lecture, past

Friday, August 3, 2018 | Sufism and the Religion of Love, from Rabi‘a to Ibn ‘Arabi | Lecture by Dr. Leonard Lewisohn | 8:00 pm

Sufism and the Religion of Love, from Rabi‘a to Ibn ‘Arabi
Lecture by Dr. Leonard Lewisohn
Friday. August 3 / 8 pm

$15 – Tickets will be available at the door – Doors will open at 7:30 pm

One day in pre-eternity a ray of your beauty
Shot forth in a blaze of epiphany.
Then Love revealed itself and cast down
A fire which razed the earth from toe to crown.
– Hafiz

“The religious conscience of Islam is centred upon a fact of meta-history” wrote Henry Corbin, referring here to the pre-eternal covenant mentioned in the Qur’an (VII: 172), where God asks the yet uncreated souls of Adam’s offspring, “Am I not your Lord?” and the souls in their pre-creational state, reply: “Yes (bala),” thus acknowledging Him as their Lord. The entire mythopoetic romance of Sufism developed out of this primordial, pre-eternal covenant (mithaq) between man and God. Apropos of this verse, one of the later theoreticians of the Sufi erotic religion (Ruzbihan Baqli, d. 606/1210) was thus to comment how “the spirits of the prophets and saints became intoxicated from the influence of hearing the divine speech and seeing the beauty of majesty. They fell in love with the eternal beloved, with no trace of temporality.” Referring to another Qur’anic verse: “He loves them and they love Him” (V: 54), another Sufi theorist, Ahmad Ghazali (d. 520/1126), would compare God’s love for mankind (“them”) to a seed sewn in pre-Eternity sprouting up in the tree of “they love Him.” There is only one love that pervades the hearts of men according to Ghazali, for all love is ultimately spiritual, all love ultimately originating in the “Spirit’s Court.”

Sufis know that to experientially apprehend God’s love for humankind one must practice works of devotion, leading to “proximity caused by supererogotative works of worship” (qurb al-nawafil), as encapsulated in the famous hadith qudsi, often referred to as the hadith of ‘intimacy with God’: “My slave draws near to Me through nothing I love more than that which I have made obligatory for him. My slave never ceases to draw near to Me through supererogatory acts until I love him. And when I love him, I am his hearing by which he hears, his sight by which he sees, his hand by which he grasps, and his foot by which he walks. And when he approaches a span, I approach a cubit and when he comes walking I come running.”

The idea of God’s pre-eternal love passionate love (‘ishq) expressed in this hadith, the above-cited verses as well as many other passages from the Qur’an, infiltrated the spirituality of Islam from the very earliest period. In this lecture I will sketch the basic contours of the theories and doctrines of Sufi erotic theology and the religion of love in the Qur’an and Hadith. Based on numerous references to the Muslim scripture, five key themes eventually evolved—Pre-eternal Love and Beauty, Salvation through Love, Love of Beauty, Charity and Love of one’s Neighbour, and Romantic Love/Erotic Love—into fundamental topoi of what later became known as the ‘Religion of Love’ (in Arabic: din al-Hubb; in Persian: madhhab-i ‘ishq) in Sufism.

My discussion of love in the Sufi tradition commences with the love mysticism in the Qur’an followed by a survey of the thought of one of the key founders of early Sufi ascetic theology, Rabi‘a Adawiyya (d. ca. 162-176/788-92), who figures as supreme mistress of the Sufi religion of love, before chronologically surveying the Sufi theosophy of Eros and the erotic in Sufism over the ensuing five hundred years. The talk ends with the final blossoming and culmination of Islam’s ‘religion-of-love mysticism’ in the thought of Ibn ‘Arabi (d. 638/1240). Lastly, several pages of examples (provided in handouts) of how topoi relating to the ‘Religion of Love’ was illustrated in verse by some thirty odd classical Persian poets, from Humam-i Tabrizi (d. 714/ 1314) to ‘Abd al-Rahman Jami (d. 898/1492) will be discussed.

