Sufi Women Organization
SWO Luncheon Lectures Series with: Susan M. Wyler, poet, cultural historian and celebrated novelist: A Life of Writing (event information and registration can be found here.)
The Sufi Women Organization, founded by Dr. Nahid Angha and with the efforts and contributions of Sufi women from around the globe, was established in 1993 under the auspices of the International Association of Sufism. A forum for all women, it has been tremendously successful in gathering together women from diverse cultural backgrounds who share a dedication to the goals of Sufism, especially with respect to human rights. Our primary humanitarian goals include women’s rights, education, and social awareness. The devotion of all who have volunteered their time, energy and expertise have led to substantial achievements:
- opening lines of communications among Sufi women from many different schools throughout the world;
- bringing the influence and the leadership of Sufi women into the traditional Sufi gatherings;
- taking active and leadership roles within the global community through interfaith organizations, Amnesty International, Habitats for Humanity, UNICEF, UNESCO, and the United Nations;
- working with diverse community services programs including Women’s Wisdom, Women in Action educational conference series, Prison Project, Literacy Program, and more;
- providing classes and meditation series for Sufi women introducing Sufi women’s accomplishments in art, literature, poetry, teachings, and practices in publications distributed internationally and through the SWO Quarterly Newsletter, Luncheon Programs, and annual Sufism Symposium meeting;
- establishing an electronic mail news group and web site to facilitate sharing among Sufi women;
- creating a forum for exchanging ideas, traditions and teachings among Sufi women from different orders and cultures.
Code of Ethics
The Sufi Women Organization, a humanitarian, non-political, non-sectarian organization, has been created to introduce, disseminate, honor and acknowledge, with Divine Guidance, the contribution and service of Sufi women to the world civilization.
The mission of this organization is to come together free from human prejudice to share the knowledge, wisdom, experience, and concerns of Sufi Women of the past and present with our societies and time, remembering that the essence of the human being, regardless of gender or color, time or place, has been regarded as reverent, dignified, and respectful by teachers of humanity. Such magnificence is the gift of the Being and recognizing such magnificence is learned.
Sufi Women Organization has come together to support, protect and educate for such learning. It is important that the Sufi teaching be protected, such teaching is not to be used for selfish gain or corruption of any kind. True Sufism requires great vigilance and sustained continuous self-improvement efforts. We, as a group of honorable and responsible women, have come together to serve as educators, guides, advisors and friends.
As the result, the following Code of Ethics is created and honored by the Sufi Women Organization. These suggestions are offerings, but not mandates or regulations. Those who honor these suggestions honor them at their own free will.
As the result of this Code of Ethics, a Sufi Women Advisory Council will support a common ground for conflict resolution, reconciliation for the sake of humanity, compassion and respect as important factors t for maintaining healthy communities.
Code of Ethics Declaration of Principles
Be it hereby resolved:
1. Recognizing the value of human beings, we shall act with integrity, honesty and truthfulness, accepting responsibility for our well being and the cultivation of awareness within our society, culture, and civilization, beginning with ourselves.
2. The Sufi path is a path of honor and servitude. We put the work of the path above personal ambition and personal gain, and we seek to inspire others through our own lives and work.
3. We shall improve our own education, increase our skills, and strive to achieve within ourselves unity of thought, action and belief.
4. All human beings, regardless of gender, race, age, social and economic status, have the right to educate themselves to their full potential and to advance on the spiritual path. If they attain spiritual knowledge, they have the right to lead and attain spiritual leadership.
5. All people have the right to respectfully express their feelings and ideas, to receive recognition for their abilities and work, and what they have earned.
6. We respect the rights of others to hold values, attitudes and opinions that differ from our own as long as those values, attitudes and opinions treat all people with dignity, honor and respect.
7. Individuals, men or women, students or leaders, have the rights to refuse any request made by others if they feel such request or demand is immoral, unethical, unnecessary or against their will.
8. We believe in the full representation of genders in public discussions, dialogues and forums on matters of spirituality and in making decisions about marriage, divorce, education for all people as they relate to society and the family.
9. We dedicate ourselves to supporting those who suffer or are oppressed in our own communities and beyond, through our daily actions and active humanitarian works. We shall encourage the oppressed to speak and be heard by denouncing unethical conduct and manipulation within our own Sufi communities and in the larger society. We support human rights and humanitarian peace efforts through organizations such as the United Nations.
