The Other Side Of Sufism
2 Development of Sufi Thought Sufism is a blend of various thoughts and philosophies. By intermingling a few traces of Islamic teachings with it, the Sufi thinkers attempted to sanctify their doctrines and demonstrate its conformity to Islam Greek philosophy, and in particular the teachings of Neo-Platonists, have left an indelible mark on many aspects of Sufism. This came about as a result of the translation of Greek philosophical works into Arabic during the third Islamic century. Greek pantheism became an integral part of Sufi doctrine. (13) Manicheanism is also one of the mainstreams of Sufism. N. Fatemi observed:
"It is interesting how near to Manichean ideas the Sufis are, remembering that both Manicheanism and Sufism were nurtured in Persia."(14)Vedanta, the chief Hindu philosophy, which is an example of pantheism in its metaphysical strictness, also had a great impact on Sufism following the conquest of Sindh by Muhammad b. Qasim in the second century A.H. Sufi occultism, with its host of philosophical and theosophical doctrines, is beyond doubt antithetical to Islam. Islam proclaims that the matchless entity and essence of Allah is totally different from that of His slaves, i.e., man. Sufis, on the contrary, subscribe to the belief that matter, man and God form in effect one single entity and essence. Ibn Arabi's doctrine of pantheism was a combination of Manichean, Gnostic, Neo-Platonic, Vedantic and Christian philosophies and speculations, which he tried vainly to give an Islamic sanction by relating it to Prophetic traditions. "Of his main theme," R.W.J. Austin wrote, "the one that predominates over the rest and to which they are subordinate in the oneness of being (wihdat al-wujood). The concept of the Oneness of Being is all-embracing one, in that all Ibn al-Arabi's other concepts are but facets of it, just as he would say that all distinction, difference and conflict are but apparent of a single and unique reality, the 'seamless garment' of Being, whose reality underlies all derivatives being and its experience."(15) Ahlu al-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah, on the other hand, are agreed that Allah is One Alone, qualified with all the attributes wherewith He has qualified Himself and named with all names whereby He has named Himself, without resembling creation in any respect; that His essence does not resemble the essences of His creatures nor His attributes resemble theirs. Allah the Supreme says:
"There is nothing like unto Him; He is the Al-Hearing, the All-Seeing."(42.11)Muhiyddin Ibn Arabi, one of the leading authorities on Sufi mysticism, who captured the imagination and the adulation of Sufis around the world, was born in the year 560 A.H. (1165 A.D.), and pursued the study of the occult and the metaphysical doctrines of the Sufis.
"Such learning and accompanying practices," R.J. Austin wrote, "often led Ibn Arabi, even while he was still young man in Seville, to spend long hours in the cemeteries communing with the spirits of the dead."(!) (16)He talked about his "cemetry revelations" as matters of fact, and managed to compile a massive compendium on Sufism entitled Al-Futoohat Al-Mekkiyyah (the Meccan Revelations). Of this, Ibn Arabi wrote, "Some works I wrote at the command of God sent to me in sleep, or through mystical revelations."(!) The other striking impression that Ibn Arabi wanted to leave on the readers of his Meccan Revelation is that he, too, as a spiritual and mystical figure, experienced the heaviness of revelation, resembling that of the Prophet .(17) He noted that sometimes the pressure of mystical revelation was so strong that he felt compelled to finish a work before taking a rest.(18) Allah the Exalted particularly condemns such claimants, saying: which means,
"And who is more disbelieving than he who forges a lie against Allah, or says, 'It has been revealed to me,' when nothing has been revealed to him, or who says, 'I will send down the like of which Allah has sent down.'"(6.93)According to the Qur'an, revelation is of two kinds. The first is the revelation that came from Allah to His Prophets and Messenger through an angel, such as Jibreel (Gabriel). This cam to an end with the death of the Prophet Muhammad . The second is Satanic communication, of which Allah says:
"Shall I inform you on whom the Satans descends, on every habitual liar and sinner."(26.221,222)Muslims believe that the Prophet is the last of the Prophets, with whom the line of Prophethood is closed. Therefore, anyone who claims to be a prophet or a recipient of Divine revelation is an imposter and an heretic. And besides, it sounds quite eerie for a young man to spend long hours in cemeteries "communing with the spirits of the dead." The Prophet was told by Allah: meaning,
