Divine Presence in this life. The chief aim of all Sufis is to seek the pleasing of God by working to restore within themselves the primordial state of fitra, described in the Qur'an. In this state nothing one does defies God, and all is undertaken with the single motivation of love of God. A secondary consequence of this is that the seeker may be led to abandon all notions of dualism or multiplicity, including a conception of an individual self, and to realize the Divine Unity.
Thus, Sufism has been characterized[by whom?] as the science of the states of the lower self (the ego), and the way of purifying this lower self of its reprehensible traits, while adorning it instead with what is praiseworthy, whether or not this process of cleansing and purifying the heart is in time rewarded by esoteric knowledge of God. This can be conceived in terms of two basic types of law (fiqh), an outer law concerned with actions, and an inner law concerned with the human heart. The outer law consists of rules pertaining to worship, transactions, marriage, judicial rulings, and criminal law—what is often referred to, a bit too broadly, as qanun. The inner law of Sufism consists of rules about repentance from sin, the purging of contemptible qualities and evil traits of character, and adornment with virtues and good character.
Sufism, which is a general term for Muslim mysticism, was originally a response to the increasing worldly power of Islamic leaders as the religion spread during the 8th Century and their corresponding shift in focus towards materialistic and political concerns. In particular, Harun al-Rashid, the fifth Abbasid Caliph, attracted negative attention for his lavish lifestyle, including gold and silver tableware, an extensive harem and numerous slaves and retainers, that stood in contrast to the relative simplicity of Muhammad's life.
The typical early Sufi lived in a cell of a mosque and taught a small band of disciples. The extent to which Sufism was influenced by Buddhist and Hindu mysticism, and by the example of Christian hermits and monks, is disputed, but self-discipline and concentration on God quickly led to the belief that by quelling the self and through loving ardour for God it is possible to maintain a union with the divine in which the human self melts away.
 TeachingTo enter the way of Sufism, the seeker begins by finding a teacher, as the connection to the teacher is considered necessary for the growth of the pupil. The teacher, to be genuine, must have received the authorization to teach (ijazah) from another Master of the Way, in an unbroken succession (silsilah) leading back to Sufism's origin with Muhammad.[dubious ] It is the transmission of the divine light from the teacher's heart to the heart of the student, rather than of worldly knowledge transmitted from mouth to ear, that allows the adept to progress. In addition, the genuine teacher will be utterly strict in his adherence to the Divine Law.
Scholars and adherents of Sufism are unanimous in agreeing that Sufism cannot be learned through books.[dubious ] To reach the highest levels of success in Sufism typically requires that the disciple live with and serve the teacher for many, many years. For instance, Baha-ud-Din Naqshband Bukhari, who gave his name to the Naqshbandi Order, served his first teacher, Sayyid Muhammad Baba As-Samasi, for 20 years, until as-Samasi died. He subsequently served several other teachers for lengthy periods of time. The extreme arduousness of his spiritual preparation is illustrated by his service, as directed by his teacher, to the weak and needy members of his community in a state of complete humility and tolerance for many years. When he believed this mission to be concluded, his teacher next directed him to care for animals, curing their sicknesses, cleaning their wounds, and assisting them in finding provision. After many years of this he was next instructed to spend many years in the care of dogs in a state of humility, and to ask them for support.
As a further example, the prospective adherent of the Mevlevi Order would have been ordered to serve in the kitchens of a hospice for the poor for 1,001 days prior to being accepted for spiritual instruction, and a further 1,001 days in solitary retreat as a precondition of completing that instruction.
Some teachers, especially when addressing more general audiences, or mixed groups of Muslims and non-Muslims, make extensive use of parable, allegory, and metaphor. Although approaches to teaching vary among different Sufi orders, Sufism as a whole is primarily concerned with direct personal experience, and as such has sometimes been compared to other, non-Islamic forms of mysticism (e.g., as in the books of Seyyed Hossein Nasr).
 History of Sufism
 OriginsIn its early stages of development Sufism effectively referred to nothing more than the internalization of Islam. According to one perspective, it is directly from the Qur'an, constantly recited, meditated, and experienced, that Sufism proceeded, in its origin and its development. Others have held that Sufism is the strict emulation of the way of Muhammad, through which the heart's connection to the Divine is strengthened. More prosaically, the Muslim Conquests had brought large numbers of Christian monks and hermits, especially in Syria and Egypt, under the rule of Muslims. They retained a vigorous spiritual life for centuries after the conquests, and many of the especially pious Muslims who founded Sufism were influenced by their techniques and methods.
