Friday, September 15, 2017

Sufi Interpretations ( Tafsir) of Quran

Prophet Muhammad himself was the “speaking Qur’an” and the ultimate authority over the meaning and practical application of whatever he recited as qur’an (recitation) was always in his hands.
 When the Prophet lived, the Qur’an was not a “read text”; it was a prophetic “recitation” only directly accessible through him. This is why the Qur’an itself (verses 2:151, also 62:2, 3:164), when seen as a witness to history, declares that Prophet Muhammad “recites to you Our Signs, purifies you (yuzakkikum),  teaches you (yu‘allimukum) the Book (al-kitab) and Wisdom (al-hikmah), and teaches you that which you do not know. 

Sufis believe that Quran's initial letters (Muqatta'at) conceal mysteries that can not be fully expressed in words and should be understood by means of mystic experiences.In Sufi commentaries of the Quran, Sufism concepts are commonly related such as the hierarchical levels of realities in human experience (human, supra-sensible, and Divine levels), the various states of consciousness such as passing away in God (fana) and subsisting through God (baqa).

According to Sufi's, the Qur’an is a ” book ” but a living book  in which each “word” is as a “living cell”. In other words, the Qur’an should be considered a “living organic system of words“, a living Book---- this means the Qur’an, due to its formless Arabic language and its complex text , both combine to always give new answers to new circumstances, and contains an occult Batin which only opens its doors to the select few with a pure heart. 

Baatin of Quran: Is Quran open to Interpretation?

One area of disagreement for Muslim interpreters and exegetes of the Qur’an is whether the Qur’an has an esoteric, hidden or spiritual meaning that goes beyond the literal and surface meaning of the Arabic words. In pre-modern times, most Qur’anic exegetes from the Mu‘tazilis, Ash‘aris, Twelver Shi‘as, Sufis, Philosophers and Isma‘ili Shi‘as maintained that the Qur’an does indeed have hidden (batini) spiritual meanings and esoteric interpretations (ta’wil). 

Only the literalists and the Hanbalis disagreed with this. 
Today, however, many interpretations of the Qur’an, including those of the fundamentalists, literalists, ( Wahabi)and even mainstream translations---funded by wahabi's---- are impoverished because they remain at the literal and surface meaning of the Qur’an. 
Such a state of affairs was predicted by the Prophet Muhammad himself when he said:
There will come a time for my people when there will remain nothing of the Qur’an except its outward form and nothing of Islam except its name and they will call themselves by this name even though they are the people furthest from it. Their mosques will be full of people but they will be empty of right guidance.

.The Qur’an confirms that it has an esoteric and spiritual interpretation called “ta’wil”:
It is He who has sent down to you [O’ Muhammad] the Book; in it are clear (muhkamat) verses – they are the mother of the Book. And others are ambiguous (mutashabihat). As for those in whose hearts is deviation, they follow what is ambiguous from it, seeking discord and seeking its ta’wil (esoteric interpretation). But no one knows its ta’wil except God and those who are firmly rooted in knowledge (rasikhun fi’l-‘ilm), saying (yaquluna): ‘

According to this verse, the people of Muttaqin are those who hold on to Spiritual Self-Discipline at the highest level of spiritual development. Because, they believe and have faith in the Unknown World. Thus, by not being mentioned specifically, in detail or extensively in the Qur’an, this does not imply that some of those unknown realities do not, in fact, exist.

We believe in it. All is from our Lord.’ And no one will be reminded except the possessors of inner understanding (ulu’l-albab).
– Holy Qur’an 3:7

Certainly, did God confer a great favor upon the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from themselves, reciting His Signs, and purifying them, and teaching them the Book and the Wisdom, although they had been before in manifest error.
– Holy Qur’an 3:164 (see also 62:2, 2:129, 2:151)

According to Sufi Philosphers, God is both the outward (Al-zahir) and the inward (Al-batin) and His favours are given in both Zahir and Batin; thus, the Qur’an, as God’s revelation and His supreme favour, likewise has a batin (hidden) meaning revealed through esoteric interpretation (ta’wil).
He is the First and the Last, the Zahir (outward) and the Batin (inward), and He is, of all things, Knowing

– Holy Qur’an 57:3

And We have sent down unto you (also) the Reminder; that you may explain clearly (li-tubayyina) to mankind what was sent down for them, and that they reflect.
– Holy Qur’an 16:44 (see also 16:64, 14:4)

The believers are told to refer any questions and disagreements to God and His Messenger in order to obtain the ta’wil:

On the Day of Judgment, the ta’wil of all of God’s messages revealed through the Prophets will be shown to the people, including disbelievers, and they will all recognize this ta’wil and realize the inner truth of God’s revelations:

Do they await anything except for its ta’wil? 
The Day its ta’wil comes those who had ignored it before will say: “The Messengers of our Lord had come with the truth (bi’l-haqq), so are there now any intercessors to intercede for us or could we be sent back to do other than what we used to do?” They will have lost themselves, and lost from them is what they used to invent.
– Holy Qur’an 7:53

All of the above verses testify that the ta’wil of the Qur’an exists and Prophets and servants of God in the past were aware of the ta’wil – including the Prophet Yusuf, Hazrat Khidr, and Prophet Muhammad – and that in the present time, a special group called rasikhun fi’l-‘ilm are the possessors of the ta’wil of the Qur’an.The Qur’an contains verses with words and expressions such that a deeper esoteric meaning (Baatin) is required for the message in the verse to be true.

