THE GNOSIS ARCHIVE
Gnostic Studies on the Web
The following selection was posted by: IRWINL@cofc.edu
Date: Fri, 22 Apr 1994 14:24:25 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Sufi Mystica
by Zos Imos
The following is a brief summary or basic overview of Sufism as i understand it, through study, practice and experience. It is presented in outline form to facillitate easy reading and review. Written by request, i try to address only the most basic and fundamental issues. Like all summaries, it is inadequate and only introductory. Real learning comes through direct experience and reading is not a substitute for real knowledge of the heart. May this document be a source of good for others and may no injury or harm be wrought by it's insufficiency or lack. Questions may be addressed to Zos at (Irwinl@ashley.cofc.edu).
I.TARIQAH...in Islam, the "spiritual path," also Tasawwuf "Sufism" or "esotericism" ...possibly from suf = "wool" or safa' = "purity"; also refers to "method" or "inner beliefs" A. "SUFI"...a follower of the mystical path, those who seek experience of the tawhid...the term applies only to the most advanced practitioners 1. Various stages, according to development of the individual: Aspirant: who wants to be initiated, but who may have to wait years to be accepted by spiritual teacher Mutasawwif: "novice" (murid) or one who "wills" to follow a spiritual teacher; also called Faqir "poor one" or world renouncing, or Darwish (Pers.) Salik: "wandered" who may follow many different teachers seeking goal, many different states or "level" 'Arif: "knower" or "gnostic" who has actually experienced the reality of the Tawhid Shaykh/Murshid: spiritual guide, teacher and example; those whose presence is an inpsiration to spiritualk development, matuirty and illumination Wali: "saint" who possesses a direct experience of the reality of God demonstrated through extraordinary spiritual knowledge or mircales becomes spiritual guide (Shaykh) Al-Insan al-Kamil "perfect man" who is the great spiritual teacher of the age, called qutb or "pole" (Ahmad al-Alawi, d.1934) B. SOURCE...the holy Qur'an and the Hadiths or "sayings" of Muhammud as the first "sufi"...term not developed until c.850 CE 1. QUR'AN...Sufis emphasize *ta'wi*l or allegoric or symbolic interpretations, but do not deny *tafsir* or literal meanings Every passage of Qur'an believed to have both outer (zahir) and an inner (batin) or inner, hidden meaning Ayat "verses" of Qur'an but also means "signs" which are the manifestations of nature and all created reality, everything is a "sign" of the reality of God "We are nearer to him than his juggular vein." (Qur'an 50:16) "To God belongs the East and the West: wherever you turn, there is the Face of Allah; Allah is All -Embracing, All-Knowing." (Qur'an 2:115) *Wajh Allah*: "Face of God" is an allusion (*isharah*) referring to the essence and attributes, invisible and eternal Emphasis on *Dhikr* "remembering" or "mentioning" God, who has 99 Names..."Mention God often" (Qur'an 3:41) 2. Sunna/Hadith...Sufism begins with the "people of the bench" (ahl as-suffa), poor who practiced asceticism, or zuhd (sg. zahid, pl. zuhhad); and lived at Mosque in Medina during the life of Muhammud Emphasize Hadith Qudsi "divine sayings" or God speaking through Muhammud: "I was a hidden treasure, and I desired to be known; therefore I created the creation in order that I might be known." [Immanance] "My earth and My heaven contain Me not, but the heart of the faithful servant contains Me." [Transcendence] "Consult your heart and you will hear the secret ordinance of Allah proclaimed by the heart's inward knowledge, which is true faith and divinity." "I am with My servant whenever he remembers Me and his lips move [remembering]." Muhammud's Night Journey (mi'raj): archetypal example of the "journey to God" through seven heavens to the Throne (17:11) C. SUFI HISTORY...begins with Muhammud, Abu Bakr, Umar and 'Ali (not Uthman)...especially the practice of asceticism (zuhd) and spiritual poverty (faqr), leading to knowledge 