Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Sufi Ijtihad in Forms of Worship

Ibn Taymiyyah, in his treatise called As-Sufiyya wal-Fuqaraa, says that the early Sufi ascetics, who mainly came from Basra,

"Formulated their own opinions (were mujtahidoon) on these acts of worship, just as their neighbors among the Kufans formulated their own opinions on matters of judicial decision..."

And elsewhere he repeats:

One knows then, that Sufism's place of origin was Basra, and that there were those who trod the path of worship and asceticism that they used independent reasoning (ijtihad) in it, just as there were in Kufa those who trod the path of jurisprudence and religious knowledge, using independent judgment in it.

And so they used ijtihad in reaching their forms of worship, in which they might be wrong or right.

Although the majority of believers- the pious, the friends (awliya) of God, may not have received what the Companions received with regards to the perfection of religious knowledge (ilm) and faith, they fear God as best as they can and obey Him according to their diligent effort. Thus, it is inevitable that they will err, whether in their sciences and doctrines (aqwaal), or in their actions and states, but they are rewarded for their obedience, and He pardons them for their errors.

Thus just as a mujtahid in fiqh is rewarded for his effort even if his conclusion is wrong, so a mujtahid in worship will be rewarded if he erred. So, even though their path is inferior to that of the Companions of the Prophet,

He who considers any person who does his best in forming his own opinion on a pious deed- while being mistaken in some matters- to be blameworthy, disgraceful, and disgusting, he is mistaken, astray, and innovating.

Therefore those who attack certain practices of Sufis that they think is a form of worship as blameworthy, is: mistaken, astray, and innovating!

What is (the) correct (opinion about them) is that they [the Sufis] exercise their independent judgment in obedience to God just as others who are obedient to God have also done. Among them is the foremost (al-saabiq) who draws near [to God] on the basis of this diligent effort, and among them is the moderate who belongs to the "People of the Right Hand". Among both classes is one who may strive diligently but err, and some who sin, repent and others do not. And among those claiming affiliation with them, are those who are unjust to themselves, rebelling against their Lord.

Sects of innovators and zindiqs have claimed affiliation with them, but in the opinion of the genuine Sufis, they do not belong. [Take] Al-Hallaj, for example. Most of the shaikhs of the path refused to have anything to do with him and expelled him from the path, as did al-Junaid ibn Muhammad, the master of the group, and others as shaykh Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami mentions in the Tabaqat al-Sufiyya, and al-Hafiz Abu Bakr al-Khatib in the Tareekh Baghdad.

* Taken from the translation of this treatise by Th. E. Homerin in
Arabica, T. 32, Fasc. 2 (Jul., 1985), pp. 219-244

However, it is important to note that Ibn Taymiyyah is wrong in saying that Sufism originated in Basra. What was then known as the Sufis was a group of ascetics in Basra, who were part of what today is known as "Sufism" but do not represent it.

In the words of researcher Sara Sviri,

One of the surprising deductions from the study of the various Sufi and non-Sufi sources is that from the third/ninth to fourth/tenth centuries not all Muslim mystics were known as Sufis. Addressing Muslim mystics with the comprehensive name sûfî and identifying Islamic mysticism with tasawwuf seems to be the direct result of the compilatory literature of the late fourth/tenth century and later.

In her study of early movements of sufism and mysticism in Islam, she comes to the conclusion that Sufism was a term reserved to a certain school from Baghdad, while mystics from the vast area of Khurasan were not considered to be Sufis.

See the following source for more:

In other words, the Sufism that developed in Iraq (Basra and Baghdad), is not what we call Sufism today. It is a certain school within what we today know as Sufism, and which is almost extinct today. This old school, with its emphasis on severe asceticsm and spiritual exercises (riyada), is gone, while the school of their critic, al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi, who the Baghdadis of that time specifically said was not counted among the Sufis, is what we now know as Sufism today.

