Islamic Mysticism

Tasawwuf is an Arabic terminology for Islamic Mysticism (or Islamic Sufism as being referred to in the West). It’s a collective term that pertains to the various ways that the Sufis follow (Practitioners of Tasawwuf) to reach God (Allah) by way of heading towards the inwardness of His revealed religion - Islam. It has been defined further in many ways. According to some, Tasawwuf is Almighty God’s annihilating man with respect to his ego and self-centeredness and then reviving him spiritually with the lights of His Essence; in other words, God’s annihilating man with respect to his own will and then directing him by His Own Will. Another approach to Tasawwuf sees it as continues striving to be rid of all kinds of bad maxims and evil conducts and acquiring virtues or angelic qualities pleasing to Allah thereby living one’s life in accordance with the requirements of knowledge and love of Allah and in the spiritual delight that comes thereby. Islam, like most other faiths to a greater or lesser extend, consists of two vital aspects – Man’s relationship with Allah and man’s relationship with his fellow man. Man’s relationship with Allah can be found in certain belief such as the existence of Allah; the coming of the judgement; the reward and punishment in the next life; and others along with the outward expression of these beliefs in forms of worship such as prayer and fasting. Man’s relationship with his fellow man, on one hand, can be found in Islamic system of morality with its outward expression in certain social institutions and laws such as marriage, inheritance, civil, and criminal laws. But it is obvious that the basis of this faith, the spirit that gives it life, is the inward expression – the Spiritual dimension. Thereby if this inward expression converse with the Supreme Being - Allah and inspiration from Him is present, then they are comparable to a soul that gives life to a body (outward expression). But if it die away, or in proportion to the extent that they wither or become feeble, the outward expressions of the faith becomes like a soulless body, which by the inexorable law of nature swiftly succumbs to corruption. Thus, the former is indeed the breath and life of Islam. And it is the study and cultivation of this inward expression that the word Tasawwuf further connotes. In can be seen from the word of Allah, the Qur’an, that whenever something concerning man’s outward actions are decreed, its inward content and purpose is also stressed. Take prayer for instance, Allah says: “Observe prayer for My remembrance.” (Ta-Ha 20:14); or “The believers have attained success; who are humble in their prayers.” (As-Sajdah 32:01) The above verses of the Holy Qur’an emphasize that the object of prayer is not the mere outward performance, but to remember Allah with a humble heart.

In its terminology. Since man can. then the whole of the body is healthy. by means of these virtues. Iman. An initiate or traveler upon the path (Salik) who can succeed in this never separates the outward observance of Shari’a from its inward dimension. sensation. it has its source. reasoning and will-power. one of the highlighted features in the practice of Tasawwuf. Beware. just like other religious sciences. 39. it is not contradictory with any of the Islamic ways based on the Qur’an and the Sunna. then all the whole body is corrupted.” (Bukhari. perfect goodness and other similar fundamental virtues. The Sufi or mystic calls it the “Human Truth. Heart signifies the spiritual aspect of a biological heart as the center of all ambitions and faculties such as perception. doing good deeds and good conduct. certainty. knowledge of God. If it is healthy.) once declared that: “There is a fleshy part in the body. and another “tongue” to mention . and attainment of higher standards of good morals.A. Through such observance. that part is the Heart (Qalb). “The Speaking Selfhood. Although it mostly concentrates on the inner world of man and deals with the religious commandments with respect to their meaning and effects on man’s spirit and heart and is therefore abstract. acquire another nature – another heart – spiritual intellect – within the heart. It dwells on knowledge.In fact. spiritual dimension of Ka’baa (Bayt Allah) and Human heart is the same – both contain the key to the Essence of Existence. The Relationship between Shari’ah (Islamic Law) and Tasawwuf (Islamic Mysticism): Basically Tasawwuf is based on observing the rules of Shari’a down to good manners thereby penetrating their inner meaning. The Holy Prophet (S. sincerity. Musaqat. In addition. 107) It uses the equation of the Ka’baa and the heart in a metaphoric sense to demonstrate its primacy over normative piety and to establish the centrality of mystical practice in religious life. consciousness.” while the philosopher calls it. more than the jurisprudents. Far from being contradictory. its priorities have never been different from those of Jurisprudence (Fiqh). are issues concerning the heart. deepening in the meaning of good deeds and multiplying them. Muslim. by which man’s conscience awakens to knowledge of God and man can enter a way leading to the required sincerity in practicing the religion and obtaining God’s good pleasure. in the Qur’an and the Sunna and the conclusions that the purified scholars of the early period of Islam drew from the Qur’an and the Sunna – ijtihad. Both of these ways or disciplines have stressed the importance of belief.W. If it is corrupted. the renunciation of animal appetites. The only difference is that. the Sufis have also focused on purification of the self.” Relative to this. he travels toward the goal in utmost humility and submission with strict observance of the religious obligations and austerity in lifestyle. And accordingly. a deeper knowledge of God.