From the traditional Sufi point of view, the esoteric teachings of Sufism were transmitted from Muhammad to those who had the capacity to acquire the direct experiential gnosis of God, which was passed on from teacher to student through the centuries. Some of this transmission is summarized in texts, but most is not. Important contributions in writing are attributed to Uwais al-Qarni, Harrm bin Hian, Hasan Basri and Sayid ibn al-Mussib, who are regarded as the first Sufis in the earliest generations of Islam. Harith al-Muhasibi was the first one to write about moral psychology. Rabia Basri was a Sufi known for her love and passion for God, expressed through her poetry. Bayazid Bastami was among the first theorists of Sufism; he concerned himself with fanā and baqā, the state of annihilating the self in the presence of the divine, accompanied by clarity concerning worldly phenomena derived from that perspective.
Sufism had a long history already before the subsequent institutionalization of Sufi teachings into devotional orders (tarîqât) in the early Middle Ages. Almost all extant Sufi orders trace their chains of transmission (silsila) back to Muhammad via his cousin and son-in-law Ali. The Naqshbandi order is a notable exception to this rule, as it traces the origin of its teachings from Muhammad to the first Islamic Caliph Abu Bakr.
Different devotional styles and traditions developed over time, reflecting the perspectives of different masters and the accumulated cultural wisdom of the orders. Typically all of these concerned themselves with the understanding of subtle knowledge (gnosis), education of the heart to purify it of baser instincts, the love of God, and approaching God through a well-described hierarchy of enduring spiritual stations (maqâmât) and more transient spiritual states (ahwâl).
 Formalization of doctrineTowards the end of the first millennium CE, a number of manuals began to be written summarizing the doctrines of Sufism and describing some typical Sufi practices. Two of the most famous of these are now available in English translation: the Kashf al-Mahjûb of Hujwiri, and the Risâla of Qushayri.
Two of Imam Al Ghazali's greatest treatises, the "Revival of Religious Sciences" and the "Alchemy of Happiness," argued that Sufism originated from the Qur'an and was thus compatible with mainstream Islamic thought, and did not in any way contradict Islamic Law—being instead necessary to its complete fulfillment. This became the mainstream position among Islamic scholars for centuries, challenged only recently on the basis of selective use of a limited body of texts[example needed]. Ongoing efforts by both traditionally trained Muslim scholars and Western academics are making Imam Al-Ghazali's works available in English translation for the first time, allowing English-speaking readers to judge for themselves the compatibility of Islamic Law and Sufi doctrine.
 Growth of Sufi influence in Islamic culturesThe spread of Sufism has been considered a definitive factor in the spread of Islam, and in the creation of integrally Islamic cultures, especially in Africa and Asia. Recent academic work on these topics has focused on the role of Sufism in creating and propagating the culture of the Ottoman world, and in resisting European imperialism in North Africa and South Asia.
Between the 13th and 16th centuries CE, Sufism produced a flourishing intellectual culture throughout the Islamic world, a "Golden Age" whose physical artifacts are still present. In many places, a lodge (known variously as a zaouia, khanqah, or tekke) would be endowed through a pious foundation in perpetuity (waqf) to provide a gathering place for Sufi adepts, as well as lodging for itinerant seekers of knowledge. The same system of endowments could also be used to pay for a complex of buildings, such as that surrounding the Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul, including a lodge for Sufi seekers, a hospice with kitchens where these seekers could serve the poor and/or complete a period of initiation, a library, and other structures. No important domain in the civilization of Islam remained unaffected by Sufism in this period.
 Contemporary SufismBa 'Alawiyya, Chishti, Naqshbandi, Nimatullahi, Oveyssi, Qadiria Boutshishia, Qadiriyyah, Qalandariyya, Sarwari Qadiri, Shadhliyya and Suhrawardiyya.
