“Though he is fallen asleep, God will not leave him
In this forgetfulness. Awakened, he
Will laugh to think what troublous dreams he had…
Who, when the appointed Day shall dawn, escapes
From dark imaginings that haunted him,
And turns with laughter on his phantom griefs
When he beholds his everlasting home.”
Rumi – The Progress of Man
Who speaks for the Fallen? While we were celebrating our nation’s 396th Thanksgiving, more than 300 worshippers in northern Sinai, Egypt were gunned down while they prayed. That includes at least 27 children. In a systematic and meticulously planned attack, the congregation at Rawdah Sufi mosque in Bir al-Abed were dispatched by ISIS militants without so much as a sniffle. They were considered worthy of nothing but hot lead.
Why? Well, that’s an interesting question…
In this city on the ancient trading route from the Nile Delta to the Promised Land, on the path traveled by Jacob and his sons, by Jesus and his parents, thousands of Sufis make their home. Who are the Sufis? They are the oldest religious community within Islam, and the most diverse, with adherents from almost every Muslim country on Earth, including Shia and Sunni nations. They are the poets, the dreamers, the novelists, the philosophers, the prophets, the dancers, the artists of the Islamic world. Since the very beginning of the religion, Sufis have been at the very heart of Islamic religious expression. For more than a thousand years their moral authority has gained the respect of more ‘secular’ Muslim scholars. So why should they be the object of derision and violence by ISIS militants, now?
Like Christian Evangelicals, Sufis believe that God is perfectly capable of revealing Himself directly to His children without the filter of religious hierarchy. In fact, Sufis believe that God reveals Himself in visions and dreams even today, and that by pursuing holiness, man can achieve fellowship with God. They devote themselves to the peaceful pursuit of holiness and intimacy with the Divine.
The Sufis are the Pentecostals, the Mennonites, the Quakers of Islam.
ISIS hates them. They are despised, for their very existence condemns the obscene, violent bloodlust of modern Wahhabism. Their Sufist brand of simple and personal piety is a direct threat to the Cult of the Caliphate. These Muslims understand intimately the command to Moses that he bare his feet in the presence of God. It’s part of their regular practice. These Muslims finish their traditional worship with other Muslims, get a snack and go back for more – praying together long into the night for God’s peace and presence.
This is dangerous behavior in an age of religious pride and self-justified murder. Where rage is the currency, the Sufis are impoverished paupers. Yet they’ll go to the aid of any who are marginalized, wounded or abandoned. They are the good Samaritans.
They are dangerous for another reason – God has been speaking to individuals among them. Stories are erupting all over the Islamic world of visions of the Christ, of symbols of wine and bread, of fish, of books that speak aloud, of angelic voices giving step-by-step directions to the doors of Isa-followers so their dreams may be interpreted and their sacrifice might be accepted.
Truly, for Sufis these are “the days of Elijah… His servant Moses…Days of great trial, of famine, darkness and sword.” They have yet to see “the restoring days of His servant, David.”
I was asked, pointedly, why we should care when Muslims kill Muslims. Besides the obvious – that basic humanity demands it – I would say simply this: In the heart of the Muslim world, and right now, God is at work in miraculous and undeniable ways, winning souls to His Kingdom even when no Christian is willing or brave enough to go to them. That’s how important Muslims are to Jesus. And He seems to be starting His work in earnest among the Sufi.
Who will speak for the Fallen? When I see pictures of shoes that will never be filled again, I will remember the hundreds and thousands of seekers who still walk this earth, searching for the God who loves them – the God who is One. I will pray for the day when other shoes appear among them, filled with bearers of Good News. Bearers who will gladly bare their feet in worship alongside those discovering the holy ground at the foot of the cross, perhaps for the first time.
Perhaps those shoes will be yours… or mine.