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Religion

종교 탐방

III. ISLAMIC THOUGHT

 
 

Islamic theology (kalam) and philosophy (falsafah) are two traditions of learning developed by Muslim thinkers who were engaged, on the one hand, in the rational clarification and defense of the principles of the Islamic religion (mutakallimun) and, on the other, in the pursuit of the ancient (Greek and Hellenistic, or Greco-Roman) sciences (falasifah). These thinkers took a position that was intermediate between the traditionalists, who remained attached to the literal expressions of the primary sources of Islamic doctrines (the Qur`an, or the Islamic scripture, and the Hadith, or the sayings and traditions of Muhammad) and who abhorred reasoning, and those whose reasoning led them to abandon the Islamic community (the ummah) altogether. The status of the believer in Islam remained in practice a juridical question, not a matter for theologians or philosophers to decide. Except in regard to the fundamental questions of the existence of God, Islamic revelation, and future reward and punishment, the juridical conditions for declaring someone an unbeliever or beyond the pale of Islam were so demanding as to make it almost impossible to make a valid declaration of this sort about a professing Muslim. In the course of events in Islamic history, representatives of certain theological movements, who happened to be jurists and who succeeded in converting rulers to their cause, made those rulers declare in favour of their movements and even encouraged them to persecute their opponents. Thus there arose in some localities and periods a semblance of an official, or orthodox, doctrine. (see also Index: Islamic philosophy)

1. Origins, nature, and significance of Islamic theology

1) EARLY DEVELOPMENTS

The beginnings of theology in the Islamic tradition in the second half of the 7th century are not easily distinguishable from the beginnings of a number of other disciplines--Arabic philology, Qur`anic interpretation, the collection of the sayings and deeds of the prophet Muhammad (Hadith), jurisprudence, and historiography. Together with these other disciplines, Islamic theology is concerned with ascertaining the facts and context of the Islamic revelation and with understanding its meaning and implications as to what Muslims should believe and do after the revelation had ceased and the Islamic community had to chart its own way. During the first half of the 8th century, a number of questions--which centred on God's unity, justice, and other attributes and which were relevant to man's freedom, actions, and fate in the hereafter--formed the core of a more specialized discipline, which was called kalam ("speech"). This term (kalam) was used to designate the more specialized discipline because of the rhetorical and dialectical "speech" used in formulating the principal matters of Islamic belief, debating them, and defending them against Muslim and non-Muslim opponents. Gradually, kalam came to include all matters directly or indirectly relevant to the establishment and definition of religious beliefs, and it developed its own necessary or useful systematic rational arguments about human knowledge and the makeup of the world. Despite various efforts by later thinkers to fuse the problems of kalam with those of philosophy (and mysticism), theology preserved its relative independence from philosophy and other nonreligious sciences. It remained true to its original traditional and religious point of view, confined itself within the limits of the Islamic revelation, and assumed that these limits as it understood them were identical with the limits of truth.

2) THE HELLENISTIC LEGACY

The pre-Islamic and non-Islamic legacy with which early Islamic theology came into contact included almost all the religious thought that had survived and was being defended or disputed in Egypt, Syria, Iran, and India. It was transmitted by learned representatives of various Christian, Jewish, Manichaean (members of a dualistic religion founded by Mani, an Iranian prophet, in the 3rd century), Zoroastrian (members of a monotheistic, but later dualistic, religion founded by Zoroaster, a 7th-century-BC Iranian prophet), Indian (Hindu and Buddhist, primarily), and Sabian (star worshippers of Harran often confused with the Mandaeans) communities and by early converts to Islam conversant with the teachings, sacred writings, and doctrinal history of the religions of these areas. At first, access to this legacy was primarily through conversations and disputations with such men, rather than through full and accurate translations of sacred texts or theological and philosophic writings, although some translations from Pahlavi (a Middle Persian dialect), Syriac, and Greek must also have been available. (see also Index: Zoroastrianism)

The characteristic approach of early Islamic theology to non-Muslim literature was through oral disputations, the starting points of which were the statements presented or defended (orally) by the opponents. Oral disputation continued to be used in theology for centuries, and most theological writings reproduce or imitate that form. From such oral and written disputations, writers on religions and sects collected much of their information about non-Muslim sects. Much of Hellenistic (post-3rd century BC Greek cultural), Iranian, and Indian religious thought was thus encountered in an informal and indirect manner.

From the 9th century onward, theologians had access to an increasingly larger body of translated texts, but by then they had taken most of their basic positions. They made a selective use of the translation literature, ignoring most of what was not useful to them until the mystical theologian al-Ghazali (flourished 11th-12th centuries) showed them the way to study it, distinguish between the harmless and harmful doctrines contained in it, and refute the latter. By this time Islamic theology had coined a vast number of technical terms, and theologians (e.g., al-Jahiz) had forged Arabic into a versatile language of science; Arabic philology had matured; and the religious sciences (jurisprudence, the study of the Qur`an, Hadith, criticism, and history) had developed complex techniques of textual study and interpretation. The 9th-century translators availed themselves of these advances to meet the needs of patrons. Apart from demands for medical and mathematical works, the translation of Greek learning was fostered by the early 'Abbasid caliphs (8th-9th centuries) and their viziers as additional weapons (the primary weapon was theology itself) against the threat of Manichaeanism and other subversive ideas that went under the name zandaqah ("heresy" or "atheism"). (M.S.M./Ed.) (see also Index: 'Abbasid dynasty)

2. Theology and sectarianism

Despite the notion of a unified and consolidated community, as taught by the Prophet, serious differences arose within the Muslim community immediately after his death. According to the Sunnah, or traditionalist faction--who now constitute the majority of Islam--the Prophet had designated no successor. Thus the Muslims at Medina decided to elect a separate chief. Because he would not have been accepted by the Quraysh, the ummah, or Muslim community, would have disintegrated. Therefore, two of Muhammad's fathers-in-law, who were highly respected early converts as well as trusted lieutenants, prevailed upon the Medinans to elect a single leader, and the choice fell upon Abu Bakr, father of the Prophet's favoured wife, 'A` ishah. All of this occurred before the Prophet's burial (under the floor of 'A`ishah's hut, alongside the courtyard of the mosque).

According to the Shi'ah, or "Partisans" of 'Ali, the Prophet had designated as his successor his son-in-law 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, husband of his daughter Fatimah and father of his only surviving grandsons, Hasan and Husayn. His preference was general knowledge; yet, while 'Ali and the Prophet's closest kinsmen were preparing the body for burial, Abu Bakr, 'Umar, and Abu 'Ubaydah from Muhammad's Companions in the Quraysh tribe, met with the leaders of the Medinans and agreed to elect the aging Abu Bakr as the successor (khalifah, hence "caliph") of the Prophet. 'Ali and his kinsmen were dismayed but agreed for the sake of unity to accept the fait accompli because 'Ali was still young

After the murder of 'Uthman, the third caliph, 'Ali was invited by the Muslims at Medina to accept the caliphate. Thus 'Ali became the fourth caliph (656-661), but the disagreement over his right of succession brought about a major schism in Islam, between the Shi'ah, or "legitimists"--those loyal to 'Ali--and the Sunnah, or "traditionalists." Athough their differences were in the first instance political, arising out of the question of leadership, theological differences developed over time.

1) THE KHAWARIJ

During the reign of the third caliph, 'Uthman, certain rebellious groups accused the Caliph of nepotism and misrule, and the resulting discontent led to his assassination. The rebels then recognized the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law, 'Ali, as ruler but later deserted him and fought against him, accusing him of having committed a grave sin in submitting his claim to the caliphate to arbitration. The word kharaju, from which khariji is derived, means "to withdraw" and Khawarij were, therefore, seceders who believed in active dissent or rebellion against a state of affairs they considered to be gravely impious.

The basic doctrine of the Khawarij was that a person or a group who committed a grave error or sin and did not sincerely repent ceased to be Muslim. Mere profession of the faith--"there is no god but God; Muhammad is the prophet of God"--did not make a person a Muslim unless this faith was accompanied by righteous deeds. In other words, good works were an integral part of faith and not extraneous to it. The second principle that flowed from their aggressive idealism was militancy, or jihad, which the Khawarij considered to be among the cardinal principles, or pillars, of Islam. Contrary to the orthodox view, they interpreted the Qur`anic command about "enjoining good and forbidding evil" to mean the vindication of truth through the sword. The placing of these two principles together made the Khawarij highly inflammable fanatics, intolerant of almost any established political authority. They incessantly resorted to rebellion and as a result were virtually wiped out during the first two centuries of Islam.

Because the Khawarij believed that the basis of rule was righteous character and piety alone, any Muslim, irrespective of race, colour, and sex, could, in their view, become ruler--provided he or she satisfied the conditions of piety. This was in contrast to the claims of the Shi'ah (the party of Muhammad's son-in-law, 'Ali) that the ruler must belong to the family of the Prophet and to the doctrine of the Sunnah (followers of the Prophet's way) that the head of state must belong to the Prophet's tribe, i.e., the Quraysh.

A moderate group of the Khawarij, the Ibadis, avoided extinction, and its members are to be found today in North Africa and in Oman and other parts of East Africa, including Zanzibar Island. The Ibadis do not believe in aggressive methods and, throughout medieval Islam, remained dormant. Because of the interest of 20th-century Western scholars in this sect, the Ibadis have become active and have begun to publish their classical writings and their own journals. (see also Index: Ibadiyah)

Although Kharijism is now essentially a story of the past, it has left a permanent influence on Islam, because of reaction against it. It forced the religious leadership of the community to formulate a bulwark against religious intolerance and fanaticism. Positively, it has influenced the reform movements that have sprung up in Islam from time to time and that have treated spiritual and moral placidity and status quo with a quasi-Khawarij zeal and militancy.

2) THE MU'TAZILAH

The question of whether works are an integral part of faith or independent of it, as raised by the Khawarij, led to another important theological question: are human acts the result of a free human choice, or are they predetermined by God? This question brought with it a whole series of questions about the nature of God and of man. Although the initial impetus to theological thought, in the case of the Khawarij, had come from within Islam, full-scale religious speculation resulted from the contact and confrontation of Muslims with other cultures and systems of thought. (see also Index: free will, determinism, predestination)

As a consequence of translations of Greek philosophical and scientific works into Arabic during the 8th and 9th centuries and the controversies of Muslims with Dualists (e.g., Gnostics and Manichaeans), Buddhists, and Christians, a more powerful movement of rational theology emerged; its representatives are called the Mu'tazilah (literally "those who stand apart," a reference to the fact that they dissociated themselves from extreme views of faith and infidelity). On the question of the relationship of faith to works, the Mu'tazilah--who called themselves "champions of God's unity and justice"--taught, like the Khawarij, that works were an essential part of faith but that a person guilty of a grave sin, unless he repented, was neither a Muslim nor yet a non-Muslim but occupied a "middle ground." They further defended the position, as a central part of their doctrine, that man was free to choose and act and was, therefore, responsible for his actions. Divine predestination of human acts, they held, was incompatible with God's justice and human responsibility. The Mu'tazilah, therefore, recognized two powers, or actors, in the universe--God in the realm of nature and man in the domain of moral human action. The Mu'tazilah explained away the apparently predeterministic verses of the Qur`an as being metaphors and exhortations.

They claimed that human reason, independent of revelation, was capable of discovering what is good and what is evil, although revelation corroborated the findings of reason. Man is, therefore, under moral obligation to do the right even if there were no prophets and no divine revelation. Revelation has to be interpreted, therefore, in conformity with the dictates of rational ethics. Yet revelation is neither redundant nor passive. Its function is twofold. First, its aim is to aid man in choosing the right, because in the conflict between good and evil man often falters and makes the wrong choice against his rational judgment. God, therefore, must send prophets, for he must do the best for man; otherwise, the demands of divine grace and mercy cannot be fulfilled. Secondly, revelation is also necessary to communicate the positive obligations of religion--e.g., prayers and fasting--which cannot be known without revelation.

God is viewed by the Mu'tazilah as pure Essence, without eternal attributes, because they hold that the assumption of eternal attributes in conjunction with Essence will result in a belief in multiple coeternals and violate the pure, unadulterated unity of God. God knows, wills, and acts by virtue of his Essence and not through attributes of knowledge, will, and power. Nor does he have an eternal attribute of speech, of which the Qur`an and other earlier revelations were effects; the Qur`an was, therefore, created in time and was not eternal.

The promises of reward that God has made in the Qur`an to righteous people and the threats of punishment he has issued to evildoers must be carried out by him on the Day of Judgment. For promises and threats are viewed as reports about the future, and if not fulfilled exactly those reports will turn into lies, which are inconceivable of God. Also, if God were to withhold punishment for evil and forgive it, this would be as unjust as withholding reward for righteousness. There can be neither undeserved punishment nor undeserved reward; otherwise, good may just as well turn into evil and evil into good. From this position it follows that there can be no intercession on behalf of sinners.

When, in the early 9th century, the 'Abbasid caliph al- Ma`mun raised Mu'tazilism to the status of the state creed, the Mu'tazilite rationalists showed themselves to be illiberal and persecuted their opponents. Ahmad ibn Hanbal (died 855), an eminent orthodox figure and founder of one of the four orthodox schools of Islamic law, was subjected to flogging and imprisonment for his refusal to subscribe to the doctrine that the Qur`an, the word of God, was created in time.

3) THE SUNNAH

In the 10th century a reaction began against the Mu'tazilah that culminated in the formulation and subsequent general acceptance of another set of theological propositions, which became Sunni, or "orthodox" theology.

The issues raised by these early schisms and the positions adopted by them enabled the Sunni orthodoxy to define its own doctrinal positions in turn. Much of the content of Sunni theology was, therefore, supplied by its reactions to those schisms. The term sunnah, which means a "well-trodden path" and in the religious terminology of Islam normally signifies "the example set by the Prophet," in the present context simply means the traditional and well-defined way. In this context, the term sunnah usually is accompanied by the appendage "the consolidated majority" (al- jama'ah). The term clearly indicates that the traditional way is the way of the consolidated majority of the community as against peripheral or "wayward" positions of sectarians, who by definition must be erroneous.

i) The way of the majority.