sayr (journeying). sakina (serenity). irada (will). shawq (joyful zeal). zuhd (asceticism). tawadu (humility). talbis (utmost avoidance of . ma’rifa (spiritual knowledge of God). ‘ubudiya (servanthood). firasa (discernment). riyadat (austerity). tajalli (manifestation). sakr (intoxication). dahsha (terror). qurb (nearness). halwat (privacy). awba (turning to God in contrition). manners and ascetism. raja’ (hope or expectation). safa’ (delight). servanthood to God. taslim (surrender). qabd (strain). ghayra (effort). hal (spiritual state). futuwwa (chivalry). huzn (sadness or sorrow). The first and foremost of these concepts is wakefulness (yaqaza). injidhab (feeling of being attracted toward God). qalb (heart). the fourth Caliph and cousin of the Prophet (S. ghayb (invisibility). hayra (amazement).” Following wakefulness come tawba (repentance).): “Men are in sleep. rida’ (resignation). basira (insight). ‘uzlet (seclusion). qast (decision). ‘azm (resolution). tawakkul (reliance on God). yaqin (certainty). jadhb (attraction). hurriya (freedom). sidq (truthfulness). maqam (spiritual station or rank). The Basic Concepts of Tasawwuf (Islamic Mysticism): It may be useful to discuss Tasawwuf in the light of the following basic concepts which are the subject matter of the books written on good morals.God – he can perform all the commandments of Shari’a in a deeper consciousness of. shukr (thankfulness).). murid (willing one). wara’ (utmost abstinence from all kinds of sins). hayy (life). talwin (coloring). ‘ibada (worship). ikhlas (sincerity or purity of intention). surur (joy). haya’ (modesty). ecstatic love). firar (fleeing ). tafakkur (reflection). faqr (poverty). hikma (wisdom). ghurba (exile). wasl (reaching). and regarded as the points where one finds the Muhammadan Truth in one’s heart. ishtiyaq (yearning). muhasaba (self-criticism or self-interrogation). inbisat (expansion). (husn-u) khuluq (good nature or good conduct).” And in the saying of Ali (R. tahqiq (verifying). bu’d (distance or remoteness). sabr (patience). ihsan (perfect goodness). qalaq (restlessness). hurma (sacredness).A. They can also be considered as the lights by which to know and follow the spiritual path leading to God. bast (relief). i’tisam (taking shelter). khawf (fear of God). mahabba (love). khashya (reverence). ‘ubuda (deep devotion). inaba (sincere penitence). ‘ashq (intense. fasl (separation). dhikr (regular recitation of God’s Names). sahw (sobriety). istighraq (absorption). wala’ya (sainthood).A. and in greater exhilaration. tabaddul (change). ghina’ (richness). murad (willed one). and with a disposition for. fana (annihilation). baqa (subsistence). thiqa (confidence). mushahada (witnessing). They wake up when they die. tafwiz (commitment). waqt (time). muraqaba (self-supervision). tamkin (selfpossession). mukashafa (unveiling). which is alluded to in the Prophetic saying: “My eyes sleep but my heart does not.W. itmi’nan (peacefulness). himma (endeavor). istiqama (straightforwardness). ‘ilm (knowledge).

