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Table of contents
- Studies in Early Mysticism in the Near and Middle East
- 2. The Isma‘ili Tradition
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- Mysticism in Sufi Islam
- In This Article
The book presents the mystics' teachings and allows their own writings to speak for them, to celebrate the shared devotion and inspiration of these two great religious traditions. All Rights Reserved. Site Map. This website requires cookies to provide all of its features.
All major Sufi brotherhoods at one time or another fought against European encroachments during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Some specifically African organizations include the Tijaniyya, whose founder, Ahmad al-Tijani — , claimed to have seen the Prophet Muhammad in the flesh, and it is the only major brotherhood to eschew the silsila entirely.
Studies in Early Mysticism in the Near and Middle East
The Tijaniyya, in claiming what amounted to a new revelation, has proved to be very popular throughout West Africa. Similarly, the appearance of Ahmadu Bamba, associated with the Muridiyya in Senegal at the beginning of the 20th century, heralded a complete reinterpretation of the Sufi heritage.
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Ahmadu Bamba tied the idea of salvation closely to practical work especially in the ground-nut culture of Senegal and removed or allegorized many of the mainstays of Islam, such as prayer and pilgrimage. The Muridiyya cultivated a social order that was conducive to the development of song, dance, and art. Even today pictures of Ahmadou Bamba form a major component in the street art of Senegal. Without doubt, the majority of Muslims at the beginning of the 20th century were heavily influenced by Sufism.
2. The Isma‘ili Tradition
Additionally, most converts to Islam, including those of European extraction, have tended to convert to Islam through Sufism. However, hostility and antagonism toward Sufis and Sufism have been consistent throughout Muslim history. In general, this opposition has focused on the Sufi beliefs in an intercessory role for holy men the baraka noted above , the veneration of the relics associated with these holy figures which smacks of idolatry for many mainstream Muslims , and the indifferent attitude that Sufis can display toward strict observance of the Sharia.
These trends have their current roots, first, in the thought of Ibn Taymiyya — , a polemicist and iconoclast living in Syria and Egypt who was largely rejected during his own time, but who today is seen as a prominent Muslim thinker by radical Muslims Wahhabis or Salafis. Ironically, the best evidence is that while Ibn Taymiyya was critical of Sufi practices, especially the veneration of holy men, he was himself most likely associated with a Sufi order Makdisi. These charges were revived and amplified by Muhammad b.
They usually accused Sufis of being otherworldly, anti-technological, and passive from a military point of view. While this critique is not necessarily fair, especially given the fact that many of the anti-European jihad movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries were led by Sufis, these were characterizations that have tended to stick to Sufism until the present day, especially in the opinions of Muslim elites. For these elites, the Sufis were the primary collaborators with European colonialists—their passivity and otherworldliness encouraged foreigners to take advantage of Muslims in general.
Toward the end of the 20th century both liberal and radical critiques of Sufism tended to join together in a doctrinal opposition to Sufism, in many cases claiming that Sufis are either non-Muslims or even anti-Muslim. In the face of these attacks Sufism has demonstrated remarkable resilience. While the social prestige of Sufism remains low within the Arabic-speaking Middle East the core lands of Islam , many Arabs remain associated with Sufi brotherhoods.
Throughout other Muslim regions, such as South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa, the strength of Sufism remains phenomenal, and in many cases it can be compared in its dynamism to the concurrent growth of Pentecostal Christianity. It has usually been Sufis who have reached out to non-Muslims in dialogue, and a great many Islamic ideas have passed into common religious discourse in Europe and the United States through the medium of New Age religion from Sufism. As globalization proceeds apace, it has become more and more evident that Sufism is not only an Arab or a Persian phenomenon, but also equally an Indonesian and an African one.
This tendency toward a somewhat ecumenical outlook was common in Sufism in the Middle Ages, as one finds both Jewish and Christian Sufis in Egypt and elsewhere. Europeans, such as Louis Massignon — , his student Henri Corbin — , and Frithjof Schuon — , have engaged in Sufi practices or converted to Islam themselves and have led Sufi movements.
