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In the Name of God بسم الله

Irfan

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Orion

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(bismillah)

(salam)

A lot of confusion is created when one goes in defining Irfan. For a simple minded person like myself, here is how I look at it. For me there are two types of Irfans.

Type 1: Irfan according to the teachings of Ahlul Bait (as).

This is one of the best form of Ibada, to seek nearness to Allah. Here Ayats of Quran, Names of Allah, Duas by our Holy Imams (as), salat, Salat al-Lail (namaz e shab), keeping oneself clean (tahir), refraining from sins, etc are used to practice Irfan.

Type 2: Anything other than Type 1. i.e. Irfan not according to the teachings of Ahlul Bait (as).

In short when you want to look at or practice any type of "Irfan", make sure it has bases in the teachings of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and the Holy Imams (as).

Simple.

WS

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  • 2 weeks later...
Type 1: Irfan according to the teachings of Ahlul Bait .

This is one of the best form of Ibada, to seek nearness to Allah. Here Ayats of Quran, Names of Allah, Duas by our Holy Imams , salat, Salat al-Lail (namaz e shab), keeping oneself clean (tahir), refraining from sins, etc are used to practice Irfan.

So basically you call Irfan what a normal person like myself calls ibadat or a3maal.

Different names for the same thing.

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So basically you call Irfan what a normal person like myself calls ibadat or a3maal.

Different names for the same thing.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

(bismillah)

(salam)

Yes, accept that an Aarif does more. Sometimes following the recommendations of his teachers who direct him towards particular ibadat lerned by them from the school of Ahlul Bait (as).

For example look at the instructions of Allameh Majlisi (qas):

"Whatever this servants has discovered during his period of self-building and gnosticism is related to the period when I was busy in studying commentary of the Holy Quran, one night, while I was in a state of partly slept and partly awakened I saw the Holy Prophet Mohammad (S) in a dream. I said to my self that it is a good opportunity to take a profound look about the perfection and moral ethics of the Holy Prophet (S) The more I paid attention towards him I found his splendor and illumination spreading till it brightened the entire space around me.”

"At this moment it was revealed to me that the Holy Quran is the perfect manifestation of the Holy Prophet's moral ethics. Therefore, to know more about Holy Prophet's moral ethics I must ponder deeply about the Holy Quran. The more I paid attention upon the verses of Holy Quran the more I discovered the sublime realities till at one instant I felt that a lot of realities and learning have been descended upon my heart.”

"After that whenever I pondered about a Qur'anic verse, I felt that a special talent for its comprehension has been bestowed upon me. Of course, appreciation of this incident by some one who has not been blessed with such a grace is naturally difficult rather impossible, but my aim was to advice and guide the fellow brothers for the sake of God-Almighty. The guidelines for asceticism and self-building consist of:

-Useless talks, rather any thing other than God's Remembrance should be strictly avoided.

-Living in luxurious, beautiful and comfortable housing as well as consumption of expensive foods, drinks and fancy clothing should be renounced. (one should limit himself to the extent of .fulfilling his genuine needs).

-Social mixing with other than God's most favorite saints should be strictly avoided.

-Excessive sleep should be avoided and God's invocation with complete dedication should be recited continuously.

"God's favorite saints by continuous recital of invocations namely: "Oh! Self-existent Oh! Eternal " (ya Hayyio ya Qayyum!) and "There is no god but God" (Ya man la ilaha illa ant), were able to obtain good results. I too have practiced the same invocation but perhaps my favorite invocation is "Oh! God"! (Ya Allah), with thorough cleansing of heart from all existence other than God, together with absolute concentration towards Him. Of course, what is important is that God's Remembrance should be accompanied with absolute concentration and heart's presence. Also, all other deeds do not come close to the importance assigned to invocation.”

“If this is done for a period of forty day and night continuously then certainly the doors of wisdom, learning, and love will be opened for the wayfarer enabling him to ascent towards the most exalted gnostic positions of annihilation in God (fanafi Allah wa baqa billah), or achieving permanence with God-Almighty."

-Rozatehal-Mutaqin, vol. 13, p-128 (as quoted in the book "Self Building" by Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini)

WS

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(bismillah)

(salam)

While waiting the debators to continue...may I ask a question?

Can we say that an Arif person is basically death (from the duniawi point of view, even though physically he is alive) because he has gone back home (to the origin...to Allah)...innalillahhi wa inna illahi rajiuun. We are from Allah and to HIM is our return. The process of annihilation before the REAL death comes.

So when the person is an accomplised Arif, he his no longer himself...so the knowledge and wisdow are bestowed on him. He sees things that others can't see. But he is not supposed to tell to others who are still not dead yet. An ariff will may apply taqiyyah when dealing with the living people, because the livings may start to use logic whereas an arif is using the heart. Because other people may not comprehend and may think he is "making things" up.... He may sees the Prophets, Shuhada, holyman of the past,...many more. He sees Light.

Is my understanding of an Arif is correct? Help me. :( :(

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Yes, accept that an Aarif does more. Sometimes following the recommendations of his teachers who direct him towards particular ibadat lerned by them from the school of Ahlul Bait . (as)

Yes but I believe you dont have to go to a school to learn how to become what you call an aarif.

I believe it is enough for someone to renounce all worldly things and devote their life to worshipping Allah to reach high spiritual levels.

However, I also believe that if everybody did this then we would be, as Syed Baqir As Sadr describes the negative aspect of Sufis, escapists.

We have to remember that our Aimmah (as) didnt limit their lives to personal ibadat, but rather they spread knowledge and did community service, which is also a form of ibadat but on a collective scale rather than a personal one.

An aarif will most certainly reach a high spiritual level but their contribution to the community will be low, not only in terms of khums but also in terms of community service.

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2 types of people.

those with higher cognitive abiliites, and those with who are spiritually retarted. sufis & non sufis.

not everyone is bright we know that, that's why this forum exists; an outlet for the academically disabled.

Sufi's reach a high level of spirituality but somewhere on that path they make a U-turn and commit the greatest sin by defying surat al tawheed.

There's hundreds of ahadith on the lips of our Noble Prophet Muhammad(saaw) and our Holy Imams(as) cursing the sufi's.

So if you're implying that it is the non sufi's who are spiritually retarded, have a closer look at what our Imams(as) say.

And im glad this forum is an outlet for you.

ws

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(bismillah)

(salam)

Yes but I believe you dont have to go to a school to learn how to become what you call an aarif.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

You may not go to school but you still need a good teacher to guide you through the stages, to help you coup with the difficulties, to tell you different duas, verses, names to get different results.

I believe it is enough for someone to renounce all worldly things and devote their life to worshipping Allah to reach high spiritual level.

However, I also believe that if everybody did this then we would be, as Syed Baqir As Sadr describes the negative aspect of Sufis, escapists.

We have to remember that our Aimmah (as) didnt limit their lives to personal ibadat, but rather they spread knowledge and did community service, which is also a form of ibadat but on a collective scale rather than a personal one.

An aarif will most certainly reach a high spiritual level but their contribution to the community will be low, not only in terms of khums but also in terms of community service.

Thats the difference b/w "Sufism" with "Irfan" that I am talking about. In fact one of the first things you learn is not to leave the necessarey worldly affairs or responsibilities. Irfan does not mean to leave everything and start living a secluded life. A true Aarif would manage his time in such a way as to work, earn money, take care of his wife, kids, parents and the family, take care of social and community work and still seek nearness to Allah.

Ayatullah Amini writes an Important Reminder:

Before entering into discussion, it must be emphasized that the monasticism, renunciation of worldly affairs, and unacceptance of social responsibilities are not pre requisite for undertaking a self-purification program, on the contrary, as will be shown in the book later on that seclusion and relinquishment of individual and social responsibilities are inconsistence with the spiritual self-building and self-purification program.

Islam demands from Muslims that simultaneous to living among the people and discharging their social obligations they should not be ignorant about their spiritual requirements and therefore, should pay special attention towards their self-building and self-refinement.

WS

Edited by Orion
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salaam,

In fact one of the first things you learn is not to leave the necessarey worldly affairs or responsibilities. Irfan does not mean to leave everything and start living a secluded life. A true Aarif would manage his time in such a way as to work, earn money, take care of his wife, kids, parents and the family, take care of social and community work and still seek nearness to Allah.

Brother isn't this what a true muslim does every day, or seeks to do?

Every true muslims seeks knowledge...and take care of the family...whilst seeking nearness to Allah(swt) - Using the 12 Imams(as) as his/her guides.

Sufi's introduce foreign guides.

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Brother isn't this what a true muslim does every day, or seeks to do?

Every true muslims seeks knowledge...and take care of the family...whilst seeking nearness to Allah(swt) - Using the 12 Imams(as) as his/her guides.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

(bismillah)

(salam)

Exactly, but there are very few "true Muslims". How many of us spend a part of our nights worshiping Allah following the ways of our Holy Imams (as) ? Also I believe Irfan is something beyond being a "true Muslim". Or should I say, a way to make a "true Muslim" an even better true Muslim.

The highest level is that of the Prophet (pbuh) and his Ahlul Bait (as). None of us could reach that level. Than we have a "true Muslim". In between are Awliyah, Arafs and so on..........this is my understanding.