Sufism is popular in such African countries as Morocco and Senegal, where it is seen as a mystical expression of Islam. Sufism is traditional in Morocco but has seen a growing revival with the renewal of sufism around contemporary spiritual teachers such as Sidi Hamza al Qadiri al Boutshishi. Mbacke suggests that one reason Sufism has taken hold in Senegal is because it can accommodate local beliefs and customs, which tend toward the mystical.
The life of the Algerian Sufi master Emir Abd al-Qadir is instructive in this regard. Notable as well are the lives of Amadou Bamba and Hajj Umar Tall in sub-Saharan Africa, and Sheikh Mansur Ushurma and Imam Shamil in the Caucasus region. In the twentieth century some more modernist Muslims have called Sufism a superstitious religion that holds back Islamic achievement in the fields of science and technology.
For a more thorough, though incomplete, summary of currently active groups and teachers, readers are referred to links in the site of Dr. Alan Godlas of the University of Georgia.
A number of Westerners have embarked with varying degrees of success on the path of Sufism. One of the first to return to Europe as an official representative of a Sufi order, and with the specific purpose to spread Sufism in Western Europe, was the Swedish-born wandering Sufi Abd al-Hadi Aqhili (also known as Ivan Aguéli). René Guénon the French scholar became a sufi in the early twentieth century and was known as Sheikh Abdul Wahid Yahya. His manifold writings defined the practice of sufism as the essence of Islam but also pointed to the universality of its message. Other spiritualists as for instance G. I. Gurdjieff. may or may not conform to the tenets of Sufism as understood by orthodox Muslims.
Other noteworthy Sufi teachers who were active in the West in recent years include Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, Inayat Khan, Nazim Al-Haqqani, Javad Nurbakhsh, Bulent Rauf, Irina Tweedie, Idries Shah and Muzaffer Ozak.
Currently active Sufi academics and publishers include Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Nuh Ha Mim Keller, Abdullah Nooruddeen Durkee, Abdal Hakim Murad and the Franco-Moroccan Faouzi Skali.
 Theoretical perspectives in Sufism
On the one hand there is the order from the signs to the Signifier (or from the arts to the Artisan). In this branch, the seeker begins by purifying the lower self of every corrupting influence that stands in the way of recognizing all of creation as the work of God, as God's active Self-disclosure or theophany. This is the way of Imam Al-Ghazali and of the majority of the Sufi orders.
On the other hand there is the order from the Signifier to His signs, from the Artisan to His works. In this branch the seeker experiences divine attraction (jadhba), and is able to enter the order with a glimpse of its endpoint, of direct apprehension of the Divine Presence towards which all spiritual striving is directed. This does not replace the striving to purify the heart, as in the other branch; it simply stems from a different point of entry into the path. This is the way primarily of the masters of the Naqshbandi and Shadhili orders.
Contemporary scholars may also recognize a third branch, attributed to the late Ottoman scholar Said Nursi and explicated in his vast Qur'an commentary called the Risale-i Nur. This approach entails strict adherence to the way of Muhammad, in the understanding that this wont, or sunnah, proposes a complete devotional spirituality adequate to those without access to a master of the Sufi way.
 Contributions to other domains of scholarshipSufism has contributed significantly to the elaboration of theoretical perspectives in many domains of intellectual endeavor. For instance, the doctrine of "subtle centers" or centers of subtle cognition (known as Lataif-e-sitta) addresses the matter of the awakening of spiritual intuition in ways that some consider similar to certain models of chakra in Hinduism. In general, these subtle centers or latâ'if are thought of as faculties that are to be purified sequentially in order to bring the seeker's wayfaring to completion. A concise and useful summary of this system from a living exponent of this tradition has been published by Muhammad Emin Er.
Sufi psychology has influenced many areas of thinking both within and outside of Islam, drawing primarily upon three concepts. Ja'far al-Sadiq (both an imam in the Shia tradition and a respected scholar and link in chains of Sufi transmission in all Islamic sects) held that human beings are dominated by a lower self called the nafs, a faculty of spiritual intuition called the qalb or spiritual heart, and a spirit or soul called ruh. These interact in various ways, producing the spiritual types of the tyrant (dominated by nafs), the person of faith and moderation (dominated by the spiritual heart), and the person lost in love for God (dominated by the ruh).
