As militant Islam does its best to discredit the religion, it is important to remember that there are other voices within the faith. One such is the Sufis, a branch of Islamic mystics with roots in many religious traditions. The lessons of Sufism are often communicated through humorous stories and mystical or romantic poetry. As a part of Joe's Good News Saturdays, we spend some time each week with the Sufis and their "wisdom of idiots."
In Shah's essay collection Sufi Thought and Action, Edwin Clitheroe discusses the Sufi approach to knowledge, and how it differs from other teachings...and indeed, how true Sufi teaching differs from what often passes for "Sufism":
"The clue lies in the the Sufi phrase, going back to ancient times, to the effect that 'The ignorant are better than those who do not use their knowledge.' Theoretical, or incomplete, knowledge has functions and characteristics which are unsuspected by those for whom 'knowledge' means narrow specialisation. Sufis assert that people should have a wide range of knowledge and experience, because, quite obviously they understand that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Those who follow a narrow line are more likely to think that they know more than they do. The Sufis want us not to know, too, things which disturb the development process because they can be given an untoward degree of importance in the wrong rhythm or succession of learning.
'It is not what you know, but when you know it; it is not how much you know, but how you can use it; it is not what you think that you know, but what you really do know.'
If the wrong kind of knowledge prevents access to true knowledge, what is this wrong kind of knowledge that the Sufis don't want us to have?