How has Sufism been significant throughout history?
Sufiism is a division, so to speak, of Islam that developed among Muslims about 700 CE, and was apparently a rebellion of sorts against the Umayyed and Abbasyd Caliphates, which many felt were becoming inappropriately sophisticated and attached to worldly trappings of materialistic goods and lifestyles. Sufiism seeks to embrace the mystical aspects of Islam in a manner that encourages followers to seek love in all things and live as closely as possible to the spirit and tenets of Muhammad.
Sufiism is credited with spurring on the spread of Islamic culture around the world, although recent years have seen the persecution of Sufis in some countries, including Muslim ones. The poetry of the Sufi poet, Jalal al-Din Rumi, translated by contemporary poet Coleman Barks, is very popular among serious, and not-so-serious American poetry lovers for its beautiful images and phrasing; America has also seen the development of a neo-Sufi movement, which appeals to many people who believe it to be a less controversial path to the principles of Islam.