Sufism in Palestine

An interview with Izzeldin Bukhari

Sufism is a more mystical way of approach of the Islamic faith. Sufi scholars have defined it as the way to reach the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God.

In this podcast episode I speak with Izzeldin Bukhari who stems from a family of important Sufi sheikhs from the Naqshabandi tradition. The family originates from Uzbekistan, but they have been living in the old city of Jerusalem for about four hundred years.

In this podcast episode you can hear music by husband and wife Benyamin and Rabia who form the Zevk Ensemble.

[Scroll down to the bottom to see a video with introduction about Sufism and a music video of Zevk Ensemble]

This is the transcript of the audio of the Podcast about Sufism in Palestine:

Welcome to stories from Palestine podcast. This is episode two of season two. I hope that you enjoyed last week’s visit to the Palestinian museum of natural history. And for this week’s episode about Sufism in Palestine, I have a short personal introduction. In 2007 and 2008, I was volunteering and living in Beit Sahour, close to Bethlehem.

[00:00:25] And I received an email from my mother’s cousin and I didn’t know him. He said he lived in the United States with his wife and with five adult children. And that he had just been to the Netherlands to visit his mother in the hospital. And when he was visiting the hospital, he met my mom and they started talking about their lives and about their children.

[00:00:47] And she told him that she had one daughter who was staying in Bethlehem at the time. And then he told my mother that he had actually gotten married in Bethlehem. So he told me this story that he coming from a Catholic family, started to explore different religions. And then he moved to Jerusalem to learn more about Sufism.

[00:01:09] And that’s where he found himself in Sufism. And there he met his wife who was from a Jewish family and she was also learning about Sufism and they both found themselves in Sufism. They got married in Bethlehem and then they moved to the United States. They had five children. They’re all around my age.

[00:01:31] And then he wrote me that they were regularly coming to Jerusalem to visit friends and family. And he asked me if I would like to meet them if they came. And of course I did. I mean, all of a sudden I found a part of my family that I didn’t even knew existed. So they came and I hosted them in my apartment for a couple of days.

[00:01:51] And we go to know each other. And it was really wonderful. They played Sufi music for me and my friends, and they form an ensemble where they play music as she plays the sas and he plays the daf, or the drums. They sing together. So since that first meeting, we have met each other several times, both in the Netherlands and in Palestine.

[00:02:13] And they even were at our wedding in 2013. And it was funny because I know that some people in the village, who were looking at that foreigner wife who was marrying into the Elayyan family, and then knowing that my uncle and aunt were Muslims really helped a little bit in my acceptance, let’s say. The last time that they were here was two years ago.

[00:02:36] And they performed in our Singer Cafe. And that was on the same day that we had organized a vegan sushi event with Izzeldin Bukhari. He runs the Sacred Cuisine. That’s when I found out that they knew him as a younger boy, they had met him and they knew his father because his father was an important Sufi sheikh from the Naqshbandi order.

[00:03:00] So that was an amazing day, as you can imagine. And now I’m really grateful that Izzeldin had the time to record an episode with me. And my uncle and aunt sent me some of their songs. So in this episode, you will also hear some of their Sufi music.

[00:03:47] I am very happy today that I’m going to speak with my friend Izzeldin, whom I’ve known for quite a while now, and who just recently helped our family in picking our olives in our garden. And while we were picking all of us, we spoke about so many different things. So I said Izzeldin, I need you for at least three or four podcast episodes. And today, our first time, we’re going to speak about Sufism. Thank you really for taking the time. We’re at the beginning of a new lock down and we just heard that the coming weeks we’re going to stay inside the house. So I’m really happy that you could make time for me.

[00:04:27] Hello hello, Kris.

[00:04:28] How are you doing Izzeldin?

[00:04:30] I’m doing great. I’m very happy to be on your podcast. And as you mentioned, we talked about doing different episodes. And I’m so excited to start with the Sufism. I’ve heard several people who asked me, Kristel, we have certain requests for the podcast and especially Sufism came up with people because it’s something that it seems in the Western world is becoming more popular topic.

[00:04:56] Recently I’ve seen a lot of people sharing quotes, for example, by Rumi. And so it seems that even in the Western world, Sufism is, yeah, it’s starting to become more important. So why I’m asking you Izzeldin is because you are from a Sufi family in Jerusalem, in the old city. Can you tell me a l little bit about yourself and your connection to Sufism?

