NMC103 - Sufis Saints and Mystics

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University of Toronto St. George
Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations
Maria Subtelny

Sufism (Tasawwuf) • Esoteric dimension of Islam Represents secret/hidden (batin) knowledge vs formal or exoteric (zahir) knowledge • Qur’an, hadith interpreted as having hidden meaning • Dev’ps own theosophy, technical terminology • Origins in aascetism-- dev’t of speculative trend 9 c. o Meaning visionary trend  experience of visionary insight o Greatest figure Junade—dev’d some of the technical terminology (language) which persisted through Arabic ages o These people dev’d concepts of ‘saints’—‘friends of God’—endowed w/visionary powers and divine inspiration—were elitist o Mainstream religious adherents horrified by these happenings o Mansur al-Hallajfamous for paradoxical utterance “I am the Truth”  was successful in extreme practices of asceticism so much that he lost his human identity (buried in his identity in God) and was executed for this utterance  considered a martyr. o Some Sufi scholars became apologists  in process, systematized Sufi beliefs • Oft regarded as heterodox by ulama’ Sufism—main ideas • God is the only Reality (haqiqa) o focused on God’s oneness, relationship b/w multiplicity of universe and God’s oneness  regarded as manifestation of God Himself and His names • Material world is an illusion • Man can achieve gnosis, or intuitive knowledge of God (ma’rifa) o Esoteric type of knowledge – experiential type which cannot be learned from books o Type of knowledge gained from books—ilm o Therefore, 2 different modes • = referred to as the “unveiling of the heart” o akin to concept of epiphany 1 • Prerequisite: annihilation of the ego (fana’)** • Role of ascetic exertises—goal to destroy the “carnal soul” (nafs) o Would use metaphors, paradoxical expressions, etc. o E.g. ‘mirror of the heart’ metaphor  which must be purified to reflect God  heart is place of manifestation of God’s divinity  similarities found in Jewish mysticism Qur’an 57:3 – “He is the First and the last, the Manifest (zahir) and the Hidden (batin).” - esoterics would see “more” in the text  as texts were difficult to understand
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