With the rise of the orthodoxy, then, the foremost and elemental factor that came to be emphasized was the notion of the majority of the community. The concept of the community so vigorously pronounced by the earliest doctrine of the Qur`an gained both a new emphasis and a fresh context with the rise of Sunnism. Whereas the Qur`an had marked out the Muslim community from other communities, Sunnism now emphasized the views and customs of the majority of the community in contradistinction to peripheral groups. An abundance of tradition (Hadith) came to be attributed to the Prophet to the effect that Muslims must follow the majority's way, that minority groups are all doomed to hell, and that God's protective hand is always on (the majority of) the community, which can never be in error. Under the impact of the new Hadith, the community, which had been charged by the Qur`an with a mission and commanded to accept a challenge, now became transformed into a privileged one that was endowed with infallibility.

ii) Tolerance of diversity.

At the same time, while condemning schisms and branding dissent as heretical, Sunnism developed the opposite trend of accommodation, catholicity, and synthesis. A putative tradition of the Prophet that says "differences of opinion among my community are a blessing" was given wide currency. This principle of toleration ultimately made it possible for diverse sects and schools of thought--notwithstanding a wide range of difference in belief and practice--to recognize and coexist with each other. No group may be excluded from the community unless it itself formally renounces Islam. As for individuals, tests of heresy may be applied to their beliefs, but, unless a person is found to flagrantly violate or deny the unity of God or expressly negate the prophethood of Muhammad, such tests usually have no serious consequences. Catholicity was orthodoxy's answer to the intolerance and secessionism of the Khawarij and the severity of the Mu'tazilah. As a consequence, a formula was adopted in which good works were recognized as enhancing the quality of faith but not as entering into the definition and essential nature of faith. This broad formula saved the integrity of the community at the expense of moral strictness and doctrinal uniformity.

On the question of free will, Sunni orthodoxy attempted a synthesis between man's responsibility and God's omnipotence. The champions of orthodoxy accused the Mu'tazilah of quasi-Magian Dualism (Zoroastrianism) insofar as the Mu'tazilah admitted two independent and original actors in the universe: God and man. To the orthodox it seemed blasphemous to hold that man could act wholly outside the sphere of divine omnipotence, which had been so vividly portrayed by the Qur`an but which the Mu'tazilah had endeavoured to explain away in order to make room for man's free and independent action.

iii) Influence of Al-Ash'ari and al-Maturidi.

The Sunni formulation, however, as presented by al- Ash'ari and al- Maturidi, Sunni's two main representatives in the 10th century, shows palpable differences despite basic uniformity. Al-Ash'ari taught that human acts were created by God and acquired by man and that human responsibility depended on this acquisition. He denied, however, that man could be described as an actor in a real sense. Al-Maturidi, on the other hand, held that although God is the sole Creator of everything, including human acts, nevertheless, man is an actor in the real sense, for acting and creating were two different types of activity involving different aspects of the same human act.

In conformity with their positions, al-Ash'ari believed that man did not have the power to act before he actually acted and that God created this power in him at the time of action; and al-Maturidi taught that before the action man has a certain general power for action but that this power becomes specific to a particular action only when the action is performed, because, after full and specific power comes into existence, action cannot be delayed.

Al-Ash'ari and his school also held that human reason was incapable of discovering good and evil and that acts became endowed with good or evil qualities through God's declaring them to be such. Because man in his natural state regards his own self-interest as good and that which thwarts his interests as bad, natural human reason is unreliable. Independently of revelation, therefore, murder would not be bad nor the saving of life good. Furthermore, because God's Will makes acts good or bad, one cannot ask for reasons behind the divine law, which must be simply accepted. Al-Maturidi takes an opposite position, not materially different from that of the Mu'tazilah: human reason is capable of finding out good and evil, and revelation aids human reason against the sway of human passions.

Despite these important initial differences between the two main Sunni schools of thought, the doctrines of al-Maturidi became submerged in course of time under the expanding popularity of the Ash'arite school, which gained wide currency particularly after the 11th century because of the influential activity of the Sufi theologian al-Ghazali. Because these later theologians placed increasing emphasis on divine omnipotence at the expense of the freedom and efficacy of the human will, a deterministic outlook on life became characteristic of Sunni Islam--reinvigorated by the Sufi world view, which taught that nothing exists except God, whose being is the only real being. This general deterministic outlook produced, in turn, a severe reformist reaction in the teachings of Ibn Taymiyah, a 14th-century theologian who sought to rehabilitate human freedom and responsibility and whose influence has been strongly felt through the reform movements in the Muslim world since the 18th century.

4) THE SHI'AH

The Shi'ah are the only important surviving sect in Islam. As noted above, they owe their origin to the hostility between 'Ali (the fourth caliph and son-in-law of the Prophet) and the Umayyad dynasty (661-750). After 'Ali's death, the Shi'ah (Party; i.e., of 'Ali) demanded the restoration of rule to 'Ali's family, and from that demand developed the Shi'ite legitimism, or the divine right of the holy family to rule. In the early stages, the Shi'ah used this legitimism to cover the protest against the Arab hegemony under the Umayyads and to agitate for social reform. (see also Index: 'Alid family)

Gradually, however, Shi'ism developed a theological content for its political stand. Probably under Gnostic (esoteric, dualistic, and speculative) and old Iranian (dualistic) influences, the figure of the political ruler, the imam(exemplary "leader"), was transformed into a metaphysical being, a manifestation of God and the primordial light that sustains the universe and bestows true knowledge on man. Through the imam alone the hidden and true meaning of the Qur`anic revelation can be known, because the imam alone is infallible. The Shi'ah thus developed a doctrine of esoteric knowledge that was adopted also, in a modified form, by the Sufis, or Islamic mystics (see below Islamic mysticism, Sufism). The orthodox Shi'ah recognize 12 such imams, the last (Muhammad) having disappeared in the 9th century. Since that time, the mujtahids(i.e., the Shi'i divines) have been able to interpret law and doctrine under the putative guidance of the imam, who will return toward the end of time to fill the world with truth and justice. (see also Index: esotericism, Ithna 'Ashariyah, messiah)

On the basis of their doctrine of imamology, the Shi'ah emphasize their idealism and transcendentalism in conscious contrast with Sunni pragmatism. Thus, whereas the Sunnis believe in the ijma' ("consensus") of the community as the source of decision making and workable knowledge, the Shi'ah believe that knowledge derived from fallible sources is useless and that sure and true knowledge can come only through a contact with the infallible imam. Again, in marked contrast to Sunnism, Shi'ism adopted the Mu'tazilite doctrine of the freedom of the human will and the capacity of human reason to know good and evil, although its position on the question of the relationship of faith to works is the same as that of the Sunnis.

Parallel to the doctrine of an esoteric knowledge, Shi'ism, because of its early defeats and persecutions, also adopted the principle of taqiyahor dissimulation of faith in a hostile environment. Introduced first as a practical principle, taqiyah, which is also attributed to 'Ali and other imams, became an important part of the Shi'ah religious teaching and practice. In the sphere of law, Shi'ism differs from Sunni law mainly in allowing a temporary marriage, called mut'ah which can be legally contracted for a fixed period of time on the stipulation of a fixed dower.

From a spiritual point of view, perhaps the greatest difference between Shi'ism and Sunnism is the former's introduction into Islam of the passion motive, which is conspicuously absent from Sunni Islam. The violent death (in 680) of 'Ali's son, Husayn, at the hands of the Umayyad troops is celebrated with moving orations, passion plays, and processions in which the participants, in a state of emotional frenzy, beat their breasts with heavy chains and sharp instruments, inflicting wounds on their bodies. This passion motive has also influenced the Sunni masses in Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent, who participate in passion plays called ta'ziyahs Such celebrations are, however, absent from Egypt and North Africa.

Although the Shi'ah number only about 40,000,000 (Shi'ism has been the official religion in Iran since the 16th century), Shi'ism has exerted a great influence on Sunni Islam in several ways. The veneration in which all Muslims hold 'Ali and his family and the respect shown to 'Ali's descendants (who are called sayyidsin the East and sharifs in North Africa) are obvious evidence of this influence.

i) Isma'ilis.

Besides the main body of Twelver (Ithna 'Ashariyah) Shi'ah, Shi'ism has produced a variety of more or less extremist sects, the most important of them being the Isma'ili. Instead of recognizing Musa as the seventh imam, as did the main body of the Shi'ah, the Isma'ilis upheld the claims of his elder brother Isma'il. One group of Isma'ilis, called Seveners (Sab'iyah), considered Isma'il the seventh and last of the imams. The majority of Isma'ilis, however, believed that the imamate continued in the line of Isma'il's descendants. The Isma'ili teaching spread during the 9th century from North Africa to Sind, in India, and the Isma'ili Fatimid dynasty succeeded in establishing a prosperous empire in Egypt. Isma'ilis are subdivided into two groups -- the Nizaris, headed by the Aga Khan, and the Musta'lis in Bombay, with their own spiritual head. The Isma'ilis are to be found mainly in East Africa, Pakistan, India, and Yemen. (see also Index: Isma'ilite, Nizari Isma'iliyah)

In their theology, the Isma'ilis have absorbed the most extreme elements and heterodox ideas. The universe is viewed as a cyclic process, and the unfolding of each cycle is marked by the advent of seven "speakers"--messengers of God with Scriptures--each of whom is succeeded by seven "silents"--messengers without revealed scriptures; the last speaker (the Prophet Muhammad) is followed by seven imams who interpret the Will of God to man and are, in a sense, higher than the Prophet because they draw their knowledge directly from God and not from the Angel of Revelation. During the 10th century, certain Isma'ili intellectuals formed a secret society called the Brethren of Purity, which issued a philosophical encyclopaedia, The Epistles of the Brethren of Purity, aiming at the liquidation of positive religions in favour of a universalist spirituality. (see also Index: "Rasa`il ikhwan as-safa` wa khillan al-wafa` ," )

The late Aga Khan III (1887-1957) had taken several measures to bring his followers closer to the main body of the Muslims. The Isma'ilis, however, still have not mosques but jama'at khanahs ("gathering houses"), and their mode of worship bears little resemblance to that of the Muslims generally.

ii) Related sects.

Several other sects arose out of the general Shi'ite movement--e.g., the Nusayris, the Yazidis, and the Druzes--which are sometimes considered as independent from Islam. The Druzes arose in the 11th century out of a cult of deification of the Fatimid caliph al- Hakim.

During a 19th-century anticlerical movement in Iran, a certain 'Ali Mohammad of Shiraz appeared, declaring himself to be the Bab ("Gate"; i.e., to God). At that time the climate in Iran was generally favourable to messianic ideas. He was, however, bitterly opposed by the Shi'ah 'ulama` (council of learned men) and was executed in 1850. After his death, his two disciples, Sobh-e Azal and Baha` Ullah, broke and went in different directions. Baha` Ullah eventually declared his religion--stressing a humanitarian pacificism and universalism--to be an independent religion outside Islam. The Baha`i faith won a considerable number of converts in North America during the early 20th century (see also in the Micropædia: DRUZE and BAHA`I FAITH ).

iii) The Sufis.

Islamic mysticism, or Sufism, emerged out of early ascetic reactions on the part of certain religiously sensitive personalities against the general worldliness that had overtaken the Muslim community and the purely "externalist" expressions of Islam in law and theology. These persons stressed the Muslim qualities of moral motivation, contrition against overworldliness, and "the state of the heart" as opposed to the legalist formulations of Islam. For a complete exposition of Sufi history, beliefs, and practices, see below Islamic mysticism, Sufism .

5) OTHER GROUPS

i) The Ahmadiyah.

In the latter half of the 19th century in Punjab, India, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed to be an inspired prophet. At first a defender of Islam against Christian missionaries, he then later adopted certain doctrines of the Indian Muslim modernist Sayyid Ahmad Khan--namely, that Jesus died a natural death and was not assumed into heaven as the Islamic orthodoxy believed and that jihad "by the sword" had been abrogated and replaced with jihad "of the pen." His aim appears to have been to synthesize all religions under Islam, for he declared himself to be not only the manifestation of the Prophet Muhammad but also the Second Advent of Jesus, as well as Krishna for the Hindus, among other claims. He did not announce, however, any new revelation or new law.

In 1914 a schism over succession occurred among the Ahmadiyah. One group that seceded from the main body, which was headed by a son of the founder, disowned the prophetic claims of Ghulam Ahmad and established its centre in Lahore (in modern Pakistan). The main body of the Ahmadiyah (known as the Qadiani, after the village of Qadian, birthplace of the founder and the group's first centre) evolved a separatist organization and, after the partition of India in 1947, moved their headquarters to Rabwah in what was then West Pakistan.

Both groups are noted for their missionary work, particularly in the West and in Africa. Within the Muslim countries, however, there is fierce opposition to the main group because of its claim that Ghulam Ahmad was a prophet (most Muslim sects believe in the finality of prophethood with Muhammad) and because of its separatist organization. Restrictions were imposed on the Ahmadiyah in 1974 and again in 1984 by the Pakistani government, which declared that the group was not Muslim and prohibited them from engaging in various Islamic activities.

ii) The "Black Muslims."

After World War II an Islamic movement arose among blacks in the United States; members called themselves the Nation of Islam, but they were popularly known as Black Muslims. Although they adopted some Islamic social practices, the group was in large part a black separatist and social protest movement. Their leader, Elijah Muhammad, who claimed to be an inspired prophet, interpreted the doctrine of Resurrection in an unorthodox sense as the revival of oppressed ("dead") peoples. The popular leader and spokesman Malcolm X (el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz) broke with Elijah Muhammad and adopted more orthodox Islamic views. He was assassinated in 1965. After the death of Elijah Muhammad in 1975, the group was renamed World Community of Islam in the West and officially abandoned its separatist aims. The name was again changed in the late 1970s, to American Muslim Mission.

3. Islamic mysticism, Sufism

Mysticism is that aspect of Islamic belief and practice in which Muslims seek to find the truth of divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God. It consists of a variety of mystical paths that are designed to ascertain the nature of man and God and to facilitate the experience of the presence of divine love and wisdom in the world.

Islamic mysticism is called tasawwuf (literally, "to dress in wool") in Arabic, but it has been called Sufism in Western languages since the early 19th century. An abstract word, Sufism derives from the Arabic term for a mystic, sufi, which is in turn derived from suf, "wool," plausibly a reference to the woollen garment of early Islamic ascetics. The Sufis are also generally known as "the poor," fuqara`, plural of the Arabic faqir, in Persian darvish, whence the English words fakir and dervish.

