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Murad Article Review

To: (Tariqas Elist)
Subject: Murad Article Review
From: tyagI@houseofkaos.Abyss.coM (Haramullah)
Date: 49940921

Lakum dinukum wa-leyah dini.

|From: mas@Cadence.COM (Masud Khan)
|To: alt.religion.islam 

|[Excerpts from:]
|I S L A M I C  S P I R I T U A L I T Y
|The Forgotten Revolution
|Abdal-Hakim Murad

And my commentary/query.  Note, there was much discussion of Muslim history
and politics, as well as delineation of Sufi scholars with respect to Islam.  
As I do not wish to perpetuate the Muslim/nonMuslim debate, I will be 
focussing here on the elements of Sufism as presented by this author, asking 
questions about its particulars and how this might compare with nonMuslim 

| Muslim religious conversion is supposed to 
|work. It is meant to be a process of intellectual maturation, triggered 
|by the presence of a very holy person or place. Tawba, in its traditional 
|form, yields an outlook of joy, contentment, and a deep affection for 

My impression is that this triggered maturation also arises as a result
of relation with Allah and this leads to 'hidden saints'.  I also think
that what is referred to here as 'Muslim religious conversion' is actually
a particular instance of any genuine spiritual orientation.

While the yield may be similar in many cases, I presume that along the
path these qualities mentioned at the end of the paragraph are not the
path itself.  That is, working toward joy, contentment and affection is 
not always the way to achieve these 'outlooks'.  Compare an emulation of
the Prophet or Christ to finding one's own path and working through it.

I think it is very important to note that the word 'intellectual' here
may be slightly deceiving.  I gather that in translation it sometimes
loses some of its deeper implications, perhaps similar to the way that
in Asia 'heart' and 'mind' are sometimes referred to by the same term.

|...the Islamic 
|scholars have worked out a science, an ilm, of analysing the 'states' 
|of the heart, and the methods of bringing it into this condition of 
|soundness. In the fullness of time, this science acquired the name 
|tasawwuf, in English 'Sufism' - a traditional label for what we might 
|nowadays more intelligibly call 'Islamic psychology.'

I am learning alot about Arabic when reading these articles.  I had no
idea that 'tasawwuf' was another name for 'sufism'.  I gathered that
it may be related directly with psychology (as is Buddhism and are many
other mystical paths).  This is exemplified by the deep connection between
my local (Jerrahi?) Sufis and the psychological organization from which 
many of the members of that (Redwood City, CA) org have joined.

If it is truly a science, then we ought to be able to specify some of its
common elements, and this is what I'd like to begin focussing on more
acutely, rather than the broad classifications (which I think my model 
enables us to at least discuss with reason).

|...It is vital to understand that mainstream Sufism is not, and 
|never has been, a doctrinal system, or a school of thought - a madhhab.
|It is, instead, a set of insights and practices which operate within the 
|various Islamic madhhabs; in other words, it is not a madhhab, it is an 

This is very important to me.  If it is not a doctrinal system but a system
of insights and practices, of what are these practices composed?  Can anyone
on this elist give some examples of what kinds of practices are *included in*
(not necessary what constitutes) sufism?  If it is an ilm (science) why is it
considered such?  Upon what basis would we use this term to describe 'it'?

|And like most of the other Islamic ulum, it was not known by name, or 
|in its later developed form, in the age of the Prophet (upon him be blessings 
|and peace) or his Companions. 

If it was not known by name, then when was the word first used?
What is it about the practices and insights that inspires people to
consider that sufism developed before the Prophet?  Is there anything
to be acknowledged other than a confluence of mystical practices which
came (later, after development) to be known as Sufism?  If not, then it
would seem that (Muslim) Sufism developed first and then (general) sufism 
from it.

And can 'it' really be called an 'it' in 'undeveloped form'?  Or is it
more of a 'they', including Neoplatonistic, Christian and other technologies
which came together only later into formal structure?  The author does not
appear to acknowledge the previous influences and, given that his focus is
upon Islam, perhaps this displays his bias.

|...Islamic psychology is characteristic of the new ulum which, although 
|present in latent and implicit form in the Quran, were first systematized 
|in Islamic culture during the early Abbasid period. Given the importance 
|that the Quran attaches to obtaining a 'sound heart', we are not surprised 
|to find that the influence of Islamic psychology has been massive and 

This gives us a specific time period for codification of Sufism as an
organized structure (the 'Orders').

|...This was first visible when, following the example of the Tabi'in, many of 
|the early ascetics, such as Sufyan ibn Uyayna, Sufyan al-Thawri, and Abdallah 
|ibn al-Mubarak, had focussed their concerns explicitly on the art of purifying 
|the heart. The methods they recommended were frequent fasting and night 
|prayer, periodic retreats, and a preoccupation with murabata: service as 
|volunteer fighters in the border castles of Asia Minor.