[00:05:18] I’m Izzeldin Abdel Aziz Bukhari, born in the old city of Jerusalem, Palestine, and my family actually moved from Bukhara in Uzbekistan to Jerusalem, the old city in 1616, about 400 years ago. And the reason for my family moving to the old city of Jerusalem was to open and establish a Sufi center, Naqshabandi Sufi center. So me and my family we’ve been born and we still in the same center of the Naqshabandi in the old city of Jerusalem.

[00:05:56] For people who don’t know anything about Sufism, what is Sufism? Is Sufism a stream of Islam or is it something completely different?

[00:06:05] Yeah. Sufism is stemming from Islam and it is like the Suni. It just has a different philosophy, which is basically adding more the aspect of the worshiping coming from love, not duty.

[00:06:23] And also the meditation aspect, which we call the ‘zikr’. These two aspects what make the Sufism a little bit different from the normal Muslim Sunni person, but it is not different or another branch, even though there is a different type of Sufism. And some come from the Sunni and some coming from the Shia.

[00:06:50] So it creates a different range of Sufis and their ideology, but it is actually part of the Islam, the Suni.

[00:07:00] And from which time do we have to think, when did it start?

[00:07:04] Okay. So for example from the perspective of the Naqshabandi, the Sufism, it started from the prophet Muhammad himself when he was fleeing from Quraish, where they were trying to capture him.

[00:07:22] And he was with his friend Abu Bakr and they were hiding in a cave. And when they were hiding in the cave, the people from Quraish, they were looking for them and they came on the front of the cave and in the front of the cave, there was a pigeon which laid some eggs and a spider, which he created a web. So the spider and the pigeon, as soon as the prophet (went) into the cave with Abu Bakr, they lay the eggs and made the web.

[00:07:56] So it was like a protection from the God. So when the people of Quraish reached the gate, they looked at the web and they see the egg and they see the pigeon and they didn’t think they will be in the cave. So Abu Bakr, he was like, they are very close. He’s telling the prophet Muhammad that they are very close and if they just look, they will see us. And prophet Mohammad, he answered him and he told him “Don’t worry God with us. Just mention Allah, mention God’s name”. From this ‘zikr’, the word zikr was created for when you mention the name of God, so zikr as a word, it means mentioning the creator.

[00:08:52] And this is the idea of how you bring him in your presence and how you grace and give thoughts about the creator. It’s through mentioning him. That’s why in Islam, there is 99 names of God, which are basically the characters of different sides of the Go, such as the merciful, the giver, the creator. These 99 names are basically what are used in the zikr to make the meditation.

[00:09:24] For example, when the Naqshabandi, which is my family what they are teaching, the Naqshabandi order, when they do meditation, they take one name of the God, such as for example, Avahim and they will say it and cipher it about 33 times or 99 times. This is basic core of the meditation is taking different character of God’s name and mention it.

[00:09:53] And as you mention it, you are dwelling on the meaning on the behavior, on the understanding and to connect into God’s grace.

[00:10:04] And would you do that on your own? Or would you do that in a group?

[00:10:08] The idea of a Sufi, basically you are carrying this meditation practice with you as you go. So if you are standing in the line, if you are on the checkpoint if you are in the moment where you are not occupied, so you take the time and mention and do the zikr, which is a as a way to connect, but also as a part of the zikr and as part of the meditation, and Sufism is what we call ‘halaqat’, the circles of the Zikr, the meditation basically circles. And this is when a group come together to perform the meditation. You have the sheikh, which he leads the meditation session.

[00:11:23] In relation to Sufism, I’ve been seeing these whirling dervishes and always, I think in the West, we associate that with Sufism. Is that something that you do also here in Jerusalem?

[00:11:38] You know, Al Rumi, Jalal ed Din Rumi, they have a ‘zawiya’ in the old city of Jerusalem, which is now actually a school. And actually in the old city of Jerusalem, there is more than 70 zawiyas. Zawiya is basically a meditation house. Zawiya in Arabic means a corner. And basically to present the house, the guest houses in the old city of Jerusalem next to Al Aqsa mosque to be next to the Holy place, to host the pilgrims and to host the worshipers who come from outside to do their pilgrimage.

[00:12:19] So for example, we are from Uzbekistan. So anybody who come from Bukhara, anybody coming from Uzbekistan, they know automatically there is a zawiya from that region, which will host them and give them a space and a place to stay and give them food to sustain their visit during their pilgrimage or visiting to the Holy Jerusalem.