WS

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(bismillah)

(salam)

There are three types of followers of Islam:

1. Muslims that just follow according to Fikh (jurisprudent). These types of Muslims don’t want to hear the rational of why certain actions are halal, or wajib, or haram or makruh on issue of solat, hajj, saum and others…. Basically, they just follow. To make matters easier, they just follow the religious authorities (marja in shia). They submit their belief to them.

2. Muslims who follow Islam through faculty and power of reasoning. They would not satisfy by just blindly follow the religion. They follow #1 and They demand more justifications, more proves, facts and evidences. Some of these muslims studied Islam and become Scholars. Examples..philosophers, mufassirin, ahli hadiths, historians…majority of Islamics knowledge comes from these people. Majority of us are in this category.

3. Muslims who follow Islam beyond the power reasoning (the path of Ariff). These people accepted #1, #2, but they wanted more than that. They wanted to explore the human, the Light within the self. Who I am. Once they know themselves, they make a journey to the Owner of the Self. The Prophet and Imams have reached the destinations of the journey. That why they are Maksum. Others wanted to follow them. Majority fall apart because they don’t follow #1 and mis-undertood #2. A few are successful. Imam Khomeini is one of them.

The path of #3 is not easy. Unless there is a guidance from Higher up and the Imams, the path to the Owner of the self, as an Arif, will be a failure.

Because there are so many failures among the people who seek the journey to the Owner,

Some scholars may discaurage Irfan, because of concerns that ordinary people like us that can easily go wrong during the journey to the Owner. During the journey we may see strange things and we can't keep within ourself start telling people about the secret (suppose we won 1 billion dollar lottery, can we keep it to ourselves and not telling others). Those who can't keep the secret, start telling the people..."ana al-haq" They failed from the eyes of ordinary people especially in the eyes of people of the category #2 . Some arif people lost track and secluded themselves from people.

Some scholar are more concerned, they make it haram for thier followers to follow Irfan. But I don't think they DENIED the existent of Irfan. I think they make it haram because of concern to their followers.

Some scholar may just totally rejected Ifran. And for them, Islam will not go beyond the power of reasonings

Some scholar are on the steady journey of Irfan, may give a "glance" of what Irfan is, not for public, but those who have the potential to be guided and understand the position of the Owner, beyond the power of reasoning. That person is Imam Khomeini (rahmahtullah alai)

Irfan is very personal and not for public...should not be taught and discussed in public unless the person himself is on the steady journey and Irfani person and passed #1 and #2.

Rasul and Imams live like ordinary people, but at the same time they are perfect in their spiritual aspect. They never exclude themselves from the masses.

Wallahu alam.

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For example look at the instructions of Allameh Majlisi  (qas):

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Just for the record, Allamah Majlisi (qas) was very much against Sufis and Sufism--both shia and sunni--and has written openly against the sufi concepts--wahdatul wujud, for example--and sufi leaders--Ibn Arabi, Mansur Hallaj, Sufyan Suri, Mawlana Rumi, etc.

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(bismillah)

(salam)

Foods for thought...

My Friend told me this:

Rasul and Imams are the Main broadcasters for News to all humans…Allah himself is the NEWs.

What the Main Broadcasters say to the publics when they see the NEWs…First, the MAIN Broadcasters will absorb the NEWS with their hearts and then explain in the news about the NEWS so that people will understand.

What actually the NEWS sound like….Ana Rabb..Ana al-Haq…

After absorbing the NEWs , the Main Broadcasters would read the news to the public….Allahu rabbuna …Allahu Haq….the public understood.

When the NEWS go to the Main Broadcasters, some are passed to other mini broadcasters around the world….with permission or copyrighted by the Main Broadcasters. You should not change any parts of the NEWs, a main condition put by the Main Broadcasters.

The mini broadcasters start to absorb with their heart the NEWs that come via the Main Broadcasters to be told to the publics.

What actually the NEWs sound like…Ana Rabb..Ana al-Haq. Because the NEWs never change..always the same.

So some mini broadcasters in remote parts of the world start giving and reading the news about the NEWs to the public with good rhetorics…in poems…expressing themselves about the NEWs. Rumi is good about it.

Some mini broadcasters get so engrossed and forget that they are just broadcasters and broadcasters should edit the news based on the NEWs they see, so that the public understand it.

Instead they show to the public the NEWs itself…which sound like “Ana al-Haq” without first translating it into news so that local people understand.

The public misunderstood this mini broadcaster…call them shirk.

The problem is that the mini broadcaster are reading the NEWs directly (not the news)…but the mini broadcasters themselves know that they are not the NEWS…we the public also know that the mini broadcasters are NOT the NEWS…they are human.

Wallahu alam... :unsure:

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Just for the record, Allamah Majlisi (qas) was very much against Sufis and Sufism--both shia and sunni--and has written openly against the sufi concepts--wahdatul wujud, for example--and sufi leaders--Ibn Arabi, Mansur Hallaj, Sufyan Suri, Mawlana Rumi, etc.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I am curious, do scholars today think whatever Allama Majlisi (ra) said is undoubtedly correct? There is so much controversy over this.

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In short Irfan is a cute little word given to the elite of "true muslims"?

So now if I seek nearness to Allah then I can top up my Muslim title with an Irfan title, so that everyone knows that I'm more religious than them?

Edited by DjibrilCisse
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In short Irfan is a cute little word given to the elite of "true muslims"?

So now if I seek nearness to Allah then I can top up my Muslim title with an Irfan title, so that everyone knows that I'm more religious than them?

(salam)

I doubt it. One of the essence of Irfan is that Arifeen don't boast. They seek no title other than " servants of Allah ". And servants of Allah have nothing to do with fame of this world. Humbleness is the perfect version of Irfan.

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Just for the record, Allamah Majlisi (qas) was very much against Sufis and Sufism--both shia and sunni--and has written openly against the sufi concepts--wahdatul wujud, for example--and sufi leaders--Ibn Arabi, Mansur Hallaj, Sufyan Suri, Mawlana Rumi, etc.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

(bismillah)

(salam)

Brother I am refering to Islamic Irfan and not "Sufism"

WS

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In short Irfan is a cute little word given to the elite of "true muslims"?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

(bismillah)

(salam)

The word "Aarefeen" is used by Prophet Khidir (as) and Imam Zainul Abdeen (as). Please ref to Dua e Kumail and Imam's dua for Aarefeen.

So now if I seek nearness to Allah then I can top up my Muslim title with an Irfan title, so that everyone knows that I'm more religious than them?

A new title wont work. If you are serious read the book "Self Building"at al-islam.org.

WS

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^What I mean to say brother, and I'm sorry for my sarcasm from before, is that, isn't it enough to be a muslim?

Do we really have to differenciate between irfan and islam? Isn't irfan just the name that has been given to spiritual islam?

Isn't an aarif simply a spiritual muslim?

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^its also the perfect version of Islam.

(salam)

You misunderstood bro . I wasnt differentiating between Irfan & Islam.

^What I mean to say brother, and I'm sorry for my sarcasm from before, is that,

Do we really have to differenciate between irfan and islam?

My understanding is that Irfan is more like an adjective. It is one of the rewards of Islam. So we cannot differentiate between Irfan & Islam by way of two separate entities.

Edited by inshaAllah
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^What I mean to say brother, and I'm sorry for my sarcasm from before, is that, isn't it enough to be a muslim?

Do we really have to differenciate between irfan and islam? Isn't irfan just the name that has been given to spiritual islam?

Isn't an aarif simply a spiritual muslim?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

In a way yes. As far as "isn't it enough to be a muslim", thats not an issue. One may ask isnt it enough to be a Muslim, why follow Taqwa ad become a Mutaqi?

There are multiple stages like Muslim, Momin, Mutaqi, Aarif, Waley, Imam and so on.....

WS

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Yep, I know. That's why I mentioned wahdatul wujud, Ibn Arabi, Rumi, etc.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Brother it is not fit for people like me and you to discuss issues like "wahdatul wujud".

As far as people like Ibn Arabi, Rumi, etc, are cocerned, in my persoal opion their views have to be screened with the teachigs of Ahlul Bait (as). My question is that if like any other scholar of physics, chemistary or medicine their experiece or views can help us achive over goals, why cant a leared scholar benifit from them?

WS

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Brother it is not fit for people like me and you to discuss issues like "wahdatul wujud".

We aren't discussing it, actually. We're simplying quoting the verdicts and opinions of the learned ones.

As far as people like Ibn Arabi, Rumi, etc, are cocerned, in my persoal opion their views have to be screened with the teachigs of Ahlul Bait (as).

Bro., it isn't about your personal opinion. It is about what those who believe in Irfan think/practise/believe.

Allamah Majlisi said: "What could surpass misguidance than that these people take as their leader and teacher the practitioners of the very worship Allah punish kuffar for. These people are blind of eyes, and hearts!"

My question is that if like any other scholar of physics, chemistary or medicine their experiece or views can help us achive over goals, why cant a leared scholar benifit from them?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

It's different when it comes to religion. We dont take anything but from the house of the Prophet (pbuh) .

Once a person devised a dua and came to Imam (as) . Imam (as) said: "Leave it, and say the duas that have been taught by us."

--

Wa'Salam

Ali

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(bismillah)

(salam)

Unfortunately anything that has remotely anything to do with spirituality is automatically called 'Irfan. If someone does a lot of nawafil they call him aarif, if he is ascetic they call him aarif.

