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"Dead men in sultry darkness": Western theory and the problematic of a baseline cultural motif in Islamic ascetic tradition.

At one moment in 1994, while researching the role and repertoire of the Moroccan Sufi chanter, I went with my Sudanese assistant to visit a zawiya and mosque near Rabat where I met the shaikh of a Shadhiliyya order. I was initially well received. We had recorded a number of meditations from the chanter, and the shaikh had commented upon the role of these meditations in his order, when suddenly the shaikh asked if I were Muslim. When my assistant explained that, while I was not, I was a knowledgable scholar in Islam and had written extensively on the topic, the shaikh grew increasingly hostile. His voice rose and his face reddened. He ordered the chanter to stop any further discussions, demanded that we hand over the tape, and ordered me out of the mosque. Apart from his affront that I, as an unbeliever, was present in a sacred environment, and thereby lessening its sacrality, was the problem of my ignorance: One could not comprehend Sufism or the mystical tradition at all if one was not first Muslim. I certainly could have no insight into the complex theories undergirding Islamic mystical tradition. We were summarily dismissed. As the reader might imagine, the event raised again the problematic of understanding religious realities as a scholar.(1)

The problem, of course, is not recent.... it arose at least as early as the proto-Classical period in Greece. Among the thinkers there, theory had two dimensions, an Ionic one that came to mean something close to our idea of inquiry, and a second that derived from the Eleusian mysteries. In the Hymn to Demeter we read:(2)

Blessed is he among men on earth, who has beheld this. Never will he who has not been initiated, who has had no part in this Share in such things. He will be as a dead man in sultry darkness.

According to Aristotle, one did not master any new knowledge in the Eleusian mysteries, but rather experienced a certain kind of emotional state that transformed the initiant psychologically into a happy person both here and in the hereafter.(3) Hence theoria means something close to 'vision' in the mysteries. The venerable shaikh was thus using theory much closer to the original Greek idea, than to our own notion of a structuring conception or explanation.(4)

Still, his response must also be seen as antagonism towards the hegemony of the Euro-American scientific establishment of which he saw me as representative. As such, then, we are dealing with part of the postcolonial legacy that is wreaking great havoc in the region, especially next door in Algeria, but is also operative in the criticisms associated with orientalism by Edward Said.(5) The problem of how we 'explain' or 'interpret' Sufism (or Islam, for that matter) is largely a creation of our Western-biased vision of Islamic truths. Hence this article is an attempt to grapple with our 'vision' of the ascetic tradition in Islam, and to try to reconstitute it more in keeping with an Islamic equivalent. The goal is, to put it in a way that the ancient Greeks could have understood it, is to be as least like a 'dead man in sultry darkness' as is possible while still retaining a sense of objectivity.

Toward a Hermeneutic of Ascetic Culture

The standard Western treatment of Sufism, the religious orientation in Islam associated with asceticism, is to trace a preceived notion of mystical orientation from the Qur'an, through the life of the Prophet, and then to examine the authorative superstructure that gives it leadership and intellectual content.(6) Depending upon the author's scholarly prediliction, the bulk of the analysis then moves to consider the theological-philosophical system constructed by the elite (e.g. Hasan al-Basri, al-Ghazali, Ibn 'Arabi, Rumi, etc.) or to examine tariqa (order) construction through the life and work of the great shaikhs (e.g. Abdul-Qadir, Muhammad al-Shadhili etc.) or to focus on the popularization of Sufism through tariqa/shaikh culture.(7)

Research among Sufi groups in Egypt and Morocco has lead me to offer a quite different schema. My studies in The Munshidin of Egypt: Their World and Their Song(8) and the forthcoming work on Morocco suggests that initiates become introduced to an ascetically-cast spiritual dimension through various catalysts of which the most basic of all is integration into a coherent socio-spiritual organization that transcends the normal time/space framework. This experiential environment has its own denizens, its own geography, its own definition of moral/religious value and its own meaning of existence. It consciously blurs the dividing line between the physical/political world and the religio-spiritual world and constructs a meaning system encompassing both. It is on the culture foundations of this environment that we will focus our attention.

