Philosophy and Sufism thus influenced each other theologically. Sufism's impact on philosophy is yet more obvious later in its history, in the Safavid period. Its influence pervades the thought of the most eminent Safavid Sha'ite philosopher, Mulla Sadra (d. 1640), who arguably represents the final importation of Ibn 'Arabai's ideas into philosophy. Mulla Sadra's thinking as a whole is framed within the idea of four philosophical journeys, as in the title of his magnum opus, The Four Journeys (al-Asfar al-Arba'a), namely: from creatures to the Truth, from the Truth to the Truth by the Truth, from the Truth to creatures by the Truth, and from creatures to creatures by the Truth. In this we see the direct appropriation of a topos of speculative Sufism into a philosophical context. 'Abd al-Razzaaq al-Kaashaanai, for instance, presents four similar journeys, with definitions overlapping with Mulla Sadra's, in his Technical Terms of the Sufis (Kitab 1stilahat al-Sufiyya).71

To summarise. Throughout its history, Islamic mystical theology undergoes a powerful creative tension between esoterism and the civi-lisational genius of Islam for integrality. Emerging from the period of the Prophet and Companions, mysticism and theology coalesce in early spiritual movements like the Bakriyya, reflecting the unity of impulse found in al-Hasan al-Basri's circle. Later, this integrality begins to break down. This is partly through the hardening of the religious sciences into formal disciplines and schools of thought, excluding the vital spiritual element enshrined in Sufism. It is also owed to developments within Sufism itself. For example, a radically esoteric ethic appears in the Malaamatiyya and doctrines not obviously symmetrical with exoterism make themselves felt, notably, ittisaf. A confrontation gathers force through a line of ecstatics: figures like Bistama, Nun and Hallaj. There result the major Sufi trials of the ninth to the tenth century.

Integrality, for which Junayd is the original figurehead in this period of crisis, reasserts itself in the course of the following century. This is the period of the Sufi compilations. Notwithstanding the mystical teachings recorded in the works in question, they establish the orthodox credentials of Sufism, inter alia through the inclusion of credal statements conforming to the theological teachings of Sunnai traditionalism, notably as fixed by Ash'arism. Decisive confirmation of Sufism's cen-trality comes in Ghazaalai, and the triumph of the Sufi-Ash'arite synthesis for which he stands is ensured through the support of the Seljuks. It is important, however, when approaching Ash'arism in Ghazaalai's mystical writings or in those of any other Sufi, to separate the catechistic from the transcendentalised mode of doctrine. Ash'arism in the transcendental-ised register found in Sufi discourse may be dramatically distinct from its analogue in kalaam discourse.

Finally, partly through the unofficial spread of Avicenna's teachings in the Seljuk period, the expression of Sufism is transformed by falsafa, resulting in what is generally known as speculative Sufism. Its triumph is closely linked to the success of Ibn 'Araba's teachings. The essentially philosophical tenor of speculative Sufism is underlined by Quanawai. In fact, there had always been a definite relationship between Islamic philosophy and Sufism, as is clear even in the case of one of the high points of Avicenna's metaphysics, the ''Proof of the Strictly Truthful''.

What about the fate of integrality in the victory of speculative Sufism? Clearly, the shuhuda mysticism of the Naqshbandi order is part of a seventeenth-century attempt to re-establish integrality against Ibn 'Araba. Yet wahdat al-shuhud itself remains part of speculative Sufism. So speculative Sufism per se is by no means opposed to integrality; in fact it is strictly false that Ibn 'Araba's own esoterism violates integrality. Sirhinda and his reformist predecessors fought a degeneration of Ibn 'Araba's teachings: a crude pantheism conducing to the relativisation of the Shan'a. But Ibn 'Araba's mystical theology, for all its radicalism, had been self-consciously in keeping with the law. It is crucial that Ibn 'ArabI was traditionally held to have adhered to the most fiercely liter-alistic and anti-rational of all the legal rites, Zahirism,72 which had been promoted in Spain by Ibn Hazm of Cordoba (d. 1064).

Ibn 'ArabI had engaged in depth with Ibn Hazm's works, and a full list of the jurist's writings he studied is contained in his ijaza (scholastic licence).73 That he undertook the project of abridging the Zahirite thinker's vast, thirty-volume The Adorned (al-Muhalla) is surely sufficient evidence of dedication. In transmitting Ibn Hazm's Refutation of Analogy (Ibtal al-Qiyas), Ibn 'ArabI provided it with an introduction in which he even recounts a visionary dream of the author and the Prophet embracing in a village near Seville. Ibn 'ArabI says that the dream helped him understand the enormous value of hadith.74 Elsewhere, he explicitly mentions that people in his day identified him as a partisan of Ibn Hazm, and although it has recently been pointed out by more than one author that he is categorical that he did not conform to Ibn Hazm's positions,75 on scrutiny this seems only to have been a protest that he follows nothing but the Qur'an, Hadith and consensus. It can be argued that this is, paradoxically, impeccably Zahirite, since Zahirism expressly condemns the superimposition of a legal theory on the God-given sources of religious law. It is a fact that Ibn 'ArabI privately adopted one of the cornerstones of Zahirite law, the rejection of analogical reasoning, and held that the MahdI would presently do likewise. Doubtless the Shaykh exercised authoritative independence in jurisprudence, and trying to prove that he upheld Zahirism in detail is probably futile. But it is easy to miss the wood for the trees. That he was close enough to Zahirism to have been identified as its exponent in his lifetime is sensational. The links of the pre-eminent Muslim esoterist with Ibn Hazm's literalist lawschool are impressive, and offer cause for reflection. In reality, his mystical thought itself can be shown to contain Zahirite elements. The conventional word for esoteric interpretation, ta'wIl, is not a positive term in Ibn 'ArabI's lexicon, for it suggested to him a hermeneutic dictated by mere reason.76 For the Shaykh, the revealed scripture (to repeat Chodkiewicz) must be respected as a text, not used as a pretext. Correspondingly, Ibn 'ArabI's intensely esoteric hermeneutic of the Qur'an is often strictly in line with the literal sense of the text. His interpretation of the words ''There is nothing like unto Him'' (42:11) offers a good example. Although the verse is routinely taken to underscore God's transcendence of all comparison, Ibn 'ArabI points out that not one but two ''likening'' words occur in this Arabic sentence. It literally says: ''There is nothing like (ka) His likeness (mithlihi).'' The expression thus actually affirms God's likeness, but denies that that likeness is in any way commensurable with anything else.77 ''God's likeness'', according to Ibn 'Arabl, is the Perfect Man, that linchpin of late Sufi cosmology.78

In this it can be argued that Ibn 'Arabl's teachings amount to a superlative manifestation of esoterism as specifically expressed within the Islamic ethos. For his teachings stress, with unique intensity, that the heights of mysticism are inseparable from the text of the revealed tradition. In Ibn 'Arabl, esoterism and the civilisational genius for integrality are wholly married. Chodkiewicz has put his finger on this central characteristic of the Shaykh's hermeneutic, its ''esoteric literalism''. In a striking analogy, he suggests that the Qur'an, in Ibn 'Arabl's understanding, is akin to a Mobius strip. This is a geometric figure which seems to have two sides, an outer and an inner. In reality, however, the two sides are one and the same.79 The analogy equally holds of the Shaykh's theology. For at its heart, too, is a God who is simultaneously, as the Qur'an puts it, ''the Outward and the Inward'' (57:3). His thought thus contains an implicit critique of forms of mysticism divorced from the revelatory tradition, a critique which is all the more potent for not being based on the ethos of that tradition per se, but on the deepest insights of mysticism itself.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment