Is Sufism or Islam “The Answer?” by Dr. Yannis Toussulis

Often enough, people look for a spiritual “final solution” to all of life’s ills. This results in numerous forms of fundamentalism: Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist in flavoring. Secular ideologues have also promised utopian solutions to all of our problems. All of these approaches tend to one or another form of absolutism, and all of them are replete with errors. The complexity of human life evades such simplistic solutions.

Some people approach meditative traditions, also hoping that the completion of a spiritual path will result in a salvational form of certainty. One will finally arrive at “nirvana,” or one will become permanently “one with Christ,” or one will finally be released from the cycle of death and rebirth, etc. In Sufism, one finds the expectation that one will achieve a permanent and fixed form of “proximity with God.”

As a parallel, in the political realm, Islamists commonly exclaim that “Islam is the answer.” Of course, this is a questionable assertion. Islam (like every other religion) is not a unified moral or political system that includes ready-made answers. One has only to look at the examples of those who have tried to apply it in this way to discover yet another form of tyranny.

What would happen, instead, if one adopted an approach to contemplation that values a tradition like Sufism, without having to adhere to it uncritically? One might find many truths in Islam, and by extension Sufism, but without having to subscribe to either blindly. One might, instead, seek to extract the “wisdom” (hikmah, hikmet) from Sufism without turning it into yet another form of dogma. Without minimizing the Prophet Muhammad in any way, one could accept that “revelation” (wahy) is not permanently fixed nor formulaic but ongoing. The practice of Sufic contemplation could, therefore be seen as a way of maintaining a proximity to the “heart” of that revelation, unique as it was, and is.

Instead of providing fixed “answers” to life’s problems, the practice of Sufism (or any other path) could provide, instead, a refreshing way of examining those problems. In examining such problems, new questions instead of “answers” could arise. All of this could take place, moreover, in an atmosphere of greater clarity. And like those with a “beginner’s mind,” one could approach each area of life with an attitude of open inquiry. This is the hope of an approach that refers to itself as Itlaq Yolu (the path of liberation).

© Copyright 2011 Dr. Yannis Toussulis


Dr. Yannis Toussulis is the author of Sufism and the Way of Blame: Hidden Sources of a Sacred Psychology, and he currently serves director of Itlaq Foundation – AIWP, a non-denominational religious non-profit dedicated to Sufi Studies. Dr. Toussulis formerly served as an adjunct professor in political psychology at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and he was formerly director of the Consciousness Program, Antioch University/West. He can be reached at .

One response to “Is Sufism or Islam “The Answer?” by Dr. Yannis Toussulis

  1. Pingback: SUFI: Ancient Wisdom | New Visions – Ep 2 | Holistic Alternative Medicines Blog·

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