Are you not aware that God has made subservient to you whatever is in the heaven and whatever is in the earth, and has bestowed His favours upon you both in zahir and in batin.
– Holy Qur’an 31:20

There are also valuable works of ta’wil in the Sufi traditions of Islam. The various Sufi mystics and saints (awliya’) have produced works that disclose the ta’wil of the Qur’an in Sufi metaphysical frameworks and poetry. The Sufis have been responsible for transmitting some of the esoteric teachings that go back to the Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq.
There is a statement made by the Imam, Jafar Sadiq (d. 765 CE):

"The book of God comprises four things: the statement set down, the allusions, the hidden meanings relating to the supra-sensible world, and the exalted spiritual doctrines. The literal statement is for the ordinary believers. The allusions are the concern of the elite. The hidden meanings pertain to the friends of God. The exalted spiritual doctrines are the province of the prophets."

 The mystical Qur’an commentary attributed by the Sufis to Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (d. 148/765)  constitutes arguably the earliest extant mystical commentary on the Qur’an. It was preserved and transmitted by the Sufís of the early centuries of Islam, and it excerpts were found in the 4th-5th/ 10th-11th-century compendium compiled by M. b. al-Husayn al-Sulamí (d. 412/1021), and other Sufi exgesis of his students. 

Attar of Nishapur, the 12th-century mystical poet, gives a mystical interpretation of the Quranic story of the descent of Adam and Eve from Paradise to Earth. According to Attar, "the man whose mind and vision are ensnared by heaven's grace must forfeit that same grace, for only then can he direct his face To his true Lord." 
In Sufi terminology, the esoteric interpretation of the Qur’an [what Sufi call ta’wil] is often called ta’bir (literally: “to cross over”), isharat (allusions) and rumuz (secrets). Sufi Tawil is allegorical and symbolic, rather than the meaning of words, the atmosphere of a surah and its spiritual essence is given precedence.Occasionally a verse may be interpreted in a sense very different from its conventional meaning.
Listen to a lecture about the Master Sufi Qushayri to understand  muhkam and mutashabih (clear and ambiguous) Qur’an verses, naskh (abrogation), the ascension narrative (Q. 53.1-18) comparing al-Qushayri’s Kitab al-Mi’raj and the Lata’if, the disconnected letters in the Qur’an (al-huruf al-muqatta’a), the narrative of Job, anthropomorphism, and the Master and aspirant (Shaykh and murid) relationship.
 For example, Hamadani in his book Tamheedat ('Preludes') interprets 104:6–7 ("It is a fierce fire created by God, to penetrate into the hearts.") which conventionally refers to the punishment in hell, as passion of divine love. Hamadani interprets 14:48 ("On the Day when the earth is changed into another earth, and the heavens, and they will emerge before God"), which conventionally describes the day of judgment as a description of the moment of spiritual awakening or enlightenment.
Some examples of Sufi esoteric interpretation of the Qur’an are found in the ( I have tried to link to online translations for the seeker's convenience) 

The first three are very dense works that only an advanced student of Sufism might comprehend, as they are perfumed by concepts of Unity of Beings and theories of Sufi Cosmology and creation of Universe but the last two a personal favorite and most easily accessible for a modern reader. 

Numerological Interpretation (Ta'wil) of Quran

One branch of Sufi's interested in deciphering Quranic Baatin, were the Harufi; students of Kabbalah and Greek philosophy used numbers to divine the meaning of every Quranic surat. They believed Allah had revealed the Maktoob in numbers through Quran. Many eminent Islamic philosophers and mathematicians like Omar Khayyam and AlBeiruni were adherents.Why, it was asked, were letters of the alphabet written beneath the headings of some surahs (scriptures), in a half-opened manner, like senseless scribbles. 

Eminent Islamic scholars who were engaged with “hurufi”, such as Mansur Al Hallaj (858-922), Ibn Al Nadim, Ibn Arabi (1165-1240), Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) were always at the forefront to provide an exegesis of “Holy Texts”.  Hallaj Mansur was the first Islamic Lettrist to discuss the secret content of letters and numbers in his tract “Kitab al-Tavasin” and his divan.

