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December 2001 Feature

UWAIYSI
COMMUNITY
RETREAT

2 November2001 -
4 November 2001

Valley of the Moon,
California

As the sun set over the Sonoma hills into the cool mid-Autumn dusk, the Uwaiysi Sufis of the Bay Area began to arrive for their retreat at a rustic camp in Valley of the Moon near Glen Ellen. It seemed all too appropriate that a nearly full moon also greeted those arriving for the first-ever community retreat. The open field at the center of the camp was filled with light, which set the tone and mood for the weekend to come.

A delightful dinner was set out for the group in the dining hall. Following the fatiha led by Sheikh Salman, Safa Ali greeted everyone and provided some opening remarks. After dinner the group who had arrived spent a little more time settling into their cabins and making a fire in and setting up the room for the evening prayers. At about 7:30 pm, Sheikh Salman recited the Adhan and led the Uwaiysi Sufis in prayer by the warmth and light of the fire. Salim and Salima arrived just in time and with Soraya and Sheikh Salman, the other members of Taneen, led the group in a zekr of love and devotion. More music followed including a beautiful rendition of a Persian love song by Nazila and Susan. The group departed from the prayer room into the night to return to their cabins, but the zekr and the music remained in their hearts.

Many gathered again for early-morning meditation by the fire in the prayer room. Sheikh Salman recited the Adhan for the morning prayers. The group gathered again for breakfast in the dining hall as more of the Uwaiysi community arrived for the retreat. A beautiful day of weather appeared in store for the retreat. The natural magnificence of the site, with oak trees and towering redwoods, was inescapable in the soft morning light.

After breakfast, our holy teacher Shah Nazar Seyed Ali Kianfar arrived and greeted everyone. The group then met in the open air on the deck of the dining hall to listen to the words of the master. Seyed Dr. Kianfar encouraged everyone to truly practice religion in every movement they make. He stressed that Islam is the search for your own religion, not the religion of a group. At the end of his talk, he asked everyone to take advantage of this beautiful natural setting and find a quiet place to meditate and pray and connect himself to the Divine.

Hearing the Adhan again by Sheikh Salman, we all returned from our quiet spots for the Noon prayers and zekr in the prayer room led by Seyed Dr. Kianfar. Afterwards, Seyed Dr. Kianfar departed, but the message and instructions from Seyed Dr. Kianfar remained in everyone’s hearts to carry out for the rest of the retreat.

After lunch, the group embarked on the workshop portion of the retreat program: Sheikh Salman gave an excellent and beneficial presentation on preparation for Ramadan and answered questions from the group, Blake led the group off into the woods and hills surrounding the retreat site for an active “silent” hike. Again, one could not help but be continuously reminded of the natural beauty of the area, which helped greatly in experiencing peace and tranquility. Thereafter, Arife facilitated the artistic expression of the Uwaiysi Sufis who each drew on a piece of paper what they were experiencing at the retreat. The papers were then collectively gathered and sorted by the group to create a community mural from the unity of everyone’s efforts. The absolute unity of the community was reflected in the beautiful mural that was created.

After the workshops, led by the younger members of the Community, many of the group engaged in a closely contested baseball game featuring the Ruthian efforts of Salim. Sunset prayers and dinner followed.

Once more the Adhan by Sheikh Salman called the group to gather for evening prayers. A sense of peace, tranquility, and unity resonated throughout the group carrying throughout the zekr and music that followed the prayer. The group then dispersed into the night under another moonlit sky.

After morning meditation and prayers and breakfast, we all said our warm good-byes. While time will tell, the faces of the community members clearly reflected an enhanced strength and unity in the community — of people who care deeply for each other as Uwaiysi Sufis.

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