Of note with regard to the spread of Sufi psychology in the West is Robert Frager, a Sufi teacher authorized in the Halveti Jerrahi order. Frager was a trained psychologist, born in the United States, who converted to Islam in the course of his practice of Sufism and wrote extensively on Sufism and psychology.
Sufi cosmology and Sufi metaphysics are also noteworthy areas of intellectual accomplishment.
 Sufi practices
Prerequisites to practice include rigorous adherence to Islamic norms (ritual prayer in its five prescribed times each day, the fast of Ramadan, and so forth). Additionally, the seeker ought to be firmly grounded in supererogatory practices known from the life of Muhammad (such as the "sunna prayers"). This is in accordance with the words, attributed to God, of the following, a famous Hadith Qudsi:
My servant draws near to Me through nothing I love more than that which I have made obligatory for him. My servant never ceases drawing near to Me through supererogatory works until I love him. Then, when I love him, I am his hearing through which he hears, his sight through which he sees, his hand through which he grasps, and his foot through which he walks.It is also necessary for the seeker to have a correct creed (Aqidah), and to embrace with certainty its tenets. The seeker must also, of necessity, turn away from sins, love of this world, the love of company and renown, obedience to satanic impulse, and the promptings of the lower self. (The way in which this purification of the heart is achieved is outlined in certain books, but must be prescribed in detail by a Sufi master.) The seeker must also be trained to prevent the corruption of those good deeds which have accrued to his or her credit by overcoming the traps of ostentation, pride, arrogance, envy, and long hopes (meaning the hope for a long life allowing us to mend our ways later, rather than immediately, here and now).
Sufi practices, while attractive to some, are not a means for gaining knowledge. The traditional scholars of Sufism hold it as absolutely axiomatic that knowledge of God is not a psychological state generated through breath control. Thus, practice of "techniques" is not the cause, but instead the occasion for such knowledge to be obtained (if at all), given proper prerequisites and proper guidance by a master of the way. Furthermore, the emphasis on practices may obscure a far more important fact: The seeker is, in a sense, to become a broken person, stripped of all habits through the practice of (in the words of Imam Al-Ghazali words) solitude, silence, sleeplessness, and hunger.
Magic has also been a part of Sufi practice, notably in India. This practice intensified during the declining years of Sufism in India when The Sufi orders grew steadily in wealth and in political influence while their spirituality gradually declined as they concentrated on Saint worship, miracle working, magic and superstition. The external religious practices were neglected, morals declined and learning was despised. The element of magic in Sufism in India possibly drew from the occult practices in the Atharvaveda. The most famous of all Sufis, Mansur Al-Hallaj (d. 922), visited Sindh in order to study "Indian Magic." He not only accepted Hindu ideas of cosmogony and of divine descent but he also seems to have believed in the Transmigration of the soul.
 DhikrDhikr is the remembrance of God commanded in the Qur'an for all Muslims through a specific devotional act, such as the repetition of divine names, supplications and aphorisms from hadith literature and the Qur'an. More generally, dhikr takes a wide range and various layers of meaning. This includes dhikr as any activity in which the Muslim maintains awareness of God. To engage in dhikr is to practice consciousness of the Divine Presence and love, or "to seek a state of godwariness". The Qur'an refers to Muhammad as the very embodiment of dhikr of God (65:10-11). Some types of dhikr are prescribed for all Muslims, and do not require Sufi initiation or the prescription of a Sufi master because they are deemed to be good for every seeker under every circumstance.
Some Sufi orders engage in ritualized dhikr ceremonies, or sema. Sema includes various forms of worship such as: recitation, singing (the most well known being the Qawwali music of the Indian subcontinent), instrumental music, dance (most famously the Sufi whirling of the Mevlevi order), incense, meditation, ecstasy, and trance.
Some Sufi orders stress and place extensive reliance upon Dhikr. This practice of Dhikr is called Dhikr-e-Qulb (remembrance of Allah by Heartbeats). The basic idea in this practice is to visualize the Arabic name of God, Allah, as having been written on the disciple's heart.
 MuraqabaThe practice of muraqaba can be likened to the practices of meditation attested in many faith communities. The word muraqaba is derived from the same root (r-q-b) occurring as one of the 99 Names of God in the Qur'an, al-Raqîb, meaning "the Vigilant" and attested in verse 4: 1 of the Qur'an. Through muraqaba, a person watches over or takes care of the spiritual heart, acquires knowledge about it, and becomes attuned to the Divine Presence, which is ever vigilant.