10. People who are oppressed or abused have the right to leave any oppressive and abusive situation without being outcast or blamed.
11. According to the Sufi Women Organization, sexual harassment or exploitation of anyone is inconsistent with ethical behavior.
12. We support and protect the rights of children.
13. We support equality of genders in both spiritual and secular domains.
The Sufi Women Organization reserves the right to modify and append the Code of Ethics according to our increased knowledge and experience gained through the application of the Code. The Code of Ethics is not intended to be legally binding on any members of Sufi Women Organization or any other persons nor shall any person be deemed authorized by SWO , expressly or implicitly, to maintain any legal or regulatory claim, cause of action, or lawsuit against any other person based upon or related to the guidelines and principles set forth herein.
Breaking New Ground in Women’s Leadership
In the Beginning
In 1993 a group of women, from all phases of life, different social backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, and Sufi and spiritual affiliations, got together and became the foundation of the Sufi Women Organization, headquartered in Northern California.
Their first creation was East Bay Sufi Women and their first appearance was in the Annual Sufism Symposium 1994. They established themselves as an organization of strong and knowledgeable women when SWO founder, Seyedeh Dr. Angha, sat in the inner circle of zikr side by side with her Islamic and Sufi brothers, leaders from around the world, from Kuwait to Ghana, from Turkey to Canada, from India to Algeria, and many lands in between, and led a zikr. Dr. Angha was the first woman ever to sit in the inner circle council of the annual Sufi Symposium – a truly revolutionary accomplishment.
Inspiration to Action
SWO’s second appearance was in March 1995 at the second annual Sufism Symposium, where many Sufi women stood side by side with their brothers and to lead the conference. They spoke on a panel before a packed conference hall, where many attendees even stood outside the room to hear what the women of SWO had to say.
In 1997 SWO established the Sufi Women Dialogue, an email group, as a complementary service to (Sufi) women. SWO became a close family, with sisters from around the world. Through this effect, people who had never met before came together and created a trust, respect and friendship.
Prompted by a desire to connect with all women, including those from other faiths, who were dedicated to women’s rights, in September 1999, SWO organized our first Interfaith women’s conference. It was a two day conference, dedicated to Interfaith, dedicated to Islam/Sufism. The weekend proved a success. Even our Indonesian Chapters came to stand for the rights of women.
SWO has also been Involved with movements such as:
- Global Women’s Peace Petition
- Amnesty International
- The High Commissioner for Human Rights
- United Nations NGO/DPI
- Parliaments of the World’s Religions
- United Religions Initiative
Organized events and programs such as:
- SWO Quarterly Luncheons
- SWO Art Show
- Chocolate Box contribution
- Save the Iraqi Children
- Sufi Women “Working Retreat”
- Hijab in Turkey and Afghanistan
Published books such as:
- Code of Ethics
- The Veil: Hijab
- Women’s Wisdom: Women in Action
- SWO Cook Book
- Sufi Women: Journey Towards the Beloved
We are sure there are so many goals that we have accomplished, but nothing has been as magnificent as our coming together to become a family. Alhamdullelah.
Open Letter to World Leaders
The following letter has been sent to political, social, and religious leaders throughout the world. It was developed to raise awareness about the need to promote basic human rights universally, in both Muslim and non-Muslim countries.
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Compassionate.
Whoever obeys the Prophet, obeys Allah
Qur’an: IV, 80
The best amongst you are those who are best for their families; and their women are respectful and are honored among them. The most hateful is a society where women are neither honored nor respected. Said the Messenger of Allah.
Knowing about the abuses, cruelties, and violence committed against women and children, in many countries, including Islamic, has made it necessary for us to write to you, our brother/sister in Islam to call for the safety, and honorable treatment of women and children.
This letter is a call for action by asking every Muslim to stand for what is right, and be an honorable model for generations to come. By recognizing and educating the truth of Islam, we emphasize on the standards set by the Prophet and his teachings. By ensuring women their rights we honor men and women in Islam, for when women are treated with respect it reflects the true spirit of Islam.