a. Learning the Entrance Codes

For years I was a bad Muslim - I seldom prayed five times a day; I drank whiskey and did other things. We lived across from Shaikh Gamal (al-Sinhoury, head of the local Burhaniyya tariqa) and my wife joined the tariqa. Gradually I became interested. The teachings of the Sufis are so logical and easy. For example, there are 124,000 hairs on the body, 124,000 veins in the body, 124,0000 prophets, and 124,000 friends of God. These are facts known to the brethren, and they teach us. When one knows God, God teaches one very deep things; one comes to know great things because God is great. He's not limited by the human mind. The Qur'an tells us to dhikr (remember, recollect, ritually encounter God) constantly, and as soon as you begin to remember God...when you awake, when you are asleep, at any time or place. If you listen to your heart pumping, it is saying, "Allah, Allah," so you realize your whole being, is remembering.(9)

Muhammad al-Gindi, devotee of the Burhaniyya, reflects a common theme one finds among Sufis: one learns the code by adhering to the group that expresses special insight and knowledge. Once engaged by them, one learns to dhikr, and suddenly, all parts of the universe begin to fit together. Thus the foundational ingredient in the ascetic tradition in Islam is a reflective consciousness that meditates upon the givens of the spiritual world. One learns about the "facticity" of this world, and that becomes the grounding for remembrance, a remembrance that encounters the root source of existence, God.

Activating the codes depends upon certain attitudes of the inner person, one of the most important of which is safa'(10). Insight into how safa' operates can be gleaned from Shaikh Husaini's comments:

When I start to visualize the (founding) shaikh...the soul (ruh(11)) of the shaikh is present. If there is safa', the soul is there. If I am sitting with my brothers and I am sad, then I won't get anything. But if there is safa', and I go with it, then I could feel the soul of the shaikh. There is tone and longing for the sight of the shaikh. That's how you feel his presence...when I am in that state of mind, I don't think of anything else, I just put myself into the shaikh's hands; when I call on Sidi Ahmad al-Bedawi, or 'Ahmad al-Rifa'i or 'Ali al-'Amain to pay attention to me, they are living with us in the dhikr.(12)

This statement indicates that the state of heart that the devotee has contributes to whether the spiritual encounter will be successful. If he and his brothers in the dhikr have safa', that is, they adopt a state of mental purity and submission and rid their consciousness of all else but meditation on the spiritual beings and their presences, the shaikhs or more correctly, the founding shaikh's souls will become present. Thus, to move into this domain of the spirit, one must cultivate a certain state of heart. One learns of that state from one's local shaikh, in the company of one's spiritual peers, during the dhikr sessions of the group. This cultivation of proper attitudes of the inner person becomes the process characterized as a tariqa (here understood as way or path) by which the adept learns the spiritual code. Classically, the end of this process was the integrating trance, fana', the experience unifying the devotee with transcendent reality. In contemporary Sufism, the experience is described in terms of encounter with the denizens of that spiritual world because of the criticism of Stiffs who spoke of becoming "one with God" through the mystical experience. Such language flew in the face of Islam's theological resistance to any whisper of incarnationalism. Nevertheless, this is the embracing vision that drives Islamic ascetic culture.

b. Spiritual Kin-group Relationships

The participants in dhikr interact with specially-designated spiritual beings in a domain reached through the devotee's meditation. That domain is not technically of this world, yet the devotee has access to it during the dhikr, and the shaikhs become alive and real to the devotee during participation in the rite. For most devotees, a distinctive relationship is established with one's 'uncle' or founding shaikh. This is reflected in the following account of Mahmud ibn Darwish ibn Abu Hala'a al-Wazir:

I met my shaikh, Ahmad Darwish al-Hallah, when he visited my father. He said to my father, "Mahmud is my soul, ya Darwish," and then he turned to me. "Between you and me early tomorrow and the morning is hardly very distant." I felt as if I were created over again in a different way. We met the next day. When I met him the second time, I felt in my heart something that I saw with my eyes, and he translated it for me. "Did you see it, ya Mahmud?" he asked. "Yes," I said, "I saw my uncle, I saw him ascending to the sky. He was barefooted and poorly dressed. I saw him going up into the sky. And I saw myself going up after him." After that, I found myself looking like him, and copying him. Since then, I have felt an entirely new feeling.(13)