Though the roots of Islamic mysticism formerly were supposed to have stemmed from various non-Islamic sources in ancient Europe and even India, it now seems established that the movement grew out of early Islamic asceticism that developed as a counterweight to the increasing worldiness of the expanding Muslim community; only later were foreign elements that were compatible with mystical theology and practices adopted and made to conform to Islam.

By educating the masses and deepening the spiritual concerns of the Muslims, Sufism has played an important role in the formation of Muslim society. Opposed to the dry casuistry of the lawyer-divines, the mystics nevertheless scrupulously observed the commands of the divine law. The Sufis have been further responsible for a large-scale missionary activity all over the world, which still continues. Sufis have elaborated the image of the prophet Muhammad--the founder of Islam--and have thus largely influenced Muslim piety by their Muhammad-mysticism. Without the Sufi vocabulary, Persian and other literatures related to it, such as Turkish, Urdu, Sindhi, Pashto, and Panjabi, would lack their special charms. Through the poetry of these literatures mystical ideas spread widely among the Muslims. In some countries Sufi leaders were also active politically.

1) HISTORY

Islamic mysticism had several stages of growth, including (1) the appearance of early asceticism, (2) the development of a classical mysticism of divine love, and (3) the rise and proliferation of fraternal orders of mystics. Despite these general stages, however, the history of Islamic mysticism is largely a history of individual mystic experience.

The first stage of Sufism appeared in pious circles as a reaction against the worldliness of the early Umayyad period (AD 661-749). From their practice of constantly meditating on the Qur`anic words about Doomsday, the ascetics became known as "those who always weep" and those who considered this world "a hut of sorrows." They were distinguished by their scrupulous fulfillment of the injunctions of the Qur`an and tradition, by many acts of piety, and especially by a predilection for night prayers.

i) Classical mysticism.

The introduction of the element of love, which changed asceticism into mysticism, is ascribed to Rabi'ah al-'Adawiyah (died 801), a woman from Basra who first formulated the Sufi ideal of a love of God that was disinterested, without hope for paradise and without fear of hell. In the decades after Rabi'ah, mystical trends grew everywhere in the Islamic world, partly through an exchange of ideas with Christian hermits. A number of mystics in the early generations had concentrated their efforts upon tawakkul, absolute trust in God, which became a central concept of Sufism. An Iraqi school of mysticism became noted for its strict self-control and psychological insight. The Iraqi school was initiated by al-Muhasibi (died 857)--who believed that purging the soul in preparation for companionship with God was the only value of asceticism. Its teachings of classical sobriety and wisdom were perfected by Junayd of Baghdad (died 910), to whom all later chains of the transmission of doctrine and legitimacy go back. In an Egyptian school of Sufism, the Nubian Dhu an-Nun (died 859) reputedly introduced the technical term ma' rifah ("interior knowledge"), as contrasted to learnedness; in his hymnical prayers he joined all nature in the praise of God--an idea based on the Qur`an and later elaborated in Persian and Turkish poetry. In the Iranian school, Abu Yazid al-Bistami (died 874) is usually considered to have been representative of the important doctrine of annihilation of the self, fana` (see below); the strange symbolism of his sayings prefigures part of the terminology of later mystical poets. At the same time the concept of divine love became more central, especially among the Iraqi Sufis. Its main representatives are Nuri, who offered his life for his brethren, and Sumnun "the Lover."

The first of the theosophical speculations based on mystical insights about the nature of man and the essence of the Prophet were produced by such Sufis as Sahl at-Tustari (died c. 896). Some Hellenistic ideas were later adopted by al-Hakim at-Tirmidhi (died 898). Sahl was the master of al-Husayn ibn Mansur al- Hallaj, who has become famous for his phrase ana al-haqq, "I am the Creative Truth" (often rendered "I am God"), which was later interpreted in a pantheistic sense but is, in fact, only a condensation of his theory of huwa huwa ("He he"): God loved himself in his essence, and created Adam "in his image." Hallaj was executed in 922 in Baghdad as a result of his teachings; he is, for later mystics and poets, the "martyr of Love" par excellence, the enthusiast killed by the theologians. His few poems are of exquisite beauty; his prose, which contains an outspoken Muhammad-mysticism--i.e., mysticism centred on the prophet Muhammad--is as beautiful as it is difficult.

Sufi thought was in these early centuries transmitted in small circles. Some of the shaykhs, Sufi mystical leaders or guides of such circles, were also artisans. In the 10th century, it was deemed necessary to write handbooks about the tenets of Sufism in order to soothe the growing suspicions of the orthodox; the compendiums composed in Arabic by Abu Talib Makki, Sarraj, and Kalabadhi in the late 10th century, and by Qushayri and, in Persian, by Hujviri in the 11th century reveal how these authors tried to defend Sufism and to prove its orthodox character. It should be noted that the mystics belonged to all schools of Islamic law and theology of the times.

The last great figure in the line of classical Sufism is Abu Hamid al- Ghazali (died 1111), who wrote, among numerous other works, the Ihya` 'ulum ad-din ("The Revival of the Religious Sciences"), a comprehensive work that established moderate mysticism against the growing theosophical trends--which tended to equate God and the world--and thus shaped the thought of millions of Muslims. His younger brother, Ahmad al-Ghazali, wrote one of the subtlest treatises (Sawanih; "Occurrences" [i.e., stray thoughts]) on mystical love, a subject that then became the main subject of Persian poetry.

ii) Rise of fraternal orders.

Slightly later, mystical orders (fraternal groups centring around the teachings of a leader-founder) began to crystallize. The 13th century, though politically overshadowed by the invasion of the Mongols into the Eastern lands of Islam and the end of the 'Abbasid caliphate, was also the golden age of Sufism: the Spanish-born Ibn al'Arabi created a comprehensive theosophical system (concerning the relation of God and the world) that was to become the cornerstone for a theory of "Unity of Being." According to this theory all existence is one, a manifestation of the underlying divine reality. His Egyptian contemporary Ibn al-Farid wrote the finest mystical poems in Arabic. Two other important mystics, who died c. AD 1220, were a Persian poet, Farid od-Din 'Attar, one of the most fertile writers on mystical topics, and a Central Asian master, Najmuddin Kubra, who presented elaborate discussions of the psychological experiences through which the mystic adept has to pass.

The greatest mystical poet in the Persian language, Jalal ad-Din ar-Rumi (1207-73), was moved by mystical love to compose his lyrical poetry that he attributed to his mystical beloved, Shams ad-Din of Tabriz, as a symbol of their union. Rumi's didactic poem Masnavi in about 26,000 couplets--a work that is for the Persian-reading mystics second in importance only to the Qur`an--is an encyclopaedia of mystical thought in which everyone can find his own religious ideas. Rumi inspired the organization of the whirling dervishes--who sought ecstasy through an elaborate dancing ritual, accompanied by superb music. His younger contemporary Yunus Emre inaugurated Turkish mystical poetry with his charming verses that were transmitted by the Bektashiyah (Bektasi) order of dervishes and are still admired in modern Turkey. In Egypt, among many other mystical trends, an order--known as Shadhiliyah--was founded by ash-Shadhili (died 1258); its main literary representative, Ibn 'Ata` Allah of Alexandria, wrote sober aphorisms (hikam). (see also Index: Turkish literature)

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. Later some of the Sufis in India were brought closer to Hindu mysticism by an overemphasis on the idea of divine unity which became almost monism--a religiophilosophic perspective according to which there is only one basic reality, and the distinction between God and the world (and man) tends to disappear. The syncretistic attempts of the Mughal emperor Akbar (died 1605) to combine different forms of belief and practice, and the religious discussions of the crown prince Dara Shukoh (executed for heresy, 1659) were objectionable to the orthodox. Typically, the countermovement was again undertaken by a mystical order, the Naqshbandiyah, a Central Asian fraternity founded in the 14th century. Contrary to the monistic trends of the school of wahdat al-wujud ("existential unity of being"), the later Naqshbandiyah defended the wahdat ash-shuhud ("unity of vision"), a subjective experience of unity, occurring only in the mind of the believer, and not as an objective experience. Ahmad Sirhindi (died 1624) was the major protagonist of this movement in India. His claims of sanctity were surprisingly daring: he considered himself the divinely invested master of the universe. His refusal to concede the possibility of union between man and God (characterized as "servant" and "Lord") and his sober law-bound attitude gained him and his followers many disciples, even at the Mughal court and as far away as Turkey. In the 18th century, Shah Wali Allah of Delhi was connected with an attempt to reach a compromise between the two inimical schools of mysticism; he was also politically active and translated the Qur`an into Persian, the official language of Mughal India. Other Indian mystics of the 18th century, such as Mir Dard, played a decisive role in forming the newly developing Urdu poetry. (see also Index: Hinduism, Mughal dynasty)

In the Arabic parts of the Islamic world, only a few interesting mystical authors are found after 1500. They include ash-Sha'rani in Egypt (died 1565) and the prolific writer 'Abd al-Ghani an-Nabulusi in Syria (died 1731). Turkey produced some fine mystical poets in the 17th and 18th centuries. The influence of the mystical orders did not recede; rather new orders came into existence, and most literature was still tinged with mystical ideas and expressions. Political and social reformers in the Islamic countries have often objected to Sufism because they have generally considered it as backward, hampering the free development of society. Thus, the orders and dervish lodges in Turkey were closed by Kemal Atatürk in 1925. Yet, their political influence is still palpable, though under the surface. Such modern Islamic thinkers as the Indian philosopher Muhammad Iqbal have attacked traditional monist mysticism and have gone back to the classical ideals or divine love as expressed by Hallaj and his contemporaries. The activities of modern Muslim mystics in the cities are mostly restricted to spiritual education.

2) SUFI LITERATURE

Though a prophetic saying (Hadith) claims that "he who knows God becomes silent," the Sufis have produced a literature of impressive extent and could defend their writing activities with another Hadith: "He who knows God talks much." The first systematic books explaining the tenets of Sufism date from the 10th century; but earlier, Muhasibi had already written about spiritual education, Hallaj 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 Sarraj and his followers, as well as the tabaqat (biographical works) by Sulami, Abu Nu'aym al-Isfahani, and others, together with some biographies of individual masters, are the sources for knowledge of early Sufism. (see also Index: Islamic arts)

Early mystical commentaries on the Qur`an are only partly extant, often preserved in fragmentary quotations in later sources. 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 Adab al-muridin ("The Adepts' Etiquette") by Abu Najib as-Suhrawardi (died 1168), the founder of the Suhrawardiyah order and uncle of the author of the oft translated 'Awarif al-ma'arif ("The Well-known Sorts of Knowledge"). The theosophists had to condense their systems in readable form; Ibn al-'Arabi's al-Futuhat al-Makkiyah ("The Meccan Revelations") is the textbook of wahdat al-wujud (God and creation as two aspects of one reality); his smaller work on the peculiar character of the prophets--Fusus al-hikam ("The Bezels--or cutting edges--of Wisdom")--became even more popular.

Later mystics commented extensively upon the classical sources and, sometimes, translated them into their mother tongues. A literary type that has flourished especially in India since the 13th century is the malfuzat, a collection of sayings of the mystical leader, which are psychologically interesting and allow glimpses into the political and social situation of the Muslim community. Collections of letters of the shaykhs are similarly revealing. Sufi literature abounds in hagiography, either biographies of all known saints from the Prophet to the day of the author, or of saints of a specific order, or of those who lived in a certain town or province, so that much information on the development of Sufi thought and practice is available if sources are critically sifted.

The greatest contribution of Sufism to Islamic literature, however, is poetry--beginning with charming, short Arabic love poems (sometimes sung for a mystical concert, sama') that express the yearning of the soul for union with the beloved. The love-relation prevailing in most Persian poetry is that between a man and a beautiful youth; less often, as in the writings of Ibn al-'Arabi and Ibn al-Farid, eternal beauty is symbolized through female beauty; in Indo-Muslim popular mystical songs the soul is the loving wife, God the longed-for husband. Long mystic-didactic poems (masnavis) were written to introduce the reader to the problems of unity and love by means of allegories and parables. After Sana`i's (died 1131?) Hadiqat al-haqiqah wa shari'at at-tariqah ("The Garden of Truth and the Law of Practice"),came 'Attar's Manteq ot-teyr ("The Birds' Conversation") and Rumi's Masnavi-ye ma'navi ("Spiritual Couplets"). These three works are the sources that have furnished poets for centuries with mystical ideas and images. Typical of Sufi poetry is the hymn in praise of God, expressed in chains of repetitions.

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 Panjabi-, 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. Sufi ideas thus permeated the hearts of all those who hearkened to poetry. An example is al-Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj, the 10th-century martyr-mystic, who is as popular in modern progressive Urdu poetry as he was with the "God-intoxicated" Sufis; he has been converted into a symbol of suffering for one's ideals.

3) SUFI THOUGHT AND PRACTICE

i) Important aspects.

The mystics drew their vocabulary largely from the Qur`an, which for Muslims contains all divine wisdom and has to be interpreted with ever-increasing insight. In the Qur`an, mystics found the threat of the Last Judgment, but they also found the statement that God "loves them and they love him," which became the basis for love-mysticism. Strict obedience to the religious law and imitation of the Prophet were basic for the mystics. By rigid introspection and mental struggle the mystic tried to purify his baser self from even the smallest signs of selfishness, thus attaining ikhlas, absolute purity of intention and act. Tawakkul (trust in God) was sometimes practiced to such an extent that every thought of tomorrow was considered irreligious. "Little sleep, little talk, little food" were fundamental; fasting became one of the most important preparations for the spiritual life.

The central concern of the Sufis, as of every Muslim, was tawhidthe witness that "There is no deity but God." This truth had to be realized in the existence of each individual, and so the expressions differ: early Sufism postulated the approach to God through love and voluntary suffering until a unity of will was reached; Junayd spoke of "recognizing God as He was before creation"; God is seen as the One and only actor; He alone "has the right to say 'I'." Later, tawhid came to mean the knowledge that there is nothing existent but God, or the ability to see God and creation as two aspects of one reality, reflecting each other and depending upon each other (wahdat al-wujud).

