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3. The Antinomians

Many of the Ṡūfīs who had been sympathetic to Ḥallāj seem to have moved to Khurasan and Transoxania, where the semiautonomous Samānī dynasty had a milder policy toward mystics. Ṡūfīs were chiefly responsible for the conversion

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of the Central Asiatic Turks to Islam. Characteristic of Khurasanī Ṡūfism was its antinomian tendency--its hostility toward the ‘ulamā’, whom it accused of the "murder of God's lovers"; its separation of faith from works and its hospitality to theosophical ideas common among the extremist Shī‘a, or otherwise rejected by orthoprax Muslims. One of the great Khurasanis was Abū Sa‘īd ibn Abī Khayr 25 (died A.H. 440/A.D. 1049). We find him living as the abbot of a large urban Still monastery, waited on like a sultan by his disciples, accepting with complacency the veneration of the crowds and the reputation of being a miracle worker. He was also apparently willing to hold the doctrine of human divinization attributed to al-Ḥallāj, in a more extravagant interpretation which might have distressed the earlier mystic. He encouraged his Ṡūfīs to dance and feast, and worship God with joyful hearts. Among Persian poets he is perhaps the first to introduce that dexterous juggling with the mundane and the sublime--God and the wine cups--which gives later Persian poetry such extraordinary charm. Some of his rubā‘iyāt, or quatrains, have proved sufficiently impertinent to be wrongly included among those of ‘Umar Khayyām. Of the many rubā‘iyāt attributed to Abū Sa‘īd, the most are perhaps spurious, but they are part of the image of the man. Some of his sayings, like the ones quoted here, reflect ideals thoroughly Islamic, but the same man regarded the Law as bondage, and referred to the Ka‘ba as "a stone house." 26


If men wish to draw near to God, they must seek Him in the hearts of men. They should speak well of all men, whether present or absent, and if they themselves seek to be a light to guide others, then like the sun, they must show the same

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face to all. To bring joy to a single heart is better than to build many shrines for worship, and to enslave one soul by kindness is worth more than the setting free of a thousand slaves.

The (true saint) sits in the midst of his fellow-men, and rises up and eats and sleeps and buys and sells and gives and takes in the bazaars among other people, and marries and has social intercourse with other folk, and never for an instant forgets God. 27


Thy sinful servant I--Thy mercy, where now?
In my heart darkness lies--Thy comfort, where now?
Obedience can win Thy Paradise-why, then
A Merchant Thou--Thy goodness, where now? 28

Long did we rest ere yet the arch of the sphere over the void was flung,
Long ere the azure vaults of the courts of heaven appeared.
In eternal non-being we slept secure and on us was stamped
The seal of Thy love, before we had known what it was to be. 29

I said to Him: "For whom dost Thy Beauty thus unfold?"
He answered me: "For myself, as I am I was of old.
For lover am I and love and I alone the Beloved,
Mirror and Beauty am I: Me in myself behold." 30

Till every madrasa and minaret beneath the sun
Lies desolate, the Qalandar's work will not be done.
Not one true Muslim will appear,
Till True Belief and Infidelity are one 31

Thy Path, wherein we walk, in every step, is fair.
Meeting with Thee, whatever way we go, is fair.

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Whatever eye doth look upon Thy Face, finds Beauty there.
Thy Praise, whatever tongue doth give it Thee, is fair. 32


Some Ṡūfīs, like the Qalandars named above, Islamic beatniks, violated all the norms of Islamic society. With the passing of time and the social decline of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, almost every pervert entered a Ṡūfī order, and almost every madman was accounted a saint. This was partly because Islam lacks ecclesiastic machinery for defining dogma or casting out heretics; in any case, these abuses have little to do with the intrinsic value of the religious ideas of the Ṡūfīs.

From believing that men may become God, one has not too far to go to believe that everything is God. Pantheistic mysticism has been a constant temptation for the Ṡūfīs, and no one more systematized it than the Spanish Muslim Ṡūfī theosopher Muḥyi al-Dīn ibn al-‘Arabī (died A.H. 638/A.D. 240). He is a complete monist: not only is there no god but God, there is nothing but God, and the world is His outward aspect. His prolific writings swarm with strange expressions and striking images, and had an extraordinary influence on later generations of Muslims; his poetry and imagery left their imprint on Dante and on the Spanish Catholic mystics (e.g. Ramon Lull and St. John of the Cross) although they are quite innocent of his pantheism. His doctrines probably influenced the Spanish-Jewish pantheist, Spinoza. But his Ṡūfism was basically antinomian: if everything is somehow God, then evil is only an illusion. This undercuts all Law or religious ethic, and it is not surprising that the ‘ulamā’ resisted it stoutly, or that Ṡūfism where most affected by these doctrines

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tended to lose all moral earnestness and become a speculative system of metaphysics. The following quotation is from the section on Adam, from his famous work Fuṡūṡ al-Ḥikam: (Bezels of Wisdom).