While on the surface there appears to be some confusion between the local shaikh who called him to come to him, (i.e. Ahmad Darwish al-Hallah) and the 'uncle' or founding shaikh of the order who was 'seen' in a kind of waking vision ascending into the sky, in effect the devotee sees the two to be part of a kin system that roots him in a spiritual family. His local shaikh and the visionary shaikh are thus two poles of relationship that will govern his religious horizon. The local shaikh has control of the 'ahd (initiatory oath). The chief means of entering the group is recitation of that entrance formula. This binds the initiant to a spiritual ancestry rooted in the transcendent domain, the gates to which are functionally controlled by the local shaikh, but whose absolute control declines as the adept becomes more advanced. In effect, the initiant is deemed to be a son/daughter of the founding shaikh of the order. The local shaikh only 'stands-in' for the true shaikh, and creates the kind of situation in ritual that allows the initiant to encounter his true state of being.

That the local shaikh has limited symbolic meanings is indicated by the fact that when the local incumbent dies, there can be much dispute about who is to succeed him. Moreover, the successor may have none of the skills or prerogatives of the earlier shaikh. Intellectual acumen does not define this, since on several occasions I have interviewed shaikhs who knew less about Sufi philosophy or even local lore than my own informant/assistant. Thus the local shaikh is fundamentally a tangible connection with the world of ruh where the long ancestry of the adept is deemed to be resident. Local shaikhs can and often do go beyond this minimalist conception of their authority, creating personal devotion among a host of believers and exemplifying the baraka (spiritual blessings) inherent in the tariqa's ancestors. The local shaikh may also be a woman. But the adept's connection to the local shaikh is basically symbolic, not literal; likewise the local shaikh connection to the order's founder. The results of this relationship are borne out in the way that the adept perceives himself/herself in the order. A genuine kinship system holds.

In some ways this relationship reflects a type of structure which Turner identifies as 'kin-line confederative' among the Groote and Blickerton people in Australia. There he points out that clan affiliation is established patrilineally within the group, across boundaries of resources between clan groups but also with creation beings. It is, however, the religious dimension that is the key: The affiliation affirms that it is not the biological aspect that determines relationships but the connection to the Spirit world. It is confederative because individuality is maintained while resources are mutually renounced... they can be passed back and forth.(14) If we understand tariqa membership as a symbolic kin-line confederative system, each member is 'fathered' by a great shaikh through an isnad (chain of authorities) ultimately reaching back to Muhammad, but concretized by adherence to the awrad (disciplinary recitations) of the order as practiced by the local shaikh. Within the group, insights gleaned from spiritual meetings are shared with the brethren. Thus a gift from God is never 'possessed' but passed on in a corporate system of renunciation: one renounces the exclusivity of spiritual achievement in order to edify the entire group. In the edifying, the adept gains status, while loosing control over the spiritual insight. It is a renunciation with spiritual paybacks.

Hence renunciation culture rests in the memory of the adept as both the bedrock and the quintessential element of tariqa consciousness. On the one hand, it links the member to the rich corporate memory of the founder's poverty and suffering, on the other hand, the devotee accepts the renunciation of the physical world as absolute in the understanding of reality. According to al-Hujwiri, renunciation of the "natural" part of one's being was viewed as essential by the first mystics in order to recover true being; thus 'Amr Makki views the heart as veiled in walls, preventing the divine spark to emerge.(15) Hence the rejectionist assumptions of all religious asceticism finds a home in Sufism, with notions of rejecting the political world of Islam, the renouncing of material gain, the negations of sexual and social discourse except insofar as they contribute to being Muslim, and the denunciation of authority (save that related to spiritual insight) implicit in the ascetic principle.