1. Early Period...Hasan al-Basri (d.728), famous theologian and preacher, early saintly figure in Islam, emphasized total dedication of life to God, not philosophical doctrine (Basr) -SAHW "Sober" school in complete accordance with Sunni Islam; first follow the Shari'ah, then follow Tariqah; emphasis on "spiritual behavior/actions" or "asceticism" (Zuhd) Example: Rabi'a al-'Adawiya (d.801), most famous woman saint in Islam (Basr), emotionally centered, away from legalism, never married Rabi'a emphasized the importance of Mahabbah or "selfless love" and devotion to God; "neither for the reward of Paradise nor from fear of Hell, for only God can fulfill the longing of the soul for union" Goal of ecstatic love, union of the lover (soul) with the Beloved (God) Example: Al-Junayd (d.910) most famous sober Sufi, respected teacher and Shaykh, developed concept of spiritual "path" both ethical and philosophical Emphasize the imporatnce of Mar'ifah or "selfless knowledge" or gnosis, mystical, intellectual approach (theosophical) Goal of Fana' "extinction" or "annihilation" in God, "Whatever exists is perishing (fanin), except His Face." (Qur'an 55:27)...not ittihad "union" (that is shirk, or "association, attributing to God something other) -SUKR "Intoxication" of Fana'school, new life in God is one of ecstatic union, joy and wonder Example: Al-Hallaj (d.922) most famous Sufi martyr, was imprisoned for nine years and then, after having hands and feet cut off, executed Emphasized "oneness" with God, wrote Ana al-Haqq, "I am Truth/Reality", also claimed to have miraculous powers Christic (both persecuted) Intoxicated by Divine Presence, no distinction between individual and God, give utterance to questionable statement (shirk, "association": There is only God or Truth, no second...mystical union is heretical) Practiced *shathiyat* "mystical utterance" said while in ecstatic state, non-orthodox -Malamatiyya...those who "draw blame" or delibrately draw the contempt of others while preserving purity of heart, those who do not care if other Muslim accept their faith or actions as legitimate This can lead to exaggeration and excess and gave bad reputation to other Sufis, drew distain from other orthodox Muslims 2. SUFI ORDERS...many different orders, or "brotherhoods" (turuq, sg. ta'ifa "association or order"); three types: "alive" active "master"; "sleeping" no current "master"; or "dead" n extinct, no followers Shaykh (Pir in Persian), each order takes name from a "master," "teacher" or "healer" part of *silsala*, or "chain" of traditional teacher-student realtionships Imam tradition of the Shi'ite also has mystical tradition, emphasis on "Man of Light" (Light of Muhammud)...Sixth Imam, major Sufi influence Zawwiya...meditation and prayer center for collective practice of spiritual disciplines (also Kanaqah, Per.) Uwaysi or one who obtains illumination without being a member of follower of a spiritual teacher Majdhub "attracted" spontaneously, but also "crazed", by powerful religious visions (God Intoxicated) One of the earliest Sufi Order was founded by Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (d.1166), student of Hanbali fiqh in Baghdad (sober), prominent in India and North Africa Suhrawardiya...al-Suhrawardi (d.1234), India/Bengal Shadhiliya...al-Shadhili (d.1258), North Africa, Egypt, Arabia Mawlawiya...Jalal al-Din al-Rumi (d.1273), in Konya, Turkey..."whirling dervishes" Ibn 'Arabi (d. 1240) great master of Sufism, wrote many works on mystical journey, cosmology, symbolism, etc...over 500 works, only 3-4 translated into English Sufism preserved Islam during the collapse of Abbasid (Mongols) and assisted social integration during modern period, as spiritual base for soical transformation D. SUFI METHOD...the Shari'ah is the "outer/external" (zahir) requirements that all must follow; those seeking greater fulfillment take on additional practices, not required but recommended 1. Has Orthodoxy basis...followers expected to "kiss the threshold of the law", and fulfill all legal requirements of Islam, then find a