And as far as the term is concerned. That is why the former path. Sof (wool)-a kind of clothing used by the early practitioners of Tasawwuf. miracle workings. Suffa (chamber)-the chamber adjacent to the Prophet’s (S. and tawhid (unity). being known as a saint.A. since they are in pursuit of discovering hidden realities or truths. poor. transformation and formation they observe in existence and every event they witness or themselves experience. On the otherhand. This group is divided into two sub-groups – namely the Prophets and the perfected ones who have reached the Truth by strictly following it. and scholarly Companions of the Prophet (S. as far as the inner world of man is concerned. jam (combination).W. it is actually symbolic rather than descriptive. and Sophos or Sophia (wisdom)-both of which are Greek terms. progressing “in God” and progressing “from God” on the wings of knowledge and knowledge of God. this second path may yet lead some initiates to cherish certain desires and expectations such as having a spiritual rank. Every change. Furthermore. tajrid (abstraction).A. the Sufis divide people into three groups: The first group comprises those they call the perfect ones who have reached the destination. is like a comprehensive message from the Holy power and Will expressed in different tongues.ostentation).) stayed and practice Tasawwuf. Safwat (purity)-the purity of the heart. wujud (existence). But although they are serious in their journeying and ascetism. tafrid (attributing whatever good one has to God).W. which is the path leading to the greatest sainthood under the guidance of the Qur’an. they may sometimes. But in the strictest sense of the term. rather than guiding people to the Truth. The Sufis can be divided into two categories with respect to the path they follow: The first category comprises those who give priority to knowledge and seek to reach their destination through knowledge of God (ma’rifa). they remain annihilated or drowned in the waves of the “ocean of meeting with God and . etc. jam ul-jam (unification). is safer. They spend their lives by continuously traveling “towards God”. Sufi – The Practitioners of Tasawwuf (Islamic Mysticism): The one who practices Tasawwuf is called Sufi as mentioned above. alteration. Sofu (religious zealot). Safa (spiritual delight). There are various opinions as to where the term derived. spiritual pleasures and ecstasies. and try to realize the meaning of “There is no power and strength saves with God “. the following are worth mentioning: 1. the second category consists of those following the path of yearning.) mosque where the homeless. being able to work miracles. suffer deviations from the main destination and fail to reach God Almighty. It is possible that some among those perfected ones are not guides. spiritual ecstasies and spiritual discoveries. Although it is grounded on the Qur’an and Sunna.

The first sub-group is those who completely renounce the world and.) are used by Sufi to legitimize the Islamicity of Tasawwuf.A.W. according to what the Qur’an calls them. 2.W. comfortable life in the world. material world are completely severe and therefore they live unable to guide others. recognize. the facts of the life and the character of the Prophet (S. The Seerah or Biography of the Prophet (S. 5. They are evil. The first Qur’anic revelation which asks the Prophet (S. “the group on the left” – who are “blind” and “deaf” and do not understand. To acquire a strong. The second group is called initiates.W. To be freed from the vices and weaknesses particular to human nature thus acquiring angelic qualities and conducts pleasing to Allah. the Sufis call them the settling or clinging ones – those who cling heavily to the earth. unfortunate ones belonging to. The second sub-group consists of the initiates who aim to enter Paradise and do not completely give up tasting some lawful pleasures of the world. They are also divided into two sub-groups. Their relations with the visible. seek only God Almighty. To overflow with Divine Love thereby experiencing the ability to unveil one’s Spiritual heart’s eyes thus seeing the secrets of creation and the Creator.) to “read” occurred . the poor or the helpless.bewilderment”. heart-felt. They are called by different titles such as ascetics. and express both the Immanence and Transcendence of Allah as one and at the same time thus reaching the Ultimate goal – the Essence of Divine Unity (Tawheed). worshipping ones.A.) known all over the Muslim world shows that he was a mystic or Sufi as well as statesman and a lawyer.A. The Goals of Tasawwuf (Islamic Mysticism): The goals of Tasawwuf may be listed as follows: 1. since their aim is only to live an easy. and experienced conviction of the Truth thereby directing attention to the reality of things beneath and beyond their outer dimension. without considering the Hereafter. To overcome the demands of one’s own will through self-annihilation in Allah’s Divine Will thus reaching the Real Nature of Existence. 4. Facts of Prophet Mohammad’s Life as a Practitioner of Tasawwuf: As far as the contradictory opinion of closed minded individual is concerned. 3. As for the third group. To be able to experience.