These methods are quite reminiscent of the Christian Crusades, and there are
constant rumors (especially among the Hermetics online) that there was a
large degree of cross-over/contact between the Christian Knights (Templar, 
for example) and the Muslim mystics.

|By the third century, however, we start to find writings which can be 
|understood as belonging to a distinct devotional school. The increasing 
|luxury and materialism of Abbasid urban society spurred many Muslims to 
|campaign for a restoration of the simplicity of the Prophetic age. 

This reminds me greatly of the (d)evolution of the Christian Church
in Europe, with its luxury, materialism and flagrant hypocrisy (though
perhaps the Sufis avoided this last).

|of heart, compassion for others, and a constant recollection of God were 
|the defining features of this trend. We find references to the method of 
|muhasaba: self-examination to detect impurities of intention. Also stressed 
|was riyada: self-discipline.

These methods - self-examination and self-discipline - are elements of most
mystical systems world-wide, though perhaps in different forms.  What I'd
like to discover is what were and are the traditional forms that these took 
in sufism and from where were these developed.  A catalog of specific methods
(not just their general themes) would do wonders for those who would like to
purify their heart by the Grace of Allah while avoiding the politics and
disempowering traps of formal organizations.  Options and opportunities seem
the most relevant.

|By this time, too, the main outlines of Quranic psychology had been worked 
|out. The human creature, it was realised, was made up of four constituent 
|parts: the body (jism), the mind (aql), the spirit (ruh), and the self (nafs). 
|The first two need little comment. Less familiar (at least to people of a 
|modern education) are the third and fourth categories.
|The spirit is the ruh, that underlying essence of the human individual 
|which survives death. It is hard to comprehend rationally, being in part 
|of Divine inspiration, as the Quran says: "And they ask you about the 
|spirit; say, the spirit is of the command of my Lord. And you have been 
|given of knowledge only a little."[7] 

This is obviously related if not identical to the Kabbalistic 'ruach', one
of the souls (or parts of the soul - I'm not very well-versed in this theory),
related, if memory serves, to the breath.

|According to the early Islamic more demanding is the policy known as 
|mujahada: the daily combat against the lower self, the nafs.... Once 
|the nafs is controlled, then the heart is clear, and the virtues 
|proceed from it easily and naturally.

This is typical of many ascetic disciplines, and it contains the typical
traps I've mentioned in this elist and elsewhere.  Asceticism is valuable 
for self-discipline, yet without the guidance of a sheikh it can lead to 
destructive ends.

|...The ulema of the great dynasties of Islamic history, 
|including the Ottomans and the Moghuls, were deeply infused with the Sufi 
|outlook, regarding it as one of the most central and indispensable of 
|Islamic sciences.

I'm curious about this.  What are 'the Islamic sciences'?  Are they different
than the sciences which the Arabic world safeguarded against the Church during
the Dark Ages?  Are the Sufis the scientists of the subjective realm as I've
said all mystics are?  Do they generally consider themselves psychologists?

|At this critical moment in our history, the umma has only one realistic 
|hope for survival, and that is to restore the 'middle way', defined by that 
|sophisticated classical consensus which was worked out over painful centuries 
|of debate and scholarship. That consensus alone has the demonstrable ability 
|to provide a basis for unity. But it can only be retrieved when we improve 
|the state of our hearts, and fill them with the Islamic virtues of affection, 
|respect, tolerance and reconciliation. This inner reform, which is the 
|traditional competence of Sufism, is a precondition for the restoration of 
|unity in the Islamic movement. The alternative is likely to be continued, 
|and agonising, failure.

----------- article ends

I thought Abdal-Hakim Murad's article was very well written, extremely
well argued and quite informative.  I want to thank Masud for posting it
and encourage him to continue this line of discussion.

[Author description:]

|Abdal-Hakim Murad is presently a research student at Oxford University.
|He studied Arabic at University of Cambridge and at al-Azhar University
|in Cairo and has translated a number of Islamic works including Bayhaqi's
|"Seventy-Seven Branches of Faith" (Quillan Press,1992), al-Ghazali's 
|"Rememberance of Death and the Afterlife" (Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge)
|and has recently completed the translation of Al-Ghazali's "Breaking of the
|Two Desires" (Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge). He is also know as 

Interesting.  He doesn't claim here to be involved with any organized
Sufi group.  There are many who appear to dispense with the term 'sufi'
altogether as useless within the confines of Islam.  In this way I do
see it being used in a broad band of meaning (from social identification
- rank - through spiritual claim - attainment).  This is not really very
different from many other religio-mystical systems of the world (examples
being 'bodhisattva' or 'arhat' in Buddhism and 'Master of the Temple' in

La ilaha illa 'Llah.  Muhammad rasulu 'Llah.


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