'Irfan was taught by bakris like ibn Arabi and co. even Sayed Khomeini doesn't concede that, otherwise when he sent the letter to Gorbachev he would've asked him to read the Quran or Nahjul Balagha, instead he asked him to read ibn arabis works.

'Irfan and sufism are alien to Islam just like a plethora of hadith say so. Wahdatul Wujud was made up according to Sayed Aktar Rizvi (qas) in his book day of judgement:

This belief of theirs called ‘Wahdatul-wujud’ (one-ness of existence), and its motto is ‘Hame Uust’ (Everything is He). They assert that pharaoh and other people who claimed to be gods were telling the truth; their only crime was they leaked their secret, and this is why they were condemned.

During the heyday of Sufism, this belief (Wahdatul Wujud) served as a screen to hide every type of immorality. Quite young initiates were used for homosexuality. The explanation was that it was not the beauty of the flesh they were after; rather they were seeing it in divine beauty!

Wassalaam

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This belief of theirs called ‘Wahdatul-wujud’ (one-ness of existence), and its motto is ‘Hame Uust’ (Everything is He). They assert that pharaoh and other people who claimed to be gods were telling the truth; their only crime was they leaked their secret, and this is why they were condemned.

During the heyday of Sufism, this belief (Wahdatul Wujud) served as a screen to hide every type of immorality. Quite young initiates were used for homosexuality. The explanation was that it was not the beauty of the flesh they were after; rather they were seeing it in divine beauty

Beautiful exegesis AH, could never have said it better myself, concise and comprehensive, like you say implicitly, there is an uncreated aspect to Allah (SWT) which is above all and beyond all, so no can be A wahdat with something that is beyond creation-that is the real notion of Allah-uncreated and yet the creator,

If these were guys argue that there is a unity in creation at some level, unkown to us-through the agencies of the unseen-Ghayb, in terms of materials known and unknown, I accept, but that these transcend into the realm of the All Powerful, Omnitpotent God who created them, to the effect of it being a two way system, whereby the notion begins to denote a helpless God at some point, in even the slightest sense of the word, this is the beginning of high level paganism, as espoused by Pharoh and Nimrod and the lot. Peace be upon you,

sincerely,

A letter and a number

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Thankyou for your reply Orion, and thankyou for your patience. My argument regarding the terminology "aarif" was weak and very well refuted by you.

Regarding the more complicated issues, I plead ignorance, and am not at all capable of debating such issues, so I will restrain. My only point was about the terminology and now we both agree that the point was wrong. :)

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Dont you guys know the real meaning of wahdatul wujood??? and ure discussing a subject like this???

i recommend this topic should be closed and not discussed until you know what ure discusiing!!!

its like me discuissing 1st grade math without knowing anything!!!

masalam

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Dont you guys know the real meaning of wahdatul wujood??? and ure discussing a subject like this???

i recommend this topic should be closed and not discussed until you know what ure discusiing!!!

its like me discuissing 1st grade math without knowing anything!!!

masalam

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Then refrain from discussing first grade math then.

You wouldn't believe how many times someone has told me that you dont have the philosophical "acumen" to understand what we are writing.

One person wrote about Allah.... "... making love to you under the stars " on this forum and all the sufist applauded this, although none of them understood but heck we can't show we lack philosophical acumen. But I'll tell you what "I was making love to that person's ... " Dont let me get started but even If I did you guys would lack the philosophical acumen to comprehend what Im saying.

Now back to that first grade math.

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getting angry eh ??? ijtanibil ghazab mawlai !!!

whats the highest level of philosophy you have studied please inform this ignorant so maybe we can gain from ure knowlegde!!!

but the way i see it noone has even been close to define wahdatul wujood in this topic and therefore i think its better that everyone ask agha javadi amoli online on the net and get the answer !!!

isnt it better

and i refrain from discussing first math grade since its not discussable is it not?

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'Irfan is one of the disciplines that originated within the realm of Islamic culture and developed there to attain a high level of sophistication. But before we can begin to discuss 'irfan, we must realize that it can be approached from two viewpoints: the social and the academic. Unlike the scholars of other Islamic disciplines - such as the Quranic commentators (mufassirun), the scholars of hadith (muhaddithun), the jurisprudents (fuqaha'), the theologians (mutakallimun), the philosophers, the men of literature, and the poets - the 'urafa' are a group of scholars who have not only developed their own science, 'irfan, producing great scholars and important books, but have also given rise within the Islamic world to a distinct social grouping. In this the 'urafa' are unique; for the scholars of the other Islamic disciplines - such as the jurisprudents, for instance - form solely academic groupings and are not viewed as a social group distinct from the rest of society.

In view of this distinction the gnostics, when referred to as belonging to a certain academic discipline, are called 'urafa' and when referred to as a social group are generally called Sufis (mutasawwifah).

The 'urafa' and sufis are not regarded as forming a separate sect in Islam, nor do they claim themselves to be such. They are to be found within every Islamic school and sect, yet, at the same time, they coalesce to form a distinct social group. The factors that set them apart from the rest of Islamic society are a distinctive chain of ideas and opinions, a special code governing their social intercourse, dress and even, sometimes, the way they wear their hair and beards, and their living communally in their hospices. (Pers. Khaniqah; Ar-ribat, zawiyah; Turk. tekkiye)

Of course, there are and have always been 'urafa' - particularly amongst the Shi'ah - who bear none of these external signs to distinguish them socially from others; yet, at the same time, they have been profoundly involved in the spiritual methodology of 'irfan (sayr wa suluk). It is these who are the real gnostics; not those who have invented for themselves hundreds of special mannerisms and customs and have brought innovations into being.

In this series of lectures, in which we are taking a general look at Islamic sciences and disciplines, we will not be dealing with the social and sectarian aspect of gnosis, that is to say, tasawwuf (sufism). We will limit ourselves to an examination of 'irfan as a discipline and branch amongst the branches of Islam's scientific culture. To look thoroughly at the social aspects of sufism would require us to examine its causes and origins, the effects - positive and negative, beneficial and detrimental - it has and has had upon Islamic society, the nature of the relations between the sufis and other Islamic groups, the hue it has given to the whole of Islamic teachings, and the role it has played in the diffusion of Islam throughout the world. This is far beyond the range of these lectures, and here we will consider the tradition of 'irfan only as a science and as one of the academic disciplines of Islam.

'Irfan, as a scientific and academic discipline, itself has two branches: the practical and the theoretical. The practical aspect of 'irfan describes and explains the relationship and responsibilities the human being bears towards itself, towards the world and towards God. Here, 'irfan is similar to ethics (akhlaq), both of them being practical sciences. There do exist differences, however, and later we will explain them.

The practical teaching of 'irfan is also called the itinerary of the spiritual path (sayr wa suluk; lit. 'traveling and journeying'). Here, the wayfarer (salik) who desires to reach the goal of the sublime peak of humanness - that is to say, tawhid - is told where to set off, the ordered stages and stations that he must traverse, the states and conditions he will undergo at these stations, and the events that will befall him. Needless to say, all these stages and stations must be passed under the guidance and supervision of a mature and perfect example of humanity who, having traveled this path, is aware of the manners and ways of each station. If not, and there is no perfect human being to guide him on his path, he is in danger of going astray.

The perfect man, the master, who must necessarily accompany the novice on the spiritual journey according to the 'urafa', has been called in their vocabulary as Ta'ir al-quds (the Holy Bird) and Khidr:

Accompany my zeal on the path, O Ta'ir al-Quds,

The path to the goal is long, and I new to the journey.

Leave not this stage without the company of Khidr,

There is darkness ahead; be afraid of losing the way.

Of course, there is a world of difference between the tawhid of the 'arif and the general view of tawhid. For the 'arif, tawhid is the sublime peak of humanness and the final goal of his spiritual journey, while for the ordinary people, and even the philosophers, tawhid means the essential Unity of the Necessary Being. For the 'arif, tawhid means that the ultimate reality is only God, and everything other than God is mere appearance, not reality. The 'arif's tawhid means that 'other than God there is nothing'. For the 'arif, tawhid means following a path and arriving at the stage when he sees nothing but God. However, this view of tawhid is not accepted by the opponents of the 'urafa', and some of them have declared such a view to be heretic. Yet the 'urafa' are convinced that this is the only true tawhid, and that the other stages of it cannot be said to be free of polytheism (shirk).

The 'urafa' do not see the attainment of the ideal stage of tawhid to be the function of reason and reflection. Rather they consider it to be the work of the heart, and attained through struggle, through the journeying, and through purifying and disciplining the self.

This, however, is the practical aspect of 'irfan, which is not unlike ethics in this respect, for both discuss a series of things that 'ought to be done'. However, there are differences, and the first of these is that 'irfan discusses the human being's relationship with itself, with the world and with God, and its primal concern is man's relationship with God. Systems of ethics, on the other hand, do not all consider it necessary for the relationship between man and God to be discussed; it is only the religious ethical systems that give importance and attention to this matter.

The second difference is that the methodology of spiritual progression, sayr wa suluk, as the words sayr (traveling) and suluk (journeying) imply, is a dynamic one, while ethics is static. That is, 'irfan speaks about a point of departure, a destination, and the stages and stations which, in their correct order, the wayfarer must traverse in order to arrive at the final destination. In the 'arif's view, there really is a path before the human being - a path that is actual and not in the least a metaphor - and this path must be followed stage by stage, station by station; to arrive at any station without having traversed the preceding one is, in the 'arif's view, impossible. Thus the 'arif views the human soul to be a living organism, like a seedling or like a child, whose perfection lies in growth and maturation in accordance with a particular system and order.