The mystics realized that beyond the knowledge of outward sciences intuitive knowledge was required in order to receive that illumination to which reason has no access. Dhawq, direct "tasting" of experience, was essential for them. But the inspirations and "unveilings" that God grants such mystics by special grace must never contradict the Qur`an and tradition and are valid only for the person concerned. Even the Malamatis, who attracted public contempt upon themselves by outwardly acting against the law, in private life strictly followed the divine commands. Mystics who expressed in their poetry their disinterest in, and even contempt of, the traditional formal religions never forgot that Islam is the highest manifestation of divine wisdom. (see also Index: intuition)

The idea of the manifestation of divine wisdom was also connected with the person of the prophet Muhammad. Though early Sufism had concentrated upon the relation between God and the soul, from AD 900 onward a strong Muhammad-mysticism developed. In the very early years, the alleged divine address to the Prophet--"If thou hadst not been I had not created the worlds"--was common among Sufis. Muhammad was said to be "Prophet when Adam was still between water and clay." Muhammad is also described as light from light, and from his light all the prophets are created, constituting the different aspects of this light. In its fullness such light radiated from the historical Muhammad and is partaken of by his posterity and by the saints; for Muhammad has the aspect of sanctity in addition to that of prophecy. An apocryphal tradition makes even God attest: "I am Ahmad (= Muhammad) without 'm' (i.e., Ahad, 'One')."

A mystic may also be known as wali. By derivation the word wali ("saint") means "one in close relation; friend." The awliya` (plural of wali) are "friends of God who have no fear nor are they sad." Later the term wali came to denote the Muslim mystics who had reached a certain stage of proximity to God, or those who had reached the highest mystical stages. They have their "seal" (i.e., the last and most perfect personality in the historical process; with this person, the evolution has found its end--as in Muhammad's case), just as the prophets have. Woman saints are found all over the Islamic world.

The invisible hierarchy of saints consists of the 40 abdal ("substitutes"; for when any of them dies another is elected by God from the rank and file of the saints), seven awtad ("stakes," or "props," of faith), three nuqaba` ("leader"; "one who introduces people to his master"), headed by the qutb ("axis, pole"), or ghawth ("help")--titles claimed by many Sufi leaders. Saint worship is contrary to Islam, which does not admit of any mediating role for human beings between man and God; but the cult of living and even more of dead saints--visiting their tombs to take vows there--responded to the feeling of the masses, and thus a number of pre-Islamic customs were absorbed into Islam under the cover of mysticism. The advanced mystic was often granted the capacity of working miracles called karamat (charismata or "graces"); not mu'jizat ("that which men are unable to imitate"), like the miracles of the prophets. Among them are "cardiognosia" (knowledge of the heart), providing food from the unseen, presence in two places at the same time, and help for the disciples, be they near or far. In short, a saint is one "whose prayers are heard" and who has tasarruf, the power of materializing in this world possibilities that still rest in the spiritual world. Many great saints, however, considered miracle working as a dangerous trap on the path that might distract the Sufi from his real goal. (see also Index: Sufism)

ii) The path.

The path ( tariqah) begins with repentance. A mystical guide (shaykh, pir) accepts the seeker as disciple (murid), orders him to follow strict ascetic practices, and suggests certain formulas for meditation. It is said that the disciple should be in the hands of the master "like a corpse in the hand of the washer." The master teaches him constant struggle (the real "Holy War") against the lower soul, often represented as a black dog, which should, however, not be killed but merely tamed and used in the way of God. The mystic dwells in a number of spiritual stations (maqam), which are described in varying sequence, and, after the initial repentance, comprise abstinence, renunciation, and poverty--according to Muhammad's saying, "Poverty is my pride"; poverty was sometimes interpreted as having no interest in anything apart from God, the Rich One, but the concrete meaning of poverty prevailed, which is why the mystic is often denoted as "poor," fakir or dervish. Patience and gratitude belong to higher stations of the path, and consent is the loving acceptance of every affliction. (see also Index: religious education)

On his way to illumination the mystic will undergo such changing spiritual states ( hal) as qabd and bast, constraint and happy spiritual expansion, fear and hope, and longing and intimacy, which are granted by God and last for longer or shorter periods of time, changing in intensity according to the station in which the mystic is abiding at the moment. The way culminates in ma'rifah ("interior knowledge," "gnosis") or in mahabbah ("love"), the central subject of Sufism since the 9th century, which implies a union of lover and beloved, and was therefore violently rejected by the orthodox, for whom "love of God" meant simply obedience. The final goal is fana`("annihilation"), primarily an ethical concept of annihilating one's own qualities, according to the prophetic saying "Take over the qualities of God," but slowly developing into a complete extinction of the personality. Some mystics taught that behind this negative unity where the self is completely effaced, the baqa`, ("duration, life in God") is found: the ecstatic experience, called intoxication, is followed by the "second sobriety"; i.e., the return of the completely transformed mystic into this world where he acts as a living witness of God or continues the "journey in God." The mystic has reached haqiqah ("realty"), after finishing the tariqah ("path"), which is built upon the shari'ah ("law"). Later, the disciple is led through fana` fi ashshaykh ("annihilation in the master") to fana` fiar-Rasul ("annihilation in the Prophet") before reaching, if at all, fana` fi-Allah ("annihilation in God").

One of the means used on the path is the ritual prayer, or dhikr("remembrance"), derived from the Qur`anic injunction "And remember God often" (surah 62:10). It consists in a repetition of either one or all of the most beautiful names of God, of the name "Allah," or of a certain religious formula, such as the profession of faith: "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet." The rosary with 99 or 33 beads was in use as early as the 8th century for counting the thousands of repetitions. Man's whole being should eventually be transformed into remembrance of God. (see also Index: prayer)

In the mid-9th century some mystics introduced sessions with music and poetry recitals (sama') in Baghdad in order to reach the ecstatic experience--and since then debates about the permissibility of sama', filling many books, have been written. Narcotics were used in periods of degeneration, coffee by the "sober" mystics (first by the Shadhiliyah after 1300).

Besides the wayfarers (salik) on the path, Sufis who have no master but are attracted solely by divine grace are also found; they are called Uwaysi, after Uways al-Qarani, the Yemenite contemporary of the Prophet who never saw him but firmly believed in him. There are also the so-called majdhub ("attracted") who are often persons generally agreed to be more or less mentally deranged.

iii) Symbolism in Sufism.

The divine truth was at times revealed to the mystic in visions, auditions, and dreams, in colours and sounds, but to convey these nonrational and ineffable experiences to others the mystic had to rely upon such terminology of worldly experience as that of love and intoxication--often objectionable from the orthodox viewpoint. The symbolism of wine, cup, and cupbearer, first expressed by Abu Yazid al-Bistami in the 9th century, became popular everywhere, whether in the verses of the Arab Ibn al-Farid, or the Persian 'Iraqi, or the Turk Yunus Emre, and their followers. The hope for the union of the soul with the divine had to be expressed through images of human yearning and love. The love for lovely boys in which the divine beauty manifests itself--according to the alleged Hadith "I saw my Lord in the shape of a youth with a cap awry"--was commonplace in Persian poetry. Union was described as the submersion of the drop in the ocean, the state of the iron in the fire, the vision of penetrating light, or the burning of the moth in the candle (first used by Hallaj). Worldly phenomena were seen as black tresses veiling the radiant beauty of the divine countenance. The mystery of unity and diversity was symbolized, for example, under the image of mirrors that reflect the different aspects of the divine, or as prisms colouring the pure light. Every aspect of nature was seen in relation to God. The symbol of the soulbird--in which the human soul is likened to a flying bird--known everywhere, was the centre of 'Attar's Manteq ot-teyr ("The Birds' Conversation"). The predilection of the mystical poets for the symbolism of the nightingale and rose (the red rose = God's perfect beauty; nightingale = soul; first used by Baqli [died 1206]) stems from the soul-bird symbolism. For spiritual education, symbols taken from medicine (healing of the sick soul) and alchemy (changing of base matter into gold) were also used. Many descriptions that were originally applied to God as the goal of love were, in later times, used also for the Prophet, who is said to be like the "dawn between the darkness of the material world and the sun of Reality." (see also Index: religious symbolism)

Allusions to the Qur`an were frequent, especially so to verses that seem to imply divine immanence (God's presence in the world), such as "Whithersoever ye turn, there is the Face of God" (surah 2:109), or that God is "Closer than your neck-vein" (surah 50:8). Surah 7:172--i.e., God's address to the uncreated children of Adam ("Am I not your Lord" [alastu birabbikum])--came to denote the pre-eternal love relation between God and man. As for the prophets before Muhammad, the vision of Moses was considered still imperfect, for the mystic wants the actual vision of God, not His manifestation through a burning bush. Abraham, for whom fire turned into a rose garden, resembles the mystic in his afflictions; Joseph, in his perfect beauty, the mystical beloved after whom the mystic searches. The apocryphal traditions used by the mystics are numerous; such as "Heaven and earth do not contain me, but the heart of my faithful servant contains Me"; and the possibility of a relation between man and God is also explained by the traditional idea: "He (God) created Adam in His image."

4) THEOSOPHICAL SUFISM

Sufism, in its beginnings a practical method of spiritual education and self-realization, grew slowly into a theosophical system by adopting traditions of Neoplatonism, the Hellenistic world, Gnosticism (an ancient esoteric religiophilosophical movement that viewed matter as evil and spirit as good), and spiritual currents from Iran and various countries in the ancient agricultural lands from the eastern Mediterranean to Iraq. One master who contributed to this development was the Persian as- Suhrawardi, called al-Maqtul ("killed"), executed in 1191 in Aleppo. To him is attributed the philosophy of ishraq ("illumination"), and he claimed to unite the Persian (Zoroastrian) and Egyptian (Hermetic) traditions. His didactic and doctrinal works in Arabic among other things taught a complicated angelology (theory of angels); some of his smaller Persian treatises depict the journey of the soul across the cosmos; the "Orient" (East) is the world of pure lights and archangels, the "Occident" (West) that of darkness and matter; and man lives in the "Western exile."

At the time of Suhrawardi's death the greatest representative of theosophic Sufism was in his 20s: Ibn al-'Arabi, born at Murcia, Spain, where speculative tendencies had been visible since Ibn Masarrah's philosophy (died 931). Ibn al-'Arabi was instructed in mysticism by two Spanish woman saints. Performing the traditional pilgrimage to Mecca, he met there an accomplished young Persian lady who represented for him the divine wisdom. This experience resulted in the charming poems of the Tarjuman al-ashwaq ("Interpreter of Yearning"), which the author later explained mystically. Ibn al-'Arabi composed at least 150 volumes. His magnum opus is al-Futuhat al-Makkiyah ("The Meccan Revelations") in 560 chapters, in which he expounds his theory of unity of being.

The substance of theosophic Sufism is as follows. According to the Hadith qudsi, or "holy tradition"--"I was a hidden treasure and wanted to be known"--the absolute, or God, yearned in his loneliness for manifestation and created the world by effusing being upon the heavenly archetypes, a "theophany (a physical manifestation of deity) through God's imaginative power." The universe is annihilated and created every moment. Every divine name is reflected in a named one. The world and God are said to be like ice and water, or like two mirrors contemplating themselves in each other, joined by a sympathetic union. The Prophet Muhammad is the universal man, the perfect man, the total theophany of the divine names, the prototype of creation. Muhammad is the "word," each particular dimension of which is identified with a prophet, and he is also the model for the spiritual realization of the possibilities of man. The mystic has to pass the stages of the Qur`anic prophets as they are explained in the Fusus al-hikam ("Bezels of Wisdom") until he becomes united with the haqiqa Muhammadiya (the first individualization of the divine in the "Muhammadan Reality"). Man can have vision only of the form of the faith he professes, and Ibn al-'Arabi's oft-quoted verse, "I follow the religion of love wherever its camels turn," with its seeming religious tolerance means, as S.H. Nasr puts it: "the form of God is for him no longer the form of this or that faith exclusive of all others but his own eternal form which he encounters." The theories of the perfect man were elaborated by Jili (died c. 1424) in his compendium Al-insan al-kamil ("The Perfect Man") and became common throughout the Muslim world.

Ibn al-'Arabi's theosophy has been attacked by orthodox Muslims and mystics of the "sober" school as incongruent with Islam because "a thoroughly monistic system cannot take seriously the objective validity of moral standards." Even the adversaries of the "greatest master" could not, however, help using part of his terminology. Innumerable mystics and poets propagated his ideas, though they only partly understood them, and this circumstance led also to a misinterpretation of the data of early Sufism in the light of existential monism. Later Persian poetry is permeated by the pantheistic feeling of hama ost ("everything is He").

Ibn al-'Arabi's contemporary in Egypt, the poet Ibn al-Farid, is usually mentioned together with him; Ibn al-Farid, however, is not a systematic thinker but a full-fledged poet who used the imagery of classical Arabic poetry to describe the state of the lover in extremely artistic verses and has given, in his Ta`iyat al-kubra ("Poem of the Journey"), glimpses of the way of the mystic, using, as many poets before and after him did, for example, the image of the shadow play for the actions of the creatures who are dependent upon the divine playmaster. His unifying experience is personal and is not the expression of a theosophical system.

5) SUFI ORDERS

i) Organization.

Mystical life was first restricted to the relation between a master and a few disciples; the foundations of a monastic system were laid by the Persian Abu Sa'id ebn Abi ol-Kheyr (died 1049), but real orders or fraternities came into existence only from the 12th century onward: 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (died 1166) gathered the first and still most important order around himself; then followed the Suhrawardiyah, and the 13th century saw the formation of large numbers of different orders in the East (for example, Kubrawiya in Khvarezm) and West (Shadhiliyah). Thus, Sufism ceased to be the way of the chosen few and influenced the masses. A strict ritual was elaborated: when the adept had found a master for whom he had to feel a preformed affinity, there was an initiation ceremony in which he swore allegiance (bay'at) into the master's hand; similarities to the initiation in Isma'ilism, the 9th-century sect, and in the guilds suggest a possible interaction. The disciple (murid) had to undergo a stern training; he was often ordered to perform the lowest work in the community, to serve the brethren, to go out to beg (many of the old monasteries subsisted upon alms). A seclusion period of 40 days under hard conditions was common for the adepts in most orders. (see also Index: initiation rite)

Investiture with the khirqah, the frock of the master, originally made from shreds and patches, was the decisive act by which the disciple became part of the silsilah, the chain of mystical succession and transmission, which leads back--via Junayd--to the Prophet himself and differs in every order. Some mystical leaders claimed to have received their khirqah directly from al-Khidr, a mysterious immortal saint.