The 'science of letters'had nothing to do with divination or magic; it is merely a path to the discovery of the truths hidden behind the symbols. 

Muhyiddin Ibn-i Arabi demonstrated (point by point), vast numbers of Lettrist abstractions in his seminal text “El Fütuhat El Mekkiye” (The Meccan Illuminations)Ibn 'Arabī explains how, guided by the First Intellect, he visited this manzil which contains five chambers (buyūt). In each of these chambers chests (khazā'in) are shut away. Each chest has locks (aqfāl) each lock has keys (mafātih) and each key has to be turned a specific number of times (harakāt). 

In his work Kitab khawass al-huruf (Book of the Characteristics of Letters), Ibn Masarra appears as an esoteric (batini) philosopher investigating the esoteric meanings of the nuraniya, the fourteen separate letters which introduce certain surahs of the Qur'an, basically following the tradition of Islamic gnosis. 

The mysterious letters, according to the harufinschool, represented the universe so that its entirety is a book whose letters are God's words. In this he was inspired by the work of Sahl al-Tustari (d. ah 283/ad 896), the author of a similar work on the science of letters.

According to these sufi's---- reflections (i'tibar) allows us to decipher the principles of all beings. The basic idea is to show that the different degrees that constitute beings, in general, correspond to the surah's fawatih (opening letters) as well as to the order of being. The letters are twenty-eight in number, equal to the length of the lunar phases. So these 28 arabic letters are used by Allah to express the essence of creation and Quran is a secret code to the mysteries of universe which can only be opened when this secret code with numbers is used.

Fourteen are exoteric and the remaining fourteen are esoteric. These are used by God to manifest his knowledge: their secret meanings have been bestowed upon the Prophet Muhammad as expressed in the Qur'an, and consequently, the Qur'an is the source of all knowledge, old and new. The steps leading to paradise and salvation are equal in number to the Qur'anic verses and to the number of God's beautiful names, excepting the great name of Allah
.If for example, the names of the five letters constituting the name “Allāh” in Arabic script are written out in full, the total is fourteen, as is the case with the five letters that make up the name “Moḥammad;” the two names together thus have a numerical value of twenty-eight. Since these two names are pivotal to the creed (šahāda), it will be appropriate to add to them the four letters constituting ašhadu (“I bear witness”), leading to a grand total of thirty-two. 

The numerological tafsir of Quran can be found in many Sufi Tafsir and demands re-engagement; it opens up the brain to think in ways about the universe that a literal tafsir does not; any true seeker would find these readings invigorating. Quran contains great mysteries of the message of peace and mercy within it and yet----there are those who use its words to justify the murder of innocents and enslavement of women in sexual slavery ( ISIS).

Monday, September 11, 2017

An Ocean without Shore by Ibn 'Arabi

I marveled at an Ocean without shore,
and at a Shore that did not have an ocean;
And at a Morning Light without darkness,
and at a Night that was without daybreak;
And then a Sphere with no locality
known to either fool or learned scholar;
And at an azure Dome raised over the earth, 

circulating 'round its center – Compulsion;
And at a rich Earth without o'er-arching vault
and no specific location, the Secret concealed...

I courted a Secret which existence did not alter;
for it was asked of me: “Has Thought enchanted you? ”
– To which I replied: “I have no power over that;
I counsel you: Be patient with it while you live.
But, truly, if Thought becomes established
in my mind, the embers kindle into flame,
And everything is given up to fire
the like of which was never seen before!”
And it was said to me: “He does not pluck a flower
who calls himself with courtesy ‘Freeborn’.”
“He who woos the belle femme in her boudoir, love-beguiled,
will never deem the bridal-price too high!”

From the Kitab 'Anqâ' mughrib, one of the earliest surviving works by Ibn 'Arabi. Read the whole poem.

 In Mecca that Ibn al-ʿArabī became acquainted with a young girl of great beauty who, as a living embodiment of the eternal sophia (wisdom), was to play in his life a role much like that which Beatrice played for Dante. Her memories were eternalized by Ibn al-ʿArabī in a collection of love poems (Tarjumān al-ashwāq; “The Interpreter of Desires”), upon which he himself composed a mystical commentary. 

He saw the lightning in the east and longed for the east,

He saw the lightning in the east and longed for the east,
but if it had flashed in the west he would have longed for the west.
My desire is for the lightning and its gleam, not for the places and the earth.

The east wind related to me from them a tradition handed down successively,

from distracted thoughts,
from my passion,
from anguish,
from my tribulation,
From rapture,
from my reason,
from yearning,
from ardour,
from tears,
from my eyelid,
from fire,
from my heart,
That "He whom you love is between your ribs; the breaths toss him from side to side."

I said to the east wind, "Bring a message to him and say that he is the enkindler of the fire within my hear

If it shall be quenched, then everlasting union, and if it shall burn, then no blame to the lover!"