As said by shaykh Ahmad al-Tijani, all the sufi tariqas of our times are now Shadhili, meaning that they are based on the Shadhili school of tasawwuf that shuns the practices of the ancient ascetics and prefers a different method based on constant recollection and praise of Allah, not on these ancient practices and exercises.

Thus the infamous early Shadhili Sufi al-Busiri says in his poetry,

والفضل ليس يناله متوسل * بتورع حرج ولا بتزهد
إن قال ذاك الدواء فقل له * كحل الصحيح خلاف كحل الأرمد

"And virtue is not attained by means of awkward asceticism and caution.
If they say that's the necessary cure then say to them:
The Kohl of the healthy is different from the Kohl of those with inflamed eyes "

For a detailed comparison between the ancient school of tasawwuf that developed in Iraq and the Shadhili school that survives today, and that reverts to the path of the Prophet- salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam -and his Companions, see what was said by shaykh Abd al-Aziz al-Dabbagh in the following link:


1- The early "sufis" of Iraq and their practices are different from the path of the Sufis of today, who follow the path of the Prophet and his Companions. Thus when Ibn Taymiyyah says that Sufism originated in Basra, he is referring to a certain school within Sufism that has ceased to exist today.

2- We must remember that if the Sufis today do, like the ancient Basran sufis, use their ijtihad in certain forms of worship that have not been forbidden by the Shari'a (like physical movement in hadras), that this ijtihad might be right and might be wrong. If it is correct, then they will receive double the reward, and if they are wrong, then they will be rewarded for their efforts and forgiven for their sins, inshaAllah. And as Ibn Taymiyyah cautioned, to think that they are astray and to call them such is a wrong and unacceptable innovation.

3- For more about how Sufi practices are an elaboration and development of the sciences of Islam, and not an innovation, see the following link as well:

In the words of the author,

"There is a world of difference between elaborations and innovations, which people with muddled minds find difficult to distinguish."

And praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.

Monday, November 24, 2008

We Have No Right Over Animals

One of the reasons why we say Bismillah before killing an animal, or in the case of hunting before releasing the arrow/ shooting the bullet, is that because we have no right to take an animal life.

However Allah has given us permission to kill and eat animals for survival, and for other useful purposes. That is why we must invoke the name of Allah, in order to make this killing lawful, meaning: We only kill this animal because Allah has given us permission to kill it for a specific purpose.

And this means that we must not allow indiscriminate killing of animals, or any hunting or killing that is done for pleasure. Because taking the souls of these animals is not something we have a right to, without a divine sanction.

This is what I understood from a short remark by a venerable shaykh, and Allah knows best.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Elaboration not Innovation

"There is a world of difference between elaborations and innovations, which people with muddled minds find difficult to distinguish."


If we consider the development of Tasawwuf as a science, that is the science of the soul, we find that it provides a close comparison with the development of other sciences based on the principle of the Divine Book and the life of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him). To take the science of Hadith as an example, we find that during the first century, which was the time of the Companions and the followers, things remained very much in the original form of personal teaching from those who sat in the company of the Great Ones, with little sign of elaboration and formalisation. During the second century we begin to find a more or less comprehensive collection and criticism, which culminate in the third century in critical recensions based on now thoroughly elaborated and determined principles. In the case of Fiqh we find a similar process; after the first century of the direct and practical teaching of the companions and followers, the second century produces elaborate compendia of legal decisions and the formulation of principles of jurisprudence which again by the third century had been built up into a relatively independent science. Tasawwuf, too, was constructed into a spiritual science on the firm foundations of the spiritual heritage of the Prophet of God; here again, the elaboration begins in the second century in the recorded sayings and treatises and books of the early Sufis, and in the third century Tasawwuf appears as a fully developed and formulated spiritual science. It is just as gratuitous to talk critically of later innovation in the matter of Tasawwuf as it is in the matter of Fiqh, Hadith and Tafsir. There is a world of difference between elaborations and innovations, which people with muddled minds find difficult to distinguish.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ibnّ Taymiyyah's Intellectual Abilities

Ibn Taymiyya's Vast Knowledge:

Ibn Abd al-Hadi called him "the sea of sciences."