It is also confederative, in that each murid moves along the path at different speeds, and spiritual accomplishments establish a kind of status system. The idea is to pursue personal spiritual knowledge and statuses even while contributing to the growth of the tariqa. At the same time, the adept is connected to the spiritual domain inhabited by the awliya' (Sufi saints) who reside in a mediating position between this world and the next and who aid and succor the beloved devotees. The awliya' are comprised of founders of the orders and other individuals of special gifts who reside in the spiritual domain and who mediate on behalf of the believers with the Prophet and God. One result of this state of affairs is that a member has connections with shaikhs who are not technically one's own, but who are deemed to have spiritual power. Every adept has connections outside his own spiritual clan through his experiences with the denizens of the spiritual realm. Hence s/he is 'related' to others who 'belong to' that shaikh's line of command, yet is loyal to his own bayt (spiritual house) and is identified by it.

c. The Content of the Spiritual Cosmos

The adept is responsible for his own progress in religious matters. His encounters with the denizens in the spiritual realm is to expand his personal process along the path, to open his inner perceptions to the valid construction of reality. Shaikh Mustafa Sharif stated it this way:

He feels God inside him and all around him: he feels that God is watching him completely and (he lives) in enjoyment and love for God. Love and longing - he is always longing for God. He stands in front of God - it is pleasure inside - if kings knew how much enjoyment we had, they would fight over it with swords. It is the enjoyment of iman (faith). The Prophet said, "Faith has sweetness and faith has attracting light." The sweetness is beyond pleasure; no one can taste it but the one who mentions (remembers...i.e. dhikr) God alone, and the love of God and His acceptance. I worship him because he is the King and Creator of all things. If I try to correct creation, I am correcting God. But if the practitioner left everything to God, God would grant him ma'rifa (spiritual insight) so he would feel himself a Muslim. His blood would be mixed with religion, his blood would flow with God's love. You find God in everything, and when you pronounce God's name, you feel this pleasure.(16)

There are a number of elements touched upon in this statement, but surely the relationship, one could even say the integration of God into one's being, is paramount. How are we to understand this relationship? Marx had insisted that all societies encounter conflict situations and adopt a dialetic. This dialectic resolves the conflict by postulating a new synthesis. Thus the principle operative is "thesis-antithesis-synthesis."(17) Once again Turner provides insights from Australia: Marx's system is modified within Aboriginal society to adhere to a "antithesis-thesis-plurality" model. This alternate dialectic emphasizes the fluidity of human relationships, the predominance of change, the emphasis on plurality and the goal of harmony.(18) Rather than being concerned with oppositional definitions of God and human, or dividing the world beyond from this world, or insisting on the division of the spiritual from the physical world, the Sufi insists on an integral relationship. Integration marks the way that God wants to relate to humans, and consequently, there is a realm in which both can interact without the problematic of 'material' logic operating. In that realm, the principles that one affirms react to spiritual forces and powers. There, ruh unites differentiation in many ways without unifying all into one kind of being. The diversity of that realm, then, points to a condition created deliberately by God for human society, and that condition is manifested in the dhikr-community itself with its many gifts and skills provided by God.

The word ruh has a long history in Semitic tradition, and it is used for several quite different notions. Massignon tells us that "ruh is the breath of the nostrils: it comes from the brain, it causes nasal speech and sneezing ('ats, the first sneeze of Adam when God breathed life into him), it confers the sense of smell and the discernment of spiritual qualities." He then notes that 'Aisha, the Prophet's wife held that the inspired sentences of the Qur'an" were 'breathed' into him by the Spirit, Ruh, a vague word which can designate the angel as well as God or the Prophet himself." He then notes that dhikr constitutes a combination of nafs (breath from the entrails) and ruh.(19) Thus in performing dhikr, Muslim mystics re-enact the creative moment when God breathed life into Adam, as well as grasp the inspirational moment when God breathed the Qur'an into the Prophet. As Massignon defines the basis of dhikr: "They hoped to recapture the initial divine breath which had first dictated the sacred text by means of this insinuating, persuasive collective declamation which pierces to the heart."(20) Hence in the performance of dhikr, the adepts have access to the same energizing power that brought creation into being (i.e. the Light of Muhammad in Sufi circles) and brought divine scripture into the world.

Such a concept also encompasses the spiritual beings within this sacred domain. Massignon continues:

Ruh is more mysterious (than nafs): God, angel, immaterial soul, allusion, spiritual meaning.... Ruh establishes communication between man, angel, and God; according to Baqli(21) the angel drinks the tears of pentitents and God drinks the tears of lovers.(22)

Ruh also allows for an integration across the divide of waking and sleeping. In the religious dream, Sufis had access to visitations from the Prophet. In the translations of the dream world of the Sufi Muhammad al-Zawawi, Katz opens us into a realm of the ruh where the would-be saint makes every effort to propel himself up the ladder of mystical achievement.(23) al-Zawawi reported visions in which the Prophet himself appeared to him, interpreted affairs occurring around the seeker and encouraged him to pursue his religious goals. He often writes as if he were quite awake when he receives these messages. Thus it is not only in dhikr that the advanced adept may interact with the world beyond; the facticity of the ruh is validated by the ongoing experience of the devotee in interaction with its denizens.