In ethics, however, the subjects are handled solely as a series of virtues, such as righteousness, honesty, sincerity, chastity, generosity, justice, and preferring others over oneself (ithar), to name but a few, with which the soul must be adorned. In the view of ethics, the human soul is rather like a house to be furnished with a series of beautiful objects, pictures and decorations, and no importance is attached to a particular sequence. It is not important where one begins or where one ends. It is of no consequence whether one starts at the ceiling or at the walls, at the top of a wall or at the bottom and so on. On the contrary, in 'irfan the ethical elements are discussed in a dynamic perspective.

The third difference between these two disciplines is that the spiritual elements of ethics are limited to concepts and ideas that are generally commonplace, while the spiritual elements of 'irfan are much more profound and expansive. In the spiritual methodology of 'irfan, much mention is made of the heart and the states and happenings it will experience, and these experiences are known only to the wayfarer of the path during the course of his struggles and his journey on the path, while other people have no idea of these states and happenings.

The other branch of 'irfan is related to interpretation of being, that is, God, the universe, and the human being. Here 'irfan resembles philosophy, for both seek to understand existence, whereas practical 'irfan seeks, like ethics, to change the human being. However, just as there are differences between practical 'irfan and ethics, so also there exist differences between theoretical 'irfan and philosophy.

Theoretical 'irfan, as said before, is concerned with ontology, and discusses God, the world, and the human being. This aspect of 'irfan resembles theological philosophy (falsafeh-ye ilahi), which also seeks to describe being. Like theological philosophy, 'irfan also defines its subject, essential principles and problems, but whereas philosophy relies solely upon rational principles for its arguments, 'irfan bases its deductions on principles discovered through mystic experience (kashf) and then reverts to the language of reason to explain them.

The rationalistic deductions of philosophy can be likened to studying a passage written originally in the same language; the arguments of 'irfan, on the other hand, are like studying something that has been translated from some other language in which it was originally written. To be more precise, the 'arif wishes to explain those things which he claims to have witnessed with his heart and his entire being by using the language of reason.

The ontology of 'irfan is in several ways profoundly different from the ontology of philosophers. In the philosopher's view, both God and other things have reality, with the difference that while God is the Necessary Being (wajib al-wujud) and Existing-By-Himself, things other than God are only possible existents (mumkin al-wujud), existing- through-another, and are effects of the Necessary Being. However, the 'arif's ontology has no place for things other than God as existing alongside Him, even if they are effects of which He is the cause; rather, the Divine Being embraces and encompasses all things. That is to say, all things are names, qualities, and manifestations of God, not existents alongside Him.

The aim of the philosopher also differs from that of the 'arif. The philosopher wishes to understand the world; he wishes to form in his mind a correct and relatively complete picture of the realm of existence. The philosopher considers the highest mark of human perfection to lie in perceiving, by way of reason, the exact nature of existence, so that the macrocosm finds a reflection within his mind while he in turn becomes a rational microcosm. Thus it is said when defining philosophy that: [Philosophy is] the (final) development of a rational knower ('alim) into an actual world ('alam).

This means that philosophy is a study whereby a human being becomes a rational microcosm similar to the actual macrocosm. But the 'arif, on the other hand, would have nothing to do with reason and understanding; he wishes to reach the very kernel and reality of existence, God, to become connected to it and witness it.

In the 'arif's view, human perfection does not mean having a picture of the realm of existence in one's mind; rather it is to return, by means of treading the spiritual path of progression, to the origin from which one has come, to overcome the separation of distance between oneself and the Divine Essence, and, in the realm of nearness, to obliterate one's finite self to abide in Divine Infinitude.

The tools of the philosopher are reason, logic and deduction, while the tools of the 'arif are the heart, spiritual struggle, purification and disciplining of the self, and an inner dynamism.

Later, when we come to the world-view of 'irfan, we shall also discuss how it differs from the world-view of philosophy.

'Irfan, both practical and theoretical, is closely connected with the holy religion of Islam. Like every other religion - in fact more than any other religion - Islam has explained the relationships of man with God, with the world, and with himself; and it has also given attention to describing and explaining existence.

Now, the question inevitably arises here about the relation between the ideas of 'irfan and the teachings of Islam. Of course, the 'urafa' never claim that they have something to say that is above or beyond Islam, and they are earnest in their denials of any such imputations. In fact, they claim to have discovered more of the realities of Islam, and that they are the true Muslims. Whether in the practical teaching of 'irfan or the theoretical, the 'urafa' always support their views by referral to the Quran, the Sunnah of the Prophet and the Imams, and the practice of the eminent amongst the Prophet's Companions.

However, others have held different views about the 'urafa', and these may be mentioned:

(a) A group of muhaddithun and jurisprudents has been of the view that the 'urafa' are not practically bound to Islam, and that their referrals to the Quran and the Sunnah are merely a ruse to deceive the simple-minded people and to draw to themselves the hearts of the Muslims. This group is of the view that 'irfan, basically, has no connection with Islam.

(B) A group of modernists who do not have favourable relations with Islam and are ready to give a tumultuous welcome to anything that gives the appearance of freedom from the observances prescribed by the Shari'ah (ibahah) and which can be interpreted as a movement or uprising in the past against Islam and its laws, like the first group, believe that in practice the 'urafa' had no faith or belief in Islam, and that 'irfan and tasawwuf was a movement of the non-Arab peoples against Islam and the Arabs, disguised under the robes of spirituality.

This group and the first are united in their view that the 'urafa' are opposed to Islam. The difference between them is that the first group considers Islam to be sacred and, by banking on the Islamic sentiments of the Muslim masses, wishes to condemn the 'urafa' and, in this way, to hoot them off from the stage of the Islamic sciences. The second group, however, by leaning on the great personalities of the 'urafa'- some of whom are of world-renown - wishes to use them as a means of propaganda against Islam. They detract Islam on the grounds that the subtle and sublime ideas of 'irfan found in Islamic culture are in fact alien to Islam. They consider that these elements entered Islamic culture from outside, for, they say, Islam and its ideas thrive on a far lower level. This group also claims that the 'urafa's citations of the Quran and hadith were solely due to dissimulation and fear of the masses. This, they claim, was a means for them to save their lives.

© Besides the above two, there is also a third group which takes a rather neutral view of 'irfan. The view of this group is that 'irfan and sufism contain many innovations and deviations that do not accord with the Quran and the traditions; that this is more true of the practical teaching of 'irfan than its theoretical ideas, especially where it takes a sectarian aspect. Yet, they say, the 'urafa', like the Islamic scholars of other ranks and the majority of Islamic sects, have had the most sincere intentions towards Islam, never wishing to make any assertions contrary to its teachings. It is quite possible that they have made mistakes, in the same way as the other types of scholars - theologians, philosophers, Quranic commentators, and jurisprudents - have made mistakes, but this has never been due to an evil intention towards Islam.

In the view of this group, the issue of the 'urafa's supposed opposition to Islam was raised by those who harbored a special prejudice either against 'irfan or against Islam. If a person were to disinterestedly study the books of the 'urafa', provided that he is acquainted with their terminology and language, although he might come across many a mistake, he will not doubt the sincerity of their complete devotion to Islam.

Of the three views, I prefer the third. I do not believe that the 'urafa' have had evil intentions towards Islam. At the same time I believe that it is necessary for those having specialized knowledge of 'irfan and of the profound teachings of Islam to undertake an objective research and disinterested study of the conformity of the issues of 'irfan with Islamic teachings.

One of the important points of contention between the 'urafa' and the non-'urafa', especially the jurisprudents, is the particular teaching of 'irfan regarding the Shari'ah, the Tariqah (the Way) and the Haqiqah (the Reality). Both agree in saying that the Shari'ah, the body of Islamic laws, is based upon a series of realities and beneficial objectives. The jurisprudents generally interpret these goals to consist of certain things that lead the human being to felicity, that is, to the highest possible level of benefit from God's material and spiritual favors to man. The 'urafa', on the other hand, believe that all the paths end in God, and that all goals and realities are merely the means, causes and agencies that impel the human being towards God.

The jurisprudents say only that underlying the laws of the Shariah is a series of benign objectives, that these objectives constitute the cause and spirit of the Shari'ah, and that the only way of attaining these objectives is to act in accordance with the Shari'ah. But the 'urafa' believe that the realities and objectives underlying the laws of the Shari'ah are of the nature of stations and stages on the human being's ascent towards God and in the process of man's access to the ultimate reality.

The 'urafa' believe that the esoteric aspect of the Shari'ah is the Way, the Tariqah, at whose end is the Reality (al-Haqiqah), that is tawhid (in the sense mentioned earlier), which is a stage acquired after the obliteration of the 'arif's self and his egoism. Thus the gnostic believes in three things: the Shari'ah, the Tariqah, and the Haqiqah, and that the Shari'ah is the means to, or the shell of the Tariqah, and the Tariqah again is the means to or the shell of the kernel of Haqiqah.

