The Sufi approach is relevant both to today’s society and to questions that will shape humanity’s direction in the future. Issues relating to community values, cultural diversity, environmental preservation, economic equity, and conflict resolution are all considered in the teachings of Islam. Historically, various Sufi masters sought to address these issues. Today, those engaged in Sufi practices are applying their knowledge of Tasawwuf to fields as varied as sustainable development, education, therapy, parenting, science and technology, and cross-cultural communication.
But Sufism’s greatest tool for addressing global issues is not its tradition of social action. Disciples of Sufism view service as a means, not an end. Outer work alone cannot resolve the problems that beset humanity, for these problems’ roots lie in the human heart. Attempts to deal with problems on the level of the problems may succeed; more likely, they will not. We must look beyond external manifestations into the hearts of human beings everywhere- and, more specifically, into our own hearts. If a person’s heart is noble, if his or her feelings are refined and enlightened, then that person will not burden the world. That person will not be part of the problem, but part of the solution. If more people consciously undertook to enlighten their own hearts, then they would each become part of the answer to global needs. If conferences, committees, and councils were staffed by Sufis, the world would not be in the state it is in!
Dedicated practice of Sufism makes for an increasingly integrated and transformed human being. Such a person can only benefit his or her community and society as a whole. There is a pressing need for such people – for people who, while fulfilling their outer responsibilities, are also inwardly attentive and refined. Our societies need people who act from their hearts, with hearts that are refined and loving.
No one can change the world single-handedly. Each person can change himself or herself and, having done so, influence others to do the same. Sufism is not now, nor has it ever been, a mass movement. It operates on an individual level. It attempts to light candles in the darkness. In this way, Sufism yields a particular harvest within society. Today, more than ever before, society needs the fruits of that harvest.