Moreover, given the critical manner in which the whole world, and human beings are said to carry on an unconscious dhikr, both the charged wakeful moment and spiritual dream may allow access to that divine realm.

Severe contention has broken out in Egypt because of the apparent belief that the walis are alive today. On Feb. 20, 1989, the Opposition newspaper al-Wafd featured an article entitled "After one Thousand Years - Letters Addressed to the Imam al-Shafi'i", written by a decidedly antagonistic 'Ali Khamis drawn from a study by a sociologist(24) of the letters left at the mosque of Imam al-Shafi'i. al-Shafi'i, of course, was a famous legist, so the letters left were seeking redress of some injustice. The present imam of the mosque rails against people who leave letters and come for some kind of spiritual blessing from the dead, and he holds a public burning in the courtyard outside the mosque after Friday prayers to destroy the letters of those who leave them. The journalist says:

They use him to seeks (God's) favour in ways which are harmful to Islam. Some pray behind the qibla and others take off their clothes and use them to sweep the Mosque. A third group persists in writing letters to the Imam al-Shafi'i in petition, enclosing a few piastres with them in the hope of being granted what they seek.(25)

Just how this practice is 'harmful to Islam' he does not say, but clearly he regards this as part of a conception out of tune with his contemporary notions of Islam, and his pro-Islamist leanings. Yet details of the controversy are not what interests us here. Rather it is to make the point that the belief in the efficacy of the denizens of this domain is larger than just Sufis, for al-Shafi'i was not a mystic but a judge. In effect, then, the Sufi notion of a realm of beneficial beings encompassing a wide range of spiritual forces is acknowledged by many beyond the circle of Sufi devotees.

The domain of ruh also refers to one's inner, psychological state. In his writings of the Sufi life, al-Ghazali sees it as a state of resolving contradictory experiences:(26)

He finds in his heart a state as though it demanded a thing he knows not what; this befalls even the common herd and those over whose hearts the love neither of man nor God Most High can get control. There is a mystery in this, and it is that to every longing belongs two bases: the one of them is a quality in him that longs, a kind of relationship with that which is longed for; and the second is a knowledge of the thing longed for, and a knowledge of what attaining to it would be like. Then, given the quality wherein the longing lies and given the knowledge of the appearance of the thing longed for, the matter becomes clear.

Sufis developed a very sophisticated analysis of maqam (inner stations) and hal (states). They have a language all of their own, with subtle differences in emphasis and profound meanings for the path.(27) What is important for our purposes is to note its connection to the realm of the ruh, and particularly to the ascending of the Prophet during his famous mi'raj (journey to heaven). For the Prophet is regarded as the forerunner of the adept as he/she moves forward on the path. Indeed, the Prophet becomes a guide and a model for the soul for the devotee. As I have written on another occasion, "the shape of his (the Sufi's) inner experience is cast by an internalization of the mythic pattern, interpreted through existential categories and, in turn, making new kinds of demands."(28) Thus the territory encompassed by the ruh involves both the spiritual region of the inner person as well as the landscape made familiar by the Prophet in his own ascent. The result roots Sufi culture solidly in the experiential environment of the believer, not in an objective, physical universe that exists separate from the desires of the faith. The realm of the ruh is quite comfortable in challenging the view that true reality is measurable by instrumentation instead of intuition.

Still, for all that, Sufi culture does not posit a oppositional structure within the universe; rather, it sees a synchronicity between the inner states of the soul and the realities of the universe...they exist in different but parallel expressions of creativity. Western science is thus not on the wrong track, it just is predisposed to ignore the mystery at the heart of everything, and to deny the validity of intuitive experience as the basis for determining fact. For Sufis, that intuitive experience must be structured by the liturgical event of the dhikr, for, just like scientific method, that process is the key to the whole.

