Pragmatic Islamic eclecticism: a search for oases

Oásis de Ubari
Sfivat: Ubari Oasis in southwestern Libya

I’ve had a rocky journey across many terrains for my heart and soul. Now, I find myself rooted (that’s not the word though; it’s the opposite of rooted) in a pragmatic Islamic eclecticism. I wander between oases.

I don’t get everything I need in one oasis. Rarely, I find multiple kinds of treasure in one person, one community. I value these precious souls tremendously, but mostly my journey is a perpetually parched quest for sustenance.

I visit the Sufis for gnosis, Love, reverence, deep connection. But often, here, my heart is broken by the male-centric practices of many tariqahs. So I get up, usually quietly, sometimes grumpily, tired, and leave.

I go and find my Muslim feminists, seeking out a just sisterhood, a struggle for finding the heart of Islam that is just for all – an intersectional justice. But sometimes, even here, I find that my heart is not filled, and I am exhausted with struggle. So I stumble back to my Sufi circles for a quick drink of that wine.

But then here, I find a tendency to live in a bubble, to vanish from the everyday struggles of the poor and the dispossessed, and sometimes, worse, a tendency to support the status quo, the authorities, the amir, the powers-that-be.

So, from these Sufi circles, I run in a state of vehshat, terror, alienation, and I find solidarity warriors for political struggle, people who are allied with the poorest, the majority of the people, seeking change for them. And then, after a while, I often find among these a disgust with religion and spirituality, a utilitarianism that uses religion only as a political tool.

So I flee once more. And sometimes I seek the comforting home of meticulous Muslims, to strengthen a diligent correct observance, a religious discipline. But then these often tire me out, because they often do not care how I feel, they tell you to push yourself, no matter your personal circumstances or illness or perspective, and to follow the ghosts of the past, always, never to live in the present.

So I flee again, and I find the comforting laughter of ironic Muslims, the ones who know how to laugh at themselves and to make light of the very serious issues that weigh us down so heavily that we can barely move.

And on and on and on.

My friend Saadia Yacoob reminded me of her inspiration, the Prophet’s words: “Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveler.”


4 thoughts on “Pragmatic Islamic eclecticism: a search for oases”

  1. I have never been able to understand eclectic word fully you sou;d give a close Urdu or farsi equivalent  I have different understanding  of Ishq-e-Haqiqi from you  You have followed Tariqa and Mushid route I do not approve (I do not teach against it) My own understanding of this love is that it is personal between me and my Creator and expression of His divine love for me is not like my humble approach for that love Mine is human and is too unworthy to be mentionable I am therefore not a soofi by nature I love soofi talk though as I see your expressions and enjoy  Your writing this time  with the color of feminism made me think of persons like Rabia Basari how she must have felt in her time Probably women’s writings/expressions have been buried in Islamic history where only men’s writings survive That is what I learned from that book Ïf all the oceons were ink. You read that book baitee? Wahaj-ud-Din Ahmad M.D.

    1. Yes, I know you don’t follow the tariqa path but your heart is Sufi. I love how you remembered Rabia Adawiyya – yes, she refused men and had no time for marriage. And I agree that women’s many many writings are buried, unrecorded, just as the words of the poor and humble have not survived. Love you so much, mamujan.

  2. Dearest Shabana, there are many of us with you that started the search for Home in the ’80’s, did the ‘wandering between oases’ and have ended up with the ironic Muslims trying not to take ourselves too seriously … and right now, I thank God for it! Would we rather have settled down in one place?

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