Free The Path: Mysticism Without Words Research Paper Example
Sufism grew out of early Islamic mysticism and the writings from ancient times as early as 1000 AD when the first conversions to Islam were made when individuals chose to follow the Prophet Mohammad. The sources of early Islamic mysticism were the Qur’an, the Mi’raj, and the Beloved. The Mi’raj is considered along with the Qur’an, as the sacred cosmological text of the spiritual practice and the Beloved refers to the poetry of Islamic spirituality. Sufism means “the truth” or Taṣawwuf and the worshippers who purely love God and dedicate themselves to The Path may potentially transcend and understand the Truth.
Taṣawwuf is a way of worshiping within the Islam faith that is based on the ancient roots of mysticism. Writing about the meaning of worship and the journey a Sufi makes is difficult because Sufism is a mystical, metaphysical not a scientific, rational belief system. “Whatever can be spoken of is not Sufism (taṣawwuf).” Nevertheless, the essay attempts to better understand Sufism and The Path.
Writing with words about a spiritual practice that is historically an oral tradition and based on gnosis (knowledge of the metaphysical or knowledge of God) is difficult. Sufism is based on a metaphysical understanding of how to worship and how to attain a union with God. Occasionally the essay compares early Sufism and early Christianity to offer a comparative context. The first part of the essay addresses Sufism and what it means to experience a union with God. The second part addresses the main concepts of the journey on The Path.
THE UNION WITH GOD
A Sufi worshiper is in a personal, internal struggle with their better self against their evil self. The evil self is symbolized as the lower half of the body. In the very early times, trust in God was absolutely total by Sufis. Dervishes wrote songs and gave sermons to the masses of worshipers and that is how the followers learned to trust God so completely. The Nimatullahi Sufi Order in Tehran, Iran that describes the Sufi worship as “a study of divine ethics as a path to reach the Divine God.”
The early Sufis lived in the region of the modern countries of Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. A difference in early religions was that Christianity equaled the union of God with certain behaviors, especially behaviors connected with charity and love. On the other hand, the union of god is reached in Sufism, by using mediation and prayer as the way to open the door with God. “Open up the treasury door for Lord, at the prayers of our supplication; let our prayers serve as our ambassador, reconciling us with your divinity.”
A worshiper who worships with true intentions does not love from a place of fear in their heart, but from pure love. Hell and Heaven were considered creations and since they were creations, they were separate from God so they were not part of Sufi worship. (p. 39) On the other hand, uncreated divine light is a light that cannot be created; it is the light of pre-eternity. (p. 80) In other words, divine light is stronger than Hell because Hell is a creation. A Sufi Hadīth (prophetic tradition) tells an anecdote about the time when a true believer was addressed by Hell. The anecdote tells the listeners that Hell said “Thy light (referring to the Divine Light or God/Allah) has extinguished my flames.” That is an example of how strong and powerful the Divine Light was considered by the Sufis. The Sufi religion is a “dedication to worship, total dedication to Allah most high” and worships is accomplished by understanding that the physical world and its pleasures and honors are not appropriate for a spiritual life that Sufism offers.
The pre-creative light and Divine Light are images of the highest level of spirituality. The highest station of no station is the divine light and the station can viewed as a metaphysical destination. In Islam the highest station that can be reached is “the station of no station.” Sufi master Ibn’Arabi said, “I follow the religion of love; wherever its camel turn, love is my religion and my faith.” Master Arabi also noted that his comment applies especial to the “followers of Muhammad, since Muhammad (God bless him and give him peace), out of all the rest of the prophets, possessed the station of love in its perfection.”
An individual’s dedication to God (or Allah) is measured by the “strength or weakness” of one’s ability to focus on the remembrance of God while “performing the rites of worship.” The rites of worship are communications with God such as the dhikr, chants or prayers. The Sufi worshipper is concerned with a mystical union with ‘Divine Love’ who is the One and Only God. The only way for the union to take place is for the worshipper to search for only the Truth. Another way to put the definition is to teach oneself to only see what is True. A “Perfected Human Being” or “Perfected One” is a worshipper who is aware of the imperfection of their sight and therefore consciously strives to become perfected. The Sufi worshipper must loosen the trappings of the material world from their hearts and extinguish desire for them.
Sufism is a path towards the Truth where there are no provisions except love. Its method is to look solely in one direction, and its objective is God. That is, at the end of the path nothing remains but God.
The earlier stages of the Path to the Divine Light were renunciation and abstinence on The Path. When the worshipper reaches the ‘no station’ she or he has become “a perfect lover” meaning that the individual is in a divine union with God.
Sufism may be said to be the worship of Truth or the journey (The Path) to reach Truth. The goal of the “elite” worshipper is to experience a union with the God. The Qu’ran is considered as pre-Sufi and the first phase of the Islamic spirituality The Qu’ran does not stand on its own, but as the mediation between the human and the divine; the eternal and the temporal, etc. The Qu’ran is mi’raj meaning that the text is a holy cosmology and mystical point of reference describing the enlightenment of Mohammad and the foundational components of the Islamic rituals.
