Kierkegaard and sufism

Amra and I drove to Aarhus yesterday evening in order to attend a lecture by Safet Bektović, Bosnian philosopher who talked about “Kierkegaard and Sufism, and the question of identity in (post)modern time“.

Mr. Bektović talked about connection and similarities in philosophies of Søren Kierkegaard and Sufism, the mystic sect inside Islam. Kierkegaard is regarded by many as the father of existentialism, while Sufism is a system of esoteric philosophy associated with Islam. In modern language it might also be referred to as “Islamic spirituality” or “Islamic mysticism”. Some non-Islamic Sufi organizations also exist, especially in western countries.

Mr. Bektović mentioned that, according to Kierkegaard, Christianity has lost its essence due to institutionalization of the religion. Kierkegaard believed that Christianity abandoned its values with the death of Jesus. While Jesus converted only a small number of people, his pupil, St. Paul, converted 50,000 in one day! Kierkegaard had a problem with this, since he saw it as the sign of popularization of Christianity in stead of keeping the steady course and stay faithful to its core values.

So, what does this has with Sufism and Islam? Well, Sufism is known to be a direction that “learns about the secret of Islam”. Sufists are individuals who wish to be as close as possible to God, and they believe it is possible if they learn the secret of the religion. They claim to be on the right path that leads to God, and it’s here their connection to Kierkegaard gets visible. Bektović mentioned that Sufists brought Islam to Bosnia [in XIV and XV century], for instance.

When Mr. Bektović wanted to write his ph.d., his wish was to write exactly about the similarities between Kierkegaard and Sufism. None of his professors could understand where he was going with this. “If you want to write about Kierkegaard and Sufism, you can write about differences between them, not similarities”, they were telling him. Nevertheless, he insisted on his idea, and it proved to be a good one, since his work today is pretty acknowledged among the Kierkegaardians, not to mention that Bektović proved to be right, since Kierkegaard mentioned Qur’an no less than 16 times in his notes.

Anyway, the lecture was great, but I was really impressed by Bektović as a philosopher and a man. Although a man whose life was not easy on, I believe he is a person in balance and harmony, not to mention his passion for philosophy in general and Kierkegaard in particular.

I didn’t feel well yesterday, but I am so happy I didn’t miss the best and most inspiring lecture in years.