While variation exists, one description of the practice within a Naqshbandi lineage reads as follows:
He is to collect all of his bodily senses in concentration, and to cut himself off from all preoccupation and notions that inflict themselves upon the heart. And thus he is to turn his full consciousness towards God Most High while saying three times: "Ilahî anta maqsûdî wa-ridâka matlûbî—my God, you are my Goal and Your good pleasure is what I seek." Then he brings to his heart the Name of the Essence—Allâh—and as it courses through his heart he remains attentive to its meaning, which is "Essence without likeness." The seeker remains aware that He is Present, Watchful, Encompassing of all, thereby exemplifying the meaning of his saying (may God bless him and grant him peace): "Worship God as though you see Him, for if you do not see Him, He sees you." And likewise the prophetic tradition: "The most favored level of faith is to know that God is witness over you, wherever you may be."
 VisitationIn popular Sufism (i.e., devotional practices that have achieved currency in world cultures through Sufi influence), one common practice is to visit the tombs of saints, great scholars, and righteous people. This is a particularly common practice in South Asia, where famous tombs include those of Khoja Afāq, near Kashgar, in China; Lal Shahbaz Qalander, in Sindh, Pakistan; Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, India. Likewise, in Fez, Morocco, a popular destination for such pious visitation is the Zaouia Moulay Idriss II and the yearly visitation to see the current Sheikh of the Qadiri Boutchichi Tariqah, Sheikh Sidi Hamza al Qadiri al Boutchichi to celebrate the Mawlid (which is usually televised on Morrocan National television).
 PersecutionTurkey: "Before the first world war there were almost 100,000 disciples of the Mevlevi order throughout the Ottoman empire. But in 1925, as part of his desire to create a modern, western-orientated, secular state, Atatürk banned all the different Sufi orders and closed their tekkes. Pious foundations were suspended and their endowments expropriated; Sufi hospices were closed and their contents seized; all religious titles were abolished and dervish clothes outlawed. ... In 1937, Atatürk went even further, prohibiting by law any form of traditional music, especially the playing of the ney, the Sufis' reed flute." 
Iran: The government of Iran is considering an outright ban on Sufism, according to the 2009 Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. It also reports:
- In February 2009, at least 40 Sufis in Isfahan were arrested after protesting the destruction of a Sufi place of worship; all were released within days.
- In January, Jamshid Lak, a Gonabadi Dervish from the Nematollahi Sufi order, one of the country's largest Sufi sects, was flogged 74 times after being convicted in 2006 of slander following his public allegation of ill-treatment by a Ministry of Intelligence official.
- In late December 2008, after the closure of a Sufi place of worship, authorities arrested without charge at least six members of the Gonabadi Dervishes on Kish Island and confiscated their books and computer equipment; their status is unknown.
- In November 2008, Amir Ali Mohammad Labaf was sentenced to a five-year prison term, 74 lashes, and internal exile to the southeastern town of Babak for spreading lies, based on his membership in the Nematollahi Gonabadi Sufi order.
- In October, at least seven Sufi Muslims in Isfahan, and five others in Karaj, were arrested because of their affiliation with the Nematollahi Gonabadi Sufi order; they remain in detention.
- In November 2007, clashes in the western city of Borujerd between security forces and followers of a mystic Sufi order resulted in dozens of injuries and the arrests of approximately 180 Sufi Muslims. The clashes occurred after authorities began bulldozing a Sufi monastery. It is unclear how many remain in detention or if any charges have been brought against those arrested. During the past year, there were numerous reports of Shi'a clerics and prayer leaders, particularly in Qom, denouncing Sufism and the activities of Sufi Muslims in the country in both sermons and public statements.