Moreover. The defining work on her life and writing was written over 50 years ago by Margaret Smith.) and the lives of the companions.). its controversial yet substantial content reflects in the works of the Sufis themselves. In fact. Abu Hurairah (R.W. In fact. this is the very reason why the Muslim mystic have always counseled great caution in the matter of describing some of their spiritual states in detail as these can only be appreciated in the tasting.W.A. In that night journey.A. along with a short description of their respective contributions: 1.A. While the orthodox interpretation of the Mi’raj (Ascension) is quite different from that of the Sufi. The Legacy of Tasawwuf (Islamic Mysticism): Islamic Mysticism is actually one of the most controversial yet very substantial topics to tackle as far as knowledge of God…knowledge about God is concerned. some have tried to deny this spiritual heritage of the Prophet (S. In fact. used to say: “I acquired two vessels from the Messenger of Allah (S. and not in the description. She was the first to set forth the Doctrine of Mystical Love and is considered as the first in a long line of female Sufis.) mentions childhood encounters with angels and other portents of his mystical destiny.) is believed to have conferred with several Prophets sent before him and during which occasions Allah gave him the obligatory five tines-a-day prayers for his adherents to observe. In spite of the obvious references in the Qur’an.W. the Prophet was known to frequently enter the said cave for a solitary meditation.A.A. one of which I published.). Now. . a small treatise written as a Master’s Thesis.W.A.). the Prophet (S. let us consider to contemplate on the following list of known Muslim mystics or Sufis.A. the previously mentioned Seerah of the Prophet (S. one of the Prophet’s (S. the mystical dimension of the event can not be denied. since the age of Twenty-five. after marrying a widow named Khadija. the many Hadith. another very revealing evidence of his life as a mystic is the Al-Israh wal Mi’raj where he is believed to have traveled by night from Mecca to Jerusalem from where he is believed to have ascended to the Seven Heavens. but if I published the other my throat would be cut.W.) close companions.W. Rabiat ul Adawiyya: She is also known as Rabiat al-Qaysiyya or Rabia of Basrah.” This is an interesting allusion to the danger of making a show of spiritual experience before those who do not understand them. the Arabic biographical literature on the Prophet ( the context of meditation inside the Cave of Hira near Mecca. In addition.

Letter T stands for Tawba (Repentance).Ghazzali in that they dealt with both the fundamentals of Islam and the mystical experience of Islamic Mysticism (Tasawwuf).” 3. S. While the inward step is taken by the heart – it is the cleansing of the heart from conflicting worldly desires and the heart’s total affirmation of the wish for the Divine. the second letter stands for Safa (Peace and joy). beloved.they block the way to God. W. I do not want to worship from fear of punishment or for the promise of reward. He sees through Me he speaks in My name. I saw that lover.this state depends upon inner purity. and its positive counterpart.” 2. In fact. and F. his tongue. but simply for the love of God. there are similarly two steps to take: the first step is towards “Purity in heart” and the second step is towards “Heart’s secret center”. and love are one. the third letter stands for Wilaya. the first step to be taken on the path. the fourth letter stands for Fana (Self Annihilation) – this is the state of nothingness or . His contribution and renown in the Mysticism and Shari’ah was so immense the he became known as the spiritual pole of his time. and burn down the rewards of Paradise . and to flee from revolt and opposition thus seeking agreement and harmony.” Saying: • “I came forth from Bayazid-ness as a snake from its skin. Abu Yazid Bistami (Bayazid): He developed the Doctrine of Fana (Self Annihilation) – the passing away of the self. and feelings – to keep one’s life free from sin and to incline towards obedience. for in the world of Unity all can be one. It is as if a double step . and his feet. One can relay on the following Hadith ul Qudsi as to authenticity of his claimed doctrine: “When I love My servant I become his eyes. Saying: • “Tasawwuf is an Arabic word consisting of four consonants – T. and lastly. his hands. his writings were similar to those of Imam ul.outward and inward. his ears. The outward step is in words. In this stage. his hands become Mine and he walks with Me. Abdul Qadir Jailani: He is also known as Al-Gauth al Azam (The Supreme Helper) and Sultan ul Awliya (King of the Saints).Saying: • “I want to put out the fires of Hell. which is the state of sanctity of the lovers and friends of Allah . Baqa (Self Permanence) – the unitive life in God. deeds. Then I looked.