In the earliest times, allegiance was sworn exclusively to one master who had complete power over the disciple, controlling each of his movements, thoughts, visions, and dreams; but later many Sufis got the khirqah from two or more shaykhs. There is consequently a differentiation between the shaykh at-tarbiyah, who introduces the disciple into the ritual, forms, and literature of the order, and the shaykh as-suhbah, who steadily watches him and with whom the disciple lives. Only a few members of the fraternity remained in the centre (dargah, khanqah, tekke), close to the shaykh, but even those were not bound to celibacy. Most of the initiated returned to their daily life and partook in mystic services only during certain periods. The most mature disciple was invested as khali fah ("successor") to the shaykh and was often sent abroad to extend the activities of the order. The dargahs were organized differently in the various orders; some relied completely upon alms, keeping their members in utmost poverty; others were rich, and their shaykh was not very different from a feudal lord. Relations with rulers varied--some masters refused contacts with the representatives of political power; others did not mind friendly relations with the grandees.

ii) Discipline and ritual.

Each order has peculiarities in its ritual. Most start the instruction with breaking the lower soul; others, such as the later Naqshbandiyah, stress the purification of the heart by constant dhikr ("remembrance") and by discourse with the master (suhbah). The forms of dhikr vary in the orders. Many of them use the word Allah, or the profession of faith with its rhythmical wording, sometimes accompanied by movements of the body, or by breath control up to complete holding of the breath. The Mawlawis, the whirling dervishes, are famous for their dancing ritual, an organized variation of the earlier sama' practices, which were confined to music and poetry. The Rifa'is, the so-called Howling Dervishes, have become known for their practice of hurting themselves while in an ecstatic state that they reach in performing their loud dhikr. (Such practices that might well degenerate into mere jugglery are not approved by most orders.) Some orders also teach the dhikr khafi, silent repetition of the formulas, and meditation, concentrating upon certain fixed points of the body; thus the Naqshbandis do not allow any emotional practices and prefer contemplation to ecstasy, perhaps as a result of Buddhist influence from Central Asia. Other orders have special prayers given to the disciples, such as the protective hizb al-bahr ("The protective armour of the sea"; i.e., for seafaring people--then extended to all travellers) in the Shadhiliyah order. Most of them prescribe for their disciples additional prayers and meditation at the end of each ritual prayer.

iii) Function and role in Islamic society.

The orders formed an excellent means of bringing together the spiritually interested members of the community. They acted as a counterweight against the influence of hairsplitting lawyer-divines and gave the masses an emotional outlet in enthusiastic celebrations ('urs, "marriage") of the anniversaries of the deaths of founders of mystic orders or similar festivals in which they indulged in music and joy. The orders were adaptable to every social level; thus, some of them were responsible for adapting a number of un-Islamic folkloristic practices such as veneration of saints. Their way of life often differed so much from Islamic ideals that one distinguishes in Iran and India between orders ba shar' (law-bound) and bi shar' (not following the injunctions of the Qur`an). Some orders were more fitting for the rural population, such as the Ahmadiyah (after Ahmad al-Badawi; died 1286) in Egypt. The Ahmadiyah, however, even attracted some Mamluk rulers. The Turkish Bektashiyah (Haci Bektas, early 14th century), together with strange syncretistic cults, showed a prevalence of the ideals of the Shi'ites (from Shi'ah--the followers of 'Ali, son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad, whose descendants claimed to be rightful successors to the religious leadership of Islam). The figure of 'Ali played a role also in other fraternities, and the relations between Sufism in the 14th and 15th centuries and the Shi'ah still have to be explored, as is also true of the general influence of Shi'ite ideas on Sufism. Other orders, such as the Shadhiliyah, an offshoot of which still plays an important role among Egyptian officials and employees, are typically middle class. This order demands not a life in solitude but strict adherence to one's profession and fulfillment of one's duty. Still other orders were connected with the ruling classes, such as, for a time, the Chishtiyah in Mughal India, and the Mawlawiyah, whose leader had to invest the Ottoman sultan with the sword. The Mawlawiyah is also largely responsible for the development of classical Turkish poetry, music, and fine arts, just as the Chishtiyah contributed much to the formation of classical Indo-Muslim music.

The main contribution of the orders, however, is their missionary activity. The members of different orders who settled in India from the early 13th century attracted thousands of Hindus by their example of love of both God and their own brethren and by preaching the equality of men. Missionary activity was often joined with political activity, as in 17th- and 18th-century Central Asia, where the Naqshbandiyah exerted strong political influence. In North Africa the Tijaniyah, founded in 1781, and the Sanusiyah, active since the early 19th century, both heralded Islam and engaged in politics; the Sanusiyah fought against Italy, and the former king of Libya was the head of the order. The Tijaniyah extended the borders of Islam toward Senegal and Nigeria, and their representatives founded large kingdoms in West Africa. Their influence, as well as that of the Qadiriyah, is still an important sociopolitical factor in those areas.

iv) Geographical extent of Sufi orders.

It would be impossible to number the members of mystical orders in the Islamic world. Even in such countries as Turkey, where the orders have been banned since 1925, many people still cling to the mystical tradition and feel themselves to be links in the spiritual chains of the orders and try to implement their ideals in modern society. The most widely spread group is, no doubt, the Qadiriyah, whose adherents are found from West Africa to India--the tomb of 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani in Baghdad still being a place of pilgrimage. The areas where the Sanusiyah live are restricted to the Maghrib, the Atlas Massif, and the coastal plain from Morocco to Tunisia, whereas the Tijaniyah has some offshoots in Turkey. Such rural orders as the Egyptian Ahmadiyah and Dasuqiyah (named after Ibrahim ad-Dasuqi; died 1277) are bound to their respective countries, as are the Mawlawis and Bektashiyah to the realms of the former Ottoman Empire. The Bektashiyah had gained political importance in the empire because of its relations with the Janissaries, the standing army. Albania, since 1929, has had a strong and officially recognized group of Bektashiyah who were even granted independent status after World War II. The Shattariyah (derived from 'Abd ash-Shattar; died 1415) extends from India to Java, whereas the Chishtiyah (derived from Khwajah Mu'inud-Din Chishtip; died 1236 in Ajmer) and Suhrawardiyah remain mainly inside the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent. The Kubrawiyah reached Kashmir through 'Ali Hama-dhani (died 1385), a versatile author, but the order later lost its influence.

The great variety of possible forms may be seen by comparing the Haddawah, vagabonds in Morocco, who "do not spoil God's day by work" and the Shadhiliyah with a sober attitude toward professional life and careful introspection. Out of the Shadhiliyah developed the austere Darqawiyah, who, in turn, produced the 'Alawiyah, whose master has attracted even a number of Europeans. The splitting up and formation of suborders is a normal process, but most of the subgroups have only local importance. The High Sufi Convent in Egypt counts 60 registered orders.

6) SIGNIFICANCE

Sufism has helped to shape large parts of Muslim society. The orthodox disagree with such aspects of Sufism as saint worship, visiting of tombs, musical performances, miracle mongering, degeneration into jugglery, and the adaptation of pre-Islamic and un-Islamic customs; and the reformers object to the influences of the monistic interpretation of Islam upon moral life and human activities. The importance given to the figure of the master is accused of yielding negative results; the shaykh as the almost infallible leader of his disciples and admirers could gain dangerous authority and political influence, for the illiterate villagers in backward areas used to rely completely upon the "saint." Yet, other masters have raised their voices against social inequality and have tried, even at the cost of their lives, to change social and political conditions for the better and to spiritually revive the masses. The missionary activities of the Sufis have enlarged the fold of the faithful. The importance of Sufism for spiritual education, and inculcation in the faithful of the virtues of trust in God, piety, faith in God's love, and veneration of the Prophet, cannot be overrated. The dhikr formulas still preserve their consoling and quieting power even for the illiterate. Mysticism permeates Persian literature and other literatures influenced by it. Such poetry has always been a source of happiness for millions, although some modernists have disdained its "narcotic" influence on Muslim thinking.

Industrialization and modern life have led to a constant decrease in the influence of Sufi orders in many countries. The spiritual heritage is preserved by individuals who sometimes try to show that mystical experience conforms to modern science. Today in the West, Sufism is popularized, but the genuinely and authentically devout are aware that it requires strict discipline, and that its goal can be reached--if at all--as they say, only by throwing oneself into the consuming fire of divine love. (An.Sc.)

4. Islamic philosophy

The origin and inspiration of philosophy in Islam are quite different from those of Islamic theology. Philosophy developed out of and around the nonreligious practical and theoretical sciences; it recognized no theoretical limits other than those of human reason itself; and it assumed that the truth found by unaided reason does not disagree with the truth of Islam when both are properly understood. Islamic philosophy was not a handmaid of theology. The two disciplines were related, because both followed the path of rational inquiry and distinguished themselves from traditional religious disciplines and from mysticism, which sought knowledge through practical, spiritual purification. Islamic theology was Islamic in the strict sense: it confined itself within the Islamic religious community, and it remained separate from the Christian and Jewish theologies that developed in the same cultural context and used Arabic as a linguistic medium. No such separation is observable in the philosophy developed in the Islamic cultural context and written in Arabic: Muslims, Christians, and Jews participated in it and separated themselves according to the philosophic rather than the religious doctrines they held. (see also Index: Arabic language)

1) THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS

i) Background and scope of philosophical interest in Islam.

The background of philosophic interest in Islam is found in the earlier phases of theology. But its origin is found in the translation of Greek philosophic works. By the middle of the 9th century, there were enough translations of scientific and philosophic works from Greek, Pahlavi, and Sanskrit to show those who read them with care that scientific and philosophic inquiry was something more than a series of disputations based on what the theologians had called sound reason. Moreover, it became evident that there existed a tradition of observation, calculation, and theoretical reflection that had been pursued systematically, refined, and modified for over a millennium.

The scope of this tradition was broad: it included the study of logic, the sciences of nature (including psychology and biology), the mathematical sciences (including music and astronomy), metaphysics, ethics, and politics. Each of these disciplines had a body of literature in which its principles and problems had been investigated by classical authors, whose positions had been, in turn, stated, discussed, criticized, or developed by various commentators. Islamic philosophy emerged from its theological background when Muslim thinkers began to study this foreign tradition, became competent students of the ancient philosophers and scientists, criticized and developed their doctrines, clarified their relevance for the questions raised by the theologians, and showed what light they threw on the fundamental issues of revelation, prophecy, and the divine law.

ii) Relation to the Mu'tazilah and interpretation of theological issues.

1. The teachings of al-Kindi.

Although the first Muslim philosopher, al- Kindi, who flourished in the first half of the 9th century, lived during the triumph of the Mu'tazilah of Baghdad and was connected with the 'Abbasid caliphs who championed the Mu'tazilah and patronized the Hellenistic sciences, there is no clear evidence that he belonged to a theological school. His writings show him to have been a diligent student of Greek and Hellenistic authors in philosophy and point to his familiarity with Indian arithmetic. His conscious, open, and unashamed acknowledgment of earlier contributions to scientific inquiry was foreign to the spirit, method, and purpose of the theologians of the time. His acquaintance with the writings of Plato and Aristotle was still incomplete and technically inadequate. He improved the Arabic translation of the "Theology of Aristotle" but made only a selective and circumspect use of it.

Devoting most of his writings to questions of natural philosophy and mathematics, al-Kindi was particularly concerned with the relation between corporeal things, which are changeable, in constant flux, infinite, and as such unknowable, on the one hand, and the permanent world of forms (spiritual or secondary substances), which are not subject to flux yet to which man has no access except through things of the senses. He insisted that a purely human knowledge of all things is possible, through the use of various scientific devices, learning such things as mathematics and logic, and assimilating the contributions of earlier thinkers. The existence of a "supernatural" way to this knowledge in which all these requirements can be dispensed with was acknowledged by al-Kindi: God may choose to impart it to his prophets by cleansing and illuminating their souls and by giving them his aid, right guidance, and inspiration; and they, in turn, communicate it to ordinary men in an admirably clear, concise, and comprehensible style. This is the prophets' "divine" knowledge, characterized by a special mode of access and style of exposition. In principle, however, this very same knowledge is accessible to man without divine aid, even though "human" knowledge may lack the completeness and consummate logic of the prophets' divine message. (see also Index: matter)

Reflection on the two kinds of knowledge--the human knowledge bequeathed by the ancients and the revealed knowledge expressed in the Qur`an--led al-Kindi to pose a number of themes that became central in Islamic philosophy: the rational-metaphorical exegesis of the Qur`an and the Hadith; the identification of God with the first being and the first cause; creation as the giving of being and as a kind of causation distinct from natural causation and Neoplatonic emanation; and the immortality of the individual soul.

2. The teachings of Abu Bakr ar-Razi.

The philosopher whose principal concerns, method, and opposition to authority were inspired by the extreme Mu'tazilah was the physician Abu Bakr ar-Razi (flourished 9th-10th centuries). He adopted the Mu'tazilah's atomism and was intent on developing a rationally defensible theory of creation that would not require any change in God or attribute to him responsibility for the imperfection and evil prevalent in the created world. To this end, he expounded the view that there are five eternal principles--God, Soul, prime matter, infinite, or absolute, space, and unlimited, or absolute, time--and explained creation as the result of the unexpected and sudden turn of events (faltah). Faltah occurred when Soul, in her ignorance, desired matter and the good God eased her misery by allowing her to satisfy her desire and to experience the suffering of the material world, and then gave her reason to make her realize her mistake and deliver her from her union with matter, the cause of her suffering and of all evil. Ar-Razi claimed that he was a Platonist, that he disagreed with Aristotle, and that his views were those of the Sabians of Harran and the Brahmins (Hindu teachers).

Isma'ili theologians became aware of the kinship between certain elements of his cosmology and their own. They disputed with him during his lifetime and continued afterward to refute his doctrines in their writings. According to their account of his doctrines, he was totally opposed to authority in matters of knowledge, believed in the progress of the arts and sciences, and held that all reasonable men are equally able to look after their own affairs, equally inspired and able to know the truth of what earlier men had taught, and equally able to improve upon it. Isma'ili theologians were incensed, in particular, by his wholesale rejection of prophecy, particular revelation, and divine laws. They were likewise opposed to his criticisms of religion in general as a device employed by evil men and a kind of tyranny over men that exploits their innocence and credulity, perpetuates ignorance, and leads to conflicts and wars.

