Islamic Mysticism Essay Example
The term Islamic Mysticism can be defined as the consciousness that is in harmony with the reality. Islamic mysticism is commonly referred to as Sufism in the Islamic world (Nicholson, 1963). The origin of the term Sufism can be derived from the Arabic word Sufi, which means wool. The word sufi was applied to Muslim mystics and ascetics because they wore clothes that were made out of wool (Ahmed, 2008). Sufism also referred to as the Islamic mysticism deals the unique and special powers that are contained in the Holy Book of Qur’an. Sufism can be described as a philosophical approach that strives to portray a condition in which a person unifies with the nature and feels accordant with God. It is vital to understand that a Sufi strives to unite his personal will with God (Weismann, 2011).
The term Sufism represents a new dimension in the Islamic religious way of life. Various Muslim clerics, lawyers, and theologians have viewed this particular aspect with much skepticism and suspicion in the recent past (Ahmed, 2008). Their key concern is that some of the Sufism characteristics and statements occasionally appear or feel blasphemous. The source of this skepticism is that Sufism propels a person into feeling completely close with God such that they at one point in time lose their personal identity and ultimately act as God in the process. Also importantly, the goal of Sufi is to absorb completely an individual into God through following a series of religious practices that lead to higher levels of the ecstatic state. It is every Sufi’s aspiration to elevate to such conditions in which they have a direct communication with God.
The Sufi History
The fundamental scope of this particular essay is to evaluate the Sufism dimension critically in the Muslim religion. The essay will assess the origin of Sufism mysticism and the spread of the Islam religion. Also importantly, the paper will confer with the Sufi teaching, making a comparison with those of Muhammad Ghazi Arabi ideas and concepts.
Islamic mysticism can be traced as early as the eighth century. The three principal regions that were associated directly with the Islamic mysticism were central Asia, Mesopotamia, and North Africa. The fundamental orders that emerged from these particular areas were rifa ‘yeah, kbrawiyyah, suhrawardiyyah, and qadiriyyah. All these Sufi orders were founded in the twelfth century and spread beyond the three principal regions (Ohlander, 2010).
Sufism was spread to Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, and part of the sub- Saharan region in West Africa. Later on, the Islamic mysticism was spread to Turkey and the central Asia region. It happened in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
The Characteristics of Sufism or Islamic Mysticism
The al-basri, al-adawiyaa, and other orders attracted various followers who shared some of the common ideas that they had learned from those particular cultures and regions. These individuals, in turn, attracted new students or disciples of their own. Through this, the ideas of absolute devotion and asceticism to God spread through the Islamic community, culture, as well as faith.
One of the fundamental characteristics of the Islamic mysticism is that there is nothing more vital than the God’s Presence in the world. The Sufis saw that the life they led was a journey in which they had to seek continuously and consistently the direct relation and experience with God. Most of them fundamentally believed that the best way to see God’s experience and attract Him into one’s life was to read consistently and continuously the Koran and Hadith. In addition to that, most of them practiced praying as often as possible.
In short, the best way to experience God was to live the simple and disciplined life of a staunch and devout Muslim. However, other orders of Sufis disagreed with this particular position. They felt that, despite always praying, studying the Koran, and performing other regular Muslim duties were of the essence to lead a religious life, and these particular things were not enough.
The second characteristic of the Islamic mysticism is that all Muslims should seek direct and emotional experience from God. The Sufis developed fundamental ideas and rituals, which they practiced in informal study groups in homes and mosques. As early as the tenth century, most Sufi centers had been established. A Sufi master was put in charge and acted as a teacher and leader. Later on, some of the students and followers would go on to become teachers and leaders in the Sufi centers.
By the end of the twelfth century, Sufi centers would be found in almost all major cities and rural towns throughout the North and West Africa regions as well as the Middle East and Central Asia regions. These centers included schools, hostels and mosques, where most students would find a place to eat and sleep.
Arabi’s Teaching and Concepts
Ibn Arabi is considered an enigmatic figure in the medieval Sufi culture and tradition. In addition to that, he is considered a controversial exponent of the Islamic mysticism teaching that is also referred to as the unity of being. Ibn Arabi perception and beliefs of the Sufism requires a careful analysis of the concept of Islamic mysticism. Ibn Arabi thinking and teaching area encompassed with God, the human kind and cosmos. All these dimensions are incorporated together through a set of viewpoints. Ibn Arabi work comprises of various types of upward, outward, downward and inward immensity until there is a broad comprehension of all the three realities (Knysh, 1999).
Ibn Arabi words are fluid and constantly changing. His world can be defined in literal terms as imaginary. Everything that he discusses is more of an illusion or image that is vague in the eyes of a new reader. In addition to that, Ibn Arabi’s sensibility and resonances portray shamanic viewpoint. For an individual who seeks to understand the concepts and teachings of Ibn Arabi, he or she will be faced with immense mystery and miracles. In addition, they will meet shape-shifting and shamanic teachings that go back and forth across doors where the world does not touch.