The ancient Sufi Junayd of Baghdad (830AD to 910 AD) was a role model of the elite or highly dedicated worshiper struggling to reach a union of God in a worldly life. One of the very first converts to the religion of the Prophet Mohammed is remembered as Hasan of Basra (642 AD to 728 AD) who was raised in the home of Umm Salam, the wife of Mohammad and a follower of Alῑ ibn Abi Talib, the Perfected One. Alῑ, Junayd, and Hasan are all part of the “spiritual chains (silsilah)” that connect Sufi orders from the beginning to modern times is a record of Sufi masters.
Alῑ (about 600 AD to about 661 CE) is considered the first Perfected One. Alῑ was the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammad, because although he had Mohammad as his model, the only way that Alῑ reached perfection was to gain mastery over his lower instincts.
Alῑ is the first person who followed the path to becoming a Perfected One. The purpose of taking the journey on the Sufi Path is to become one with the Truth or “the realization of the truth” The tools that a Sufi can use to reach the end of the journey are “love and devotion” Mohammad did not follow The Path to enlightenment because God gave him the gift of perfection. an experience that is only accomplished by intense dedication and a willingness to shed worldly desires. Sufi’s worship is an active work of dedication to reach a higher plane of understanding and of being.
Junayd refers to the elite as the “the pure ones” or “the choice of believers that are very important as role models and leaders in the Sufi communities.” The elite are very serious about reaching fanā. Fanā is the ability to annihilate one’s self in order to become closer or in union with the Divine). Junayd taught that a worshipper must lose the natural desires and human characteristics in order to concentrate on spiritual matters and a devotion to true knowledge. Fanā was very difficult to reach requiring the serious intent to become separate from everything worldly, “to be truly faithful to God, and to follow the Prophet.” Junayd taught the following activities were necessary.
Zuhd (Zuhd is the renunciation of material and human desires.)
Separate oneself from society
Ibadat is the absolute concentration on devotions
Dikhr is the remembrance of God and a type of prayer that can be achieved by repeating verses from the Qu’ran or other significant phrases. One description of the dhikr is the meditative remembrance, a type of prayer when the worshipper and seeker of the Truth repeat (in silence or out lout) significant Qur’anic verses. Dhikr is a continual selfless remembrance of God.
Ikhlas is sincerity.
Muraqaba is contemplation,
contemplation leads to Fanā
The path of spirituality that is based on the components of prayer, mediation, contemplation and remembrance are significant for enhancing a worshippers ability to separate from the world even for part of the day and practice becoming closer to the Divine. The component of The Path that is in the form of prayer contains four stages. The sala, the du’a, the dhikr and the muanajat. The ritual prayer is significant to Sufis and in Islam because it can open doors to God, that is the sala. The du’a are different than prayers even though they are communications to God. Du’a are the petitions for God to grant certain mercies, like healing a sick loved one. The dhikr is a meditation, similar to repeating the Rosary in the Catholic Church. The meditation for Islam is saying out loud or silently verses from the Qu’ran. The mediations are “Qu’ranic phrases or divine epithets.” The muanajat are the devotions a worship makes in private with God; they are the “conversation” between the lover of God (the worshiper) and the divine beloved (God).
The essay presents only a brief description of the Sufi beliefs from the perspective of ancient times. The Sufi belief system is complex with a basis in the metaphysical and in the personal relationship between a worshipper and the Divine. The description of steps necessary for undertaking The Path included in the essay are from the writings taught by the ancient master Junyad. He lived in Baghdad beginning approximately in 1000 AD when he was significantly influential for the first half of the century and even now his teachings are extremely prescient. The Path is a journey to reach the Truth that is very difficult. To follow The Path means stripping away all the worldliness from the person of the worshipper and fighting an epic battle with the lower instincts of human being.
Ansari, Muhammad Abdul Haq. "The Doctrine of One Actor: Junayd's View of Tawhid." The Muslim World 1(1983): 33-56. http://www.salaam.co.uk/knowledge/junayd-tawhid.pdf
Benaïssa, Omar. The Degrees of the Station of No-Station: Regarding the End of the Journey originally presented at the twenty-first annual symposium of the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society, entitled "The Station of No Station", held in Oxford, 15-16 May 2004. First published in Journal of the Ibn 'Arabi Society, Vol. XXXVII, 2005. http://www.ibnarabisociety.org/articles/nostation.html#note3
Eckart, Meister. The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism. Bernard McGinn, Ed. NY: Modern Library. 2006.
Ernst,Carl W. Eternal Garden: Mysticism, History, and Politics at a South Asian Sufi Center. Albany, NY: State U of New York, 1992. Questia. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.
Ling, Martin. What is Sufism? 2nd edition Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society 1999;1993; 1975
Netton, Ian Richard. Islam, Christianity and the Mystic Journey: A Comparative Exploration. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2011. Questia. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.
Sells, Michael A., trans. Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Quran, Miraj, Poetic and Theological Writings. Ed. Michael A. Sells. New York: Paulist, 1996. Questia. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.
Schimmel, Annemarie. Mystical Dimensions of Islam. Chapel Hill, NC: U of North Carolina, 1975. Questia. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.
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