Although the fragmentary character of al-Kindi's and ar-Razi's surviving philosophic writings does not permit passing firm and independent judgment on their accomplishments, they tend to bear out the view of later Muslim students of philosophy that both lacked competence in the logical foundation of philosophy, were knowledgeable in some of the natural sciences but not in metaphysics, and were unable to narrow the gap that separated philosophy from the new religion, Islam.

iii) The teachings of al-Farabi.

1. Political philosophy and the study of religion.

The first philosopher to meet this challenge was al- Farabi (flourished 9th-10th centuries). He saw that theology and the juridical study of the law were derivative phenomena that function within a framework set by the prophet as lawgiver and founder of a human community. In this community, revelation defines the opinions the members of the community must hold and the actions they must perform if they are to attain the earthly happiness of this world and the supreme happiness of the other world. Philosophy could not understand this framework of religion as long as it concerned itself almost exclusively with its truth content and confined the study of practical science to individualistic ethics and personal salvation.

In contrast to al-Kindi and ar-Razi, al-Farabi recast philosophy in a new framework analogous to that of the Islamic religion. The sciences were organized within this philosophic framework so that logic, physics, mathematics, and metaphysics culminated in a political science whose subject matter is the investigation of happiness and how it can be realized in cities and nations. The central theme of this political science is the founder of a virtuous or excellent community. Included in this theme are views concerning the supreme rulers who follow the founder, their qualifications, and how the community must be ordered so that its members attain happiness as citizens rather than isolated human beings. Once this new philosophical framework was established, it became possible to conduct a philosophical investigation of all the elements that constituted the Islamic community: the prophet-lawgiver, the aims of the divine laws, the legislation of beliefs as well as actions, the role of the succeessors to the founding legislator, the grounds of the interpretation or reform of the law, the classification of human communities according to their doctrines in addition to their size, and the critique of "ignorant" (pagan), "transgressing," "falsifying," and "erring" communities. Philosophical cosmology, psychology, and politics were blended by al-Farabi into a political theology whose aim was to clarify the foundations of the Islamic community and defend its reform in a direction that would promote scientific inquiry and encourage philosophers to play an active role in practical affairs. (see also Index: political philosophy)

2. Interpretation of Plato and Aristotle.

Behind this public, or exoteric, aspect of al-Farabi's work stood a massive body of more properly philosophic or scientific inquiries, which established his reputation among Muslims as the greatest philosophical authority after Aristotle, a great interpreter of the thought of Plato and Aristotle and their commentators, and a master to whom almost all major Muslim as well as a number of Jewish and Christian philosophers turned for a fuller understanding of the controversial, troublesome, and intricate questions of philosophy. Continuing the tradition of the Hellenistic masters of the Athenian and Alexandrian philosophical schools, al-Farabi broadened the range of philosophical inquiry and fixed its form. He paid special attention to the study of language and its relation to logic. In his numerous commentaries on Aristotle's logical works, he expounded for the first time in Arabic the entire range of the scientific and nonscientific forms of argument and established the place of logic as an indispensable prerequisite for philosophic inquiry. His writings on natural science exposed the foundation and assumptions of Aristotle's physics and dealt with the arguments of Aristotle's opponents, both philosophers and scientists, pagan, Christian, and Muslim.

3. The analogy of religion and philosophy.

Al-Farabi's theological and political writings showed later Muslim philosophers the way to deal with the question of the relation between philosophy and religion and presented them with a complex set of problems that they continued to elaborate, modify, and develop in different directions. Starting with the view that religion is analogous or similar to philosophy, al-Farabi argued that the idea of the true prophet-lawgiver ought to be the same as that of the true philosopher-king. Thus, he challenged both al-Kindi's view that prophets and philosophers have different and independent ways to the highest truth available to man and ar-Razi's view that philosophy is the only way to that knowledge. That a man could combine the functions of prophecy, lawgiving, philosophy, and kingship did not necessarily mean that these functions were identical; it did mean, however, that they all are legitimate subjects of philosophic inquiry. Philosophy must account for the powers, knowledge, and activities of the prophet, lawgiver, and king, which it must distinguish from and relate to those of the philosopher. The public, or political, function of philosophy was emphasized. Unlike Neoplatonism, which had for long limited itself to the Platonic teaching that the function of philosophy is to liberate the soul from the shadowy existence of the cave--in which knowledge can only be imperfectly comprehended as shadows reflecting the light of the truth beyond the cave (the world of senses)--al-Farabi insisted with Plato that the philosopher must be forced to return to the cave, learn to talk to its inhabitants in a manner they can comprehend, and engage in actions that may improve their lot. (see also Index: cave, myth of the)

4. Impact on Isma'ili theology.

Although it is not always easy to know the immediate practical intentions of a philosopher, it must be remembered that in al-Farabi's lifetime the fate of the Islamic world was in the balance. The Sunni caliphate's power hardly extended beyond Baghdad, and it appeared quite likely that the various Shi'i sects, especially the Isma'ilis, would finally overpower it and establish a new political order. Of all the movements in Islamic theology, Isma'ili theology was the one that was most clearly and massively penetrated by philosophy. Yet, its Neoplatonic cosmology, revolutionary background, antinomianism (antilegalism), and general expectation that divine laws were about to become superfluous with the appearance of the qa`im (the imam of the "resurrection") all militated against the development of a coherent political theory to meet the practical demands of political life and present a viable practical alternative to the Sunni caliphate. Al-Farabi's theologico-political writings helped point out this basic defect of Isma'ili theology. Under the Fatimids in Egypt (969-1171), Isma'ili theology modified its cosmology in the direction suggested by al-Farabi, returned to the view that the community must continue to live under the divine law, and postponed the prospect of the abolition of divine laws and the appearance of the qa`im to an indefinite point in the future.

iv) The teachings of Avicenna.

1. The "Oriental Philosophy."

Even more indicative of al-Farabi's success is the fact that his writings helped produce a philosopher of the stature of Avicenna (flourished 10th-11th centuries), whose versatility, imagination, inventiveness, and prudence shaped philosophy into a powerful force that gradually penetrated Islamic theology and mysticism and Persian poetry in eastern Islam and gave them universality and theoretical depth. His own personal philosophic views, he said, were those of the ancient sages of Greece (including the genuine views of Plato and Aristotle), which he had set forth in the "Oriental Philosophy," a book that has not survived and probably was not written or meant to be written. They were not identical with the common Peripatetic (Aristotelian) doctrines and were to be distinguished from the learning of his contemporaries, the Christian "Aristotelians" of Baghdad, which he attacked as vulgar, distorted, and falsified. His most voluminous writing, Kitab ash-shifa`("The Book of Healing"), was meant to accommodate the doctrines of other philosophers as well as hint at his own personal views, which are elaborated elsewhere in more imaginative and allegorical forms.

2. Distinction between essence and existence and the doctrine of creation.

Avicenna had learned from certain hints in al-Farabi that the exoteric teachings of Plato regarding "forms," "creation," and the immortality of individual souls were closer to revealed doctrines than the genuine views of Aristotle, that the doctrines of Plotinus and later Neoplatonic commentators were useful in harmonizing Aristotle's views with revealed doctrines, and that philosophy must accommodate itself to the divine law on the issue of creation and of reward and punishment in the hereafter, which presupposes some form of individual immortality. Following al-Farabi's lead, Avicenna initiated a full-fledged inquiry into the question of being, in which he distinguished between essence and existence. He argued that the fact of existence cannot be inferred from or accounted for by the essence of existing things and that form and matter by themselves cannot interact and originate the movement of the universe or the progressive actualization of existing things. Existence must, therefore, be due to an agent-cause that necessitates, imparts, gives, or adds existence to an essence. To do so, the cause must be an existing thing and coexist with its effect. The universe consists of a chain of actual beings, each giving existence to the one below it and responsible for the existence of the rest of the chain below. Because an actual infinite is deemed impossible by Avicenna, this chain as a whole must terminate in a being that is wholly simple and one, whose essence is its very existence, and therefore is self-sufficient and not in need of something else to give it existence. Because its existence is not contingent on or necessitated by something else but is necessary and eternal in itself, it satisfies the condition of being the necessitating cause of the entire chain that constitutes the eternal world of contingent existing things. (see also Index: Great Chain of Being)

All creation is necessarily and eternally dependent upon God. It consists of the intelligences, souls, and bodies of the heavenly spheres, each of which is eternal, and the sublunary sphere, which is also eternal, undergoing a perpetual process of generation and corruption, of the succession of form over matter, very much in the manner described by Aristotle.

3. The immortality of individual souls.

There is, however, a significant exception to this general rule: the human rational soul. Man can affirm the existence of his soul from direct consciousness of his self (what he means when he says "I"); and he can imagine this happening even in the absence of external objects and bodily organs. This proves, according to Avicenna, that the soul is indivisible, immaterial, and incorruptible substance, not imprinted in matter, but created with the body, which it uses as an instrument. Unlike other immaterial substances (the intelligences and souls of the spheres), it is not pre-eternal but is generated, or made to exist, at the same time as the individual body, which can receive it, is formed. The composition, shape, and disposition of its body and the soul's success or failure in managing and controlling it, the formation of moral habits, and the acquisition of knowledge all contribute to its individuality and difference from other souls. Though the body is not resurrected after its corruption, the soul survives and retains all the individual characteristics, perfections or imperfections, that it achieved in its earthly existence and in this sense is rewarded or punished for its past deeds. Avicenna's claim that he has presented a philosophic proof for the immortality of generated ("created") individual souls no doubt constitutes the high point of his effort to harmonize philosophy and religious beliefs.

4. Philosophy, religion, and mysticism.

Having accounted for the more difficult issues of creation and the immortality of individual souls, Avicenna proceeded to explain the faculty of prophetic knowledge (the "sacred" intellect), revelation (imaginative representation meant to convince the multitude and improve their earthly life), miracles, and the legal and institutional arrangements (acts of worship and the regulation of personal and public life) through which the divine law achieves its end. Avicenna's explanation of almost every aspect of Islam is pursued on the basis of extensive exegesis of the Qur`an and the Hadith. The primary function of religion is to assure the happiness of the many. This practical aim of religion (which Avicenna saw in the perspective of Aristotle's practical science) enabled him to appreciate the political and moral functions of divine revelation and account for its form and content. Revealed religion, however, has a subsidiary function also--that of indicating to the few the need to pursue the kind of life and knowledge appropriate to rare individuals endowed with special gifts. These men must be dominated by the love of God to facilitate the achievement of the highest knowledge. In many places Avicenna appears to identify these men with the mystics. The identification of the philosopher as a kind of mystic conveyed a new image of the philosopher as a member of the religious community who is distinguished from his coreligionists by his otherworldliness, dedicated to the inner truth of religion, and consumed by the love of God. (see also Index: revelation)

Avicenna's allegorical and mystical writings are usually called "esoteric" in the sense that they contain his personal views cast in an imaginative, symbolic form. The esoteric works must, then, be interpreted. Their interpretation must move away from the explicit doctrines contained in "exoteric" works such as the Shifa` and recover "the unmixed and uncorrupted truth" set forth in the "Oriental Philosophy." The "Oriental Philosophy," however, has never been available to anyone, and it is doubtful that it was written at all. This dilemma has made interpretation both difficult and rewarding for Muslim philosophers and modern scholars alike.

2) THE WESTERN PHILOSOPHERS

i) Background and characteristics of the western Muslim philosophical tradition.

Andalusia (in Spain) and western North Africa contributed little of substance to Islamic theology and philosophy until the 12th century. Legal strictures against the study of philosophy were more effective than in the east. Scientific interest was channelled into medicine, pharmacology, mathematics, astronomy, and logic. More general questions of physics and metaphysics were treated sparingly and in symbols, hints, and allegories. By the 12th century, however, the writings of al-Farabi, Avicenna, and al-Ghazali had found their way to the west. A philosophical tradition emerged, based primarily on the study of al-Farabi. It was critical of Avicenna's philosophic innovations and not convinced that al-Ghazali's critique of Avicenna touched philosophy as such, and it refused to acknowledge the position assigned by both to mysticism. The survival of philosophy in the west required extreme prudence, emphasis on its scientific character, abstention from meddling in political or religious matters, and abandonment of the hope of effecting extensive doctrinal or institutional reform.

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ii) The teachings of Ibn Bajjah.

1. Theoretical science and intuitive knowledge.

Ibn Bajjah (died 1138) initiated this tradition with a radical interpretation of al-Farabi's political philosophy that emphasized the virtues of the perfect but nonexistent city and the vices prevalent in all existing cities. He concluded that the philosopher must order his own life as a solitary individual, shun the company of nonphilosophers, reject their opinions and ways of life, and concentrate on reaching his own final goal by pursuing the theoretical sciences and achieving intuitive knowledge through contact with the Active Intelligence. The multitude live in a dark cave and see only dim shadows. Their ways of life and their imaginings and beliefs consist of layers of darkness that cannot be known through reason alone. Therefore, the divine law has been revealed to enable man to know this dark region. The philosopher's duty is to seek the light of the sun (the intellect). To do so, he must leave the cave, see all colours as they truly are and see light itself, and finally become transformed into that light. The end, then, is contact with Intelligence, not with something that transcends Intelligence (as in Plotinus, Isma'ilism, and mysticism), a doctrine criticized by Ibn Bajjah as the way of imagination, motivated by desire, and aiming at pleasure. Philosophy, he claimed, is the only way to the truly blessed state, which can be achieved only by going through theoretical science, even though it is higher than theoretical science.

2. Unconcern of philosophy with reform.

Ibn Bajjah's cryptic style and the unfinished form in which he left most of his writings tend to highlight his departures from al-Farabi and Avicenna. Unlike al-Farabi, he is silent about the philosopher's duty to return to the cave and partake of the life of the city. He appears to argue that the aim of philosophy is attainable independently from the philosopher's concern with the best city and is to be achieved in solitude or, at most, in comradeship with philosophic souls. Unlike Avicenna, who prepared the way for him by clearly distinguishing between theoretical and practical science, Ibn Bajjah is concerned with practical science only insofar as it is relevant to the life of the philosopher. He is contemptuous of allegories and imaginative representations of philosophic knowledge, silent about theology, and shows no concern with improving the multitude's opinions and way of life.

iii) The teachings of Ibn Tufayl.

