Monday, April 07, 2008

A Mystical Journey

On Saturday evening, my friends and I decided to attend a Sufi musical concert in New York called A Mystical Journey. They mainly attended it because I really really wanted to go and checkout an Islamic musical concert out of sheer curiousity and because a lot of people I know recommended it. It turned out be AWESOME. I was amazed at the range of instruments and performers; I had expected it to be slow religous tunes, but some of them were as fast as head-banging rock tunes. The repertoire of artists was so diverse, that no two could be compared. They gathered from all over the Islamic world - Africa, India, Pakistan, Syria, Algeria and more - to entertain us. I really cannot pinpoint one performance that I loved because the kind of instruments they all used were so different and fascinating that all of us were totally mesmerized. Houria Aïchi from Algeria transformed a simple Islamic concept - There is no God but God - into a high energy, leg tapping chant. The Dalahoo sufi Ensemble started off with a melodious beat but soon moved onto an extremely fast paced rendition of Rumi's poems including the Reed Song. All the poems that I had loved and quoted in a number of my Philosphy classes came rushing back to me as I heard them. My friends who had no clue what Sufi music was or in fact what Sufiism was, also were totally engrossed in the performance. It was delighful to see Islam in this context - where the messages of love, unification with the divine and peace were being discussed.

These are some of my favorite Sufi poems, oft quoted and oft used.

You've no idea how hard I've looked for a gift to bring You.
Nothing seemed right.
What's the point of bringing gold to the gold mine, or water to the Ocean.

Everything I came up with was like taking spices to the Orient.
It's no good giving my heart and my soul because you already have these.
So- I've brought you a mirror.
Look at yourself and remember me.

- Jalaluddin Rumi

Thy Spirit is mingled in my spirit
even as wine is mingled with pure water.
When anything touches Thee,
it touches me.
Lo, in every case Thou art I!"
- Mansur-al-Hallaj, The Mystics of Islam.

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