This Labor Day weekend, La Casa de Maria will be the site of the Southwest Sufi School’s ( Sufi retreat. For the first time ever, Sufi master and guide Sidi Shaykh Muhammad Sa’id al-Jamal ar-Rifa’i ash-Shadhuli ( al-Jamal for short-will visit Santa Barbara to spend three days praying, chanting, and feasting with his followers as part of his annual trip to the U.S.

The retreat begins Friday, September 4, at 2 p.m. and finishes Monday, September 7, at 1 p.m., following an all-night prayer vigil that begins at 1 p.m. on Sunday (all religions are invited). The event aims to enhance the spiritual experience for all involved, and the Santa Barbara sanctuary La Casa de Maria (, nestled in foliage near Montecito’s Upper Village, is the perfect setting; according to L.A. Sufi Center moderator Cheri Langdell, the “sacredness of the place” is tangible.

Aside from witnessing the teachings of a “world-known healer and scholar of Sufi studies,” attendees may also expect to benefit from the presence of at least three other teachers while enjoying meals before sunrise and after sundown-in observance of Ramadan-and attending classes and practices throughout the day.

While the retreat is ideal for practiced Sufis, the event welcomes newcomers as well. Although University of Spiritual Healing and Sufism ( president Dr. Ibrahim Jaffe ( defined Sufism as “the heart of Islam; the root of the metaphorical tree of Islam,” he also identified that the goal of Sidi’s annual trip to the U.S. is “to stimulate the organic spread of love; to address people searching for truth.”

Jaffe, a medical doctor, claims that Sidi saved his life after he was diagnosed with a rare heart disease at the age of 36. Jaffe said, “I went to Sidi, and he told me, ‘I see that you are dying and that you have six months to live’ before giving me three orders: Learn to love, embrace Sufism, and follow a prescription of herbs and medicines; and I recovered.” As Langdell said, “When you’re around Sidi, there are little miracles, things start to go better.”

As Jaffe described, “Sidi is a very high Sufi master who has reached a state of God realization; the higher you travel, the more you embody the Godly light.”

The event is expected to bring nearly 200 people to La Case de Maria from a broad spectrum of religious paths, largely due to Sidi’s presence. Said Langdell, “This is truly a landmark event for Santa Barbara. Sidi al-Jamal is the highest ranking Sufi in Jerusalem.” For those who are interested in Sufism, Langdell recommends the poetry of world-renowned Sufi poet Rumi whose mystically spiritual poetry is available widely through the translation of Shahram Shiva ( among others.


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