Poem 14 of the Tarjuman al-Ashwaq, translated by R.A. Nicholson.

The doctrine of Wahdat al-Wujud by Ibn Arabi asserts that everything that exists can only exist because it is an aspect of Divine Reality, hence an aspect of Divine Unity itself. However, Sufi's assert that although Wahdat al-Wujud may be interpreted that Sufism see the face of God everywhere, it does not mean that it has reduced God to everything. 

God remains supremely transcendent, even though everything which arises and exists resembles him (tashbih). He resembles nothing but himself (tanzih).

From the philosophical point of view God is pure; from the mystical and devotional point of view, He is Absolute Beauty, of which earthly beauty, whether it be of form, or thought, or action, is but a dim reflection. Our finite minds cannot comprehend the Infinite: we can only speak in metaphors. 

Overwhelmed by His Beauty, Ibn Arabi conceives  of Him, above all things, as the eternally Beautiful. His poetry borrows the impassioned language of the lover. He is all Beautiful, and the whole universe is the mirror of His Beauty. It is said that seventy thousand veils separate the Absolute Being, or Beauty, from the world of matter and sense.

Listen, O dearly beloved by Ibn Arabi

What follows is not a poem in the Arabic, but part of a chapter from the Kitab al-Tajalliyat. 

However, since it was translated in the form of a poem by Henry Corbin in Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi, it has become deservedly famous.

Listen, O dearly beloved!
I am the reality of the world, the centre of the circumference,
I am the parts and the whole.

I am the will established between Heaven and Earth,
I have created perception in you only in order to be the
object of my perception.

If then you perceive me, you perceive yourself.
But you cannot perceive me through yourself,

It is through my eyes that you see me and see yourself,
Through your eyes you cannot see me.

Dearly beloved!
I have called you so often and you have not heard me

I have shown myself to you so often and you have not
seen me.

I have made myself fragrance so often, and you have
not smelled me.
Savorous food, and you have not tasted me.

Why can you not reach me through the object you touch
Or breathe me through sweet perfumes?

Why do you not see me? 

Why do you not hear me?

Why? Why? Why?

A further development of Sufi practice by ibn Arabi was his valorization of mental ("imaginary") experiences in the mystic quest. In the traditional Sufi understanding, the things of the world are "an infinite display of ayat or signs, the intelligent interpretation and contemplation of which leads one, inevitably, back towards the absolute and unitive truth of God."

 The manner in which ibn Arabi's view emerges from the conception of the names is fairly evident. However, he takes this conception in a rather novel direction. Specifically, he argues that advanced spiritual seekers develop the ability to enter into a cosmic realm, between this reality and final Unity, wherein these signs are more present. It is the task of humanity to learn to properly interpret these imaginary realities; to increase “spiritual eyesight” until each of these forms emerged from the Divine.

 As such, this interstitial realm was important, because it determined one of the ways that the mystic could correctly prepare himself or herself to encounter the Divine.

History of Sufism

A seeker asked me to write about how Sufism started and when did it begin and how it absorbed other mystical influences? 

There is a dangerous myth floating around ( funded by Wahabi petro dollars and TV evangelists)that somehow Sufism isn't REAL Islam ----and its a hodge podge of ancient pagan/christian/ Jewish/ Buddhist mystical traditions which has corrupted millions of the most learned Muslim in every era; a Jewish conspiracy to weaken Islam! 

I can give you links to such ( badly written) propaganda but I would rather not add to their propagation. I had to take two courses in my undergrad to fully understand the history and origins of Sufism but I would try to condense it into one post to demonstrate that Sufism has a 1400-year history. ITS PATH AND EVOLUTION HAVE CLOSELY mirrored Islam and influenced Islamic civilizations from North Africa to India. 

The history of Sufism records that during the lifetime of the Prophet Mohammed, fifteen centuries ago, there was a group of pious individuals alongside him who seeked an inner understanding of the message. 

From various hadiths and biographies of the Prophet, their presence and influence can be assessed( if you are a skeptic that is). It is from this group that all the schools of Sufism that have ever existed owe their origin, for by pursuing the path of unsullied inner knowledge they were the founders of Sufism and the binding link between its subsequent developments

These individuals met on the platform, or suffe, of the mosque where Prophet Mohammed used to pray in Medina, Arabia. They would meet there almost everyday to discuss the ways to inner knowledge, the truths of revelation, and debate the meanings of the revelations of the prophet Muhammad. The platform of that mosque in Medina became the first gathering place of one of the most influential groups in the history of mankind's spiritual civilization. 