The Islamic leaders of today have the unique opportunity to act as role models for future generations by following the spirit and teachings of Islam and the tradition of the Prophet (PBUH). It is imperative that the believing men take an active role in speaking forth on this issue and in ensuring that their errant brothers are held accountable for these injustices.
Should our Muslim leaders become the leaders of zulm (oppression) towards their own citizens, particularly women and children? Are you, as Muslim leaders or citizens, among those who can raise their heads with pride and claim that their women and children are safe, their rights are supported and protected, their interests protected?
Women’s rights, including rights to property, rights to education, rights to work and right to divorce are guaranteed by Islam. Are these rights being protected and established in your country? Are those who beat, oppress and disregard the needs of women arrested and punished?
The whole world is beginning to recognize the truth of the rights established by the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. Let not Muslims be the last to establish what is taught by Islam!
We urgently request that every possible, effective measure be exercised to protect women and children from violence and that those responsible are brought to justice in an expedient manner. We insist that this basic principle of human rights, the right to live in peace, be put into action by renewing the commitment to bridge the gap between the existence of rights and their effective and honorable follow through in each country.
We are writing this letter as a strong reminder of the moral and ethical responsibilities existent, not only for national authorities and citizens of the world, but for followers of Islam. The time for change is imminent; to prevent others from engaging in unethical behavior and to establish new local and international examples with heightened humanitarian awareness and action.
Let us work together to create a better tomorrow for all of us, all humanity.
Sufi Women Organization Headquarters
The Role of Women in Religion: A Shifting Paradigm
by Dr. Sharon Mijares
The following article was presented at the Ninth Annual Sufism Symposium in Bellevue, Washington. © Dr. Sharon Mijares. All Rights Reserved.
Bismillah er Rahman er Raheem
Whatever affects one segment of the human population affects the entire human family and the body of earth–for we are all connected, intimately related. As Chief Seattle says in his famous letter to the US President in 1854, “We are part of the earth and it is a part of us.” It is time to recognize that we are all connected and act on our responsibility to nurture a healthier human family.
Many people believe that women have an important role to fill in helping to build a healthier future for all humanity. Given women’s innate ability to support and bear life, we also have the inherent potential to create positive relationships. This creativity can birth more conscientious relational communities and thereby create a healthier and safer world.
Thanks to Dr. Angha many women on the Sufi Women’s Dialogue became aware of a significant petition circling our globe in 1997, co-sponsored by Women’s organizations from countries around the world. They represented human rights groups from Africa, across the UK, Italy, France, Europe and the Netherlands, USA, Canada, Puerto Rico, South America, Egypt, Israel, Pakistan, India, Poland, Philippines, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and other countries. The petition’s heading noted that it was from the “Women of the World” and was addressed to the “Governments of the World seated at the United Nations General Assembly.”
The message preceding the signature lines read:
We are horrified at the levels of violence witnessed during this century and that women and children are the primary victims of war and poverty. On behalf of society at large, we, the undersigned women of the world, demand that annually, for the next five years, at least five percent of national military expenditures be redirected to health, education and employment programs. By doing so, one half billion dollars a day would be released worldwide for programs to improve living standards.
We also demand that war, like slavery, colonialism, and apartheid, be de-legitimized as an acceptable form of social behavior, and that governments and civil society together develop new institutions that do not resort to violence for the settlement of disputes.
Together, we commit ourselves, as half of the world’s population, to use our power to ensure that these demands, which will promote international peace and security, are met through legislation and action. We resolve that we will inaugurate a new century that rejects warfare and promotes well being, justice and human rights.
Many women had attended the Beijing conference on women’s rights to discuss historical and very present realities – for example, visualizing a better future. They held the vision that women can help shape significant and positive world change for the human family.
Humanity is ripe for another shift in consciousness. We’ve been talking about a new paradigm for a couple of decades now, but it does not appear that positive transformative changes are taking place. And now we are in the midst of increasing male dominated wars. If our humanity is going to survive and the gift of human evolution realized, there needs to be a foundational change and this change needs to be shaped and influenced by women. Women need to be more involved with the decisions affecting the destiny of human kind and the well being of our planet.
This gathering of women and the women’s panel would have been better placed on Saturday and again on Sunday rather than late on Monday after many people had already started leaving. What we have to say as women is vital to the well being of our future. We need to envision a religion that is not dominated by ideologies failing to honor all human beings. We can participate in actions that help to build and sustain human relationships around the globe. Every mother in every nation, race and religion would rest well knowing their children and the children of the world are safe.
