Saturday, August 4, 2012

Islam and Sufism : A Mysticism in Islam

I wonder
from these thousand of "me's",
which one am I?
Listen to my cry, do not drown my voice
I am completely filled with the thought of you.
Don't lay broken glass on my path
I will crush it into dust.
I am nothing, just a mirror in the palm of your hand,
reflecting your kindness, your sadness, your anger.
If you were a blade of grass or a tiny flower
I will pitch my tent in your shadow.
Only your presence revives my withered heart.
You are the candle that lights the whole world
and I am an empty vessel for your light.

Sufism is the core of Islam .Islam and Sufism cannot be separated in the same way that higher consciousness or awakening cannot be separated from Islam. Islam is not an historical phenomenon that began 1,400 years ago. It is the timeless art of awakening by means of submission love. Sufism is the heart of Islam. It is as ancient as the rise of human consciousness.
Many mentors and scholars may join issue with the above statement. They perceive sufism as an unacceptable distortion of Islamic beliefs and way of life. They find the rituals and practices as well as the believe wonder
of many sufis repugnant to the teachings of Islam. They argue that sufism has brought about a confusion in the minds of its believers leading them away from the simplicity and purity of the glorious faith. Many orientalists, on the other hand, do not accept that sufism has a direct link with Islam and reject the idea that it has evolved from the consciousness inspired by the Quraan or the teachings of Muhammad. They affirm that its origin is firmly embedded in the mysticism of the Jew and Christian hermits and monks of the time and that their traditions not only inspired but also dictated the evolution of sufism. 

The historical links between the three major monotheistic faiths makes it inevitable for a measure of similarity in the spiritual experience in each of them and this commonality of experience is seen by many enlightened scholars as an important factor which might be constructively employed for engendering a better understanding between the three communities. 

"If Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no little in Common in spite of their deep dogmatic differences," remarks the Editor of 'the Mysticism of Islam ' by R. A. Nicholson 1966 edition, "the spiritual content of that common element can best be appreciated in Jewish, Christian and Islamic mysticism, which bears equal testimony to that ever-deepening experience of the soul when the spiritual worshipper, whether he be follower of Moses or Jesus or Muhammad, turn whole- heartedly to God."
The hostility from within Islam is always countered by the argument that mysticism is founded not only on Quraan but also the sayings of the Prophet and the Imaams from his progeny. While it is conceded that the rituals and the practices of certain Sufi sects may seem to be offensive to the purity of the spirit of Islam, sufism par excellence is the science of gnosis which like many other sciences has its roots in Islamic culture. 

"This science can be studied from two angles, one of them being sociological and the other scientific...............From scientific point of view the adepts in gnosis (IRFAAN) are called gnostics ('ARIFS). From social point of view they are known as sufis. 

Anyhow, the gnostics and sufis are not an organized separate sect, nor do they claim to have formed any such cult. They are scattered over all Muslim sects. 

But from social point of view they form a separate group and a separate body, having its characteristic ideas and special manners of life. They wear aparticular type of dress and grow their hair in a particular style. They live in hospices etc. Thus the sufis have to a certain extent become a separate sect from religious as well as social point of view
Anyhow there have always been and there are still, especially among the Shiahs, gnostics who are not apparently distinct from others, yet they are closely associated with gnosis and spiritual journey." (3) 

The author clearly has in mind many Shiah mujtahids and scholars both of the past and the present who have, as Shiah leaders, made major contribution to irfaan. The most notable amongst the recent ones are Ayatullah Khumaini, Ayatullah Khooi, Allamah Muhammad Hussain Tabaatabaai and the author himself, Allamah Murtaza Mutahharri. None of these or any other mujtahid has ever established or encouraged the establishment of a separate organization or promoted any of the recognized sufi rituals. They have always welcomed, and also contributed to, the development of gnosis as a science.
Ayatullah Khumaini, in his lectures on the opening chapter of Quraan deals at length with the misunderstanding regarding sufism and concludes: "We find certain scholars denying the validity of mysticism. This is regrettable." (4)
In these lectures we shall confine ourselves to the "scientific" aspects of sufism and make only such cursory references to the "social" aspects as may be relevant.

