IAS Co-Sponsors Australian Sufism Conference, a Gathering of Sufis from Around the World in May 2000

Hundreds gathered in Australia to hear Shah Nazar Seyyed Dr. Ali Kianfar and other Sufis speak.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — By Sharon Carr. From across the country people came to the first Australian Sufi Conference, co-sponsored by the International Association of Sufism. Many came as strangers and all left as close friends, brothers and sisters embraced in a spirit of love and the beauty of unity. The crowd reflected a rich tapestry of faces, religions and beliefs. For the first time we were all gathered together in this meeting of the heart. This blessed event brought together a diverse group, many with only one thing in common they were all seekers.

The call to prayer sung by Sheikh Tijani heralded the beginning of the inaugural Australian Sufi Conference. In this brief moment we were held together in the hands of God and the true spirit of the conference had begun. The beat of a drum by the conference moderator James Harvey invited us to listen with our hearts synchronized to the rhythm. Listen with your hearts. “Where ever we are gathered in the name of Allah then this is a holy place.”Next Fleur Nassery Bonnin the founder of the Australian Centre for Sufism spoke on ‘Setting the Tone’. She said, “We have two centers for learning, the heart and the mind. You cannot hear God with your mind, only with your heart. We have no power in opening up our heart, only God has that power, but we do have the power to give up our attachment to our mind and personality.” image

“We do not need questions, only a quest” said Shah Nazar Seyyed Dr. Ali Ali Kianfar, our most honored guest and co-founder of The International Association of Sufism based in California in his talk ‘Self and Discovery.’ Then we broke for prayer and Muslims and Christians alike in a beautiful spirit of unity prayed together in their own fashion. After lunch we gathered again to the evocative sounds of the Persian Sufi Musicians playing Daf, Ney and Setar accompanying readings from Rumi’s Mathnawi by Adrian Rawlins. This was followed by Sheikh Abdul Aziz who explained, “The Living Tradition of Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi and the Whirling Dervishes” to prepare every one for the forthcoming performance. The development of the Sema by Rumi was explained as “A result of the great loss Rumi felt after he lost his close spiritual companion Hazreti Shamsuddin of Tabriz. The outpouring of his worship and love for God became expressed through the unique whirl of ecstasy of his heart and was then formalized into the Sema, a celebration of the human soul’s participation in the dance of creation and ascent of the Divine.”In the afternoon the Interfaith Panel consisting of Michael Horsburgh speaking on: The Search for an Inner Life: A Christian Perspective, Bhante Tejadhammo Bhikku speaking on: Mistaking Reality: Seizing Suffering in Unreality, and Sheikh Mansour Leghaei speaking on: Spirituality of Islamic Daily Prayers, reflected on the true spirit of unity, humility and love and as one attendee beautifully expressed, represented 3 different sign posts to the one Reality. After breaking for Prayer and meditation we concluded in the evening with a performance of Sema by the Whirling Dervishes of the Mevlevi Order. The performance was felt by many in their hearts, and seemed to grow and nurture the rest of the conference.

Some of the Sufi speakers from around the world with Shah Nazar Seyyed Dr. Ali Kianfar
(front row, second from right) at the first Australian Sufi conference.

Sunday commenced with Professor Harry Oldmeadow of La Trobe University giving a moving and evocative talk on: The Role of Mystical traditions in a Contemporary World. He concluded: For those who see religions and the mystical traditions at their heart, as something infinitely more than mere cultural phenomena, who believe them to be the vehicles of the most profound and precious truths to which we cannot and must not immunize ourselves, who wish to do justice to both the external forms and the inner meanings of religion, who cleave to their own tradition but who wish to recognize all integral religions as pathways to God, a proper understanding of mystical traditions, within their own religious frameworks, can open up whole new vistas. Ultimately, for those who are prepared to pay the price, it can lead to that light that is neither of the east nor the west.

With the stage set for a beautiful day we then enjoyed the poetry of Hafez and Rumi, read by Adrian Rawlins.

Murshid Ali El Senossi, gave a humble and enlightening talk on: The Art of Spiritualizing our Daily Activities . He said, “Unless we can take something from the conference which we can implement in our daily lives then what have we really learnt”. He spoke in detail on spiritualizing the most fundamental activities such as eating, ablution and sleeping.

After prayer and lunch Rabia (Annalisa Orselli-Dickson) gave a heart rendered and experiential visual poetry demonstration. Combining her own poetry and Rumi’s with images and Zekr she took us on a moving journey of her path to Allah.

The Sufism and psychology panel followed this with Terence McBride exploring the Jungian perspective and Fleur Nassery Bonnin the role of Sufism and psychology. Then in a powerful and courageous moment Fleur shared with us through her own example the truth and beauty of God’s signs for those who have the ears to hear. She demonstrated in that moment the power of the truth on the path, that God is all we need — our beginning and our end and in between our daily quest.

imageThe afternoon brought more Persian Sufi music and poetry. With three musicians spanning three generations and a bi-lingual presentation of Rumi’s poetry in Persian and English by Omid Honari.

Our final speaker was Shah Nazar Seyyed Dr. Kianfar who spoke first on what Sufism was. In this eloquent presentation he used stories, knowledge and heart to illuminate the Sufi path. He followed this by talking on: Meditation and the Power of Zekr.

At the conclusion the chairs were moved away, a circle was formed and Shah Nazar Seyyed Dr. Kianfar led us all in the Zekr. With our eyes closed and the music and words reverberating throughout the room and within these bodies and hearts and minds: Allah, Allah, Allah, Allah, Allah…,” as desperate and urgent and powerful as what had brought us all to this one place from across the country and across the world. In this moment we were unity, gathered together for one purpose.

When the Zekr and the conference was over no one wanted to leave, they lingered and cried and embraced. They moved around with a sense of urgency to thank each other in a genuine, heart moved way. And whether their words were Al hamdu Allah or God be praised there was only one True convener and gatherer, only one who had planned and fashioned this bringing together of strangers, who had united, taught and touched us at this first Australian Sufi Conference.

Shokran Allah.


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