[00:12:45] So these zawiyas, there were scattered around the old city of Jerusalem. And actually, if you want to take a more deep look at it, they presented the embassies. At that time. Their duties were almost as same as were presenting where they coming from what they have to offer from teaching from a different aspect and also be in part of the community.

[00:13:16] And this is what the main role these zawiyas play. And these zawiyas, they created the fabric of the spirituality between different Muslims in the Holy land of Jerusalem. So you got the Indian zawiya, the Indian hospice. You’ve got the Afghani zawiya, you’ve got the Naqshabandi, which is the Bukhari zawiya, the Qadari, Mawlawi, Alawi.

[00:13:40] And all of them, they were teaching different forms of meditation. And actually this is where it is very interesting because in Sufism, the idea and the ideology was created from the idea from the prophet, telling people, if you want to get to peace, just mention God’s name. If you are angry, mention God’s name.

[00:14:05] If there is something happening, you cannot do something about, it mention God’s name. And just to bring in the consciousness this presence, that no matter what happens in this world, there is a bigger power than what it is, and this is where we should direct our energy to, to get the peace and to get the ability to maintain the situation and continue to believe in this higher power. So this was the philosophy and the idea, but the Tariqa [ways] and the different zawiya and the different Sufi orders came to life as a fact of different student of spirituality, different what we call ‘murid’. A murid is a person who took on himself a specific path to be his life style. So when there is a Sufi murid, you go to a teacher of Sufism that he chooses and that he resonates with and he follows this path and he follows the teaching completely. And he devotes himself to the Sufism. So these murid at the beginning, they were carrying the idea of mentioning the God and keeping his presence, Their path and their achievement basically came the Sufi order. For example, when we take a look at Jalal ad Din Rumi. Jalal ad Din Rumi he came up with this, what we call whirling, some people think it’s dancing, it’s kind of in-between. But he came up with this practice by himself by actually following the flow and the state of flow it is very important in the Sufism, such as meditation and different spiritual practices.

[00:15:59] Wow. The state of flow. I had an interview with a Palestinian musician who mentioned something like that when he was playing music, he said, when I’m playing the ud, I reach the flow state. And he talked to me about feeling as if he’s doing a meditation when he was playing his instrument.

[00:16:18] So that’s the same thing you’re mentioning now.

[00:16:20] Exactly. Actually, that’s why, if you look in Sufism, there is a lot of instruments. And actually meditation and music go hand in hand because they help you to connect with the frequency to elevate and to tune to a higher energy. Which is full of creativity, which brings on you, the flow, which is, as you are practicing it, you are acknowledging and understanding that it is nothing more than you are being the instrument. And you are receiving this energy and this is the outcome, and this is the state in Sufism, that they try to help people through different practices, through different methods to be in this state because it’s believed this is the state of awaken to be living in the moment and be aware of the presence of now and everything around you, and to build the harmonious, understanding with it.

[00:17:26] Izzeldin, when you grew up in a family, that is Sufi religious, do you feel that it was a big part of your upbringing and also how did you relate to other, maybe kids around you or in the school who may be, were not Sufi.

[00:17:43] There is different aspects of how to answer this question. I want to go a little bit more in general aspect of Sufism. It is right now dying from the world and actually to be more accurate, it’s dying more in the Arab World. The reason for it is political, because before, the Wahabi, as a political mind-state of the Islamic nation, there was the Sufi and when the Wahabi took over the Wahabi approach of extremism and considering Sufism and music as haram [unacceptable] and this, it created a new revolution, which is, it took the Sufis from the eyes of looked at as Holy people and to associate them with craziness and even like, hippies and this idea, it became very strong that Sufis were looked at as, not exactly Muslim, but they are more into playing the music, dancing and such. And this is very important change. That’s happened into the Islamic world, which start to this value, the culture, and it bring up extremism as the true practice of the Islamic nation by associating these traditions and culture into basically having fun and not worshiping. And this is what helped to switch the Islamic world from being normal Muslim to be more extreme.

[00:19:42] And actually, I want to mention an example for this. There was a picture in the Dome of the Rock in the fifties, and the picture was a group of women around 20, not even one of them wore the hijab.

[00:19:59] The headscarf you mean, hijab?