They were called Ahle suffe, the People of the Platform.who lived during the lifetime of Muhammad, in the 7th century. This group consisted of a number of poor émigrés who had accompanied Muhammad to Medina after facing persecution in Mecca. Destitute after having been cast out by their families, and without homes of their own, they lived in the courtyard of Muhammad's mosque. Among the most famous of these companions were: Salman Farsi, Ammar Yasser, Balla'al, and Abdullah Masoud; some historians have added Oveyse Gharani to this list as well. Avoiding proselytizing among the multitude, their gatherings were held in private, open only to true seekers of reality. Instead of preaching in public, these pious individuals were searchers for truth, not performers of rhetoric or seekers of the glory.These individuals sought for the direct experience of the Divine.They were hungry.They were the seekers.These men recognized that Prophet Muhammad knew the mysteries of the heart.

After the Prophet (PBUH) passed away, each of the people of suffe returned to his homeland to instruct students eager to follow the path of inner knowledge. History shows that within a century or two their style of self-understanding and discipline were introduced by their students to nations as diverse and widely separated as Persia, India, Indonesia, Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and North Africa. 

Two of Al Ghazali's greatest treatises, the "Revival of Religious Sciences" and the "Alchemy of Happiness," argued that Sufism originated from the Qur'an and was thus compatible with mainstream Islamic thought, and did not in any way contradict Islamic Law—being instead necessary to its complete fulfillment. This became the mainstream position among Islamic scholars for centuries, challenged only recently by Wahabism. 

According to Sufi tradition, the descriptive term 'Sufi' was decided at a council of 45 mystics in 623 c.e., the second year of the Islamic calendar and the first documentary evidence of Sufis arrives with the founding of the first Sufi Order in 657 ce. 

After Prophet’s death, Sufism appeared in Muslim capitals as a reaction against the worldliness of the early Umayyad period (661–749).

This was a time of rampant materialism in the Islamic world, Islamic Caliphate had extended all the way to India and Spain and lands of Ummah were washed with Persian gold and tales of the Spanish conquest. The inner contemplative side of Islam was being overshadowed by a more worldly militaristic side. 
Rather than the asceticism practiced by Prophet of Islam and his companions, the pursuit of glory in battlefield and wealth had crept into the Muslim ummah.

Many newly converted Muslims were confused and scared, their world had been uprooted and they needed answers. The civil wars within Islam in the past 50 years with Karbala and the revenge of Karbala by Mukhtar Sakhfi had further creates fault lines

It was a dark night of the soul.

This social background is very important so you could understand how Sufism seeped into the bazaars of Baghdad from the meditation cave of Prophet(PBUH) and the zikars of Imam Ali.

Ideas go "viral: when the sociological condition is ripe for them. The Muslim world suffering under brutal Ummwi rulers needed light and guidance. Sufi's provided that light in the darkness. 

Ascetics meditated on the words in the Quran about considered this world “a hut of sorrows.” They were distinguished by many acts of piety, and especially by a predilection for nighttime prayers. 

The well-known sufi's of that time were Ibrahim Adham (d. 777 AD), a prince, gave up his family and his kingdom to find gnosis.
 The best known early Sufi saint was a woman, Rabi’a (d. 752AD), who lived and taught the concept of selfless love of God.
Most immediately, this meant combining elements of Islamic practice, like prayer and supplication, with modes of asceticism including a reduction in physical comfort in the form of food, sleep, and wealth constituted a form of worldly renunciation. Such renunciation was not foreign to the tradition of Prophet (PBUH), whose humble lifestyle and approval of such was a feature of the hadith. Early Muslim ascetics actually believed that a simple life of material renunciation was more in keeping with the true message of  Islam.

That is, from an antinomian perspective, practicing Islam through prescribed rites such as prayer and fasting is not an end in itself; it is important but is only a means of disciplining the soul and purifying oneself. That spiritual goal, purification, is the desired result.

Born in Medina, in Arabia, to Persian parents who may have been slaves, Al-Hasan al-Basri is said to have grown up in the company of Prophet (PBUH) Companions, and raised by one of his wives, Umm Salama. He lived during a time of turbulence in the Islamic world and trained thousands of disciples.

Meanwhile, other Sufi orders strengthened their ties with other esoteric systems, such as the Magian secret societies in Persia and the Ismaili’s in Egypt during the chaotic and fermenting times of the 7th century. Shia Imams and their disciples were many of the initial Sufi masters and many Sufi orders trace their lineage to them or the masters trained by the Shia Imams.

The result was a chain of hybrid secret societies around the globe whose roots were buried deep in a freedom-loving soil compounded of Sufism, Shi’ism and the Solomonic and Hermetic wisdom of the Egyptian Essenes. Sufi Masters borrowed and absorbed disparate influences and translated near extinct Greek texts on the nature of soul and metaphysics. 

Jewish kabbalah and the magic of numbers also found its way to some Sufi orders and sacred numbers were used to understand the hidden meanings of Quran and the sacred names of Allah were recited in odd numerological orders to attain initiation into mysteries. 

