NHT's Writing Desk

Francis and the Sufis 
what you don't know

St Francis of Assisi isn't who he is
because he's Christian but because of a side to him that is
little known or understood by western religious ...

while it’s true, Francis is considered the ‘universal saint,’ most beloved globally for his connection to animals
and his gentle heart with his fellow man …
did you know that this man appears in Persian writings,
and is scrutinized from their point of view?

In The Sufis,
Idres Shah (1924-1996), Sufi author/teacher
draws some amazing parallels between Francis and the Sufis which are backed up by history and records of Francis’ travels…

Traditional biographers openly confess to not understanding
his travel intentions - for instance his 'wandering' all of Spain,
when in fact the places he visited happened to be Sufi …
further Shah provides compelling circumstantial evidence of Sufi practices and stories showing up in Franciscan tradition –
take the saint’s poetry for instance whose themes and imagery seem to recall the work of his Sufi contemporary, Rumi …
all of which beg the question: is it possible that Francis was ‘remembering’ and in his travels had gone looking for his past life Sufi roots?  reincarnationists say, 'yes' 

As for Sufism, it is beauty in Spirit which opened my own heart early in life by felling another book  off a shelf
(like happened with both Padre Pio and Black Elk's teachings )  
On this particular bookstore trip, i was looking for Ram Dass’s Be Here Now and  even though i was  told by a clerk that it had sold out, i had to check for myself and there on the floor
by a ‘sold out’ sign was the quintessential Sufi writing, Toward the One, written b
 Pir Villayat Khan … even though i’d never seen this book before, because of how i found it, i knew it was mine

Exploring Sufism helps to understand Francis more completely,
especially those of his stories which we graciously forgive
(running naked through the town square, his gross disrespect of his father, etc.)

the Lakota would refer to that side of Francis as heyoke, or
the holy jestor, who is only allowed to get away with his actions because by his ‘insanity’ he teaches a higher learning to the people ... only a master can be both the fool and the wise man at the same time ...

Ultimately amidst all his foolishness  Francis demands we treat each and every person we meet with the same forgiveness and honour that we pay to Francis ... to Francis there can be no other way.

Inayat Khan, father of Pir Villayat, said,  "Every age of the world has seen awakened souls, and as it is impossible to limit wisdom to any one period or place,  so it is impossible to date the origin of Sufism."  Francis recognized the inherent impossibility to limit wisdom - it is when we fearlessly apply this same lense, of Sufism, to what we already know about Francis that an unexpected bridge opens before us offering timely answers to today’s changing and very frightening world 

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the town of Assisi, Umbria, Italy

         Assisi in Umbria,Italy

the ecumenical St. Francis of Assisi statue

a local statue of Francis - his halo is etched with symbols of the world's six majour religions

                 the cell where Francis died 

related reading:  
click here to read more from NHT about Pir Villayat Khan and his father 
Inayat Rehmat Khan

---to read Idres Shah’s full piece of "The Sufis and Francis of Assisi" click here then click to page 228
---to learn more about Sufism, click here 
---to explore Francis under today's microscope click here  and read an article from the New Yorker magazine