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Rational Mysticism: The Pristine Mysticism of Islam as Exemplified in the Life and Ethos of the Prophet

Jul 20, 2012, 3:13 PM

The dialogue illustrate all the more clearly that to realize the truth of “and I breathed into him of My spirit” (Quran 15:29)-that is, to comprehend the emanative (ishraqi) and ennobling (tashrifi) relation between God and the human being-and to recollect the “reed-bed” is the preliminary step for the return of human from this Abode of Deficiency (‘aybistan) to the Abode of Transcendence (‘ghaybistan) and for the return of the reed-flue to the reed-bed whence it came. This realization is necessary should the human being aspire to answer God’s eternal invitation: “Thus enter among My slaves and enter into My paradise“(Quran 89:29-30), so d relinquish this Fleeting Realm (dar al-fana), to gain entry into the Tavern of Divine Presence (miykhanih-yi shuhud), the Abode of Permanence (dar al-baqa’)’ and to attain union with Beloved. Allamah Jawadi Amuli thus elaborates:

In this light of self-knowledge, the human being can perceive his inner existence as well as the outer world see God’s microcosmic as well as His macrocosmic signs, thus reinforcing his unitive worldview. (Jawadi Amuli, Tafsir mawdu’I qur krim, vol. 9, p. 357)

5. The Judgment of the People of the Heart (ahl-I dil)

From the standpoint of the pristine mysticism exemplified in the Prophet’s ethos, the mystic’s foremost concern is to preserve his divine essence in its pristine state of infallibility and his God-given heart in the sound state in which God bestowed it upon him.  Furthermore, he guards the unerring knowledge he has come into possession of from being adulterated and his righteous deeds from being rendered ineffectual. As such, the enlightened mystic looks introspectively into his divine essence and luminous soul for determining what is good and what is bad for his existence and spiritual journey. When assailed by doubt, he turns to his heart to distinguish right from wrong, that which is conducive to spiritual beauty from that which entails spiritual ugliness, and virtue from vice (ibid., vol. 11, pp. 188-189). The Greatest of Prophet (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him and his household) confirmed this approach in his answer to Wabisah.

It is` reported that on Wabisah ibn Ma’bad Asadi determined to see the Prophet to enquire into vice and virtue. On meeting the Prophet, Wabish was thus addressed by him: “Would you prefer to mention you question or should I say it myself,” and he agreed that the Prophet should say the question before he even told him. So the Prophet continued, “You are here to enquire concerning vice and virtue.” Wabisah nodded in agreement. The Prophet hen pointed to his chest with his hand and said,

Virtue is that on account of which one finds tranquility; it is that on account of which the bosom and peace. And vice is that which causes uncertainty in the bosom and afflicts the heart with doubt even though others d even I may approve of and condone it. (Hurr al-‘Amili, 1414, vol. 27, p. 166)

In light of this assertion by the Noble Prophet (may God peace and blessings be upon him and his household), the sound and unsullied heart can serve as the authority in settling one’s theoretical as well as practical matters. Should one turn from the outside to the inside, liberating the mind from all external thoughts and the heart from all external concerns, one will find one’s true, lofty, and divine self, which will then serve as an inner and unfailing guide on the path of spiritual perfection. But in order to realize this true self, it is necessary that one should endeavor to read and understand one’s inner self, constantly guarding oneself against evil deeds and holding oneself to account. To this end, one must safeguard the innate spiritual capacities bestowed by God, prevent the light of one’s divine essence from being extinguished by sin, and maintain the divine mirror of one’s heart in its pristine and unmarred state, having recourse to the Quran and to the remembrance of God and the Resurrection for cleansing the heart of the sins that accrue thereon in order to prepare it for receiving the rays of Divine Light.

The wayfarer’s overriding concern should be to safeguard his existential capacities and to endeavor to actualize them and bring them to fruition. In those matters concerning which he is in doubt, he must appeal to his certainties to function as the judge and arbiter, and these certainties he must ascertain by invoking the authority of the Most Certain of All Certainties, that is the perfect human being, the ultimate exemplar. These measures are necessary if the wayfarer wishes to continue on the Straight Path and prevent his going astray. And the preliminary for implementing these measures is self-purification: “Indeed he who purifies the self is felicitous” (Quran 91:9)

Self-purification enable the wayfarer to advance, gives him the impetus to progress, and the resolution to remain to remain steadfast. By purifying his self, the wayfarer expands his existential capacity and attains inner loftiness; he transcends the finite “I”, to arrive at the infinite “I”, thus acquiring a cosmic perception of the world that encompasses the higher stages of existence. One so purified is no longer imprisoned by the narrow and dark confines of the “I” that is captive to this inferior and unstable world but has rather procured his liberation and nobility, thus perceiving humankind, the world, and the society from the vantage of “God’s Eye,” or He is possessed of a purified soul and a broadened heart, of insight and patience. And there is no wealth more valuable than these existential and spiritual capacities that obtain through the operation of God’s universal (hidayat-I’ammih) and special guidance (hidayat-I khassih).

In this relation, Allamah Jawadi Amuli states,

These existential capacities of the human being constitute his Greatest Name (ism-I a‘zam). Just as God has Great Names” and a “Greatest Name,” the former of which must be unlocked by invoking the later, so the human being, who is God’s viceroy (khalifah), is possessed of certain “great names” and one “greatest name,” the former of which must be realized in the light of the latter. Should we succeed in correctly determining the key elements for our existence, we shall be able to transfer our concerns from the outside would to our inner existence, whereby many of our problems shall be resolved (Jawadi Amuli, Tafsir insan bi insan, p. 280)  

Therefore, in the spiritual path of Prophet Muhammad, that which is possessed of primary significance is the human being’s divine essence (fitrat), the pure and purified soul that functions as the rational and the virtue-inspiring element is one’s nature. The illuminated and perceptive human being realizes that it is in his inner sanctum that he can receive the existential truths and the spiritual graces and perfections: The malady and the remedy are both present within his “purified heart.” Aware of this truth, not only does he strive to retain his innate, existential innocence, but he also endeavors to render it even more purified and luminous, which is  possible by means of the guidance of religion (hidayat-I shari’at) and the grace of God’s viceroy (‘inayat-I wilayat), the perfect human being.

6. Mystical Experience

In the modern age, one of the factors associated with mysticism is spiritual experience, variously referred to as the unitive experience, the inner experience, the intuitive experience, the religious experience, or the mystical experience. Such experience has been a topic of debate-both from an epistemological and an ontological point of view-among the philosophers. “Religious experience” is, of course, modern concept, introduced into cultural and philosophical discussions in the nineteenth century. It is a topic of discourse in such disciplines as philosophy of religion, mysticism, and psychology of mysticism. A number of prominent figures of philosophy, mysticism, and philosophy of religion have included this concept in the discussion on the nature of religion and of revelation, going so far as to equate its significance with that of revelation-a worthy question for consideration but which is beside the scope of the present article…… 


To be continued