I will focus here on Ibn Arabi mystical ideas, concepts and teachings as discussed in his book and include the following:
The Divine Reality Concept
Ibn Arabi teaching is concerned with what is referred to as the divine reality and the individual experience of it. Ibn Arabi communicates to his students that an individual is a part of the system that strives to be in accordance with the Lord and that all people should translate to definitive works that glorify the Lord.
The Concept of Origination of the World from Mercy
Ibn Arabi teaches that the world originated from the absolute mercy and one day to mercy shall the world return. He emphasizes that any wretchedness and pain is temporary. Ibn Arabi mentions in various places that the Throne of God has four fundamental pillars and that it is held aloft by four bearers in this world and that as the world progresses they shall become eight bearers. Each of these bearers supports the throne, which is indeed the entire universe or what is defined as the kingdom of Allah. The throne bearers are known as the archangels, and some of the prophets are in human forms. The throne bearing is considered part of the honorable jobs.
Ibn Arabi declares that he has been honored by Allah to be one of the supreme bearers of a pillar. The pillar he holds is the pillar of treasury and mercy. Ibn Arabi declares that Allah has made him merciful despite all his knowledge of suffering and hardship. Due to this factor, Ibn Arabi teaches that the world originated from mercy and pity the world shall return (Arberry, 1950).
The Unification or Tawhid Concept
Ibn Arabi teaches the basis of universality, the oneness of the self-existing one and unique essence and the one and only infinite existence. Ibn Arabi introduces the concept of tawhid. Arabi teaches that there is only one being and that that there is no other being other than the one and only being that is self-subsistent. Ibn Arabi and his followers believe that tawhid is not just a matter of understanding the meaning of the term. He emphasizes on following the act and progressing towards the fulfillment of such actions and knowledge to a state of union. Tawhid teaches individuals the concept of unique or absolute existent (Baldick, 1989).
The Realms of Responsibility in Ibn Arabia’s Teaching
Arabi teaches the concept of taklif that is a term that is used to denote all the total of all the religious duties and obligations that an individual has towards God. God has willingly imposed upon his servants. Throughout his teaching, Ibn Arabi refers to his fellow believers as Mukallafun, which, when translated, means those who have been burdened with the command. Arabi teaches his students that the divine command comes to an end when the believer dies or when all his veils have been lifted or have turned out to be true (Baldick, 1989).
The Concept of Tuliba
Arabi teaches his followers that the world is held responsible by God for his strict observance of what he refers to as his due. Arabi teaches his followers that God acts as the great governor who is responsible to his superiors for the proper behaviors, morals and well-being of all his subjects. He teaches that all the human beings are answerable to God for their actions. He also states that God plays a fundamental role in keeping all his members from committing acts that might contradict the divine law. He teaches that if any true believer of God fails to restrain himself or herself from committing illegal acts, then God shall abandon him and forfeit his position as a believer (Schimmel, 1975). Therefore, people should always seek to follow the will of God at all times.
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In addition, Arabi states that believers should carefully weigh their actions on a given scale of divine law in order to achieve certain aspects of divine equilibrium. Arabi teaches his followers that their lives are continuous tests of their ability to remain faithful to God. He emphasizes that the believers can always rely on the guidance of the divine law in order to achieve the salutary equilibrium between the personal dispositions and the divine commands given to the followers by God. Arabi believes that it is the duty of each follower to carry the burden of taklif (Baldick, 1989).
The Concept of Haqq
Arabi translates the concept of truth to his followers. He reveals that all created things have their truth and that this particular truth has a normative dimension. This particular nature makes various demands for each and expects that we should treat appropriately every created being. The creation as a whole makes what is known as a claim to each, establishing duties and obligations to each. Through this particular arena, God tests each by giving them various tasks to accomplish (Schimmel, 1975).
The concept of Sufism and Islamic mysticism is at the core of the Muslim religion. However, there exists so many fundamental inconsistencies with the teachings of Ibn Arabi such that an individual may not get a clear understanding of the teaching. Arabi teaching stands in one particular tradition while at the same time strives to offer other differing perspectives of a number of other valid and invalid religious concepts. The work of Ibn Arabi does not have the unqualified approval of all Sufis. Many Sufi masters hinder their students from studying the works of Ibn Arabi for the fear of misuse and misunderstanding. Moreover, people should understand that just like any other religious teachings, Sufism strives to unite people but not cause conflicts and misunderstanding.
Lastly, Sufism focuses on the heart, mind and the body, developing an infinite capacity to plumb the world consciousness and guide individuals towards self-understanding of God because most people are ignorant of the existence of God. Some do not believe that God exists, hence Sufism should be encouraged to aid people understand who God is to them.