I have encountered Sufism on my travels before – but nothing as exciting as the Sufis – whirling dervishes – at the Hamid El-Nil Mosque in Omdurman.

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They are sensational. Friendly. Funky. Fun. Uplifting. Pious. Pure … I wish more westerners could witness these positive aspects of Islam.

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Sufis in full flight – swirling, dancing, singing, praising God.

Sufism the is inner, mystical dimension of Islam – not unlike the ways of the Sadhus of Hinduism or Christian mystics in the sense that they are beyond the mainstream of their respective religions.

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Old friends meeting … some of the colorful, zany costumes reminded me of Goa-Trance beach parties in India (was there back in 1990).

Sufis belong to “orders” or congregations formed around a master. Their path to God is personal and can be reached thru chanting, singing, music and dance (and in India, the use of magic). sufi-hamid-el-nil-sudan Mostly, Sufis renounce the material world – living a simple life of asceticism. However, celibacy is not a requirement of Sufi life. sufi-hamid-el-nil-sudan The al-Qadiriya order in Omdurman and was founded by Sheikh Hamid al-Nil, who is buried at a nearby mosque.

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A local worshipper taken on a wild sufi ride …

Many Sufi’s wear colourful patchwork robes, dancing to the beat of drums, twirling and stamping their feet until they go into a trance.

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Not all the audience enjoyed it …apparently ?

At the height of the dance, participants say that their souls communicate with Allah ( God, in Arabic) and are cleansed of evil. The spell is only broken, with the call to evening prayer. sufi-hamid-el-nil-sudan They consider this ritual as something from Islam’s earliest days, though it is generally considered as a local Sudanese folklore.

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Incense burning; with both hands wave in and inhale the scent. RIGHT: this Sufi was my favorite. He seemed to notice me more than other, always give me a smile or facial expression as he circulated. Later, his anointed me gently on my right shoulder with his spirit stick.

Unfortunately fundamentalists within Islam, believe Sufism as unIslamic and have at times attacked the tombs of saints (most recently in Timbuktu in Mali).

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An expression of my experience

Travels in Sudan – 2013