Islam has a bad reputation these days. Aside from its associations with political militancy, there have been incidents which challenge Canadian conceptions of tolerance, including the recent high-profile account of an Iranian woman sentenced to stoning for adultery.
Photograph by: Asmaa Waguih, Reuters
There are many other Islams to learn about. One is accompanied by song. Sufism is the mystical tradition in Islam, and it has played a powerful role in Islam’s history. Music is central to the Sufi approach to the divine as intimate, personal, and ecstatic. It is a celebration of the life of the divine within our world. This is the Islam that scholars have decisively shown was responsible for large numbers of conversions in South Asia over the last millennium. This is the Islam that lives at Sufi shrines all through South Asia—even in areas with small Muslim populations. Even in the Indian Punjab today, which lost most of its Muslim population at partition in 1947, such religious and musical traditions thrive.
In an age of mass suspicion about Muslims, the University of B.C. is launching a week of events that strive to teach Canadians about the uplifting side of the religion – including its music.
“These events will show a side of Islam that we do not often see portrayed in the media, especially since 9/11,” says UBC Asian Studies prof. Anne Murphy.
“Namely, an Islam of song, beauty and complexity that is experienced and celebrated around the world.”
The series of UBC concerts and lectures, which run from Saturday to Oct. 21, will be highlighted by the first North American musical performances of one of India’s most acclaimed Muslim singers and musicians, Mukhtiar Ali, a mystical Sufi who is being compared to the famed Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.