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Median path

2014-05-08
May 8, 2014

 

Noxious notions

and the quest for a balanced Dīn

 

People of keen discernment are in no doubt that the Shī`itization of Ahl as-Sunnah is gathering momentum worldwide.

They are further awake to the fact that one of the major contributors to that phenomenon is represented by alleged Sufi guides taking over the orientation of law and politics (= the realm of the outward), while millions of stupefied followers supinely digest such usurpation in their frantic search for semi-Prophetic salvific wholeness.

As the barrier between the two seas is being smashed, we deemed it useful to reproduce on this site a contribution which originally appeared in the e-magazine Sulwān, since rapid devolution makes it even more urgent now to tackle this core issue.  

 

One of the hottest topics for discussion in Islamic scholarly circles is the legitimacy or otherwise of “Islamic” financial institutions, including the concept and phenomenon of “Islamic” banking.

A discussion on the validity of trading in “Islamic” debt securities or sukūk arose in recent times. The point was then made by a contributor to the debate that if one’s Sufi murshid were to instruct his murīds to espouse his own fiqhī view that “Islamic” banking was juristically in order, his position on the matter would be binding on his murīds.

It is precisely this kind of submissive attitude to the subtle duress of a tutor’s charismatic aura, however, that has clouded scholarly discourses in the ummah and led to the increased fragmentation of this nation into isolated and competitively inimical groupings

 

Among the most crucially significant voices, in this age of pervasive extremism within the atomized and leaderless community of Muslims, is that of the monitoring “inspector of jurists and Sufis alike” (since he rightfully belonged to both groups), i.e. Shaykh Ahmad Zarrūq.

Among his impressive array of textual gems, his seminal work Qawā`id at-Tasawwuf shines out most resplendently, as he filled it with the foundational principles of nearly every Islamic science.

In Foundation 39 he wrote:

“Knowledge (‘ilm) is built on searching investigation and precise ascertainment of the true position, whereas a spiritual state (hāl) is grounded on conceding its validity and endorsing its truthfulness.

If a master of gnosis verbalizes something in the field of knowledge, his statement has to be probingly scrutinized by resort to the yardstick of the root source of such utterance as found in the Qur’ān or the Sunnah, as well as the reports which have been transmitted from our Predecessors (as-Salaf), given that knowledge is gauged by its root.

If, instead, the gnostic speaks out of his contingent spiritual state (hāl), one has to acknowledge to him his tasting of realities, in the light of the fact that no one attains understanding of such direct spiritual tasting save by the like of it. Such a state is thus gauged by its mere existence, and reliable knowledge of the fact it exists is premised on the trustworthy integrity of the one who possesses it”.

 

It is thus imperative that whenever a Sufi murshid says something that does not emanate from a spiritual state (which is to be conceded to him as something veracious, because of the dependability of his person), any such assertion has to be thoroughly vivisected by recourse to its root-source: Is it in agreement with the Qur’ān and the Sunnah, and / or with the views and rulings related from the Salaf? There is no escaping the formulation of that question and the proviision of an objective answer to it.

In the event that a Sufi tutor has spoken within the realm of knowledge, about a matter of the fiqh [as in the instance of the legitimacy or otherwise of “Islamic” banking], it is contrary to the Dīn to concede to him the veracity of his juristic position. Rather, his averment is subjected to the critique of whoever has adept access to the sources of the Sharī`ah.

It is moreover improper, on the part of a murshid, to impose a false unity among his disciples by foisting a juristic opinion (as opposed to a Sufi precept, for he alone is the doctor curing an inward ailment) on his adepts, regardless of his status with Allah and among people. Let alone can that be countenanced in respect of a ruling on a vehemently disputed issue such as “banking in Islam”.

Outward judgments are reserved in Islam for the masters of the outward sciences.

 

This issue is a cardinal one, since by nature people tend to invest Sufi guides with extreme degrees of authority and reverential respect.