spiritual teacher and undertake additional individual and communal disciplines Disagreements...some teachers have said that only necessary to fulfill the minimul requirements, others emphasize greater involvement in orthodox practices Sharia'ah (Law) is not final authority on spiritual issues, the Shaykh has knowledge suitable to disposition of the Faqir (Seeker) Must seek out apporpriate teacher who may reject until convinced of sincerity, period of probation may last years Teaching is private and often secret, many not understand teachings 2. Method...a devotional path of progressive development or "unveiling of the heart" or discovering the "thrones of compassion" dwelling in every soul Both negative and postive, disciple must go through negative experience to realize the falsehood of his views Observe the basic tenets of the Shari'ah, renounce worldly (unworthy) goals Intense practice of self-examination and spiritual disciplines given by Shaykh to identify "weaknesses" (and then strengthen) Ikhlas "absolute sincerity" is critical, seeker must believe in the inner truths of the path Positive and negative experiences, reveal limitations and potential of novice Results in true knowledge of the Tawhid or Haqiqah "Truth" (Name of God) 3. Stages...form hierarchy "stations" (maqam, pl. maqamat) and "states" (hal, pl. ahwal)...seven most common...station permanent, state is "gift" of God to novice Emphasis on Ihsan or "spiritual virtues" usually start with "repentance" (tawbat) and "renunciation" (zuhd) Initiate must be as "a corpse in the hands of the embalmer"...complete submission to Shaykh Bay'ah...initiatic grace given by the Shaykh to the Faqir, *barakah* passed on from teacher to initiate Recieves khirqa "cloak", usually patched garment representing renunciation of worldly value (dark blue, green highest)...cloak is shroud, room--a tomb Fourty days of retreat, entirely alone in meditation room with only mat; not until judged ready by Shaykh Shaykh interpretes all dreams and visions, emphasis on fasting and not sleeping, to draw the *nafs* "soul" away from world; spend nights in prayer...fast every other day Must complete all the requirements of each station before going on to next, cannot "skip" any stages, "states" (visionary experiences) come and go spontaneously Repentance, trust in God, poverty, patience, gratitude, love, and "knowledge"...complete surrender (Muslim), or *tawakkul* "trust", only God Dhikr..."rememberance" or repetition of the names of God (formulaic prayer/chant), which contain al-Ruh spiritual power (as does the entire Qur'an) "Remember Me and I will remember thee." (Qur'an 2:152), to overcome forgetfulness (ghaflah) or "illusion" (wahm) to realize the Unity of Allah (tawhid) Three types of repetition, daily after at least two of the five required prayers, a) 33 repetitions of Subhan Allah (Glory to God), b) al-hamdu l'illah (Praise be to God), and c) Allahu akbar (God is great)..."said from the heart" Tasbih (subha) "rosary" used as prayer beads used to count repetitions (33 or 99 for Names)...true *dhikr* leads to *Mushahada*, silent contemplation Recited "alone" under supervision of Shaykh, with breath control while (silent); or "communally" under supervision of Shaykh, with singing or movements Sama' "audition/hearing"...musical recitations (mystical poetry, Qur'an, music) which leads to *wajd* "trance" Must resist the affects of trance--tears, tearing of clothes, cries, fainting...intense love of God, divine Presence. leads higher and higher if controlled Haqiqah or Truth...the Goal, a mystical experience, called dhawq "tasting" the immediate reality of God (al-Ghazali) Removal of wahm "opinion" "conjecture" "illusion" or the veil of ignorance...attain the "vision of the heart" (ru'yat al-qalb), direct spiritual intuition Acquire an-nafs al-mutma'inna "soul at peace" with God almost all Muslim Saints have belonged to Sufi orders, primary source of spiritual renewal Millions of Muslims have participated in Sufi orders, hundreds of thousands active today, presently about 70 Orders