Dr. Leonard Lewisohn is Senior Lecturer in Persian and Iran Heritage Foundation Fellow in Classical Persian and Sufi Literature at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies of the University of Exeter in England where he currently teaches Islamic Studies, Sufism, history of Iran, as well as courses on Persian texts and Persian poetry in translation. He specializes in translation of Persian Sufi poetic and prose texts.

He is the author of Beyond Faith and Infidelity: The Sufi Poetry and Teachings of Mahmud Shabistari (London: 1995), and the editor of three volumes on The Heritage of Sufism, vol. 1: The Legacy of Mediæval Persian Sufism, vol. 2: Classical Persian Sufism from its Origins to Rumi Classical Persian Sufism from its Origins to Rumi, vol. 3 (with David Morgan): Late Classical Persianate Sufism: the Safavid and Mughal Period (Oxford: 1999)—covering a millennium of Islamic history.

He is editor of the Mawlana Rumi Review, an annual journal devoted to Jalal al-Din Rumi (d. 1273). He is also editor (with Christopher Shackle) of The Art of Spiritual Flight: Farid al-Din ‘Attar and the Persian Sufi Tradition (London: I.B. Tauris 2006), co-translator with Robert Bly of The Angels Knocking on the Tavern Door: Thirty Poems of Hafiz (New York: HarperCollins 2008), editor of Hafiz and the Religion of Love in Classical Persian Poetry (London: I.B. Tauris 2010), and editor of The Philosophy of Ecstasy: Rumi and the Sufi Tradition (Bloomington, Indiana: World Wisdom 2014), and co-editor (with Reza Tabandeh) of Sufis and Mullahs: Sufis and their Opponents in the Persianate World (forthcoming 2018).

Dr. Lewisohn has contributed articles to the Encyclopedia of Love in World Religions, Encyclopedia of Islam (2nd and 3rd editions), Encyclopædia Iranica, Encyclopædia of Philosophy, 2nd Edition, Encyclopædia of Religion, 2nd Edition, Iran Nameh, Iranian Studies, African Affairs, Islamic Culture, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society and the Temenos Academy Review.


Friday, April 27, 2018 | The Alchemy of Ease & Dis-Ease | A lecture on Traditional Islamic Healing and Medicine By Ilyas Kashani | 8:00 pm | Tickets will be available at door $25

The Alchemy of Ease & Dis-Ease
A lecture on Traditional Islamic Healing and Medicine
By Ilyas Kashani
Friday, April 27, 2018 / 8:00 pm

Traditional Islamic Healing and Medicine (TIHM) is intimately acquainted with the “golden key” of healing—the sacred spaceless space in the timeless time where the soul’s free will stands alone unveiled before its Lord at the crossroads of life.… between felicity and fall, the heart’s expansion and contraction, and ease and dis-ease. Healing practically demands a return to this precious moment—transporting the soul through space-time—where the Most Merciful and Ever-Forgiving gifts us the opportunity to make amends, reconcile, and effectively rewrite our stories. What immediately transpires in the body is nothing short of miraculous, for “He need only say to a thing ‘Be,’ and it becomes!” [Qur’an 19:35] It is the stuff of spiritual alchemy that beautifully elucidates the paradigm and principles of TIHM. Dare to join us and step on to our magic carpet that just might transport you back to your own true self!

Kourosh-3-sm-croppedIlyas Kashani is a “hakim” or practitioner of Traditional Islamic Healing and Medicine (TIHM). His training began at six years of age through his father, Mirza Muhammad Sadiq al-Shirazi al-Kashani. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mining Engineering from Virginia Tech. He has studied various traditional and modern holistic therapies since 1990, including Oriental Medicine, Osteopathic Manual Medicine, Meditation, Qigong, and Yoga. He holds a Master of Acupuncture degree from the Traditional Acupuncture Institute, and is certified in Chinese Herbology by the Academy for Five Element Acupuncture. In 2000, he founded the Circle of One –a 501c3 non-profit Center of Traditional Medicine– to serve people in need, regardless of their financial circumstances. At present, he is advancing the Hakim Wellness Project to revive the study and practice of TIHM.