Concluding Comments: Theory and Ascetic Tradition

As near as we can determine, Sufism began as a reactive movement and it has retained a degree of independence to this day. The rejectionist ingredients in this movement are not exclusive to it, that is, several movements in the post-Muhammad period reflect anti-hegemonic tendencies of which the growth of the ghulat (exaggerators) and Shi'ism is best known.(29) It may even be possible to argue that today's Islamist movement is an expression of this rejectionist stance. The resistance to the traditional political-social definition of majoritarian Islam leads to group cohesion around a spiritual kinship relationship. Central to the kin relationship is the plurality of the signs of belonging, based on an acceptance that the usual boundaries between physical and spiritual realities do not apply, and that different people had different spiritual skills.

Beyond that, independence required a mechanism of cohesion, and that mechanism is the collective act within a structured ritual-participation event called dhikr. Dhikr is the means for transporting one into the realm of the ruh, and through it one can enter the trance state where the denizens of that spiritually-charged state become intimately involved with the devotee. It is also the means to overcome the isolation and individuality inherent in the mystical quest. The ritualization of meditation in Sufism becomes the fundamental means by which one can encounter the spiritual verities of the domain of the soul. Hence it is critical, even essential for Sufi understanding.

At the same time, Sufism moved into popular forms of expression, and the role of ruh-charged individuals had an impact on the movement. Shaikhs, both alive and dead, continued to play a decisive role in spreading Sufi culture, and their importance has been embraced by Western scholars trying to understand the dynamics of Islamic society. Those shaikh that have passed on become denizens of a sacred domain, along with God, the Prophet, angels and other religious beings. They do control the entrance codes, but, as I have argued, their role should not deter us from the underlying operative principle in ascetic culture, the role of ritual remembering. To do so is to distort Islamic ascetic tradition.

Consequently, Western theory which focuses on the role and significance of Sufi theology, or privileges the personality and activism of the local shaikh shifts the fulcrum away from the spiritual centre of Sufism. It is the liturgy of dhikr, mimicking the role of salat (prayer), that undergirds Sufi consciousness, and opens for us a better way into Muslim mystical comportment. A baseline cultural motif from the standpoint of Islamic ascetic tradition is clear: Muslim asceticism is a liturgical culture, constructed upon a meditational procedure integrating dhikr-centred believers into a transcendent reality. Other approaches, if not subject to the 'sultry darkness' of the Greeks, at least appear to skew theory away from what the Sufis themselves see as foundational.


1. A similar problem must be faced with all non-Western religions, for the ability to treat religion as an object for investigation is a product of Western scientific culture. For a discussion of the role of cultural contact and the rise of theories of religion in the West see Charles Long, Significations: Signs, Symbols, and Images in the Interpretation of Religion, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986, especially 65-96. For an attempt to modify some of the attitudes embodied in the history of religions discourse, see Lawrence E. Sullivan, Icanchu's Drum: An Orientation to Meaning in South American Religions, New York: Macmillan Co., 1988.

2. Hymn to Demeter, 480-482. See also C. Kerenyi, Eleusis, trans. R. Manheim, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967.

3. See Samuel Scolnkov, "Reason and Passion in the Platonic Soul", Dionysius, Vol. II, Dec. 1978, pp. 35-49, especially, p. 37.

4. Daniel L. Pals, Seven Theories of Religion, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996 points out that there are two basic kinds of theory about religions, one focussing on explanation, the other on interpretation, but both are rather complex in form. pp. 11-14.

5. Edward Said, Orientalism, New York: Vintage Press, 1979.

6. See, as a good eample, Annamarie Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam, Chapel Hill, N.C: University of North Carolina Press, 1975. Schimmel is the leading author of our day on Sufism.

7. On the first, see works like that of R. Nicholson, Studies in Islamic Mysticism, New York: 1921, A.J. Arberry, Sufism, London: 1950, Ralph Austin, Ibn al-'Arabi: The Bezels of Wisdom, New York, Paulist Press, 1978. On the second, see works such as F. De Jong, Turuq and Turuq-linked Institutions in Nineteenth Century Egypt, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1978, J. Spencer Trimingham, The Sufi Orders in Islam, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971. On the third, see, for example the recent volume by Valerie Hoffman, Sufism, Mystics and Saints in Modern Egypt, Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.