Sufism--- in Cairo, and Baghdad, and any wilderness that Sufi’s traveled to----had tapped into the secret mystical knowledge which had traveled from religion to religion in many guises.
Sufism was continually invigorated by new trends and absorbed diverse influences including Christian monasticism, Hindu meditation, Greek Gnosticism, Neoplatonism.


But during Abbasid caliphate, Sufism was founded by Islamic purists who were disgusted with the materialism of Islam's leaders and wanted to have personal experience with and direct contact with God under the guidance of teachers or masters.

Sufis have traditionally practiced their esoteric beliefs in private and that way avoided the problems that Christians branded as heretics had. There was also the understanding that Sufi experiences were so personal and unfathomable that no one would understand them even if an effort was made to explain them.

Although Sufis always aimed at the heart of Islam, it wasn't until the 'Golden Age' of the Abbasid Empire 750-1258 c.e.) that Sufism rose to prominence. Whilst the early Islamic Empire was characterized more by the petty tribal bickering of the Arab armies who created it, the Abbasid dynasty (based in Baghdad) saw a shift of power to the more ancient Persian culture. The greater influence of music, poetry and intellectual pursuits suited the Sufis, many of whom began to make important cultural contributions to Islam. 

 Al-Junayd ibn Muhammad (d. 910 C.E.) became a leader of a Sufi school, and quickly became an authority for later tradition. His teachings about the annihilation of the self and cultivation of inner spiritual discipline were a less ambiguous endorsement for the Sufi way of life inspired thousands.)

    Abu Said al-Kharraz (d. 892 C.E.) was famous for applying the Gnostic principle that a thing is only known by the joining of opposites, based on the Quranic verse about God that states, "He is the First and the Last, the Outwardly Manifest and the Inwardly Hidden" (Quran 57:3). As seen in the distinction between the "visible and invisible," the paradox of philosophical opposites that illuminate or complement one another was particularly suited to Sufi thought. He also composed a work called "The Book of Truthfulness," which is the earliest extant manual for Sufi practice. It begins with an exposition on truthfulness and continues through various spiritual stations including fear, hope, trust, love, shame, longing, and intimacy.

    Abu al-Husayn al-Nuri (d. 907 C.E.) was known for his poverty and asceticism. He was a friend of al-Junayd's and he articulated his belief that the world was comprised of distractions from the contemplation of God. His asceticism was a practice rooted in his belief that by forgoing material comfort, he could remove any barriers between himself and Go

By the 9th century, three different Sufi schools of thought came into being: Iraqi, Irani and Persian( much later Sufism would also make inroads into Andulas and Andulassian heresy of Ibn Arabi would perfume the Islamic world)

The Iraqi school was initiated by al-Muḥāsibī (died 857)—who believed that purging the nafs in preparation for companionship with God was the only value of asceticism. Its teachings focused on strict personal piety and poverty were later perfected by Junayd of Baghdad (died 910), to whom all later chains of the transmission of

In the Egyptian school of Sufism, the Nubian Dhū al-Nūn (died 859) focused on maʿ rifah(“interior knowledge”), as contrasted to learnedness;

In the Iranian school, Abū Yazīd al-Bisṭāmī (died 874) explained the doctrine of annihilation of the self, fanāʾ, He was also a disciple of the eighth Shia Imam and a source of endless cryptic poems.

Rābiʿah al-ʿAdawīyah (died 801), a former freed slave woman from Basra, first formulated the Sufi ideal of a love of divine love in which Love of Allah (God) that was , without hope for paradise and without fear of hell. She wrote ecstatic poetry much like Saint Hildegard in which she yearned for a union with God.

Farqad Sabakhi (died 729) was an Armenian Islamic preacher and an associate of Hasan al-Basri.  He was thus one of the Tabi'een (i.e. of the generation that succeeded the Sahabah). He mentored Maruf Karkhi, who was a pivotal figure in Sufism.

Ajami was an usurer by profession. 
He settled in Basra. He later renounced worldly life and became a mystic. He was a disciple of Hasan of Basra. He was known for performing miracles.

Habib al-Ajami residence in Baghdad and died there, and the tomb is known and has been created in the ninth century AH, it is located in the locality of Bashar on the banks of the Tigris River and has a mosque.

Some Hellenistic ideas were later adopted by al-Ḥakīm al-Tirmidhī (died 898) who was the master of Manṣūr Al Hallaj, who has become famous for his phrase anā al-ḥaqq, “I am the Truth”.

The first systematic books explaining the tenets of Sufism date from the 10th century; but earlier, Muḥāsibī had already written about spiritual education, Ḥallāj had composed meditations in highly concentrated language, and many Sufis had used poetry for conveying their experiences of the ineffable mystery or had instructed their disciples in letters of cryptographic density. 

The accounts of Sufism by Sarrāj and his followers, as well as the ṭabaqāt (biographical works) by Sulamī, Abū Nuʿaym al-Iṣfahānī, and others, together with some biographies of individual masters, are the sources for knowledge of early Sufism.

