Sufism Psychology Panel
This profoundly important international, multicultural conference started with a panel of Sufi Psychologists in the Sufism & Psychology Forum presentation of “Spirituality, Psychology, Harmony” on Saturday afternoon. Moderated by Sanaa Joy Carey, Ph.D., of Washington, the panel brought together George Pransky, Ph.D, from Seattle, Dr. Shams Prinzivalli, from New Jersey, and Amineh Amelia Pryor, MFT, from San Francisco. Each speaker presented information from her/his particular base of knowledge on psychology and Sufi psychology. The result was a unified, overall perspective on the subject. A gathering of the speakers and presenters later on Saturday afternoon became a procession of well-loved leaders of the international Sufi community arriving one by one to warm and enthusiastic greetings from their friends and colleagues. We were graced by the presence of honored women and men from Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Indiana, New York, and California and from Senegal, Scotland, Egypt, Bangladesh, Nigeria, India and Turkey, among other places. The speakers included university professors, physicians, theologians, psychologists and scholars from many disciplines. Beverly Hundley Spears, representing Seattle Mayor Paul Schell, welcomed the delegates to Seattle with grace and generosity of spirit.
An Evening of Sufi Poetry and Music
Seyyedeh Nahid Angha, Ph.D. Co-Director of the International Association of Sufism, brought the exquisite beauty and wisdom of her ancient lineage to the reading of poetry both in the original Farsi and in English translations she has prepared for her recent book, Ecstasy: The World of Sufi Poetry and Prayer. In Her embroidered black woolen robe, Seyyedeh Dr. Angha was an enchanting vision with a beautiful voice reading words written by Her Esteemed Father, Moulana Shah Maghsoud, and by Omar Khayam, Hafiz, Rumi, Abdullah Ansari and others. There was a special poignancy in observing in the audience Seyyedeh Dr. Angha’s Mother, dear Khanoom, Mah Talat Etemad Moghadam Angha, as well as Seyyedeh Dr. Angha’s lovely daughter, Seyyedeh Hamaseh Kianfar, representing three generation of outstanding Sufi women who continue to work for universal harmony throughout the world. Seyyedeh Sahar Kianfar was away on her pursuit for a Master Degree in Islamic Studies from Cambridge. Taneen, the Sufi ensemble, complimented the poetry with their vocal and instrumental music. The haunting melody of the ney, played by Jeffrey McCullough, along with George Matchette on the tar and harmonium, Sheikh Salman Baruti on the daf, Tony Roybal on the zarb and David Rosenthal on the bass graced the evening. The beautiful harmonizing voices of lead singers Ginny Matchette and Soraya Chase Clow, along with George and Jeff, completed the musical experience that lifted the room to the heights of ecstasy. “We are so grateful to Soraya and Ginny and the whole team of dear brothers who shared in the Taneen music. I have never heard such a beautiful thing that took us so high, so smoothly and delicately.” (Aisha Rafea, Cairo, Egypt) To make the evening complete, Musa Dieng Kala, an outstanding musician and a dedicated Sufi from Senegal, performed his original vocal compositions in the great tradition of African music. His striking, tall figure and his enchanting voice added another memorable aspect to one of the supreme moments of the Symposium.
The conference was officially opened by Sheikh Ahmed Tijani reciting the call to prayer in his inimitable resonant voice. It was a deeply moving moment of unity as this diverse group of Sufis from far and wide came together to worship Allah. Seyyedeh Dr. Angha gave the Opening Statement challenging the delegates to join in unity of spirit and harmony of mutual understanding. Shahzada Mainuddin of Bangladesh led the morning zikr as the group joined in remembrance and praise of Allah. Several speakers were new to the Symposium this year, including Sheikh Habib Steffen of Seattle, Sheikh Tahir of Nigeria, and Aisha Rafea and Aliaa Rafae, of Cairo, Egypt. Also joining the Interfaith panel were new friends Glenn Pascall, Jamal Rahman, and Father William Treacy from Washington.
The featured speakers and panel discussions were conducted with a mixture of precision, time constraints and Sufi-like patience for latecomers and the long-winded. Pearls of wisdom and unique insights awaited us, along with provocative essays. We filled our baskets to the brim, listening to personal stories of hope and enlightenment.” (Iris Stewart, California)
Two panel presentations were given in each time slot on subjects including: “The Mysticism of Sound and Movement,” “The Purpose of Sufi Training,” ” Self-knowledge: Individual and Global Responsibility,” “Meditation,” “Islam: Divine Law and Harmony,” “Forgiveness and Healing,” “Faith: Allies & Resolution,” and “Remembrance: A Universal Harmony.” New this year was the repetition of panel topics on two days with different speakers each day. This enabled participants to attend presentations on all topics in the two days, or to hear two different sets of speakers address the same topic, if that area were of particular interest to them. Beloved and esteemed presenters who graciously participated included: Dr. Neil Douglas-Klotz Saadi Sahkur Chisti; Iman Faisal Abdul Rauf; Youssef Abedini; Camille Helminski; Ahamed Muhaiyaddeen Jonathan Granoff; Sheikh Taner Ansari; Dr. David Katz; Shahzada Mainuddin. Also, Sheikh Kabir Helminski; Arife Ellen Hammerle; Sheikh Abdulaye Dieye; Dr. Shahid Athar; Dr. Sharon Mijares; Sonia Gilbert; Saleh Arthur Scott; Devi Tide; Mother Tynnetta Muhammad; and Shah Nazar Dr. Seyyed Ali Kianfar. The outcome of the many panel discussions was a greater clarification of the message La illaha illa- Allah, “There is nothing but the Divine.” Many speakers agreed that this message is the basis for universal harmony and belongs to all people.
