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How Hearts Align in a Muslim Ritual

Christopher Manoharan and Dimitris Xygalatas: Sufis often refer to the dhikr as “the way of the heart”: Participants’ hearts are said to beat as one, rejoicing in remembrance of Allah. We were curious to see whether this notion would be supported by biological data. Similar studies elsewhere have shown that those who are emotionally and socially connected may experience the alignment of physiological responses. For example, researchers have demonstrated synchronous heart rate patterns between fire-walkers and socially related spectators, as well as between romantic partners. Interestingly, Sufis at the lodge are often addressed by their shaykh as aşıklar, or “lovers.” Our recent (not yet published) research shows that their quest to unify hearts in celebration of God does go beyond metaphor: Their hearts really do beat as one.

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