True, we accept that a murshid would like to see unity of intent so as to cement brotherhood in his circle, and his students are keen to take from a unified source wherein they perceive dependability.

The exigency of good thought of our fellow Muslims dictates the purging of their intentions from any sinister motive.

Still, intention is not enough, as the straight path has to be adhered to.

 

***

 

In Foundation 61, Zarrūq said:

“The knowledge of every thing is only taken from the masters of that science [Indeed, one would not trust his murshid to plan or build his house if he did not have specific expertise in the architectural domain]. A Sufi is not relied upon when it comes to fiqh, unless his assiduous devotion to fiqh is known concerning him specifically, nor is a faqīh relied upon in Sufism, unless his truthful actualization of Sufism is known in his respect.

Likewise, a muhaddith is relied upon neither with regard to fiqh nor with regard to Sufism, unless his individualized expertise in those two sciences is a renowned matter.

It is thus incumbent to take the fiqh from the fuqahā as far as the murīd of Sufism is concerned.

Any such murīd only reverts to the people of the tarīqah or spiritual path in what concerns the wholesomeness of his inward in relation to what the fiqh (as taken by him

from the fuqahā) prescribes to him, as well as the wholesomeness of his inward which is de-linked from what the fiqh ordains for him. Due to the aforesaid, Shaykh Abū Muhammad al-Marjānī, may Allah be pleased with him, used to instruct his disciples to approach the fuqahā on the masā’il of fiqh, even though he was knowledgeable in the science of jurisprudence, so understand”.

 

As Mālik b. Anas said, a person might be put forward in the prayer for seeking rain, and the sky would rapidly burst open, or a huge amount in gold might be deposited with him, the owner being utterly safe from the misplacement of even a single coin, yet such a great human being might not be trusted to have one hadīth he relates accepted from him, because the science of hadīth-transmission is a dīn on its own.

______________________________________________________________________________________

“Outward judgments are reserved in Islam to the masters of the outward sciences”

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

***

We move now to Foundation 26:

“The ruling of the fiqh is a general one in a sphere of generality, due to the fact that its purpose is to establish the outward lineaments of the Dīn and elevate its lighthouse, as well as to make the word of Allah’s Dīn victoriously manifest.

The ruling of Sufism, by contrast, is specific in specificity, since it entails the interaction between the slave and his Lord, with no addition thereto.

As a result of the foregoing, the refutation of the Sufi by the faqīh is valid, whereas the refutation of the faqīh by the Sufi is an unsound irregularity. It is mandatory to revert from Sufism to the fiqh, and to find sufficiency in the fiqh without Sufism.

Conversely, Sufism cannot suffice and make one dispense with the fiqh, nor is Sufism soundly valid without the fiqh.

It is impermissible to revert from Sufism to the fiqh save by the fiqh, even though Sufism has a higher rank than fiqh, given that the fiqh is safer and more generally comprehensive than Sufism in attracting benefit.

The Sufi of the fuqahā is more complete than the faqīh of the Sufis, and is safer than the latter, since the Sufi of the jurists has realized the truth by Sufism in his spiritual state (hāl), action (‘amal), and direct tasting of realities (dhawq), unlike the case of the faqīh of the Sufis. The latter is in fact he who is firmly entrenched in his action and in his state, and that does not fully materialize for him except by means of a healthily sound fiqh and a pure taste. Neither of the two is valid in his regard without the other, just like the doctor whose knowledge is unable to make him dispense with experience and vice versa, so understand”.

 

***

 

Finally, in Foundation 45, he teaches us what follows:

“The variegation of the root (asl) necessitates the variegation of the branch (far`).

Based on that, it is obligatory to regulate and control one’s self through the medium of a primal root which the self can regularly refer back to in the realms of the fiqh, the sources of the Dīn (= the rules of correct ‘aqīdah), and Sufism [= Islām, Īmān and Ihsān]. The statement of the one who proclaims that the Sufi has no madhhab, save insofar as he might select, from a single madhhab, the most excellent corroborating proof, or a particular purposeful path, or a precautionary route, and the like of that which connects him to his contingent spiritual state, is invalid and unsound.

