Al-Ahram Weekly Online   15 - 21 April 2004
Issue No. 686
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Naguib Mahfouz

Sufi inspirations

By Naguib Mahfouz

Sufism is one of my main sources of inspiration. At first, I approached it as a form of literary creativity with a spiritual twist, but then I got more involved. You don't need to be a hermit to discern the beauty of Sufism. Sufism makes you more accepting of people, more tolerant of life and its hardships. Some people use Sufism as an escape route, as a means of avoiding the complexities of life. For them, Sufism is a refuge into the inaccessible reaches of the spiritual world. For me, Sufism is a source of strength, a way of coping with the vicissitudes of life.

Sufism has influenced my style and subject matter. This is particularly true for Al- Tariq (The Road), Thartharah Fawq Al- Nil (Chatting on the Nile), Layali Alf Laylah (A Thousand Nights), and Malhamat Al-Harafish (Epic of the Ruffians). In all these works, I hail Sufism as something reinforcing life, not scorning it. I have read most Sufi writers and I still consult major Sufi works regularly. I find the Shiraz Songs, a collection of poetry by Hafiz, particularly compelling.

Based on an interview by Mohamed Salmawy.

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