"The function of religion is to bestow order upon human life and to establish an "outward" harmony upon whose basis man can return inwardly to his Origin by means of the journey towards the "interior" direction.
This universal function is especially true of Islam, this last religion of humanity,which is a Direct injunction to establish order in human society and within the human soul and at the same time to make possible the interior life, to prepare the soul to return unto its Lord and enter the Paradise which is none other than the Divine Beatitude. God is at once the First (al-awwal) and the Last (al-akhir), the Outward (al-zahir) and the Inward (al-batin). By the function of His outwardness He creates a world of separation and otherness and through His inwardness He brings men back to their Origin. Religion is the means whereby this journey is made possible, and it recapitulates in its structure the creation itself which issues from God and returns unto Him." (5) 

The Quraan states in II:156 "Lo ! We are Allah's and lo ! to Him is our return." 

The practical aspect of gnosis describes man's relation with the world and with Allah and explains the duties of the seeker if he wishes to attain unity with Allah. This part of gnosis is called the spiritual journey (sayr wa sulook). It explains that man must attain total comprehension of monotheism and that to attain this he has to travel through various stages. This journey can be undertaken only under the supervision of a spiritual guide who has passed through all the stages of the journey.
The monotheism which a gnostic seeks is not the monotheism which a philosopher would understand it to be. To a philosopher, unity or oneness of Allah means that there is only one Essential Being to the exclusion of any other. A gnostic maintains that oneness of Allah means that Allah is the only really existing being. The existence of everything else is illusory. The spiritual journey is a journey of the human being as the illusory being to the stage where he may not see anything but Allah. This journey can only be undertaken if one has purified one's heart and one's soul through constant spiritual effort. 

It is easy to confuse Sufism with Asceticism (Zuhd). Asceticism is the renunciation of the world for the sake of spiritual upliftment and the attainment of the hereafter. Gnosis may involve a measure of asceticism but the objective is to undertake the spiritual journey. 

To prove validity of spiritual journey and gaining proximity to Allah, various verses from Quraan are cited. a. From the Holy Quraan XXIV:35-38
Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is as a niche wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a shining star. (This lamp is ) kindled from a blessed tree, an olive neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would almost glow forth (of itself) through no fire touched it. Light upon light, Allah guideth unto His light whom he will. And Allah speaketh to mankind in allegories, for Allah is Knower of all things: (This lamp is found) in houses which Allah hath allowed to be exalted and that His name shall be remembered therein. Therein do offer praise to Him at morn and evening-men whom neither merchandise nor sale beguileth from remembrance of Allah and constancy in prayer and paying to the poor their due; who fear a day when hearts and eyeballs will be overturned; that Allah may reward them with the best of what they did, and increase reward for them of His bounty. Allah giveth blessings without stint to whom he will.
b. The Holy Quraan refers to the appetitive soul (nafsul-ammarah), the admonishing soul (nafsul-lawamah) and the contented soul (nafsul-mutmainnah) and says in Sura Fajr (The Dawn):
But ah! thou soul at peace! Return unto thy Lord, content in His good pleasure! Enter thou among my bondmen! Enter thou My Garden!
The Holy Quraan LXXXIX:27-30
And again in Surah Shams (The Sun):
And a soul and Him Who perfected it and inspired it (with conscience of) what is wrong for it and (what is) right for it, he is indeed successful who causes it to grow. And he indeed is a failure who stunteth it.
The Holy Quraan XCI:7-8
c. The Quraan repeatedly exhorts mankind to strive for Allah's pleasure and in Surah Ankabut (The Spider):
As for those who strive in us, We surely guide them to Our paths, and lo! Allah is with the good.
The Holy Quraan XXIX:69
d. Also from the Quraan:
"He is the First and the Last, and the Outward and the Inward; and He is the Knower of all things."
The Holy Quraan LVII:3
e. From the Quraan:
"We verily created man and We know what his soul whispereth to him and We are nearer to him than his jugular vein."
The Holy Quraan L:16
In addition to the Quraanic references the gnostics also rely upon several sayings and sermons of the Prophet Muhammad and the Holy Imaams. a. The Holy Prophet has said:
"He who has known his self has known Allah."
 The following two quotations from the compilation of sermons and sayings of Imam Ali  are also relevant.
"There is no doubt that Allah the Almighty has made His remembrance the polish of the hearts. By means of it the deaf begin to hear, the blind begin to see and the arrogant become submissive. In every age and period Allah the Almighty has created men in whose minds He puts His secrets and through whose intellect he talks to them."
Sermon 220 "A godly person enlivens his heart and annihilates his ego till what is coarse becomes soft. A bright light like lightening shines in front of him, shows him the way and helps him in advancing towards Allah. Many doors push him forward till he reaches the gate of peace and safety and arrives at the destination where he has to stay. His feet are firm and his body contented, for he uses his heart and pleases his Lord."
Sermon 218

1 comment:

  1. Sufism is the ultimate way of Islam.Thanks for a nice artical.