Omid Safi is a director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center. He specializes in the study of Islamic mysticism and contemporary Islam and frequently writes on liberationist traditions of Dr. King, Malcolm X, and is committed to traditions that link together love and justice. He is former chair for the Study of Islam at the American Academy of Religion. He is a columnist for On Being.
Safi edited Progressive Muslims, a diverse collection of essays by and about those within this tradition seeking reform. We were immensely impressed with his Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters in which he presented a rounded and revealing overview of the life of Muhammad and described the Prophet of Mercy as "the completion of the possibilities available to us as human beings."
In Radical Love, Safi presents more than 200 poems which he has translated into contemporary English from the original Arabic and Persian. (A section of sources at the end enables those with access to the original languages to trace them back to the primary sources.) He uses the word God instead of Allah and makes it clear that radical love is the matrix of mystical Islam, not violence, terrorism, suicide bombers, or the oppression of women.
In an interfaith lecture given at Chautauqua titled "Radical Love Will Make Us More Beautiful," Safi said:
"Love is the only force dispensed or received in the extreme that is without any harm to the giver or receiver. I am not speaking of love as mush, not sentimentality, not Valentine Day cards and flowers and candy. Extreme love is strong and demanding. It is redemptive and transformative; it is a fire that cooks the soul, and we are no longer what we were before."
Many preachers and teachers today are learning that brevity is necessary if they are to reach their audiences. The soundbites. distractions, and noise pollution of the post-modern era have resulted in short communications. This book is perfect for this new style. translations of passages from the Quran, the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad, and the mystical poems of Rumi, Hafez, Attar, Kharaqani and many others are refreshingly terse and remarkably meaningful. Here is a sampler of some of our favorites, along with thoughts that came to us after reading them.
"All of the path
is beautiful conduct."
Those on the spiritual path do beautiful deeds that lift up the minds, bodies, and souls of others.
"God loves Himself
-- Fakhr al-Din 'Iraqi
Why is it so hard for many of us to accept this mystical truth?
"In this love
spilling over and over
there are such wonders."
-- Fakhr al-Din 'Iraqi
The abundance of God's love is a wonder worth pondering each and every day.
"Love of a human being
is an ascension
toward love of God
-- Ruzbehan Baqli
Every round of love goes higher and higher so make sure you start your loving where it counts most.
This gem of wisdom has been passed down from those on one path to those on another; both rejoice in the acceptance of the fragility and impermanence of life and all that befalls us.
"The mystics are
in God's lap."
Mystics have given us many informal and folksy images of God that have a very wide appeal; certainly this one does.
"If you search for God
day and night
and can't find Him
He's not lost"
Don't blame God for your own failures and lostness!
With Divine Qualities"
-- Hadith Qudsi
We end where we started, grateful for our mission to create a beautiful life out of the practice of Divine Qualities every day.