Scholars noted how when Ibn Taymiyyah talked about a subject, you would get the feeling that this was his area of expertise and that he didn't know any other subject. And that was the case for every subject. That's how much knowledge he had.

Then even said that it was as if he could quote entire books from his memory.

However, despite all that knowledge, and despite some great thinking in many areas, it seems that he just couldn't grasp what other, greater, scholars were talking about sometimes.

Especially in the field of theology, Ibn Taymiyyah just couldn't get what Ibn Arabi was talking about. Also in the question of the status of Nubuwwa and Wilaya. He COMPLETELY misunderstood Ibn Arabi and declared him a kafir for that, even though it's not that hard to grasp his idea if you give it a minute or two of thinking.

There are also some weaknesses in some of his fiqhi thinking. For example, Jockisch, in "Ijtihad in Ibn Taymiyya's Fatawa", shows him falling into building a circular argument on a simple matter.

And finally, the way he came to the conclusion that travel for the sake of visiting the Prophet's tomb, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is forbidden is completely ridiculous. It makes no logical sense whatsoever.

Maybe that is why when the great scholar Ibn Daqiq al-Id was asked about him, he said:

"A man with a multitude of subjects of knowledge at his fingertips."

He commented on his great knowledge, but nothing about his intellect or scholarly opinions. It seems like a very reserved answer. But who is to blame him, for he has seen the likes of Sultan al-Ulama Izz al-Din bin Abd al-Salaam.

The scholar Wali al-Din al-Iraqi said about Ibn Taymiyyah, "His knowledge is bigger than his intellect." I think that's true.

قال فيه المحدث الحافظ الفقيه ولي الدين العراقي ابن شيخ الحفاظ زين الدين العراقي في كتابه الأجوبة المرضية على الأسئلة المكية : " علمه أكبر من عقله " ،

وقال أيضاً : إنه خرق الإجماع في مسائل كثيرة قيل تبلغ ستين مسألة بعضها في الأصول وبعضها في الفروع خالف فيها بعد انعقاد الإجماع عليها

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wahdat al-Wujud

People have misunderstood this doctrine because they misunderstood the term "wujood" to mean "all that exists", and so they thought that what is meant is that all that exists is part of the one God. But that is a completely wrong understanding, because that is not what is meant by "wujud" by those who use this expression. (Btw, Ibn Arabi never used this expression, but some of his students did).

Basically Wujud means Allah. Therefore "the oneness of Being" means "the oneness of Allah." Basically it's another way of saying that Allah is one, except that it emphasizes that only Allah is Real, while our existence isn't because it needs Allah to sustain it at all times.

Ibn Arabi says,

“Existence belongs to Him, and non-existence belongs to you.”

(Quote from http://www.holosforum.org/v3n1/lumbard.html)

In the words of Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi:

The Oneness of Being that we maintain is none other than
the Oneness of the Truth (al-Haqq), so understand what we say,

The Oneness of Allah, the sole Unity, which the pre-eminent
luminaries have witnessed,

And there is no difference with us, O ignoramus, whether we say
"Being (wujud)" or "The Truth (al-Haqq)",

Don't imagine that the Being (wujud) that we mention is
creation according to us.

So as you see, the entire misunderstanding about Ibn Arabi comes from a different way of looking at the world. Those who see it as "wujud" think Ibn Arabi must be a kafir for saying that the creation is part of Allah, and those who see it as "mawjud" understand that "wahdat al-wujud" upholds the transcendence of Allah Most High.

Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi explains the difference between "wujud" and "mawjud", and how he sees the creation, by saying:

Truly, Being is unseen by eyes,
In respect to what the beholder sees;

Eyes perceive nothing of it besides "what is besides",
Namely, contingent things, a collection of shadows;

A shadow but shows that there is something standing,
That controls it, beyond any doubt;

So beware of thinking that what you perceive
Is that Being: be one of those who know;

For all of what you perceive is but what "is there (al-mawjud)",
Not this True Being, He of Glorious Signs;

Of a certainty, Being is completely debarred from you,
In its majesty, elevation, and exaltedness;

For all you see is contingent and perishable,
and you too, are bound to perish.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Adab or Statement of Fact?

In Chapter 23 of Ibn al-Jawzi's Kitab al-Adhkiyaa' he says:

We have related from Al-Abbas bin al-Muttalib that he was asked "Who is older (akbar) you or the Messenger of Allah salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam?" So he said, "The Messenger of Allah salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam is (akbar) and I was born before him."

There are two possible meanings that can be taken from this hadith:

- The first is the one that Ibn al-Jawzi took from it, as indicated by its placement in this chapter of this book. According to this understanding, Al-Abbas(r.a.), out of his great intelligence and his adab towards Rasool Allah salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, didn't want to say that he was akbar from Rasool Allah, because the word "akbar" has more than one meaning: Besides the meaning of "older", it can also mean "bigger" and "greater". So he avoided saying that word out of respect, saying that Rasool Allah is akbar (in its meanings other than being older), but that he was born before (and therefore older).

- The other possible meaning is that Al-Abbas was referring to the creation of sayyidna Muhammad before any other creation, and that his light, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was Allah's first creation, but his birth in his human body came after the birth of sayyidna al-Abbas. So sayyidna al-Abbas was saying that sayyidna Muhammad is older than he is, but was born later.

and Allah knows best,
and salla Allahu ala sayyidna Muhammad and upon his family and companions, who gave sayyidna Muhammad his due respect.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Two Paths

On the distinction between the "Way of Gratitude" (aka The Shadhili School) and the "Way of Spiritual Excercises", Al-Busiri says the following:

والفضل ليس يناله متوسل * بتورع حرج ولا بتزهد
إن قال ذاك الدواء فقل له * كحل الصحيح خلاف كحل الأرمد

Read more here:

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Simple Healing

"What you can treat with food, do not treat with medicine.
What you can treat with a single medicine, do not treat with a compound medicine."

- Muhammad ibn Zakariyya Al-Razi

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Sign of His Presence (pbuh)

Najm al-Din Kubra's spiritual upbringing of his companions was based on Love and fanaa' in the dhikr of the Prophet (pbuh) and he used to say:

"The sign of the Mustafa's presence is that you begin saying the tasliya without choice."

علامة حضور المصطفى أن تجري الصلاة عليه على لسانك بغير اختيار

Monday, February 18, 2008

How we will be judged

Judge not, that ye be not judged; for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.
- Sayyidna Isa (pbuh)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Taosim and the Qutbs

The Taoist traditions refer to seven spiritual rulers "localized" in the constellation of the Bear. The "Classic of the Pivot of Jade" gives a spiritual doctrine told in its very title, which refers to the North Star, "the pivot of Heaven revolving on itself and carrying all the heavenly bodies along with it in its round dance." [1]

In a dream, Ruzbihan Baqli saw that he sat with two Sufi masters and ate bread and "oil so subtle that it was like a pure spiritual substance."

Subsequently, one of the two shaykhs asks Ruzbehan if he knows what this substance was. As he does not know, the shaykh informs him that it was 'oil from the constellation of the Bear which we gathered for you.' After emerging from his dream Ruzbehan continues to meditate upon it, but it took him some time, he confesses, to understand that there had been in it an allusion to the seven poles (aqtaab, more generally the seven abdaal) in the heavenly pleroma, and that God had dispensed to him the pure substance of their mystical station, that is to say, had admitted him to the rank of the seven masters of initiation and intercessors who are invisibly apportioned to our world.

...here Ruzbehan [is] being admitted to the number of the seven Abdaal surrounding the Pole. [2]

1- Corbin, Henry, The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism, p. 56.

2- Ibid, pg 52.