They the jurisprudenst believe that the Islamic teachings can be grouped into three branches. The first of these is kalam, which deals with the principal doctrines (usul al-'aqa'id). In matters related to the doctrines it is necessary for the human being to acquire, through reason, shakeless belief and faith.

The second branch is ethics (akhlaq). It sets forth the instructions about one's duty in regard to ethical virtues and vices.

The third branch, fiqh, deals with the laws (ahkam), which relate to our external actions and behavior.

These three branches of Islamic teachings are separate from each other. The branch of kalam is related to thought and reason; the branch of akhlaq is related to the self, its faculties and habits; and the branch of fiqh is related to the organs and limbs of the body.

However, on the subject of doctrines, the 'urafa' do not consider merely mental and rational belief to be sufficient. They claim that whatever is to be believed in must be arrived at; one must strive to remove the veils between oneself and those realities.

Similarly, with respect to the second branch they do not consider ethics to be adequate on account of its being static and limited. In place of a philosophical ethics, they suggest a spiritual methodology (sayr wa suluk) with its particular composition.

Finally, in the third branch, they have no criticisms; only in specific instances do they express opinions that could, possibly, be taken as being opposed to the laws of fiqh.

These three branches are, therefore, termed by the 'urafa' as Shari'ah, Tariqah, and Haqiqah. Yet they believe that in exactly the same way as the human being cannot be divided into three sections, that is, the body, the self, and reason, which are not separate from each other and form an indivisible whole of which they constitute inward and outward aspects, so it is with the Shari'ah, the Tariqah, and the Haqiqah. One is outward shell, another is inward kernel, and the third is the kernel of the kernel. There is a difference, however, in that the 'urafa' consider the stages of human existence to be more than three; that is, they believe in a stage that transcends the domain of reason. God willing, this shall be explained later.

In order to understand any discipline or science, it is essential to study its history and the historical developments associated with it. One must also be acquainted with the personalities who have originated or inherited it and with its source books. In this lecture, and the fourth one, we will turn to these matters.

The first issue to arise is whether Islamic 'irfan is a discipline that originated in the Islamic tradition, such as fiqh, usul al-fiqh, tafsir, and 'ilm al-hadith. That is, is it one of those disciplines that were originated by the Muslims who, having received in Islam the original inspiration, sources and raw material, developed them by discovering their rules and principles? Or is it one of those sciences that found their way into the Islamic world from outside, like medicine and mathematics, which were then developed further by the Muslims in the environment of Islamic civilization and culture? Or is there a third possibility?

The 'urafa' themselves maintain the first of these alternatives, and are in no way ready to admit any other. Some orientalists, however, have insisted - and some still insist - on the second view that 'irfan and its subtle and sublime ideas have come into the Islamic world from outside. Sometimes they maintain a Christian origin for it, and claim that mysticism in Islam is the result of early contact of the Muslims with Christian monks. At other times they claim it to be a result of the Persians' reaction against Islam and the Arabs. Then again sometimes they make it entirely a product of Neo-Platonism, which itself was composed of the ideas of Plato, Aristotle and Pythagoras, influenced by Alexandrian gnosticism and the views and beliefs of Judaism and Christianity. Sometimes they claim it to be derived from Buddhism. Similarly, the opponents of 'irfan in the Islamic world also strive to show the whole of 'irfan and sufism as being alien to Islam, and for this purpose they too maintain that gnosis has non-Islamic origins.

A third view admits that 'irfan, whether practical or theoretical, draws its primary inspiration and material from Islam itself; having taken this material, it has tried to give it a structure by devising certain rules and principles and in this process has also been influenced by external currents, specially the ideas of scholasticism and philosophy, especially of the Illuminationist school. Now there are a number of questions which arise in this context. Firstly, to what extent have the 'urafa' been successful in developing correct rules and principles for structuring their material? Have the 'urafa' been as successful in carrying this out as the jurisprudents? To what extent have the 'urafa' felt themselves bound not to deviate from the actual principles of Islam? And, similarly, to what extent has 'irfan been influenced by the ideas of outside traditions? Has 'irfan assimilated these external ideas by shaping them in its particular moulds, and used them in its development? Or, contrarily, have the waves of these foreign currents carried away 'irfan in their flow?

Each of these questions requires a separate study and careful research. But that which is certain is that 'irfan has derived its basic sources of inspiration from Islam itself and from nowhere else. Let us consider this point.

Those who accept the first view, and to some extent also those who take the second view, see Islam as being a simple religion, popular and unsophisticated, free of all sorts of mysteries and difficult or unintelligible profundities. To them, the doctrinal system of Islam rests on tawhid (monotheism), which means that just as a house has a builder other than itself, so the world has a transcendent Creator other than itself. Also, the basis of man's relationship with the enjoyments of this world is, in their view, zuhd (abstinence). In their definition of zuhd, it means refraining from the ephemeral pleasures of this world in order to attain the everlasting enjoyments of the Hereafter. Besides these, there are a series of simple and practical rituals and laws that are handled by fiqh.

Therefore, in this group's view, that which the 'urafa' call tawhid is an idea that goes beyond the simple monotheism of Islam; for the 'arif's view of tawhid is existentialist monism in the sense that he believes that nothing exists except God, His Names, Attributes, and manifestations.

The 'arif's conception of the spiritual path (sayr wa suluk), likewise, they say, also goes beyond the zuhd enjoined by Islam, for the spiritual path of 'irfan involves a number of ideas and concepts - such as love of God, annihilation in God, epiphany - that are not to be found in Islamic piety.

Similarly, the 'arif's concept of the Tariqah goes beyond the Shari'ah of Islam; for the practice of the Tariqah involves matters unknown to fiqh.

Furthermore, in the view of this group, the pious among the Holy Prophet's Companions whom the 'urafa' claim to be their precursors were no more than pious men. Their souls knew nothing of the spiritual path of 'irfan and its tawhid. They were simple otherworldly people who abstained from worldly pleasures and directed their attention to the Hereafter and whose souls were dominated by mixed feelings of fear and hope - fear of the punishment of Hell and hope of the rewards of Paradise. That is all.

In reality this view can in no way be endorsed. The primal sources of Islam are far more extensively richer than what this group - out of ignorance or knowingly - supposes. Neither the Islamic concept of tawhid is as simple and empty as they suppose, nor Islam limits man's spirituality to a dry piety, nor were the pious Companions of the Holy Prophet simple ascetics, nor is the Islamic code of conduct confined to the actions of bodily limbs and organs.

In this lecture, brief evidence will be produced that will suffice to show that Islam's fundamental teachings are capable of having inspired a chain of profound spiritual ideas, both in the theoretical and the practical realms of 'irfan. However, the question of the extent to which the Islamic mystics have used and benefited from Islam's fundamental teachings and the extent to which they may have deviated, is one that we cannot go into in these short lectures.

On the subject of tawhid, the Holy Quran never likens God and the creation to a builder and a house. The Quran identifies God as the Creator of the world, stating at the same time that His Holy Essence is everywhere and with everything:

Wither so ever you turn, there is the Face of God.... (2:115)

... And We are nearer to him than the jugular vein. (50:16)

He is the First and the Last, the Outward and the Inward; .... (57:3)

Evidently, these kind of verses represent a call to the thinking minds to a conception of tawhid which goes beyond commonplace monotheism. A tradition of al-Kafi states that God revealed the opening verses of the Sura al-Hadid and the Sura al-'Ikhlas because He knew that in future generations there will emerge people who will think profoundly about tawhid.

As to the spiritual path of 'irfan, in which a series of stages leading to ultimate nearness to God are conceived, it suffices to take into account the Quranic verses which mention such notions as liqa 'Allah (meeting with God), ridwan Allah (God's good pleasure), or those which relate to revelation (wahy), ilham (inspiration), and the angels' speaking to others who are not prophets - for instance, Mary - and especially the verses relating to the Holy Prophet's Ascension (mi'raj; 17:1).

In the Quran there is mention of the 'commanding self' (al-nafs al-'ammarah; 12:53), the 'self-accusative self' (al-nafs al-lawwamah; 75:2), and the 'contented self' (al-nafs al-mutma'innah; 89:27). There is mention of 'acquired knowledge' (al-'ilm al-'ifadi) and inspired knowledge (al-'ilm al-ladunni; 18:65), and of forms of guidance resulting from spiritual struggle:

And those who struggle in Us, We will surely guide them to Our paths ... (29:69)

Mention is made in the Quran of the purification of the self, and it is counted as one of the things leading to salvation and deliverance:

(By the self) ... verily he who purifies it has succeeded, while he who corrupts it has indeed failed. (91:7-10)

There is also repeated mention there of love of God as a passion above all other human loves and attractions.

The Quran also speaks about all the particles of creation glorifying and praising God (17:44), and this is phrased in a way to imply that if one were to perfect his understanding, he would be able to perceive their praise and magnification of God. Moreover, the Quran raises the issue of the Divine breath in relation to the nature and constitution of the human being (32:9).

This, and much more besides, is sufficient to have inspired a comprehensive and magnificent spirituality regarding God, the world, and man, particularly regarding his relationship with God.

As previously mentioned, we are not considering how the Muslim 'urafa' have made use of these resources, or whether their utilization has been correct or incorrect. We are considering whether there did exist such great resources that could have provided effective inspiration for 'irfan in the Islamic world. Even if we suppose that those usually classed as 'urafa' could not make proper use of them, others who are not classed as such did make use of them.