This tendency is especially strong in Europe, but it is also present in Sufi groups in the United States. On the Internet and through specialized ordering much of the canon of Sufism can be read in English and French, German, Spanish, or Italian in competent scholarly translations, the result of years of sustained foreign interest in Sufism. The same could not be said for any other subject with regard to Islam, whether historical or literary in nature.
Indeed, the major problem for the teacher in this regard is the embarrassment of riches that presents itself in reading the mystical heritage of Islam. Just as definitions of mysticism overall are problematic, one of the chief difficulties of dealing with Sufism is not merely the vastness of the subject or the fact that Sufism has intertwined itself with many of the constituent cultures of Islam, but that it is so difficult to define.
These differences mean that both classical and contemporary definitions of Sufism and mysticism in general suffer from incoherence and a tendency to mean all things to all people, and they feature only a few commonalities. These commonalities remain in effect and continue to influence the mystic of today. The basic historiographic problems with regard to Sufism have to do with its origins—what exactly is the relationship of the early ascetics both to the Christian tradition and to the Sufi tradition—and the influence that Sufism has had on other religions as well as what it has received from them.
An intriguing line of inquiry, for example, would be to establish the connections between Buddhism which flourished in Afghanistan during the early development of Sufism and Islam. Although much work remains to be done in editing and translating Sufi texts, the principal difficulties in writing about the subject have to do with the immensity and breadth of the texts.
This problem particularly hamstrings general introductions to Sufism, which, in general, are focused not upon Sufism in general but upon Sufism in a particular geographic or linguistic region. Both African and Indonesian Sufism, for example, are often ignored in general discussions on Sufism. One of the major conceptual problems in writing about Sufism at least from the point of view of a non-Muslim is the fact that most materials on the subject tend to be written by those researchers who are favorably inclined toward Sufism or those practicing it.
Thus, it is relatively rare to find actual critiques of its historical and religious myths. Even though historically it can be documented that Sufis regularly participated in battles from the 10th century until the present Jaysh al-Naqshbandiyya fighting in Iraq , many researchers insist upon ignoring this militant aspect of Sufism. For this reason, Western scholars tend to overidealize the Sufis especially noticeable in the work of Annemarie Schimmel and to make them out to be quite different from what they actually were and are.
Having said that, the scholarship on Sufism is quite broad within the context of Islam and more Sufi texts have been translated into foreign languages from primary Muslim languages than any other topic from within Islam. The reasons for this focus are plain: Sufism continues to attract not only scholarly interest, but spiritual interest as well. This latter fact is a positive one, but it also has a negative side in that many of these translations are done by practicing Sufis and are sometimes substandard or selective in their content.
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While the material is copious, the standards are often low. An opposite problem is found in Western non-Sufi translations: sometimes research and translation, reflecting the nonreligious nature of the translator, ignores the religious core of a given Sufi text, and the work can turn it into a philosophical or psychological study that is equally foreign to the original. As with all major traditions one has to read thoroughly prior to coming to any conclusions about the overall whole. The primary sources for Islamic mysticism are extremely plentiful, and over the past years many of them have been translated into either English, French, or German or other European languages.
Fundamental to the study of Sufism are the early histories, such as those by Muhammad al-Sulami d. Nicholson; and many others, especially in French and in Spanish. Numerous introductions to Sufism are available. Other introductions have also tended to focus upon issues of interest to the authors rather than providing a broad focus upon Sufism as the primary component of Islamic culture throughout the last millennium.
See also Nahid Angha, Principles of Sufism , among many others. Mysticism as Morality: The Case of Sufism. Paul L. Heck - - Journal of Religious Ethics 34 2 - Downloads Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart. Sign in to use this feature. No keywords specified fix it. Islam in Philosophy of Religion categorize this paper.
Mysticism in Sufi Islam
Applied ethics. History of Western Philosophy. Normative ethics. Philosophy of biology.
In This Article
Philosophy of language. Philosophy of mind. Philosophy of religion. Science Logic and Mathematics.