Friday & Saturday, December 1-2, 2017 | The Futuhat Project: The world of Muhyiddin Ibn al-‘Arabi | A two-day workshop with Dr. Eric Winkel | Advance Registration Online – $50

The Futuhat Project
The world of Muhyiddin Ibn al-‘Arabi
A two-day workshop with Dr. Eric Winkel
December 1-2, 2017 – New York City

Friday Night Lecture

7:30 pm – doors open

8:00 pm – 10:00 pm
The Futuhat Project:
The world of Muhyiddin Ibn al-‘Arabi

Saturday Workshop

9:30 am – doors open

10:00 am – 11:30 am – Session 1
The mirror, the shadow, and the mother

11:30 am – 12:00 pm- break

12:00 pm – 1:30 pm – Session 2
The (sexual) grammar of Be!, hearing the scratching pens of destiny, and fihi ma fihi

1:30 pm – 3:00 pm – lunch break

3:00 pm – 4:30 pm – Session 3
Finding a signpost in the world

5:00 pm – end

Event Registration

Friday Night & Saturday
Advance registration online has closed. Tickets will be available at the door.
$60: At the door
$30: Member
$30: Student (ID required at the door)

Friday Night only
$15: Friday Night only

Saturday only
$45: Saturday only


Dergah al-Farah
245 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013
tel: 212.966.9773
email: info@nurashkijerrahi.org

The Futuhat Project is Dr. Eric Winkel’s translation project of the entirety of Muhyiddin Ibn al-‘Arabi’s al-Futuhat al-Makkiyah, The Openings Revealed in Makkah. To learn more please visit www.thefutuhat.com.

The Youth said, “I am the ripened meadow, the universal harvest, so lift my veils and recite what is contained etched in my lines; what you learn from me, put in your book, and speak directly in it to everyone dearest to you.” I lifted his veils and I observed his etched lines, and there shone to my eyes his light that was deposited with- in him, all that he contained and encompassed of hidden knowledge. The first line I recited and the first mystery from that line which I learned are what I shall cite now in this second chapter following. And God, exalted beyond, is the guide to knowledge and to an evened path.

Throughout the Openings Revealed in Makkah we hear the two imperatives: Learn, and Verify for yourself. The six sections of the Youth, etched in light and revealed to Ibn al-Arabi, correspond to six processes we seek to learn, and verify for ourselves. The all-day workshop gives us time to process what we learn, and prepares us to verify for ourselves all along our spiritual paths.

The six sections are as follows. Recognitions: what we need to recognize. Interactions: how we need to interact, among ourselves, and fundamentally as creatures with the Creator. States: how we are, and how we can learn from our transitory, passing states and situations. Mansions: where we learn. Alighting places: where we meet with the Kind, the Compassionate; the One who descends to the sky of this world in the third part of the night. And Stations: the context and siting of places where we learn.

You discover the beauty of the Openings when you begin to find languages that express exactly what you know, perhaps deep within, perhaps inchoately, perhaps unconsciously. The sacred text you know has been speaking to you suddenly begins to be tying together all you know. You know why you love the beloved. You know how to love the beloved. Ibn al-Arabi speaks from the heart of the Youth, to the heart of all who are ready to be cast onto the path, and who are on the path. Even at ten thousand pages, hand-written over three years, Ibn al-Arabi calls the Openings Revealed in Makkah a hastily assembled provision sack for you to draw upon during your journey. These provisions nourish and encourage the committed traveler, the traveler prepared to do the work that is the propulsion along the path.


Saturday, November 18, 2017 | SOLD OUT – Gnawa Lila with Maalem Hassan Ben Jaafer and Innov Gnawa | 8:00 PM | Advance Tickets: $30 | At Door: $35


In this intimate and sacred gnawa gathering, Innov Gnawa will take you through a traditional gnawa ceremony called a lila (pronounced lee-la). The lila, meaning “night”, ritual usually takes place from dusk to dawn in private homes where the community gathers for spiritual healing. In this rare 4-hour immersive experience, Maalem (Master) Hassan Ben Jaafer and Innov Gnawa will invite listeners into this private ceremony and take audiences through the seven colors of gnawa.