[00:20:01] Yeah. They didn’t have a scarf. And when I saw the picture, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe this was happening in Al Aqsa, Dome of the Rock, at that time. And this is just to show you how much things have changed and it is not in a way to discourage women to wear the hijab or scarf. This is not the point, the point is, there was freedom for people to do what they want, and everybody was living in a harmonious way.

[00:20:34] Now, if you want to bring a group of women and take a picture, of Palestinian women, Muslim women, take a picture in the old city, in the Dome of the Rock, it will be on the news. And this shows you, what I see it, me personally, growing up as a Sufi. I see where the change happened and how it divert and how I understand and see is very important in the politics, this aspect and why they worked on it so hard to get us to this point.

[00:21:13] You see this as a deliberate move?

[00:21:15] Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, it is very clear. That all these radical groups, and like the biggest example Osama bin Laden, you know, Osama bin Laden for sure. And Osama Bin Laden as a Muslim revolutionary and he was one of the people who are pushing extremism on the Islamic world, but he had a tight with the United States of America He worked with the CIA and there was an article in the 1990. I don’t remember in which newspaper it was published, but something like the New York times, something like this. But this article was praising Osama bin Laden as a freedom fighter fighting the Russians and saving the Islamic world. So there is a, it is, it’s very clear in, in nowadays. And we know that how even before, Saudi Arabia and even before Mohamad bin Salman, and even before all this politic escalated all these politically took aside and worked openly with the United States.

[00:22:27] We know there is a big connection. And the question is why a radical Islamic leader has a connection with the United States and the CIA. So this is, this is show you example, how these people were funded heavily to be able to proceed with their agenda and to radicalize the Islam and to bring this image and to associate fighting for freedom only with violence and only with the cruelty and only with extremism

[00:23:05] That must be hard for you as a Sufi, to see that basically the beauty of your religion is in this sense, disappearing, where people are looking at your religion in a negative way. While for you, it is maybe the core of life, or I don’t know if it still is because you grew up in this family, but in how far Sufism is for you important until now in your life.

[00:23:33] You know, this will answer the question about me growing up as a Sufi and as a Palestinian in the old city of Jerusalem . I grew up to a family where our center was very active.

[00:23:47] Our grandfathers, they hold very important positions, such as the judge of the Islamic court, having many association with the different events happening in the city, especially as far as spirituality and Islam. And the family history is full of events and stories. And growing up when my father, who was also Sufi sheikh, he traveled the world to speak about Sufism and our house was basically a guest house for people from all over the world coming, want to know about Sufism. And my dad lived in the United States for 20 years. He speaks very good English and he was able to communicate the message. So I grew up in a house that always was visited from people from around the world, which they want to know about Sufism.

[00:24:44] So it was for me, at that time it was a duty. It was basically taking care of the guests to show them around, do some tasks and it was not easy, you know? So it was a, more of a duty. It was not fun. For me to grow up in the family where it is always, we have guests. It was fun, but it was exhausting, especially when you’re a kid you want to play.

[00:25:14] But the more I start to grow and actually this is, this is actually very interesting story, and I’m very thankful for this experience, because it helped me to shape me of who I am today. But my family put me in Islamic school in Al Aqsa mosque, and I was going from the 7th grade till the 12th grade, until tawjihi basically [final exams] to Islamic school, very special Islamic school inside the Al Aqsa mosque.

[00:25:44] We learned from five subjects to seven subjects per year about Islam next to the academic subjects. So it was intense teaching about Islam. And for me personally, my experience. I love to learn. I love to, I love knowledge and I love questions because if you love knowledge, you always need to ask, answer your, the question that’s come up in your head.

[00:26:13]When I was studying in the school, I had many questions, but I was faced with like almost, you cannot ask a question, especially when it came to more sophisticated or any questioning of things about God and Allah and such. So it was a completely shut down for me to learn and to, to be able to comprehend the Islamic teaching as a something spiritual.

[00:26:39] It was, it was showing to me through the teaching, it was just about obeying and I didn’t like that. So I was not really interested anymore in the teaching. And I was want to look more into things that I was innate with, but actually, what was more funny is when I went to live in the United States I was surprised and shocked to see that people are really into the Rumi and into Sufism. And when people knew that I was a Sufi, they really were wanting to talk to me. And I was starting to see that the Rumi in specific and his teachings are very popular. So I started to read it myself and I started to review Sufism again from a person who grew up in a Sufi house an d , to a person who left and went to the West like United States and have a different experience in life. So I took it from another fresh look let’s say on the subject and what I start to see is exactly what I was thinking that God is completely about love. God is not about punishment and fear and all these things, which make you do it out of fear. So I start to really get more interested and looking deeper. And when I was reading one of the books from the Rumi, I don’t remember which one, but it was very interesting.