In addition to the Quran, the traditions, sermons, supplications (du'a'), polemical dialogues (ihtijajat)* and the biographies of the great figures of Islam, all show that the spiritual life current in the early days of Islam was not merely a lifeless type of asceticism blended with a worship performed in the hope of the rewards of Paradise. Concepts and notions are found in the traditions, sermons, supplications, and polemical dialogues that stand at a very high level of sublimity. Similarly, the biographies of the leading personalities of the early days of Islam display many instances of spiritual ecstasy, visions, occurrences, inner insights, and burning spiritual love. We will now relate an example of it.

Al-Kafi relates that one morning after performing the dawn prayer, a young man (Harithah ibn Malik ibn Nu'man al-'Ansari) caught the Prophet's eye. Lean and pale, his eyes sunken, he gave the impression of being unaware of his own condition and of being unable to keep his balance. "How are you?" inquired the Prophet . "I have attained certain faith," the youth replied. "What is the sign of your certainty?" the Prophet asked.

The youth replied that his certainty had immersed him in grief. It kept him awake at night (in worship) and thirsty by day (in fasting), and had separated him from the world and its matters so completely that it seemed to him as if he could see the Divine Throne already set up (on the Judgement Day) to settle the people's accounts, that he together with all of mankind were raised from the dead. He said that it seemed to him that even at that moment he could see the people of Paradise enjoying its bounties, and the people of hell suffering torments and he could hear the roar of its flames.

The Holy Prophet (S) turned to his Companions and told them, "This is a man whose heart has been illuminated with the light of faith by God". Then he said to the youth, "Preserve this condition you are in, and do not let it be taken away from you." "Pray for me," the youth replied, "that God may grant me martyrdom."

Not long after this encounter, a battle took place, and the youth, taking part, was granted his wish and was martyred.

The life, utterances and prayers of the Holy Prophet (S) are rich with spiritual enthusiasm and ecstasy, and full of the indications of gnosis, and the 'urafa' often rely on the Prophet's supplications as reference and evidence for their views.

Similarly, the words of Amir al-Mu'minin 'Ali (A), to whom nearly all the 'urafa' and sufis trace the origin of their orders, are also spiritually inspiring. I wish to draw attention to two passages of the Nahj al-balaghah. In Khutbah No. 222, 'Ali states:

Certainly, God, the glorified, has made His remembrance the means of burnishing the hearts, which makes them hear after deafness, see after blindness, and makes them submissive after unruliness. In all the periods and times when there were no prophets, there have been individuals with whom God - precious are His bounties - spoke in whispers through their conscience and intellects.

In Khutbah No. 220, speaking about the men of God, he says:

He revives his intellect and mortifies his self, until his body becomes lean and his coarseness turns into refinement. Then an effulgence of extreme brightness shines forth for illuminating the path before him, opening all the doors and leading him straight to the gate of safety and the (permanent) abode. His feet, carrying his body, become fixed in the position of safety and comfort on account of that which engages his heart and on having won the good pleasure of his Lord.

The Islamic supplications, especially those of the Shi'ah, are also replete with spiritual teachings. The Du'a' Kumayl, the Du'a' Abi Hamzah, the supplications of al-Sahifat al-Kamilah and the group of supplications called Sha'baniyyah, all contain the most sublime spiritual ideas.

With the existence of all these resources in Islam, is there a need for us to search for the origin of Islamic 'irfan elsewhere?

This reminds us of the case of Abu Dharr al-Ghifari and his protest against the tyrants of his time and his vocal criticism of their practices. Abu Dharr was severely critical of the favoritism, partisan politics, injustice, corruption and tyranny of the post-Prophetic era in which he lived. This led him to suffer torture and exile, and finally it was in exile, deserted and alone, that he passed away from this world.

A number of orientalists have raised the question of what motivated Abu Dharr to act as he did. They are in search of something foreign to the world of Islam to explain his behavior.

George Jurdaq, a Lebanese Christian, provides an answer to these orientalists in his book al-'Imam 'Ali, sawt al-'adalah al-'insaniyyah (Imam 'Ali, the Voice of Human Justice). There he says that he is amazed at those who wish to trace Abu Dharr's mentality to an extra-Islamic source. He says it is as if they see someone standing at the side of a sea or river with a pitcher of water in his hands, and begin to wonder from which pool he has filled his pitcher, and then, completely ignoring the nearby sea or river, go off in search of a pool or pond to explain his full pitcher of water.

What other source other than Islam could have inspired Abu Dharr? Which source could have the power of Islam in inspiring the likes of Abu Dharr to rise against the tyrants of this world such as Mu'awiyah?

Now we see a similar pattern in regard to 'irfan. The orientalists are in search of a non-Islamic source of inspiration of 'irfan, while they completely overlook the great ocean of Islam.

Can we really be expected to overlook all these resources - the Holy Quran, the traditions, the sermons, the polemical dialogues, the supplications, and the biographies - simply in order to give credence to the view of a group of orientalists and their Eastern followers?

Formerly, the orientalists took great pains to project the origins of Islamic 'irfan as lying outside the original teachings of Islam. Lately, however, such individuals as the English R.A. Nicholson and the French Louis Massignon, after having made extensive studies in Islamic 'irfan, without being unacquainted with Islam in general, have expressly admitted that the principal sources of 'irfan are the Quran and the Prophet's Sunnah.

We will conclude this lecture by quoting a passage by Nicholson from the book The Legacy of Islam:

(Though Muhammad left no system of dogmatic or mystical theology, the Qur'an contains the raw materials of both. Being the outcome of feeling than reflection, the Prophet's statements about God are formally inconsistent, and while Muslim scholastics have embodied in their creed the aspect of transcendence, the Sufis, following his example, have combined the transcendent aspect with that of immanence, on which, though it is less prominent in the Qur'an, they naturally lay greater emphasis.)[2]

'Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth' (xxiv:35);

'He is the first and the last and the outward and the inward' (lvii:3);

'there is no god but He; everything is perishing except His Face' (xxviii:88);

'Have breathed into him (man) of My spirit' (xv:29);

'Verily, We have created man and We know what his soul suggests to him, for We are nigher unto him than the neck-artery' (1:15);

'wheresoever ye turn, there is the Face of Allah' (ii:114);

'he to whom Allah giveth no light hath no light at all' (xxiv:40).

Surely the seeds of mysticism are here. And, for the early Sufis, the Qur'an is not only the Word of God: it is the primary means of drawing near to Him. By fervent prayer, by meditating profoundly on the text as a whole and in particular on the mysterious passages (xvii:1; liii:1-18) concerning the Night journey and Ascension, they endeavored to reproduce the Prophet's mystical experience in themselves.[3]

... The doctrine of a mystical union imparted by divine grace goes beyond anything in the Qur'an, but is stated plainly in apocryphal traditions of the Prophet, e.g. God said, "My servant draws nigh unto Me by works of supererogation, and I love him; and when I love him, I am his ear, so that he hears by Me, and his eye, so that he sees by Me, and his tongue, so that he speaks by Me, and his hand, so that he takes by Me."[4]

As repeatedly said before, we are not concerned here with the question whether the 'urafa' have succeeded in correctly utilizing the inspiration provided by Islam; our purpose was to consider whether the main source of their inspiration lay within Islam or outside it.

The genuine teachings of Islam and the lives of its spiritual leaders, so rich with spirituality and spiritual splendor, which have provided the inspiration for profound spirituality in the Islamic world, are not encompassed by that which is termed as 'irfan or sufism. However, it is beyond the scope of these lectures to discuss other parts of Islamic teachings that do not bear this name. We will continue our discussion on the branch that is labeled as 'irfan or sufism, and obviously the limited scope of these lectures does not permit us to go into a critical research. Here we will try to give an outline of the currents and events that have occurred within this branch. For this purpose, it appears to be appropriate that we begin by providing a simple history of 'irfan or Sufism from the beginnings of Islam until at least the 10th/16th century, before turning, so far as is practical in a venture such as this, to an analysis of the issues of 'irfan.

What seems certain is that in the early era of Islam, that is throughout the 1st/7th century at least, there existed no group amongst the Muslims known as 'urafa' or sufis. The name sufi was first used in the 2nd/8th century.

The first person to be called by the name sufi is Abu Hashim al- Kufi. He lived in the 2nd/8th century and he it was who first built at Ramlah, in Palestine, a hospice for worship by a group of ascetically- minded Muslims.[5] The date of Abu Hashim's death is not known, but he was the teacher of Sufyan al-Thawri who died in 161/777.

Abu al-Qasim Qushayri, himself an eminent 'arif and sufi, states that the name sufi had appeared before the year 200/815. Nicholson also states that the name appeared towards the end of the 2nd century H. From a tradition contained in kitab al-ma'ishah (vol. V) of al-Kafi, it appears that a group - Sufyan al-Thawri and a number of others - existed in the time of al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) (that is to say, during the first half of the 2nd century H.) who were already called by this name.

If Abu Hashim al-Kufi was the first to be called sufi, then, since he was the teacher of Sufyan al-Thawri who died in 161/777, this name was first used during the first half of the 2nd century H., not at its end (as Nicholson and others have stated). Nor does there appear to be any doubt that the reason for the name being sufiyyah was their wearing of wool (sufi: wool). Due to their asceticism, the sufis abstained from wearing fine garments, and instead followed a practice of wearing clothes made of coarse wool.

