Sufi Film Aims To Show Gentler Side Of Islam

religion | May 21, 2009 | By Robert Duncan

A film about Sufism from a region better known for the Taliban aims to show a gentler side of Islam. The film, "Kashf: The Lifting Of The Veil," is described as the first English-speaking feature film from Pakistan in 30 years and is being distributed by "Spiritual Cinema Circle."

According to an article at "CHUP! – Changing Up Pakistan", "the movie explores Sufism - the mystical side of Islam- through the eyes of Armaghan, who was born after an oath his mother made to a Sufi Pir when she was childless. Armaghan’s mother promises the Pir, who blesses her, to let her son ‘walk the Sufi path’ when he grows up. However, he returns to Pakistan from America after 25 years, unaware of the secret about to change his life."

Sufism is not a Islamic denomination, but rather a mystical-ascetic form of Islam. Followers of Sufism aim to focus on the more spiritual aspects of Islam and to obtain direct experience of God by being trained how to used what are described as "intuitive and emotional faculties."

While Sufism and Islamic law are considered to be complementary, Sufism is criticized by more fundamentalist Muslims - such as followers of Wahhabism - as being a heretical innovation of Islam.

Kashf, the film's website claims, "is a story of universal relevance exploring humanity’s basic questions of who we are, and why we are here." The film's promoters say they hope that once viewers see the film they will "ask if Sufism and its history in Pakistan can stem the tide of extremism and the Taliban."

Kashf's director is the Pakistani television actress Ayesha Khan who is based in New York and Santa Fe. In an interview posted at "CHUP! – Changing Up Pakistan," Khan said it's difficult to gauge how strongly Sufism "influences Pakistan today versus the past but one must keep in mind, unlike Wahhabism which is a recent phenomena, Sufism has been part of this land we claim as Pakistan since before the 12th century. It permeates and enriches our culture and our identity in ways which are visceral and we should as a nation be determined to preserve that." Later in that interview, Khan added, "If the government was serious in its intent and reached out with a long term goal of education to people in Pakistan and providing means with which they could be economically viable, the elements at risk would themselves realize the fabulously coined label of Taliban are nothing but thugs who are hiding behind a façade of Islam which has nothing to do with the practice of Islam."

Besides Khan, actress Ali MacGraw also lives in Santa Fe. Kashf's promoters say MacGraw saw the film at the Santa Fe Film Festival and called it "a huge and impressive accomplishment. I was fascinated to see the many aspects of Pakistan which are not normally accessible to us on our television reportage ... a riveting film."

In recent years MacGraw has been known as a proponent of Hatha Yoga and her "Yoga Mind and Body," and was credited in June 2007 by Vanity Fair as being one of the people responsible for the yoga's popularity in the United States.

Kashf was nominated for Best Editing at The Santa Fe Festival, and is currently playing in various Art House Theaters and various universities, including Brown, Stanford, NYU and Columbia.

Film Distributed By New Age Subscription Company

Kashf is being distributed over the internet by the New Age internet DVD subscription company Spiritual Cinema Circle.

In an online interview at, Spiritual Cinema Circle co-founder Stephen Simon said, "We see Spiritual Cinema as the 21st Century version of shamanic storytelling - with filmmakers as the modern day shamans, sitting around a celluloid campfire, passing down the myths and hopes of a culture from one generation to another."

Spiritual Cinema Circle has previously distributed films such as "What the Bleep Do We Know," "The Secret," and "Conversations With God."

In that same interview, Simon said his company seeks to differentiate between "Religion" and "Spirituality."

"'Religion' reflects the teachings of particular organized religions that commonly present specific rules, regulations, and rituals that must be followed in order to experience a connection with the Divine which is usually identified as male and outside of humanity. 'Spirituality' entails a more personal, inner-directed, and individual experience of the Divine, which is represented as an integral aspect of our own humanity. The Passion would be a classic example of Religious Cinema while Whale Rider would be a prime example of Spiritual Cinema," Simon was quoted as saying.

"Spiritual Cinema illuminates the landscape of our evolution and stirs us to remember who we can be when we reach beyond the seen into a realm where we engage the magical aspects of our human potential," Simon said elsewhere in that interview.

In that vein, Kashf is described as exploring "one man’s journey towards Sufism, the mystical side of Islam. In the midst of worldwide headlines of the Taliban, 'Kashf: The Lifting Of The Veil' focuses on the human face of Pakistan and its cultural heritage of Sufism and Spirituality."

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Robert Steven Duncan is a consultant and a widely published foreign correspondent who lives in Spain. Besides having articles appearing in WSJ, Barron's, Smart Money, Newsweek, the National Catholic Register and many other places, he has held various leadership posts in the communication sector. He publishes the "RSD Report" at

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not of Spero News.

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