Islam’s forgotten bohemians

Imperial ‘orientalists’ such as Arberry erred in drawing this line between great, dead Muslims and living, decadent ones, between a fragile, fallen Islamic high culture and a benighted world of a Muslim Lumpenproletariat. The orientalists’ influence was so strong that they shaped the way Muslims came to see their own history. Educated Muslims were taught to look down on the ‘decadent’ Islam of the lower classes. But in the poor urban districts across the Muslim world, Sufi poetry is still read today. As they are less likely to speak English, and foreign journalists are unlikely to interview them, Westerners do not often hear from the multitudes for whom Islam is Sufi poetry.

Every people has a road, a religion and place of worship, 
But me, I say my prayers to the beauty with the tilted cap.


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