As for the date this group first began to call themselves 'urafa', again there is no precise information. All that is certain, as confirmed by the remarks quoted of Sari Saqati (d. 243/867)[6], is that the term was current in the third century H. However, in the book al-Luma' of Abu Nasr al-Sarraj al-Tusi, one of the reliable texts of 'irfan and sufism, a phrase is quoted of Sufyan al-Thawri which gives the impression that this term appeared sometime in the second century. [7]

At all events, there was no group known as sufis during the first century H. This name appeared in the 2nd century H., and it seems that it was during the same century that the sufis emerged as a particular group, not in the third century as is the belief of some people. [8]

However, even though no special group existed in the first century by the name of 'urafa' or sufis or any other name, it does not imply that the eminent Companions were merely pious and ascetic persons and that all of them led lives of simple faith devoid of spiritual depth. Perhaps it is true that some of the pious Companions knew nothing more beyond mere piety and worship, yet a group of them possessed a powerful spiritual life. Nor were they all of the same level. Even Salman and Abu Dharr were not of the same degree. Salman enjoyed a degree of faith that Abu Dharr could not have withstood. Many traditions have come to us telling us:

If Abu Dharr knew what was in Salman's heart, he would (considering him a heretic) have killed him. [9]

Now we will list the different generations of the 'urafa' and sufis from the 2nd/8th to the 10/16th century.

1. Al-Hasan al-Basri

The history of what is termed as 'irfan, like kalam, begins with al-Hasan al-Basri (d. 110/728). He was born in 22/642 and lived for eighty-eight years, having spent nine-tenths of his life in the first century H.

Of course, al-Hasan al-Basri was never known by the term sufi, but there are three reasons for counting him amongst the sufis. The first is that he compiled a book called Ri'ayah li huquq Allah (Observance of the Duties to Allah) [10], which can be recognized as the first book on sufism. A unique manuscript of this book exists at Oxford. Nicholson has this to say on the subject:

The first Muslim to give an experimental analysis of the inner life was Harith al-Muhasibi of Basrah ... 'The Path' (tariqah), as described by later writers, consists of acquired virtues (maqamat) and mystical states (ahwal). The first stage is repentance or conversion; then comes a series of others, e.g. renunciation, poverty, patience, trust in God, each being a preparation for the next.[11]

Secondly, the 'urafa' themselves trace their orders back to al- Hasan al-Basri; and from him to 'Ali (A), such as the chain of the shaykhs of Abu Sa'id ibn Abi al-Khayr.[12] Similarly, Ibn al-Nadim, in his famous al-Fihrist, traces the chain of Abu Muhammad Ja'far al-Khuldi back to al-Hasan al-Basri, stating that al-Hasan al-Basri had met seventy of the Companions who had fought at Badr.

Thirdly, some of the stories related of al-Hasan al-Basri give the impression that he was in fact part of a group that in later times became known as sufis. We will relate some of these stories when appropriate later on.

2. Malik ibn Dinar:

He was one of those who took asceticism and abstinence from pleasure to the extreme. Many stories are told about him in this regard. He died in the year 130/747.

3. Ibrahim ibn Adham:

The famous story of Ibrahim ibn Adham resembles that of Buddha. It is said that he was the ruler of Balkh when something happened that caused him to repent and enter the ranks of the sufis.

'Urafa' attach great importance to this man, and a very interesting tale is told about him in Rumi's Mathnawi. He died around the year 161/777.

4. Rabi'ah al-'Adawiyyah:

This woman is one of the wonders of her time (d. 135/752 or 185/801). She was named Rabi'ah because she was the fourth daughter of her family (rabi'ah: fem. gender of fourth). She is not to be confused with Rabi'ah al-Shamiyyah, who was also a mystic and a contemporary of Jami and lived in the 9th/15th century.

Lofty sayings and soaring mystical verses are recorded of Rabi'ah al-'Adawiyyah,' and she is noted for amazing spiritual states (halat).

5. Abu Hashim al-Sufi of Kufah:

The date of this man's death is unknown. All that we can say is that he was the teacher of Sufyan al- Thawri; who died in 161/777. He appears to be the first person to have been called sufi. Sufyan says about him: "If it were not for Abu Hashim I would not have known the precise details of ostentation (riya')."

6. Shaqiq al-Balkhi:

He was the pupil of Ibrahim ibn Adham. According to the author of Rayhanat al-'adab, and others quoted in Kashf al-ghummah of 'Ali ibn 'Isa al-'Arbili and Nur al-'absar of al-Shablanji, he once met al-'Imam Musa ibn Ja'far (A) and has given an account of the Imam's great station and miracles. Shaqiq died in 194/810.

7. Ma'ruf al-Karkhi:

He is one of the famous 'urafa'. It is said that his parents were Christian and that he became a Muslim at the hands of al- 'Imam al-Rida (A), learning much from him.

The lines of many orders, according to the claims of the 'urafa', go back to Ma'ruf, and through him to al-'Imam al-Rida, and through al- 'Imam al-Rida to the preceding Imams and thus to the Prophet himself. This chain is therefore termed the 'golden chain' (silsilat al-dhahab). Those known as the Dhahabiyyun generally make this claim.

8. Al-Fudayl ibn 'Iyad:

Originally from Merv, he was an Iranian of Arab descent. It is said of him that at first he was a highwayman, and that as he was preparing to carry out a robbery one night he heard the voice of his potential victim, reciting the Quran. This had such an effect on him that he experienced a change of heart and repented. The book Misbah al-Shariah is attributed to him and it is said to consist of a series of lessons that he took from al-'Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (A). This book is considered reliable by an erudite scholar of traditions of the last century, the late Hajj Mirza Husayn Nuri, in the epilogue to his Mustadrak al-Wasa'il. Fudayl died in 187/803.

1. Abu Yazid al-Bistami (Bayazid):

One of the great mystics, it is said Bayazid was the first to speak openly of 'annihilation of the self in God' (fana fi 'Allah') and 'subsistence through God' (baqa' bi 'Allah).

He has said "I came forth from Bayazid-ness as a snake from its skin."

His ecstatic ejaculations (shathiyyat) have led others to call him a heretic. However, the 'urafa' themselves consider him one of those given to mystical 'intoxication' (sukr), that is, he uttered these words when he was beside himself in ecstasy.

Abu Yazid died in 261/874 or 264/877. Some have claimed that he worked as a water carrier in the house of al-'Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (A). However, this claim is not supported by history; Abu Yazid was not a contemporary of the Imam.

2. Bishr ibn al-Harith al-Hafi:

One of the famous sufis, he was another who led a corrupt life and then repented.

In his book Minhaj al-karamah, al-'Allamah al-Hilli has related an account that depicts Bishr's repentance as being at the hands of al-'Imam Musa ibn Ja'far (A), and because at the moment of his repentance he was barefoot in the street, he became known as 'al- Hafi' (hafi=barefooted). However, others have given a different reason for his being known as al-Hafi.

Bishr al-Hafi (born near Merv c. 150/767) died in 226/840 or 227/841 in Baghdad.

3. Sari al-Saqati:

One of the friends and companions of Bishr al-Hafi, Sari al-Saqati was one of those who bore affection for the creatures of God and of those who preferred others above themselves.

In his book Wafayat al-'a'yan, Ibn Khallikan writes that Sari once said, "It is thirty years that I have been seeking forgiveness for one phrase, Praise be Allah's, that I allowed to pass my lips." When asked to explain he replied, "One night the bazaar caught fire, and I left my house to see if the fire had reached my shop. When I heard that my shop was safe, I said, 'Praise be Allah's'. Instantly I was brought to my senses with the realization that, granted my shop was unharmed, should I not have been thinking about others'?"

Sa'di is referring to this same story (with slight variations) where he says:

One night someone's chimney kindled a fire, And I heard that half of Baghdad had burnt down. One said, thank God that in the smoke and ashes, My shop has not been damaged. A man who had seen the world replied, O selfish man, Was your grief for yourself and no other? Would you be satisfied that a town should burn down by fire, If your own dwelling were left unscathed?

Sari was the pupil and disciple (murid) of Ma'ruf al-Karkhi, and the teacher and maternal uncle of Junayd of Baghdad. Sari has many sayings on mystical unity (tawhid), love of God and other matters. It was also he who said: "Like the sun, the 'arif shines on all the world; like the earth, he bears the good and evil of all; like water, he is the source of life for every heart; and like fire he gives his warmth to all and sundry." Sari died in 253/867 at the age of ninety-eight.

4. Harith al-Muhasibi:

He was one of the friends and companions of Junayd. He was called 'al-muhasibi' due to his great diligence in the matter of self-observation and self-reckoning (muhasabah). He was a contemporary of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, who, being an opponent of 'ilm al-kalam, rejected Harith al-Muhasibi for entering into theological debates, and this led to the people avoiding him. Born in Basrah in 165/781, he died in 243/857.

5. Junayd of Baghdad:

Originally from Nahaw and, the 'urafa' and sufis have given Junayd the title Sayyid al-Ta'ifah, just as the Shi'ah jurisprudents call al-Shaykh al-Tusi Shaykh al-Ta'ifah.

