Sunday, April 16, 2006

Iranian Sufis

This is certainly interesting. BBC reports that Sufism is on the rise among Iran's Shi'ites. Although it transcends sectarianism, Sufism is usually associated with Sunni Islam, as Shi'ites have traditionally felt closer to the institution of the imamate, Hidden or otherwise. According to a professor quoted in the article, there are perhaps five million Sufis in Iran today, compared with only 100,000 before the Islamic Revolution. My guess is that Iranian young people are seeking a form of religious expression that isn't tied to their corrupt and authoritarian government. If so, then this represents a potentially huge development in Iran's religious history, though one that perhaps brings its more recent past full circle: Shi'ite Islam was imposed on Iran in the 16th century by the Safavid dynasty, which began as leaders of a Sufi order whose founder still has a shrine at Ardabil dedicated to him.


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