Sufism, famously embraced by 13th-century poet Rumi.

Sufism is the mystical strand of Islam, in which Muslims seek truth and enlightenment through direct personal experience of God. One of its most famous disciples was 13th century poet Rumi, many of whose verses celebrate the harmony between spirituality and nature.

With a variety of orders today, each with their own distinctive traditions, Sufism is often a joyful and vigorous celebration of being alive, embodied by the dance of Sufi whirling. What does this mystical side of Islam tell us about the faith, and the path to greater understanding of the relationship between belief and nature?

The panel includes:

- Fatimah Ashrif, a student of the Mevlevi Sufi tradition which was founded on the teachings of Mevlana Jalal ud Din Rumi (13th-century Muslim mystic, poet, scholar and jurist). She facilitates a monthly Dhikr (Remembrance) Circle in Cheshire where she lives. She is also a member of Rumi’s Circle which is inspired by the wisdom of Rumi and is interested in creating spaces for the exploration of the spiritual wisdom at the heart of all faith traditions.

- Karima Esse, who is part of the Inayati Chishti tradition and follows in the steps of Hazrat Inayat Khan, whose message emphasised the unity of the religious ideal. A Sufi priestess in training, she holds 'interdevotional' spaces where people from various spiritual traditions pray together and connect to the divine – whatever name we call It by, pioneering new spaces of interbeing where the Earth is also honoured and acknowledged as sacred. She belongs to the order of the Whirling Dervishes and in the past was active part of their monthly public ceremonies in West London.

- Shumaisa Khan, who grew up in New Jersey and during her childhood went on trips to national parks and local farms, and every few years went to Pakistan to spend time with family. These experiences instilled in her an appreciation of the wider world and planted the seeds for her interests in ecology, social justice and human rights. During young adulthood, she started listening to Democracy Now, on WBAI, a listener-sponsored radio station in New York; listening to this regularly during her formative years also influenced her perspectives on democracy and social change. Currently she is a lecturer on urban agriculture at the University of Brighton, where she also oversees the student-run Edible Campus rooftop garden. As a Representative of Wisdom in Nature, she designs and leads workshops on permaculture, nature connection, and Islamic ecology. Her studies and work experience have ranged from international health to environmental justice, and she has worked at several institutions in both the US and UK.

Chaired by Naima Khan, an Imam and a trustee of the Inclusive Mosque Initiative (IMI), a feminist mosque open to people of all genders. As part of her work with IMI she leads prayers, gives sermons at Friday prayers and conducts Islamic wedding ceremonies.

Dates & times

This event has passed.


Royal Festival Hall
Blue Room, Level 1


Included in Pass

need to know

This event is included in the Saturday Pass, and is part of Rituals and Seasons: Religion and Our Natural Life.