1. The philosopher as a solitary individual.

In his philosophic story Hayy ibn Yaqzan ("Alive Son of Awake"), the philosopher Ibn Tufayl (died 1185) fills gaps in the work of his predecessor Ibn Bajjah. The story communicates the secrets of Avicenna's "Oriental Philosophy" as experienced by a solitary hero, who grows up on a deserted island, learns about the things around him, acquires knowledge of the natural universe (including the heavenly bodies), and achieves the state of "annihilation" (fana`) of the self in the divine reality. This is the apparent and traditional secret of the "Oriental Philosophy." But the hero's wisdom is still incomplete, for he knows nothing about other human beings, their way of life, or their laws. When he chances to meet one of them--a member of a religious community inhabiting a neighbouring island, who is inclined to reflect on the divine law and seek its inner, spiritual meanings and who has abandoned the society of his fellow men to devote himself to solitary meditation and worship--he does not at first recognize that he is a human being like himself, cannot communicate with him, and frightens him by his wild aspect. After learning about the doctrines and acts of worship of the religious community, he understands them as alluding to and agreeing with the truth that he had learned by his own unaided effort, and he goes as far as admitting the validity of the religion and the truthfulness of the prophet who gave it. He cannot understand, however, why the prophet communicated the truth by way of allusions, examples, and corporeal representations or why religion permits men to devote much time and effort to practical, worldly things.

2. Concern for reform.

His ignorance of the nature of most men and his compassion for them make the solitary hero insist on becoming their saviour. He persuades his companion to take him to his coreligionists and help him convert them to the naked truth by propagating among them "the secrets of wisdom." His education is completed when he fails in his endeavour. He learns the limits beyond which the multitude cannot ascend without becoming confused and unhappy. He also learns the wisdom of the divine lawgiver in addressing them in the way they can understand, enabling them to achieve limited ends through doctrines and actions suited to their abilities. The story ends with the hero taking leave of these people after apologizing to them for what he did and confessing that he is now fully convinced that they should not change their ways but remain attached to the literal sense of the divine law and obey its demands. He returns to his own island to continue his former solitary existence.

3. The hidden secret of Avicenna's "Oriental Philosophy."

The hidden secret of Avicenna's "Oriental Philosophy" appears, then, to be that the philosopher must return to the cave, educate himself in the ways of nonphilosophers, and understand the incompatibility between philosophical life and the life of the multitude, which must be governed by religion and divine laws. Otherwise, his ignorance will lead him to actions dangerous to the well-being of both the community and philosophy. Because Ibn Tufayl's hero had grown up as a solitary human being, he lacks the kind of wisdom that could have enabled him to pursue philosophy in a religious community and be useful to such a community. Neither the conversion of the community to philosophy nor the philosopher's solitary life is a viable alternative.

iv) The teachings of Averroës.

1. Philosophy.

To Ibn Tufayl's younger friend Averroës (Ibn Rushd, flourished 12th century) belongs the distinction of presenting a solution to the problem of the relation between philosophy and the Islamic community in the west, a solution meant to be legally valid, theologically sound, and philosophically satisfactory. Here was a philosopher fully at home in what Ibn Bajjah had called the many layers of darkness. His legal training (he was a judge by profession) and his extensive knowledge of the history of the religious sciences (including theology) enabled him to speak with authority about the principles of Islamic law and their application to theological and philosophic issues and to question the authority of al-Ghazali and the Ash'aris to determine correct beliefs and right practices. He was able to examine in detail from the point of view of the divine law the respective claims of theology and philosophy to possess the best and surest way to human knowledge, to be competent to interpret the ambiguous expressions of the divine law, and to have presented convincing arguments that are theoretically tenable and practically salutary. (see also Index: double-truth theory)

2. The divine law.

The intention of the divine law, he argued, is to assure the happiness of all members of the community. This requires everyone to profess belief in the basic principles of religion as enunciated in the Qur`an, the Hadith, and the ijma' (consensus) of the learned and to perform all obligatory acts of worship. Beyond this, the only just requirement is to demand that each pursue knowledge as far as his natural capacity and makeup permit. The few who are endowed with the capacity for the highest, demonstrative knowledge are under a divine legal obligation to pursue the highest wisdom, which is philosophy, and they need not constantly adjust its certain conclusions to what theologians claim to be the correct interpretation of the divine law. Being dialecticians and rhetoricians, theologians are not in a position to determine what is and is not correct interpretation of the divine law so far as philosophers are concerned. The divine law directly authorizes philosophers to pursue its interpretation according to the best--i.e., demonstrative or scientific--method, and theologians have no authority to interfere with the conduct of this activity or judge its conclusions.

3. Theology.

On the basis of this legal doctrine, Averroës judged the theologian al-Ghazali's refutation of the philosophers ineffective and inappropriate because al-Ghazali did not understand and even misrepresented the philosophers' positions and used arguments that only demonstrate his incompetence in the art of demonstration. He criticized al-Farabi and Avicenna also for accommodating the theologians of their time and for departing from the path of the ancient philosophers merely to please the theologians. At the other extreme are the multitude for whom there are no more convincing arguments than those found in the divine law itself. Neither philosophers nor theologians are permitted to disclose to the multitude interpretations of the ambiguous verses of the Qur`an or to confuse them with their own doubts or arguments. Finally, there are those who belong to neither the philosophers nor the multitude, either because they are naturally superior to the multitude but not endowed with the gift for philosophy or else are students in initial stages of philosophic training. For this intermediate group theology is necessary. It is an intermediate discipline that is neither strictly legal nor philosophic. It lacks their certain principles and sure methods. Therefore, theology must remain under the constant control of philosophy and the supervision of the divine law so as not to drift into taking positions that cannot be demonstrated philosophically or that are contrary to the intention of the divine law. Averroës himself composed a work on theology to show how these requirements can be met: Kitab al-kashf 'an manahij al-adillah ("Exposition of the Methods of Proofs"). In the Latin West he was best known for his philosophical answer to al-Ghazali, Tahafut at-tahafut ("Incoherence of the Incoherence"), and for his extensive commentaries on Aristotle, works that left their impact on medieval and renaissance European thought.

5. The new wisdom: synthesis of philosophy and mysticism

1) PHILOSOPHY, TRADITIONALISM, AND THE NEW WISDOM

i) Philosophy.

The western tradition in Islamic philosophy formed part of the Arabic philosophic literature that was translated into Hebrew and Latin and that played a significant role in the development of medieval philosophy in the Latin West and the emergence of modern European philosophy. Its impact on the development of philosophy in eastern Islam was not as dramatic, but was important nevertheless. Students of this tradition--e.g., the prominent Jewish philosopher Maimonides (flourished 12th century) and the historian Ibn Khaldun (flourished 14th century)--moved to Egypt, where they taught and had numerous disciples. Most of the writings of Ibn Bajjah, Ibn Tufayl, and Averroës found their way to the east also, where they were studied alongside the writings of their eastern predecessors. In both regions thinkers who held to the idea of philosophy as formulated by the eastern and western philosophers thus far discussed continued to teach. They became isolated and overwhelmed, however, by the resurgence of traditionalism and the emergence of a new kind of philosophy whose champions looked on the earlier masters as men who had made significant contributions to the progress of knowledge but whose overall view was defective and had now become outdated.

ii) Traditionalism and the new wisdom.

Resurgent traditionalism found effective defenders in men such as Ibn Taymiyah (13th-14th centuries) who employed a massive battery of philosophic, theological, and legal arguments against every shade of innovation and called for a return to the beliefs and practices of the pious ancestors. These attacks, however, did not deal a decisive blow to philosophy as such. It rather drove philosophy underground for a period, only to re-emerge in a new garb. A more important reason for the decline of the earlier philosophic tradition, however, was the renewed vitality and success of the program formulated by al-Ghazali for the integration of theology, philosophy, and mysticism into a new kind of philosophy called wisdom ( hikmah). It consisted of a critical review of the philosophy of Avicenna, preserving its main external features (its logical, physical, and, in part, metaphysical structure, and its terminology) and introducing principles of explanation for the universe and its relation to God based on personal experience and direct vision.

iii) Characteristic features of the new wisdom.

If the popular theology preached by the philosophers from al-Farabi to Averroës is disregarded, it is evident that philosophy proper meant to them what al-Farabi called a state of mind dedicated to the quest and the love for the highest wisdom. None of them claimed, however, that he had achieved this highest wisdom. In contrast, every leading exponent of the new wisdom stated that he had achieved or received it through a private illumination, dream (at times inspired by the Prophet), or vision and on this basis proceeded to give an explanation of the inner structure of natural and divine things. In every case, this explanation incorporated Platonic or Aristotelian elements but was more akin to some version of a later Hellenistic philosophy, which had found its way earlier into one or another of the schools of Islamic theology, though, because of the absence of an adequate philosophic education on the part of earlier theologians, it had not been either elaborated or integrated into a comprehensive view. Like their late-Hellenistic counterparts, exponents of the new wisdom proceeded through an examination of the positions of Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus. They also gave special attention to the insights of the pre-Socratic philosophers of ancient Greece and the myths and revelations of the ancient Near East, and they offered to resolve the fundamental questions that had puzzled earlier philosophers. In its basic movement and general direction, therefore, Islamic philosophy between the 9th and the 19th centuries followed a course parallel to that of Greek philosophy from the 5th century BC to the 6th century AD.

iv) Critiques of Aristotle in Islamic theology.

The critique of Aristotle that had begun in Mu'tazili circles and had found a prominent champion in Abu Bakr ar-Razi was provided with a more solid foundation in the 10th and 11th centuries by the Christian theologians and philosophers of Baghdad, who translated the writings of the Hellenistic critics of Aristotle (e.g., John Philoponus) and made use of their arguments in commenting on Aristotle and in independent theological and philosophic works. Avicenna's attack on these so-called Aristotelians and their Hellenistic predecessors (an attack that had been initiated by al-Farabi and was to be continued by Averroës) did not prevent the spread of their theologically based anti-Aristotelianism among Jewish and Muslim students of philosophy in the 12th century, such as Abu al-Barakat al-Baghdadi (died c. 1175) and Fakhr ad-Din ar-Razi. These theologians continued and intensified al-Ghazali's attacks on Avicenna and Aristotle (especially their views on time, movement, matter, and form, the nature of the heavenly bodies, and the relation between the intelligible and sensible worlds). They suggested that a thorough examination of Aristotle had revealed to them, on philosophic grounds, that the fundamental disagreements between him and the theologies based on the revealed religions represented open options and that Aristotle's view of the universe was in need of explanatory principles that could very well be supplied by theology. This critique provided the framework for the integration of philosophy into theology from the 13th century onward.

v) Synthesis of philosophy and mysticism.

Although it made use of such theological criticisms of philosophy, the new wisdom took the position that theology did not offer a positive substitute for and was incapable of solving the difficulties of "Aristotelian" philosophy. It did not question the need to have recourse to the Qur`an and the Hadith to find the right answers. It insisted (on the authority of a long-standing mystical tradition), however, that theology concerns itself only with the external expressions of this divine source of knowledge. The inner core was reserved for the adepts of the mystic path whose journey leads to the experience of the highest reality in dreams and visions. Only the mystical adepts are in possession of the one true wisdom, the ground of both the external expressions of the divine law and the phenomenal world of human experience and thought.

2) PRIMARY TEACHERS OF THE NEW WISDOM

i) The teachings of as-Suhrawardi.

The first master of the new wisdom, as- Suhrawardi (12th century), called it the "Wisdom of Illumination." He rejected Avicenna's distinction between essence and existence and Aristotle's distinction between substance and accidents, possibility and actuality, and matter and form, on the ground that they are mere distinctions of reason. Instead, he concentrated on the notion of being and its negation, which he called "light" and "darkness," and explained the gradation of beings as gradation of their mixture according to the degree of "strength," or "perfection," of their light. This gradation forms a single continuum that culminates in pure light, self-luminosity, self-awareness, self-manifestation, or self-knowledge, which is God, the light of lights, the true One. The stability and eternity of this single continuum result from every higher light overpowering and subjugating the lower, and movement and change in it result from each of the lower lights desiring and loving the higher.

As-Suhrawardi's "pan-lightism" is not particularly close to traditional Islamic views concerning the creation of the world and God's knowledge of particulars. The structure of his universe remains largely that of the Platonists and the Aristotelians. And his account of the emanation process avoids the many difficulties that had puzzled Neoplatonists as they tried to understand how the second hypostasis (reality) proceeds from the One. He asserted that it proceeds without in any way affecting the One and that the One's self-sufficiency is enough to explain the giving out that seems to be both spontaneous and necessary. His doctrine is presented in a way that suggests that it is the inner truth behind the exoteric (external) teachings of Islam as well as Zoroastrianism, indeed the wisdom of all ancient sages, especially Iranians and Greeks, and the revealed religions as well. This neutral yet positive attitude toward the diversity of religions, which was not absent among Muslim philosophers and mystics, was to become one of the hallmarks of the new wisdom. Different religions were seen as different manifestations of the same truth, their essential agreement was emphasized, and various attempts were made to combine them into a single harmonious religion meant for all of mankind.

As-Suhrawardi takes an important step in this direction through his doctrine of imaginative-bodily "resurrection." After their departure from the prison of the body, souls that are fully purified ascend directly to the world of separate lights. The ones that are only partially purified or are evil souls escape to a "world of images" suspended below the higher lights and above the corporeal world. In this world of images, or forms (not to be confused with the Platonic forms, which as-Suhrawardi identifies with higher and permanent intelligible lights), partially purified souls remain suspended and are able to create for themselves and by their own power of imagination pleasing figures and desirable objects in forms more excellent than their earthly counterparts and are able to enjoy them forever. Evil souls become dark shadows, suffer (presumably because their corrupt and inefficient power of imagination can create only ugly and frightening forms), and wander about as ghosts, demons, and devils. The creative power of the imagination, which as a human psychological phenomenon was already used by the philosophers to explain prophetic powers, was seized upon by the new wisdom as "divine magic." It was used to construct an eschatology, to explain miracles, dreams, and other saintly theurgic (healing) practices, to facilitate the movement between various orders of being, and for literary purposes.

ii) The teachings of Ibn al-'Arabi.

