Sufism and Modernity by perry rubin

Although the nineteenth century was dominated by a surge of secularism, evolutionism and profane material

culture proliferating thought in the public sphere Sufi theology has consistently endured these various

sociopolitical climates because of the immutability of the core values addressed and adaptable nature of

practice. Through islam one is about to address fundamental elements of the human condition or as Nasr

puts, “permanent truths that have always had meaning for men because they appeal to something permanent

in man himself.”  (164)  The world as we conceive it now, although superficially different, is still the same

world discussed in ancient text or religious imagery. The foundational elements of the world are unchanging

because it is not defined by its modern innovations but its relation to Heaven the Permanent. Nasr defines

the religious function as something that provides meaning and refuge from the “multiplicity and indefinite of

cosmic manifestation and the uncertainties of temporal and terrestrial existence. “(165) Islam remedies the

over-secularization of modernity by imbuing the entirety of existence with a sacredness and providing

absolute guidance through accessing love of the One.   

The internalizing tendencies of Sufism also make it attractive for any kind of practitioner because

contemplation, love and prayer are all highly portable. Prayer is to always be oriented in the direction of

Mecca, giving followers a constant reminder of there orientation to the supreme physical and spiritual center

of Islam. The salience of having a constant framework of literal and spiritual orientation is one of the

timeless characteristics of a mystical worldview that is so appealing. The elemental principals that guide the

practice are based on successfully projecting an internalized concept that is resistant to time and technology

because it is spiritual. While there is an exponential increase in the multiplicity of stimuli being received by

each generation there is a greater need then ever for order and guidance both of which a mystic outlook

provides. In the “article contemporary sufism and anti sufism” a passage discusses mysticism as an anecdote

for the ills of modernity, saying “Ayat Allah Khumanyi himself…his concern in post-revolutionary Iran was

to…restore a sense of spiritual equilibrium to a people he perceived to be sick with the Western diseases of

materialism and self-love.” Adhering to Sufi practice can be seen as a way to purify or extricate oneself from

the mundane materiality of everyday life which is critical in contemporary times.