8. Earle H. Waugh, The Munshidin of Egypt: Their World and Their Song, Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1989, hereafter, The Munshidin.

9. The Munshidin, p. 83.

10. Safa' is difficult to translate. It is a complex state of awarenesses: purity, clarity, pliability before God, softness toward spiritual states, helplessness in the presence of God, a vehicle for the divine blessing to be made available to all who are there, a consciousness of lack, yet a confidence built on previous encounters.

11. Qur'anic sources of ruh are Surah 17:87, 97:4 and 32:8.

12. The Munshidin, pp. 75-76. The shaikhs are all founders of orders who have died and are now living in paradise, where they continue to provide spiritual succour to their devotees.

13. The Munshidin, p. 69.

14. David H. Turner, "Cosmology is 'Kinship': The Aboriginal Transcendence of Material Determination." Mankind 19.3 (1989)pp. 215-226.

15. 'Ali b. 'Uthman al-Hujwiri, The Kashf al-Mahjub, the Oldest Persian Treatise on Sufism, trans. R.A. Nicholson, London: 1911, p. 309. See also Early Islamic Mysticism, Trans. Michael A. Sells, New York: Paulist Press, 1996.

16. The Munshidin, p. 45.

17. Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, trans. E. Untermann, Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Co., 1909, Vol. III, pp. 282-313, 521.

18. David H. Turner, Life Before Genesis, a Conclusion: An Understanding of the Significance of Australian Aboriginal Culture. New York: Peter Lang, 1985, pp. 101-102.

19. Louis Massignon, "The Idea of the Spirit in Islam," The Mystic Vision: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks, edited by Joseph Campbell, trans. by Ralph Manheim, Bollingen Series XXX.6, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1968, vol. 3, pp. 319-320.

20. Ibid.

21. Ruzbehan Baqli in L. Massignon, Recueil de textes inedits concernant l'histoire de la mystique en pays d'Islam, Paris, 1927, pp. 113f.

22. Ibid, p. 322. The lovers are mystical devotees. Massignon has listed the meanings of ruh in his La Passion d'al-.Hosayn-ibn-Man.sour al-Hallaj, Paris, 1922, pp. 482, 517, 596, 661, 689, 852.

23. Jonathan G. Katz, Dreams, Sufism & Sainthood: The Visionary Career of Muhammad al-Zawawi Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996.

24. Sayyid 'Uways, Min malamih al-mujtama' al-Misri al-mu'asir: Zahirat irsal al-rasa 'il ila darih al-Imam al-Shafi'i, Cairo, 1965.

25. See Julian Johansen, Sufism and Islamic Reform in Egypt, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1996, p. 152. Note his discussion of the problem in contemporary Egypt, especially with the Islamist/fundamentalist movement.

26. D.B. Macdonald, "Emotional Religion in Islam as Affected by Music and Singing", a translation of a book of the Ihya 'ulum ad-din by al-Ghazali, with analysis, annotation and appendices, in Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland Journal, Series 3(1901), pp. 729.

27. See Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions, pp. 109-130.

28. Earle H. Waugh "Following the Beloved: Muhammad as Model in the Sufi Tradition," in The Biographical Process, ed. Frank Reynolds and Donald Capps, The Hague: Mouton, 1976, p. 75. On the ascension see James W. Morris, "The Spiritual Ascension: Ibn 'Arabi and the Mi'raj," parts 1-2, Journal of the American Oriental Society Vol. 107, #4., 1987, pp. 629-51; Vol. 108, #1, 1988, pp. 63-77. On the mi'raj as a model for Sufi mediation see, R.A. Nicholson, "An Early Arabic Version of the Mi'raj of Abu Yazid al-Bistami." Islamica, Vol. 2, 1926, pp. 402-415.

29. For an overview of the oppositional groups in the early period, see Marshall G.S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974, vol. 1, pp. 247-279. For a recent study of the succession period that draws quite different conclusions, at least about 'Ali and his party, see Wilferd Madelung, The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Earle H. Waugh is a Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Studies at the University of Alberta, Canada.
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Author:Waugh, Earle H.
Publication:Journal of Asian and African Studies
Date:Feb 1, 1999
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