Reaction against Sufism

The invasion of the Mongols into the Eastern lands of Islam and the end of the ʿAbbāsid caliphate, was also the golden age of Sufism ( chaos makes mysticism appealing because the material world is going to into Hellagu’s Hell anyways)

In the twelfth century, more than 100 works were produced by Sheikh Ruzbahan (1127
-1209 AD) about sufi practices.

Sheikh Najmuddin Kobra (1145-1220 AD) trained seventeen noble disciples. Among them were Ali Lala Ghaznavi, Farid-ud-Din Attar, and Seyfeddin Bakharzi. He wrote about enlightenment found in divine stations and methods of intoxication. 

His contemporary Persian poet, Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭar, one of the most fertile writers on mystical topics and a Central Asian master, wrote a poem based on the psychological experiences through which a Sufi mystic has to pass on the path to enlightenment.

Allegories have been a favorite mode of expression for Sufis. Nezami (1141-1209 AD) contributed The Story of the "Haft Paykar" or "The Seven Princesses", and wrote the famed epic love story of Laylee and Majnun which is a profound spiritual allegory. Folk versions of Laylee and Majnun have been told from North Africa to India.

During this long period, the influence of Sufism spread widely. In the eighth century, the Sufi master Balkhi (d. 789 or 810 AD) was renowned as an expert in the sciences of physics and metaphysics.

 The great Sheikh Nakhshabi (d. 859 AD) is described as performing miracles. Several well known Sufis lived during the ninth century—Dhu’n Nun in Egypt, Muhasibi in Iraq, Bayazid Bastami of Persia, famous for poetry and paradox, as well as Karkhi from Baghdad, who taught that one, cannot learn love, since it is a divine gift. 

Neoplatonism in Islam reached its furthest limits of development in the thought of Isma'ili theologians such as Hamid al-Din al-Kirmani on the one hand, and that of Shihab al-Din Yahya al-Suhrawardi and Muhyi al-Din Ibn al-'Arabi on the other. 

Al-Kirmani espouses a Farabian elaboration of God and ten intellects in his Neoplatonic emanationist hierarchy.

Al-Suhrawardi, 'the Master of Illumination' (shaykh al-ishraq), as he became known, established an extraordinary complex Neoplatonic hierarchy of lights in which the divine and quasi-divine are seen all in terms of light. God is the Light of Lights (nur al-anwar), and from him emanates the First Light from which emanates the Second Light and so on; but bound into the whole system is a complex three-tier system of Angelic Lights. 

By late Abbasid Caliphate, there was a reaction against the more unorthodox beliefs of Sufism and perhaps most significant of these was Mohammed El-Ghazali, a great poet but also an influential theologian. 
The writer Idries Shah has often put forward the argument that Ghazali was also a major influence on St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Francis of Assisi, who may have been a Sufi initiate himself.

Al-Ghazzali (1058-1111 AD) cooperated with the regime in power while Sufis like Ansari were being persecuted, then had a breakdown and left teaching to enter the spiritual life. Ghazzali’s teachings combined mysticism and law, and made him the most influential theologian of medieval Islam, exerting a profound influence on Christian thought.

Ongoing efforts by both  Muslim scholars and Western academics are making Al-Ghazali's works available in English translation for the first time, allowing English-speaking readers to judge for themselves the compatibility of Islamic Law and Sufi doctrine.

 With the formation of mystical orders, books about the behaviour of the Sufi in various situations became important, although this topic had already been touched on in such classical works as Ādāb al-murīdīn (“The Adepts’ Etiquette”) by Abū Najīb al-Suhrawardī (died 1168), the founder of the Suhrawardīyyah order and uncle of the author of the oft-translated ʿAwārif al-maʿārif (“The Well-Known Sorts of Knowledge”). 


During the European dark ages, Islamic science and literature flourished and Sufi scholars proceeded in scientific and mathematical experimentation and discovery while Europeans who attempted the same were being tried for heresy. 

While the richest Christian monasteries then might be endowed with 300 to 400 books, the Muslim University at Granada had 105,000 volumes.

Interactions between Judaic, Christian, and Muslim scholars was widespread, particularly in Spain, where Muslims ruled from 711 to 1492, and allowed freedom of religion even during the Crusades. 

Muslim Spain produced Ibn Arabi and 

Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah ibn Masarra was born in Cordoba, Spain, in ah 269/ad 883 and died in ah 319/ad 931. In a hermitage he had founded for his friends and disciples in the Sierra of Cordoba, Ibn Masarra undertook to instruct them in his doctrines, to initiate them into the use of esoteric knowledge and to practice zuhd (asceticism) through acts of penance and devotion. 