Junayd is counted as one of the moderate mystics. The kind of ecstatic ejaculations uttered by others were never heard from his lips. He did not even put on the usual dress of the sufis, and dressed like scholars and jurisprudents. It was suggested to him that for the sake of his associates he should wear the sufi dress. He replied: "If I thought clothes were of any importance I would make an outfit of molten iron, for the call of truth is that:

There is no significance in the (sufi) cloak, Importance lies only in the (inward) glow.

Junayd's mother was the sister of Sari Saqati and Junayd became his pupil and disciple. He was also the pupil of Harith al-Muhasibi. It seems that he died in Baghdad in 298f910 at the age of ninety.

6. Dhu al-Nun al-Misri:

An Egyptian, he was the pupil in jurisprudence of the famous jurisprudent Malik ibn Anas. Jami has called him the leader of the sufis. He it was who first began to use symbolic language and to explain mystical matters through the use of a symbolic terminology which only the elect could understand.

Gradually this became the standard practice, and mystical concepts were expressed in the form of love-poetry (ghazal) and symbolic expressions. Some believe that Dhu al-Nun also introduced many Neoplatonic ideas into 'irfan and sufism.[13] Dhu al-Nun died in 246/860 in Cairo.

7. Sahl ibn 'Abd Allah al-Tustari:

He is one of the great 'urafa' and sufis. A sect of gnostics who consider the main principle of spirituality to be combatting the self is named 'Sahliyyah' after him. He associated with Dhu al-Nun of Egypt at Mecca. He died in Basrah in 282/895. [14]

8. Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj:

Now famous simply as al-Hallaj, he is one of the most controversial mystics of the Islamic world. The shathiyyat uttered by him are many, and he was accused of apostasy and claiming divinity. The jurisprudents pronounced him an apostate and he was crucified during the reign of the 'Abbasid caliph al-Muqtadir. The 'urafa' themselves accuse him of disclosing spiritual secrets. Hafiz has this to say about him:

He said, that friend, who was raised high on the cross,

His crime was that he used to reveal secrets.

Some consider him no more than a juggler, but the 'urafa' themselves absolve him and say that the statements of al-Hallaj and Bayazid that gave the impression of unbelief were made when they were beside themselves in the state of 'intoxication'.

Al-Hallaj is remembered by the 'urafa' as a martyr. He was executed in 309/913. [15]

1. Abu Bakr al-Shibli:

A pupil and disciple of Junayd of Baghdad and one who had met al-Hallaj, al-Shibli is one of the famous mystics. He was originally from Khurasan. In the book Rawdat al-jannat, and in other biographies, many mystical poems and sayings have been recorded of him.

Khawajah 'Abd Allah al-'Ansari has said: "The first person to speak in symbols was Dhu al-Nun of Egypt. Then came Junayd and he systematized this science, extended it, and wrote books on it. Al-Shibli, in his turn, took it to the pulpit." Al-Shibli; died in 334/846 at the age of 87.

2. Abu 'Ali al-Rudbari:

He traced his descent to Nushirwan and the Sasanids, and was a disciple of Junayd. He studied jurisprudence under Abu al-'Abbas ibn Shurayh, and literature under Tha'lab. Due to his versatile knowledge, he was called the 'collector of the Law, the Way, and the Reality' (jami' al-Shari'ah wa al-Tariqah wa al-Haqiqah). He died in 322/934.

3. Abu Nasr al-Sarraj al-Tusi:

Abu Nasr al-Sarraj is the author of the book al-Luma', one of the principal, ancient and reliable texts of 'irfan and sufism. Many of the shaykhs of the sufi orders were his direct or indirect pupils. He passed away in 378/988 in Tus.

4. Abu Fadl ibn al-Hasan al-Sarakhsi:

He was the pupil and disciple of Abu Nasr al-Sarraj, and the teacher of Abu Sa'id ibn Abi al-Khayr. He was a mystic of great fame. He died in 400/1009.

5. Abu 'Abd Allah al-Rudbari:

He was the son of Abu 'Ali al-Rudbari's sister. He is counted as one of the mystics of Damascus and Syria. He died in 369/979.

6. Abu Talib al-Makki:

The fame of Abu Talib al-Makki rests largely on the book he authored on 'irfan and sufism, Qut al-qulub. This book is one of the principal and earliest texts of 'irfan and sufism. He passed away in 385/995 or 386/996.

1. Shaykh Abu al-Hasan al-Khurqani:

One of the most famous 'urafa', the 'urafa' relate amazing stories about him. Amongst these is one according to which he would go to the grave of Bayazid and converse with his spirit, taking his advice in solving his difficulties. Rumi says:

After many years had passed since the death of Bayazid Bu'l-Hasan appeared. Now and then he would go and sit By the side of his grave in his presence, Until came the spirit of his shaykh, And as soon as he uttered his problem, it was solved

Rumi has remembered Shaykh Abu al-Hasan a lot in his Mathnawi, which shows his devotion and attachment to him. It is said that he met with Abu 'Ali Sina, the philosopher, and with Abu Sa'id ibn Abi al- Khayr, the famous 'arif. He died in 425/1033-34.

2. Abu Sa'id ibn Abi al-Khayr:

One of the most famous of all mystics, Abu Sa'id ibn Abi al-Khayr is also one of those most noted for their spiritual states (halat). When once asked the definition of tasawwuf, he replied: "Tasawwuf is that you give up whatever is on your mind, give away whatever is in your hand, and to give over yourself to whatever you are capable of."

He met with Abu 'Ali Sina. One day Abu 'Ali participated in a meeting at which Abu Sa'id was preaching. Abu Sa'id was speaking about the necessity of deeds, and about obedience and disobedience to God. Abu 'Ali recited these verses (ruba'i):

We are those who have befriended your forgiveness,

And seek riddance from obedience and disobedience.

Wherever your favour and grace is to be found,

Let the not-done be like the done, the done like the not-done.

Abu Sa'id immediately replied:

O you who have done no good, and done much bad,

And then aspire after your own salvation,

Do not rely on forgiveness, for never

Was the not-done like the done, the done like the not-done.

The following ruba'i is also of Abu Sa'id:

Tomorrow when the six directions fade away,

Your worth will be the worth of your awareness.

Strive for virtue, for on the Day of Retribution,

You shall rise in the form of your qualities.

Abu Sa'id passed away in the year 440/1048.

3. Abu 'Ali al-Daqqaq al-Nishaburi:

He is considered one of those who combined in himself the expertise of the Shari'ah and the Tariqah. He was a preacher and an exegete (mufassir) of the Quran. To such an extent did he use to weep while reciting supplications (munajat) that he was given the title 'the lamenting shaykh' (shaykh-e nawhahgar). He passed away in 405/1014 or 412/1021.

4. Abu al-Hasan 'Ali ibn 'Uthman al-Hujwiri:

He is the author of Kashf al-Mahjub, one of the famous sufi books and one which has recently been published. He died in 470/1077.

5. Khwajah 'Abd Allah al-'Ansari:

A descendant of the great Companion of the Prophet, Abu Ayyub al-'Ansari, Khwajah 'Abd Allah is himself one of the most famous and pious of all 'urafa'. His fame rests largely on his elegant aphorisms, munajat, and ruba'iyyat.

Amongst his sayings is this:

When a child you are low, when a youth you are intoxicated, when old you are decrepit; so when will you worship God?

He has also said:

Returning evil for evil is the trait of a dog; returning good for good is the trait of a donkey; returning good for evil is the work of Khwajah 'Abd Allah al-'Ansari.

The following ruba'i is also his:

It is a great fault for a man to remain aloof,

Setting oneself above all the creation.

Learn thy lesson from the pupil of the eye,

That sees everyone but not itself.

Khwajah 'Abd Allah was born in Herat where he died and was buried in 481/1088. For this reason he is known as 'the Sage of Herat' (Pir-e Herat).

Khwajah 'Abd Allah authored many books, the best-known of which, Manazil al-sa'irin, is a didactic manual on sayr wa suluk. It is one of the most well-written works of 'irfan, and many commentaries have been written on it.

6. Imam Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali:

One of the best-known scholars of Islam whose fame has penetrated the East and the West, he combined in his person the knowledge of the rational and traditional sciences (ma'qul wa manqul). He became head of the Nizamiyyah Academy in Baghdad and held the highest position of his age accessible to any scholar. However, feeling that neither his knowledge nor his position could satisfy his soul, he withdrew from public life and engaged in disciplining and purifying his soul.

He spent ten years in Palestine, far from all who knew him, and it was during this period that he became inclined towards 'irfan and sufism. He never again accepted any post or position. Following his period of solitary asceticism, he wrote his famous Ihya' 'ulum al-Din ('Reviving the Sciences of Religion'). He died in his home city of Tus in the year 505/1111.

1. 'Ayn al-Qudat al-Hamadani:

Of the most enthusiastic of mystics, 'Ayn al-Qudat al-Hamadani was the disciple of Ahmad al-Ghazali's, younger brother of Muhammad, who was also a mystic. The author of many books, he also composed some brilliant poetry that, however, was not altogether free of theopathetic exclamations (shathiyyat). Charges of heresy were brought against him; he was executed, and his body burnt and his ashes cast to the winds. He was killed around 525-533/ 1131-1139.

2. Sanai Ghaznawi:

A famous poet, his verse is loaded with profound mystic sentiments. Rumi, in his Mathnawi, has cited some of his sayings a

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