Quite the reverse, since al-Junayd was Thawrī, ash-Shiblī was Mālikī, al-Harīrī

was Hanafī and al-Muhāsibī was Shāfi`ī,

and they are the Imams of the spiritual path (tarīqah) and its bracing pillar”.

We are not even bothered here about the completely rejected attitude of those impostors alleging that if one reaches a certain level of spiritual “illumination” (gauged by what?), he is exempted from adherence to the rulings of the Sharī`ah, beginning with the obligation to perform, by the bodily limbs and not just by the heart, the five compulsory prayers, the sole watershed between a Muslim and a kāfir. There is no dispute among the Imāms of Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamā`ah that whoever denies the duty to perform such mandatory prayers is a kāfir (who inter alia cannot be prayed over, buried in a Muslim cemetery, inherited from, or given a Muslim woman in marriage).

An interesting occurrence was witnessed by me on Facebook. It is significant as a pointer to the de-contextualizing confusion which currently besets our ummah.

A well-meaning Muslim posted a video containing a quotation from the great Follower al-Hasan al-Basrī by Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah. Being a statement expressed by al-Hasan al-Basrī in a matter of the Haqīqah, he stressed the duty to remit the judgment concerning such inward dimension to Allah.

From the poster to some of the people commenting on the video thus posted, the stereotype was then formulated that “one cannot judge any other Muslim”. Yet Ibn al‐Qayyim, the author of that original quotation, was himself a faqīh who passed judgments on human situations all the time, at times sternly criticizing the contrary

views articulated by fellow jurists. Nay, he penned one of the most famous texts on judicial procedure for solving disputes between litigants and their like, At-Turuq al-Hukmiyyah.

What the well-meaning brothers and sisters who had treaded the said “non-judgmental” path had failed to realize was that the outward is the realm of separation or farq, where right has to be sifted from wrong, as both have to be ruled upon, while gatheredness or jam` is only applicable to the inward, where matters are “unified” and remitted to Allah’s judgment.

In their onslaught against Islam, orientalists have sought to blur the distinction between the two existential orbits in their exposition of, e.g., Ibn ‘Arabī’s thought. The great Hanafī polymath from Ottoman-ruled Palestine, who was a faqīh, a muhaddith, a mutakallim and a Sufi,

Shaykh ‘Abdu’l-Ghanī an-Nābulusī, stated in Al-Fath ar-Rabbānī that when one proclaims the entire creation to be on the path of correctness, he can either do so from the viewpoint of their having all emanated from One Maker Whose existence is beyond in-timeness, and this one is the siddīq who fully confirms the truth; or he can verbalize that by looking at creatures from the visual angle of their individualized entities, which angle necessitates him to discriminate between the believing slave and the kāfir. The latter is thus the freethinker or zindīq, who levels what is unlevelled and declares each and every dīn to be equal in worth.

The zindīq, in the sharī`ah, is put to death without giving him a chance to make repentance, unlike the apostate. All that Shaykh Ibn ‘Arabī said in poetical form in his lofty Al-Futūhāt al-Makkiyyah is that, by looking with the eye of the Haqīqah, one has to conclude that all people’s beliefs and doctrinal convictions are but the creation of the One Maker. He thus was a siddīq, not a zindīq.

The latter human type is given no period of grace and his tawbah cannot be accepted, since he has shunned away from the Revealed Law and claimed that he has achieved proximity to Allah the Exalted by his engrossment with the world of original forms or fitrah, which is not a goal in itself, but a mere vehicle to the goal of Divine Wisdom, as brilliantly elucidated by an-Nābulusī in his said work.

The matter is different if, before his spirit or rūh is snatched out of his body, the zindīq inwardly makes tawbah to Allah which other Muslims cannot hear. Such tawbah occurs in the arena of the haqīqah, and must be judged by the Haqq, the Real, according to the rulings He passes over secreted realities.



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