Mystic, philosopher, poet, sage, Muhammad b. 'Ali Ibn 'Arabi is one of the world's great spiritual teachers. Known as Muhyiddin (the Revivifier of Religion) and the Shaykh al-Akbar (the Greatest Master), he was born in 1165 AD into the Moorish culture of Andalusian Spain. His works in Andalusia focused mainly on the perfect human individual, monastic metaphysics, and mystical path to spiritual and intellectual perfection. Central themes of Ibn 'Arabi's were the unity of all beings, or “wahdat al-wujud,” and also how God reflects God’s self in the world. According to Ibn ‘Arabi, the main practices of Andalusi Sufis included ascesis, poverty, and devotion to the Qur’an.

Sufi teachings were made known throughout the "Western" world through Spain and provided the foundation for the Christian mystics — St. Theresa, St. Catherine, Meiser Eckhart, Richard Rolle and others — who began to appear in the eleventh century.

The Late Period of Sufism 

The great and most beloved Sufi poet in the West is Jalaleddin Rumi (1207- 1273 AD), also known as Molavi. A conventional religious teacher, he was transformed at age 37 by the unexpected appearance of a wandering dervish named Shams Tabrizi. He found in Shams a mirror of the Divine Beloved.

The noble Semnani (1261-1335 AD) left the court to devote his life and his vast wealth solely to God, writing both poetry and prose extensively: "When I picked up the flower of love, I wounded the Intellect’s eye with a hundred thorns."[iv] Amir Seyyed Ali Hamedani (1313-1384 AD), known as "the second Ali" for greatness of rank, migrated to Kashmir with 700 followers.

Shamseddin Hafez Shirazi (d.1389 AD),
another well –known Iranian Sufi poet with a worldwide reputation who has inspired great philosophers and poets all over the world and who is much admired, especially by the German philosopher Goethe, was also a member of the Oveyssi School of Sufism. He was the disciple of Sheikh Mahmoud Attar Shirazi, who was the disciple of Pir Golrang.

From the fifteenth century to the present time, great Sufis have continued to emerge; Sufis such as Seyyed Mohammad Nourbakhsh (d. 1464 AD), Shah Ghassem Faizbakhsh (d.1520 AD), Darvish Mohammad Mozaheb Karandehi (d. 1627 AD), Seyyed Abdolvahab Naini (d.1798 AD), Haj Mohammad Hasan Kouzeh-kanani (d. 1834 AD), and Hazrat Agha Abdolghader Jahromi (d.1884 AD).

At that time, the basic ideals of Sufism permeated the whole world of Islam; and at its borders as, for example, in India, Sufis largely contributed to shaping Islamic society. 

The school of Eṣfahān

After Ibn al-ʿArabī, the new wisdom developed rapidly in intellectual circles in Eastern Islam. Commentators on the works of Avicenna, al-Suhrawardī, and Ibn al-ʿArabī began the process of harmonizing and integrating the views of the masters. Great poets made them part of every educated person’s literary culture. Mystical fraternities became the custodians of such works, spreading them into Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent and transmitting them from one generation to another

The mystics also contributed largely to the development of national and regional literatures, for they had to convey their message to the masses in their own languages: in Turkey as well as in the Punjabi-, the Sindhi-, and the Urdu-speaking areas of South Asia, the first true religious poetry was written by Sufis, who blended classical Islamic motifs with inherited popular legends and used popular rather than Persian metres. 

Sufi poetry expressing divine love and mystical union through the metaphors of profane love and union often resembled ordinary worldly love poetry, and nonmystical poetry made use of the Sufi vocabulary, thus producing an ambiguity that is felt to be one of the most attractive and characteristic features of Persian, Turkish, and Urdu literatures.

To look at Islam without seeing the Sufis is to miss the heart of the matter. Without taking account of the Sufis, we cannot understand the origins of most contemporary political currents in the Middle East and Muslim South Asia, and of many influential political parties. Right now sitting in the heartland of Punjab.

I am a Muslim because Sufi's decided to come to this part of the world and sing their songs and spread their message of acceptance

Sufism was the way whole populations expressed their Muslim identity. The expansion of Islam outside the core areas of the Middle East is above all a Sufi story.Propagated historically by travelling ascetics and storytellers, Sufism spread across the Muslim world, from its western flank in North Africa to the Indian subcontinent.

Sufi orders led the armies that conquered lands in Central and South Asia, and in Southeastern Europe; through their piety and their mysticism, the brotherhoods then won the local populations over to Islam. 

Over the centuries, the territories where Sufi orders seeded Islam have evolved from the faith’s frontiers to its demographic heartlands. These regions now encompass Islam’s largest and fastest-growing populations. Of the eight nations with the world’s largest Muslim communities, only one (Egypt) is Arab. A fifth of the world’s Muslims today identify with Sufism, and for many millions more, Sufism is simply part of the air they breathe.

The history of Sufism is the history of Islam itself!