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Gönderen Konu: What is Sufism?  (Okunma sayısı 2487 defa)

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Kasım 05, 2006, 05:18:57 ös
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What is Sufism?


The Encyclopedia Britannica describes Sufism as “mystic Islamic belief and practice in which Muslims seek to find divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God.” Remember, Rumi came from a family of Sufis, Muslim mystics, which went back many generations. So his soul came to life with certain spiritual gifts that laid out his path of divine and secular service—his tariqa, as the Soul’s path toward God was called. It was little wonder that his path led him through the realms of love and knowledge, even as extreme as it was.
 

The origins of Sufism lie in early Islam when there was a movement away from the spiritual path toward the worldly path emphasized by Islamic law. As early as the seventh century (CE), Muslims recognized the absolute need for support of the way of intuition as opposed to the rationalism and intellectualism that was beginning to control Islam. The Nubian, Dhu an-Nun (died 859, CE) is credited with introducing the term, ma’ rifah—“internal knowledge”— to Islam. From its beginnings, however, Sufism stressed the need for both aspects of knowledge, so it is safe to say that Rumi’s traditions in his egalitarian viewpoints were a good 500 years old by the time he committed himself to the tariqa.
 

Sufi is a term derived from the Arabic word for wool, the cloth of the poor. Indeed, the Islamic term for its mysticism is tasawuff,, meaning “to dress in wool.” Sufis were known as “the poor,” fuqara in Arabic, darvish in Persian, words that come to us today as “fakir” and “dervish.”
 

A wondrous aspect of Islamic mysticism is the recognition that every one of us is on an individual path to God. Islamic iconography uses the circle, with its circumference and its center connected by spiraling paths, to portray that path. It is delightful to consider that the dance of the Sufis, sama, is a dance of dancers whirling so that their wool skirts form circles while they move in a circle around their center, the leader or master.
 

Early Sufis believed that the path to the center was the way of asceticism, which led to their reputation for poverty. However, in the second half of the eighth century, CE, a woman (and why are so many Muslims apparently not listening to women?) from Basra , Rabi’ah al-’Adawiyah (died 801CE), formulated the Sufi ideal of a pure love of God that was unattached to ideas of salvation or damnation. This belief accompanied a developing belief in the need for a Muslim to adopt complete trust in God. Both beliefs remain at the core of Sufism today, as they were also at the core of Rumi’s life and teachings.
 

A final component of Sufism that Rumi believed in and taught was that Man is the Caliph of God, the leader of God’s polity here on Earth. He becomes that of his own choice, and when he does, he moves toward the divine human archetype of the Perfect Man who is at the heart of the Universe. To become the Perfect Man means the annihilation of one’s self. “He has been able to discover in himself that hidden treasure that one seeks elsewhere in vain, and which can only be found in the renouncement of carnal existence” (Mathnawi, VI, quoted in de Vitray-Meyerovitch 110). Again, this essential Sufism is essential Rumi.
 

Muhammad knew that each individual needed guidance on his tariqa. He set out to establish a moral psychology that helped set the itinerary of this spiritual journey for each aspirant. By the eleventh century, tariqa had come to mean the specific set of rites that a brotherhood of men would create for the purpose of studying this psychology under the direction of a master. They gathered in “monasteries” (takya) that were much more like “retreat centers” of today. Members usually stayed but short periods time (generally forty days) because most were married and led normal outside lives.
 

When Rumi encountered Shams, he exchanged his professorial robes for the Sufi dress. When he lost Shams, wearing skirt and pantaloons, he started to whirl by holding onto the support pole of a room in his house and dancing in circles around it. A clinical, scientific “take” on his experience would maintain that he simply became vertiginous. He knew otherwise¾it was ecstasy! His students, at least the Sufis among them, enthusiastically took up the practice because it was consistent with their mystical beliefs and practices that came from the Holy Prophet’s personal practices.
 

Rumi established a monastery in Konya to teach his particular Sufi way, the tariqa Mawlawiya. It became popular in his lifetime, and his son, Sultan Walad, became the organizer of this monastic order of Sufis that spread throughout the Muslim world over the next 300 to 400 years. Unique to the order was its custom of the sama that was central to its tariqa, and which gave its members the name, whirling dervishes. As the Qur’an admonishes against drunkenness, so Rumi was aware from his own experiences that dancing could lead beyond ecstasy to intoxication. The sama ends abruptly at a signal from the leader that prevents any such occurrence of drunkenness.
 

The rule of residence in the tariqa Mawlawi demanded a stay of 1001 days. This led to very austere experiences of life, but Rumi wanted no easy way out because that way represented the Islam of his younger years that had no power in the face of the Christians and the Mongols. Life in the monasteries was a rigorous existence of prayer and fasting and at the same time it condemned fanaticism. Community service was important to the dervishes who drew no distinctions between the rich and poor in offering their services to the populations of the towns they visited.
 

The Mawlawi movement grew rapidly and steadily to the point of creating over 1600 monasteries. It managed to stay politically neutral through many changes of power and when the Ottomans came into power, the movement expanded with their Empire to its limits. In 1925, Ataturk suppressed all of the Turkish monasteries with the exception of one in Aleppo . Today, very few of the old monasteries remain, but the Malawi dervish movement is still alive in the lands of the old Ottoman Empire . Perhaps the movement shall grow again; who knows?
 

The sixth (and last) Book of the Mathnawi has Rumi’s thought on the Perfect Man:
 

Do not look (at the fakir who is looking for a treasure) as a treasure-hunter: he is the treasure itself.
How could the lover be anything but the beloved?
 

“The hidden treasure, hidden in the field of obscure representation, constitutes the deep abyss of human knowledge that we cannot reach” (Kant, quoted in De Vitray-Meyerovitch 110).
 
Rumi’s response to Kant might be:
 
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing

There is a field. I’ll meet you there.
 
And maybe, just maybe, with Rumi’s help we are finding our way to that field today.
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