Syed Ameer Ali.

The spirit of Islâm : a history of the evolution and ideals of Islâm online

. (page 51 of 55)
Online LibrarySyed Ameer AliThe spirit of Islâm : a history of the evolution and ideals of Islâm → online text (page 51 of 55)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the title of shah or king. Although the Persian word
" dervish " is significantly Moslem in its origin and meaning,
" dervishes " have always existed in Western Asia. The
minor Prophets of the Hebrews, designated nabiin, were
only the prototypes of the modern " dervish." John the
Baptist, who lost his life for his temerity before Herod's
wife, acted exactly as hundreds of dervishes have done in
later ages, challenging kings and princes in their palaces. One
of the most celebrated of these Indian walls is Shah Nizam
uddin Awlia, who came from Ghazni and is buried in the
neighbourhood of Delhi, where he lived for many years. He is
said to have died in 1325. 3 Khwaja Mu'in ud-din Chishti

1 Sajjdda is a prayer mat ; and nashin is the person seated on it.

2 See ante, p. 345. This man should not be confounded with the celebrated
Bayezid Bistami, who died in a.h. 261 (a.c. 874-5). In the Surah Bistami
is spelt as Bastami.

3 In the reign of Ala-ud-din Khilji, who was his murid.



472 THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM ii.

appears to have preceded Nizam uddin Awlia into India. He
died at Ajmere at the age of 97 in 663 a.h. (1265 a. a). His
mausoleum at Ajmere is the resort of pilgrims, both Moslem
and Hindu, from all parts of India. 1

Another wall, Burhan ud-din, is buried in Burhanpur (named
after him) in Central India. Shah Kabir Dervish nourished
in the reign of Farrukh Siyar in the eighteenth century. He
is buried in Sasseram in Behar. One of his descendants is
still in charge of his monastery. Ameer Khusru, poet laureate
of Ala-ud-din Khilji, the Pathan King of Delhi, is also claimed
as a Sufi saint. 2

In the West, orders of dervishes sprang up on all sides. One
of the most famous and probably the most influential is the
Kadiria founded by the celebrated Sunni saint Sheikh Muhi-
ud-din Abd ul-Kadir Ghilani. 3 Another was founded by
Moulana Jalal ud-din, which is called after his title the Moulaviya
and has a great reputation for the holy life of its members.
The Nakshbandia is another powerful order, which has many
adherents in India.

But it is given to few to be saints and to still fewer to combine
a holy life of concentrated devotion with the discharge of the
daily duties of life. To the bulk of humanity the call to
abjure the world and to betake ourselves to complete absorp-
tion in the contemplation of the Divinity is an inducement to
mental lethargy. The responsibility for the present decadence
of the Moslem nations must be shared by the formalism of the

1 Mu'in ud-din (usually styled among Indian Suns Moulana Hazrat Sultan
ul-Mashdikh) traced his silsila through Ibrahim Adham, and through Ibrahim
Adham to Hasan Basri, and through him to the Caliph Ali, and through him
to the Prophet, Sarwar-i-Kdindt, "Chief of the Creation." Mu'in ud-din
Chisti is the founder of the Chistia order in India. Three hundred years later
Sheikh Selim Chishi became the spiritual preceptor of the great Akbar, who
named his son and successor Jehangir after his murshid.

Moulana Jalal ud-din Riimi traced his silsila similarly through Junaid to
the 8th Apostolical Imam Ali son of Musa (ar-Riza), and through him to the
Caliph Ali and the Prophet.

2 See Appendix III.

3 'Abdul Kadir was a descendant of Ali and is credited with the performance
of many miracles. He is the patron saint of the Kurds and is held in great
veneration among the Sufis of the Sunni sect in India. He is usually called
" Ghous Azam." According to the authors of Les Confrcries Religieuses
Musulmanes (MM. Depont et Cappolani, vol. i. p. 303) the Kadiria order has
a wide influence in the East, which extends to Java and China, and its lodges
(Zavias) are established in Mecca and Medina. "Abnegation of self," say



xi. THE MYSTICAL AND IDEALISTIC SPIRIT 473

Asha'ri and the quietism of the Sufi. Mystical teachings like
the following :

The man who looks on the beggar's bowl as a kingly crown
And the present world a fleeting bubble,
He alone traverseth the ocean of Truth
Who looks upon life as a fairy tale. 1

can have but one result — intellectual paralysis.

I must now return to al-Ghazzali's conceptions of Sufi
theosophy and theosophical life. He certainly did not claim
any exclusive knowledge of the mysteries of Creation nor
were his doctrines so esoteric as those professed by latter-day
Sufis. Like as-Sarraj he propounded a scheme of life which
he considered formed the true Path (tarikat) to the ultimate
goal " the attainment of nearness to God," and final peace
in the Beatific Vision. But as his insistence on the Path
depends on the larger theory of the Cosmos it is necessary to
say something about its essential features. His enunciation
about all nature and all existence being the direct Creation of
God the Almighty is but an echo of what is told in the Koran.
His theory assumes a broader aspect when he begins to state
his conception of the universe as a whole. He divides Creation
into two categories, viz. the Visible and the Invisible. The
Visible world ('dlam-ul-Mulk) is the world of matter ; and
is subject to the law of evolution, to change and growth. Here
he is in accord with the Rationalists (the Mu'tazilas).

The invisible world, imperceptible to human sense, he divides
into two sub-categories ; first, the ' dlam-ul-jabarut, 2 which
stands between pure matter and pure spirit ; it is not wholly
matter nor wholly spirit but partakes of the character of both.
The forces of nature belong to this category. Had al-Ghazzali
lived in these days he would probably have assigned some of
the discoveries of modern science like the properties of radium

the authors of the Confr cries, " to the service of God ; ecstatic mysticism
bordering on hysteria ; philanthropic principles developed to the highest
degree, without distinction of race or creed ; intense charity ; vigorous piety,
humility, pervading all actions, and a gentleness of spirit, have made him
(Abdul Kadir) the most popular and most revered saint of Islam."

1 See Appendix III.

- ' ' Jabarut, in the language of the sdlikdn [those who strive to attain Truth] , ' '
says the Farhang, " is the sublime realm, the abode of angels and Divine
Attributes" {sifdt Ilaki).



474 THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM ii.

to the 'dlam-ul-jabarut. His idea of the purely spiritual world,
al-'dlam-ul-malakut, 1 forms the most interesting part of his
theory. The ' dlam-ul-malakut is the realm of " Ideas."
The human soul belongs to this world. It comes as a spark
from its original home and on separation from the earthly
body, it flies back to the region whence it came. 2

These divisions are merely al-Ghazzali's deductions from
the Koran. His abhorrence of analogical reasoning does not
prevent him from arriving at the conclusion by the usual
process of ratiocination. Neither the theory nor the division
was altogether new, for they had been anticipated by al-
Farabi in his 'Uyun-ul-Masdil. 2 According to the Mu'tazilas,
the references in the Koran to the " Balance " (Mizdn) in which
human actions are weighed, to the " Pen " (Kalam) and Tablet
(Lauh) with which and on which the decrees of Providence are
inscribed, are allegorical. As already mentioned, al-Asha'ri
affirms them to be actual, corporeal objects. Imam al-
Ghazzali takes another course ; he relegates them to the
'dlam ul-malakut, the realm of " abstract ideas." It was
thus he endeavoured to reconcile Patristicism with his doctrine
of " inward light " and its longings for the upward flight of
the human soul.

Some of the extreme Sufis believe that when the final nearness
is attained the human soul becomes absorbed in the Divinity.
This is called hulul (absorption) and sometimes ittihdd (union) .
But this pantheistic conception is strongly repudiated both
by as-Sarraj and al-Ghazzali ; though often the words wisdl
and waslat are used to signify the closeness of the approach
to the Divine Essence. Even when the Sufi talks of fana-
fil Allah (annihilation in God) he does not mean to imply that
the human soul becomes merged in the Universal Soul. Al-
Ghazzali's notion, like that of his great predecessor, is that the
individual soul (ruh) at the Almighty's bidding emanates from
a realm, the 'dlam ul-Malakut, nearest to the Divine Essence,
and on its separation from the corporeal body reverts to its
original home ; and that this is the meaning of the Koranic

1 In the Farhang, MalaMt is denned thus : " in the language of the Sufis,
it means the Realm of Ideas " ('dlami ma'ni).
1 See ante, p. 426.



xi. THE MYSTICAL AND IDEALISTIC SPIRIT 475

declaration " We come from God and unto Him we
return." 1

The Mu'tazili, the Asha'ri and the follower of al-Ghazzali
do not differ in the essentials ; their difference is due more to
the angle from which they look at the dogmas of the Faith.
The rationalist holds that a knowledge of God is attainable by
Reason. He appeals to Reason because the call of the Koran
to the worship of one God is based on Reason. The Asha'ri
believes because he is so taught ; the Sufi believes because,
as he says, of " the inward light." According to the Sufi, the
seeker for Truth by intensive " inwardness " and communion
with God can rise by successive stages of exaltation to a state
when he can actually have a vision of the Divine Essence.
The first step for the novitiate is to form the niyyat (the resolve
or intention) ; then comes tauba (penitence and renunciation).
He is now on the forward path, this stage is called mujdhada
(probation or striving). After a prolonged probation the
ecstatic soul appears in the Presence still veiled. Hanz, in a
mood of exaltation, refers to this stage, technically called
Muhdzara, as huzuri, when the soul presents itself in absolute
surrender to God and " abandonment of the world and all its
vanities." 2 The next is "the uplifting of the veil " (mukdshafa) ,
when the veil which curtained off the Unseen is lifted and the
God becomes revealed to the worshipper's heart ; the last stage
is the Vision (mushdhada), when the entranced Soul stands in
the presence of Truth itself, and the light falls distinctly on
" the human heart."

Even in the primary stage, the psychological effort to con-
centrate all thought on one object causes the disciple (the
murid) to see visions, hear the voices of angels and prophets,
and gain from them guidance. Exactly parallel forms of
psychological exaltation have appeared in Christianity in all
ages. In the phraseology of the Sufi the effort by which each
stage is gained is called (hdl) a " state." It is a condition
of joy or longing. And when this condition seizes on the

1 ^S-r'ssdlh} &$\ Tne pious Moslem pronounces these words whenever
he passes a bier or a cemetery.

2 HuzUri gar hand khaki, as-o ghdib mashau Hafiz
Mata ma-talk, man-tahwd da'i 'd-dunyd wa amhilha.






476 THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM n.

" seeker," he falls into ecstasy (wajd). The dervishes in their
monasteries may be seen working themselves up into a con-
dition of " ecstasy." *

The Sufi holds that the knowledge of God is vouchsafed to
him by inward light ; the Rationalist affirms that the cognition
comes to him from Reason, a gift of the Creator. Does not
the Koran constantly appeal to human reason and human
intelligence " to reflect, to consider, to speculate " about
God's Creation and the mysteries of nature ? Had the Koran
condemned the exercise of reason, would it have exhorted the
people to whom it spoke to look at the marvels of nature and
draw their own conclusions whether this wonderful world was
a creation of accident, or was brought into existence by an
all-pervading Intelligence. Religion and Rationalism are
correlated and bound together. If we find anything in the
Koran which seems superficially to be in conflict with the
results of philosophy, we may be sure there is an underlying
meaning, which it should be the work of reason to unravel.
Ibn Rushd places this proposition with extreme lucidity in his
Fasl-ul-Makdl. 2 He affirms that there is no disagreement
between religion and philosophy ; religion is revelation from
God ; philosophy is the product of the human mind. He was
thus not far removed from al-Ghazzali's plane. For al-Ghazzali
did not believe like Asha'ri that the earth was flat because it
was said in the Koran " God had spread it out as a carpet."
He accepts all the revelations of science and the conclusions of
mathematicians and astronomers. The stars and planets
revolve round the world according to pre-ordained laws.
Nature itself contains its own proof of the Power, Benevolence
and Intelligence that brought it into existence. He is thus in
complete accord with Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd and the rationalists
in general. Examined closely it will be seen that the mind of
al-Ghazzali, who saved Asha'rism from becoming a hard-
crusted formalism, and by joining it to an exalted form of

1 Zikr is the name of the function in which the dervishes usually congregate
for obtaining the ecstatic condition. There is an excellent description of a
Zikr in an Egyptian Zavia by Dr. D. B. Macdonald in his Aspects of Islam.
In India Zikrs are usually held at the celebration of the 'Urs (anniversary
ceremony of the death of the original spiritual preceptor).

2 See ante, p. 427.



xi. THE MYSTICAL AND IDEALISTIC SPIRIT 477

emotionalism infused into it fresh vitality, ran really in the
same groove as the minds of those masters.

The Senussi confraternity x is not a religious order like the
Kaderia, but unquestionably, in the civilising and uplifting
work it is doing in Northern and Central Africa, it imparts a
mystical meaning into the teachings of its Ikhwdn. They
convey to their converts and disciples some of the lessons of
" inward knowledge " without detaching them from the
world of struggle and advance.

The exalted idealism which breathes in the Prophet's words,
in the preachings of the Imams and in the teachings of the
expounders of " inward light," rationalists, philosophers and
Sufis alike, has modelled the lives and inspired the actions of
the noblest men in Islam. Heroes like Tmad-ud-din Zangi,
rulers like Salah-ud-din bin Ayyub (the Saladin of European
history) have found in it their guiding star. And poets like
Sanai, 'Attar and Jalal ud-din have given fervent expression
to that universal Divine love, which pervades nature from the
lowest type of creation to the highest, and their idylls are
regarded by many Moslems with a respect only less than that
entertained for the Koran.

But Sufi'sm in the Moslem world, like its counterpart in
Christendom, has, in its practical effect, been productive of
many mischievous results. In perfectly well-attuned minds
mysticism takes the form of a noble type of idealistic philo-
sophy ; but the generality of mankind are more likely to
unhinge their brains by busying themselves with the mysteries
of the Divine Essence and our relations thereto. Every
ignorant and idle specimen of humanity, who, despising real
knowledge, abandoned the fields of true philosophy and betook
himself to the domains of mysticism, would thus set himself up
as one of the Ahl-i-M a' rifat . And that this actually occurred
in the time of Ghazzali we see by his bitter complaint that
things had come to such a pass that husbandmen were leaving
their tillage and claiming the privileges of " the advanced."
In fact the greatest objection to vulgar mysticism, whether in
Islam or in Christendom, is that, being in itself no religion,
wherever it prevails it unsettles the mind and weakens the

1 See Appendix III.



478 THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM ii.

foundations of society and paralyses human energy ; it
naturally drifts into anthropolatry and naturalistic pantheism.
Yet the benefits conferred by the nobler type of idealistic
philosophy are too great to be ignored ; and the Idealism of
Averroes developed in Europe the conception of Universal
Divinity. Christian Europe owes its outburst of subjective
pantheism — and its consequent emancipation from the intense
materialism of a mythological creed — to the engrafting of
Moslem idealism on the Western mind. It was the influence
of Averroistic writings that attracted the attention of reflecting
people to the great problem of the connection between the
worlds of matter and of mind, and revived the conception of
an all-pervading spirit, " which sleeps in the stone, dreams in
the animal, and wakes in the man," " the belief that the hidden
vital principle which produces the varied forms of organisation
is but the thrill of ' the Divine Essence ' that is present in
them all."

^ filial* lv;/ ^-~i,S ffej*



Jjjij



J^L r A »;j y



" I would have said He was the Soul of the Universe if I had known the
relation of the human soul to the body, for He is present and hidden in the
heart of every atom."



THE END.



APPENDIX I

TRANSLATION OF THE PERSIAN AND ARABIC MOTTOES
AT THE HEAD OF THE CHAPTERS

PAGE

O Thou ! who hast no place in any place,

Wonder-struck I am that Thou art at every place.
Faith and no-Faith are both engaged in Thy search.
Both crying aloud, " He is the one, He is the all-Alone." - 1. Introd.

He attained the height of eminence by his perfection ;
He dispelled the darkness (of the world) by his grace ;

Excellent were all his qualities ;
Pray for blessings on him and his posterity. ... - i

Mohammed is the lord of the two worlds and of mankind and the

Spirits.
And of the two nations, the Arabs and the 'Ajam (non-Arabs). - 41

Thou hast come before all the Teachers of the world,

Though thou hast appeared last of all ;

Last of the Prophets thy Nearness has become known to me ;

Thou comest last, as thou comest from a distance. - - - 51

May God ever convey my benedictions and greeting.
To the Prophet of Arabia, of Medina, — of Mecca ;
The sun of excellence and of splendour, and of sublimest eminence ;
The light of full moon, of elegance, and of the sky of generosity ;
The noblest of creation in person and in adoration and in watch-
fulness ;
The most excellent of mankind in munificence and generosity - 56

He is like the flower in delicacy and like the full moon in splendour.

Like the ocean in liberality, and like Time in resolution. - - 66

He called towards God, and those who took hold of him

Took hold of a rope that never breaks. - - - - - 83

But how can the desire of the eulogist come up to

What is in him of nobility of disposition and nature ? - - 92

479



480 THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM

He surpassed all the Prophets in constitution and disposition,
Nor any did approach him either in knowledge or nobleness.
Avoid what the Christians assert about their Prophet ;
(But) declare whatever else thou wishest in his praise, and contend

for it. .......... IO i

Indeed the Prophet is a light from which guidance is sought,

And a drawn sword out of God's swords. 101

Is it from the remembrance of the neighbours at Zi-Salam

That thou hast mixed tears flowing from the eyes with blood ? 107

When the help of God and victory come and thou seest the
people entering into the religion of God in troops,

Celebrate the praise of thy Lord, and ask pardon of Him ; for

He is the Forgiver. - - - - - - - -109

Hold fast, all ye, to the Rock of God

And be not disunited. 122



Come to Me, do not seek except Me ;

I am the Beneficent ; seek Me thou wilt find Me.

Dost thou remember any night in which thou hast called to Me

secretly,
And I did not hear thee ? Then seek Me thou wilt find Me.
When the afflicted one says " dost not Thou seek me " ?
I look towards him ; seek Me, thou wilt find Me.
When My servant disobeys Me, thou wilt find Me
Quick in chastising ; seek Me, thou wilt find Me. - - 137

Say, unto whom belongeth whatsoever is in heaven and earth ?
Say unto God ; He hath prescribed unto Himself mercy. - - 159
(For translation of the other passage, see p. 173.)

The disputes of the seventy-two sects put them all aside.

As they did not see the Truth they took to the path of fiction - 290

He is the Beginning and the End,

The Manifest and the Hidden,

And the knower of all things. (Koran). ..... 455



APPENDIX II

p. 166 S-^l ) r^i ^1*1 y^° '

JW<*. ^iaJb JfJdwaS ^ ^t-JUb ; [^SJ

p. 274 - - [& ji ^o o^ U*^ d* i>; Ui*j <J ^ (f ^

j ftp > f*d£ } ^.uli _, ^Jl^o) 3 ^1 j ^ j j^JlM

^ 4'ifj ))j tfJjJL^ ^ u-^l^j AjUiiAwl ^ v-Ja-I c /iiuJ' pjJj>l

j,»)Uj <J4v p^b jjj y'i* ^| JjlS ^ ^A^JJ C^sJU ^C SSxblij

p. 273 - - u^ rr *,i Mj ^f^ih &>r*i h ^^
P . 274 r*^ rf ^ (B M- , 'f , > 1

P- 457 f-*"

S.I. 48l 3 H



APPENDIX III



Whatever the sins of the Babis may have been, their punishment, in
its barbarous inhumanity, far exceeded their deserts — a punishment
borne with sublime fortitude which cannot help evoking the admiration
of every heart not steeped in racial or religious fanaticism and which is
bearing its natural fruit. The sect, instead of dying out, is increasing
in number, and judging from the few professed Babis I have met,
actuated with bitter hatred against the Mullahs whom they believe to
be the primary cause of their persecution.

The cruelties to which the Babis were subjected were the acts of an
ignorant populace and a frightened governor hounded on by fanatical
priests. In China, in our own times, under the eyes of the civilised
world, disciplined troops of certain civilised Powers perpetrated the
most diabolical and nameless horrors upon unoffending citizens and
helpless women and children. Crimes like these destroy one's faith in
humanity and progress. (p. 359)

The astronomer Ali Ibn Yunus was a man of versatile talent. " He
made astronomy his particular study," says Ibn Khallikan, " but he
was well-versed in other sciences and displayed an eminent talent for
poetry." (p. 377)

The Indian Social Reformer of Bombay (of the 28th of July, 1901),
in an appreciative article on " The Liberal Movement in Islam," drew
my attention to certain statements of M. Renan in one of his lectures
delivered in March, 1883, at the Sarbonne. 1 In this lecture M. Renan
has tried to show that Islam is opposed to science, and that scientific
pursuits came into vogue among the Moslems only when the religion
became weakened. " Omar," he says, " did not burn, as we are often
told, the library of Alexandria ; that library had, by his time, nearly
disappeared. But the principle which he caused to triumph in the
world was in a very real sense destructive of learned research and of the
varied work of the mind."

The correctness of this somewhat wild and reckless assertion, which,
coming from the author of Averroes and Averroism, is startling, was at
once challenged by the learned Shaikh Jamal ud-din who was residing
at Paris at the time. M. Renan 's reply to the Shaikh's criticism is
instructive. The learned Frenchman had to qualify his generalisations

1 The lecture is headed " Islamism and Science," and is printed in a book
called The Poetry of the Celtic Races and Other Studies.

482



APPENDIX III 483

and to acknowledge that by Islam he meant the religion of Mohammed
as accepted and practised by the ignorant and fanatical sections of the
Moslem communities. I will quote here the passage in which he limits
his strictures, as it may perhaps be of some help in awakening the
Musulmans themselves to a sense of their responsibilities : — " One
aspect in which I have appeared unjust to the Shaikh is that I have not
sufficiently developed the idea that all revealed religion is forced to
show hostility to positive science ; and that, in this respect, Christianity
has no reason to boast over Islam. About that there can be no doubt.
Galileo was not treated more kindly by Catholicism than was Averroes
by Islam. Galileo found truth in a Catholic country despite Catholi-
cism, as Averroes nobly philosophised in a Moslem country despite
Islam. If I did not insist more strongly upon this point, it was, to tell the
truth, because my opinions on this matter are so well known that there
was no need for me to recur to them again before a public conversant
with my writings. I have said, sufficiently often to preclude any
necessity for repeating it, that the human mind must be detached from
all supernatural belief if it desires to labour at its own essential task,
which is the construction of positive science. This does not imply any
violent destruction or hasty rupture. It does not mean that the
Christian should forsake Christianity, or that the Musulman should
abandon Islam. It means that the enlightened parts of Christendom
and Islam should arrive at that state of benevolent indifference in which
religious beliefs become inoffensive. This is half accomplished in nearly



Online LibrarySyed Ameer AliThe spirit of Islâm : a history of the evolution and ideals of Islâm → online text (page 51 of 55)