 Islam and Sufism
 Sufism and Islamic lawhadîth) attributed to Muhammad,"The Canon is my word, the order is my deed, and the truth is my interior state". Sufis believe the canon, order and truth are mutually interdependent. The order, the 'path' on which the mystics walk, has been defined as 'the path which comes out of the Canon, for the main road is called branch, the path, tariq.' No mystical experience can be realized if the binding injunctions of the Canon are not followed faithfully first. The path, order, however, is narrower and more difficult to walk. It leads the adept, called sâlik (wayfarer), in his sulûk (wayfaring), through different stations (maqâmât) until he reaches his goal, the perfect tawhîd, the existential confession that God is One. Shaykh al-Akbar Muhiuddeen Ibn Arabi mentions," When we see someone in this Community who claims to be able to guide others to God, but is remiss in but one rule of the Sacred Law - even if he manifests miracles that stagger the mind - asserting that his shortcoming is a special dispensation for him, we do not even turn to look at him, for such a person is not a sheikh, nor is he speaking the truth, for no one is entrusted with the secrets of God Most High save one in whom the ordinances of the Sacred Law are preserved. (Jami' karamat al-awliya')".
The Amman Message, a detailed statement issued by 200 leading Islamic scholars in 2005 in Amman, and adopted by the Islamic world's political and temporal leaderships at the Organisation of the Islamic Conference summit at Mecca in December 2005, and by six other international Islamic scholarly assemblies including the International Islamic Fiqh Academy of Jeddah, in July 2006, specifically recognized the validity of Sufism as a part of Islam.
 Traditional Islamic thought and SufismThe literature of Sufism emphasizes highly subjective matters that resist outside observation, such as the subtle states of the heart. Often these resist direct reference or description, with the consequence that the authors of various Sufi treatises took recourse to allegorical language. For instance, much Sufi poetry refers to intoxication, which Islam expressly forbids. This usage of indirect language and the existence of interpretations by people who had no training in Islam or Sufism led to doubts being cast over the validity of Sufism as a part of Islam. Also, some groups emerged that considered themselves above the Sharia and discussed Sufism as a method of bypassing the rules of Islam in order to attain salvation directly. This was disapproved of by traditional scholars.
For these and other reasons, the relationship between traditional Islamic scholars and Sufism is complex and a range of scholarly opinion on Sufism in Islam has been the norm. Some scholars, such as Al-Ghazali, helped its propagation while other scholars opposed it. W. Chittick explains the position of Sufism and Sufis this way:
In short, Muslim scholars who focused their energies on understanding the normative guidelines for the body came to be known as jurists, and those who held that the most important task was to train the mind in achieving correct understanding came to be divided into three main schools of thought: theology, philosophy, and Sufism. This leaves us with the third domain of human existence, the spirit. Most Muslims who devoted their major efforts to developing the spiritual dimensions of the human person came to be known as Sufis.
 Traditional and Neo-Sufi groupsSharia (traditional Islamic law) and the Sunnah are seen as crucial for any Sufi aspirant. One proof traditional orders assert is that almost all the famous Sufi masters of the past Caliphates were experts in Sharia and were renowned as people with great Iman (faith) and excellent practice. Many were also Qadis (Sharia law judges) in courts. They held that Sufism was never distinct from Islam and to fully comprehend and practice Sufism one must be an observant Muslim.
In recent decades there has been a growth of neo-Sufi movements in the West. Examples include the Universal Sufism movement, the Golden Sufi Center, the Sufi Foundation of America, the neo-sufism of Idries Shah, the International Association of Sufism, and Sufism Reoriented. Rumi has become one of the most widely read poets in the United States, thanks largely to the interpretative translations published by Coleman Barks.
 Islamic positions on non-Islamic Sufi groups
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Many of the great Sufi masters of the present and the past instruct that: one needs the form of the religious practices and the outer dimension of the religion to fulfill the goals of the inner dimension of Sufism (Proximity to God). The exoteric practices prescribed by God contain inner meanings and provide the means for transformation with the proper spiritual guidance of a master. It is thought that through the forms of the ritual and prescribed Islamic practices (prayer, pilgrimage, fasting, charity and affirmation of Divine Unity) the soul may be purified and one may then begin to embark on the mystical quest. In fact it is considered psychologically dangerous by some Sufi masters to participate in Sufi practices, such as "dhikr", without adhering to the outer aspects of Islam, which add spiritual balance and grounding to the practice.
Some traditional Sufis also object to interpretations of classical Sufis texts by writers who have no grounding in the traditional Islamic sciences and therefore no prerequisites for understanding such texts. These are considered by certain conventional Islamic scholars as beyond the pale of the religion. However, there are Islamic Sufi groups that are open to non-Muslim participation.