The theme of this symposium is Harmony. Let’s examine what constitutes harmony. The word means rapport, friendship, compatibility, agreement, etc. We also associate harmony with music. A woman’s role in religion should be one of creating harmony and equality between all peoples. She manifests this gift of harmony in her mothering, her friendships and her marriage.
The hierarchical tendencies within patriarchy tend toward structures based on superiority. Although patriarchy has been the way of the human being for the last four thousand years, there is evidence that earlier humanity had a very different form of culture. These earlier cultures were not dominated by systems of dominance and destruction of “the other.” Religious women need to be more aware of the entirety of human history – for there was a time when the female was reverenced as divine. Early humanity acknowledged the woman’s capacity to bring forth life and saw her as a divine vehicle. Archeologists have found icons reverencing the female; they were placed in alters in dwelling places.
Biblical history tells us of the women of Babylon and other goddess reverencing cultures and cheers their destruction. Religious women need greater clarity regarding what was taking place during that stage of human development. As human beings we lived more in harmony with nature, and acknowledged the various archetypal representations of God as divine—so there were many gods and goddesses. This was the heart of paganism. Sexuality and fertility were not separate from the divine. Plants, animals and human beings were sacred – a very different consciousness than we have now about these manifestations of life. These matriarchal societies were more horizontal in nature. With the rise of patriarchy we developed a vertical perspective of life. This development (fostered by a rise in male dominance) brought about significant religious and spiritual development. The Egyptian sage Hermes recognized divine unity.
The Jewish Prophet Moses and the Prophets that followed acknowledged the One God. This was a great spiritual development. Humanity was realizing there was something beyond the archetypal Gods and Goddesses. This was the positive side of hierarchy and the world religions manifesting at this time; but on the negative side women and nature were debased and devalued in the process. Patriarchy is hierarchical and this means that someone always has to be “superior” (on top) so women were relegated to second position in the course of life. We have been conditioned to accept this as “the word of God,” but this is not the case. It is not the word of God, but rather the teachings of men. This should be questioned – not only for the sake of women, but also for the sake of our men and the future of this planet.
As long as men are dominant we will not have peace because it is an imbalanced life. The Taliban regime evidenced an extreme example of the male psyche lacking feminine balance. Women were despised and hidden from view. The male was dominant and uninfluenced by the outer female and the inner feminine archetype. As a result, the Taliban men evidenced a lack of caring and respect for anything outside of their own ideals (for example, the abuse of women, the destruction of anything outside of their own limited ideology including the dynamiting of the precious Buddhist statutes). These are examples of the disrespect for life that can happen when the feminine presence is absent.
The pre-historic male was predominantly a hunter, conqueror, warrior, and protector. It assured the continuance of the human species. Turn on CNN and listen to the news! This style is still the dominant response. We have a few thousand years evidencing these patterned behaviors, which is why men need women’s active support before humanity destroys more life and our environment. We are ready for a new understanding of what being a “protector of life” really means. In this emergent era women and men will work together.
Dr. Angha and Dr. Kianfar are examples of this positive balance. They support one another and their efforts reach out to gather others from the world community to do good works and create more harmony in the world. Dr. Angha is not hidden behind Dr. Kianfar. He respects her individuality, and they both support one another. I don’t believe that Dr. Angha would marry anyone who would not fully respect her rights as a human being. This is an example that needs to be followed, by both women and men. We should expect men to give us the same respect we give to them. The destructive, diminishing effects of patriarchy have to change. Together as healthier men and women we can create positive changes. This is the balance our world needs.
And as women we need to support one another to enter into co-leadership roles in all of life’s endeavors—especially in changing policies that make a difference in our world; in creating and supporting schools that help our children to feel good about education; to improve health care that has been taken over by greed and mismanagement; to protect our environment so there is a healthier world for our children and their descendants to grow up in; and to care about and safeguard all of humanity. Each one of us is gifted–a unique, valued individual in this world community.
What can you do to bring about healing and transformation? Listen to your heart and act upon its prompting.
© Dr. Sharon Mijares. All Rights Reserved.