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Lecture 10

RLGA02 – Lecture 10

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Department
Religion
Course
RLGA02H3
Professor
David Perley
Semester
Fall

Description
RLGA02 – Lecture 10 SUFISM  “Heart of Islam” - If someone is raised in Islamic background you‟re going to probably have one or two interpretations of this tradition o Sufism (+) component of what it means to be Muslim o Other examples where Sufism might be interpreted as part of an add on thing that is not part of the authentic tradition - And add on, not part of the original idea is called innovation, in this context not a good thing  bida - The reality from a historical perspective is that it has been an essential component of Islam whether we‟re talking about the Sunni or Shia tradition up until 200 years ago, so in classic formulation within Islam we might call it the Heart of Islam - We might call the Sufi‟s a certain kind of expert within the Islam tradition – we‟ve got the legal experts, the Qur‟an experts, Sufi‟s are the experts of spirituality or disciplined - The tradition itself will trace its own practices right back to the time of the prophet, as historians this should not surprise us, for any sort of claim to legitimacy within the Islamic tradition, you want your tradition to be part of the original thing, so the Sufi‟s for example trace certain Qur‟anic passages and say this passage is absolutely at the heart of Sufi message -  Friends of God - We have prophets in this tradition and we have someone who is certainly has a very prestigious connection in the tradition - God  prophets - But then you have these people called Wali‟s or friends and depending on the tradition this word means different things but their role is different from a prophet and they don‟t have the same authority - For the Sufi tradition lets just kind of for very simplistic purposes let‟s think of friends of god as kind of like the idea of a Saint, a holy person  Esoteric interpretation of the Qur‟an  Ex: [2:115] to God belong the east and the west; wherever you go there will be the presence of God. God is Omnipresent, Omniscient. - Interpret this in a traditional Islamic sense, and say god is this majestic creator of all existence - Sufi interpretation gets a little more intense, literally everywhere you look god is there and that god is embedded and present in the world its just that we‟re too asleep to kind of be aware - One key metaphor with the Sufi‟s is the distinction between being asleep and being awake - If you are asleep you‟re not aware of the connection you have with the divine, think of the Sufi goal as waking up th - We can only see Sufism around the 9 century  Muhammad and night journey prototype - Muhammad gets on the mystical steed and travels to Jerusalem and ascends to heaven and has a very important meeting - That whole idea of this heavenly ascension is taken as a symbolic kind of religious experience to the Sufis - Some try to reenact this through their spiritual practices  Mysticism/Mystic/Mystical - There‟s no rigorous meaning to this word, the word religion itself is a problem itself to religious studies – not so sure what it really means - Mystical is an even more vague word - Mystics might be the ones who really focuses on this relationship with the divine - Mystics are the classic ones who seek some sort of union with the divine whether this is real intimate connection or full union - When we think of these mystics they‟re the ones who are trying to get some direct access to the divine or immediate access to the divine, then when we step back and think of more traditional views of religion sometimes the mystics tend to be radical - Loosing a connection with the world, we might call someone mystical if they‟re a little aloof, disengaged with the world th - In English we would chart this word in the 19 century as a negative word o Ex. You‟re being very mystical – no being very clear - At the turn of the century it transforms to more positive use, more mysterious, a saint in a tradition - Let‟s focus on Sufism as an example of mysticism within the Islamic tradition but the nice thing about Sufism is, its got its own word  9 /10 th century is absolutely pivotal to understanding Islam, this is when the Sunni Shia split is clearly delineated, this is where Sufism is clearly delineated, when the Hadith literature is solidifying  Sufism is found in both Sunni and Shia traditions, it tends perhaps tend to contrast with a more formal or legalistic interpretation of Islamic traditions  The Sufis still take Muhammad as the model, so all Muslims he is the template for our behaviour  Muhammad simply becomes not only the model for all Muslims but Muhammad is also considered by Sufis to be the most perfect Sufi  Sufi can be connected to the word wool and we can maybe talk about how there is an aesthetic component of Sufism  Asceticism is kind of this idea of a holy manner, a holy woman who fasts they put their bodies in very difficult positions, they meditate for long periods of time  Some historians talk about how there might be some origins with the word, rough wool SUFISM CONTINUED  Fana and Baqa - There is a double prong concept in Sufism which is accessible and that‟s the ideas of Fana and Baqa which are annihilation/subsistence - Water is our cells, our egos, especially the selfish components of us, our temptations, what we want what we like/dislike - The idea of Sufism is that god is the only real thing that exists and all this extra stuff that we think exists that are part of ourselves is like an illusion - What the Sufis talk about is annihilation or emptying out of oneself, so imagine we pour out the pitcher of water, removed all of ourselves form the vessel and the only thing now that can replace us is the subsistence or being of the divine st - Think of this as two processes in the Sufi tradition, 1 meditation and contemplation, try to empty yourself out of all you‟re selfishness and then by doing that you are simultaneously being filled up with the divine - By moving away from the self a lot of traditions believe you get closer to god  “I am Al-Haqq!” - Al-Hallaj was executed for his radical view, charged with heresy - Al Hallaj goes to visit a friend, knocks on the door and his friend says who‟s there, he says I am, Al-Haqq the truth (the real or the reality), the idea that there are different ways of describing characteristics of god (god is the truth) - Al Hallaj is a Sufi who in many ways believes, that he himself does not exists - So in some ways by his friend saying, “who‟s there?” is a silly question for him because there‟s only god, that‟s the only answer you could give back to him - If you think about this logically he is claiming an identity with the divine, if you associate god with any particular person or idea, image you‟re associating that the majestic being as something particular  The roots of the Sufi path of love - When we talk about Sufism we can talk about it as a journey or path, we start one way and we‟re hoping that there will be a connection with the divine person at the end - One way to talk about the path is through the metaphor of love - More particularly Rumi, Sufi who is the expert of the path of love, contrast this with a different Sufi who might say that the path is the path of knowledge  Master-student relation - Regardless to the kind of Sufi, Sufism in its very different brotherhoods really relies on a very basic social relationship and that is that between the master and the student - We don‟t want to just describe this stuff see it in and put it into context of Islam - The master student relation in this tradition suggests that the student has to give absolute obedience to the master - As part of the master‟s educational program for the student, they have all these lessons, activities, meditations and contemplation, but a lot of the times in the Sufi tradition the master has to fool the student into a realization (some kind of moment of realization) but in order to do that the student has to be willing to surrender to the master - If you are a traditional Sufi why might that be an issue? o The word Islam itself gets this notion of submission that religion in general perhaps might be this idea of surrendering or rendering our will to something greater or larger than ourselves, so if the student is doing that with the master we could see that maybe in certain social-political context that‟s a bit problematic – there should only be one thing they need to submit to o Sufi perspective: the master in this context is kind of the representative of authority and to take the student on a journey so that they need to have the authority in order to do the journey -  Maulawiya/Mevlevi - Rumi (1207-1273 CE) o Rumi was the highest selling English poetry o There is this interesting idea that Sufism can be some sort of
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