“People from different parts of the world came together as if they were one family. Peace and love, the two major factors in unity, were very obvious and apparent at the Symposium. These factors are directly connected to the unity expressed in “La illaha illa-Allah.” (Ali Kianfar, Ph.D.)
Two Youth Roundtables moderated by Seyyedeh Hamaseh Kianfar were attended by young people from Bangladesh, India, Africa, Middle East, and several different states in the U.S. However, the meetings were not limited to any age group as many attended to hear, support and encourage the planning of the most treasured Sufi youth. The result of these Round Tables is the expansion of the Sufi Youth Organization, development of a Mission Statement for the organization, nomination of a Board of Directors, and the planning for an Internet dialogue for Sufi Youth.
“During one of the Round Tables, one of the attendees made an interesting observation. She said, “Even though there are many different orders in Sufism, it sounds like the message is the same – the message is remembrance.” One of the most amazing things about religion and faith is that it is not bound by language, culture – the message is universal and beyond words.” (Seyyedeh Hamaseh Kianfar, hamasehkianfar.wordpress.com)
The Sufi youth are talented, strong, intelligent and dedicated, and they engendered admiration and respect from all who observed and met with them. Indeed, the future is in their hands, and they are a great treasure for all of us.
“I was struck by the solidarity among all of us at this year’s Symposium. There seems to be a wave that we are all traveling on. As we travel together it strengthens our resonance with the inner meaning of Allah (SWA) and increases the harmony throughout the world. This is a blessing. The inner meaning was experienced and shared throughout the Symposium. The inner meaning of God is all that there is and this message of harmony was reflected in music, song, poetry and words.” (Arife Ellen Hammerle)
Sufi Women Organization
The Sufi Women assumed an increasingly evident presence this year with Panel Discussions and Round Tables. On the Panel “Rediscovering Women’s Ways of Expressing the Divine” Soraya Chase Clow, Aisha Rafea, Iris Stewart and Rabiya Majid Lila Forest expressed a diversity of points of view that were reflective of the broad spectrum of ages, professions and backgrounds of women represented at the Symposium. The Round Tables were a unique experience for the women, men and youth of both genders who attended. More chairs had to be brought in several times to accommodate. We focused on the work of the Sufi Women Organization, a service, educational, volunteer and humanitarian organization that has come together through the efforts of many Sufi women from around the world, with focus on human rights and emphasis on the rights of women. Some of SWO’s achievements, such as the development of the Code of Ethics, community service projects, work with women in prisons services to those in need in many countries, and Research Projects were reported. Future plans were also discussed, such as: planning another SWO Conference or Retreat; setting up a format for new chapter development; and beginning another Chocolate Box project, a fund raiser for worthy causes.
“As usual, in the Sufi Women Organization meetings, we set about to change the world. It was apparent from the many lovely testimonials we heard that many lives have already been transformed by our efforts. We met several “on-line members” face-to-face for the first time. We discussed ways to help communities of women by the ongoing support we can give through the wonderful new technology of the Internet.” (Iris Stewart)
Sufism Psychology Round Tables
Two additional Round Tables were organized by the Sufism Psychology Forum and moderated by Director, Sheikh Jamal Lawrence Granick. Both were well attended by mental health professionals, physicians, attorneys, and others interested in the field of Sufi Psychology.
“People were poignantly aware of the need for Western psychology to fulfill its implicit mandate – to study the soul. … [Yet} it is a form of compassionate service even in its limitation. … What Sufism has to contribute to the knowledge of psychology is Wisdom. … The Sufi psychotherapist must indeed be a spiritual person who has achieved a level of development that goes beyond the normative stages for which Western psychology generally settles for. … We have begun to define a new field which truly brings the traditional wisdom of healing and transformation to the West.”(Sheikh Jamal Lawrence Granick, MFT)
Among the highlights of this exquisite weekend were the evening Sema and Zikrs. Once again this year, the Whirling Dervishes of the Mevlevi Order of America led by Sheikh Jalaluddin Loras filled the room with the love and light of Allah as they shared their deep prayer of remembrance, and, once again, the all Sufi Zikr on Sunday evening was led by several Sheikhs representing different tariqat(s), but all centering on the same message of “La illaha illa Allah.” Monday evening also ended with a beautiful Sufi Zikr “The Healer” presented by Taneen. This remembrance in words and music provided another oasis of tranquility in this weekend out of time. In the final Round Table, as the weekend was drawing to a close, Seyyed Dr. Kianfar made a simple and profound suggestion for achieving peace and harmony in the world. The group in unity and harmony agreed to his suggestion that every Friday at 12:00 noon, in each one’s own time zone, all people will take 5 minutes to pray and meditate for peace and the well being of the entire human family. And so, the gathering of our caravan of joy ended for another year. We left filled with love for each other and for the Divine, with our hearts singing, and with new commitment to creating peace and universal harmony in all the world.
“As swiftly as they had appeared and set up, so too they were gone. We watched as crystal carriages carried Sufi mystics away through the air.” (Iris Stewart)
In only a few, swiftly passing months, the Sufis from around the world will gather again – next time from March 23 – 25, 2001 in California.
“I want to add my deep appreciation and respect for the dedication, time and service given through the work of Dr. Angha and Dr. Kianfar in establishing and providing us with these annual symposia. Much of their lives are focused upon this service, and we are always deeply enriched by it.” (Sharon Mijares, Ph.D., California)
Praise be to the Divine for this gathering and union of the travelers of the path of the heart; may their journey be safe; may their service to humanity be remembered; may Allah enrich their lives by the Divine love. Amen