Sufi Festival aims to 'promote the core message of Sufism, to live life on this earth with love, beauty, harmony and worship'

Sufi Festival aims to 'promote the core message of Sufism, to live life on this earth with love, beauty, harmony and worship'

Pearls of Islam

A day of spiritual arts and events at Glasgow's Tramway

Taking advantage of Tramway's multiple spaces, and demonstrating the breadth and depth of Islamic culture across a single day, the Sufi Festival is dedicated to championing both the spirit and awareness of what has been called 'the religious science of Islam'. Alex Bewley, one of the organisers, puts it more directly: 'We aim to promote the core message of Sufism, to live life on this earth with love, beauty, harmony and worship.'

The team, Bewley explains, recognise that Sufism 'is a very outward-facing tradition with a benevolent and inclusive message that expresses universal values, and that we feel has potential to help a lot of people and generally build bridges.' The festival responds to Glasgow's large Muslim community: 'but opportunities for this community to take part in large-scale celebrations of their cultural heritage have been few, as are opportunities for representation in the cultural sphere of Muslims in Britain and Scotland generally – statistically, in the arts, we are just not doing as well as we could be when it comes to giving Muslims and BME people a platform allowing their voices to be heard.'

Perhaps the most well-known Sufi art is the Qawali, represented in an evening concert by Shah E Mardan. A devotional ensemble song form, Qawali has transcended international boundaries, and Shah E Mardan's lead singer and harmonium player, Mohamed Zubair, was apprenticed to the late, legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. But Sufi music is not bound to traditional forms: for example, there's the conscious hip-hop group Mecca 2 Medina, who are reuniting for the festival, and Pearls of Islam are an acoustic duo who acknowledge multiple folk music influences.

Sufi Festival aims to 'promote the core message of Sufism, to live life on this earth with love, beauty, harmony and worship'

Shah E Mardan

'Sufism is a stream of esoteric religious mysticism that has a 1,300-year history of being applied to the arts,' Bewley continues. 'When you look at art, design, architecture, tapestry, pottery – you name it! – as well as literature, poetry and music from across the Islamic world, with all of the beautiful attention to detail, pattern, and colour, and ultimately beauty, this is all coming from Sufism and its historical role in the development of these many varying cultures. Sufism has a multi-arts legacy that really you couldn't scratch the surface of in twenty events of this size.'

Certainly, it is the multiplicity of artists that is astounding: from storytellers to theatre companies, through novelist Leila Abolela to designers and calligraphers, the festival is remarkable for its diversity. Far from stereotypes about monolithic monotheisms, the day celebrates both the continuity of faith and its inclusive, generous spirit.

'It is our hope, and belief, that non-Muslim audiences will take away a more nuanced, more appreciative, and ultimately more positive view of Islam and Islamic culture,' says Bewley. 'And those interested in or who are themselves Sufis should take from the Festival a really powerful celebration of the many facets of Sufism that should be very affirming and positive for the community.'

Tramway, Glasgow, Sun 28 Jul.

Sufi Festival

One-day Sufism arts and culture festival featuring music, poetry, theatre, ritual ceremonies, and more.

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