[00:28:20] He was talking about his own experience and how Sufism was a philosophy. And himself taking the teaching and the philosophy and resonate with himself and see where it takes him. He became a Sufi teacher. He was mentioning that he didn’t even intend to be a Sufi teacher and people followed him just because the beauty was shining at that point. So there was no escape. So understand this aspect is to really resonate with me big time. And it gives me a burst from a new, as a Sufi to be like, Okay. I understand the philosophy, what it stands for. I know who I am. I know what’s my roots, but there is a big part of it, me as a person taking this things. And then what can I do with it? This is what Sufism is. It is not just learning to do meditation is having this life and understanding you are an instrument and you are over here. If you tune your instrument, you will be able to receive amazing gifts from the universe, from God, from Allah.

[00:29:34] It sounds similar to what I hear some of my friends who are maybe more spiritual and do a lot of meditations and talk about mindfulness, they say similar things. So, it seems that there is a lot of overlap maybe in the way of thinking or experiencing the life.

[00:29:53] Absolutely. Living in the United States, I was really into a lot of spirituality, I was trying to get introduced to different spiritual way techniques.

[00:30:05] And always, I found similarity in the idea and in the ideology and even in the practices and it’s just like this, it’s like, if there is a story that one person has. Now, this story can be in one language till it reaches other areas where they have different words to describe this story.

[00:30:29] Now, this story will carry its essence, but it will get adapt to different words, different way of pronouncing to take its shape. So this is how I look at it. Spirituality, there is different civilizations, different people, different students, different Murids who tuned in, and this is their own understanding and their own shade and color from what they took from this experience and what they put together.

[00:31:01] And for example, you know, sacred geometry, sacred geometry is one of the things that got me very, very interested about how art is a big part of the creation. And art and artistic approach in a creation it’s on its Highness and fines.

[00:31:27] Do Sufis believe in more than one life, like in reincarnation, for example, or in development of the soul or something like this.

[00:32:26] Actually in Sufism it’s believed that we as souls take steps in the growth. So our soul will go through different lives to gain experience and to form consciousness.

[00:32:46] And it is baby steps. As we are born into small body, we are growing at the end. Then we start to walk. It is the same idea. That consciousness is gradually growing. And in Sufism it is believed that different parts of the life that we take from a bird to animal, to a human, to different life forms.

[00:33:14] We have to do the circulation to be able to accumulate and calculate life, consciousness and experience. Before we are able to reach to be in a human body. The human is considered one of the high form of God, the creation on earth that she give us this power of wealth. But before, as a soul to get this power of wealth, we have to go through a training wheels that will help us how to survive, how to understand how to sustain ourselves, how to protect ourselves. Then we are gradually grown. To be in a human form to be in a human form is one of the ways that you got granted access and you achieve certain consciousness to be able, to become a human. In the spiritual aspect that means your soul did a lot to reach to this point as a human. But of course the subject can be very wide and can have different points of view on it. But this is like from some of the teaching.

[00:34:28] Does that mean that in Sufism there is no concept of heaven and hell?

[00:34:33] You know, this is a very sensitive subject to kind of like to put our hand on it.

[00:34:39] But the idea of Sufism is to basically be in the moment, to be in this life and to focus on this and to do our best and no matter what happens next, it’s all part of the flow. It is all part of the creation and actually Islam, this is where it is very interesting, this is where Sufism, you know, it is more, that’s how I see Sufism, it is like a magnifier on Islam as far as the spirituality aspect. Where is the spirituality in Islam? Sufism brings it all and highlights it, because in Islam to be a Muslim as a term, which is basically to surrender yourself, completely.

[00:35:25] That’s the meaning of the word Muslim, is to surrender?

[00:35:29] Yeah. So like when someone comes at you with a gun, they ask you to ‘salmi halek’, ‘salem halak’, so this is where the idea and the ideology of what Muslim is. It is in the term. To surrender yourself completely from attachment, from fear, from love, from everything, by understanding that you are here, part of this creation and part of this life, and you are just a vessel.

