The Murshida, or Spiritual Teacher
At the heart of the life of the student of Sufism Reoriented is his or her relationship with the order’s spiritual director or murshida (murshid when a man), a term adopted from traditional sufism that simply means “teacher” or “guide”. The office of murshida requires a level of spiritual understanding and experience such that one can guide others effectively.
Chosen for this office by her predecessors, the murshida supervises all the activities of Sufism Reoriented, offering spiritual guidance based on the principles of higher love, truth, purity, and selfless service to God’s world, as integrated in her own experience in living. She steadily offers guidance, sometimes through counsel, usually at the student’s request, but more often indirectly through example and by sharing the life of the student, quietly supporting his or her efforts to overcome the lower nature while recognizing, silently appreciating, and reinforcing the student’s successes. Close association with the light of the teacher inspires and nourishes the student’s growth.
The relationship with the teacher is therefore central to the Sufi student. As the teacher is the friend of the student’s soul, the student understands this as a rare privilege and sacred trust, and most often responds with deep, often unspoken, love. For many, it is the most intimate and treasured association in their lives.
Dr. Carol Weyland Conner was named murshida by both her predecessors, Murshida Ivy O. Duce and Murshid James MacKie, and assumed office in 2001. Born in 1942, she grew up in Central California’s San Joaquin Valley. She studied English literature at UC Berkeley, French literature at the Sorbonne in Paris, and medieval studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore before receiving her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Catholic University in Washington, DC, in 1976. After teaching for several years in the George Washington University School of Medicine, she went into private practice as a therapist, practicing for twenty-five years in Walnut Creek, California, during which time she was also a volunteer counselor with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in San Francisco.
Murshida Conner has always had a deep love for America’s cities, so rich in promise but plagued by poverty, alienation, and neglect. Having lived and worked in Washington, DC, and San Francisco, she has a special concern for the impact of these conditions on growing children. As the murshida of Sufism Reoriented, she has mobilized the order’s members and resources to respond increasingly to the call to serve children and neighbors in need.