October 7: Cemalnur, Istanbul
Cemalnur Sargut is a beautiful spirit. Look into her eyes and you see vitality, wisdom, compassion, and her love for Allah. Cemalnur is a Sufi spiritual teacher. She teaches that Islam is unification and that Sufism is the way to weave together all the differences in the world. She uses a symbol for beautiful – placing the thumb and all four fingers together and gently shaking her hand back and forth. All of the fingers are different, and together they create beauty. Differences in our world can also together create beauty.
Cemalnur holds conferences. She writes – commentary on the Koran. One of her most popular books, she tells us, is one about how the Prophet treats women. Allah gave jobs to women, she teaches. And, as we mature spiritually, sexual differences become unimportant. She comments that “male spiritual guides have trouble accepting me.” And with a twinkle in her eye acknowledges that it does not bother her. “I just keep inviting them to our conferences.
Her work is international. She has founded a Chair of Sufi studies at the University of North Carolina and a Chair of Religion at Peking University, Beijing.
Sufism is about living one’s religion. This is the essence, as described by Cemalnur. She teaches with stories, and elaborates on this belief through a story of eyeglasses:
- One set of eyeglasses through which we can view the world is like mirrors. They reflect back to us only the physical world that surrounds us. They are short-sighted.
- A second set of eyeglasses reveals only the “other world, the ecstacy.” This is the mountain top view, the retreat from this world.
- The third kind of eyeglasses are bifocals ( ! ) They see both near and far. They reveal deep wisdom AND witness the current physical reality – – and they provide our way to live our faith, to put into practice our most sacred beliefs.
Cemalnur expresses gratitude that she grew up in a family that did live their religion. “There was no hatred.”
Her spiritual teacher founded TURKKAD, to teach Turkish women to seek right ways to raise their children, for example and to see their lives in a larger way, to understand service – and to focus on that, and not the small concerns – of wrinkles, or petty matters. Such teaching was provided in the University. But when the religious schools were closed at the founding of the Republic; the teaching became the responsibility of NGOs. Cemalnur now continues this work begun by her teacher.
As Jim and I talked with Cemalnur in a small conference in her offices we were also joined by a friend of hers and two of her students, one of whom was an excellent translator. Over tea and heaping bowls of beautiful fruit, the lasting impression for me was the unity of mind and heart, and the capacity we have to see the sacred in every person.
For those of you who read these posts, please know that I apologize for typos and unfamiliar symbols where the commas should be – – and that time here is too precious to invest much of it in making corrections. I hope that you can “read for the essence” and enjoy whatever is meaningful for you!
Love from Barbara