Maalem (Master) Hassan Ben Jaafer – vocals and sintir
Samir Langus – vocals and qraqeb
Amino Belyamani- vocals and qraqeb
Ahmed Jeriouda- vocals and qraqeb
Nawfal Atiq- vocals and qraqeb
Said Bourhana- vocals and qraqeb
Kareem Ababo – vocals and qraqeb

About Innov Gnawa

Innov Gnawa is a musical collective dedicated to exploring Morocco’s venerable gnawa music tradition in the heart of New York City. Formed in the summer of 2014 by Moroccan expat Samir LanGus, the group draws on the considerable talents and expertise of Hassan Ben Jaafer, a Maâlem, or master gnawa musician, originally from Fes, Morocco. Under the guidance of Ben Jaafer, Innov has delved deep into the roots and rituals of gnawa music, and made a big splash in NYC, playing some of the city’s most prestigious rooms including Lincoln Center, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn Bowl, Terminal 5, Celebrate Brooklyn as well around the US at Coachella, Red Rocks Amphitheater, and The Cleveland Museum of Art.

For the uninitiated, gnawa music is the ritual trance music of Morocco’s black communities, originally descended from slaves and soldiers once brought to Morocco from Northern Mali and Mauritania. Often called “The Moroccan Blues”, gnawa music has a raw, hypnotic power that’s fascinated outsiders as diverse as writer/composer Paul Bowles, jazz giant Randy Weston and rock god Jimi Hendrix. The music is utterly singular, played on an array of unique instruments — from the lute-like sintir that the Maâlem uses to call the tune, to the metal qarqaba (castinets) with which the kouyos (chorus) keep time and pound out clattering, hypnotic rhythms.

Hailed by Brooklyn Magazine as one of the “5 Bands You Need to Know in Brooklyn’s Arabic Music Scene“, Innov Gnawa make great use of this traditional repertoire, and add their own, contemporary spin with additional African and Latin percussion. Taken as a whole, this exciting new outfit works hard to fuse a centuries old North African tradition with the pulse and attitude of New York City.

I. AADA (Musical Procession)

II. WLAD BAMBARA (Children of Bambara) / Joyous music

III. FTOUH RAHBA (Opening Ritual) / WHITE

IV. KOUHAL (The Blacks) / BLACK


VI. L’HOUMAR (The Reds) / RED

VII. CHORFA (The Saints) / GREEN

VIII. WLAD L’GHABA (Children of the Forest) / BLACK



Saturday, October 7, 2017 | Discovering the “Messenger from Our Souls/Selves”: Assimilating the Deeper Dimensions of the Hadith | Talk by James Morris | 4:00 pm | Suggested Donation $10

It is well known that both the classical poetic and spiritual expressions of the Islamic humanities (including the vernacular masterpieces of Sufi poetry and spiritual pedagogy across the Muslim world) and the learned Arabic intellectual and spiritual traditions of Islamic thought are alike deeply rooted in contemplation, practice, and ongoing reflection on the immense corpus of Prophetic sayings and teachings that were recorded in the early centuries of the Islamic era.  Yet today Muslims and non-Muslims alike often tend to imagine the hadith as somehow limited to their most mundane–and often problematic–uses by jurists, political ideologues, and the like. 

Since we are just entering a period when more and more hadith are increasingly available in English, this short talk will begin by introducing a few basic considerations that can help anyone (I.e., without any specialized background) to begin to appreciate the deeper spiritual dimensions of a wide range of translated hadith.  Then we will turn to discussion and questions regarding  a  representative sample of a few very practical hadith on adab, or spiritually appropriate attitudes and behavior. 

Professor James Morris (Boston College) has taught Islamic and comparative religious studies at the Universities of Exeter, Princeton, Oberlin, and the Sorbonne, and lectures widely on Sufism, the Islamic humanities, Islamic philosophy, the Qur’an, and Shiite thought. Recent books include Ostad Elahi’s Knowing the Spirit (2007); The Reflective Heart: Discovering Spiritual Intelligence in Ibn ‘Arabi’s ‘Meccan Illuminations’ (2005); Orientations: Islamic Thought in a World Civilisation (2004); and Ibn ‘Arabi’s The Meccan Revelations (Pir Press, 2003).