[00:36:04] And this is the whole idea of being a Muslim. And this is why in our culture, it is very embedded and it is very strong in our consciousness when we say ‘Insha Allah’, you know, and when we say that we are not afraid of anything except Allah, it is this teaching that the Islam they’re trying to teach you that.

[00:36:29] Not to worry about anything and to be a Marshall basically, who are not affected by anything, because you understand that there is a higher power above all this, and you are just part of this life as a soul.

[00:36:49]And is it today in Palestine, in general, and maybe specifically in Jerusalem, like, do you have any idea how many people are really practicing Sufism. And is the youth interested in this now more or less than before?

[00:37:06] You know, as, as far as the youth, they are more interested, a lot, than before, but as far, how many Sufi practices, there is one Zawiya in the old city of Jerusalem from 70, which practices and they do meditation circles.

[00:37:24] Which is, they are actually our neighbor ‘Al Qadri Afghani zawiya’. And they do every Sunday and every Thursday. And the amount of people who come to do meditation, the regular, you can say from a 20 to 50, but the community, you know, say 500, 300. Who are treated by this idea and they come for big celebrations and such, but definitely it is very slim amount and number of what it used to be.

[00:37:57] And for example, you know, like our zawiya it functioned for 300 years continuously, which means holding meditation every week , having all the Islamic festivals happening from ‘Israa and Miraj’ [Prophet Mohamad’s night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and into heaven] the birth of the prophet Muhammad and such. And actually every Thursday, they will do a zikr meditation circle, and after this, they will cook Pilav, which is Bukhari rice, which is what we call it today. It’s like maqloube [rice with fried vegetables] but with carrots instead of other vegetables and it is very famous dish of Bukhara . And this was the tradition in our center that every Thursday, there is a meditation, which is, the neighborhood comes in community and after this, everybody eats together, the Bukhari rice And this continued for 300 years. Now this is another aspect which show s you another side of the logistic of the life in the old city and how it can change as far as culture. Our center as many other centers, they will receive monthly food from the ‘tekkiye’. The tekkiye, which is a center that is still established till today and still functions till today in the old city of Jerusalem, which gives food to the hungry people. And gives food to all the community, spiritual, academic, schools. They will supply them with food. So our center, for example, we will receive the food to cook for our guests and host them. And we will receive funds from different people to help us sustain the center. The center was a huge. The center is established of a small clinic, a library, a mosque, even we have our own cemetery. We had three wells of water, a meeting room, about 10 rooms for hosting guests and many other facilities. So it was a huge property and it took a lot of work to maintain it. So these centers were functioning by the donations that they received from the Ottoman empire at the time.

[00:40:15] And from the food. From other Islamic figures or institutions. And after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Jordan took for short-term over and instantly, there was taxes on these property. There was no donation and there was no food. So the zawiyas, they went from being able to sustain themselves by donation and by food from the Ottoman empire to actually not having anything.

[00:40:48] But you have also to pay taxes on the property. And after this, the British and now Israel. And this is what push all the centers to shut down and not to be able to sustain themselves and to support themselves.

[00:41:07] We were recently studying in the Bible college for the tour guide program, we were studying the Haram al Sharif, dome of the rock, Qibly mosque. I now understand that you have to call the whole area is Al Aqsa mosque. And then you have the mosque with the gray dome is the Qibly mosque. And the dome of the rock is the one with the golden dome. And then there is a lot of buildings around it. And I think that’s what you’re referring to that were schools, ‘madrase’ ‘madares’ and zawiyas and the places where people would learn and study and have these kinds of meetings.

[00:41:40] And many of them, as I learned now, are. Yeah, they are now for other purposes for institutions, for a museum or people are living there. So it seems that what you’re saying is, yeah, that’s happening is that their original function had to be changed because they couldn’t sustain it.

[00:41:59] Exactly. You know, there is a Imam al Ghazali, Imam al Ghazali he is very interesting figure have actually very interesting story. Imam al Ghazali as a character, he was full of knowledge from the beginning. And he was a teacher for spirituality and Islam, but he got to the point where his ego took over. And he started to believe that he, as a person he’s very intelligent and very smart, and he started to get into this ego.

[00:42:30] So with time, what starts to happen, that he will go on stage and he will go to speak to the people, he will go to teach and nothing will come out. The words won’t come out. So this is starting to happen to him. Then he started to realize it is actually something happening with him. And he knew that his ego took over and he was far from being a more genuine with his knowledge receiving.

