We are examining the role of art and creativity among various spiritual traditions of the world.  In Islam, the Sufi mystic Hafiz addresses the question: What is Art?

“Dance of Sufi Dervishes.” Illustration from an unknown manuscript, Behzad, c.1480-1490. Wikimedia.

“Art is the conversation between lovers.
Art offers an opening for the heart.
True art makes the divine silence in the soul
break into applause.
Art is, at last, the knowledge of
Where we are standing—
Where we are standing
In this Wonderland
When we rip off all our clothes
And this blind man’s patch, veil,
That got tied across our brow.”

Notice the wonderful naming of our home—a “Wonderland.”  It is Art’s job to teach us that we are truly standing in this Wonderland.  (Is this another name for the “kingdom/queendom of God”? 

Of course the Sufi tradition is well known for its dance as prayer.  Hafiz reminds us that to dance is to join the Cosmos which is itself dancing.  (And, given what today’s cosmology is telling us, this is literally quite true—galaxies, supernovas, planets and stars are all in motion.)  Says Hafiz:

“When you dance
the whole universe dances.
The world dances around the Sun.

“Sufi Spinning” Photo by Vyacheslav Argenberg, Flickr

The morning light breaks,
Spinning up with delight.
How could anyone
Touched by your love
Not dance like a weeping willow?
Today I spin wildly
throughout the city;
I am the cup-bearer,
My head is the cup,
Perhaps a scholar will see me
and drop his books.
Perhaps the world will see me
and forget all its sorrow.”

Can Art assist us to “forget all the world’s sorrow?”  Is that one of its principal purposes?  The Via Creativa healing the Via Negativa?  Can Art get those addicted to the left brain only to “drop their books” and join the heart work that dance and art engender?

Hafiz says: “Dear ones, let’s anoint this earth with dance!”  

“Whirling Dervish: A whirling dervish achieves religious ecstasy at a Friday afternoon Sufi cermoney in front of the Hamed el-Nil Mosque and Tomb in Omdurman, Sudan.” Photo by David Stanley, Flickr

For Hafiz, God is the ultimate dancer, whose favorite words are: “Come dance with me!”

“Every child has known God,
Not the God of names,
Not the God of don’ts,
Not the God who ever does anything weird,
But the God who only knows four words
And keeps repeating them, saying:
‘Come dance with Me.’
Come dance.”

Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing From Global Faiths, pp. 229, 234f.
Banner Image: “Dervish Dance,” in the Ghuriya, Cairo. Photo by Michał Huniewicz, Flickr

Queries for Contemplation

Meditations: Is it true that art is “a conversation between lovers?”  How is that so?  How does your life experience confirm this? 

What might happen if conversations between lovers (art) were more a part of education, politics, economics, prisons, churches, synagogues and mosques?

Recommended Reading

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.

Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

Share this meditation


Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox is made possible through the generosity of donors. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation

Search Meditations





Receive our daily meditations

7 thoughts on “The Via Creativa in Islam”

  1. Avatar

    As ever powerful stuff Matt. I,very found your rejections meditations of late so helpful insightful enjoyable scary beautiful and.. juicy..
    I’m putting an event on next year near London exploring the dialect between spirituality and science using art forms such as music , dj,ing , visuals , yoga , sound and interaction so this , as ever, inspires me so much . Thank you thank you

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Steve/MORT,
      Thank you for writing and letting us know how you are experiencing these meditations and how they are inspiring your cultural creativity. May your event in London exploring science and spirituality be insightful, enjoyable, scary, beautiful and juicy!
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditations Team

  2. Avatar

    “Wonderland” and “kingdom/queendom”—Diarmuid O’Murchu indicates that in Aramaic a possibly more accurate translation for the term ‘kingdom’ is “the empowered and empowering community”. That possibility was a gift that created a radical shift in my understanding of so much Christian thought and teaching and seems to be right at home on the glorious Sufi dance floor.

    Thank you so much for this wonderful, all-embracing vision!

    1. Gail Ransom

      Thank you, Mary, for adding in this inspiring definition of the king-queendom/realm of God. Empowered and empowering community is what we are living towards. How encouraging to have it echoed in so many faith traditions!
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      FOr the Daily Meditation Team

Leave a Comment

To help moderate the volume of responses, the Comment field is limited to 1500 characters (roughly 300 words), with one comment per person per day.

Please keep your comments focused on the topic of the day's Meditation.

As always, we look forward to your comments!!
The Daily Meditation Team

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join us in meditation that supports your compassionate action

Receive Matthew Fox's Daily Meditation by subscribing below: