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Tuesday 24th of October 2017
code: 85711
Why do some people oppose mysticism and the mystics making reference to ahadith (traditions)

Recently we see an overt propagation going on in some religious websites and weblogs against mysticism and the mystics. In these websites, prominent figures like Allamah Tabatabai, Hasan Zadeh Amuli, Mulla Sadra, Hafiz Shirazi and Rumi Balkhi are openly insulted and derogatory words are used against them. As they claim, they are using traditions and narrations in their websites to denounce the mystics. Kindly, guide me in this regard.
Concise answer

Irfan (mysticism/ Gnosticism) has been defined as a special method to reach the realities of existence and to connect man to truth, which is done through vision and intuition. Such an understanding depends on practice and special asceticism. The practical methods or what is known as ‘wayfaring method’ is also called irfan. A real Gnostic (‘arif) is one who, by implementing certain programs and austerity measures, attain intuitive knowledge or knowledge by presence in respect of God, His attributes and actions.

When it comes to various approaches regarding irfan, some have categorically denied the existence of irfan in Islam saying that it is an unacceptable innovation and the Gnostics are misguided and deviated people. Some others have believed in something in the name of irfan which cannot be considered to have originated in religious texts i.e. the Book and the Sunnah. In fact, some of their beliefs are clearly opposed to explicit religious texts and they are not in any way interpretable. As well, practically talking, they have on the one hand created certain etiquettes and norms for themselves or borrowed these from non-Islamic sects. On the other hand, they believe that a mystic or Gnostic who has attained the truth is relieved of obligation.

The fact is that the opponents of irfan have no concrete and reliable arguments to prove their point of view whereas irfan is a part and parcel of Islam. It is the heart and soul of Islam emanating, like all other parts of Islam, from the Holy Quran and prophetic traditions. That is to say, spiritual and mystical wayfaring is not an independent path alongside Shari’ah. In reality, it is the interior and the esoteric aspect of the Shari’ah. In other words, Shari’ah explains the apparent rules and irfan is tasked to discover and unveil the wisdom, secrets and reality of Shari’ah laws. There is no doubt that what is called irfan is not necessarily ratified and approved of by Islam because there are pseudo versions of irfan which have nothing to do with real irfan. The real irfan has certain features and characteristics which will be discussed in its appropriate place.
Detailed Answer

The word irfan literally means ‘knowing’ and irfan in the technical meaning refers to a special method to reach the realities of existence and to connect man to truth, which is done through vision, intuition, attainment and unifying with the truth. Since intuitive knowledge depends normally on special rehearsals and ascetic measures, the practical methods or what is known as ‘wayfaring method’ is also called irfan.

Having said that, it is now clear that a real Gnostic (Arif) is one who, by implementing certain programs and austerity measures, attain intuitive knowledge or knowledge by presence in respect of God, His attributes and actions.

What has, in fact, caused discrepancies about the validity and invalidity; rightness and wrongness of irfan and the wayfaring methods of the gnostics is the answer which everybody has given to the following question: “Is there anything in the name of Islamic irfan (Islamic mysticism) in Islam or is it Muslims who have taken and imported it from others?

In reply to this question, some have categorically denied the existence of irfan in Islam saying that it is an unacceptable innovation and the Gnostics are misguided and deviated people. Some others have believed in something in the name of irfan which cannot be considered to have originated in religious texts i.e. the Book and the Sunnah.

One who goes carefully through the verses of the Quran and sayings of the Prophet (S) and the Ahlul-Bait (A.S.), he will definitely find highly profound materials and guidelines in irfan or information about etiquettes and guidelines in connection with mystical wayfaring. For example, we can refer to the verses concerning the oneness of God, His attributes and actions in chapter al-Tawhid, the beginning of chapter al-Hadid, the end of chapter al-Hashr and also to the verses regarding divine omnipotence, the power of God and creatures which praise and glorify Him.

Also, there are verses referring to special etiquettes and manners which we can call the Islamic manners of wayfaring such as verses on contemplation and meditation, permanent remembrance and attention, staying awake before dawn, fasting, prostration and lingering glorification at night, humility and submissiveness, crying, sincerity in the acts of worship, doing good deeds out of love and devotion to God with the purpose of seeking nearness to God and achieving divine pleasure. Also, there are verses concerning tawakkol (consigning one’s matters to Allah), divine pleasure and submission to God. There are uncountable traditions from the Holy Prophet (S) and the infallible Imams in this regard plus supplications and invocations which are replete with mystical contents.

There are people who seeing these verses and sayings from the Prophet (S) and the Ahlul-Bayt (A.S.) have gone to the two sides of an extreme: The first group has a narrow-minded approach judging everything on its appearance and depleting the verses and narrations from the lofty and profound meanings. These are people who generally deny the existence of anything in the name of “irfan” in the Islamic texts.

Another group of people has believed in something in the name of irfan which cannot be considered to have originated in religious texts i.e. the Book and the Sunnah. In fact, some of their beliefs are clearly opposed to explicit religious texts and they are not in any way interpretable. As well, practically talking, they have on the one hand created certain etiquettes and norms for themselves or borrowed these from non-Islamic sects. On the other hand, they believe that a mystic or Gnostic who has attained the truth is relieved of obligation.

A third group which has protected itself against the two sides of the extreme is of the view that mystical wayfaring is not an independent path alongside Shari’ah. In reality, it is the more delicate and subtle part of the Shari’ah. If we confine the term “Shari’ah” to the apparent rules, we must say that tariqat (pathway) constitutes the interior and esoteric aspect of the Shari’ah. For example, Shari’ah determines the evident prayer-related rules of prayer but irfan is bound to find ways of concentration in it.[1] It should be noted that what is called irfan is not necessarily ratified and approved of by Islam because there are pseudo versions of irfan which have nothing to do with real irfan. The real irfan has certain features and indicators which will be discussed in its appropriate place.

For further information about Islamic mysticism and its features refer to Balagh website and to questions 1223 (site: 1220), 239 (site: 1780) and 924 (site: 1490).

 

[1] - A summary of an article by Mesbah, Muhammad Taqi, Ma’refat Periodical, No. 21, Mysticism and Islamic Philosophy

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