IAS Legacy Projects
Garden of Light Praying Room
In 2013, the International Association of Sufism began construction on the Garden of Light Praying and Meditation Room in Napa, California, as a service to humanity and a place of welcome. Standing the end of the road, the Garden of Light is intended as a place where people of any religion and any nationality, whether rich or poor, can come and find refuge and sanctuary.
The inspiration of Seyyedeh Dr. Nahid Angha and Shah Nazar Seyyed Dr. Ali Kianfar, this project has been under their vision and guidance every step of its creation, staying true to its intended purpose. Dr. Kianfar describes, the Praying and Meditation Room “is a place for awareness and awakening to the value of life.” Oriented toward the qibla, with running water for ablution and a walkway, every part of the structure of the Praying and Meditation Room is intended to enable easy access building for all to enter for contemplation, meditation, prayer, and remembrance of loved ones.
On the dome of interior walls of the Praying and Meditation Room, calligraphy reflects teachings of peace and unity, including the names of many of the prophets in the monotheistic traditions, as well as several of the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah–qualities of creation wrapped also within the human being, and toward which a human being inwardly can align and strive. The Praying Room stands alone in invitation to all who come to find solitude with their own heart and the reality of divinity. All are welcome to contribute to ongoing development and care of this space.
As early as 1979, Dr. Nahid Angha and Shah Nazar Seyyed Dr. Ali Kianfar began cultivating the idea of inviting Sufis from around the world to a forum and to open dialogue amongst Sufi Schools. In late 1980, they began writing letters of invitation to many Sufi masters around the world. Their first endeavor was establishing the International Association of Sufism in 1983, inviting Sufis and Sufi Schools to join and help to build a global center in order to learn from each other, and celebrate cultures, teachers, diversities, styles, and histories.
In March of 1994, IAS convened the First Annual Sufism Symposium. It was clear that something special was happening. By the end of the peaceful and enlightening weekend, the strength of the common bond uniting all Sufis was apparent. It was clear, too, that the combined energy of Sufis can revitalize society with the breath of life–in the words of one participant, the Symposium marked "… the beginning of the healing of this world.” Presenters and audiences alike came from across the United States and around the world–the first time ever so many different groups have gathered to introduce Sufism in all its varied forms and practices. An audience of about 500 came to share in the presentations of more than 39 Sufis and scholars. Also, for the first time, all participating Sufi Orders shared their sacred zikr in a circle in which Dr. Nahid Angha became the first woman ever to sit in the inner circle with Muslim leaders from around the world. Sufism Symposia have introduced Sufism as a path of direct connection with the Divine, beyond labels, and open to all who seek wisdom and achieving self-knowledge.
For over 20 years, Sufism Symposia hosted by IAS invited talks, panel discussions, workshops, sacred music and poetry, centered on themes such as: The History of Sufism, Principles and Practices of Sufism, Sufism and Self-Discovery, Expressions of Beauty, Global Ethics, and Old Traditions for a New World. An extraordinary diversity of Sufi schools and orders have been represented, some of whom have attended nearly every year since the beginning, while each year has witnessed new members in the ever-growing family of friendship among Sufis, interfaith leaders, artists, writers, poets, scientists, and many more. In 2015, IAS published Caravan: Biographies from the Sufism Symposia, 1994-2014, a compilation of biographies of most of the presenters who participated in the first 20 years of Sufism Symposia, preserving this precious history for the benefit of humankind.
Bridging the Cultural Gap:
Bridging the Cultural Gap: A Muslim non-Muslim Dialogue was created by Dr. Angha and developed in cooperation with Campus Ministry of Dominican University of California. The program created a forum for a continuing dialogue among Dominican’s Muslim and non-Muslim students in hope of promoting mutual understanding. The powerful and moving presentations included focus on contemporary education in Islamic sciences, the importance of social justice and peace among all people, an introduction to traditional North Indian Islamic music, and the photographic journey of an Iraqi journalist who chronicled the horrors of war and its impact on the citizens in the years following. Each session provided time for discussion among all participants. Young people remain the greatest asset of our nation as well as the globe, and the wealth of our society’s diversities and a great range of cultural identity have enriched our nation. These qualities enhance a community, and if respectful, educational and peaceful forums of dialogues are created, offered and provided, then every voice will be given the opportunity to be heard, and concerns will be addressed. Such forums can help individuals to be actively engaged in decision-making, taking informative and educational steps towards possible solutions, and experiencing the world through each other’s eyes.
IAS Prison Project
Founded in the 1980’s by Dr. Nahid Angha, the IAS Prison Project received the Warden’s Recognition Award from San Quentin State Prison, as well as recognition in the Marin Independent Journal for its work in helping inmates transform their lives through meditation, art therapy, and peaceful communication. The project invited our incarcerated brothers and sisters to read and reflect on deep wisdom that is very practical while adopting positive habits and working day by day on personal goals in order to “do” their time wisely. Working with inmates at San Quentin State Prison, Marin County Jail, and the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California, IAS prison project volunteers facilitated groups, workshops, and classes on meditation, stress management, yoga, poetry, substance abuse education, and breast cancer awareness. These programs were well received by inmates and acknowledged and appreciated by prison staff. In addition to these activities, prison project volunteers also corresponded with inmates across the country through a letter-writing program. The IAS Prison Project volunteers are forever thankful for this rich experience of service.