Saturday, May 13, 2017 | In the Company of Friends – An Ecstatic Night of Sufi Music with Amin Sarshar, Juliet Rabia Gentile, April Centrone, Ali Rahman & Special Guests | 8:00 PM | Advance Tickets: $20 | At Door: $25


Persian Music Ensemble’s music is infused with the lyrical poetry of Rumi and Hafez, as well as Sufi repertoire including Persian Ghazal, Arabic folk songs, and Turkish Sacred songs (Illahi). Instrumentation includes the rich sound of the Persian Setar, the Arabic Oud and world percussion.Amin Sarshar – Setar, vocals
April Centrone- Oud, percussion
Juliet Rabia Gentile – Vocals, frame drum
Ali Rahman – Vocals, dafAmin Sarshar is originally from Hamadan, Iran and has performed with various ensembles. He was also classically trained to sing Persian ghazals under the Persian Dastagh system. He received his PHD in mechanical engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology.

April Centrone is the Executive Director of The New York Arabic Orchestra. She is a versatile performer of drumset in the genres of hard rock, jazz, funk, world, progressive and avante-garde. Her other trademark is as a performer and educator of the riqq (Arabic tambourine), as well as the darbekkeh (goblet drum) and frame drum. For almost ten years, she was student of master Lebanese/Palestinian percussionist, Michel Baklouk Merhej, and studied Arabic music and its other instruments, including the oud (Arabic lute), buzuq (Arabic ‘saz’) and violin. She has performed with renowned Arab artists such as Marcel Khalife, Ziad Rahbani, Bassam Saba, Charbel Rouhana and Najib Shaheen.

Juliet Rabia Gentile is a student of sufism, writer and performance artist. She holds an MA from Sarah Lawrence College and a BA from New School University. She is a student of her teacher Shaykha Fariha Fatima of the Nur Ashki Jerrahi Sufi Community. Juliet has led prayer ceremonies and lectured widely on Sufism throughout New York City at venues including: the U.N. General Assembly, Riverside Church, Barnard College, Cathedral St. John the Divine, New York Open Center, Union Theological, Auburn Seminary, Museum of Jewish Heritage and One Spirit Learning Alliance. Juliet is a vocalist who sings Sufi improvisational chants in Arabic known as Qaside, Persian folk songs and Turkish sacred songs, as well as plays the frame drum. She performs in several ensembles including Red Union, Brooklyn Raga Massive, American Sufi Project, Adam Maalouf and The Tribe, I Guillari di Piazza. She also teaches Sufi Sema (whirling) both privately and in groups in NYC.


Saturday, April 29, 2017 | THE HEART OF THE FUTUHAT: an Ibn Arabi Lecture by Eric Shu’ayb Winkel | 7:00 PM | Suggested donation: $10

“There is no proof, among the animals, of the epithet of the True described as every day hu is upon a brilliant radiance more indicative of change than chameleons. You see, there is no adjective in the universe and no state which remains for two time periods, and no image which emerges visibly two times – and knowing accompanies the first and the last, so hu is the first and the last, and the visible and the invisible. This is the hu – she is colored and one in multiplicity.”

Dr. Eric Winkel (Shu’ayb) has just printed the third of six sections of the 10,000 page Openings revealed in Makkah to Ibn al-Arabi, the chapters on Changes. Here, halfway through the Futuhat al-Makkiyah, Ibn al-Arabi is counseling us to learn about changes, by observing ourselves and by identifying the coursing of the Divine in the cosmos. In the animal world, we observe the chameleon. In the human world, we watch the shadow play, which children and others who recognize the Divine understand is exactly their religion, while the obtuse adults dismiss it as frivolous: they are taking their Religion, which teaches us that we are shadows in a play, as mere play and amusement.

Murshid Ali writes in The Treasure, “With Dr. Shu’ayb’s translation of the Futuhat, by the gift of the Merciful, there will be no more exclusivity of this great work, which is a gift to all of humanity. The time has come to see people gathering and exploring and studying, and removing the darkness that has been plaguing this world for so long. The only way is to make peace with Heaven so that Earth will be transformed for the new humanity. I beseech my Beloved Allah to fulfill this vision of mine in the near future.”