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Dr. Bilal Orfali Lectures at AUK on Early Sufi Poetry & Music

The Arabic Literature Club in collaboration with the Department of Arabic and Foreign Languages at the American University in Kuwait (AUK) organized a lecture on early Sufi poetry and music, delivered by professor of Arabic studies at the American University in Beirut, Dr. Bilal Orfali, author of several studies in the field of Arabic literature, with emphasis on the relationship between poetry & music and Sufism, known as "Sufi Sama'."

Dr. Orfali began his lecture with a musical piece from a Sufi group in Morocco, which embodies the poem 'Leila' by Qais bin Al-Mullawah combined with Ottoman Turkish music. Dr. Orfali explained the piece of music showing that Sufis used poetry and music to express their love of God, adding that they have turned courtly poetry into Sufi poetry, representing Leila, the beloved woman, as a sublime symbol.

Orfali also addressed the history of Sufism, explaining that "the Sufi movement became prominent during the 4th Islamic Century," to become one of the Islamic schools of thought after the death of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)." Interpretations around the origin of the term 'Sufism' varied; some linked the name to wool (Suf in Arabic), others to wisdom and serenity. According to Orfali, Sufis did not stop at studying Islamic jurisprudence, but also expanded their studies to the basic doctrine, searching for "the great truth, God". Later on, Sufis branched into sects, some of which called for modesty in life and 'jihad' of the soul, while others resorted to reason, logic, and law. Other sects were known with the practice of spiritual drunkenness, while a number of them chose the principle of self-blame and concealment. It has also been documented that some Sufis were keen to master particular professions to avoid the social stigma of being perceived as taking their love of God as a source of income.

Orfali also put forward that Sufi poetry represents the intersection between literature and Islamic studies, explaining that Sufis also flourished as writers and poets, examples include Al-Hallaj, Al-Ghazali and Al-Rumi, who is well known in the West. Nevertheless, "the Sufi poetry has not received considerable attention, but has faced a state of negligence, because it is not considered as literature, but a science that does not fall within the confines of literature. This explains the lack of study of Sufi poetry, which has been classified out of the classical literary heritage."

The Arabic Literature Club at the American University of Kuwait is a student organization interested in different aspects of the Arabic language and culture such as Arabic poetry and literature. The main purpose of the Club is to reveal the Arab identity and practice Arabic language at AUK. Most of the club events currently focus on Arabic literature and poetry. The Arabic Club aims to host more cultural events that would include Arabic music and hosting of famous experts in the Arabic language to share their experience and thoughts with the students.

Dr. Bilal Orfali

From Left Dr.Khitam Al Khouli, Dr. Raymond Farrin, Fatma Al Adwani, Dr. Orfali

The guest speaker with AUK Arabic faculty and club members


Released by the Office of Public Affairs on the 23rd March 2014

Photography by the Office of Public Affairs (C) 2014

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