then place is taken by the single attribute of Unity. and “I am God” is an expression of great humility. He laid the groundwork for Sober Mysticism – not as subjective as the God-intoxicated Sufis like Al-Hallaj. and others. and Diadem of the Knowers.” • Moreover.” 6. “I am naught. the heart is the means to discover God. In fact.” 4. The heart has its own reasons which reason itself does not know. to guide me. whereas it is really a presumptive Claim to say “I am the slave of God”. but he that says “I am God” has made himself non-existent and has given himself up and says ‘I am God”. Therefore. Shaykh of the Sufis.its integration and acceptance in mainstream Islam. Abusaeid Abolkheir. Sayings: • “If reason cannot prove the existence of God. Al Ghazzali believed that true Islamic revival means the revival of Muslim communal ethics through individual moral transformation as reflected in his saying: “I now earnestly desire to reform myself and others… I ask Him (God) to reform me first. . the heart (Qalb) can have a direct encounter with Him. Imam ul Ghazzali (Algazel or Abuhamet): He is also known as Hujjat ul Islam (Proof of Islam) and Zainuddin (The Ornament of Faith). then to use me as an instrument of guidance…” 5. Junayd ul Baghdad: He is also known as “The Imam of the world” in his time. that is. then to use me as an instrument of reform. The man who says “I am the slave of God” affirms two existences – his own and God’s. there is no being but God’s. This is the extreme of humility and selfabasement. particularly the odes he often writes – reflects the standpoint of a mystic who sees nothing but God. He contributed significantly to the development of a systematic view of Mysticism . Jalaluddin Rumi: Though he preached struggle to the death against the canal self which he described as a “Hell with Seven Gates” and as “The Mother of All Idols”. He is all. he wrote on the claim of Al-Hallaj – the “Anal Haq” three centuries later: • “People imagine that it is a presumptive claim. Abu Yazid. his contributions.intoxication whereby the false self melts and evaporates when the multiplicity of worldly attributes and personalities leave.

Sayings: • “I am the Truth”. white Pearl that I a shell.” • “They (Sufis) are the members of a single household that none other than they can enter. “There is nothing underneath the cloak except God”. He is concern more with the spiritual meaning of Hajj and thus spoke of the spiritual efficacy and legitimacy of pilgrimage in one’s own home that is. without physical travel to Mecca.” – Sufis claim that such statements were always considered to be the most elevated exposition of mystical thought in Islam. Ayatullah il Bahira (The Astounding Miracle of Allah). Many honor him as an adept that came to realize the inherent divine nature of all men and women. he would point to his cloak and say.Sayings: • “Tasawwuf means that Allah causes you to die to your self and gives you life in Him. Mansur al Hallaj: He is one of the known God-intoxicated Sufis who. which reaches its completion in “Al Insan ul Kamil” (Perfect Man). Thy worth inestimable is still ignored!” “The slave (human) is the Lord (God) and the Lord (God) is the slave (human). most of the time would fall into trances which he attributed to being in the presence of God. • . while common gems we prize and hoard. 8. He is known a th prime exponent of the idea that would later be termed “Wahdat ul Wujud” (Unity of Being). and therefore unsuitable for the untrained mind. Ibn Arabi (Ibn al Arabi in the Greater West and Ibn Suraqa in Spain): He is also known as Muhyiddeen (Revivifier of Religion). Of dark mortality are made to dwell! Alas.” 7. Moreover. • In another statement. Hujjatullah il Zahira (The Outward Proof of Allah). Sayings: • “O Pearl Divine. His emphasis lay rather on the potential of the human being and the path to realizing that potential.

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