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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 ( 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

	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,

	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

		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"

		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

		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

		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 (d.1234), India/Bengal (d.1258), North Africa, Egypt,

		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

		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

		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) 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 every other

		Must complete all the requirements of each station
		before going on to next, cannot "skip" any stages,
		"states" (visionary experiences) come and go

		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*

		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

		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

Last Updated: March 30, 1996