10/15/2005

SUFISM by Ted Thornton

It looks like whirling dervishes and those guys who lie down on beds made of nails are sufis too. Ewwww! I like some of their teachings but count me out of sleeping in porcupine like beds! But any religion that has a woman among it's top prophets is A+ by me... On a side note, I gotta stop posting whole pages of his site, but it is sooo hard! It is really a great site! This is the last one, I promisse! I just couldn't resist seeing what Ted had on Sufis... -- law

Sufism by Ted Thornton - History of the Middle East Database

“God no longer wants philosophy; He wants love.” -- Helvetti Shaykh Muzaffer (of Istanbul, born 1916)

1. Overall Purpose or Objective: To find and experience divine truth, love, and knowledge through direct, personal contact with and of God. This is what theologians call “mysticism.”

2. Origins: “Sufi” comes from the Arabic word tasawwuf, “to dress in wool.” The historical origins are murky, but sufi influence has been far reaching. The medieval troubadours of southern France and the concept of courtly love, it is believed, owe much to the Sufis. The word “troubadour” comes from the Arabic root ta-ra-ba, “to be transported with joy, rapture, and delight.” The troubadours, it was felt, took their inspiration from the Persian poet Rumi who said, “Wherever you are, whatever your condition is, always try to be a lover.”

Some believe that Cervantes’ character Don Quixote was inspired by Sufi lore, along with medieval Tarot cards and the court jester or “fool” with his motley clothes, his jingling bells, his bladder stick, his simple wisdom, and especially his utter disregard for authority. This last trait was famously manifested in the irreverence of the sufi Abu Yazid al-Bistam (d. 874) from southeast Persia, famous for his motto, “Glory be to me!”; similarly in Mansur al-Hallaj, who was executed in Baghdad as a blasphemer in 922 for his motto, “Anah al-Haq!” (“I am the truth!”)

3. History: Sufis were clearly on the scene by the 660s (Umayyad times) reacting against the worldliness that marked those times. Formal sufi orders or guilds (tariqa-s) emerged in Persia by the twelfth century...

4. Practice: dhikr (“remembrance”) is a ritual that can vary widely: from the simple rhythmic repetition of the word Allah (“God”), to rhythmic moving of the body, as in the case of the “whirling dervishes” (from the Persian darvesh, meaning “beggar.” In addition there are the “howling dervishes,” also known as the rifais, who see physical pain as the road to ecstasy and who howl or shriek while beating themselves. There is the dhikr khafi: silent repetition of meditation formulae (somewhat like mantras for Hindus). Finally, there are the Naqshabandi orders, under Buddhist influence in central Asia, who prefer contemplation to the pursuit of ecstasy. By the eighth century, dhikr included the use of prayer beads in the recitation of the ninety-nine Names of Allah.

5. Development: Sufism made the transition from asceticism to mysticism largely through the example and work of a woman named Rabia al-Adawiyya of Basra (d. 801). She was the first to formulate the ideal of the love of God apart from any concerns for heaven and hell, reward and punishment. It was an elaboration of the basic Islamic concept of tawwakul: absolute trust in God.

6. Leading Personalities:
...
Dhu an-Nun al-Misri (d. 859): a Nubian Egyptian who introduced the concept and the practice of ma’rifa, or “interior knowledge,” as contrasted with learnedness. Intuitive knowledge was seen as true wisdom. He was also known for his use of hymns in prayer as a way of praising God.

Mansur al-Hallaj: executed in Baghdad as a heretic in 922, he is known for having said, “Anah al-Haq!,” “I am the truth!” (often mistaken to mean “I am God!”). He was also known for his formula “Huwwa-huwwa!” (“He-he!”), to explain how God created Adam in the divine image.

Al-Ghazzali (d. 1111): last in the line of classical sufi figures, he wrote The Revival of the Religious Sciences. He was an advocate of moderation in mysticism.

Jalal al-Din al-Rumi (1207-1273): a Persian. He wrote lyrical poems inspired by his beloved Shams ad-Din of Tabriz, including Masnavi, a poem of 26,000 couplets, second only to the Qur’an among many Persian Sufis. It was Rumi who, according to tradition, inspired the “whirling dervishes": practitioners who combined music and movements of the body to achieve a state of ecstatic oneness with God. A sample of Rumi:

Cross and Christians, end to end, I examined. He was not on the cross. I went to the Hindu temple, to the ancient pagoda. In neither was there any sign. To the heights of Herat I went, and Kandahar. I looked. He was not on height or on lowland. Resolutely, I went to the mountain of Kaf. There only was the place of the ankha bird. I went to the Kaaba. He was not there. I asked of his state from Ibn Sina: he was beyond the limits of the philosopher Ibn Sina…I looked into my own heart. In that, his place, I saw him. He was in no other place. (Quoted in Idries Shah, The Sufis (New York: 1964), 153)).

Rumi also talked about the need to undo much of the learning we have received in order to discover true wisdom:

Destroy your house, and with the treasure hidden in it
You will be able to build thousands of houses. (Idries Shah, 447)


SUFISM

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