The open-minded practice of Sufism is known as a mystical system that can easily attract believers from other religions. Today, as in the past, Jews, Christians and followers of other religions have flocked to this practice, studying under Sufi masters and learning the Sufi Way. The Sufi chronicler Idries Shah has outlined past Sufi influence on St. Francis of Assisi, the Troubadours, St. Augustine, the Rosicrucians, Maimonides, the Jewish Kabbalah and a host of other medieval and modern religious movements.
While much of this contact is incidental or indirect – Sufism reached St. Francis, for instance, through the writings of a Jewish intermediary translated into Latin – there was a time of profound Sufi influence on the direction and thought of the mystics of the Jewish religion. Though it is buried beneath centuries of historical disregard and even outright denial, the fact remains that more than 700 years ago, Jewish leaders not only had a wide-ranging dialogue with Islamic mystics, but also borrowed liberally from them to bring an Islamic brand of piousness into medieval synagogue rites. In the 13th century, Abraham Maimonides, son of the great Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, not only wrapped Islamic mystical practice into his view of Judaism, but also considered himself a Jewish Sufi, a practitioner of both Jewish and Islamic mysticism!
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