"And you cannot make those who are in graves to hear."(35.22)Indeed, communion of this nature could very well lead to a theory such as pantheism. In order to substantiate his theosophical and pantheistic doctrine and make it appear Islamic, Ibn Arabi resorted to ta'weel, which is giving far-fetched interpretations to selected verses of the Qur'an or Prophetic traditions from the Sunnah, changing their apparent meaning to one which falls in line with his beliefs, a technique which was used before him by all the 'Batini' or secretive sects that strayed away from the path of Islam. He referred to Almighty Allah as "Creator-Creature," and took pains to present the Divine Being in a theosophical context, and to convince his readers that Allah's creation springs from nothing other than His "fundamental being."(19) Thus, the god that Ibn Arabi believed in is, in reality, all the elements that constitute the universe: human, animal and every other existing thing. As an example he depicted his own master, as a divine reality. And to make sure his readers did not misconstrue his heresy, he further emphasized:
"In relation to existence, He (God) is the very essence of existing things. Thus in a certain sense, relative beings are elevated in themselves, since in truth they are none other than He who bears the name Abu Said al-Kharraz."(20)From this heretical concept of Allah, one may deduce without limit, principles which contradict the prescripts and fundamental tenets and creeds evident in the Qur'an and the Sunnah. For example, man, as alleged by "Son of Plato,"(21) is nothing less than God Himself, and since Fir'awn (Pharaoh) was a man, his declaration of being a god would have been true according to Ibn Arabi's pantheistic doctrine. Furthermore, if nothing exists in reality but God, then every animal, regardless of its family, is in reality god also. And since all existing things have one essence, wine is nothing but water, and every forbidden (haram) thing is lawful or (halal). There can never be more abhorent heretical belief than pantheism. Allah the Exalted is far removed from what Ibn Arabi and his followers ascribe to Him. Allah says: which means:
"There is none like unto Him; He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing."(42.11)And it does not befit believers to make far-fetched interpretations of the essence of Allah or His attributes. True Muslims accept them as they are given in the Qur'an or in the authentic traditions of the Prophet . The above verse is an informative statement which connotes a command from Allah to the believers not to impute to Him any attribute or name other than those given to Him by Himself or by His Messenger Muhammad in authentic traditions. Nor are they allowed to subject Allah to similitudes or examples. There is a clear warning in Allah's word: which means,
"So strike not similitudes for Allah, surely Allah knows and you know not."(16.74)The Sufis, like their masters, would have us believe that their doctrines originated in the Qur'anic verses. They interpret certain verses freely, both linguistically and theologically, to corroborate their beliefs and give them Qur'anic sanction. Besides giving Qur'anic verses different interpretations, they also reduce them to symbols and codes and juxtapose them in a metaphysical perspective. To give an example of the seriousness of this perversion of language by the Sufis, the following verse is cited: which signifies,
"O mankind, reverence your Lord Who Created you from a single person, and created therefrom his (female) mate, and from them both (Adam and Eve) scattered countless men and women."(4.1)From these straightforward words, one can easily understand that Allah created Adam first, and, according to numerous verses, He fashioned him from earthly matter, and subsequently he created Eve from one of Adam's ribs, as stated in the authentic traditions. In an attempt to substantiate his pantheistic beliefs, Ibn Arabi gave the above verse the following meaning:
"From him (Adam) came forth the mate and child, who all came from the 'Universal Nature,' that is, God, Who is manisfested in her (Nature's) many forms in the form of Adam, in the form of Eve and in the form of the progeny."(22)The Divine element, according to him, inhabits every being.
"Glory be to God," Ibn Arabi exclaimed, "Who created things, being Himself their essence." (23)
Footnotes: 13. W. Montgomery Watt, "Islamic Philosophy and Theology," 1985, pp.37, 38 14. N. Fatemi, "Sufism," pp.49 15. M. Ibn Arabi, "The Bezels of Wisdom," pp.3 16. Ibid. 17. Ibid. 18. Ibid. 19. Ibid. 20. Ibid. 21. Because Ibn Arabi's thinking is fundamentally Platonic, he was given the surname "Son of Plato." Ibid. 22. A.E. Affifi, The Mystical Philosophy of Ibn Arabi 23. Ibid. pp. 135