The account of the doctrines of Ibn al-'Arabi (12th-13th centuries) belongs properly to the history of Islamic mysticism. Yet his impact on the subsequent development of the new wisdom was in many ways far greater than was that of as-Suhrawardi. This is true especially of his central doctrine of the "unity of being" and his sharp distinction between the absolute One, which is undefinable Truth (haqq), and his self-manifestation (zuhur), or creation (khalq), which is ever new (jadid) and in perpetual movement, a movement that unites the whole of creation in a process of constant renewal. At the very core of this dynamic edifice stands nature, the "dark cloud" ('ama`) or "mist" (bukhar), as the ultimate principle of things and forms: intelligence, heavenly bodies, and elements and their mixtures that culminate in the "perfect man." This primordial nature is the "breath" of the Merciful God in his aspect as Lord. It "flows" throughout the universe and manifests Truth in all its parts. It is the first mother through which Truth manifests itself to itself and generates the universe. And it is the universal natural body that gives birth to the translucent bodies of the spheres, to the elements, and to their mixtures, all of which are related to that primary source as daughters to their mother.

Ibn al-'Arabi attempted to explain how Intelligence proceeds from the absolute One by inserting between them a primordial feminine principle, which is all things in potentiality but which also possesses the capacity, readiness, and desire to manifest or generate them first as archetypes in Intelligence and then as actually existing things in the universe below. Ibn al-'Arabi gave this principle numerous names, including prime "matter" ('unsur), and characterized it as the principle "whose existence makes manifest the essences of the potential worlds." The doctrine that the first simple originated thing is not Intelligence but "indefinite matter" and that Intelligence was originated through the mediation of this matter was attributed to Empedocles, a 5th-century-BC Greek philosopher, in doxographies (compilations of extracts from the Greek philosophers) translated into Arabic. It represented an attempt to bridge the gulf between the absolute One and the multiplicity of forms in Intelligence. The Andalusian mystic Ibn Masarrah (9th-10th centuries) is reported to have championed pseudo-Empedoclean doctrines, and Ibn al-'Arabi (who studied under some of his followers) quotes Ibn Masarrah on a number of occasions. This philosophic tradition is distinct from the one followed by the Isma'ili theologians, who explained the origination of Intelligence by the mediation of God's will.

iii) The teachings of Twelver Shi'ism and the school of Esfahan.

After Ibn al-'Arabi, the new wisdom developed rapidly in intellectual circles in eastern Islam. Commentators on the works of Avicenna, as-Suhrawardi, and Ibn al-'Arabi began the process of harmonizing and integrating the views of the masters. Great poets made them part of every educated man'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. Following the Mongol khan Hülagü's entry into Baghdad (1258), the Twelver Shi'ah were encouraged by the Il Khanid Tatars and Nasir ad-Din at-Tusi (the philosopher and theologian who accompanied Hülagü as his vizier) to abandon their hostility to mysticism. Mu'tazili doctrines were retained in their theology. Theology, however, was downgraded to "formal" learning that must be supplemented by higher things, the latter including philosophy and mysticism, both of earlier Shi'i (including Isma'ili) origin and of later Sunni provenance. Al- Ghazali, as-Suhrawardi, Ibn al-'Arabi, and Avicenna were then eagerly studied and (except for their doctrine of the imamate) embraced with little or no reservation. This movement in Shi'i thought gathered momentum when the leaders of a mystical fraternity established themselves as the Safavid dynasty (1501-1732) in Iran, where they championed Twelver Shi'ism as the official doctrine of the new monarchy. During the 17th century, Iran experienced a cultural and scientific renaissance that included a revival of philosophic studies. There, Islamic philosophy found its last creative exponents. The new wisdom as expounded by the masters of the school of Esfahan radiated throughout eastern Islam and continued as a vital tradition until modern times. (see also Index: Esfahan school)

The major figures of the school of Esfahan were Mir Damad (Muhammad Baqir ibn ad-Damad, died 1631/32) and his great disciple Mulla Sadra (Sadr ad-Din ash-Shirazi, c. 1571-1640). Both were men of wide culture and prolific writers with a sharp sense for the history and development of philosophic ideas.

1. The teachings of Mir Damad.

Mir Damad was the first to expound the notion of "eternal origination" (huduth dahri) as an explanation for the creation of the world. Muslim philosophers and their critics had recognized the crucial role played by the question of time in the discussion of the eternity of the world. The proposition that time is the measure of movement was criticized by Abu al-Barakat al-Baghdadi, who argued that time is prior to movement and rest, indeed to everything except being. Time is the measure or concomitant of being, lasting and transient, enduring and in movement or rest. It characterizes or qualifies all being, including God. God works in time, incessantly willing and directly creating everything in the world: his persistent will creates the eternal beings of the world, and his ever-renewed will creates the transient beings. The notion of a God who works in time was of course objectionable to theology, and Fakhr ad-Din ar-Razi refused to accept this solution despite its attractions. Ar-Razi also saw that it leads to the notion (attributed to Plato) that time is a self-subsistent substance, whose relation to God would further compromise his unity. Finally, ar-Razi explained that this self-subsistent substance will have to be related to different beings in different ways. It is called "everlastingness" (sarmad) when related to God and the Intelligences (angels) that are permanent and do not move or change in any way, "eternity" (dahr) when related to the totality of the world of movement and change, and "time" (zaman) when related to corporeal beings that make up the world of movement and change.

Mir Damad returned to Avicenna and sought to harmonize his views with those of as-Suhrawardi on the assumption that what Avicenna meant by his "Oriental" (mashriqiyah) philosophy was identical with as-Suhrawardi's wisdom of "illumination" (ishraq), which he interpreted as a Platonic doctrine that asserted the priority of essence (form) over being (existence). Time, for Mir Damad, was neither a mere being of reason nor an accident of existing things. It belongs to the essence of things and describes their mode and rank of being. It is a "relation" that beings have to each other because of their essential nature. There must, therefore, be three ranks of order of time corresponding to the three ranks of order of being. Considered as the relation of God to the divine names and attributes (Intelligences or archetypes), the relation is "everlastingness." Considered as the relation between the Intelligences, or archetypes, and their reflections in the mutable things of the world below, the relation is "eternity." And considered as the relation between these mutable things, the relation is "time." Creation, or origination, is this very relation. Thus, the origination of the immutable Intelligences, or archetypes, is called "everlasting creation," the origination of the world of mutable beings as a whole is called "eternal creation," and the generation of mutable things within the world is called "temporal creation."

2. The teachings of Mulla Sadra.

Mulla Sadra superimposed Ibn al-'Arabi's mystical thought (whose philosophic implications had already been exposed by a number of commentators) on the "Aristotelian"-Illuminationist synthesis developed by Mir Damad. Against his master, he argued with the Aristotelians for the priority of being (existence) over essence (form), which he called an abstraction; and, with Ibn al-'Arabi, he argued for the "unity of being" within which beings differ only according to "priority and posteriority," "perfection and imperfection," and "strength and weakness." All being is thus viewed as a graded manifestation, or determination, of absolute, or pure, Being, and every level of being possesses all the attributes of pure Being, but with varying degrees of intensity or perfection.

Mulla Sadra considered his unique contribution to Islamic philosophy to be his doctrine of nature, which enabled him to assert that everything other than God and his knowledge--i.e., the entire corporeal world, including the heavenly bodies--is originated "eternally" as well as "temporally." This doctrine of nature is an elaboration of the last manifestation of Ibn al-'Arabi's "nature" or prime "matter," articulated on philosophic grounds and within the general framework of Aristotelian natural science and defended against every possible philosophic and theological objection. (see also Index: nature, philosophy of)

Nature for Mulla Sadra is the "substance" and "power" of all corporeal beings and the direct cause of their movement. Movement (and time, which measures it) is therefore not an accident of substance or an accompaniment of some of its accidents. It signifies the very change, renewal, and passing of being--itself being in constant "flow," or flux. The entire corporeal world, both the celestial spheres and the world of the elements, constantly renews itself. The "matter" of corporeal things has the power to become a new form at every instant; and the resulting matter- form complex is at every instant a new matter ready for, desiring, and moving toward another form. Men fail to observe this constant flux and movement in simple bodies not because of the endurance of the same form in them but because of the close similarity between their ever-new forms. What the philosophers call "movement" and "time" are not, as they believed, anchored in anything permanent--e.g., in what they call "nature," "substance," or "essence"; essence is permanent only in the mind, and nature and substance are permanent activity. Nature as permanent activity is the very being of natural things and identical with their substance. Because nature is "permanent" in this sense, it is connected to a permanent principle that manifests activity in it permanently. Because nature constantly renews itself, all renewed and emergent things are connected to it. Thus, nature is the link between what is eternal and what is originated, and the world of nature is originated both eternally and temporarily.

Mulla Sadra distinguishes this primary "movement-in-substance" (al-harakah fi al-jawhar) from haphazard, compulsory, and other accidental movements that lack proper direction, impede the natural movement of substance, or reverse it. Movement-in-substance is not universal change or flux without direction, the product of conflict between two equally powerful principles, or a reflection of the nonbeing of the world of nature when measured against the world of permanent forms. It is, rather, the natural beings' innate desire to become more perfect, which directs this ceaseless self-renewal, self-origination, or self-emergence into a perpetual and irreversible flow upward in the scale of being--from the simplest elements to the human body-soul complex and the heavenly body-soul complex (both of which participate in the general instability, origination, and passing of being that characterizes the entire corporeal world). This flow upward, however, is by no means the end. For the indefinite "matter" (Ibn al-'Arabi's "cloud" and the mystics' "created Truth") is the "substratum" of everything other than its Creator, the mysterious pure Truth. It "extends" beyond the body-soul complex to the Intelligences (divine names) that are Being's first, highest, and purest actualization or activity. This "extension" unites everything other than the Creator into a single continuum. The human body-soul complex and the heavenly body-soul complex are not moved externally by the Intelligences. Their movement is an extension of the process of self-perfection. Having reached the highest rank of order of substance in the corporeal world, they are now prepared, and still moved by their innate desire, to flow upward and transform themselves into pure intelligence.

3) IMPACT OF MODERNISM

The new wisdom lived on during the 18th and 19th centuries, conserving much of its vitality and strength but not cultivating new ground. It attracted able thinkers such as Shah Wali Allah of Delhi and Hadi Sabzevari and became a regular part of the program of higher education in the cultural centres of the Ottoman Empire, Iran, and the Indian subcontinent, a status never achieved by the earlier tradition of Islamic philosophy. In collaboration with its close ally Persian mystical poetry, the new wisdom determined the intellectual outlook and spiritual mood of educated Muslims in the regions where Persian had become the dominant literary language.

The wholesale rejection of the new wisdom in the name of simple, robust, and more practical piety (which had been initiated by Ibn Taymiyah and which continued to find exponents among jurists) made little impression on its devotees. To be taken seriously, reform had to come from their own ranks and be espoused by such thinkers as the eminent theologian and mystic of Muslim India Ahmad Sirhindi (flourished 16th-17th centuries) -- a reformer who spoke their language and attacked Ibn al-'Arabi's "unity of being" only to defend an older, presumably more orthodox form of mysticism. Despite some impact, however, attempts of this kind remained isolated and were either ignored or reintegrated into the mainstream, until the coming of the modern reformers. The 19th- and 20th-century reformers Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani, Muhammad 'Abduh, and Muhammad Iqbal were initially educated in this tradition, but they rebelled against it and advocated radical reforms. (see also Index: Sirhindi, Shaykh Ahmad)

The modernists attacked the new wisdom at its weakest point; that is, its social and political norms, its individualistic ethics, and its inability to speak intelligently about social, cultural, and political problems generated by a long period of intellectual isolation that was further complicated by the domination of the European powers. Unlike the earlier tradition of Islamic philosophy from al-Farabi to Averroës, which had consciously cultivated political science and investigated the political dimension of philosophy and religion and the relation between philosophy and the community at large, the new wisdom from its inception lacked genuine interest in these questions, had no appreciation for political philosophy, and had only a benign toleration for the affairs of the world.

None of the reformers was a great political philosopher. They were concerned with reviving their nations' latent energies, urging them to free themselves from foreign domination, and impressing on them the need to reform their social and educational institutions. They also saw that all this required a total reorientation, which could not take place so long as the new wisdom remained not only the highest aim of a few solitary individuals but also a social and popular ideal as well. Yet, as late as 1917, Iqbal found that "the present-day Muslim prefers to roam about aimlessly in the valley of Hellenic-Persian mysticism, which teaches us to shut our eyes to the hard reality around, and to fix our gaze on what is described as 'illumination.' " His reaction was harsh: "To me this self-mystification, this nihilism, i.e., seeking reality where it does not exist, is a physiological symptom, giving me a clue to the decadence of the Muslim world." (see also Index: Sufism)

To arrest the decadence and infuse new vitality in a society in which they were convinced religion must remain the focal point, the modern reformers advocated a return to the movements and masters of Islamic theology and philosophy antedating the new wisdom. They argued that these, rather than the "Persian incrustation of Islam," represented Islam's original and creative impulse. The modernists were attracted, in particular, to the views of the Mu'tazilah: affirmation of God's unity and denial of all similarity between him and created things; reliance on human reason; emphasis on man's freedom; faith in man's ability to distinguish between good and bad; and insistence on man's responsibility to do good and fight against evil in private and public places. They were also impressed by the traditionalists' devotion to the original, uncomplicated forms of Islam and by their fighting spirit, and by the Ash'aris' view of faith as an affair of the heart and their spirited defense of the Muslim community. In viewing the scientific and philosophic tradition of eastern and western Islam prior to the Tatar and Mongol invasions, they saw an irrefutable proof that true Islam stands for the liberation of man's spirit, promotes critical thought, and provides both the impetus to grapple with the temporal and the demonstration of how to set it in order. These ideas initiated what was to become a vast effort to recover, edit, and translate into the Muslim national languages works of earlier theologians and philosophers, which had been long neglected or known only indirectly through later accounts.

The modern reformers insisted, finally, that Muslims must be taught to understand the real meaning of what has happened in Europe, which in effect means the understanding of modern science and philosophy, including modern social and political philosophies. Initially, this challenge became the task of the new universities in the Muslim world. In the latter part of the 20th century, however, the originally wide gap between the various programs of theological and philosophic studies in religious colleges and in modern universities narrowed considerably. 

   


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