[00:43:00] It’s really interesting because it means that if you are not really genuinely inspired, you just can’t speak.

[00:43:06] Yeah. That’s why, you know, commercialism it is an aspect which shows you how you can take the essence of something and you can turn it into a joke because you’re not being genuine.

[00:43:18] You’re just focusing on a specific target. For Imam al Ghazali and his condition he realized he had to do a change, but he was very famous. He was very respected. He was married with kids and he decided to leave. And when everybody asked him was like, where are you leaving? He was like, I’m going to Mecca to Saudi Arabia. So he left, but he actually came to Jerusalem into Al Aqsa mosque and he stayed in one of the rooms in Al Aqsa mosque area. And it’s known till today, the Imam al Ghazali room. And he came over here because he knew people would go to look for him. So they will go to Saudi Arabia. So he just wanted to hide and he wanted to be isolated and he wanted to re-establish his connection with knowledge and God without ego interference.

[00:44:10] And in this period, he wrote many important books and very high sophisticated at that time as far philosophy of rules, different aspect, even spirituality. And he wrote so much that they gave him a nickname after this period, which is called the ‘hujjet’ of Islam. The proof of Islam, which like he hold the title.

[00:44:40] Like he is the proof that there is Islam. What’s it that the teaching of Islam can teach this person at a certain point. When he came to Jerusalem, he found there is, I’m not sure what the exact number, maybe 300 or 500. I’m not sure of the number, but he found that amount of numbers for schools that were teaching Islamic studies, and he was saying that it is devastating, there was not enough schools to teach.

[00:45:12] And he was saying how knowledge is getting lost in Jerusalem, the old city. This is to emphasize how many schools, how many teaching and not just in the Islamic and Sufism, you know, from all over the world you have every branch of religion, every branch of spirituality, every branch of history, they have to come to Jerusalem and learn and to be part of the Holy land.

[00:45:41] Because many things happened in this Holy land, which is, can shed light on many aspects of life

[00:45:48] Thank you Izzeldin, it’s really interesting. And I wonder if there’s any listeners, people who are listening to this podcast who have further questions or who may be in the future, want to visit Jerusalem and would want to know more about Sufism in Jerusalem. are you available for answering questions or taking people around.

[00:46:09] I mean, yeah, we can arrange it. I love to share my culture and I love to share what I know. So absolutely they can contact me on I will send you the address. So include it in the link and I will be more than happy.

[00:46:24] I will add that into the podcast description and on the website.

[00:46:28] And when you mentioned now sacred cuisine, I think that’s going to be our next podcast episode, because can you quickly tell people what you do in life?

[00:46:38] Absolutely. I’m a chef. I love to cook and I focus on the storytelling of the food and I focus on the suomi food, the vegetarian vegan food in our culture.

[00:46:51] And this is why it’s called sacred cuisine because I’m in-twining my life, experience my interest and putting it into one thing to talk about the Palestinian food, the history, the richness and our culture. And more, we will talk about it .

[00:47:07] Yeah, we will talk about it in another episode and I will post links so that people can already take a look at your Instagram accounts and your Facebook and see what you do with sacred cuisine.

[00:47:18] Thank you very much. It was very interesting and inspiring, and I feel that later on, you need to give me some reading tips because I want to know more about Sufism. I think it’s much more appealing to me than any other religion that I’ve known about so far. So thank you. It’s really an eye opener.

[00:47:35] Truly my pleasure. There’s so much to say. And I tried to squeeze as much as I can, but yeah, I can share with you some more.

[00:47:43] We will talk more. Thanks.

[00:47:45] Have a great night, thank you very much, Kris.

[00:48:17] I hope you enjoyed listening to this episode. If you want to know more about Sufism, there are many books to read and videos to watch. I posted a selection on the website

On the website and in the show notes, you can also find the links to the social media accounts of the podcast.

[00:49:25] If you want to follow on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. As usual at the end of the podcast, I say that I’m very much helped with the support of listeners on the Ko-fi platform, where you can buy me a coffee or a falafel sandwich. The link is in the show notes and on the website. And I can already tell you that next week’s episode is a guided city walk through Beit Safafa

[00:49:52] the town where I live between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. So if you love history, cultural heritage, and if you miss traveling, then join us for that virtual tour.