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What is Mysticism

What is Mysticism Normal 0 21 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Normal Tablo"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; :10.0pt; "Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} The concept of spiritualism or mysticism has existed in the world for thousands of years. It has many schools of thought, which must be dealt here, albeit briefly, in order that the Islamic concept of spiritualism can come out clearly vis-à-vis other schools of spiritualism.


Three basic concepts are worth mentioning here. According to the first concept, spiritualism means to establish contact with one’s own inner personality. To them man’s inner existence is akin to a mysterious ocean, which remains, under normal circumstances, undiscovered for man. Like the iceberg in the oceans, a tiny part of his existence comes under the grip of his consciousness, while the greater part remains hidden under the subconscious. Now the goal of spiritualism is for man to be able to relate his conscious part to the unconscious. By accomplishing which man achieves the stage of mental or spiritual development. He perfects/completes his mental existence at the conscious level.


There is partial truth in this concept/theory. It is true that the potential of man’s own existence are far more than that which comes under the perception of conscious in normal circumstances. However this is not the answer to man’s actual quest. Taking both the conscious and the unconscious, man is no doubt a limited existence/creature, and discovering something limited in nature can never be the answer man seeks to find.


Man’s quest, from the respect of actual reality is a quest of his own consummation/completion, rather than simply one concerning his own discovery. Man by his very nature cannot remain content with limitations. Man from every respect is a limited being. Now he wants to find the limitless in order to compensate for his limitations.According to the above concept what is possible is only that the limited succeeds in finding the limited. This can never be the answer to man’s actual quest, that is why such an answer leaves him unsatisfied as before.


This issue/matter is in principle a matter concerning the perception of reality, rather than simply a matter of discovering one’s own self. If man were a perfect being he would never have the psychology of quest embedded within him. The psychology of quest is part of man’s subconscious, so, if the subconscious is a perfect existence why should it always suffer from the psychology of quest. Such a psychology is indicative of imperfectness on the part of seeker.


It is a fact that had man been a perfect existence he would never have been born with the natural urge of quest. All human beings being born with this nature provide an internal proof that man in his nature is no perfect existence. This fact is enough to prove that the target of the spiritual quest of man can never be his own being.


The other concept of spiritualism is basically produced under the influence of the philosophy of monism. According to the concept of monism, leaving the details aside, all forms of existence are in actual fact manifestations of the same source. Man and everything besides man is one and the same thing in essence. The existing world is a manifestation of one and the same reality rather than of maniness of reality. A philosopher has explained this concept of oneness of reality in these words:


‘The knower and the known are one. God and I, we are one in knowledge, and there is no distinction between us (12/787).


According to this concept of spiritualism, to put it in simple words, it is for the part to realize its whole in order that it may join it by discovering it.


This second concept of spiritualism is, academically, a baseless concept, yet in both, the philosophic and religious circles, this concept has remained popular. But no person or school of thought has provided sound/real argument in favor of this concept.


Calling this quest of spiritualism the quest of the part for the whole is not worth consideration in present circumstances. What has to be proved first of all in this connection is the fact that man is really in his nature a part of the whole. As long as this first premise is not proved, how can a philosophic interpretation based on this concept be true.


All the points made in favor of oneness of reality are only a set of words/an exercise in words. All the arguments forwarded in this connection are symbolic in nature. For instance, it is said that, "all the things of this world are varied (in different forms) manifestations of one absolute reality." This is only a statement and no such set of words can be a substitute for an argument.


Another symbolic argument forwarded is that if one drop is taken away from the ocean, that drop in its nature/essence will be a tiny ocean. Man is likewise a tiny drop of the vast sea of reality. This too is a simile and simile never proves a reality. A simile may be employed to explain a reality already established. But offering similes towards proving a reality is entirely unacademic and illogical.


To prove the theory that the "essence of everything is the same," one of two arguments are essential. Either such a theory is proved by a scientific research or else an argument in the real sense exists in its favor in revealed religions. But this theory is neither established by science, nor any real argument is to be found in its favor in revealed religions.


In such circumstances a school of thought which explains the spiritual quest in terms of all is the same (hama ust) undoubtedly stands on a baseless ground as no testimony, either of science or revelation exists to support this theory.


The spiritual quest means from the Islamic point of view that the servant (of God) wants to join/contact God, his Creator.Islamic spiritualism is in actual fact a realization of God. Whatever man gains at the level of his heart and mind through the realization of God is known as Islamic spiritualism.


Here again Islamic spiritualism has come to have two schools of thought, one may be called Quranic school of thought and the other is commonly known as tasawwuf.


There are several branches and forms of tasawwuf. These varied forms can not be described in the form of a single principle. However, tasawwuf, is basically another name for two things—the concept of Shaikh (spiritual mentor) to guide to the path of spirituality, and muraqabat (specified time of day or night devoted to private worship in addition to the five prescribed prayers), divine contemplation, recitation of different words and phrases repeatedly.


Both these two concepts/practices are total innovations in Islam as neither of these existed during the times of the Prophet and his Companions.


Holding Shaikh to be a means/source of spiritual progress certainly amounts to incorporating gurudom in Islam. Islam in fact had come to negate this concept of gurudom. Since ancient times all religions had accorded the religious gurus the status of intermediaries between God and man. Islam put an end to this middle link and proclaimed that man can establish contact with God directly. That there is no need for an intermediary. But after three hundred years after the emergence of Islam, the pre Islamic concept came to be held sacred once again and thus found their entry into Islam. Any such concept is an obstacle to the path of spiritual progress instead of being conducive to it.


Similarly the entire body of aurad-o-wadhaif is innovation (bid‘a) adopted by Sufis of later times. A method not taught by the Prophet can never be a means of the realization of God.


All such new methods place obstacles to the realization of God, these can never be stepping stones to it. This is a fact that the prevalent methods of additional devotions are not established from the traditions of the Prophet.


Furthermore, all these are physical exercise/act and such physical exercises can never lead to spiritual progress. Physical action can produce physical results. It is impossible for a spiritual attribute to be produced from physical action.


From Islamic viewpoint man’s existence has two aspects/levels to it. One is man’s visible body which is in need of a number of material things. Without providing the material things like food, water, clothes, home etc. physical body cannot survive. The other aspect of human personality is that in it there is an invisible being called soul. The soul too requires certain things, but these are not of material nature. These are entirely of non-material nature, hence its requirements too was to be fulfilled.


According to this division, since man possesses a double personality, two types of provision are to be constantly supplied for him to survive. One being physical provision, the other being spiritual provision. The center of the acquisition of physical provision, according to the Qur’an, is this earth (14:32) and the center of the acquisition of spiritual provision is the Being of God. That is why this provision is called ‘Lord’s sustenance’ (20:131) or ‘spiritual provision’ is in actual fact, the result of a contact with the external source of sustenance (that is, God). This goal is achieved entirely through mental action. This mental activity is called tazakkur and tafakkur (remembrance of God, thoughts of God) in the Qur’an. When man takes his mind away from the external world to the internal world, when he diverts concentrates his attention from the material aspects of thing to their hidden reality then he is introduced to a whole new world. He experiences finer realities. This experience increases his realization and in this way provides him the sustenance for him to live a spiritual life.


Man is a creature who wants no boundaries, sticking to limits is akin to his intellectual death.


It is an indication of his deprivation from divine sustenance. It is because the intellectual journey of a recipient of spiritual sustenance will always continue is indicative of the fact that he has been deprived of spiritual sustenance. For when one continues to receive a share from spiritual sustenance, the journey of his intellectual development too will continue.

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

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