When God desired to see the essences of His most beautiful names, whose number is immeasurable--or, if you like, when He desired to see His own essence in one universal Being, who, being endowed with existence would reveal all the Divine Order, so that He might behold His mystery in it (for the vision of oneself in oneself is not as when one be-holds oneself in another as in a mirror, for then he is self-manifest in a form resulting from the place which he beholds, which is the mirror)--and when he had created the entire world as a fully-formed body without a soul so that it was like an unpolished mirror, and since it is a rule of the Divine Activity to prepare no locus which does not receive a Divine spirit as explained by His infusing a soul in Adam, which is no less than the actualizing of potentiality possessed by that locus to receive some of the outpouring of the manifesting of the Everlasting, who ever was and ever shall be. . . . Adam became the polish of that mirror, and the spirit of that body.

The Angels became faculties of that form of the world which the Ṡūfīs call "The Cosmic Man" [each man is a microcosm, and the macrocosm is a Man], so that they are to it like the physical and spiritual faculties of the human organ-ism. Each of these faculties is veiled from the others, by its own nature, and can conceive of nothing finer than itself, so that it is its property to hold that it is entitled, in itself, to the high place it has with God. For this is a matter which reflective reason cannot grasp; understanding can come here only by the Divine unveiling. Only by this unveiling can one know the origin of the forms of the World which receive their spirits. This being God named man (insān), and viceregent (khalīfa) of God . . . he is to God as the pupil of the eye (insān al-‘ayn); through him God sees His creation and has mercy on it. Thus man is both created accident and eternal

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principle, being created and immortal, the Word which de-fines and which comprehends. Through him, all things came to be; he is the bezel-stone of the signet ring, on which is inscribed the sign with which the King seals his treasures. Thus he is the King's viceroy, who bears His seal and safe-guards His treasure, and the world shall not cease to be safe-guarded so long as the Perfect Man (insān kāmil) remains in it. . . 33

1. O doves that haunt the arāk and bān trees, have pity! Do not double my woes by your lamentation!

2. Have pity! Do not reveal, by wailing and weeping, my hidden desires and my secret sorrows!

3. I respond to her, at eve and morn, with the plaintive cry of a longing man and the moan of an impassioned lover.

4. The spirits faced one another in the thicket of ghaḍā trees and bent their branches towards me, and it (the bending) annihilated me;

5. And they brought me divers sorts of tormenting desire and passion and untried affliction.

6. Who will give me sure promise of Jam‘ and al-Muḥaṡṡab of Minā? Who of Dhāt al-Athl? Who of Na‘mān?

7. They encompass my heart moment after moment, for the sake of love and anguish, and kiss my pillars,

8. Even as the best of mankind [Muhammad] encompassed the Ka‘ba, which the evidence of Reason proclaims to be imperfect,

9. And kissed stones therein, although he was a Nāṭiq [prophet]. And what is the rank of the Temple in comparison with the dignity of Man?

10. How often did they vow and swear that they would not change, but one dyed with henna does not keep oaths.

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11. And one of the most wonderful things is a veiled gazelle, who points with red finger-tip and winks with eyelids,

12. A gazelle whose pasture is between the breast-bones and the bowels. O marvel! a garden amidst fires!

13. My heart has become capable of every form: it is a pasture of gazelles and a convent for Christian monks,

14. And a temple for idols and the pilgrim's Ka‘ba and the tables of the Tora and the book of the Koran.

15. I follow the religion of Love: whatever way Love's camels take, that is my religion and my faith. 34


God is: there is no existence save His existence. To this the Prophet pointed when he said, "Revile not the world, for the world is God's"--It is related that . . . God said to Moses, "O my servant, I was sick, and thou didst not visit me: I asked help of thee and thou didst not give it to me," and other similar expressions. This means that the existence of the beggar and the sick is His existence. . . .

Just as he who dies the death of the body loses all his attributes, both those worthy of praise and those worthy of condemnation, so in the spiritual death all attributes, both those worthy of praise and those to be condemned, come to an end, and in all the man's states what is Divine comes to take the place of what was mortal. . . . He who knows himself sees his whole existence to be the Divine existence, but does not realize that any change has taken place in his own nature or qualities. For when you know yourself, your "I" ness vanishes and you know that you and God are One and the Same. 35


155:25 For his biography, see R. A. Nicholson, Studies in Islamic Mysticism (Cambridge, 1921).

155:26 Cf. R. A. Nicholson, "Legacy of Islam," op. cit., p. 220.

155:27 Margaret Smith, Readings from the Mystics of Islam, p. 49.

155:28 Editor's translation. The rubā’iyāt of Abū Sa‘īd have been edited by Ethe.

155:29 Margaret Smith, Readings from Mystics of Islam, p. 52.

155:30 Ibid., p. 54.

155:31 Editor's translation.

155:32 Smith, Readings from Mystics of Islam, p. 53.

155:33 Editor's translation.

155:34 R. A. Nicholson, ed. and trans., Tarjumān al-Ashwāq (London, 1911).

155:35 p. 248 Smith, Readings from Mystics of Islam, p. 99.

Next: 4. The Poets