What Flying Can Teach Us About Rising Above the Turbulence

Omid Safi

is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Thursday.

He is Director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center. He is the past Chair for the Study of Islam, and the current Chair for Islamic Mysticism Group at the American Academy of Religion. In 2009, he was recognized by the University of North Carolina for mentoring minority students in 2009, and won the Sitterson Teaching Award for Professor of the Year in April of 2010.

Omid is the editor of the volume Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, which offered an understanding of Islam rooted in social justice, gender equality, and religious and ethnic pluralism. His works Politics of Knowledge in Premodern Islam, dealing with medieval Islamic history and politics, and Voices of Islam: Voices of Change were published 2006. His last book, Memories of Muhammad, deals with the biography and legacy of the Prophet Muhammad. He has forthcoming volumes on the famed mystic Rumi, contemporary Islamic debates in Iran, and American Islam.

Omid has been among the most frequently sought speakers on Islam in popular media, appearing in The New York TimesNewsweekWashington Post, PBS, NPR, NBC, CNN and other international media. He leads an educational tour every summer to Turkey, to study the rich multiple religious traditions there. The trip is open to everyone, from every country. More information at Illuminated Tours.

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March 23rd, 2017

When turbulence strikes, we must rise above to find a place of calm.

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March 16th, 2017

In the resonant voice of Valarie Kaur, Omid Safi finds hope for the painful but fruitful path that we must take forward as a nation.

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March 9th, 2017

Solidarity on social media can be a source of hope, but there’s more required of us to affect meaningful change.

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March 2nd, 2017

To elevate the spirit, we must nurture the soul and the rational mind, alike.

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February 23rd, 2017

What if our relationship with God were more long, tender, even humorous?

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February 20th, 2017

Faced with scatteredness of mind, body, and spirit, Omid Safi offers a balm: the prayer of the heart.

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February 9th, 2017

A Muslim man reflects on the pain of citizenship in this moment and the fragile hope he holds from the nation he and his loved ones call home.

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February 4th, 2017

A deep inquiry into Trump’s immigration ban, and its subversion of the American ideals we’re called to embody.

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January 26th, 2017

The aspirational ideals of our nation call us to embody compassion toward the stranger, and those whom others might cast out.

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January 19th, 2017

Channeling Dr. King, Omid Safi examines where our nation stands on the long journey toward justice.

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January 12th, 2017

As we grow, the qualities we look for in our relationships change — and with them, the qualities we want to nurture in ourselves. Above all else, seek kindness.

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January 7th, 2017

In the light of a New Year’s sparkler, a metaphor for the illuminating capacity we hold within, despite our fleeting existence.

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December 15th, 2016

Witnessing the divorce of his friends, our columnist remembers the rituals of celebration. But, what would it be like to have similar rituals of support when things fall apart?

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December 9th, 2016

When going about our business, could we pay more attention to what we’re leaving behind for others in our wake?

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December 2nd, 2016

In our pursuit of justice, we must cling to what illuminates the darkness and keep the pain and indignation that fuel us from hardening to hatred.

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November 17th, 2016

Hope isn’t always soothing and soft. A pragmatic embrace of compassion, kindness, and truth-telling in the face of America’s rifts.

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November 12th, 2016

#Woke reflections on our nation’s deepest political and social wounds, and the hope to be found in our capacity to heal them, together.

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November 3rd, 2016

Accepting dark realities and difficult truths doesn’t negate love for our country. An appeal for choosing American aspiration over American pride, so that we might grow into the nation we want to be.

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October 27th, 2016

From soured relationships to dead bugs, it’s a given: life can get disgusting. But sometimes we can step back and recognize that we’re far from powerless in the face of things we fear.

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October 20th, 2016

An account of one man’s years with the legendary American bard, who spoke to a desire for authenticity, justice, and love.

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October 16th, 2016

A faith must account for the states and stages of life: joy and thriving, sorrow and death. Omid Safi honors the ritual of Ashura, a cornerstone of Islam whose historical, spiritual, and social significance carries forth to modern life.

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October 6th, 2016

Often, the remedy to what ails us is simpler than we think. Omid Safi shares a comedic lesson on recognizing the blessings that are already within us.

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September 29th, 2016

For Omid Safi, the words and movements of prayer are more than rote. A reflection on faith as a lived embodiment of love.

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September 22nd, 2016

A true friendship doesn’t only bring support and joy, but also challenges us to grow. Omid Safi reflects on the importance of nurturing relationships that acknowledge our imperfections, and nourish the best in us.

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September 19th, 2016

Who is the woman at the heart of the hajj? Omid Safi honors the roots of the global pilgrimage, and the social gravity that it holds for modern life.

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September 8th, 2016

Beyond our busyness and worn-out calendars, Omid Safi seeks out the places where the eternal shines through the temporal — and offers a benediction for the beloved.

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August 11th, 2016

The strength of spirituality lies in the just action it inspires. Omid Safi points to faith as inextricable from the work of bringing about a community of equity and love.

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July 28th, 2016

In the face of fear and hatred, it’s easy to be a mirror but harder still to hold fast to love and tenderness. Omid Safi calls for a more gritty, luminous love that manifests justice.

Activists walk through the crowd near the Quicken Loans Arena during the 2016 Republican National Convention July 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.
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July 21st, 2016

Drawing on the walking undead from Game of Thrones, Omid Safi comments on the stubborn disease of white supremacy, and on resisting its spread with the resilience of kinship and kindness.

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July 14th, 2016

In the wake of the violence in Falcon Heights, Baton Rouge, and Dallas, Omid Safi puts forth an impassioned call for the revolutionary work of love.

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July 7th, 2016

Omid Safi laments the violence and loss of life in the holy city of Medina, and calls on our true capacity for love and mercy to heal the rifts that divide us.

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June 30th, 2016

The Sufi tradition is infused with the beauty of art and song. Honoring singer Amjad Sabri, Omid Safi celebrates and gives thanks for the spiritual gift of the qawwali devotional.

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June 23rd, 2016

Fueled by a Vietnamese Zen master’s question, Omid Safi waxes lyrical on the many ways we need to be loved and need to love others in a time of turmoil and uncertainty.

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June 17th, 2016

Omid Safi honors each life lost in Orlando — with a hard look at the realities we face, and an appeal to the urgency of compassion to heal our wounds.

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June 9th, 2016

Our columnist Omid Safi pays tribute to the life of boxing legend Muhammad Ali and the legacy he lived.

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June 2nd, 2016

Inspired by a beautiful hike in the Swiss mountains, Omid Safi with a meditation on the jaggedness of our hearts’ stones, then and now. And some photos to illustrate it.

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May 26th, 2016

We have charms to ward off harmful glances, but what might they teach us about more gracious and loving communication? Omid Safi studies the significance of the “evil eye,” and wonders if it can inspire us to better interaction.

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May 19th, 2016

After a lifetime of learning and loving and losing, Omid Safi shares a few — five, to be precise — practical lessons to you and recent college graduates about what it means to lead a successful life.

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May 12th, 2016

Do we place women on an unrealistic pedestal when we celebrate Mother’s Day? Omid Safi on honoring motherhood in its fullest, most human sense, and moving to an ethics of care for all, whether family or fellow human beings.

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May 5th, 2016

We mourn people whom we have never met at a personal level. But why? Our columnist pens a loving in memoriam for Fr. Daniel Berrigan, an exemplar of fierce love and radical faith, a man he never met.

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April 27th, 2016

As social creatures, we are shaped by our unity with one another. Omid Safi on the power of connectedness to magnify the good in ourselves and in our neighbors.

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April 21st, 2016

North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” has created quite a stir, a political and cultural imbroglio. Omid Safi on the need to stand up and not remain silent, no matter what action you might take.

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April 14th, 2016

We so often highlight acts of hostility and hate, but we have a tougher time amplifying the good. Omid Safi appeals to our collective power to undermine hatred by elevating the good and the beautiful.

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April 7th, 2016

To put the children first is a parent’s most basic instinct. But when does self-sacrifice become self-destruction? Omid Safi offers a new understanding of the importance of self-care.

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March 31st, 2016

The violence in Lahore on Easter Sunday thrusts us once again into disbelief and mourning. Omid Safi on the necessity of the right response, and the resilient stories of love and neighborliness that often go unreported in the face of terror.

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March 24th, 2016

Faith can be a salve for the soul in the face of the suffering we witness. But, Omid Safi reminds us, our spiritual love must be bolstered by how we stand for the weak and vulnerable in our midst.

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March 17th, 2016

The clock presses upon us and our families every day. A reminder that it’s not the roses we should stop to smell, but the most tender gestures written in the morning’s light.

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March 10th, 2016

Reflecting on a line from Wendell Berry, our columnist Omid Safi reflects on our collective worthiness for love and the gift we deserve regardless of our circumstances or stations in life.

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March 3rd, 2016

Presidential politics and front-running candidates are prompting some Americans to ask the question, “Where would I move to?” Omid Safi prompts another kind of reckoning — of an America yet that has yet to be.

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February 25th, 2016

Challenged by Donald Trump’s recent fear-mongering, Omid Safi asks us to look deeply into our history and ourselves and find the courage to save our democratic experiment.

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